Archive for ‘Information’

October 31, 2011

Magnolia and Phellodendron Extract Help Control Anxiety in Women

by Dave P.

Background
Recent research has established correlations between stress, anxiety, insomnia and excess body weight and these correlations have significant implications for health. This study measured the effects of a proprietary blend of extracts of Magnolia officinalis and Phellodendron amurense (Relora®) on anxiety, stress and sleep in healthy premenopausal women.

Methods
This randomized, parallel, placebo controlled clinical study was conducted with healthy, overweight (BMI 25 to 34.9), premenopausal female adults, between the ages of 20 and 50 years, who typically eat more in response to stressful situations and scores above the national mean for women on self-reporting anxiety. The intervention was Relora (250 mg capsules) or identical placebo 3 times daily for 6 weeks. Anxiety as measured by the Spielberger STATE-TRAIT questionnaires, salivary amylase and cortisol levels, Likert Scales/Visual Analog Scores for sleep quality and latency, appetite, and clinical markers of safety. The study was conducted by Miami Research Associates, a clinical research organization in Miami, FL.

Results
The intent-to-treat population consisted of 40 subjects with 26 participants completing the study. There were no significant adverse events. Relora was effective, in comparison to placebo, in reducing temporary, transitory anxiety as measured by the Spielberger STATE anxiety questionnaire. It was not effective in reducing long-standing feelings of anxiety or depression as measured using the Spielberger TRAIT questionnaire. Other assessments conducted in this study including salivary cortisol and amylase levels, appetite, body morphology and sleep quality/latency were not significantly changed by Relora in comparison to placebo.

Conclusion
This pilot study indicates that Relora may offer some relief for premenopausal women experiencing mild transitory anxiety. There were no safety concerns or significant adverse events observed in this study.

Read more…

Tags: ,
June 26, 2011

The Misunderstanding of Social Anxiety

by Dave P.

The following article appeared in today’s N.Y. Times.

A BEAUTIFUL woman lowers her eyes demurely beneath a hat. In an earlier era, her gaze might have signaled a mysterious allure. But this is a 2003 advertisement for Zoloft, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (S.S.R.I.) approved by the F.D.A. to treat social anxiety disorder. “Is she just shy? Or is it Social Anxiety Disorder?” reads the caption, suggesting that the young woman is not alluring at all. She is sick.

But is she?

It is possible that the lovely young woman has a life-wrecking form of social anxiety. There are people too afraid of disapproval to venture out for a job interview, a date or even a meal in public. Despite the risk of serious side effects — nausea, loss of sex drive, seizures — drugs like Zoloft can be a godsend for this group.

But the ad’s insinuation aside, it’s also possible the young woman is “just shy,” or introverted — traits our society disfavors. One way we manifest this bias is by encouraging perfectly healthy shy people to see themselves as ill. Read more…

Research shows that some people are born outgoing and some people are introverts. That’s true of many animals. If you’ve ever observed a liter of puppies, some are rambunctious and some are shy. It’s part of the brain chemistry.

But the author uses social anxiety and shyness interchangeably throughout the article, despite making the initial distinction. She also calls them “sitters.” There is not a fine line between SAD and shyness, as the author states. Social anxiety is where your anxiety interferes with your enjoyment of life. Simple as that. While public speaking anxiety is an aspect, that is a small part of the problem.

When anxiety blocks a person’s ability to form close, satisfying relations, that is a serious problem, and sometimes medication is necessary. People who suffer from SAD often self-medicate – either to allow them to overcome their anxiety, or simply to ease the pain of loneliness. They often become alcoholics or become addicted to illegal drugs. Prescription drugs, while not a perfect solution, do allow many of these people to lead much happier and productive lives.

May 3, 2011

Obese People Can Suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder Due to Weight Alone

by Dave P.

A new study from Rhode Island Hospital researchers shows that obese individuals with social anxiety related only to their weight may experience anxiety as severe as individuals with social anxiety disorder (SAD). The findings directly conflict with the criteria for SAD in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition (DSM-IV). The study is now published online in advance of print in the journal Depression and Anxiety.

The new research from Rhode Island Hospital, led by Kristy Dalrymple, Ph.D., evaluated a group of individuals who were seeking clearance for bariatric surgery. The researchers identified three separate groups: 135 individuals diagnosed with DSM-IV SAD; 40 individuals classified as “modified SAD” who experienced clinically significant social anxiety related to weight only; and 616 individuals with no history of psychiatric disorders.

In their study, both the SAD and modified SAD groups were rated as having poorer social functioning as an adolescent compared to the no disorder group, but there was no difference between the SAD and modified SAD groups in this respect, with similar results found in social functioning over the past five years. In addition, the SAD group was rated as having more time out of work in the past five years due to psychopathology or emotional reasons compared to both the modified SAD group and the no disorder group.

Results also showed that those in the modified SAD group experienced more disruption in their social life and were more distressed about having social anxiety in the past month compared to those in the SAD group. Dalrymple says, “We found it particularly interesting that the modified SAD group reported greater levels of disruption in social life and distress about their social anxiety compared to the DSM-IV SAD group. This suggests that although our modified SAD group had social anxiety that was related to obesity only, their level of impairment was significant.” She explains, “It could be that for individuals in which anxiety is related only to obesity, the change in social life functioning is more recent due to weight changes, and therefore, more distressing than for individuals who have experienced more generalized forms of social anxiety over a longer period of time.”

Read more…

May 3, 2011

Scientists Discover Anti-Anxiety Circuit in Brain

by Dave P.

Stimulation of a distinct brain circuit that lies within a brain structure typically associated with fearfulness produces the opposite effect: Its activity, instead of triggering or increasing anxiety, counters it.

That’s the finding in a paper by Stanford University School of Medicine researchers to be published online March 9 in Nature. In the study, Karl Deisseroth, MD, PhD, and his colleagues employed a mouse model to show that stimulating activity exclusively in this circuit enhances animals’ willingness to take risks, while inhibiting its activity renders them more risk-averse. This discovery could lead to new treatments for anxiety disorders, said Deisseroth, an associate professor of bioengineering and of psychiatry and behavioral science.

The investigators were able to pinpoint this particular circuit only by working with a state-of-the-art technology called optogenetics, pioneered by Deisseroth at Stanford, which allows brain scientists to tease apart the complex circuits that compose the brain so these can be studied one by one.

“Anxiety is a poorly understood but common psychiatric disease,” said Deisseroth, who is also a practicing psychiatrist. More than one in four people, in the course of their lives, experience bouts of anxiety symptoms sufficiently enduring and intense to be classified as a full-blown psychiatric disorder. In addition, anxiety is a significant contributing factor in other major psychiatric disorders from depression to alcohol dependence, Deisseroth said.

Read more…

April 30, 2011

Loving kindness meditation

by Dave P.

Meditation can be a great stress reliever and create a feeling of well-being that may be otherwise lacking in your life. I’ve heard some people who practice meditation regularly describe the state of mind they experience during meditation sessions as being “better than sex.” Both sex and meditation stimulate the release of endorphins in the brain, which generates a feeling of well-being. Drugs such as heroin and morphine do the same thing, which is why they’re so addictive. While drug addiction is extremely unhealthy and can destroy your life, an addiction to meditation is very healthy.

There are several types of meditation. A good one to start with is loving-kindness meditation. Here are a couple of good videos on loving kindness or ‘metta’ meditation.

April 26, 2011

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month

by Dave P.

Increasing public awareness of the need to ensure the safety and welfare of children led to the passage of the first Federal child protection legislation, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), in 1974. While CAPTA has been amended many times over the years, most recently with the CAPTA Reauthorization Act of 2010, the purpose of the original legislation remains intact. Today, the Children’s Bureau, within the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the Federal agency charged with supporting States, Tribes, and communities in providing programs and services to protect children and strengthen families.

In the early 1980s, Congress made a further commitment to identifying and implementing solutions to end child abuse. Recognizing the alarming rate at which children continued to be abused and neglected and the need for innovative programs to prevent child abuse and assist parents and families affected by maltreatment, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives resolved that the week of June 6-12, 1982, should be designated as the first National Child Abuse Prevention Week. Members of Congress requested the President issue a proclamation calling upon Government agencies and the public to observe the week with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities promoting the prevention of child abuse and neglect.

The following year, in 1983, April was proclaimed the first National Child Abuse Prevention Month. As a result, child abuse and neglect awareness activities are promoted across the country during April of each year. The Office on Child Abuse and Neglect (OCAN) within the Children’s Bureau coordinates Child Abuse Prevention Month activities at the Federal level, providing information and releasing updated national statistics about child abuse and neglect. Many governors also issue proclamations to encourage initiatives and events in their States.

Read more…

April 22, 2011

Meditation May Help the Brain ‘Turn Down the Volume’ on Distractions

by Dave P.

ScienceDaily (Apr. 21, 2011) — The positive effects of mindfulness meditation on pain and working memory may result from an improved ability to regulate a crucial brain wave called the alpha rhythm. This rhythm is thought to “turn down the volume” on distracting information, which suggests that a key value of meditation may be helping the brain deal with an often-overstimulating world.

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology report that modulation of the alpha rhythm in response to attention-directing cues was faster and significantly more enhanced among study participants who completed an eight-week mindfulness meditation program than in a control group. The report will appear in the journal Brain Research Bulletin and has been released online.

“Mindfulness meditation has been reported to enhance numerous mental abilities, including rapid memory recall,” says Catherine Kerr, PhD, of the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at MGH and the Osher Research Center at Harvard Medical School, co-lead author of the report. “Our discovery that mindfulness meditators more quickly adjusted the brain wave that screens out distraction could explain their superior ability to rapidly remember and incorporate new facts.”

Read more…

April 20, 2011

Brain Development & Addiction – Talk by Gabor Mate

by Dave P.

A recurring theme in [the books by Gabor Mate] is the impact of a person’s childhood on their mental and physical health through neurological and psychological mechanisms; which he connects with the need for social change. In the book In the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts, he proposes new approaches to treating addiction (e.g. safe injection sites) based on an understanding of the biological and socio-economic roots of addiction. He describes the significant role of “early adversity” i.e. stress, mistreatment and particularly childhood abuse; in increasing susceptibility to addiction. This happens through the impairment of neurobiological development, impairing the brain circuitry involved in addiction, motivation and incentive. He argues the “war on drugs” actually punishes people for having been abused and entrenches addiction more deeply as studies show that stress is the biggest driver of addictive relapse and behavior. He says a system that marginalizes, ostracizes and institutionalizes people in facilities with no care and easy access to drugs, only worsens the problem. He also argues the environmental causes of addiction point to the need to improve child welfare policies (e.g. U.S. welfare laws that force many single women to find low-paying jobs far away from home and their children) and the need for better support for families overall, as most children in North America are now away from their parents from an early age due to economic conditions. As well as the need to change policies that disadvantage certain minority groups, causing them more stress and therefore increased risks for addictions.

Read more…

April 17, 2011

Autogenics relaxation techniques

by Dave P.

Autogenic training is a relaxation technique developed by the German psychiatrist Johannes Heinrich Schultz and first published in 1932. The technique involves the daily practice of sessions that last around 15 minutes, usually in the morning, at lunch time, and in the evening. During each session, the practitioner will repeat a set of visualisations that induce a state of relaxation. Each session can be practiced in a position chosen amongst a set of recommended postures (for example, lying down, sitting meditation, sitting like a rag doll). The technique can be used to alleviate many stress-induced psychosomatic disorders.

Schultz emphasized parallels to techniques in yoga and meditation. It is a method for influencing one’s autonomic nervous system. Abbe Faria and Emile Coue are the forerunners of Schultz. There are many parallels to progressive relaxation. In 1963 Luthe discovered the significance of “autogenic discharges”, paroxistic phenomena of motor, sensorial, visual and emotional nature related to the traumatic history of the patient, and developed the method of “Autogenic Abreaction”. His disciple Luis de Rivera, a McGill trained psychiatrist, introduced psychodynamic concepts into Luthe’s approach, developing “Autogenic Analysis” as a new method for uncovering the unconscious.

Example of an autogenic training session
Sit in the meditative posture and scan the body
“my right arm is heavy”
“my arms and legs are heavy and warm” (repeat 3 or more times)
“my heartbeat is calm and regular” (repeat 3 times)
“my solar plexus is warm” (repeat 3 times)
“my forehead is cool”
“my neck and shoulders are heavy” (repeat 3 times)
“I am at peace” (repeat 3 times)
Finish part one by cancelling[vague]
Start part two by repeating from step 2 to cancelling
Start part three by repeating from step 2 to cancelling

Many practitioners will choose not to cancel between the three iterations, in order to maintain deeper relaxation.

Quite often, one will ease themselves into the “trance” by counting to ten, and exit by counting backwards from ten. This is another practice taken from progressive relaxation.

Read full Wikipedia entry

Autogenic Training: A Practical Guide in Six Easy Steps by Karl Hans Welz (pdf)