Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Antipsychotic Meds Tied to Diabetes in Children

A Reuters/FOX News article makes an observation that is not news to adult users of these medications, but brings up the point that this side effect may also appear in children being treated for bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. The usual suspects: Risperdal, known generically as risperidone, Zyprexa (olanzapine), Seroquel (quetiapine) and Abilify (aripiprazole).

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Latest Psychological Research Scandal

An article in Psychology Today reports that a Danish researcher has come under fire for fabricating experimental results over a decade.

Diederik Stapel, a well-known and widely published psychologist in the Netherlands, routinely falsified data and made up entire experiments, according to an investigative committee.

But according to Benedict Carey of the New York Times, the scandal is just one in a string of embarrassments in "a field that critics and statisticians say badly needs to overhaul how it treats research results...."

While inaccurate and even fabricated findings make the field of psychology look silly, they take on potentially far more serious ramifications in forensic contexts, where the stakes can include six-figure payouts or extreme deprivations of liberty....

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Study Suggests Strangers Can Spot "Kindness Gene"

An AFP/Yahoo article describes how there may be a genetic component to being kind and caring.

People with a certain gene trait are known to be more kind and caring than people without it, and strangers can quickly tell the difference, according to US research published on Monday.

The variation is linked to the body's receptor gene of oxytocin, sometimes called the "love hormone" because it often manifests during sex and promotes bonding, empathy and other social behaviors.

Scientists at Oregon State University devised an experiment in which 23 couples, whose genotypes were known to researchers but not observers, were filmed.
One member of the couple was asked to tell the other about a time of suffering in his or her life. Observers were asked to watch the listener for 20 seconds, with the sound turned off.
In most cases, the observers were able to tell which of the listeners had the "kindness gene" and which ones did not, said the findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences edition of November 14.

"Our findings suggest even slight genetic variation may have tangible impact on people's behavior, and that these behavioral differences are quickly noticed by others," said lead author Aleksandr Kogan, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto.

Nine out 10 people who were judged by the neutral observers to be "least trusted" carried the A version of the gene, while six out 10 deemed "most prosocial" had the GG genotype.
People in the study were tested beforehand and found to have GG, AG or AA genotypes for the rs53576 DNA sequence of the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) gene.
People who have two copies of the G allele are generally judged as more empathetic, trusting and loving.

Those with AG or AA genotypes tend to say they feel less positive overall, and feel less parental sensitivity. Previous research has shown they also may have a higher risk of autism.

"The oxytocin receptor gene in particular has become of great interest because a select number of studies suggest that it is related to how prosocial people view themselves," Kogan said.
"Our study asked the question of whether these differences manifest themselves in behaviors that are quickly detectable by strangers, and it turns out they did."
However, no gene trait can entirely predict a person's behavior, and more research is needed to find out how the variant affects the underlying biology of behavior.

"These are people who just may need to be coaxed out of their shells a little," said senior author Sarina Rodrigues Saturn, an assistant professor of psychology at Oregon State University whose previous research established the genetic link to empathetic behavior.

"It may not be that we need to fix people who exhibit less social traits, but that we recognize they are overcoming a genetically influenced trait and that they may need more understanding and encouragement."

Friday, November 11, 2011

Yet Another Testimonial for TMS (Trans-Cranial Magnetic Stimulation) of San Diego describes how the Botkiss Center for TMS Therapy in Del Mar has been treating patients with depression by running a powerful, pulsating magnetic field along certain areas of the skull. This procedure has just been approved by the FDA and recognized as an option by the American Psychiatric Association, but since it is relatively new, insurance companies will not help pay for it. The cost can be substantial - between $7,000 and $10,000 - for the series, but if you have tried everything else without success, can afford the price, and object to the intrusive nature of ECT (electro-convulsive therapy), this may provide the relief that you are looking for. As with all other methods of treating depression, there is no guarantee of a cure, of course.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Warrior Relaxation Response Center: An Oasis in the Desert for Vets with PTSD

After hearing several favorable reports and reading the article in the Colorado Springs Gazette, I decided to investigate the Warrior Relaxation Response Center for myself and was not disappointed.

Antione Johnson, who put up a large chunk of his life's savings to start the center, impressed me with his knowledge of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the most cutting-edge technologies being used to help combat veterans deal with it. The lavender-scented atmosphere and equipment are designed to induce the relaxation response when flashbacks or other symptoms of PTSD rear their ugly heads. I told him that the latest word we are putting out on the street is that PTSD is not a mental illness, but an adaptation to a real threat, and that it requires an equally powerful adaptation to negotiate the return to civilian life.

The Warrior Relaxation Response Center is located at the intersection of Circle Drive and Airport Road, at 2535 Airport Road, Colorado Springs, CO 80910, and the phone number is 719-339-6313. To hear more about this innovative approach, check out his YouTube video.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Psychologists Challenge Some Proposed Diagnoses in DSM-5

Looks like the continuing series of disputes over the content of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th Edition (DSM-V) has a new wrinkle, according to an article in USA Today:

"The next edition of the American Psychiatric Association's diagnostic bible will lead to millions of healthy people being labeled with a mental disorder and treated with potentially dangerous drugs, some psychologists say.

"They've drawn up an online petition urging the group to reconsider adding a number of diagnoses to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5), to be published in 2013.

"Among the disorders the petition calls 'unsubstantiated and questionable' are 'apathy syndrome,' 'Internet addiction disorder' and 'parental alienation syndrome.'

"The petition, posted Oct. 22, now has more than 5,000 signatures, says David Elkins, president of the Society for Humanistic Psychology and professor emeritus at Pepperdine University...."

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Catch-22 for the Mentally Ill

The Hopeworks Community blog has a provocative entry on "Psychiatric Anosognosia," a catchall explanation that can be used to nullify any observations on the part of a person diagnosed with mental illness (even though severe cases are not dysfunctional 100% of the time) and justify forced hospitalization/medication.

We are reminded of this useful observation on "confirmation bias":

“Confirmation biases contribute to overconfidence in personal beliefs and can maintain or strengthen beliefs in the face of contrary evidence. Hence they can lead to poor decisions, especially in organizational, scientific, militiary, political and social contexts.” 50 years of social psychology research clearly prove that personal blindness (confirmation bias) is a normal, regular, predictable characteristic of “normal” human beings that influence all areas of human life including “scientific” endeavors.

Friday, October 21, 2011

How Pornography Can Induce Sexual Dysfunction

We only occasionally refer to Psychology Today, but there is one article that spotlights another objection to pornography in addition to the usual (i.e., moral standards, exploitation of its subjects, its addictive nature, and raising unrealistic expectations in the consumer).

"A growing number of young, healthy Internet pornography users are complaining of delayed ejaculation, inability to be turned on by real partners, and sluggish erections.

"Lots of guys, 20s or so, can't get it up anymore with a real girl, and they all relate having a serious porn/masturbation habit. Guys will never openly discuss this with friends or co-workers, for fear of getting laughed out of town. But when someone tells their story on a health forum, and there are 50-100 replies from other guys who struggle with the same thing. This is for real.

"Threads relating to this issue are springing up all over the Web on bodybuilding, medical help, and pick-up artist forums, in at least twenty countries...."

Misuse of Mental Health Terms

The BBC News Magazine (U.K.) raises an excellent point: When psychological terms with scientific definitions are casually bandied about, does it contribute to our understanding of mental illness or reduce the stigma associated with the diagnosis? You know what the answer to this rhetorical question is.

"The neighbour who keeps his house tidy has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). A socially awkward colleague is autistic. The weather isn't just changeable, it's bipolar.

"Such analogies are so familiar they surely qualify as cliches. They are also inaccurate and, to many, deeply offensive.

"Campaigners are targeting what many say is an increasingly common practice - deploying the language of clinical diagnosis to describe everyday personality traits.

"Using these terms metaphorically is just a joke, not to be taken seriously, argue some. Others, however, warn that this serves to further obfuscate conditions that are widely misunderstood and stigmatised...."

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Antidepressant Use Has Risen Sharply Over Past 20 Years

USA Today cites a U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey that chronicles the increasing use of antidepressants in the United States.

Here are some of the major points:

1. Antidepressants are the third most common prescription drug.
2. Less than one-third of people taking one antidepressant and less than half of those taking multiple antidepressants had seen a mental health professional in the past year.
3. Women are 2.5 times more likely to take antidepressants than men and 23 percent of women aged 40 to 59 take antidepressants, more than in any other age/sex group.
4. Fourteen percent of white people take antidepressants, compared with 4 percent of blacks and 3 percent of Mexican Americans. The researchers found no association between income and antidepressant use.