Having a sick friend is scary. The possibility of losing them can paralyze. Many want to offer help and support, but struggle with how to do it in a meaningful and non-imposing manner. Gluck offers thoughtful ways to offer support to an friend or loved one with a serious illness.What to do—and what not to do—when someone you love gets a serious diagnosis
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.
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.
What helps reduce your stress? New research is confirming what crafters have always known intuitively, that when they engage in a creative and repetitive act they go into a calming state. As a psychologist, I often recommend knitting, crocheting or other crafts as a stress reliever. This article discusses new research explaining why this is helpful. BY DR. SARAH MCKAY JUNE 24, 2014 4:39 AM EDT
Knit one. Purl one. Knit one. Purl one. Knit one. Purl one. The rhythmic and repetitive nature of knitting is calming, comforting and contemplative. It’s not a stretch for you to imagine knitting as a mindfulness practice, or perhaps a form of meditation.
I’m delighted to report that neuroscience is finally catching up on brain health aspects of the trend some have called "the new yoga."
Research shows that knitting and other forms of textile crafting such as sewing, weaving and crocheting have quite a lot in common with mindfulness and meditation — all are reported to have a positive impact on mind health and well-being.
We hear about how bad stress is for our health, but just how bad is it? This article sheds some important light on this issue. It is more important than ever to address your chronic stress through exercise, self care activities, social support and even therapy.
Elissa Epel is studying how personality, stress processes and environment affect our DNA — and how we might lessen damaging effects.
Food is comfort. It is no surprise that when we are upset we turn to food to soothe ourselves. Turns out that there is growing research supporting the idea that different foods can help you feel less stressed. Read below for more information.
Can erotic romances be good for you? There are multiple reasons why these books can help you improve your love life beyond providing entertainment.
By Charlotte Rose
Although erotic romance books have been around for a long time, they have experienced an amazing resurgence since Fifty Shades of Grey. And they have gone mainstream!
When I wrote my first erotic romance 20 years ago, it was sold in the secret back section of book stores or sex novelty shops, or by mail order, in a plain brown wrapper. How things have changed! Books are so much more accessible now due the advent of the e-reader, the convenience (and addictive nature) of technological wonders such as the Amazon “one click” buying method, and the explosion in self-published books in the erotic romance genre.
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.
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
January 2014, Vol 45, No. 1
Print version: page 54
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."
Last month, my wife and I found ourselves in a disagreement about whether or not our apartment was clean enough for guests—the type of medium-sized disagreement that likely plagues all close relationships. In the midst of it, there was a lull and, feeling exhausted all of a sudden, I got up and left the living room. In the bedroom, I immediately fell face down into the sheets. The next thing I knew it was 20 minutes later and my wife was shaking me awake. I hadn’t meant to fall asleep; I just felt so fatigued in that moment that there was nothing else I could do.
This wasn’t new for me. A few weeks earlier, I had come into conflict with an acquaintance over some money. We were exchanging tense emails while I was at my office, and I began to feel the slow oozing onset of sleep, the same tiredness that came on when, as a child, I rode in the backseat of the car on the way home from some undesired trip. A sleepiness that overtakes the body slowly but surely and feels entirely outside of your control.
Though this has happened many times before, my response to conflict still seems strange to me. After all, as everyone knows from 9th grade biology class, when faced with stress—an acute threat—our bodies enter fight-or-flight mode. It’s supposed to be automatic: the adrenal cortex releases stress hormones to put the body on alert; the heart begins to beat more rapidly; breathing increases frequency; your metabolism starts to speed up, and oxygen-rich blood gets pumped directly to the larger muscles in the body. The point is to become energized, to prepare to face the source of the conflict head on, or, at the worst, be ready to run away, at top speed.
Of course, you don’t actually want the stress response system to be too reactive. If you were constantly in fight or flight mode, constantly stressed, it could actually have long-term effects on your neurochemistry, leading to chronic anxiety, depression, and, well, more sleeplessness. Even so, it seems like a good idea to sometimes be on high alert when dealing with stressful situations.
But that’s not what my body did. My body shut down.
I asked around, and found out that many others experience the same thing. For example, Dawn, a family counselor in Columbus, Ohio, told me that her husband Brad often “starts yawning in the middle of heated discussions, and will even lie down and go right to sleep.” One time their toddler son fell down the stairs (he was fine), and Brad left the room and went to bed. Brad has had this kind of stress response for all 24 years of their relationship; Dawn says she’s used to it by now.
Even though dozens of people told me similar stories, I began to wonder what was wrong with us—what was wrong with me. Why was my body, in the face of conflict, simply acquiescing? Where was the fight in me?
There’s a concept in psychology called “learned helplessness” used to explain certain aspects of depression and anxiety. It’s fairly old, having been firstrecognized and codified in the 1970s, but has remained largely relevant and accepted within the field. The name (mostly) explains it all: If, at a very early stage in development, a living thing comes to understand that it is helpless in the face of the world’s forces, it will continue to perceive a lack of control, and therefore actually become helpless, no matter if the context changes.
In the early studies, dogs were divided into two groups: The first half were subjected to electric shocks, but were given a way to stop the shocks (they just had to figure it out themselves). The second group of dogs received shocks but had no way to avoid, escape, or stop them. The experience, sadly, had long-term effects on the animals. When faced with stressful environments later on in life, the first group of dogs did whatever they could to try to deal with it; the second group simply gave up. They had been conditioned to respond to stress with acquiescence.
This type of learned helplessness isn’t limited to animals; many of the adults I spoke with all mentioned childhood anxiety stemming from uncontrollable situations.
“When I hit high school and stress levels became higher in my life (messy divorce between my parents and lots of moving), I began escaping into sleep,” says LeAnna, a 25-year-old from Washington state. “As an adult, I still have ‘go to sleep’ impulses whenever I feel overwhelmed.” Daniel, from Baltimore told me that “whenever there was any kind of ‘family strife’ I would just go to my room and sleep.” Daniel is now 51, and starts yawning any time he encounters a stressful situation.
My parents divorced by the time I hit high school, but before they did, they fought a lot, usually in the kitchen beneath my bedroom. What I remember feeling most was powerlessness—not anger or sadness, but a shrug-your-shoulders, close-the-door, shut-your-eyes type of response because what was I going to do? Tell them to break it up?
That coping mechanism worked for me back then. I was able to compartmentalize those stressful experiences and move on with my life. I stayed in school and kept my grades up; I had friends and was relatively well-rounded. Things went well. But now, at 28, I still deal with interpersonal conflict by shutting the door and going to sleep. I act on feelings that are no longer relevant to the situation.
“Our feelings are always in the past,” says John Sharp, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School. “This is something that’s really outlived its adaptive value.” As an adult I should have control over my current situation, but I don’t. Am I like those lab dogs, shocked into helplessness?
At first glance, sleep might seem like quintessential avoidance, like burying your head in the pillow is no better than burying your head in the sand.
But I don’t feel as though I am not helping myself. After all, going to sleep isn’t like turning the lights off; the truth is that there’s a lot still going on while your eyes are closed. While we might be able to temporarily stave the flow of conflict by falling asleep, we’re not really escaping anything. In fact, sleep in some ways forces us to not only relive the emotional experience but to process and concretize it—by going to sleep I may be making the fight with my wife more real.
If you’re like me, you probably imagine memories work pretty simply: you have an experience, it gets stored somewhere, and then you retrieve it when you need it. But that leaves out a key step, memory consolidation, and that’s where sleep comes into play.
Here’s how it really works, according to Dr. Edward Pace-Schott, professor at Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine: When an experience is initially encoded as a memory, it rests in the brain’s short term storage facilities, where it is fragile, easily forgotten if other experiences come along quickly. In order for the experience to last, it needs to go through a process of consolidation, where it becomes integrated into other memories that you have. That’s why when you think of, say the 1993 baseball game between the Yankees and Orioles, you also think of bright green grass, the smell of peanuts and beer, your dad, and Bobby Bonilla, and not thousands of random bits and pieces.
Of course, not every experience is worth remembering. Only the highly intense experiences—positive or negative—are prioritized for storage later on. “Emotions put a stamp on a memory to say ‘this is important,’” says Pace-Schott. It makes sense: the color of the grocery store clerk’s shirt is significantly less essential than, say, your mother’s birthday.
If we didn’t shelve our memories appropriately, everything would be a jumble, and without consolidation, we would forget it all. Life would have no meaning, and more importantly (at least from an evolutionary standpoint) we would never learn anything—we’d be helplessly amorphous, easy prey.
Here’s the conundrum, though: the same experiences that are stamped as emotionally important can overwhelm your brain’s short term storage facilities. Dr. Rebecca Spencer, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Department of Psychology, likens it to a desk where “whatever is stressing you out is this big pile of papers, but there are also other memories piling up on you.” With more and more papers landing in front of you all day, you’ll never effectively get to them all. And emotionally rich experiences are all high priority messages, screaming to be dealt with right away. So what happens next?
“You can be driven to sleep simply by having a lot of emotional memories to process,” says Spencer. It takes sleep to provide the space needed to sift through the days’ experiences, and make permanent those that matter.
Studies show that sleep enhances your memory of experiences, and the effect is multiplied for experiences with the stamp of emotion. In fact, the memory-consolidation process that occurs during sleep is so effective that some scientists, including Pace-Schott and Spencer, have suggested that it could be used to treat PTSD. Spencer posits that keeping someone from sleep following a traumatic event could be good in the long run. “If you force yourself to stay awake through a period of insomnia,” Spencer says, “the [traumatic] memory and emotional response will both decay.”
On the flip side, when it comes to the majority of the negative things we experience in life—the things that aren’t necessarily traumatizing like, say, a fight with your significant other—we want to go to sleep, because that protects the memory and emotional response.
And Pace-Schott points out that sleep disruption may prevent consolidation of potentially therapeutic memories, sometimes termed 'fear extinction' memories. These are memories that can dull the effect of a traumatic experience by creating more positive associations with specific triggers.] This means that improving sleep quality following traumatic events may be crucial to preventing PTSD.
Ever wonder why little kids nap so much? Researchers believe that it’s not just because they’ve been running around all day—it’s also due to the fact their short-term memory storage space is so small, and they constantly need to unload experiences and consolidate memories more often. One recent study, in fact, found that “distributed sleep” (a.k.a. napping) is critical for learning at an early age. The nap that follows a 4 year-old child getting burnt on a hot stove should help him learn from the experience.
Similarly, the nap following a fight with my wife should, ideally, teach me how to better manage interpersonal conflict. The benefits of sleep on memory don’t go away.
When we wake up from sleep, we feel different. It's not just that time has passed; we've undergone a real chemical response. When we sleep, all the stress systems in our body are damped down, letting it relax, so that tenseness you felt, the sickness in your stomach, the frayed nerves, will all be gone in the morning. “It’s almost like we are different people when we wake up,” says Pace-Schott.
One particular neurochemical, called orexin, may hold the key to the puzzle. Orexin, which was discovered only about 15 years ago, is unique in that it plays a very clearly defined dual role in the body. First and foremost, it’s a crucial element in your daily sleep/wake rhythm. You get a boost of the stuff when you wake up, and it drops before you go to sleep. Studies in rats show that if you take all of an animal’s orexin away, it can no longer effectively control sleeping and waking. Since its discovery, orexin has become one of the key diagnostic criteriafor determining narcolepsy—those with the sleep disorder essentially have none of the neurochemical.
And then there’s the second function: It’s part of the stress response system.
“The orexin system is absolutely hardwired into the sympathetic nervous system,” says Philip L. Johnson, a neuroscientist at the Indiana University School of Medicine. If everything is working normally, when you are faced with a stressful situation, your orexin system kicks in and triggers the stress responses that you expect: fight or flight.
In other words, the same exact neural pathway that handles wakefulness (we can’t even get out of bed without orexin kicking in) also handles a key aspect of our stress response.
Think about this: while narcoleptics do sometimes just nod off randomly, strong emotions are, most often, connected to onset of sleep. It’s counterintuitive, but it’s true, says Johnson. For many narcoleptics, strong emotions associated with stress can cause a complete collapse.
Of course, this should sound familiar—it’s not so different than what happens when Brad, LeAnna, Daniel, I, and so many others go head to head with stress. The science on this is still in its infancy, and it remains unclear exactly what’s going on at a chemical level here, but there does seem to be some connection.
In the meantime, sleep doesn’t seem too bad. The problem may still be there when you awake, but you’ll have a better understanding of it, and hopefully, a clear slate to handle it.
Can stress in the earliest days of our lives set us up for how we cope and our preferences to eating comfort food? This study finds evidence for this.
Apr. 7, 2013 — Researchers at the University of Calgary's Hotchkiss Brain Institute have discovered that stress circuits in the brain undergo profound learning early in life. Using a number of cutting edge approaches, including optogenetics, Jaideep Bains, PhD, and colleagues have shown stress circuits are capable of self-tuning following a single stress. These findings demonstrate that the brain uses stress experience during early life to prepare and optimize for subsequent challenges.
"These new findings demonstrate that systems thought to be 'hardwired' in the brain, are in fact flexible, particularly early in life," says Bains, a professor in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology. "Using this information, researchers can now ask questions about the precise cellular and molecular links between early life stress and stress vulnerability or resilience later in life."
Stress vulnerability, or increased sensitivity to stress, has been implicated in numerous health conditions including cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes and depression. Although these studies used animal models, similar mechanisms mediate disease progression in humans.
"Our observations provide an important foundation for designing more effective preventative and therapeutic strategies that mitigate the effects of stress and meet society's health challenges," he says.
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.
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.
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."
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.
Having "motors" in the brain not working properly might lead to less serotonin getting to where it needs to go, in turn leading to higher levels of anxiety. This is promising new research that can lead to medication that "fixes" the "motors" and restores serotonin pathways and levels. Read article below for further details.
Feb. 7, 2013 — When motors break down, getting where you want to go becomes a struggle. Problems arise in much the same way for critical brain receptors when the molecular motors they depend on fail to operate. Now, researchers reporting in Cell Reports, a Cell Press publication, on February 7, have shown these broken motors induce stress and anxiety in mice. The discovery may point the way to new kinds of drugs to treat anxiety and other disorders.
The study in mice focuses on one motor in particular, known as KIF13A, which, according to the new evidence, is responsible for ferrying serotonin receptors. Without proper transportation, those receptors fail to reach the surface of neurons and, as a result, animals show signs of heightened anxiety.
In addition to their implications for understanding anxiety, the findings also suggest that defective molecular motors may be a more common and underappreciated cause of disease.
"Most proteins are transported in vesicles or as protein complexes by molecular motors," said Nobutaka Hirokawa of the University of Tokyo. "As shown in this study, defective motors could cause many diseases."
Scientists know that serotonin and serotonin receptors are involved in anxiety, aggression, and mood. But not much is known about how those players get around within cells. When Hirokawa's team discovered KIF13A at high levels in the brain, they wondered what it did.
The researchers discovered that mice lacking KIF13A show greater anxiety in both open-field and maze tests and suggest that this anxious behavior may stem from an underlying loss of serotonin receptor transport, which leads to a lower level of expression of those receptors in critical parts of the brain.
"Collectively, our results suggest a role for this molecular motor in anxiety control," the researchers wrote. Hirokawa says the search should now be on for anti-anxiety drug candidates aimed at restoring the brain's serotonin receptor transport service.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Can how we think about stress make us healthier and stronger? Can seeking social support extend our lifespan despite our stress level? Watch this insightful Ted talk and find out. http://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend.html
Being young does not mean carefree. Survey finds young Americans, aged 18-33, are among the most stressed. By Steven Reinberg
THURSDAY, Feb. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Young Americans between 18 and 33 years old -- the so-called millennials -- are more stressed than the rest of the population, according to a new report from the American Psychological Association.
What's stressing them out? Jobs and money mostly, said Norman Anderson, CEO of the American Psychological Association, during a Thursday morning press conference.
On a scale of 1 to 10, the millennial generation stands at 5.4 stress-wise, significantly higher than the national average of 4.9, the association found after surveying more than 2,000 Americans.
"Clearly there are a number of pressures facing young people that might account for this increase in stress," Anderson said. "These individuals are growing up in an era of unprecedented economic upheaval. This coincides with the time they are finishing school and trying to establish themselves in society."
Getting a job, starting a family and repaying student loans are all stressful, he added. "They have great difficulty finding jobs because of the higher unemployment and underemployment rates," Anderson said.
These young adults also don't feel they're getting support from the health system. Only 25 percent of millennials give the health care system an A grade, compared with 32 percent of the rest of the population, according to the report, Stress in America: Missing the Health Care Connection.
In addition, 49 percent said they aren't managing their stress well, and only 23 percent think their doctor helps them make healthy lifestyle and behavior changes "a lot or a great deal." Only 17 percent think their doctor helps them manage their stress.
"When people receive professional help to manage stress and make healthy behavior changes, they do better at achieving their health goals," Anderson said.
On that measure, the United States falls short, he said. To lower the rates of chronic illnesses and reduce the nation's health costs, "we need to improve how we view and treat stress and unhealthy behaviors that are contributing to the high incidence of disease in the United States."
Those who get support for stress from their doctor fare much better than those who don't, the researchers said.
People suffering from chronic illnesses report even less support for stress and lifestyle management than Americans without a chronic condition, according to the survey.
Despite seeing their doctor more often than most people, only 25 percent of those with a chronic illness say they get "a great deal or a lot" of stress management support from their doctor. And 41 percent of these chronically ill people said their stress level had increased in the past year, the researchers found.
The disconnect between what people need to manage stress and what the health care system delivers is evident at all ages, the survey found.
For example, 32 percent of respondents said it is extremely important to talk with their doctor about stress management, but only 17 percent said that happens often or always.
Fifty-three percent said they get little or no help with stress management from their doctor, and 39 percent said they have little or no support for other lifestyle issues. Those who felt unsupported were more likely than others to say their stress had increased during the previous year.
This problem is worse for the 20 percent of Americans who consider themselves extremely stressed, the researchers said. Among these people, 69 percent say their stress increased in the past year. Thirty-three percent, however, never discussed their increasing stress with their doctor, according to the report.
The report did find that many people know that controlling stress is important for good health. But for more than one-third of Americans, stress levels are on the rise, they noted.
For more information on stress, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
How do you grow your client base? I was recently quoted in an article on expanding your business with confidence.
Some executive leaders are born with it; other develop it. “Social Jujitsu” is the charisma that draws people and potential clients to you like a magnet. In the martial arts world, at its base the Japanese martial art of Jiujitsu is a method of defeating an opponent without a weapon. "Ju" is usually translated as "gentle, supple, flexible, pliable." And "Jitsu" is translated to mean "art" or "technique." Some experts say you can use the philosophy of jujitsu in the business world as the way to woo and win over colleagues and new business. But as with any art form, you have to develop and master the techniques.
Become more of who you are
The worse thing is to pretend to be someone you aren´t. So don´t fake it. “You don't develop a winning personality. You have one. Don't try to be someone you're not. The trick is letting it out,” says Mike Schultz, president and founder of RAIN, who is also a second degree black belt in Seirenkai Jujitsu. Adds Shari Goldsmith of Shari- Life Coach for Women, “Be you; true-to-you-authenticity is attractive. People can spot dishonesty a mile away.” The basics matter
Don´t throw common courtesy out of the window. Be polite and engaging. “Smile, offer a firm but not death grip handshake and open body language. Light touch is an HR no-no, but it's connecting,” Schultz points out. Do your homework
All clients appreciate knowing you have taken the time to study their company and their needs. They will be more attracted to you and what you are offering. “Know that you are offering your client something they need. Be aware of how you perceive your product or services. You are not simply asking for something from them but potentially solving a problem they have. Inquire about what they want to improve in their lives or business and explain how you can help them,” says Licensed Clinical Psychologist Dr. Nerina Garcia-Arcement, Clinical Assistant Professor at Dept. of Psychiatry, NYU School of Medicine and of the Williamsburg Therapy and Wellness.
Be all ears
Merely rattling off a sales pitch is an empty gesture. Listen to what is being said to you, what is being asked of you. “Listen more than you talk, but don't make it all listening,” says Schultz.
Apply the personal touch
You don´t need to tell a complete stranger or a potential client your life story, but sprinkle in personal bits into your conversation. “Don't be afraid to talk about personal things,” advises Schultz. “When you let your personality and personal life shine through, it can be very comforting to people who care about the same things. You have to find mutual areas of connection to build rapport.” Goldsmith agrees. “People want to do business with people that they like and trust. Focus on letting others see the real you and be consistently kind and honest,” she adds.
And, when you share, seek out information about your client. “Don't see people as just potential clients, see them as individuals you can get to know on a personal basis. Be friendly, look for potential connections and common interests. This will help everyone feel more comfortable. For example, you both might have small children or enjoy the same sport,” stresses Dr. Garcia-Arcement. “Once you know your clients on a more personal level, this aids in breaking the ice at the next meeting. Inquire about their family, their favorite sport or recent trip. This will help everyone feel like they are doing business with a friend instead of a stranger.”
Throw out bias and discriminatory tendences
Never make assumptions. Not only is it a good rule in life but business as well. “Treat everyone the same, no matter what their station in life. You never know where your future business is going to come from. Don't judge,” says Goldsmith. Dare to be different
Being cookie cutter is boring. You want people to be excited about doing business with you, about having you around. “Be unique--know what makes you different and play it up,” says Goldsmith.
Do unto others..
The “me” generation has come and gone. When possible, help someone on a project. “Help others succeed. Focus on helping others succeed at their goals, and it will come back to you,” says Goldsmith. Confidence is dynamic
If you're timid about or unsure of yourself, your product/services, then how can you expect a customer to be eager to do business with you? “Feel confident in your product or service. Know why the product is worth selling. If you know the virtues of the product or services, it will show in your sales pitch,” advises Dr. Garcia-Arcement.
On call As a small business owner, you´re always on call. You have to be ready to tell someone about your product at a moment´s notice—and with passion. People tend to respond to this approach just because of the sheer enthusiasm. “Prepare the proverbial elevator speech. This speech is best if you don't have a lot of time and want to get the client's attention. What would you say about the product you are selling if you only had a few moments with a client? If you have that prepared and memorized, it will reduce your anxiety the next time you approach a client,” says Dr. Garcia-Arcement.
Martial arts mindset
Martial arts philosophies can easily be applied to business and business situations. “As far as jujitsu, the best conversation and connection application is a concept called kuzushi. Kuzushi literally means unbalancing, and it's applied as a redirecting of energy from one direction gently but specifically to another,” explains Schultz, author of the bestseller Rainmaking Conversations. “If you know where you want to go in a conversation, you can gently move it down to that path from wherever it's going. But do it subtly. For example, if you want to talk about an exciting project you're working on, don't just start talking..Just ask the other person, 'What's the most exciting thing you're working on.' They'll share, and then they'll ask you. At the same time, they're thinking 'what a great conversationalist,' and you got them to do what you wanted without forcing it.”
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.
Work place holiday parties can be a time to connect with co-workers in a different friendlier setting. Yet for many it can also be stressful and awkward. Stressful because individuals are familiar with their workplace expectations, they have scripts or rules they follow on a regular basis, yet holiday parties create the opportunity for a different social interactions that does not follow familiar rules. It is a blending of expectations that can create stress and uncertainty about how to behave. One common way to cope with stress or anxiety is drinking alcohol, sometimes to excess. Some drink as a way to numb or avoid feeling uncomfortable emotions, yet it can lead to problems if done at work. Over drinking at the holiday party can create problems in the workplace if you behaved inappropriately while drunk. Although this is a "party" it is still work related and those rules of conduct still apply. Sober and drunk behavior reflects upon who you are as an employee.
If you tend to over drink at holiday work parties, here are a few steps you can take to protect yourself from overindulging.
1. Explore what triggers you to drink. Such as: Do you feel anxious when you walk into the party alone? Do you worry about having to speak to certain co-workers? Do you find it difficult to say “no” when encouraged to have another drink by coworkers?
2. Prepare yourself before the event by engaging in stress reduction activities. If you know that interacting socially with co-workers is stressful or anxiety provoking try activities such as deep breathing, imagining yourself in a peaceful place, reading a chapter of a favorite book, and/or progressive muscle relaxation.
3. Create a plan to managing your feelings and triggers before and during the party. Recognize your triggers and walk away from them or surround yourself with positive supportive coworkers that don't encourage excessive drinking.
5. Invite a friend to attend with you or shorten the length of time you stay at the party if you know the party is a trigger and difficult to manage by yourself. You are not expected to stay for the entire time.
If you are concerned about how stressed and anxious you feel when faced with an invitation to a social gathering or that you over drink when at parties, then you ought to consider speaking to your primary care physician or a mental health provider to evaluate if these actions are a sign of a more serious problem such as depression, an anxiety disorder, or substance abuse disorder.
I was quoted on the negative impact of over drinking at holiday parties. By Rheyanne Weaver HERWriterDecember 4, 2012 - 7:10am
Holiday parties are among the highlights of the winter season, and these parties tend to involve drinking alcohol.
If you’re not careful, you might overindulge in festivities, leading to a hangover the next day. This can become a problem, especially if the next day is a work day.
Caron Treatment Centers recently released survey results from 2,005 adults age 21 and above, suggesting that it is quite common to drink excessively, suffer from a hangover and miss work after a holiday party.
In fact, 64 percent of Americans have either called in sick or know someone who did because of a holiday party hangover.
74 percent of holiday party attendees drank more than three alcoholic drinks or know someone who has at a holiday party, which is considered above a moderate alcohol limit.
Drinking out of moderation could be a sign of substance abuse or depression, which are major mental health issues.
The workplace can already be filled with stress and competition, so missing work or having impaired functioning in the workplace just adds to a negative workplace atmosphere.
Sometimes alcohol can lead to destructive behavior, which is even worse if the holiday party involves co-workers.
Survey results showed that most people who have attended holiday parties noticed behaviors such as arguing and aggression, excessive use of profanity, drunk driving and inappropriate disclosure of private details.
Dr. Harris B. Stratyner, the vice president of Caron Treatment Centers and New York regional clinical director, said in an email that hangovers can be terrible for mental health because dehydration leads to an “alcoholic migraine.” Serotonin levels also decrease, which leads to depression.
“Drinking too much alcohol can affect your mental health and harm your status in the workplace, because you can come off looking immature and having poor judgment,” Stratyner said.
“Employers and colleagues will start to question your judgment, therefore leading them to question your reliability to meet deadlines and do your job well.”
He suggested only drinking a maximum of two alcoholic drinks at work-related events.
And if you can’t drink in moderation, that is a major red flag.
“I would say that having a hangover and missing work after a holiday party is a sign that you have a problem with alcohol,” Stratyner said. “Anytime alcohol interferes in your life, you have a problem with alcohol. You have now interrupted the way you earn your living.”
Many employers have to make cuts as it is, so looking irresponsible and foolish by over-drinking at a holiday party is not a wise choice. Unfortunately, he said it is quite common for people to overindulge in alcohol during the holidays due to holiday stress.
“People tend to self medicate because they want to relax, escape or manage difficult emotions that may come up,” Stratyner said.
However, alcohol tends to cause more problems than it solves. He suggested engaging in healthier ways to relieve holiday stress, such as shopping early and online, planning a potluck holiday dinner so everyone contributes, and avoiding alcohol and drugs (especially while driving). He recommended exercising consistently, and focusing only on positive past holiday memories.
Rosalie Moscoe, a registered nutritional consultant practitioner and author of “Frazzled Hurried Woman! Your Stress Relief Guide to Thriving ... Not Merely Surviving,” said in an email that hangovers can lead to lower self esteem, especially if people are perceived poorly in the workplace because of their lack of control.
Besides a hangover, an excess of sweets and alcohol can also lead to hypoglycemia, which is associated with mood swings.
She said that for people who are already struggling with substance abuse, holiday parties can be a trigger because of the acceptability of profuse amounts of alcohol.
It can be tempting to drink more at holiday parties because of all the additional holiday stress that piles up, including financial stress and dealing potentially with unpleasant family members.
Nerina Garcia-Arcement, a licensed clinical psychologist, said in an email that if holiday parties involve co-workers, sometimes it can be an awkward situation.
People are anxious about how they should be acting.
They might think that drinking alcohol will relieve any tension, stress and anxiety about the situation.
People who do decide to overindulge in alcohol can suffer side effects of hangovers like low energy level, concentration and attention problems and changes in mood.
Garcia-Arcement said that overdrinking one time and suffering the consequences at work might not be a dealbreaker for employers. However, if it’s on a consistent basis, this could be a sign of serious mental health issues and you could lose your credibility at work (or your job).
Sources: Caron Treatment Centers. Hungover at Work During the Holiday Season? Web. Dec. 3, 2012.
Stratyner, Harris. Email interview. Dec. 3, 2012.
Moscoe, Rosalie. Email interview. Dec. 3, 2012.
Garcia-Arcement, Nerina. Email interview. Dec. 3, 2012.
Reviewed December 4, 2012 by Michele Blacksberg RN Edited by Jody Smith