April 1, 2019

Breaking News and Information – February 2019

Current News

News & Information for February 28, 2019

The Minds of Men Interview Part 4: Dr. Breggin and a Brave Reporter Fight Psychosurgery Establishment

Interview IV of VIII. With help from a brave Boston Globe reporter, Dr. Breggin successfully takes on psychosurgeons from the upper echelon of the Boston Medical Establishment and their Great Defender Senator Ted Kennedy. When Dr. Breggin started his successful international campaign to stop psychosurgery in the early 1970s, he never imagined the mind-control aspirations and racist motivations espoused by key neurosurgeons and psychiatrists.  For detailed descriptions of Peter and Ginger Breggin’s successful campaigns to stop federally-funded psychosurgical, eugenic and racist programs of behavioral control, see Psychiatry as an Instrument of Social and Political Control. See also the full documentary for which this interview was conducted: The Minds of Men.

Religious beliefs decreasing among younger generations

In the 2014 Religious Landscape Study of over 35,000 Americans from The Pew Research Center, the “Unaffiliated” category comprised of Atheist, Agnostic and “nothing in particular” made up 22 percent of the overall responses. The same category, however, made up 25 percent of the college graduates subsection of responses. Larry Terkel, a religious studies professor, began surveying students in his world religions class a few years ago about their religious affiliations and noticed the same trend. […] “I think that what’s happening is this generation is having more difficulty believing in general than others, due to more facts, laws, technology and it is taking away from belief.”

Depression and self harm on the rise among Millennials

Young people today are far more likely to be depressed and to self-harm than they were 10 years ago, a new study suggests, as they struggle with body image and social media. Researchers from University College London (UCL) and the University of Liverpool analysed data from two cohorts of 14-year-old millennials born a decade apart. Fewer than one in 10 (9 per cent) of those born in the early 90s suffered from depression during their teens, but that rose to more one in seven for youngsters born at the turn of the century (15 per cent). The children of the new century also tended to sleep fewer hours on week nights, were more likely to be obese and had poorer body image, compared to the children…

Benefits of practicing mindfulness

Mindfulness is a practice of focusing your attention on the present moment, as well as accepting it without any judgment. Mindfulness is currently being researched scientifically and is the key element in reducing stress and increasing happiness. […] So, what can practicing mindfulness help us with? Here is a list of benefits you might get: 1. You will get better sleep – anyone who has problems with mental or physical problems of poor sleep, will appreciate this, perhaps most important benefit, of mindfulness, which is better sleep. […] 2. You will have lower levels of stress […] 3. You will be able to improve your attention – a brief meditation training (which is 4 days long), can lead to an improved ability to sustain attention. […] 4. You will be able to manage chronic pain – thousand, if not millions of people suffer from chronic pain. […] Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), is a therapy that combines mindfulness meditation and yoga, and it might result in significant improvements in pain, anxiety, and the ability to participate in everyday activities. […] 5. You will be able to stop a depression relapse – mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), may prove to be beneficial in preventing depression relapse. The strength of the mind-body technique is how it shows participants how to get loose from the dysfunctional and deeply felt thoughts that go with depression. A study from 2011, found that MBCT is an effective way to prevent depression relapse in people with at least 3 prior episodes of depression.


News & Information for February 27, 2019

Open Mic Today on The Dr. Peter Breggin Hour, 4 PM NY Time

Today is the last Wednesday of the month and Open Mic on the Dr. Peter Breggin Hour.  My wonderful audience becomes my guests as you call into the show.  I will follow up on psychiatrist Judith Orloff’s amazing interview with me last week about the personality and psychology of people who are Empaths.  Remember, listen on, call in to offer opinions or to ask questions at 888 874 4888, 4-5 PM NY Time, Wednesday, and listen to the archives, including my hour with Judith Orloff, MD on

Growing up with green spaces can lower risk of adult mental illness

A new study from Aarhus University has revealed that children who grow up with greener surroundings have a much lower risk of developing certain mental illnesses later in life. The findings highlight the importance of creating greener cities to benefit mental health. […] The study revealed that children living among green spaces were 55 percent less likely to develop a mental health disorder. […] Previous studies have shown that more green space promotes greater social cohesion and physical activity. Green space has also been found to improve cognitive development among children. These factors can all have a positive impact on mental health. “With our dataset, we show that the risk of developing a mental disorder decreases incrementally the longer you have been surrounded by green space from birth and up to the age of 10. Green space throughout childhood is therefore extremely important,” explained Engemann. “There is increasing evidence that the natural environment plays a larger role for mental health than previously thought. Our study is important in giving us a better understanding of its importance across the broader population.”

UK Report: One in Four Teen Suicides Involves Internet

A quarter of teenage suicides in the United Kingdom involve the internet, an official inquiry has determined, The Telegraph reports. University of Manchester Professor Louis Appleby heads England’s National Suicide Prevention Strategy and the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness. He studied almost 600 suicides committed by young people, and found that 128 had used the internet for something related to suicide, including searching for suicide methods, making suicidal posts on social media, and being bullied online. “It’s unacceptable that social media companies have shown little concern until now,” Appleby said.  “The call from ministers for them to exercise greater social responsibility or face regulation is right.” Teenage suicides rose by 67 percent in England and Wales between 2010 and 2017. Appleby notes that although suicide and self-harm are often driven by financial and emotional deprivation, social media does normalize these acts as being the “next step if you get into difficulties,” and “It becomes something that transmits across the subculture of young people, it becomes part of how they talk about their lives, how they talk about stress and how they expect to respond when stresses occur.”

Parents’ Love Goes a Long Way

new study out of Harvard has found that people who had loving parents in childhood have better lives later on. Parental warmth impacts well-being and health years later. The study looked at parental warmth in childhood, and then at measures of flourishing in mid-life. The association was clear and consistent: people who recall their parents as warm and loving are flourishing at much higher rates in adulthood. This was true even when the study controlled for socioeconomic and other factors. […] “We now have reasonably strong evidence that the experience of parental warmth in childhood, 40-50 years prior, really does shape various aspects of flourishing such as happiness, self-acceptance, social relationships and being more likely to contribute to the community,” he went on. “The effect of having loving, affectionate parents was stronger on these aspects than on a sense of purpose in life. But we see that parental warmth led to more happiness and social acceptance, as well as less depression, anxiety and drug use. The experience of love in childhood is of profound importance, and parental warmth is a key factor,” said VanderWeele.

Hypothesis for why Ritalin affects attention fails, scientists remain baffled

Methylphenidate (MPH), commonly known as Ritalin, is the most widely prescribed drug worldwide to treat patients with attention deficit disorders. Although MPH is thought to modulate catecholamine neurotransmission in the brain, it remains unclear how these neurochemical effects influence neuronal activity and lead to attentional enhancements. Studies in rodents point to the prefrontal cortex (PFC) [a brain region central to attention ] as the main target of MPH. To validate these findings in primates, we trained macaque monkeys to perform an attention task while under various doses of MPH. We also chronically implanted multielectrode arrays in the posterior PFC of these monkeys to record neuronal ensemble activity during the task. Surprisingly, we found no effect of the drug on neuronal activity, even at cognitive-enhancing doses of MPH. The caudal prefrontal cortex might not be the site of action of MPH in the primate brain.

Ian’s thoughts: We’re led to believe that psychiatric drugs are like insulin for diabetics, supplying missing components and thereby restoring normal function and health. The truth is nothing of the sort, and this study is just another example that scientists are surprisingly clueless about the precise neurological mechanisms of psychiatric disorders and the chemical interventions used to modify them. A situation Dr. Breggin has been observing for decades and that remains steadfastly true to this day.

The Conscience of Psychiatry – The Reform Work of Peter R. Breggin, MD

The Conscience of Psychiatry is a biographical tribute to Dr. Breggin’s professional career that draws on more than fifty years of media excerpts and more than seventy new contributions from professionals in the field. The result is not only the story of his principled, courageous confrontations with organized psychiatry, drug companies, and government agencies —it is also a probing critique of the psycho-pharmaceutical complex.

News & Information for February 26, 2019

The Film on mind control, The Minds of Men, passes 1.3 million viewers on YouTube

Featuring Dr. Peter Breggin, the free full-length documentary on federal support of mind control, The Minds of Men, has now exceeded 1.3 million viewers on YouTube with hundreds of thousands more in other venues.  The Minds of Men is not about conspiracy theories.  The documentary proves efforts by the CIA, the Justice Department, federal health agencies like NIMH and NIH, and wealthy “philanthropic” trusts to support sensory deprivation, electroshock (ECT), lobotomy and psychosurgery, and other horrendous experiments on human beings. 

Although the ads for the film emphasize Dr. Breggin’s contributions, it covers many additional clandestine projects that were unknown to him until disclosed by the filmmakers and researcher Aaron and Melissa Dykes.  These organized clandestine efforts often involved high-ranking government officials and respected figures in psychiatry, psychology and medicine.  Dr. Breggin and Ginger Breggin led successful campaigns that stopped two of the largest, best-documented projects, one dealing with a giant federal eugenics program  called the Violence Initiative and the other involving psychosurgery.  In books and in scientific articles the Breggins describe their project and their successful efforts to stop them.  On their website,, they provide a broad introduction to their efforts in Psychiatry as an Instrument of Social and Political Control

Mindfulness may help middle managers avoid burnout: study

MINDFULNESS training programmes can be beneficial for the well-being of middle managers, a new research has found.  In particular, such training can help middle managers cope with the stress and emotional exhaustion commonly associated with their jobs, say researchers in a study published in the Academy of Management Proceedings. […] Compared to the control group, middle managers who completed the mindfulness training programme reported substantial reductions in stress levels and emotional exhaustion, which are precursors to burnout, the researchers found. Participants also reported increased levels of psychological detachment, suggesting that mindfulness training may improve well-being by helping employees maintain a distance from challenging or upsetting work events, the study noted. […] Current findings of the study show that a relatively short mindfulness training programme can benefit middle management leaders, and potentially other categories of employees as well. 

Urban parks boost happiness: Study

Spending 20 minutes in an urban park will make someone happier regardless of whether they engage in exercise during the visit, a study has found. According to the study, published in International Journal of Environmental Health Research, urban parks have been recognised as key neighbourhood places that provide residents with opportunities to experience nature and engage in various activities. Through contact with the natural environment and engagement in health-promoting and/or social and recreational activities in parks, users experience physical and mental health benefits such as stress reduction and recovery from mental fatigue. […] “Overall, we found park visitors reported an improvement in emotional well-being after the park visit,” said Hon K Yuen, a professor at University of Alabama at Birmingham in the US. “However, we did not find levels of physical activity are related to improved emotional well-being. Instead, we found time spent in the park is related to improved emotional well-being,” said Yuen.

Be yourself at work — It’s healthier and more productive

At work, it’s healthier and more productive just to be yourself, according to a new study from Rice University, Texas A&M University, the University of Memphis, Xavier University, Portland State University and the University of California, Berkeley. The study, “Stigma Expression Outcomes and Boundary Conditions: A Meta-Analysis” will appear in an upcoming edition of the Journal of Business and Psychology. It examines 65 studies focusing on what happens after people in a workplace disclose a stigmatized identity, such as sexual orientation, mental illness, physical disability or pregnancy. […] However, the research overwhelmingly indicates that people with non-visible stigmas (such as sexual orientation or health problems) who live openly at work are happier with their overall lives and more productive in the workplace. King said self-disclosure is typically a positive experience because it allows people to improve connections, form relationships with others and free their minds of unwanted thoughts. 

Anger and Happiness Can Be Contagious — Here’s How To Stop or Start The Spread

Even if you’re not aware of it, it’s likely that your emotions will influence someone around you today. This can happen during our most basic exchanges, say on your commute to work. “If someone smiles at you, you smile back at them,” says sociologist Nicholas Christakis of Yale University. “That’s a very fleeting contagion of emotion from one person to another.” […] For instance, Christakis’ research has shown that if you start to become happier with your life, a friend living close by has a 25 percent higher chance of becoming happy too. And your partner is more likely to feel better as well. The happiness can even spread to people to whom you’re indirectly connected. To document this, Christakis and his colleagues mapped out the face-to-face interactions of about 5,000 people living in one town over the course of 32 years. Their emotional ups and downs were documented with periodic surveys. “We were able to show that as one person became happy or sad, it rippled through the network,” Christakis says. It’s not just happiness that spreads. Unhappiness and anger can be contagious too. […] So, just how far does this go? A study of nearly 700,000 Facebook users suggests we can pick up on — and mirror — the emotions we encounter in our social media feeds too. As part of the study, users’ news feeds were altered. Some people in the study began to see more positive posts, while others began to see more negative posts. “We found that when good things were happening in your news feed — to your friends and your family — you also tended to write more positively and less negatively,” says Jeff Hancock, a communications researcher at Stanford University and author the two studies on digital interactions

Guilt, Shame and Anxiety: Understanding and Overcoming Negative Emotions

By Dr. Peter Breggin

Dr. Breggin’s new book will show you how to identify, to reject and to triumph over your self-defeating, painful emotions and to transcend them with more positive feelings and better approaches to life. Imagine your life when you leave guilt, shame, anxiety, chronic anger or emotional numbness behind and exercise your emotional freedom! 

News & Information for February 25, 2019

Institutional Corruption in the Cochrane Collaboration

By Peter Gøtzsche, MD… Throughout my 25 years with Cochrane, I have fought to maintain our freedom and ideals, and to retain Cochrane’s structure as a bottom-up idealistic grassroots organization, free from commercial conflicts of interest. […] The moral decline in Cochrane started in 2011 and accelerated when a new CEO, Mark Wilson, was employed in 2012, who does not seem to understand what science is about but focuses on “brand” and “business” instead of getting the science right and fostering free scientific debate. He favours scientific censorship and was unfortunately supported in this by a majority of the Cochrane Governing Board when I was expelled by the Board in September 2017 and later fired from my job as head of the Nordic Cochrane Centre in Copenhagen. Our access to documents in Denmark via the Freedom of Information Act revealed that the CEO had required my dismissal, although he had no mandate to make such a requirement. […]

I have put it all behind me and will launch an Institute for Scientific Freedom on 9 March in Copenhagen, which has these visions:

  • All science should strive to be free from financial conflicts of interest.
  • All science should be published as soon as possible and made freely accessible.
  • All scientific data, including study protocols, should be freely accessible, allowing others to do their own analyses.

There is huge interest in this initiative, which is a good sign. The Institute will contribute to developing a better healthcare where more people will benefit and fewer will be harmed by the interventions they receive. We aim to make a substantial contribution to credible and trustworthy medical evidence that our society values and needs, and we stand for pluralistic, open scientific debate, open access to data, and open publishing.

Antidepressant Side Effects

Do antidepressants cause side effects? Yes, antidepressants can react poorly with your body and create unwanted side effects. Some side effects are temporary and will go away. Certain antidepressants will also change your personality. But some side effects don’t go away and become real physical or emotional problems. […] Problems with sex. This ranges from loss of sexual interest to wanting lots of sex. There’s also erectile dysfunction and decreased orgasm. Weight gain. You’re gaining weight even though you’re not eating any differently than before. Some weight gain can be caused by edema, which happens when your small blood vessels leak fluid into nearby tissue. Emotional numbness. Not feeling like yourself. Reduced positive feelings, caring less about others, feeling like you’re addicted, and feeling suicidal. Physical symptoms and pain. Nausea. Dry mouth which can cause problems for teeth. Constipation. Joint and muscle pain. Headaches and rashes. Muscle cramps or weakness. Shaking or tremors in body parts. […] Antidepressants are supposed to change mood. But they can cause changes in your behaviour. Because of a side effect, you might be doing things differently than you would normally. So if you’re suddenly gaining weight but not eating any more than before, you might start eating even less because you want to lose weight. These kinds of behaviour changes are common.

Risk for PTSD and Major Depressive Disorder Increased With Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) increases the risk for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and/or major depressive disorder (MDD) in a civilian population, according to an article published in JAMA Psychiatry. Level of education, race/ethnicity, history of mental health problems, and cause of injury also influence risk. […] The researchers suggested that the finding of increased risk for PTSD, but not MDD, with an injury that occurs as the result of an assault or other form of violence speaks to the importance of the context of the injury for the psychopathology of PTSD. It also suggests that cognitive behavioral interventions may be important early in the healing process. The researchers also argued that the results of this study may have implications for the identification of at-risk individuals and the subsequent surveillance and treatment of mental disorders after mTBI. They also note that because of study limitations, it was not possible to find a reason for the increased risk for PTSD or MDD after mTBI for black individuals.

Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry – by Peter Breggin, MD

A comprehensive contemporary scientific reference on brain dysfunctions and behavioral abnormalities produced by psychiatric drugs including Prozac, Xanax, Halcion, Ritalin, and lithium. Dr. Breggin shows that psychiatric drugs achieve their primary or essential effect by causing brain dysfunction. Many of Breggin’s findings have improved clinical practice, led to legal victories against drug companies, and resulted in FDA-mandated changes in what the manufacturers must admit about their drugs.

News & Information for February 23 – 24, 2019

Listen to Judith Orloff, MD on The Dr. Peter Breggin Hour, discussion of empathy and empaths

My guest is Los Angeles psychiatrist Judith Orloff and as I predicted in my Frequent Alert before the show, it was an astonishingly inspiring and educational hour about the empathic side of us human beings, and especially about those of us who are empaths and who very deeply experience the people and the environment around us.  I talked more than usual about my wife Ginger, who is a profound empath, or “highly sensitive person,” and continued to understand her better through Judith’s words. What better endorsement can I give to Judith and to her work! I spoke about the special dangers of psychiatry and psychiatric drugs to highly sensitive, empathic people. We also had great callers, and at one point my connectivity to my own show broke down for several minutes, but Judith and the caller stayed engaged on the continuing live show without noticing my absence. Exciting! One of the best programs we’ve had.

Study goes beyond correlation reporting evidence that exercise causes reduced depression risk

Jogging for 15 minutes a day, or walking or gardening for somewhat longer, could help protect people against developing depression, according to an innovative new study published last month in JAMA Psychiatry. The study involved hundreds of thousands of people and used a type of statistical analysis to establish, for the first time, that physical activity may help prevent depression, a finding with considerable relevance for any of us interested in maintaining or bolstering our mental health. Plenty of past studies have examined the connections between exercise, moods and psychological well-being. And most have concluded that physically active people tend to be happier and less prone to anxiety and severe depression than people who seldom move much. But those past studies showed only that exercise and depression are linked [ie, they only showed a correlation], not that exercise actually causes a drop in depression risk. [ So how to measure cause? ] Enter Mendelian randomisation. This is a relatively new type of “data science hack” being used to analyse health risks […] when they applied Mendelian randomisation to exercise and depression […] the scientists found that, statistically, the ideal amount of exercise to prevent depression started at about 15 minutes a day of running or other strenuous exercise. Less-taxing activities like fast walking, housework and so on also afforded protection against depression, but it took about an hour a day to have an effect. 

What Is Gratitude? What Difference Does It Make To Feel It?

Several studies link gratitude with increased health and well-being. For example, a summary of some of them from the University of California at Davis, finds “The practice of gratitude can lower blood pressure, improve immune function and facilitate more efficient sleep. Gratitude reduces lifetime risk for depression, anxiety and substance abuse disorders, and is a key resiliency factor in the prevention of suicide.” […] As lead author Robert A. Emmons  pointed out, “Gratitude blocks toxic emotions, such as envy, resentment, regret and depression, which can destroy our happiness.” Other studies show similar findings linking gratitude with health and well-being. For example, research from the University of Montana and published in the Review of Communication, found that gratitude is associated with psychological well-being and increased positive states such as life satisfaction, vitality, hope, and optimism. It also contributes to decreased levels of depression, anxiety, envy, and job-related stress and burnout. Moreover, people who experience and express gratitude have reported fewer symptoms of physical illness, more exercise, and better quality of sleep.

Are teens getting high on social media? The surprising study seeking the pot-Instagram link

In a groundbreaking study, a University of California, San Diego (UCSD), psychiatrist is investigating whether social media affects the adolescent brain in the same way as cannabis. […] “Psychiatrists don’t recognise excessive social media use as addictive behaviour,” said Dr Kara Bagot, a child psychiatrist and assistant professor in residency at UCSD […] “There are studies already that show video games, computer games, social media and increased tech use associated with poor outcomes in physical health, mental health and risk-taking,” she said. “We have to have more conversations about how to responsibly use social media.” […] In a 2018 Pew Research Center survey, 95% of teens said they had a smart phone, the device most often used to access social media. Moreover, 89% said they were online “almost constantly” or “several times a day”.

Psychological Interventions Can Help When Tapering Off Antidepressants

A recent systematic review and meta-analysis published in Annals of Family Medicine compared the effects of antidepressant tapering procedures across twelve studies. The study authors conclude that there is some evidence that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) can aid in tapering procedures, but more research is needed. “Although some people need antidepressants to prevent relapse/recurrence, 30-50% of long-term users have no evidence-based indication to continue their medication,” the authors write. “This inappropriate use exposes patients to potentially serious adverse effects.” […] Overall, tapering is much more effective when conducted with specialist psychological or psychiatric interventions (40-95%). More studies are needed that report on discontinuation symptoms. The available evidence suggests that abrupt discontinuation increases discontinuation syndrome and that CBT while tapering leads to significantly lower rates of relapse/recurrence. Additionally, MBCT with tapering was effective in helping patients achieve discontinuation without increasing relapse/recurrence.

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) may cause permanent brain damage and ‘should be stopped’, top expert warns

Controversial electric shock treatment for severe depression could cause permanent brain damage and ‘should be stopped’, a leading psychologist has claimed.

  • Shock treatment for severe depression could cause permanent brain damage
  • More than 5,000 British psychiatric patients receive ECT each year, report says
  • One mental health patient said she was given 21 sessions of ECT in a single year
  • Study found that up to half of patients who receive the treatment will experience symptoms of brain damage

A review of ten NHS mental health trusts, carried out by Professor John Read from the University of East London, has revealed that one patient in three is given electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT, without their consent. Prof Read’s Freedom of Information requests also showed a third of NHS trusts were failing to recognise adverse effects, which include long-term memory loss. […] ‘By the time I finished ECT I was left with an inability to recognise faces, my hands shook uncontrollably and I couldn’t walk in a straight line. I fell over repeatedly and couldn’t walk through doors without bumping into the frames. My speech was slurred and I had word- finding problems. It took me three years to learn to read again.’ […] up to half of patients who receive the treatment will experience symptoms of brain damage some years later. Similarly, a 2014 Royal College of Psychiatrists survey found long-term severe memory loss and cognitive problems occurred in 20 per cent of the 192 patients questioned.

Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal, A Guide for Prescribers, Therapists, Patients and their Families

Nothing in the field of mental health will do more good and reduce more harm than encouraging withdrawal from psychiatric drugs. The time is past when the focus in mental health was on what drugs to take for what disorders. Now we need to focus on how to stop taking psychiatric drugs and to replace them with more person-centered, empathic approaches. The goal is no longer drug maintenance and stagnation; the goal is recovery and achieving well-being.

News & Information for February 22, 2019

Oxford scientist refutes media mis-coverage and spin of their study

From gender bias to media bias? A thread on how our study looking at adult perceptions of children’s pain got misconstrued. A reminder of the importance of taking media coverage with a grain of salt, reading original studies when possible, and guarding against confirmation bias. I’ll start with what you may have heard our study showed, then explain what our study actually showed. Here are some sample headlines: “A new study finds Americans take the pain of girls less seriously than that of boys” (@CNN ); “Study shows sexism starts early…” (@USATODAY). […] First, the effect in our study was observed only in female participants–not “Americans” or “parents” or “people” in general. In fact, male participants rated girl pain higher than boy pain (albeit not to a statistically significant degree). Second, we did not measure “sexism” or “credibility” or the extent to which adult raters “cared” about the pain of boys vs. girls–or even whether they took the pain of boys “more seriously” than that of girls. And we certainly did not show that pain is “often missed” in girls.

Ian’s thoughts: So lo and behold, the study actually found that men rated the pain of girls higher than the pain of boys, the endpoint media presented as what misogyny is not. But I guess any indication that men feel more empathy for females doesn’t fit with the “toxic masculinity” thesis, all the rage nowadays. The findings seem more compatible with Professor Fiamengo’s counter-thesis: “tonic masculinity.

The dangers of taking MDMA when you’re on antidepressants

Taking MDMA isn’t recommended regardless of your mental health status, but when you’re taking antidepressants it can cause a number of extra problems. […] ‘MDMA partly produces it effects by entering neurons and increasing the release of a neurochemical in the brain called serotonin (5-HT), and then also preventing recycling of 5-HT back into neurons.’ Most common antidepressants are called SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) and do a similar thing; what Sumnall calls the ‘chemical recycling process’. However, due to the fact MDMA has all sorts of other effects on the brain, you don’t get a similar high from taking an SSRI. He continues: ‘SSRIs, particularly at high doses, have their own negative effects, including tremors and nausea, and in more serious cases seizures and a loss of consciousness. ‘But mixing SSRIs with MDMA  will actually decrease the desired effects of MDMA as the SSRIs compete with MDMA for access to the neuron, meaning that MDMA cannot exert its full effects.’

How mindfulness can help business leaders become more positive

From meditation retreats and relaxation rooms to yoga breaks between meetings, organizations are increasingly turning to mindfulness practices in a bid to offset stress in the workplace and help employees find inner happiness. Now a new study from the University of Saskatchewan’s Edwards School of Business suggests mindfulness can also have powerful effects on stressed-out leaders. Specifically, “mindfulness helps you to avoid negative or abusive behaviours while encouraging more transformational and positive behaviours, despite how emotionally exhausted you may feel,” says Megan Walsh, an assistant professor at the Saskatoon school and the study’s lead author. Mindfulness is a centuries-old Buddhist philosophy. It is defined in the study as “a receptive attention to and awareness of present events and experience. You are fully engaged in the present moment – like a sponge soaking everything up,” adds Dr. Walsh.

Study: Antidepressants and the risk of traumatic brain injury in the elderly

Objective: To determine the association of individual antidepressants (ADs) with the risk of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the elderly. […] Conclusion: In this large cohort of unselected elderly new users of ADs, the risk of TBI was increased in current users of most ADs compared to remote user of any AD. Taking into account a wide range of comorbidities, use of comedications and other potential confounding factors, we observed differences between individual agents. The increase in risk was higher in current users of duloxetine (>80%), fluoxetine, sertraline, citalopram and escitalopram (>60%), while it was lower in current users of paroxetine (57%), amitriptyline (45%), trimipramine (17%) and opipramol (11%). These results were consistent in subjects with and without depression or dementia, in men and women and across all age groups. While all examined individual SSRIs had a higher risk than the individual TCAs, the large variability between individual ADs shows the importance of considering the safety of individual agents rather than focusing on class alone.

How childhood infections and antibiotics may increase risks of mental illness

Hospitalization for an infection might leave you at greater risk for mental illness, according to a recent study published in JAMA Psychiatry, which draws on data from youth in Denmark up to the age of 17 years. The authors also found that antibiotic use was associated with even higher risk for mental illness. This connection is thought to be, in part, because antibiotics affect bacteria in the intestinal microbiome. The study — which supports emerging theories about the functional interaction between infection, the gut microbiome and mental illness — is one of close to 50 papers published using data from the Danish Psychiatric Central Research Register since the latter half of 2018. […] It has been suggested that the gut microbiome, the hugely diverse bacterial community that we host in our intestines, sends out signals to the brain, modulating our moods and, possibly, our susceptibility to mental illness. Animals depleted of gut bacteria using broad-spectrum antibiotics exhibited changes in various disorders including autism spectrumneurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and depression.

New Robotic Aid for Drug-free Depression Treatment

MagVenture has added the new FDA-approved robotic platform to its clinical system. The TMS-Cobot, will help further elevate the rapidly growing field of neuromodulation, commonly known as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) therapy–– is an effective, non-invasive option for the large number of patients who fail to respond to antidepressants. During treatment, magnetic pulses are applied with a magnetic coil to a certain part of the patient’s brain. This area is the entry-point for treatment as the pulses reach the neural network that controls mood and emotion, potentially alleviating the depression. Patients are fully awake during treatment and can return to their normal activities immediately following the TMS session. Typically, patients will receive a total of 20–30 sessions, one per weekday.

Talking Back to Prozac, What Doctors Aren’t Telling You

By Peter R. Breggin, MD

Authors Peter R Breggin MD and Ginger Breggin have re-released their seminal book Talking Back to Prozac: What Doctors Aren’t Telling You About Prozac and the Newer Antidepressants with a new introduction and new information about the SSRI antidepressants, including the granddaddy of them all—Prozac. 

News & Information for February 21, 2019

Alternative, Science-Based Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men

The American Psychological Association’s “Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men” have received much criticism from journalists and professional psychologists. Much of the opposition has centered on the guideline’s attack on “traditional masculinity” and the privileging of activism over evidence-based treatment. One of the few redeeming features of the guidelines is their acknowledgement that men face unique physical, psychological, educational, and social challenges and are less likely to seek psychological treatment to meet those challenges. But the guidelines fail in their targeted goal of preparing therapists to help the men under their care. Throughout the entirety of the APA’s guidelines, discussion of evolutionary influences on men’s psychological development is either unintentionally neglected or willfully avoided […] Denying that biology, from genes to hormones to neurotransmitters, plays a role in shaping men’s masculine self-expression is, to say the least, a scientifically untenable position. In the current article, I offer seven alternative, evolution-informed guidelines for therapists treating boys and men—ones that I hope are less ideologically-driven than the APA’s and that take seriously the inextricable link between the mind and the body and the fact that men and women exhibit psychological differences for evolutionary reasons. 

New study highlights significance of resilience training

A world-first study shows that online resilience training can make a significant impact to the mental health and wellbeing of emergency workers. […] University of New South Wales’ (UNSW) Workplace Mental Health Research Team, the Black Dog Institute and Fire and Rescue NSW have worked together to publish a study examining whether an online mindfulness-based program could effectively enhance resilience among first responders to high-risk situations – namely police, fire and ambulance workers. The findings showed that the training helps to significantly increase psychological resilience and adaptive levels, and boost optimism and healthy coping strategies in emergency workers. The study also promotes the importance of organisations adopting this type of training to improve and maintain optimum mental health in the workplace. ‘First responders face unique challenges, and it is important they are provided with the very best training and support,’ Sadhbh Joyce, Senior Psychologist and PhD Candidate at UNSW’s Workplace Mental Health Research Team, said.

Loneliness Is Bad for Your Health. An App May Help.

Loneliness is bad for your health. Social isolation is associated with a significantly increased risk of premature death. And the problem resists fixing; solitary people who participate in experiments meant to nudge them into joining groups tend to have high rates of recidivism. According to a study published this month in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, however, it might be possible to reduce loneliness by using cellphones to teach a particular type of meditation. Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and several other institutions recruited 153 men and women who considered themselves stressed out — the study was slightly mischaracterized to disguise a primary concern, loneliness. Next, the volunteers completed questionnaires: They were asked about their social networks, their interactions with others and their feelings of loneliness, if any. Their baseline levels of sociability were established through texts that prodded them to answer questions about what they were doing and with whom. This monitoring lasted three days.

Peer support, healing hands may curb prescription opioid misuse

A program offering group support, acupuncture, mindfulness, massage and gentle exercise may help prevent patients on prescription opioids from spiraling down to drug misuse, overdose and death, according to a study led by researchers at UCSF. The study, published Feb. 20, 2019, in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, tracked the impact of a program for low-income, at-risk patients with chronic pain at Tom Waddell Urban Health Clinic, in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, a public health facility where UCSF medical students are trained and mentored. “Opioids are often prescribed to patients with moderate-to-severe pain from chronic health conditions, or for pain following injury or surgery,” said first author Maria T. Chao, DrPH, MPA, of the UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine. “Because of the potential dangers of opioid use, we wanted to see if a multimodal, non-pharmacological program could decrease pain levels and stabilize prescription opioid use in vulnerable patients with high rates of pain and barriers to care.”

Friendly texts tied to fewer suicide attempts in the military

Military service members who are at risk for suicide may be less likely to attempt to harm themselves when they receive supportive text messages, a U.S. study suggests. Soldiers in the study had all received behavioral health services for considering or attempting suicide in the past, and all were on active duty, in the Reserve or in the National Guard. They all received standard treatments like medication or psychotherapy as needed; half of the 650 participants were also randomly assigned to received occasional texts with messages like “hope you’re having a good day.” Over the course of a year, people who received these texts were 44 percent less likely to experience suicidal thoughts and 48 percent less likely to attempt suicide than those who didn’t get the messages. “Social disconnection is one of the strongest and most established risk factors for suicide,” said study co-author Amanda Kerbrat. […] “One wonders if active-duty military personnel and reservists, who are embedded in a rich social milieu that, if nothing else, is hardly isolating, are likely to have their perceptions of belongingness altered by 11 text messages over a year,” Stein and his coauthors write.

The Heart of Being Helpful: Empathy and the Creation of a Healing Presence

By Peter R. Breggin, MD

Dr. Breggin illustrates the importance of developing a therapeutic bond, or healing presence, between helping professionals and their clients. He provides useful vignettes, case studies, and personal insights to help beginning and experienced therapists develop more empathy in therapeutic relationships. 

News & Information for February 20, 2019

Researchers study how mindfulness meditation affects students

The practice was once synonymous with yoga studios. These days, even major corporations offer the training to employees. Mindfulness practices involve focusing on the present and on breathing. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University are studying the effects of mindfulness training on students in urban elementary schools. Before students at Baltimore City public schools start reading and writing, they begin the day with reflection by participating in a daily two-minute-long mindfulness exercise. “A lot of these students are coming into school in a state of fight or flight,” Dr. Tamar Mendelson, with Johns Hopkins University, said. Mendelson analyzed mindfulness instruction in Baltimore public schools as elementary students were trained on breathing techniques and yoga poses for 45 minutes four times a week for 12 weeks. Before and after the program, students were surveyed about how they reacted to stress. The survey suggested that the children had less rumination and fewer intrusive thoughts after the training. The school offers a mindful moments room where a certified instructor leads students through exercises if they seem stressed in the classroom. Baltimore is not the only place with mindfulness in the classroom. More than 300 schools will have their students practice mindfulness in a study to improve youth mental health.

Risk for Psychosis Linked With Childhood Trauma, Life Events, and Isolation

High risk for psychosis is associated with less social support, more life events, and greater childhood trauma, according to a study recently published in Psychiatry Research. These may be risk factors for psychosis and merit further research into interventional approaches.  […] The study researchers conclude that “in comparison to healthy controls, high-risk individuals experienced [more severe] childhood trauma and significantly more life events meanwhile perceived poorer social support, which may be the risk factors of conversion to psychosis and may possibly bring about deterioration in overall function. Thus, this study greatly called for attention to further exploration to develop optimal psychosocial interventions, which may be beneficial in improving symptoms of high-risk individuals and may therefore help to delay and reduce conversion to psychosis.” 

Keep calm and don’t carry on when parenting teens

The field of adolescent psychology is increasingly focused on parents, with researchers asking how mothers and fathers control themselves (and their rising anger) in difficult interactions with their children. As anyone who has raised a teenager knows, parental goals often don’t exactly align with those of the child. Sometimes, not even close.  […] The researchers found that those parents–both mothers and fathers–who were less capable of dampening down their anger, as measured by RMSSD, were more likely to resort, over time, to the use of harsh, punitive discipline and hostile conflict behavior vis-à-vis their teenager. The scientists also measured parents’ set-shifting capacity–that is, the parents’ ability to be flexible and to consider alternative factors, such as their child’s age and development. […] On average, fathers were not as good as mothers at set shifting and were less able to control their physiological anger response. As a result, they were more likely to think that their teen was intentionally difficult, or “just trying to push buttons,” which in turn guided their decisions about discipline. However, the researchers found that those fathers who were better at set shifting than others were also better able to counteract difficulties in physiological regulation. 

Hormone therapy during gender transition may raise risk for heart attack, stroke, blood clots

People who receive hormone therapy while undergoing gender transition face an increased risk of suffering from potentially deadly heart conditions, according to a study published by the American Heart Association. The research, carried out by a team of Dutch researchers, showed that hormone treatments worsen one’s risk for several cardiovascular issues including strokes, heart attack, and blood clots in individuals undergoing transition. […] Transgender women had more than twice as many strokes as women and nearly twice as many strokes as men. More than twice as many transwomen patients also suffered heart attacks compared to women, and five times as many blood clots. Conversely, transgender men were three times as likely to suffer a heart attack compared to women. “In light of our results, we urge both physicians and transgender individuals to be aware of this increased cardiovascular risk,” says study author Dr. Nienke Nota.

Why scientists say experiencing awe can help you live your best life

Psychologists say the emotion of awe plays a big role in our health, happiness and wellbeing. And you don’t need to witness a supermoon to experience it. Maybe you’ve felt it standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon. Maybe it happens when you think about the vastness of space or glance up at the sky and marvel at a supermoon. Or maybe you feel it when you see someone offer up a seat on a crowded train to another individual they’ve never met. The emotion is awe. And, psychologists say it can play an important role in bolstering happiness, health and our social interactions — and it may have actually long played a role in how and why humans get along and ultimately cooperate with one another. “People feeling awe focus more of their attention outward and value others more in social interactions,” Jennifer Stellar, PhD, assistant professor in the Psychology Department at the University of Toronto, tells NBC News BETTER. (Stellar has also studied the effect of awe on the body’s immune system. More on that below.)

Your Drug May Be Your Problem – by Dr. Peter Breggin, MD

Whether the drug is a sleeping pill, tranquilizer, stimulant, antidepressant, mood stabilizer, or antipsychotic, Your Drug May Be Your Problem reveals its documented withdrawal symptoms, demonstrating what many doctors don’t know, understand, or consider: withdrawal symptoms often mimic the symptoms for which a person has been medicated in the first place. Armed with this essential background information, readers will then be able to choose for themselves when and how to withdraw from psychiatric drugs.

News & Information for February 19, 2019

Embracing the Beautiful Mess Effect Can Make Us Happier, According to Science

In our quest to live happier lives, lessen stress, and keep our relationships strong, new research shows that many of us are missing a vital piece of the puzzle. According to a team of scientists from the University of Mannheim in Germany, that piece is the “beautiful mess effect.” “Joy itself doesn’t mean a constant state of elation,” Chidera Eggerue, an author, exclaimed onstage at a TEDx Talk in Berlin in July. “Joy means a level of acceptance.” Eggerue argues we can all benefit from adopting a “beautiful mess” attitude, which does not refer to living a disorganized, messy life — but rather to embracing our imperfections, and being okay with showing our vulnerability. Eggerue’s argument isn’t simply an observation about human attitudes — it’s science-backed. In their study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the University of Mannheim researchers explored the real-life implications of the “beautiful mess effect” —  the idea that exposing our vulnerable sides and owning our failures can help us connect with others and see situations more positively. 

Breakthrough toward developing blood test for pain

A study led by psychiatry professor Alexander Niculescu, MD, PhD, and published this week in the Nature journal Molecular Psychiatry tracked hundreds of participants at the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis, IN, to identify biomarkers in the blood that can help objectively determine how severe a patient’s pain is. The blood test, the first of its kind, would allow physicians far more accuracy in treating pain—as well as a better long-term look at the patient’s medical future. “We have developed a prototype for a blood test that can objectively tell doctors if the patient is in pain, and how severe that pain is. It’s very important to have an objective measure of pain, as pain is a subjective sensation. Until now we have had to rely on patients self-reporting or the clinical impression the doctor has,” said Niculescu, who worked with other Department of Psychiatry researchers on the study. “When we started this work it was a farfetched idea. But the idea was to find a way to treat and prescribe things more appropriately to people who are in pain.”

Nursing Homes & Antipsychotic Medication Abuse

Congressional Committee Leader Targets Centers for Medicare & Medicaid For Slow Changes of Antipsychotic Drug Use in Nursing Homes

Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) is the author of a January 22, 2019 letter sent to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) administrator, Seema Verma. In the letter, the congressional committee leader overseeing Medicare says he wants to see a closer look at how nursing homes are really using antipsychotics and is also asking for greater detail on how skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) and Medicare plans alike are actively changing the way the drugs are being used.  Although antipsychotic drug overuse, theft, and abuse in nursing homes have been long-time issues in the U.S., CMS’s 2019 trend update on the problem shows nursing homes are making progress in decreasing antipsychotic prescribing. “CMS is tracking the progress of the National Partnership to Improve Dementia Care in Nursing Homes by reviewing publicly reported measures. […] The Representative expressed these sentiments in his letter, “Unfortunately, CMS’ data are still extremely disappointing, showing that progress reducing inappropriate use of antipsychotics in nursing homes has slowed. Moreover, I am concerned that the ‘improvement’ is not the result of changed prescribing behavior but, instead, stems from some nursing homes falsifying psychosis diagnoses, making incidence of this contra-indicated prescribing appear improved when it is, in fact, not.”

Reader’s Digest: 10 Best Supplements for Depression Worth Trying

Everyone is different, but some form of talk therapy and antidepressants (if you need them) are likely the best bets for managing depression. But certain vitamins and supplements may also help. Here’s what the experts recommend. Magnesium The miracle mineral du jour, magnesium boasts many benefits—putting it at the top of the list of supplements for depression relief, says Samantha Cassetty, RD, a New York City-based nutritionist. “Studies show that 500 mg of magnesium daily can improve depression in as little as two weeks,” she says. […] Probiotics help balance out good and bad bacteria in the gut, and this can have spillover effects on mood and depression. […] Fish oil Some people with depression may have low blood levels of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), both of which can be found in fish oil. […] Vitamin D Research has linked low levels of vitamin D to a laundry list of diseases and conditions—including depression, explains Cooperman.  […] Vitamin B12 if you’re low, mood changes and depression may be among the symptoms. […] St John’s wort is one of the most widely studied supplements for depression. “It’s been shown to be as effective for mild to moderate depression as standard antidepressants—with fewer side effects,” Cooperman says. […] SAMe may play a role in treating depression—particularly for people who don’t respond to prescription antidepressants. […] L-theanine An amino acid found in black and green tea (think matcha), L-theanine may boost levels of the brain chemical serotonin which plays a role in mood. […] Saffron You might be familiar with saffron as one of the most expensive spices in the world, but now it appears that a saffron extract may be an effective supplement for depression. […] GABA When your brain is low in this substance, your risk for depression climbs. 

Empathic Therapy Training Film – A Psychotherapy Training DVD

Dr. Breggin’s Empathic Therapy training film will help you to bring out the best in yourself so that you can bring out the best in others. With his genuine and profoundly engaging style of psychotherapy, Dr. Breggin shows how to relate to patients and clients in a manner that engenders trust, mutual understanding, and the opportunity for recovery and growth. — Makes the Perfect Holiday Gift!

News & Information for February 18, 2019

The Conversation: The study of love proves a winning formula

“Think and imagine a world where love is the way” […] In universities across the world, academics are doing just that. Love Studies, a field newly emerged in the last couple of decades, is becoming an increasingly significant area of application and research. There are journals and conferences on Love Studies, websites about popular romance such as Teach Me Tonight and a growing number of Phds in the field. But what exactly is it? Love Studies emerged from discourse and analyses in popular romance, cultural and gender studies. In its first flush, it included a revaluing and deeper understanding of the complexity and sophistication of love, in particular romantic love, and how it has shaped our ways of being and knowing. […] Today, Love Studies is becoming more clearly defined and developed. Last year, The Journal of Popular Romance Studies produced a special issue on Critical Love Studies. It looked at such things as the juxtaposition of popular romance and queer theory, “love migrants” who conduct much of their relationship long distance over Skype, “boy love” in Japanese romance fiction and masculinity in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight novels (The latter article was titled: Is Edward Cullen a good boyfriend? Young men talk about Twilight, masculinity and the rules of heteroromance).

Social media can improve lives post-disaster: study

Social media plays a major role in our health and wellbeing following a disaster. It can increase happiness and nurture your social circle. But depending on who you are, social media can potentially also make you unhappy and more isolated. The All Right? wellbeing campaign was created in 2013 to support people’s mental health and wellbeing following the devastating Canterbury earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. One aspect of the overall campaign was the utilization of social media as a means of promoting wellbeing messages. This research evaluates the use of the All Right? Facebook page as a means of promoting wellbeing after a major natural disaster. […] “What All Right? has shown is that by getting the tone right, tapping into people’s everyday experiences, and alternating between engaging and specialized content, social media can be a force for good.” […] “Everyone is an expert in their own wellbeing, and Facebook enables us to gather people’s own ideas on what makes them happy, and amplify these wide and far. It’s created a community of people who feel more connected, more accepted and more informed.”

Can you teach students to be happy? Colleges are trying

After three years at the University of Pennsylvania, Brielle Weiner has perfected the one-sentence introduction she gives in every new class: a 21-year-old senior majoring in chemical and biomolecular engineering from Wellesley, Mass. But this semester in a course called The Pursuit of Happiness, she was forced to try something new: an introductory anecdote that showed her at her best. […] “Not exactly,” Pawelski said. “Happiness isn’t one size fits all. We can’t just dole it out to everybody… Our goal in class is to explore the pursuit of happiness together.” The course encourages students to try meditation or journaling, and teaches them to build stronger relationships, which are known to boost happiness.

Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal, A Guide for Prescribers, Therapists, Patients and their Families

Nothing in the field of mental health will do more good and reduce more harm than encouraging withdrawal from psychiatric drugs. The time is past when the focus in mental health was on what drugs to take for what disorders. Now we need to focus on how to stop taking psychiatric drugs and to replace them with more person-centered, empathic approaches. The goal is no longer drug maintenance and stagnation; the goal is recovery and achieving well-being.

News & Information for February 17, 2019

Meta-analysis finds asking patients about suicidal thoughts does not predict suicide

New data from a meta-analysis published in BJPsych Open found that the presence or absence of suicide-related thoughts or expressions of suicidal ideation does not predict later suicide. A team of researchers in Australia, led by Catherine M. McHugh, assessed the strength of this association by synthesizing the findings across 70 relevant empirical studies. These findings provide insight into the common practice of asking about suicidal ideation and thoughts to predict whether or not one will later complete suicide. McHugh and team highlight that common practice hinges upon the ability to assess suicide risk based on suicidal ideation screenings accurately: “Clinicians sometimes rely on suicidal ideation as a crucial test for short-term suicide risk, and it has been argued that asking about suicidal ideation could form part of a screening test for later suicide.” […] The authors summarize their findings: “Our study suggests that suicidal ideation is not sensitive enough to be very helpful as a stand-alone screening test for suicide in psychiatric or non-psychiatric settings.”

Sugar industry found high-sugar diet promotes heart disease and cancer and covered it up

In 1965, the Sugar Research Foundation (SRF) secretly funded a review in the New England Journal of Medicine that discounted evidence linking sucrose consumption to blood lipid levels and hence coronary heart disease (CHD). SRF subsequently funded animal research to evaluate sucrose’s CHD risks. […] The results suggested to SRF that gut microbiota have a causal role in carbohydrate-induced hypertriglyceridemia. A study comparing conventional rats fed a high-sugar diet to those fed a high-starch diet suggested that sucrose consumption might be associated with elevated levels of beta-glucuronidase, an enzyme previously associated with bladder cancer in humans. SRF terminated Project 259 without publishing the results. The sugar industry did not disclose evidence of harm from animal studies that would have (1) strengthened the case that the CHD risk of sucrose is greater than starch and (2) caused sucrose to be scrutinized as a potential carcinogen. The influence of the gut microbiota in the differential effects of sucrose and starch on blood lipids, as well as the influence of carbohydrate quality on beta-glucuronidase and cancer activity, deserve further scrutiny.

Study: Radiation from smartphones may impair memory in teens

A research team at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute says that radio frequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) may negatively affect an adolescent’s brain from cellphone exposure, causing potentially harmful effects on his or her memory performance. The authors say having the device close to one’s head lead to the greatest amount of radiation exposure. The researchers studied nearly 700 public school students in Switzerland between ages 12 and 17. They examined how RF-EMF exposure from mobile phones over a year’s time affected memory in the adolescents, and found that memory processed and stored in the right brain hemisphere was particularly worsened. It’s believed that participants primarily held the phone up to the right side of their heads when talking, which likely led to the right hemisphere impairment. “This may suggest that indeed RF-EMF absorbed by the brain is responsible for the observed associations. […] Potential risks to the brain can be minimized by using headphones or the loud speaker while calling, in particular when network quality is low and the mobile phone is functioning at maximum power,” says Röösli.

Brotherly Love? Study reveals why older siblings bully

Researchers at the University of Warwick wanted to know what causes siblings to pick on one another. They studied different elements that might play a factor — things such as parenting styles, family structure, early social interactions and children’s temperaments. “Sibling bullying is the most frequent form of family violence and it is often seen as a normal part of growing up by parents and health professionals […] “But there is increasing evidence that it can have long-term consequences, like increased loneliness, delinquency and mental health problems.” […] “Bullying occurs in situations where we cannot choose our peers, like in families,” says Wolke. “Siblings live in close quarters and the familiarity allows them to know what buttons to press to upset their brothers or sisters. This can go both ways and allows a child to be both a victim and a perpetrator of bullying.” Two main factors were found to predict bullying by middle childhood: family structure and gender. “Bullying was more likely to occur in families with three or more children and the eldest child or older brothers were more often the bullies,” says co-author Slava Dantchev. “Female children and younger children were more often targeted.”

Guilt, Shame and Anxiety: Understanding and Overcoming Negative Emotions

By Dr. Peter Breggin

Dr. Breggin’s new book will show you how to identify, to reject and to triumph over your self-defeating, painful emotions and to transcend them with more positive feelings and better approaches to life. Imagine your life when you leave guilt, shame, anxiety, chronic anger or emotional numbness behind and exercise your emotional freedom! 

News & Information for February 15 – 16, 2019

What causes heart disease? How love affects heart health

Love can offer important protections for the heart just as the lack of it can have profound health consequences. For centuries, people have thought of the heart as the command center of love, and the notion endures even as research shows most everything related to affection, attraction and adoration happens in the brain. Still, an organ that beats faster whenever a loved one comes near or aches when a partner is gone is clearly a part of the story. Even if the biological pump isn’t the seat of emotions, it’s extraordinarily sensitive to our emotional system, writes Dr. Sandeep Jauhar […] “People who have unhealthy or difficult relationships, that can cause chronic low-level stress, which can also accelerate heart disease… so we need to focus more on the metaphorical heart and less on the biomechanical heart to continue to make the kinds of advances that we have made in the last 50-60 years.” A person’s capacity to love can be a matter of life and death, Jauhar writes. Indeed, recent studies have found heart patients who are divorced, separated, widowed or never-married have a higher risk of dying than their married counterparts. Married people also have a lower risk of developing heart disease than singles and they’re more likely to survive a heart attack.

The Potentially Fatal Side Effect of Taking Antidepressants

After about 10 days of being on my full doses of my old and new medications, I began to experience some symptoms. I was nauseous, my arms and hands had a constant, slight shake, and I was unable to sleep at night. At first, I chalked these symptoms up to side effects of switching medications. That is until my symptoms started to worsen and new ones arose. My nausea increased, I began having diarrhea (gross, I know), my shake moved into my jaw and legs, and I continued to be unable to sleep. […] One day, about 12 days into taking my full doses of both old and new medications, I had a scary episode. I was in my office and my body began to violently shake. I went into my boss’ office so I wouldn’t have to be alone. My jaw, shoulders, arms, hands, stomach, legs, and feet were violently shaking with tremors I had never experienced before […] The next day, I went into my office for a meeting and another episode ensued. Again, I had full-body tremors and was afraid of having a seizure or passing out. 

The prevailing wisdom is that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the first-line treatment for insomnia

[T]he prevailing wisdom is that cognitive behavioral therapy, which involves changing habits and bedtime rituals, is the first-line treatment for insomnia. Sleep experts say CBT is more effective and longer lasting than medication for most people — but maybe you’re not most people. “There’s clearly a subset of patients who don’t improve with CBT,” says Andrew Krystal, who directs the sleep research program at the University of California at San Francisco. Another thing to consider before looking at medications is that sleep troubles often result from something else, such as sleep apnea or depression. Also, alcohol and caffeine intake can interfere with good sleep, as can certain medications, says Constance Dunlap, a D.C. psychiatrist in private practice. A doctor can help you rule out or address these issues. “I get a lot of information,” Dunlap says. For instance, a sleep study can identify awakenings from sleep apnea. “My patients who have tried CPAP?” Dunlap says, referring to continuous positive airway pressure therapy for sleep apnea. “One hundred percent of them feel better.” 

The Heart of Being Helpful: Empathy and the Creation of a Healing Presence

By Peter R. Breggin, MD

Dr. Breggin illustrates the importance of developing a therapeutic bond, or healing presence, between helping professionals and their clients. He provides useful vignettes, case studies, and personal insights to help beginning and experienced therapists develop more empathy in therapeutic relationships. 

News & Information for February 14, 2019

Smoking cannabis in your teens IS linked to depression in later life

Smoking cannabis in your teenage years raises the risk of depression and suicide in later life, a landmark new study has found. Researchers from the US and UK have revealed the drug could impair a child’s brain to the extent it triggers mental health disorders later in life. In the largest research of its kind, experts from Oxford University and McGill University estimated that over half a million adults in the UK and US could be saved from mental health disorders by avoiding the drug as a teenager. The teams have now warned that cannabis, legal in several US states and used by millions of young people is a significant public health risk with ‘devastating consequences’. They have urgently called for officials to make tackling use of the drug a priority. 

Too many older people given ‘antidepressants instead of therapy’

GPs are giving too many older people antidepressants when they are struggling with depression, and should prescribe talking therapies far more often, according to new research. Family doctors too often avoid talking to patients over the age of 65 about depression and do not have the time to explore and treat the condition properly, the study found. Almost one in 10 over-75s are thought to suffer from depression, while almost four in 10 (37.4%) exhibit some symptoms. However, the vast majority, 87%, are treated with medication, even though it often does not help, according to the findings. […] “There needs to be greater access to talking therapies. They are effective in older populations, but we know that GPs are less likely to refer those in their 80s to psychological therapies for depressive symptoms than those in their 50s and 60s,” said Rachael Frost, an academic at University College London and the lead author of the paper.

SSRI Antidepressant Drugs Interfere With Opioid Pain Relief

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants diminish the pain reduction effects of prodrug opioids according to a new study published inPLOS One.1 Researchers at Stanford University hypothesized that patients taking SSRI antidepressants who are prescribed a prodrug opioid will have greater postoperative pain. They used a machine learning approach to examine the effects of SSRI use on opioid types both before and after surgery. […] “There was theoretical evidence that suggested SSRIs might block prodrug opioids, but we didn’t know if it actually affected patient outcomes” noted Tina Hernandez-Boussard, PhD, a computational biologist and co-author of the study.2

Man, 56, took his own life after starting new medication

The family of a 56-year-old man who took his own life have blamed an antidepressant drug prescribed to him less than two weeks earlier. Richard Green, of Old Woodhall near Horncastle, started taking Citalopram after complaining of panic attacks brought on by increased anxiety. A resumed inquest into his death, held at Boston Coroner’s Court last Tuesday (Feb 12), heard that the level of the drug in his system was well within therapeutic levels. Giving a prepared statement, Mr Green’s sister, Angela Hill, said: “The family, siblings and parents believe that the prescription of the antidepressant drug Citalopram played a major part in Richard’s suicide. “In fact, we believe that, had he not been prescribed this drug, he would still be with us today. “We appreciate that the medical evidence shows that the drug was within normal levels in Richard’s bloodstream. “However, we believe that this drug adversely affected Richard’s state of mind.”

New study analyzes how falling in love influences the immune system in women

Falling in love is one of the most essential and psychologically potent events in human life.  However, the physical consequences of new romantic love remain poorly understood.  In a study that was three-years in the making, a group of researchers from Tulane University and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) combined efforts to study how falling in love is associated with changes in immune-related gene expression. […] “What we found was that women who fell in love had increased activity of genes involved in antiviral defenses, compared to when they began the study,” Murray said.  “No similar change was observed in women who did not fall in love. This could reflect a kind of a proactive response to anticipating future intimate contact, given that most viruses are spread via close physical contact.  However, this increased activity of antiviral genes is also consistent with the biological preparation of the body for pregnancy. From this women-only sample, both of these interpretations remain possible.”

Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry – by Peter Breggin, MD

A comprehensive contemporary scientific reference on brain dysfunctions and behavioral abnormalities produced by psychiatric drugs including Prozac, Xanax, Halcion, Ritalin, and lithium. Dr. Breggin shows that psychiatric drugs achieve their primary or essential effect by causing brain dysfunction. Many of Breggin’s findings have improved clinical practice, led to legal victories against drug companies, and resulted in FDA-mandated changes in what the manufacturers must admit about their drugs.

News & Information for February 13, 2019

New Study Pinpoints Why Sleep Is Often the Best Medicine

Today, a new study (Dimitrov et al., 2019) on the immunology behind sleep (and sleep deprivation) by researchers in Germany offers some fresh evidence-based clues about why “long sleep” has anecdotally been considered “one of the best cures in a doctor’s book” since temps immémorial.

This diagram shows how the effects of Gαs-coupled agonists on T cells can be
influenced by sleep or disease. Source: Dimitrov et al., 2019

As the diagram above illustrates, the researchers were able to identify how sleep improves the potential ability of immune T cells to adhere to their targets firmly. These findings help to explain why sleep improves our ability to fight off infection and how other day-to-day factors that are linked to insomnia (such as chronic stress) might make us more susceptible to illness. […] “Our results demonstrate that a couple of hours of sleep loss suffice to reduce the adhesion capacity of antigen-specific T cells,” the authors concluded. “This finding shows that sleep has the potential to enhance the efficiency of effector T cell responses, which is especially relevant in light of the high prevalence of sleep disorders and conditions characterized by impaired sleep, such as depression, chronic stress, aging, and shift work.” 

Does this Theory Hold the Secret to Healing America’s Division?

It’s clear that America is becoming increasingly divided, and if we remain on the path we’re on, things are only going to get worse. There will be more aggression in the streets, more gridlock in Washington, and that’s really just the beginning of how bad things can get. So, if we truly want to make America great, then we have to make a collective conscious effort to heal the division. And we have to do it soon, because if the division gets too severe, there might be a point of no return. But how do we fix this division problem? Well, science might have an answer to that. If we can understand how we became divided, then we can start to see how we might be able to reverse the process. While there are many explanations for such a complex issue, I believe one well-supported psychology theory explains the essence of the phenomenon better than all the others. That theory is called Terror Management Theory (TMT). TMT is based on the idea that human behavior is largely driven by our fear of death. Unlike all other animals, we have a conscious awareness of our own mortality. It is difficult to live a happy life knowing that you will someday die and not long after, all traces of your existence will be erased from history. According to TMT, as a way of dealing with this persistent existential fear, humans created cultural worldviews that instill our lives with meaning and purpose, and give us a sense of permanence.

People taking antidepressants are more likely to experience severe intestinal bleeding

A recent research review, published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, has found that patients taking antidepressants are 40% more expected to experience severe gastrointestinal bleeding. Specialists say individuals with depression while taking antidepressants should weigh the risks associated with these types of medications. Researchers noted that nearly 13% of Americans aged 12 and older take an antidepressant of some kind. Therefore, risks associated with antidepressants should be considered before taking them. This is because selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have been found to carry an increased risk of internal bleeding. SSRIs are one of the most commonly prescribed classes of drugs used for the treatment of depression. […] SSRI have commonly prescribed medications like antidepressants, but they can also interact with common over-the-counter medicines in hostile ways. One of those major side effects is the gastrointestinal bleeding risk. It is very important to know the risk associated with any medication. Consult your physician about the medications you are taking, both prescription and nonprescription, and weigh the risks and benefits.

Study: Nursing homes underreported antipsychotic prescribing, but providers deny it

Nursing homes are underreporting the use of antipsychotics, a new study claims, but industry executives criticized researchers’ conclusions, citing the use of old data. Experts at Northeastern University published their work last week in the journal Aging & Mental Health. The researchers compared trends in self-reported antipsychotic prescribing relative to claims-based prescribing. In a review of self-reported data across nearly 12,000 skilled nursing facilities, the researchers said SNFs did not identify up to 6,000 residents per calendar quarter who were receiving antipsychotics. “This is the first time that this has ever actually been measured, how well they self-report antipsychotic use,” said Becky Briesacher, Ph.D., associate professor in Northeastern’s School of Pharmacy. “Since I’m the first one to say that we think there’s a gap, there isn’t any reason why anyone would have addressed it, because they didn’t even know it existed.”

Elderly less likely to be offered talking therapy for depression

Older people are more likely to be offered antidepressants and less likely to be offered talking therapies, than younger people, according to new research. The study carried out by University College London (UCL) and Bristol University found despite older people saying they preferred talking therapies such as counselling, they are less likely to be referred than younger adults, particularly when they are aged 80 and over. Researchers looked at 27 studies and found due to limited time in consultations and more complex needs, GPs and nurses often prioritised physical health over mental health, particularly when it came to frail patients. Dr Rachael Frost from UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care, lead author of the paper, said: “There needs to be greater access to talking therapies for older people suffering with depression.” […] “We do know that for many older patients, the underlying reasons for them visiting their GP might not be medical – they might be feeling lonely or be socially isolated. In these cases, it’s important that we have access to ‘social prescribing’ schemes to link these patients with an appropriate class or group in the community, that can have a positive effect on their health and wellbeing, and we welcome the focus on this in the NHS long term plan.”

Talking Back To Ritalin, What Doctors Aren’t Telling You About Stimulants and ADHD,  by Peter R Breggin, MD

This book of Dr. Breggin’s details the side effects and potential problems with Ritalin and other stimulants. It also thoroughly and critically examines the condition and diagnosis of ADHD and ADD, explores the economics and who profits from the diagnosis and the prescribing of stimulants for children, and offers six chapters for parents and other adults on how to help children in their care without resorting to Ritalin or other psychiatric drugs.

News & Information for February 12, 2019

This Simple Practice Alleviates Loneliness & May Help You Live Longer

We often hear about the best workouts and diets to live a long life, but longevity relies on many other factors, as well. Loneliness and isolation, for example, can actually increase your risk for depression and even early mortality, but new research published in the journal PNAS may have found the key to solving this problem. The Carnegie Mellon study found people who did a smartphone-based mindfulness training reported feeling less lonely and were actually more social. Through a two-week mindfulness training on their smartphones, participants focused on one of three topics: awareness, coping, or mindfulness. Out of the three groups, those doing the mindfulness practices experience improved quality of life, whereas the other two groups didn’t see any change at all. The mindfulness group didn’t just feel better; they actually had on average two more social interactions per day after their training and reduced their loneliness by 22 percent. This is significant because social connection is a basic human need, and when lacking, you could suffer serious health consequences (some even report the mortality rate of loneliness to be greater than smoking 15 cigarettes a day).

Association Between Ultraprocessed Food Consumption and Risk of Mortality

Growing evidence indicates that higher intake of ultraprocessed foods is associated with higher incidence of noncommunicable diseases. However, to date, the association between ultraprocessed foods consumption and mortality risk has never been investigated. Objective: To assess the association between ultraprocessed foods consumption and all-cause mortality risk. […] Conclusions and Relevance  An increase in ultraprocessed foods consumption appears to be associated with an overall higher mortality risk among this adult population; further prospective studies are needed to confirm these findings and to disentangle the various mechanisms by which ultraprocessed foods may affect health.

Benzodiazepines and Related Drugs Associated With Increased Pneumonia Risk

Current or recent exposure to benzodiazepines and related drugs (BZRD) may increase the risk for pneumonia, according to results of a systematic review and meta-analysis published in theInternational Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. Investigators performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies that compared pneumonia development in patients receiving BZRD with pneumonia development in patients not receiving BZRD. […] Current or recent exposure to BZRD was associated with pneumonia across several independent studies. These data suggest that clinicians should carefully consider the risk-benefit ratio of BZRD use, particularly for patients with other risk factors for pneumonia.

Happiness research: the long-term effects of life events are overestimated

People are evidently not good at predicting their own happiness or unhappiness: key life events such as marriage, invalidity or the death of a partner affect well-being for less time than those affected think. […] The two researchers compared predicted life satisfaction with what the participants actually reported five years later. They focused on people who had experienced major life events such as marriage, the death of a partner, invalidity, unemployment, separation or divorce. This showed that the events had less of a long-term impact on predicted satisfaction than the participants assumed. As expected, the examined life events had a significant impact on the subjective well-being of those affected: positive events were linked to a strong increase in life satisfaction, and negative events to a strong decrease. However, people systematically underestimated how long the effect of an event would continue. The fluctuations in life satisfaction did not last long, but rather swung back completely or partially to the long-term level of previous years.

The Conscience of Psychiatry – The Reform Work of Peter R. Breggin, MD

The Conscience of Psychiatry is a biographical tribute to Dr. Breggin’s professional career that draws on more than fifty years of media excerpts and more than seventy new contributions from professionals in the field. The result is not only the story of his principled, courageous confrontations with organized psychiatry, drug companies, and government agencies —it is also a probing critique of the psycho-pharmaceutical complex.

News & Information for February 11, 2019

Part 3 of Dr. Breggin’s Minds of Men series: Confronting Psychosurgery: From Racism to Totalitarianism

This is PART III of Dr. Peter R. Breggin’s interview with filmmakers Aaron and Melissa Dykes in the making of The Minds of Men, a documentary in which Dr. Breggin is featured. In Part III he describes his discovery of secret government funding for psychosurgery as well as the racist pronouncements of Harvard neurosurgeons that got them the funding. When Dr. Breggin started his successful international campaign to stop psychosurgery in the early 1970s, he never imagined the mind-control aspirations and racist motivations espoused by key neurosurgeons and psychiatrists.

Personally Confronting the Dismaying Politics of Psychosurgery: From Racism to Totalitarianism

Be sure to also see Part I and Part II

The Minds of Men documentary is an extraordinary success, quickly reaching nearly one million viewers, and rising. Dr. Breggin shares his feelings, thoughts and actions surrounding one of the most important accomplishments of his career: his successful international campaign to stop the world-wide resurgence of brain-mutilating lobotomy and psychosurgery. In the several segments, he describes his response to learning the truth about the hidden, devastating impact on children and adults and his discovery of the racist and political ambitions of leading psychiatrists and neurosurgeons. Dr. Breggin describes harrowing and sometimes triumphant confrontations with powerful professional and political leaders, including Senator Ted Kennedy and top officials at the American Psychiatric Association, who did their best to stop his reform work. He describes how the experience made him into a lifelong reformer.

New study finds health benefits of being kind to oneself

The study, published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, concluded that self-compassion had a very real impact on the students. Those who were asked to focus on their bodily sensations, as well as those told to think kind thoughts towards others and themselves, had lower heart rates and a lower sweat response at the end of the experiment. Unsurprisingly, the participants who were encouraged to think critically about themselves had a faster heart rate and greater sweat response. First author Dr. Hans Kirschner explained, “These findings suggest that being kind to oneself switches off the threat response and puts the body in a state of safety and relaxation that is important for regeneration and healing.” Dr. Anke Karl, lead researcher on the study, said, “Our study is helping us understand the mechanism of how being kind to yourself when things go wrong could be beneficial in psychological treatments. By switching off our threat response, we boost our immune systems and give ourselves the best chance of healing.” The researchers will go on to conduct similar studies involving participants with depression, Karl said.

The study says they used a mindfulness meditation “developed and recorded together with mindfulness teachers and eminent researchers with extensive expertise in mindfulness training.” Mindfulness meditation is taking science by storm with a steady stream of positive research results across a range of psychological endpoints. It seems we’re at the dawn of medical meditation — ancient wisdom distilled into scientifically validated psychotherapeutic modalities. 

The Heart of Being Helpful: Empathy and the Creation of a Healing Presence

By Peter R. Breggin, MD

Dr. Breggin illustrates the importance of developing a therapeutic bond, or healing presence, between helping professionals and their clients. He provides useful vignettes, case studies, and personal insights to help beginning and experienced therapists develop more empathy in therapeutic relationships. 

News & Information for February 10, 2019

Mum left with brain damage and memory loss after being given electric shock therapy

A mum given electric shock therapy when she was 17 has urged the NHS to stop using it on vulnerable teens. Jacqueline Dunn was in hospital for months and had four bouts of electro-convulsive therapy in as many weeks. But she claims the treatment – for severe depression and psychosis – left her with brain damage. She struggles with her memory and finds conversation difficult. Jacqueline, now 50, today calls on doctors to prescribe counselling and other forms of therapy. Her plea comes after a Sunday Mirror probe revealed NHS trusts do not offer any rehabilitation for long-term brain injury caused by ECT. Mum-of-two Jacqueline, from Sutton, Surrey, received the treatment while she was heavily medicated and can’t remember signing her own consent papers. She says: “I was put into an adult’s ward instead of a child’s ward and I was 17. “I felt they should have given more time for the medication to work. I really don’t know the ethics of doing the ECT. “I only saw the psychiatrist a few times. They didn’t even ask my mother.

Sleep soundly and safely with these tips

For Better Z’s

1. Move. No matter what your physical abilities, use your legs for at least 30 minutes a day. Get up and move around every 20-30 minutes when sitting. Over time, increase your physical activity to include interval aerobics (5 or more days a week) and strength training (two times a week).

2. Meditate. Set aside 12 minutes a day to meditate. Be quiet—no cells, no music, no internet. Sit in a comfortable position with good posture. Breathe in through your nose slowly for four seconds and exhale slowly through an open mouth for as long as you can. Build to eight seconds. Repeat the breathing rhythm while you let your mind drift. Recognize thoughts as they appear, and let them go. Say “Om-m-m,” and you’ll feel clearer and stronger.

3. Make the bedroom sleep-ready: No light (except nightlights emitting red wavelengths). No TV or phone. Use earplugs and eyeshades to limit light and sounds; maintain cool temp; use warm blankets.

Non-Pharmacological Interventions More Effective For Health in Schizophrenia

A study recently published in World Psychiatry reviewed meta-analyses of pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions for improving physical health outcomes for people diagnosed with schizophrenia. The study authors found that non-pharmacological interventions were more effective than pharmacological interventions for weight reduction and overall health, with individual lifestyle counseling as the most effective.  “People with schizophrenia have substantially poorer physical health than the general population, which is often attributed to an interaction between social circumstances, lifestyle factors and treatment effects,” the authors write.

Nutritional Psychiatry: The Gut-Brain Connection

There is truth in the saying, “you are what you eat.” We may often feel better when we eat better, and science has shown that it is in fact true—a healthy diet has an impact on physical health. Now, science is showing us that a healthy diet may have an impact on mental health. The impact that food has on mood and other aspects of mental illness is being researched. Nutritional psychiatry1 is developing into a real opportunity for clinical intervention for patients who suffer from depression and anxiety. Clinical practice has shown that psychiatric patients experience increased morbidity and mortality associated with a range of medical illnesses. In addition, lifestyle, psychiatric medications, and inadequate health care all contribute to the poor physical health of people with mental illness. Thus, nutritional interventions may be helpful to patients who want to combat the adverse effects of medications.

Guilt, Shame and Anxiety: Understanding and Overcoming Negative Emotions

By Dr. Peter Breggin

Dr. Breggin’s new book will show you how to identify, to reject and to triumph over your self-defeating, painful emotions and to transcend them with more positive feelings and better approaches to life. Imagine your life when you leave guilt, shame, anxiety, chronic anger or emotional numbness behind and exercise your emotional freedom! 

News & Information for February 9, 2019

Terry Lynch, MD, interviewed on The Dr. Peter Breggin Hour   

Between Terry Lynch MD and me, I think we have a hundred years of experience working with patients or clients, and that is what our show is about.  Terry, who lives and works in Ireland, began as family physician and became disillusioned with the psychiatric approach being taken to people with emotional suffering.  He bypassed psychiatry completely-an act of wisdom and courage-and became a psychotherapist.  He is a leader in the field of how to help people and I always find it useful and inspiring to talk with him.  Join Terry and me for a discussion that begins with a focus on love and moves on to broader issues in psychology and psychiatry, with many practical suggestions about how to help oneself and others live a more fulfilling life.  I benefitted and I think you will, too.

Soothing Your Heart and Feeling Connected: A New Experimental Paradigm to Study the Benefits of Self-Compassion

Self-compassion and its cultivation in psychological interventions are associated with improved mental health and well-being. However, the underlying processes for this are not well understood. We randomly assigned 135 participants to study the effect of two short-term self-compassion exercises on self-reported-state mood and psychophysiological responses compared to three control conditions of negative (rumination), neutral, and positive (excitement) valence. Increased self-reported-state self-compassion, affiliative affect, and decreased self-criticism were found after both self-compassion exercises and the positive-excitement condition. However, a psychophysiological response pattern of reduced arousal (reduced heart rate and skin conductance) and increased parasympathetic activation (increased heart rate variability) were unique to the self-compassion conditions. This pattern is associated with effective emotion regulation in times of adversity. As predicted, rumination triggered the opposite pattern across self-report and physiological responses. Furthermore, we found partial evidence that physiological arousal reduction and parasympathetic activation precede the experience of feeling safe and connected.

 Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy helps patients stop taking antidepressants

We aimed to determine the effectiveness of interventions to manage antidepressant discontinuation, and the outcomes for patients. […] We conducted a systematic review with narrative synthesis and meta-analysis of studies published to March 2017. […] Psychological interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) are potential alternatives to antidepressants for preventing relapse/recurrence.15-17  […] The risk of relapse/recurrence was significantly reduced with the combination of CBT and tapering vs clinical management and tapering alone.  […] CONCLUSIONS: Cognitive behavioral therapy or mindfulness-based cognitive therapy can help patients discontinue antidepressants without increasing the risk of relapse/recurrence, but are resource intensive. More scalable interventions incorporating psychological support are needed. 

Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal, A Guide for Prescribers, Therapists, Patients and their Families

Nothing in the field of mental health will do more good and reduce more harm than encouraging withdrawal from psychiatric drugs. The time is past when the focus in mental health was on what drugs to take for what disorders. Now we need to focus on how to stop taking psychiatric drugs and to replace them with more person-centered, empathic approaches. The goal is no longer drug maintenance and stagnation; the goal is recovery and achieving well-being.

News & Information for February 8, 2019

Justin Bieber on Recovering From Xanax Abuse: ‘It Got Pretty Dark’

In a new interview alongside wife Hailey for the March issue of Vogue, Justin Bieber made a pretty shocking revelation about his health: He was misusing Xanax a few years ago. “I found myself doing things that I was so ashamed of, being super-promiscuous and stuff, and I think I used Xanax because I was so ashamed,” he told Vogue. “My mom always said to treat women with respect. For me that was always in my head while I was doing it, so I could never enjoy it.” Bieber also said that “drugs put a screen between me and what I was doing,” adding that “it got pretty dark.” Things got so bad that he said his security team came into his room a few times at night “to check my pulse and see if I was still breathing.” […] Trying to “detox” or go cold turkey can cause serious side effects, including seizures, Alan says. “You should absolutely step down on the medication when you’re coming off it,” she adds. Lander agrees: “This is not something you want to discontinue without medical help,” he says. In addition to seizures, abruptly stopping the medication can affect your heart, muscle response time, and cause behavioral changes like impulsivity and irritability, he says.

Antidepressant Overprescribing Appears Common in Elderly

Potential antidepressant overprescribing appears to be common among elderly patients and involves mostly newer antidepressants used for nonspecific psychiatric symptoms and sub-threshold diagnoses, according to a study published online Jan. 23 in Pharmacology Research & Perspectives. […] The researchers found that potential antidepressant overprescribing occurred in 24 percent of 3,199 incident antidepressant prescriptions during the study period. The suspected overprescribing involved primarily newer antidepressants that were prescribed for nonspecific psychiatric symptoms and sub-threshold diagnoses. Factors associated with potential antidepressant overprescribing included nursing home residence; a higher number of comorbid medical conditions and outpatient prescribers; more concomitant medications; greater use of urgent or acute care services in the year preceding the index antidepressant prescription; and being prescribed antidepressants via telephone, email, or patient portal.

Why students should not be forced to spend so much time sitting at desks

With the decrease in physical education and recess time over the past 30 years, several disturbing trends have emerged. First is the issue of obesity: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 1 in 3 children in the U.S. is overweight or obese — double the figures from the 1980s. From 2000 to 2009, incidences of adult-onset (Type 2) diabetes in children and teens increased 30 percent. Diagnoses of children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder have also skyrocketed in recent years. In the 1990s, the use of psycho-stimulants such as Ritalin shot up 700 percent, and the United States now consumes nearly 90 percent of the world’s supply of such drugs. There are 5.7 million children age 6-17 who have been diagnosed with ADHD. If these stats were related to an infectious disease, we would declare it a full-blown epi­demic. Instead, we call it education as usual. […] What are the effects of adding more physi­cal activity to the academic classroom? Mark Benden, director of the Ergonomics Center at Texas A&M, has dozens of schools using pilot programs to make classrooms more active. His research shows many benefits: There has been a decrease in ADHD medication among the students in his classrooms; body mass index among overweight students in active class­rooms showed significant decreases. Executive function and working memory showed significant improvement, leading to improved academic achievement.

Walnut consumers tend to have lower prevalence of depression symptoms

A new epidemiological study suggests consuming walnuts may be associated with a lower prevalence and frequency of depression symptoms among American adults. After evaluating study participants for depression, researchers found that depression scores were 26 percent lower for walnut consumers and eight percent lower for consumers of other nuts, compared to those who did not consume nuts at all. […] “Walnuts have previously been investigated for their role in cardiovascular and cognitive health, and now we see an association with depression symptoms – providing another reason to include them in a healthy eating plan.” […] Depression scores were significantly lower among those who consumed nuts, particularly walnuts, compared to those who did not consume nuts, even after controlling for age, sex, race, income, BMI, smoking, alcohol consumption, and marital status. On average, walnut consumers ate about 24 grams of walnuts per day (just shy of a one-quarter cup serving). 

Many grocery stores now carry ‘walnut milk’. It makes a great coffee creamer! 

Open literature review: What is the relationship between social media use and rising teen depression/anxiety?

Two studies published in January 2019 suggest that there is little or no association between social media use and harmful mental health outcomes: Orben & Przybylski (2019) and Heffer, Good, et al. (2019).  Because these two papers are now being cited by journalists, we thought it would be useful to gather together in one place the published studies that shed light on this important question. There are studies pointing in various directions, and there’s surely a lot of work in the pipeline, so let’s try, as a research community, to take stock of what the conflicting studies say.

The Conscience of Psychiatry – The Reform Work of Peter R. Breggin, MD

The Conscience of Psychiatry is a biographical tribute to Dr. Breggin’s professional career that draws on more than fifty years of media excerpts and more than seventy new contributions from professionals in the field. The result is not only the story of his principled, courageous confrontations with organized psychiatry, drug companies, and government agencies —it is also a probing critique of the psycho-pharmaceutical complex.

News & Information for February 7, 2019

Why we studied the possible links between religion and happiness, health and civic engagement

People who regularly attend a house of worship are more likely to be happy and civically engaged than those who do not, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of 35 countries. Whether actively religious people also are healthier is less clear. Conrad Hackett, associate director for research and senior demographer, discusses the reasons for undertaking the study, why the subject is an important one and some of the challenges associated with trying to determine if and how religion impacts people’s well-being.

Negative Social Media Behaviors Associated With Major Depressive Disorder

According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Biobehavioral Research, negative social media behaviors are associated with a higher likelihood of meeting criteria for major depressive disorder; affected individuals should gain an understanding of positive social media behaviors that could potentially reduce depressive symptoms. Previous studies suggest that increased social media use is associated with increased depressive symptoms in young adults with major depressive disorder and that they behave differently on social media than individuals without depression. The investigators of this study sought to identify specific social media behaviors — including social interaction, social comparisons, and social media addiction — that may relate to major depressive disorder in a millennial population. […] The study investigators suggested that individuals meeting the criteria of major depressive disorder were more likely to report negative social media behaviors, including increased social comparisons and social media addiction, whereas individuals without depression reported more positive social media behaviors, including social interaction with others. Patients with major depressive disorder should develop an awareness of specific negative social media behaviors that exacerbate their symptoms and learn to adopt more positive behaviors that can potentially reduce depressive symptoms.

Antidepressants Can Interfere With Pain Relief Of Common Opioids

Antidepressants may dampen the effects of some common opioids, resulting in less effective pain management according to research findings published Wednesday. The researchers suggest physicians should consider alternative pain management strategies for patients on antidepressants. Opioids come in two broad varieties: those that act directly and others that have to be chemically processed by the body before they can begin to relieve pain. Direct-acting opioids, like morphine or oxycodone, can get right to work. The other kind are called “prodrugs” and include hydrocodone, the opioid ingredient in Vicodin. Prodrugs need to be metabolized in the liver before they’re able to bind with pain receptors in the brain. The problem […] is that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, like Prozac or Zoloft, inhibit the activity of an enzyme in the liver, called CYP-2D6, that metabolizes prodrug opioids.


News & Information for February 6, 2019

It’s ideology vs. science in psychology’s war on boys and men

The American Psychological Association (APA) recently released its Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men. It manages to be simultaneously predictable, reprehensible, infuriating and disheartening — no mean feat for a single document. Make no mistake about it: this document constitutes an all-out assault on masculinity — or, to put it even more bluntly, on men. […] We cannot allow ideology and political correctness to prevail over science. […] it should be noted that there is almost nothing in the document on how to treat people. I don’t believe that a newly practising and interested young psychologist could derive a single technique from the guidelines worthy of using in a clinical setting. They are not guidelines for psychological practice. They are guidelines for how psychologists must think and what they must believe — or else. […] The document produced by the APA purporting to provide guidelines for the psychological treatment of boys and men is disingenuous, scientifically fraudulent and ethically reprehensible. I believe that the people who wrote it are ill-informed, ideologically possessed, morally weak, and malevolent in their unacknowledged and overweening resentment. I am embarrassed and ashamed to have them speak on behalf of my profession, and would like to apologize to the public for not having been sufficiently awake and outraged earlier to have done more to stop something like this from happening.

This 10-Minute Exercise Equals 44 Minutes Of Sleep, New Study Finds

new study, however, found a way to help you feel a bit more restored without hitting snooze. By doing just 10 minutes of a mindfulness practice each day, you could get the same positive brain effects as an extra 44 minutes of sleep per night. What exactly is mindfulness practice? While often different for everyone, it can range from traditional meditation to acts purposefully devoted to clearing your head, like taking walks or deep breathing techniques. Researchers conducted two separate studies on groups of really busy people—budding entrepreneurs—to measure their sleep, stress levels, and mindfulness practices, if any. They found that the individuals who reported the least amount of exhaustion were those who were lacking in sleep but still found time to engage in a mindfulness routine.

The Connection Between Sleep and Pain

Anyone who suffers from pain, whether due to an acute injury like a broken ankle or a chronic condition like back pain, knows that it can be hard to get a good night’s sleep when you are hurting. People in pain also report that when they don’t sleep well, they tend to hurt more. But why exactly? This connection between sleep and pain has been known but not understood. Now a new study reveals just how it is that sleep deprivation changes the circuitry in the brain in ways that amplify pain. And as part of the same research, an examination of the effects of natural day-to-day and night-to-night variations in sleep and pain suggests that sleep might be a useful part of therapies targeting pain. “There’s been this intuition that there’s this vicious, looping feedback between poor sleep and increased pain,” says the lead author […] “Here we’re providing direct evidence, giving this firm brain basis that sleep deprivation seems to directly affect the brain to increase pain.” […] In Krause’s study, sleep deprivation caused two kinds of changes in the brain. It increased reactivity in the somatosensory cortex, amplifying pain signals. And it decreased reactivity in the insula and striatum, the areas that evaluate and modulate pain naturally. “You put that together and you get this somewhat disturbing picture of the sleep-deprived brain when it’s in pain,” Krause says. “It’s letting in more pain signals, but the gatekeepers that normally evaluate this pain and can block it if needed are still asleep.”

Religious people are happier than those who don’t actively participate in a faith, study finds

People who actively practice a religion may be happier than the rest, according to a new study. A Pew Research study analyzed survey data from more than two dozen countries to compare the self-reported lifestyles of religious and non-religious people. Overall, the researchers found actively religious people tend to be happier, though they aren’t necessarily healthier in terms of exercise or obesity rates.

  • Pew Research study analyzed survey data from more than two dozen countries
  • Examined differences among actively religious, inactive, and unaffiliated people
  • The study found people who participate in religion often tend to be happier 

While the link between religion and health may not have been so clear, the findings on self-reported happiness are ‘striking,’ the researchers say. The study broke religious participation down to three categories are: Actively religious (regular participation), ‘inactively religious’ (claim a religious but attend services infrequently), and ‘religiously unaffiliated’ (people who do not identify with any religion). More than a third of actively religious adults in the US (36 percent) described themselves as ‘very happy’ in the surveys, compared to a quarter of both inactive and unaffiliated Americans. In another example, 45 percent of actively religious Australians said they were very happy, while just 32 percent of inactives reported this, and 33 percent of the unaffiliated. ‘And, there is no country in which the data show that actives [religiously active people] are significantly less happy than others (though in many countries, there is not much of a difference between the actives and everyone else),’ the researchers note.

Frequent Alert 82: Hear Terry Lynch MD on The Dr. Peter Breggin Hour Today

Terry Lynch, MD the great Irish physician, therapist and author is my guest today, Wednesday February 6, 2019 at 4 PM, NY time on The Dr. Peter Breggin Hour. Terry is a popular guest who radiates wisdom, understanding and empathy. He will help you feel affirmed as a human being as we discuss personal psychology, psychotherapy, and the disaster of biopsychiatric diagnosis and treatment. I always look forward to having Terry on the show. As a special event, we will share for the first time information about a new organization, UIMH, that we are planning together with several colleagues. Listen to the show live on and call-in live to comment or ask questions at 888 874 48884 PM, NY Time. The show is archived on

The Heart of Being Helpful: Empathy and the Creation of a Healing Presence

By Peter R. Breggin, MD

Dr. Breggin illustrates the importance of developing a therapeutic bond, or healing presence, between helping professionals and their clients. He provides useful vignettes, case studies, and personal insights to help beginning and experienced therapists develop more empathy in therapeutic relationships. 

News & Information for February 5, 2019

Twelve Scholars Respond to the APA’s New Guidelines for Treating Men and Boys

Thirteen years in the making, the American Psychological Association (APA) released the newly drafted “Guidelines for Psychological Practice for Boys and Men.” […] the APA was forewarned by at least one psychologist that the guidelines would not be well received; that the document’s overtly partisan language and politically progressive narratives would not encourage men to receive services, but to keep them away. […] Unfortunately, instead of calming the storm by acknowledging the validity of at least some criticism, the APA doubled-down […] What should we make of not only the guidelines, but the APA’s inept handling of the criticism?  To better understand these dynamics, three of us, Quillette columnist and psychology professor Clay Routledge, along with criminology professor John Paul Wright, and Psychology Today contributor Pamela Paresky, sought commentary from a diverse range of voices, including therapists who focus on men’s issues, researchers whose work examines the complexity of men’s lives, and writers with diverse viewpoints. 

OSU study: Mindfulness can help weary entrepreneurs

When entrepreneurs are feeling exhausted but can’t afford the time for adequate sleep, they may be able to replenish their energy with mindfulness exercises such as meditation, new research from Oregon State University indicates. “You can’t replace sleep with mindfulness exercises, but they might help compensate and provide a degree of relief,” said Charles Murnieks, an assistant professor of strategy and entrepreneurship in OSU’s College of Business and the study’s lead author. “As little as 70 minutes a week, or 10 minutes a day, of mindfulness practice may have the same benefits as an extra 44 minutes of sleep a night.” The findings were published recently in the Journal of Business Venturing. Co-authors include Jonathan Arthurs, Nusrat Farah and Jason Stornelli of OSU; Melissa Cardon of the University of Tennessee; and J. Michael Haynie of Syracuse University.

Taking a vacation from Facebook boosts happiness, free time: study

In the latest study measuring the effects of social media on a person’s life, researchers at New York University and Stanford University found that deactivating Facebook for just four weeks could alter people’s behaviour and state of mind. The study found that temporarily quitting Facebook led people to spend more time offline, watching TV and socializing with family and friends; reduced their knowledge of current events and polarization of policy views; and provoked a small but significant improvement in people’s self-reported happiness and satisfaction with their lives. What’s more, the researchers found that the deactivation freed up an hour per day for the average person. And the people who took a break from Facebook continued to use the platform less often, even after the experiment ended. The study found the psychological improvements of abstaining from Facebook suggests people may be using the social network more than they should. And while people are less informed about the news when they are away from Facebook, it also cooled partisan thinking.

Obesity-linked cancers on the rise in young adults

Rates for six of 12 cancers associated with obesity are growing among younger adult Americans, a new study says. Colorectal, endometrial, gallbladder, kidney, multiple myeloma and pancreatic cancers, all linked to obesity, are on a rise for millennials, according to findings published Monday in The Lancet Public Health. The research focused on 18 cancers not associated with obesity. […] The new study found millennials have twice the risk of colorectal, gall bladder and pancreas and uterine corpus cancers than baby boomers, the study says. Conversely, rates of all but two of the 18 non-obesity associated cancer have decreased among the generation younger than millennial. According to one 2017 study, 57 percent of millennial adults will be obese by the time they turn age 35. “Given the large increase in the prevalence of overweight and obesity among young people and increasing risks of obesity-related cancers in contemporary birth cohorts, the future burden of these cancers could worsen as younger cohorts age, potentially halting or reversing the progress achieved in reducing cancer mortality over the past several decades,” Jemal said.

Guilt, Shame and Anxiety: Understanding and Overcoming Negative Emotions

By Dr. Peter Breggin

Dr. Breggin’s new book will show you how to identify, to reject and to triumph over your self-defeating, painful emotions and to transcend them with more positive feelings and better approaches to life. Imagine your life when you leave guilt, shame, anxiety, chronic anger or emotional numbness behind and exercise your emotional freedom! 

News & Information for February 4, 2019

How My Toxic Stoicism Helped Me Cope with Brain Cancer

Under normal circumstances—e.g. in a time when the American Psychological Association (APA) has not released guidelines questioning whether norms associated with “traditional masculinity” (e.g. stoicism) are harmful to the mental health of men, and a shaving commercial is not being run that criticizes “toxic masculinity”—I would be reluctant to publicly share a story of personal adversity that, as a sometime aficionado of existentialist philosophy, I know I must ultimately face alone. But in the spirit of opening up, here goes. I have brain cancer. Not the kind that killed John McCain, Ted Kennedy, or Beau Biden. At least not yet. […] During this ordeal, not once have I cried. Not once have I felt depressed, anxious, or out of sorts. Not once have I felt a need to seek therapeutic help. On the morning of surgery, I worried more about losing cognitive abilities if the surgery went awry than I did about death. One of my sisters commented that I was so calm she thought the doctors must have given me a Valium. I was, in a word, stoic.

Alzheimer’s Q & A: Are meditation and yoga beneficial for Alzheimer’s caregivers?

Preliminary research indicates that people who care for family members with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias in the home had less perceived stress and mood disturbance when practicing meditation, or as the study called it, mindfulness-based stress reduction. Another trial indicated that such stress reduction was “more effective at improving overall mental health, reducing stress and decreasing depression” than those who only participated in a caregiver education and support intervention. Another study at UCLA found that when caregivers use yoga to engage in very brief, easy daily meditations, they experienced lower levels of depression, improved cognitive functioning and a reduction of stress. Yoga and meditation can reduce stress hormones and inflammatory factors, which ultimately helps the person cope more effectively with the stresses of caregiving. The practice of yoga and meditation also gives caregivers more of a sense of compassion for self and others as well as the ability to become more patient and gentle, which benefits all parties involved. 

Brain changes related to religion and spirituality could confer resilience to depression

New research published in Brain and Behavior provides evidence that religious and spiritual beliefs lower the risk of depression because they’re associated with changes in white matter microstructure, the communication pathways of the brain. “A previous study found that persons who said that religion or spirituality were highly important to them were protected against depression over 5 years, even though they were at high risk because of their family history. Because of these findings, we tried to understand what may be going on in the brain that would have this effect,” said study author Dongrong Xu of Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatry Institute. Another study, published in 2014, found that belief in the importance of religion or spirituality was associated with thicker cortices in several brain regions, including the left and right parietal and occipital regions, which could confer resilience to depression.

Study: Religious and moral beliefs predict what foods people buy

Researchers from Arizona State University, the University of Wyoming and Oklahoma State University have identified moral beliefs that affect food choices of religious and nonreligious people. The study is currently available online and will appear in the February edition of the Journal of Business Research. “Often, people make intuitive decisions about food that could require more careful thought,” said ASU’s Kathryn Johnson, assistant research professor of psychology. “People might make choices based on a cultural narrative or their religious and moral beliefs, without giving measured thought to whether there is a better option.” […] “We found religiosity influenced the selection of more diet-minded foods, which suggests the motives for consuming gluten-free or fat-free foods might not be the same as natural and organic foods,” Minton said. “Many people make decisions about food unknowingly, and it is important when trying to increase healthy choices that people are aware of what influences their decisions.”

Prior findings of ‘gender stereotype threat’ not replicated in new study

The effects of gender stereotype threat on mathematical test performance in the classroom have been extensively studied in several cultural contexts. Theory predicts that stereotype threat lowers girls’ performance on mathematics tests, while leaving boys’ math performance unaffected. We conducted a large-scale stereotype threat experiment in Dutch high schools (N = 2064) to study the generalizability of the effect. In this registered report, we set out to replicate the overall effect among female high school students and to study four core theoretical moderators, namely domain identification, gender identification, math anxiety, and test difficulty. Among the girls, we found neither an overall effect of stereotype threat on math performance, nor any moderated stereotype threat effects. Most variance in math performance was explained by gender, domain identification, and math identification. We discuss several theoretical and statistical explanations for these findings. Our results are limited to the studied population (i.e. Dutch high school students, age 13–14) and the studied domain (mathematics).

Talking Back To Ritalin, What Doctors Aren’t Telling You About Stimulants and ADHD,  by Peter R Breggin, MD

This book of Dr. Breggin’s details the side effects and potential problems with Ritalin and other stimulants. It also thoroughly and critically examines the condition and diagnosis of ADHD and ADD, explores the economics and who profits from the diagnosis and the prescribing of stimulants for children, and offers six chapters for parents and other adults on how to help children in their care without resorting to Ritalin or other psychiatric drugs.

News & Information for February 2 – 3, 2019

The Dr. Peter Breggin Hour – Jan 30, 2019

This was such a great show, I had to reassure my wonderful audience that every single caller was spontaneous and as surprising to me as it was to them. This was Open Mic Wednesday, which occurs every last Wednesday of the month. Topics covered were successful psychiatric drug withdrawals, building relationships when you feel emotionally unstable and lacking in confidence, handling anger, and brain nutrition. For me, it was an spontaneously delightful and informative hour. The Dr. Peter Breggin Hour is every Wednesday 4-5 pm NY Time. Calls can be taken during the live hour itself at 888 874 4888. The archives are on

Can Becoming an Extravert Make an Introvert Happier?

Do you believe that introverts would be happier if they could only become more extraverted? […] The authors also conclude that being told to act in a more extraverted manner for people who are true introverts is just not a sustainable approach. The only way to urge such individuals to become noisier and more gregarious, the team maintain, would be to try to nudge them in that direction in small doses with different instructions than to “become as extraverted as possible.” If highly introverted people have the opportunity to return to an introverted “restorative niche,” they can ratchet up their gregariousness in small and acceptable doses. […] To sum up, becoming more extraverted can benefit people’s happiness along a broad spectrum of the personality trait of extraversion, but only up to a point. True fulfillment may come from being able to follow your natural inclinations, with occasional prompts to be more outgoing serving as temporary mood boosts. If you’re an introvert, you can try talking yourself up to raise your energy level in a social situation as needed, but when you’re done, that “restorative niche” might be the best place to remain.

Listening to the music you love makes your brain release more dopamine

Understanding how the brain translates a structured sequence of sounds, such as music, into a pleasant and rewarding experience is a fascinating question which may be crucial to better understand the processing of abstract rewards in humans. In a new study, scientists found the answer suggesting that dopamine — a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in our cognitive, emotional, and behavioral functioning. It also plays a crucial role in the reward experience induced by music. Study author Laura Ferreri […] said, “In the scientific literature, there was a lack of direct evidence showing that dopamine function is causally related to music-evoked pleasure. Therefore in this study, through a pharmacological approach, we wanted to investigate whether dopamine, which plays a major role in regulating pleasure experiences and motivation to engage in certain behaviors, plays a direct role in the experience of pleasure induced by music.” […] “This study shows for the first time a causal role of dopamine in musical pleasure and motivation: enjoying a piece of music, deriving pleasure from it, wanting to listen to it again, being willing to spend money for it, strongly depend on the dopamine released in our synapses.”

Aerobic Exercise Improves Cognition, Even In Young Adults

Aerobic exercise training improves cognition, even for young and middle-aged adults, according to a new study led by researchers at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. The study of 132 adults between the ages of 20 and 67 found that aerobic exercise training increases executive function—cognitive processes important for reasoning, planning, and problem-solving—in adults as young as 20, although the effect was stronger with increasing age. The study indicates that aerobic exercise training improves cognition in younger adults, suggesting that exercise can prevent or slow the appearance of at least some age-related cognitive changes. The flexibility of the exercise protocol, in which participants choose when and how to exercise, could make the intervention more attractive to the general population and increase its chances for adoption. […] After 24 weeks, there was significant improvement in executive function in the aerobic exercise group for participants of all ages, and the greater the participant’s age, the greater the improvement in executive function. […] Brain imaging at baseline and 24 weeks revealed that aerobic exercise training is associated with significantly increased cortical thickness in the left caudal middle frontal cortex. 

Researchers Challenge Interpretation of Antidepressant Meta-analysis

Researchers Lisa Cosgrove, from the University of Massachusetts Boston, and Allen Shaughnessy, from Tufts University, recently released a commentary on the much-discussed antidepressant (ADM) meta-analysis from Cipriani and colleagues. The meta-analysis was the largest to date, analyzing over 116,000 participants and 21 antidepressants, and found that all ADMs studied were more efficacious than placebo. The researchers point out that the limitations of the study, including modest effect sizes, novelty effects, and often low certainty of the evidence, were not reflected in the coverage from major publications, many of which promoted the study as definitive proof of the effectiveness of ADM for depression.

Benzodiazepines: A new epidemic

Benzodiazepines, a type of medication commonly known as tranquilizers, are often prescribed to treat anxiety, insomnia, alcohol withdrawal and seizures . They are also increasingly used to alleviate chronic pain such as back pain. Common benzodiazepines include Valium, Ativan and Xanax. 

A study released in JAMA Network Open revealed that outpatient benzodiazepine prescriptions have increased dramatically in recent years. The percentage of outpatient appointments leading to such prescriptions doubled from 2003 to 2015, with about half of this value coming from primary care physicians. The study also revealed that the number of continuing prescriptions, indicating long-term usage of such drugs, increased by 50 percent. […] Past studies have indicated a large rise in overdose mortality rates at the hands of benzodiazepines, from 0.6 in 100,000 people in 1999 to 4.4 in 2016. In addition, the mortality rate for women due to these medications has increased by 830 percent between 1996 and 2017. As women are more likely to be treated for mental disorders such as anxiety and depression, they are disproportionately prescribed these drugs and thus more susceptible to developing dependency. 

How Long Does Antidepressant Withdrawal Last?

Withdrawal Can Be a Years-Long Struggle. A new study analyzing withdrawal symptoms for patients coming off of antidepressants was published in the International Journal of Risk & Safety in Medicine. Authored by researchers at three British universities, this particular study focused on the characteristics of withdrawal associated with SSRIs and SNRIs, including time of onset, duration, and the nature of the symptoms. They studied self-reporting by approximately 173 people using a website that aims to help those dealing with antidepressant withdrawal. There were some differences in the withdrawal characteristics reported, based on the specific class of antidepressants. Neurological symptoms including “brain zaps”—a sensation resembling an electric shock inside the head—were more common, for instance, among SNRI users. On the other hand, psychosexual/genitourinary symptoms were reported more frequently by SSRI users.

Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal, A Guide for Prescribers, Therapists, Patients and their Families

Nothing in the field of mental health will do more good and reduce more harm than encouraging withdrawal from psychiatric drugs. The time is past when the focus in mental health was on what drugs to take for what disorders. Now we need to focus on how to stop taking psychiatric drugs and to replace them with more person-centered, empathic approaches. The goal is no longer drug maintenance and stagnation; the goal is recovery and achieving well-being.

News & Information for February 1, 2019

Why Mindfulness Might Be An Effective Treatment For Chronic Pain

The mind-body connection is real. Just look at this new study out of the journal Evidence-Based Mental Health: Researchers found that practicing mindfulness may actually be an effective means of relieving physical pain and improving physical functioning. […] One of the most prominent psychological methods for treating people suffering from chronic pain is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps people learn adaptive behaviors and thought patterns that help them mentally deal with challenges and ideally lessen their experience of pain. In this study, the researchers wanted to compare how well mindfulness-based interventions helped accomplish this same pain reduction, in comparison to CBT or no such psychological interventions. Mindfulness generally refers to the ability to be aware of your present-moment experience, including bodily sensations, emotions, and thoughts, without trying to judge or respond to them.

Pew Research: Religion increases happiness, civic engagement and health worldwide

People who are active in religious congregations tend to be happier and more civically engaged than either religiously unaffiliated adults or inactive members of religious groups, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of survey data from the United States and more than two dozen other countries. […] Many previous studies have found positive associations between religion and health in the United States. Researchers have shown, for example, that Americans who regularly attend religious services tend to live longer […] This analysis finds that in the U.S. and many other countries around the world, regular participation in a religious community clearly is linked with higher levels of happiness and civic engagement (specifically, voting in elections and joining community groups or other voluntary organizations). This may suggest that societies with declining levels of religious engagement, like the U.S., could be at risk for declines in personal and societal well-being. 

Persistent low body weight in young kids increases risk for anorexia nervosa later

A new study has found that a persistent low body mass index (BMI) in children, starting as young as age 2 for boys and 4 for girls, may be a risk factor for the development of anorexia nervosa in adolescence. In addition, the study, published in the February 2019 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, found that a persistent high BMI in childhood may be a risk factor for later development of bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder, and purging disorder. […] “Until now, we have had very little guidance on how to identify children who might be at increased risk for developing eating disorders later in adolescence,” said Zeynep Yilmaz, Ph.D.

★ Should we stop using ECT?  No role of electroconvulsive therapy vs depression

There is no role of electroconvulsive therapy in depression, claim experts in a study published in The BMJ today. […] Professor John Read at the University of East London, who has published several reviews of the ECT research literature, and Sue Cunliffe, a patient who has had ECT, say it has no long term benefits compared with placebo and can cause brain damage. They argue that the many evidence reviews claiming that ECT works are based on only five studies that found a temporary lift in mood during treatment only, in about a third of patients. What’s more, none of them identifies any placebo-controlled studies showing that ECT reduces depression beyond treatment or prevents suicide. Some studies also suggest that ECT causes long-lasting or permanent memory damage, they add, although ECT advocates claim this memory loss is caused by depression, not ECT itself. “Despite this lack of evidence psychiatry remains so adamant ECT works that no studies to establish efficacy have been conducted since 1985,” they write.

Reclaiming Our Children – A Healing Plan for a Nation in Crisis, by Peter Breggin, MD

Reclaiming Our Children discusses the overall situation of children in America, including the stresses on their lives in the family, school, and community. The author urges parents, teachers, and other concerned citizens to retake responsibility for all our children. He sees the necessity of transforming ourselves and our society in order to meet the needs of all of our children for meaningful relationships with adults, as well as for unconditional love, rational discipline, inspiring education, and play. He makes specific recommendations for improving family and school life based on sound psychological and ethical principles.


News Jan 2019

News 2018