Depression

What is mindfulness? How do you do it?

What is mindfulness? How do you do it?

What is mindfulness and how do you start practicing? Being aware of the here and now, using all your senses to be present in the moment without judgment. Easy mindfulness exercises to start practicing include noticing everything when you shower or wash dishes, that first drink or bite of food. 

Mindfulness Based Therapy as Effective as Antidepressants?

Mindfulness Based Therapy as Effective as Antidepressants?

Can therapy be as effective as antidepressants? A new study shows that mindfulness based cognitive therapy (MCBT) is more effective. 

6 Surprising Symptoms of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

6 Surprising Symptoms of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

Are you pregnant or recently had a child? Are you feeling angry/irritated, numb, have brain fog, insomnia, and/or physical discomfort? These are all signs of postpartum depression. Read more here.

Using the Mnemonic “Three Cs” with Children and Adolescents

Using the Mnemonic “Three Cs” with Children and Adolescents

Managing stress, anxiety and depression starts with managing your thoughts. 

How to Fall Asleep in Under a Minute

4, 7, 8: Can following asleep really be this simple? A few breaths and asleep within minutes? This technique has been used for years and has proven effective for many. Laura Wiley / Bit of News

Here is how you do the exercise:

  1. Place the tip of your tongue against the tissue ridge right above your upper front teeth. Keep it there for the remainder of the exercise.
  2. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whooshsound as you do so.
  3. Close your mouth and inhale slowly through your nose while mentally counting to four.
  4. Hold your breath for a mental count of seven.
  5. Exhale completely through your mouth for a mental count of eight. Make the same whoosh sound from Step Two.
  6. This concludes the first cycle. Repeat the same process three more times for a total of four renditions.

In a nutshell: breathe in for four, hold for seven, and breathe out for eight. You must inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. The four-count inhale allows chronic under-breathers to take in more oxygen. The seven-count hold gives the oxygen more time to thoroughly permeate the bloodstream, and the eight-count exhale slows the heart rate and releases a greater amount of carbon dioxide from the lungs.

Link to full article

38 Health Benefits of Yoga

38 Health Benefits of Yoga

Still wondering if you should try out yoga? How is it really going to help you anyway? This article discussing 38 scientifically proven reasons why you should get up and strike a yoga pose.

From YOGA JOURNALYOGA AND HEALTH, by Timothy McCall, M.D.

If you’re a passionate yoga practitioner, you’ve probably noticed some yoga benefits—maybe you’re sleeping better or getting fewer colds or just feeling more relaxed and at ease. But if you’ve ever tried telling a newbie about the benefits of yoga, you might find that explanations like “It increases the flow of prana” or “It brings energy up your spine” fall on deaf or skeptical ears.

The 12 Worst Habits for Your Mental Health

The 12 Worst Habits for Your Mental Health

Do you practice any of these unproductive mental health habits? This article discusses the most common pitfalls that people engage in that hurt our mental health and why they are so damaging.

Health.com / Carey Rossi@goodhealth  /  Nov. 3, 2014

Change these simple, everyday routines to live a happier life

Depression is usually brought on by factors beyond our control—the death of a loved one, a job loss, or financial troubles. But the small choices you make every day may also affect your mood more than you may realize. Your social media habits, exercise routine, and even the way you walk may be sucking the happiness out of your day, and you may not even know it. Luckily, these behaviors can be changed. Read on for 12 ways you’re sabotaging your good moods, and what you can do to turn it around.

How we feel can affect the way we walk, but the inverse is also true, finds a study published in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry. Researchers found that when subjects were asked to walk with shoulders slouched, hunched over, and with minimum arm movements, they experienced worse moods than those who had more pep in their steps. What’s more, participants who walked in the slouchy style remembered more negative things rather than positive things. Talk about depressing.

Get happy now: Lift your chin up and roll your shoulders back to keep your outlook on the positive side.

Seasonal Affective Disorder Sufferers Have More Than Just Winter Blues

What are the winter blues? Can you just power through until the Spring? Should you seek treatment or are there things you can do to improve your mood? Dr. Rohan answers these questions in this article. SAD expert Kelly Rohan, PhD, explains the difference

Reporters/editors/producers note: The following feature was produced by the American Psychological Association. You may reprint it in its entirety or in part. We only request that you credit APA as the source.

Speaking of Psychology: Music and your health

Can music help improve your physical and mental health? Listen to this 10 minute lecture of music and its healing effects. Can music make us healthier or even smarter? Can it change how we experience pain? In this episode, former rock musician and studio producer Daniel Levitin, PhD, talks about how music changes our brain’s chemistry and affects our health.

Click on link below to listen to lecture.

Link to lecture

Depression, the secret we share

Andrew Solomon shares his experience of depression and poses many challenging questions within this Ted Talk.  Is the opposite of depression not happiness but vitality? What role does our shame about mental illness play in maintaining our silence and avoiding treatment? Is access to treatment prejudiced by our expectations? Link to Ted talk

Friends Wanted

The new year seems to trigger discussions about connections, loneliness and friendships. Perhaps a time for reflection or a reaction to all the expectations of gathering with others around the holidays. This article explores and explains the importance of social connections to our emotional and physical health. New research by psychologists uncovers the health risks of loneliness and the benefits of strong social connections.

By Anna Miller

Monitor Staff

January 2014, Vol 45, No. 1

Print version: page 54

New research by psychologists uncovers the health risks of loneliness and the benefits of strong social connections.

It took a trip to the hospital for Cathryn Jakobson Ramin, 56, to confront a nagging concern she'd had for years: She had no friends. "I didn't have one person who could pick me up," says the journalist in Mill Valley, Calif., who went to the hospital for a small medical procedure.

Ramin does have many friends — those she first met in childhood and in the four cities she's lived in as an adult — but they don't live nearby anymore. She also has a strong marriage, two grown sons and a successful career. But she has few local friends she can call on in a time of need — or for simple companionship.

"I like the sense of sitting in someone's kitchen with a cup of tea and cookies and just shooting the [breeze]," she says, admitting she feels a void. "That to me is a very important part of life."

Psychologists agree. While research on relationships has skirted adult friendships — tending to focus on adolescent friendships and adult romances — the importance of strong social connections throughout life is gaining scientific clout, having been linked with such benefits as a greater pain tolerance, a stronger immune system, and a lower risk of depression and early death.

"For years and years … people speculated that if you felt alone or you lived alone or you were alone a lot, you wouldn't eat good meals, you wouldn't exercise as much, nobody would take you to the doctor," says Laura Carstensen, PhD, who directs Stanford University's Center on Longevity. "But I think what we're learning is that emotions cause physiological processes to activate that are directly bad for your health."

Yet forging platonic relationships isn't always easy. Ramin's situation appears to be increasingly common: According to a meta-analysis with more than 177,000 participants, people's personal and friendship networks have shrunk over the last 35 years (Psychological Bulletin, 2013).

Combine that trend with the United States's rising age of first marriage, a divorce rate nearing 50 percent and a life expectancy that's at an all-time high, and you get "a demographic shift such that there are now [more] people who don't have a marital partner to supply the intimacy they need," says Beverley Fehr, PhD, a social psychologist at the University of Winnipeg and author of the 1996 book "Friendship Processes." "In light of those shifts, I think that friendships are more important today than ever before."

I'm so lonesome I could die

A lack of friends isn't simply an inconvenience when you want a movie partner or a ride to the hospital. A sparse social circle is a significant health risk, research suggests. In one meta-analysis of 148 studies comprising more than 308,000 people, for example, Brigham Young University psychologists found that participants with stronger social relationships were 50 percent more likely to survive over the studies' given periods than those with weaker connections — a risk comparable to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day and one double that of obesity. And the risks of poor relationships are likely greater, the researchers say, since the studies didn't look at the quality of participants' social connections (PLOS Medicine, 2010).

There's some evidence that more really is merrier. In one recent study tracking 6,500 British men and women ages 52 and older, psychologist Andrew Steptoe, PhD, of the University College London and colleagues found that both feeling lonely and being socially isolated raised the risk of death. However, only social isolation — measured in terms of frequency of contact with family and friends, and participation in organizations outside of work — appeared to be related to increased mortality when the researchers adjusted for demographic factors and baseline health (PNAS, 2013).

But contrary to Steptoe's findings, most research indicates that feeling isolated is more dangerous than being isolated, says psychologist John Cacioppo, PhD, co-author of the 2008 book "Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection." In one 2012 study, he and colleagues looked at data from more than 2,100 adults ages 50 and older and found that feelings of loneliness were associated with increased mortality over a six-year period. The finding was unrelated to marital status and number of relatives and friends nearby, as well as to health behaviors such as smoking and exercise (Social Science and Medicine, 2012).

"It's not being alone or not" that affects your health, Cacioppo says. "You can feel terribly isolated when you're around other people."

In his ongoing Chicago Health Aging and Social Relations Study, funded by the National Institute on Aging, Cacioppo and colleagues have also linked loneliness with depressive symptoms and an increase in blood pressure over time.

Other research indicates positive social connections might accelerate disease recovery. In a study of 200 breast cancer survivors, psychologist Lisa Jaremka, PhD, and colleagues at the Ohio State University found that lonelier women experienced more pain, depression and fatigue than those who had stronger connections to friends and family. The more disconnected women also had elevated levels of a particular antibody associated with the herpes virus — a sign of a weakened immune system (Psychoneuroendocrinology, 2013).

Particular genes may play a role in explaining why our bodies are so attuned to our social lives, says psychologist Steve Cole, PhD, at the University of California, Los Angeles. In one study, he and colleagues including Cacioppo analyzed the gene expression profiles of chronically lonely people and found that genes expressed within two subtypes of white blood cells are uniquely responsive to feelings of loneliness. The cells — plasmacytoid dendritic cells and monocytes — are associated with diseases such as atherosclerosis and cancer, as well as "first line of defense" immune responses (PNAS, 2011).

Cole says the most "biologically toxic" aspect of loneliness is that it can make you feel chronically threatened, an emotion that can wear on the immune system. "It's really that sense of unsafe threat, that vague worry, that's probably what's actually kicking off the fight-or-flight stress responses that affect the immune system most directly," he says.

Friends in adulthood

As researchers work to better understand the link between friendships and health, they're also helping to answer a question familiar to anyone who's ever moved to a new city, lost a spouse or otherwise found themselves feeling alone: How do you make friends as an adult? Here's what the research suggests might work:

  • Be a familiar face. The idea that familiarity breeds attraction is long-established by research, and was again supported in a 2011 study led by psychologist Harry Reis, PhD, at the University of Rochester. In the first experiment, same-sex strangers rated how much they liked one another after having several structured conversations. In the other, strangers chatted freely online. In both cases, the amount participants liked their partners increased with each exchange (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2011).

Rachel Bertsche, a writer in Chicago, witnessed this phenomenon outside of the lab when she joined a weekly comedy class a few years ago. At first, she thought her classmates were strange. But she gradually changed her mind — and soon wound up joining the group for drinks after class. "Consistency is so important," she says.

Fehr agrees. She says sticking to a simple routine — whether it's going to the same coffee shop at the same time every day, joining a class like Bertsche or even just going to the office mailroom when it's most crowded — can help turn strangers into friends.

  • Divulge a secret. There are ways to make fast friends, too, psychologists say. Research by Stony Brook University professor Arthur Aron, PhD, showed that gradually increasing the depth of questions and answers between strangers can spawn friendships in just 45 minutes (Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 1997). Fehr and her team are building on this model by directing a couple of college buddies first to ask each other neutral questions, such as, "When did you last go to the zoo?" and slowly build up to more intimate questions such as, "If you knew someone close to you was going to die tomorrow, what would you tell them today — and why haven't you told them yet?"

So far, she's seeing men's friendships getting stronger. "When they do open up to each other, they feel closer to each other and they feel more satisfaction with the relationship," she says.

  • Realize it's in your head. Loneliness is a subjective experience that can often be a self-fulfilling prophecy, says Cacioppo. "When people feel isolated, the brain goes into self-preservation mode," he says, meaning that they become preoccupied with their own — not others' — welfare. While the response is an innate one meant to protect us from threats, over time, it harms physical and mental health and well-being, and makes us more likely to see everything in a negative light. It can also make us seem cold, unfriendly and socially awkward. But recognizing what's in your head can help you get out of it, Cacioppo says.

In a review of interventions to reduce loneliness, he and colleagues found that those that encouraged participants to challenge their own negative thought processes — for example, by sharing a positive part of their day with someone else — were more effective than interventions seeking to improve social skills, enhance social support or increase opportunities for social contact. "It has a surprising effect," Cacioppo says. (Personality and Social Psychology Review, 2010).

  • Log on, with caution. Liz Scherer, a copywriter in Silver Spring, Md., used social media to forge friendships when she moved from New York City to Annapolis, Md., about 10 years ago at age 42. Through Twitter, she connected online with others in her business and met many of them in person at social media conferences. "I've made some really good friends who I talk to … every single day," she says. "They're good social supports and business supports."

Research suggests Scherer's positive experience with social media is most common among people who are already well connected. A review of four studies by psychologist Kennon Sheldon, PhD, of the University of Missouri, and colleagues, for example, found that more time on Facebook was linked to both high and low levels of connectedness. Psychologists posit this may be the case because Facebook supports relationships among those who are already highly socially connected, but might make those who are isolated feel even more so (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2011).

"If you rely on virtual relationships entirely, that's probably bad for you," Carstensen says. "But when you're using email and face time to supplement real relationships, that's a good thing."

  • Don't force it. If the pressure to forge new relationships is more external than internal, put away the "friend wanted" ad and focus on what and who does make you happy, says Carstensen. "If people are not very socially active and they aren't necessarily interested in expanding their social networks, and they seem OK emotionally, then you shouldn't feel alarmed," she says.

After all, being highly connected has its downsides, too, says University of Sheffield psychologist Peter Totterdell, PhD, who studies social networks in organizations. He's found that people with large work-based networks tend to be more anxious than those with fewer connections. "Possibly what's going on there is that you get more possibilities, more resources, but at the same time you've got more responsibility as well," he says.

And trying to change who you are can backfire, since people's likelihood to forge connections seems to be relatively constant throughout life, Totterdell says. "People may have a natural inclination, and to try to change that [may] make them uncomfortable with the results," he says.

The bottom line? Whether you're content with two close friends or prefer to surround yourself with 20 loose acquaintances, what matters is that you feel a part of something greater than yourself, Carstensen says.

"We shouldn't judge people who say, ‘I'm not a party goer, I don't want to make friends, I don't want to hang out in the bars or the clubs' — that's fine," she says. "There's a whole bunch of people who feel the same way."

Link to article

Babies Born to Stressed Mothers More Likely to Be Bullied at School

Can the stress mom's experience while pregnant impact their children into adulthood. There is growing evidence that a baby's wiring and predisposition is strongly influenced by the emotional health of their mother. Read on to discover how.

Nov. 14, 2012 — Children whose mothers were overly stressed during pregnancy are more likely to become victims of bullying at school.

New research from the University of Warwick shows stress and mental health problems in pregnant women may affect the developing baby and directly increases the risk of the child being victimized in later life.

The study has been published in theJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and is based on 8,829 children from the Avon Longtitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC).

Professor Dieter Wolke, Professor of Developmental Psychology at University of Warwick and Warwick Medical School headed up the study.

He said: "This is the first study to investigate stress in pregnancy and a child's vulnerability to being bullied. When we are exposed to stress, large quantities of neurohormones are released into the blood stream and in a pregnant woman this can change the developing fetus' own stress response system.

"Changes in the stress response system can affect behaviour and how children react emotionally to stress such as being picked on by a bully. Children who more easily show a stress reaction such as crying, running away, anxiety are then selected by bullies to home in to."

The research team identified the main prenatal stress factors as severe family problems, such as financial difficulty or alcohol/drug abuse, and maternal mental health.

Professor Wolke added: "The whole thing becomes a vicious cycle, a child with an altered stress response system is more likely to be bullied, which affects their stress response even further and increases the likelihood of them developing mental health problems in later life."

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Warwick.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

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Treating Depression Helps Some Smokers Quit

Does depression make quitting smoking more difficult? This study seems to find that treating depression does help people quit smoking. Read more to find out.

Sep. 19, 2013 — Studies have shown that people with depression are about twice as likely to smoke cigarettes as people without depression and they are less likely to successfully quit than smokers without depression. A new evidence review in The Cochrane Library finds that depressed smokers may stop smoking longer and benefit overall from mood management interventions after they quit smoking.

“Health professionals should encourage their smoking patients with depression to use a smoking cessation intervention that includes a psychosocial mood management component,” said the study’s lead author Regina van der Meer, MPH, a researcher at the Dutch Expert Centre on Tobacco Control.

The researchers studied 49 randomized controlled trials, including 33 trials that focused on smoking cessation with a mood management element for those with current or past depression. The analysis compared both smoking cessation programs using psychosocial interventions, like counseling or exercise, and those using bupropion, an antidepressant to standard non-smoking programs.

When psychosocial components were added, smokers were able to stop smoking for longer periods. While bupropion was effective for those with a history of depression, it was not found to be effective for smokers with current depression.

Gregory L. Kirk, M.D., director of Rocky Mountain Psychiatry Consultants, LLC in Denver, who agreed with the review’s findings, emphasized that smokers with depression, past or present, have more medical problems from smoking and higher death rates from smoking-related illnesses.

“In a standard smoking cessation program, people with depression are more likely to have negative mood changes from nicotine withdrawal, but the non-depressed group can experience mood states as well. But when depressed smokers quit, depression symptoms may actually improve. This makes it all the more critical to understand this high-risk group of smokers and what helps them quit tobacco,” he said.

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The above story is based on materials provided by Health Behavior News Service.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

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Diabetes + Depression = Increased Risk of Death, Review Finds

Can depression lead to death in people with diabetes? According to new research depression causes people with diabetes to follow a cycle of hopelessness, poor self care and increased risk of other health conditions. This in turn leads to increased mortality. This study urges integrative care to address the depression in individuals with diabetes.

Feb. 21, 2013 — People living with diabetes who also have untreated depression are at increased risk of death, according to a new evidence review in General Hospital Psychiatry.

 More than 42,000 patients with type 1 or type 2 diabetes and depression were analyzed in the review. The reviewers discovered that depression was associated with a 1.5 fold increase in the risk of dying. In four of the studies reviewed, co-morbid depression was linked to about a 20 percent higher risk of cardiovascular death for people with diabetes.

Diabetes affects 25.8 million people in the U.S., according to the 2011 National Diabetes Fact Sheet, and about 30 percent of these people also experience symptoms of depression.

"Depression consistently increased the risk of mortality across virtually all studies," said Mijung Park, Ph.D., lead author and assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing. "We can now postulate that the harmful effect of depression is universal to individuals with diabetes."

Todd Brown, M.D., associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, said it is very common to see a patient go into a downward spiral when obesity-related co-morbidities, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and depression converge.

"Obesity can lead to worsening metabolic status that can lead to hopelessness and decreased physical activity, which in turns worsens obesity, and the cycle continues," he explained.

The encouraging news is that depression is a highly treatable condition, said Park. Because depression can make diabetes self-care more difficult and lessen quality of life, she suggested that depression treatment should be included in overall diabetes care strategies.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

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Toxic Teachers: Are teachers the new mean girls? QL Investigates the bullies in front of your blackboard.

When you think about being bullied as a teenager, would you include your teachers as the culprits? I was recently quoted in an article exploring the negative impact of teacher bullying and how to cope. Publication: Girls' Life Author: Abbondanza, Katie Date published: August 1, 2013

"She said a 6-year-old could do better work."

"He criticized every little mistake I made."

"She called me stupid in front of the whole class."

As tough as it is to report, each of those statements came straight from GL readers discussing their very real experiences with bullies. But these bullies aren't fellow classmates - they're teachers.

We grow up thinking that teachers are kind, trustworthy and fair. And most are. But that's why the reports of educators singling out and berating students are troubling. This isn't girls being sensitive or overreacting to one-off comments. Teacher bullying is happening in classrooms across the nation. In fact, a 2012 study found that 45 percent of the 116 teachers surveyed copped to bullying a student. And the effects can be devastating to girls' self-esteem.

Bad Teacher

While it may seem harsh when your teacher doles out a detention after you flaked on the homework for the third time, if that's her rule for everyone, it's not bullying. Rather, teacher bullying is typically defined as using a position of authority to either manipulate or belittle a student past what's accepted as normal discipline, according to Dr. Stuart Twemlow, who has researched this topic.

It's important to remember that teachers are human, so they may lose their cool on a stressful day. But repeatedly lashing out or acting controlling is different. Name-calling, singling someone out, overreacting to the point that a student is afraid or physically intimidating or hitting a student all count as bullying or abusive behaviors.

Miranda H., 17, knows firsthand what it's like to be bullied by a person in power. During her sophomore year, she was harassed by her band instructor after a scheduling conflict didn't allow her to sign up for two periods of music.

Due to her other classes, Miranda, a talented saxophone player, had to take a seat in a less prestigious ensemble.

"I was one of his favorite students freshman year, but he made my sophomore year terrible," she says. "He would yell and be cruel, saying I was a 'disgrace to the band.'"

Just as scary, Miranda's teacher blamed her for his outbursts, a classic trait exhibited by abusers. He told her if she had just done what he wanted, he wouldn't have to call her out all the time.

"It was terrible," she says, adding that she'd go home in tears nearly every day. "I was constantly on edge, and I couldn't concentrate in my other classes."

Miranda's father talked with the band teacher at one point, but he denied any abusive behavior. And though she took all the right steps, his reaction made her feel like she was wrong, which is typical among bullying victims.

"If a teacher is calling you inappropriate names or repeatedly singling you out for minor mistakes [which are different from behavioral issues], know that you did nothing wrong," says Jennifer Musselman, a therapist who works with teens.

Speaking Up

It's easy for students to feel powerless in these situations, but all the experts we spoke with stressed the importance of talking to your teacher before things escalate. In some cases, he or she might simply have high standards for you and be inadvertently treating you differently than the rest of the class. Regardless of the reason, you have to say something.

Where to start? Be direct. You should bring up exactly what's bothering you, whether it's the way your teacher ignores your hand when you raise it or how it hurts your feelings when she teases you, even if she's joking.

Mention that you've noticed it more than once. Maybe your teacher isn't aware her behavior is bothering you, and all it will take is a quick after-class conversation to get her to back off.

Of course, confronting your teacher doesn't always guarantee success. Maggie L., 17, had an eighth-grade art teacher who constantly singled out her work. She loved to draw, but her teacher always criticized her. One day, Maggie spoke up and asked what she could do to improve her piece.

"Well, if I were you, I'd throw it out and start over," the teacher told her, even though she was almost done with the entire assignment.

"Sometimes, her comments hurt my feelings." Maggie confessed. "Teachers are in such a powerful position. No matter if you like them or not, their opinion of you really matters. It's very different from classmates being judgmental or not liking you."

Maggie's thoughts get to the heart of why teacher bullying is so troublingand why girls have to continue to defend themselves even after that initial chat with their teacher.

"[If a teacher's behavior is] starting to affect your self-esteem or your grade, it's time to take your concerns to a trusted adult like your mom, dad, school counselor or another teacher," says Jennifer. She recommends documenting the day, time and what the teacher said so you can have a record of what happened.

"Be very clear on what the teacher is saying or doing that is causing you to feel this way," she says. "If possible, list any classmates who can vouch for you."

Ask your parents to talk to the teacher with you, and give them your written list of concerns and incidents. They might decide it's time to talk with the principal or the vice principal, who will hopefully remedy the situation. In the meantime, focus on your work and, if necessary, ask for extra help from a friend or school counselor.

Damage Control

Truth is, just one semester with a toxic teacher can negatively influence your life for years to come, which is why it's extra important to deal with the damage before it's too late.

Miranda, the one-time band star who was bullied, ended up quitting her instrument altogether by the time junior year rolled around.

After having her teacher read her English paper out loud and then call her stupid, Nina J., 14, is now afraid to make her presence known in class. "I never raise my hand in class anymore, because I'm afraid she will make me feel dumb," she admits.

Nina's case may be extreme, but the psychological effects of dealing with a toxic teacher can linger long after class is dismissed. Dr. Nerina GarciaArcement, a clinical psychologist, says to put your feelings down on paper - either by journaling or writing a letter to your teacher that you don't send. Talking with a school counselor also can help sort through the issue.

A Fresh Start

If all else fails, know you can remove yourself from the situation if you and your parents talk with the school's administration. "If the teacher doesn't change, it may be time to transfer out of that class," says Jennifer.

Take Emily M., 15, who eventually decided to take it one step further. She switched schools after her former school's only drama teacher picked on her endlessly.

"He'd say I'm obnoxious and ugly and annoying and stupid. That there was no way I'd ever be an actress," Emily says.

In the end, Emily made the tough decision to transfer, opting for a fresh start. "As hard as it was to leave, it would have been even harder to continue to deal with that teacher," she says. "I'm finally back to my old cheerful self. I'm a lot happier as a person now."

But even if the cruel comments cease or you remove yourself from dealing with critical remarks by changing classes or schools, check yourself for any persistent habits you may have picked up during that time period - like not speaking up in class or thinking you're not good at a certain subject - just because a bully teacher told you so.

"Try to figure out, 'How did this impact me?'" says Dr. GarciaArcement. And then, if you realize you're scared or are avoiding something you used to love, figure out a plan to get involved again - away from the watchful eye of your toxic teacher.

Miranda, who quit playing saxophone because of her experience, could form a jazz band with some friends outside of school. Maggie, who stopped believing in her artsy abilities, could take a lowpressure drawing class at a ree center.

And remember, while it's unfair that you have to deal with a bullying teacher, know that most educators are supportive, professional people who want to see you go far. So for every toxic teacher in this world, there are hundreds of others out there ready to guide you in the right direction. Keep an eye out for the ones who will truly help you shine.

Read more: http://www.readperiodicals.com/201308/3030678731.html#b#ixzz2eQjJuSRa

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Yoga Helps Ease Stress Related Medical and Psychological Conditions, Study Suggests

Yoga might increase GABA activity, low GABA (neurotransmitter) is linked to anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, epilepsy, and chronic pain. So practicing yoga might reduce distress from these disorders. Mar. 6, 2012 — An article by researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), New York Medical College (NYMC), and the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons (CCPS) reviews evidence that yoga may be effective in treating patients with stress-related psychological and medical conditions such as depression, anxiety, high blood pressure and cardiac disease. Their theory, which currently appears online in Medical Hypotheses, could be used to develop specific mind-body practices for the prevention and treatment of these conditions in conjunction with standard treatments.

It is hypothesized that stress causes an imbalance in the autonomic nervous system (parasympathetic under-activity and sympathetic over-activity) as well as under-activity of the inhibitory neurotransmitter, gamma amino-butyric acid (GABA). Low GABA activity occurs in anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, epilepsy, and chronic pain. According to the researchers, the hypothesis advanced in this paper could explain why vagal nerve stimulation (VNS) works to decrease both seizure frequency and the symptoms of depression.

"Western and Eastern medicine complement one another. Yoga is known to improve stress-related nervous system imbalances," said Chris Streeter, MD, associate professor of psychiatry at BUSM and Boston Medical Center, who is the study's lead author. Streeter believes that "This paper provides a theory, based on neurophysiology and neuroanatomy, to understand how yoga helps patients feel better by relieving symptoms in many common disorders."

An earlier study by BUSM researchers comparing a walking group and a yoga group over a 12-week period found no increase in GABA levels in the walking group, whereas the yoga group showed increased GABA levels and decreased anxiety. In another 12-week BUSM study, patients with chronic low back pain responded to a yoga intervention with increased GABA levels and significant reduction in pain compared to a group receiving standard care alone.

In crafting this neurophysiological theory of how yoga affects the nervous system, Streeter collaborated with Patricia Gerbarg, MD, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at NYMC, Domenic A. Ciraulo, MD, chairman of psychiatry at BUSM, Robert Saper, MD MPH, associate professor of family medicine at BUSM, and Richard P. Brown, MD, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at CCPS. They are beginning test these theories by incorporating mind-body therapies such as yoga in their clinical studies of a wide range of stress-related medical and psychological conditions.

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Awakening to sleep

New research describes the immense impact sleep deprivation has on our minds and bodies. Tempted to read just one more email before you sleep? Don't. New research finds that not getting enough sleep — whether because of our insatiable desire for digital media or more traditional sleep disturbances — has far-reaching effects on physical and psychological health.

By Dr. Siri Carpenter

January 2013, Vol 44, No. 1

Print version: page 40

Awakening to sleep

Orfeu Buxton, PhD, has just pulled his first all-nighter in six years, and he is tired. Earlier in the week, he stayed up all night for the final push on a grant application to the National Institute on Aging, coordinating a small crew who worked past dawn. Two days later, he's still exhausted and says he feels "ghostlike." He may also be a little embarrassed. As a sleep researcher, he should know better. "Maybe next time the irony will be too powerful," says Buxton, a neuroscientist in the Harvard University School of Medicine and the Division of Sleep Medicine of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

Buxton has plenty of company in his sleeplessness. Technology keeps serving up ever more enticing ways to put off bedtime — whether for entertainment or work — and in this era of economic uncertainty, job and financial stress keeps millions of Americans from getting a good night's sleep. Data on just how much the nation sleeps are imprecise, but among scientists, the consensus is that it's not enough. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a quarter of U.S. adults say they don't get enough sleep at least half of the time. Research indicates that a quarter of teens get no more than 6.5 hours, far short of the nine or so hours most need. And a 2012 study from the CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found that 41 million workers get fewer than six hours of sleep a night — significantly less than the seven to nine hours that experts recommend.

Researchers are unlocking the unsettling and far-reaching health consequences of losing all of this sleep. Some are obvious: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, for example, driver fatigue results in 100,000 crashes annually, leading to 1,550 deaths and more than 70,000 injuries.

More subtly, a large body of research now shows that chronically getting too little sleep disrupts many aspects of physical health, including hormone regulation, glucose metabolism, insulin resistance, inflammation processes, pain perception and immune function, to name a few.

In a guest editorial for Sleep Medicine Reviews, clinical psychologist Michael Grandner, PhD, of the Center for Sleep and Respiratory Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania, argued that along with diet and exercise, "sleep should be considered a key domain of healthy behavior." The same sort of public health resources devoted to education and interventions promoting activity and healthy eating, he and others argue, should also be directed at promoting healthy sleep.

With the mounting evidence that normal variations in sleep can lead to poorer health, both the public health community and the media now seem to be waking up to the importance of sleep in our overall health. Fixing some sleep problems may seem as simple as following a few key "sleep hygiene" guidelines, but there is still a disconnect. The temptation to check one more message, read one more article or watch one more episode is powerful and insidious.

Every hour counts

In 1938, University of Chicago physiologist Nathaniel Kleitman, PhD, and a colleague sequestered themselves for 32 days in the bowels of Kentucky's Mammoth Cave to reset their bodies to a 28-hour clock and track the physical and psychological consequences of doing so. Kleitman, whose first paper on sleep deprivation was published in 1923, is considered the founder of sleep research in the United States. His research on circadian processes and his co-discovery of the rapid-eye movement, or REM, stage of sleep in the early 1950s were foundational developments. (Kleitman's willingness to tamper with his own sleep seems, paradoxically, not to have harmed his health — he lived to the age of 104.)

Throughout Kleitman's life and since, the University of Chicago (UC) remained a center of sleep research. In 1963, Kleitman's colleague Allan Rechtschaffen, PhD, described the first sleep disorder, narcolepsy. In another influential series of studies conducted during the 1980s, Rechtschaffen showed that sleep-deprived rats eventually died from the collapse of their thermoregulatory systems.

But despite such striking demonstrations of sleep's importance to basic physiological functioning, sleep science struggled for recognition. Sure, most people understood that you might not be your sharpest after a poor night's sleep. And for sleep researchers, it seemed obvious that anything we did for a third of our lives was probably important. But for the most part, popular culture and academia alike just yawned and declared: "It's only a quarter [of your life] if you're tough." And researchers didn't have much of a comeback.

But they were on the trail. In 1991, UC sleep medicine specialist Eve Van Cauter, PhD, reported in the Journal of Clinical Investigation that subjecting healthy people to total sleep deprivation threw off their glucose tolerance and insulin resistance and that these issues resolved after recovery sleep. Since then, dozens of studies have elaborated on that finding.

For years, laboratory sleep research focused on extreme kinds of sleep loss — the kind of total deprivation that Buxton experienced when he pulled his all-nighter. But outside the nation's sleep labs, far more common than total sleep deprivation is what researchers variously call partial sleep loss, sleep restriction or short sleep. Whatever they call it, they're referring to chronically cutting one's sleep short by just an hour or two a night. The first study to look closely at the health effects of partial sleep was published in The Lancet in 1999. In that study, Van Cauter's team found that levels of leptin, a hormone that regulates hunger and appetite, dropped 19 percent during a period of partial sleep deprivation.

The cardiometabolic trap

Subsequent studies have confirmed the effects of partial sleep loss on hormone regulation and have led to a burgeoning of research on the role of sleep in obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease — a tangled triumvirate of sickness and mortality that are key elements of what researchers sometimes refer to as cardiometabolic disease. In a 2012 article published in the American Journal of Human Biology, UC biomedical anthropologist Kristen Knutson, PhD, reviewed research on sleep and cardiometabolic health and concluded that sleep restriction leads to "substantial and clinically significant changes in appetite regulation, hunger, food intake, glucose metabolism and blood pressure control." Knutson also found a significant association between short sleep duration (less than six hours per night, in most studies) and either more obesity or a higher body mass index. Adolescents and children showed a stronger association, suggesting they may be especially vulnerable to the effects of lost sleep.

One way in which lack of sleep may thwart cardiometabolic health is by skewing people's dietary choices. In a 2011 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition by a large multicenter team, healthy men and women who were restricted to just four hours of sleep per night over six nights took in significantly more calories, particularly from fat, than their well-rested counterparts — and they didn't make up for it by burning more energy.

Another study, conducted by Arlet Nedeltcheva, MD, and colleagues at UC and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2009, found that adults who were allowed to sleep only 5.5 hours per night for two weeks indulged in more snacks than their counterparts who enjoyed 8.5 hours of sleep each night. Likewise, in a 2012 yet-to-be-published study that drew on data from the CDC's 2007–08 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, Knutson, Grandner and colleagues mapped dietary patterns to sleep complaints including difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, non-restorative sleep and daytime sleepiness. Every complaint, they found, was significantly associated with greater total caloric intake.

In a 2012 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, a team of UC researchers uncovered a molecular clue to how lack of sleep might promote diabetes: Fat cells in people who don't get enough sleep have a 30 percent reduced ability to respond to insulin. Fortunately, the biochemical processes that sleep loss sets in motion may reversible, at least if skipping sleep doesn't become a lifelong habit. In September, psychologist Karen Matthews, PhD, of the University of Pittsburgh, reported in SLEEP that if teens who normally got six hours of sleep per night were allowed just one extra hour of sleep, their insulin resistance improved by 9 percent.

Now, Till Roenneberg, PhD, of the University of Munich's Institute of Medical Psychology, has introduced a new wrinkle to the sleep literature: The physiological chaos that ensues when the body's internal clock, which is set by our exposure to sunlight and night-time darkness, is out of sync with our "social clocks," which are set by the demands and temptations of modern life, from early-morning alarms to the late lure of "The Daily Show." Roenneberg calls this familiar brand of circadian disruption "social jet lag," noting that staying up later and sleeping later on weekends, then wrenching one's schedule back in time at the beginning of each workweek, is akin to traveling from New York to Denver every Friday night, then returning every Monday morning.

In a study in Current Biology in 2012, Roenneberg and colleagues in Germany and the Netherlands surveyed 65,000 European adults to understand their sleep habits, health behavior and physical health. They found that 69 percent of respondents suffered from at least an hour of social jet lag each week, and a third of participants regularly suffered at least two hours of social jet lag. Like short sleep, social jet lag appears to be a significant health hazard. Even after the researchers accounted for sleep duration and other characteristics that affect health, people who suffered social jet lag were more likely to be overweight than those whose social and biological clocks were more in sync. And among people who were overweight, more extreme social jet lag was associated with much greater risk of obesity.

The importance of considering both the duration and the timing of sleep is further bolstered by a study by Buxton and colleagues, which showed that disrupting people's internal clocks as well as partially restricting their sleep could increase risk of both diabetes and obesity. In the research, reported in Science Translational Medicine in 2012, Buxton's group controlled the sleep and diet of 21 participants for six weeks, cutting their sleep by about two hours per night and subjecting them to an artificial 28-hour circadian day for three weeks. The participants' pancreatic function went "haywire," Buxton says, causing hyperglycemia after a breakfast meal, which over time leads to increased risk of diabetes. The circadian and sleep disruption also caused a metabolic slowdown that, if not counteracted, would cause a weight gain of about 10 pounds a year.

Far-reaching effects

The ill effects of too little sleep go well beyond metabolism and cardiovascular risk. For example, research indicates that sleep loss also messes with people's moods and leads to exaggerated pain perception. In a 2005 study published in Pain, Harvard University neurologists Monika Haack, PhD, and Janet Mullington, PhD, brought research participants into the laboratory and randomly assigned them to sleep for either four or eight hours per night for 12 consecutive nights. Even when participants did not report fatigue, the shorter sleepers reported lower levels of optimism and sociability, an effect that grew stronger the longer the experiment continued.

Haack and Mullington also found that sleep-deprived research participants reported increasing "bodily discomfort" — known to most of us as pain — starting after the second sleep-deprived night and lasting until after their recovery sleep. In a follow-up study published in SLEEP in 2007, they found that sleep deprivation caused increases in blood plasma levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), a signaling molecule that contributes to pain sensitivity. The more bodily discomfort that participants reported in Haack and Mullington's study, the more their IL-6 levels were elevated. Even though the increases in IL-6 were typically small, the researchers argued that they may play an important role in exacerbating pain.

Sleep's importance is now felt across more areas of medicine. In a 2012 study in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, psychologist Kathi Heffner, PhD, of the University of Rochester Medical Center, and colleagues reported that when healthy men and women age 50 and older were given stressful cognitive tasks, those who were poor sleepers showed a larger IL-6 response — a marker of inflammation — than did good sleepers.

Other research shows that sleep apnea and other sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) conditions are associated with higher cancer incidence as well as more deaths from cancer. In a study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine in 2012, the University of Wisconsin's F. Javier Nieto, MPH, MD, PhD, and colleagues found that the incidence of cancer deaths in patients with severe SDB was five times higher than in those without the disorder.

Even the body's immune response to vaccines is weaker if the recipient is short on sleep, according to a recent study in SLEEP led by University of California, San Francisco, health psychologist Aric Prather, PhD. The researchers gave 125 healthy adults a three-dose series of hepatitis B shots, monitoring their sleep duration and quality for a week before and after each shot. Results showed that people who slept less during the study had lower antibody response to the vaccine, potentially increasing their susceptibility to hepatitis infection.

Who lacks sleep?

Just as important as understanding the effects of insufficient sleep is understanding who is most at risk, so that efforts to fix the problem can be concentrated most effectively. In recent years, sleep researchers have found that insufficient sleep is related to a constellation of social factors, including socioeconomic status, race and ethnicity, and workplace and neighborhood conditions.

In a 2010 survey of 9,714 randomly selected Pennsylvania adults, published in BMC Public Health, Grandner and colleagues found a significant "sleep disparity" within the sample. Overall, minority respondents had poorer sleep quality than white respondents. However, among those who were impoverished, whites unexpectedly fared worse.

In the most refined look at sleep and race to date, Northwestern University's Mercedes Carnethon, PhD, used wrist monitors to study sleep patterns in a random sample of 500 healthy U.S. adults. Results showed that after accounting for potentially confounding cardiovascular disease risk factors and education levels, black adults slept an average of only 6.8 hours per night, compared with 7.4 hours, on average, for whites. Asians and Hispanics didn't fare much better — they slept an average of 6.9 hours per night.

Workplace conditions also appear to exert power over one's sleep — or lack thereof. In a 2010 study in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology that looked at sleep duration and cardiovascular disease risk in 393 health-care workers, Buxton and colleagues found that workers with less-supportive managers — as defined by their "openness and creativity in dealing with employee work-family needs" — got 29 minutes less sleep daily and were twice as likely as those with more supportive bosses to have two or more risk factors for cardiovascular disease. "That's a powerful effect of a supervisor on their low-wage employees," Buxton says.

Where one lays one's head is another important risk factor, says Lauren Hale, PhD, of Stony Brook University School of Medicine. She suspects that people in low-income neighborhoods can't sleep as well due to a constellation of physical and psychological hazards — from high-traffic streets and inadequate heating and cooling to food insecurity and landlord hassles. In a study published in Social Science & Medicine in 2012, Hale and colleagues examined the associations among neighborhood conditions, sleep quality and health in using data from the Survey of the Health of Wisconsin. People who reported they lived in neighborhoods with more physical and social disorder tended also to report poorer sleep quality, perceive their health as poorer and experience more symptoms of depression.

By statistically controlling for numerous demographic and health factors, Hale's team found that people's sleep quality accounted for about 20 percent of the association between neighborhood quality and both self-rated health and depression. "The determinants of poor sleep fall along lines of social disadvantage," Hale concludes. "My hunch is that it's bigger than just A/C and noise. It's more about autonomy. If people have choices and control over their lives, they have more ability to shut down at night and sleep when they need to sleep and wake up when they need to wake up."

Findings that link sleep deficiencies to social factors signal a need for a more sophisticated public health approach to promoting healthy sleep, sleep researchers believe. "We have to understand the social and environmental context of health behaviors before we can intervene on them," Grandner says. For some people, simple changes to "sleep hygiene" can go a long way toward ensuring a good night's sleep. But it would be naïve to believe that across the board, simply educating people about the importance of healthy sleep habits — avoiding caffeine late at night, having a consistent bedtime routine, eschewing the seductive blue light of the laptop late at night — will be sufficient to correct endemic problems that lead to insufficient sleep.

Strength in sleep

"I'll sleep when I'm dead."

You've no doubt heard it said, and possibly even said it yourself. You were joking, and projecting a certain brio, the notion that sleep is a luxury.

Buxton doesn't see the humor, and he has a quick retort. "If you want [death] to come sooner," he responds. Sleep, he argues, can be an incredibly strong indication "of things going well or things going wrong."

Even as the causes and consequences of insufficient sleep become better understood, developing and implementing behavioral interventions to improve sleep are likely to be major challenges. Grandner speculates that doing so will require a community-based behavioral strategy, similar to campaigns used to improve diets and promote regular exercise.

Can we change health at a societal level by changing sleep patterns?

"I think it's possible," Hale says. "Do I think it's easy? No." But she does think it's important to try to tackle the deteriorating length and quality of sleep wrought by new devices, new media and new societal pressures. Recently, she came across a disturbing video in which a motivational speaker tells teens, "If you're going to be successful, you've got to be willing to give up sleep. … You've got to be willing to work off of three hours of sleep, two hours … because if you go to sleep, you might miss the opportunity to be successful."

"I hate the ethos that sleep is for the weak," she says. "That's very shortsighted, and the wrong message to be sending adolescents. In the long run, everybody is better off if they go to bed at a reasonable hour."


Siri Carpenter, PhD, is a writer in Madison, Wis.

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Tuning in to psychology

Can't get to a lecture room, but curious about the latest research in psychology.  Here is a simple and free way to access lectures through iTunes U. Thanks to iTunes U, free psychology lectures are pumping through the earbuds of thousands of students, professionals and curious laypeople around the world.

By Anna Miller

Monitor Staff

January 2013, Vol 44, No. 1

Print version: page 28

Tuning in to psychology

Last spring, Daniel Stokols, PhD, of the University of California–Irvine, video recorded his environmental psychology lectures as a first foray into developing an online course. A proponent of face-to-face interactions with students, Stokols saw the videos as a useful supplement to classroom-based learning, not a substitute for it. He uploaded the videos to iTunes U, a component of the iTunes music store that features free academic content, and proceeded with his course as usual. "I thought maybe 100 people would view the course," he says. Fast forward a few months. Apple had featured Stokols's course on its iTunes U homepage. By late July, the course had more student enrollments per week than any other. By September, it had reached 100,000 subscribers and, for months, it remained one of iTunes U's top 10 courses. In November, subscriptions topped 170,000 students.

"It's mind-boggling," says Stokols, who has taught at UCI for nearly 40 years and has "never come close" to reaching that many students. Now, he's heard from a photographer in Germany who says the course has changed the way she interprets her photos; a nurse anesthesia student in Pittsburgh who learned that surgical patients require less pain medication if their beds face windows; and a professor in China who had never heard of environmental psychology before.

"The gratifying part is the feedback from people around the world who are enjoying the material and finding it useful," he says.

Stokols is just one of a growing number of professors turning to iTunes U to host content for their students and share high-quality educational material with the public. Apple launched the platform in 2007; Stanford, UC-Berkeley, MIT and Duke were among the first to sign on. Professors can upload syllabi, handouts, quizzes, slides and links to online resources in addition to audio and video lectures. Students, professionals and curious laypeople can access the courses for free via their computers (PCs included) or with an iPod, iPhone or iPad. The iOS application, which launched in January 2012, had been downloaded more than 14 million times by the end of the year.

"What's really heartening is … how hungry people are for good science," says Dacher Keltner, PhD, of UC Berkeley, whose "Psychology of Emotion" course was listed as one of the top five educational downloads in Wired magazine. He regularly gets feedback from listeners, including an employee at a cardboard box-making factory who's found that the lectures make his job bearable and a retired attorney who said that if he had known about the science of emotion earlier, his professional life and marriage would have been different.

Many universities don't appear to have a problem with providing the public with the same content –– but not the credits –– that students pay big bucks for. At Yale, for example, Fred Volkmar's course on autism serves as a reliable source in an Internet pool diluted with millions of websites selling cures for autism. "It's very consistent with Yale's vision of wanting to get quality product out there," he says.

Below is a sampling of some of the psychology courses available on iTunes U. To access the courses, download the iTunes app or go to the iTunes store.

Tuning in to psychology

Thanks to iTunes U, free psychology lectures are pumping through the earbuds of thousands of students, professionals and curious laypeople around the world.

By Anna Miller

Monitor Staff

January 2013, Vol 44, No. 1

Print version: page 28

Tuning in to psychology

Last spring, Daniel Stokols, PhD, of the University of California–Irvine, video recorded his environmental psychology lectures as a first foray into developing an online course. A proponent of face-to-face interactions with students, Stokols saw the videos as a useful supplement to classroom-based learning, not a substitute for it. He uploaded the videos to iTunes U, a component of the iTunes music store that features free academic content, and proceeded with his course as usual. "I thought maybe 100 people would view the course," he says. Fast forward a few months. Apple had featured Stokols's course on its iTunes U homepage. By late July, the course had more student enrollments per week than any other. By September, it had reached 100,000 subscribers and, for months, it remained one of iTunes U's top 10 courses. In November, subscriptions topped 170,000 students.

"It's mind-boggling," says Stokols, who has taught at UCI for nearly 40 years and has "never come close" to reaching that many students. Now, he's heard from a photographer in Germany who says the course has changed the way she interprets her photos; a nurse anesthesia student in Pittsburgh who learned that surgical patients require less pain medication if their beds face windows; and a professor in China who had never heard of environmental psychology before.

"The gratifying part is the feedback from people around the world who are enjoying the material and finding it useful," he says.

Stokols is just one of a growing number of professors turning to iTunes U to host content for their students and share high-quality educational material with the public. Apple launched the platform in 2007; Stanford, UC-Berkeley, MIT and Duke were among the first to sign on. Professors can upload syllabi, handouts, quizzes, slides and links to online resources in addition to audio and video lectures. Students, professionals and curious laypeople can access the courses for free via their computers (PCs included) or with an iPod, iPhone or iPad. The iOS application, which launched in January 2012, had been downloaded more than 14 million times by the end of the year.

"What's really heartening is … how hungry people are for good science," says Dacher Keltner, PhD, of UC Berkeley, whose "Psychology of Emotion" course was listed as one of the top five educational downloads in Wired magazine. He regularly gets feedback from listeners, including an employee at a cardboard box-making factory who's found that the lectures make his job bearable and a retired attorney who said that if he had known about the science of emotion earlier, his professional life and marriage would have been different.

Many universities don't appear to have a problem with providing the public with the same content –– but not the credits –– that students pay big bucks for. At Yale, for example, Fred Volkmar's course on autism serves as a reliable source in an Internet pool diluted with millions of websites selling cures for autism. "It's very consistent with Yale's vision of wanting to get quality product out there," he says.

Below is a sampling of some of the psychology courses available on iTunes U. To access the courses, download the iTunes app or go to the iTunes store.

"Environmental psychology"

University of California, Irvine

Instructor: Daniel Stokols, PhD, chancellor's professor of social ecology in the departments of psychology and social behavior, and planning, policy and design

Why tune in? Environmental psychology is about how we're influenced by our everyday surroundings, including our offices, dorm rooms, commutes and exposures to nature. Stokols's course addresses a variety of issues, including how the design of an apartment influences the formation of friendships, why people litter and the consequences of a society suffering from information overload. "Today, there's so much concern about issues of sustainability, public health, pollution and population growth that viewing the world as a system and in ecological terms … is very timely," says Stokols.

Fun fact from the course: People are more likely to throw away trash in a garbage can that's painted decoratively than one that's plain.

"Health psychology"

American University

Instructor: Brian Yates, PhD, professor of psychology

Why tune in? Yates originally intended iTunes U to serve as a resource for his own students, who are challenged to evaluate and change their own habits to promote health. They assess their personal risks, identify what they want to change and maintain, and set up a system of "triggers and flags" that will signal when it's time to seek professional help in the future. The material has caught on — his course is consistently one of the top 10 downloaded from iTunes U and had more than 35,000 enrollees in October. "The field is very exciting. It's young, dynamic, it affects every one of us," says Yates. "That's what psychology is supposed to do."

Surprising fact from the course: One study of HIV-positive men found that those who tended to blame themselves for negative outside events experienced a significantly faster decline in helper T cells, important for maintaining immune function.

"Human emotion"

University of California, Berkeley

Instructor: Dacher Keltner, PhD, professor of psychology and director of Berkeley's Social Interaction Laboratory

Why tune in? Keltner's course has always been well-attended, so it was Berkeley's idea to make it available to the public through iTunes U. The course details fascinating research on art and emotional expression, cultural similarities and differences in non-verbal expressions, and emotion's neurobiological and hormonal underpinnings. "The study of human emotion is new, it's growing and it's relevant to people around the world," says Keltner.

Interesting fact from the course: People can usually accurately convey — and interpret — emotion through nothing more than a brief touch. But in a study conducted by Keltner and his team, there were two instances in which the "touchee" was clueless: When women tried to convey anger to men, and when men tried to communicate sympathy to women. "That fits how emotions are gendered, and how families socialize women into the ways of sympathy and men into the ways of anger that might account for these differences," he says.

"Autism and related disorders"

Yale University

Instructor: Fred Volkmar, MD, chief of child psychiatry at Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital

Why tune in? A rotating panel of mental health experts lead this course on the latest autism research, including a lecture by Volkmar's co-instructor, James McPartland, PhD, that details how brain electrophysiology is informing researchers' understanding of social perception in autism. "This is a happy story in the sense that outcomes seem to be getting better with early intervention and protection," says Volkmar, who estimates the course's first lecture has gotten about 21,000 views on iTunes.

Interesting fact from the course: One of the early theories of autism speculated that intelligent parents were more likely to have autistic children. But the idea was likely a selection bias: The people who knew about what's now known as autism were predominantly researchers or other academics. "Now," he says, "you see children with autism everywhere … from all social classes, from every continent on the globe — and it looks remarkably the same. What's different is how people respond to it."

"Great ideas in psychology"

Missouri State University

Instructor: Todd Daniel, professor of psychology and director of Missouri State's RStats (Research, Statistical Training, Analysis and Technical Support) Institute

Why tune in? Daniel is a former radio producer who uses his storytelling skills to bring psychology to life in this introductory course. The course, which is Missouri State's most downloaded podcast, begins with the "Myth of Psyche" and takes the listener through an engaging overview of psychology including lectures on dreaming and hypnosis, a health course dubbed "Why College Is Bad for You" and the truth about Freud. "After I do a lecture in front of a seated class, when it's over, it's gone like a vapor," says Daniel. "I wanted to create something more permanent."

Surprising fact from the course: In 1964, a man named Randy Gardner went 264 hours, or about 11 days, without sleep. He was trying to prove that sleep wasn't all that important, but the changes noted in his cognitive and behavioral functioning proved otherwise — a lesson Daniel tries to impart on his students. "Your best strategy is to get a good night's sleep," he says.

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Mental Illness and Marriage

I was interviewed on how mental illness affects marriage and how to cope. Listen to the podcast.

What kind of impact does mental illness have on a marriage?

In today’s society, it’s becoming more and more common for individuals to be living with some sort of mental health condition or illness like anxiety or depression. And while there are many issues and conditions that present themselves in different, unique ways, oftentimes the effects on a marriage are very similar.

In addition to anxiety and depression, some people suffer from more extreme conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse problems. When these issues creep in without the proper treatment, their impact on a marriage and the individual can be fundamentally problematic. In some situations, the partner without the condition will have to pick up the slack for the other. And in many cases, couples will begin to suffer from tension and exhaustion within their marriage.

Our guest today is Dr. Nerina Garcia, a clinical psychologist with Williamsburg Therapy and Wellness in Brooklyn, NY. Nerina is here to give us some advice about how couples and individuals can learn to cope with mental illnesses within marriages while building a network of support.

To find out more about Nerina and her practice, visit her website or call (917) 816-4449.

Podcast: Play in new window | Download

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Childhood Trauma Leaves Mark On DNA of Some Victims: Gene-Environment Interaction Causes Lifelong Dysregulation of Stress Hormones

How we live and what happens to us changes our genes. Trauma in early childhood can change DNA and lead to PTSD, anxiety and depression.

Dec. 2, 2012 from Sciencedaily.com— Abused children are at high risk of anxiety and mood disorders, as traumatic experience induces lasting changes to their gene regulation. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich have now documented for the first time that genetic variants of the FKBP5 gene can influence epigenetic alterations in this gene induced by early trauma.

In individuals with a genetic predisposition, trauma causes long-term changes in DNA methylation leading to a lasting dysregulation of the stress hormone system. As a result, those affected find themselves less able to cope with stressful situations throughout their lives, frequently leading to depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or anxiety disorders in adulthood. Doctors and scientists hope these discoveries will yield new treatment strategies tailored to individual patients, as well as increased public awareness of the importance of protecting children from trauma and its consequences.

Many human illnesses arise from the interaction of individual genes and environmental influences. Traumatic events, especially in childhood, constitute high risk factors for the emergence of psychiatric illnesses in later life. However, whether early stress actually leads to a psychiatric disorder depends largely on his or her genetic predisposition.

Research Group Leader Elisabeth Binder of the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry examined the DNA of almost 2000 Afro-Americans who had been repeatedly and severely traumatised as adults or in childhood. One-third of trauma victims had become ill and was now suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder rose with increasing severity of abuse only in the carriers of a specific genetic variant in the FKBP5 gene. FKPB5 determines how effectively the organism can react to stress, and by this regulates the entire stress hormone system. The scientists hoped to cast light on the mechanisms of this gene-environment interaction by comparing modifications of the DNA sequence of victims who had not become ill with that of those who had.

The Munich-based Max Planck scientists were then able to demonstrate that the genetic FKBP5 variant does make a physiological difference to those affected, also in nerve cells. Extreme stress and the associated high concentrations of stress hormones bring about what is called an epigenetic change. A methyl group is broken off the DNA at this point, causing a marked increase in FKBP5 activity. This lasting epigenetic change is generated primarily through childhood traumatisation. Consequently, no disease-related demethylation of the FKBP5 gene was detected in participants who were traumatised in adulthood only.

Torsten Klengel, a scientist at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, explains the findings of the study as follows: "Depending on genetic predisposition, childhood trauma can leave permanent epigenetic marks on the DNA, further de-repressing FKBP5 transcription. The consequence is a permanent dysregulation of the victim's stress hormone system, which can ultimately lead to psychiatric illness. Decisive for victims of childhood abuse, however, is that the stress-induced epigenetic changes can only occur if their DNA has a specific sequence."

This recent study improves our understanding of psychiatric illnesses which arise from the interaction of environmental and genetic factors. The results will help tailor treatment particularly for patients who were exposed to trauma in early childhood, thereby greatly increasing their risk of illness.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Max-Planck-Gesellschaft (2012, December 2). Childhood trauma leaves mark on DNA of some victims: Gene-environment interaction causes lifelong dysregulation of stress hormones. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 10, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2012/12/121202164057.htm

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