Peter H Brown Clinical Psychologist

Psychology News & Resources

A Spoonful Of Sugar DOES Makes The Medicine Go Down! Sweet Solutions Reduce Kids Experience Of Pain From Needles

Infants who receive sweet solutions before being immunised experience less pain and are more comfortable, reveals research published ahead of print in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Read The Abstract Here

Healthcare professionals should consider giving infants aged 112 months a sweet solution of sucrose or glucose before immunising a child, the international team of researchers recommended, because of the child’s improved reaction to injections.

Existing research shows the effectiveness of giving newborn infants and those beyond the newborn period, a small amount (e.g. a few drops to about half a teaspoon) of sucrose and glucose as analgesics during minor painful procedures.

Little is known, however, about the effect of such solutions on pain, so a team of researchers from Toronto in Canada, Melbourne in Australia and Sao Paulo in Brazil, funded by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Knowledge Synthesis grant, collected the findings from 14 relevant trials involving 1,674 injections given to children aged 112 months.

They found that giving a child a small amount of sweet solution, compared to water or no treatment moderately decreased crying in the child during or following immunisation in 13 of the 14 studies (92.9%).

The authors conclude that infants aged 112 months given sucrose or glucose before immunisation had cried less often and for less time.

The amount of glucose or sucrose given made a difference and the researchers found that infants receiving 30% glucose in some trials were almost half as likely to cry following immunisation.

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The researchers could not identify the ideal dose of sucrose or glucose because of the variety of volumes and concentrations used in the various trials.

Analgesic effects of sweet solutions given to older infants were more moderate than those in newborn infants.

They conclude: “Healthcare professionals responsible for administering immunisations should consider using sucrose or glucose during painful procedures.

“This information is important for healthcare professionals working with infants in both inpatient and out-patient settings, as sweet solutions are readily available, have a very short onset of time to analgesia, are inexpensive and are easy to administer.”

Source: Eurekalert

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May 13, 2010 Posted by | anxiety, Pain, Parenting, Resilience, stress | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Emotional Binge Eating: Dealing With The Emotions Is Just As Important As Dealing With The Eating

This article highlights how Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is being integrated into weight loss programs for emotional eaters.

How many times have you, after a particularly hard day, reached for some chocolate or ice cream? It’s common for many people, but for those trying to lose weight, it can be detrimental to their long term success, and most weight-loss programs never even address it.

They focus on choosing healthier foods and exercising more, but they never answer a key question: how can people who have eaten to cope with emotions change their eating habits, when they haven’t learned other ways of coping with emotions?

Researchers at Temple’s Center for Obesity Research are trying to figure out the answer as part of a new, NIH-funded weight loss study. The new treatment incorporates skills that directly address the emotional eating, and essentially adds those skills to a state-of-the art behavioral weight loss treatment.

“The problem that we’re trying to address is that the success rates for long-term weight loss are not as good as we would like them to be,” said Edie Goldbacher, a postdoctoral fellow at CORE. “Emotional eating may be one reason why people don’t do as well in behavioral weight loss groups, because these groups don’t address emotional eating or any of its contributing factors.”

The study has already had one wave of participants come through, and many participants have seen some success in the short term, but have also learned the skills to help them achieve long term success.

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Janet Williams, part of that first cohort, said she lost about 17 pounds over 22 weeks, and still uses some of the techniques she learned in the study to help maintain her weight, which has not fluctuated.

“The program doesn’t just help you identify when you eat,” said Williams. “It helps you recognize triggers that make you eat, to help you break that cycle of reaching for food every time you feel bored, or frustrated, or sad.”

Williams said that the program teaches various techniques to help break that cycle, such as the “conveyor belt,” in which participants, when overcome with a specific emotion, can recognize it and take a step back, before reaching for chips or cookies, and put those feelings on their mental “conveyor belt” and watch them go away.

“I still use the skills I learned in the study,” she said. “I’ve learned to say, ‘I will not allow this emotional episode to control my eating habits.'”

Source:eurekalert

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May 6, 2010 Posted by | Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Addiction, Books, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, depression, Eating Disorder, Health Psychology, Mindfulness, mood, stress | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

All By Myself…The Tyranny of The Loneliness Epidemic

Credit Dr Ronald Pies, M.D. via psychcentral.com

The recent controversy over the still-developing DSM-5 — that compendium of mental disorders the media love to call, inappropriately, “The Bible of Psychiatry” –has gotten me thinking about loneliness. Now, thankfully, nobody has seriously proposed including loneliness in the DSM-5. Indeed, loneliness is usually thought of as simply an unpleasant part of life — one of the “slings and arrows” that pierce almost all of us from time to time. Loneliness, in some ways, remains enmeshed in a web of literary and cultural clichés, born of such works as Nathaniel West’s darkly comic novel, Miss Lonelyhearts, and the Beatles’ whimsical anthem, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

But loneliness turns out to be a serious matter. And as psychiatry debates the diagnostic minutiae of DSM-5, all of us may need to remind ourselves that millions in this country struggle against the downward tug of loneliness. Yet even among health care professionals, few seem aware that loneliness is closely linked with numerous emotional and physical ills, particular among the elderly and infirm.

It’s easy to assume that loneliness is simply a matter of mind and mood. Yet recent evidence suggests that loneliness may injure the body in surprising ways. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine studied the risk of coronary heart disease over a 19-year period, in a community sample of men and women. The study found that among women, high degrees of loneliness were associated with increased risk of heart disease, even after controlling for age, race, marital status, depression and several other confounding variables. (In an email message to me, the lead author, Dr. Rebecca C. Thurston, PhD, speculated that the male subjects might have been more reluctant to acknowledge their feelings of loneliness).

Similarly, Dr. Dara Sorkin and her colleagues at the University of California, Irvine, found that for every increase in the level of loneliness in a sample of 180 older adults, there was a threefold increase in the odds of having heart disease. Conversely, among individuals who felt they had companionship or social support, the likelihood of having heart disease decreased.

The young, of course, are far from immune to loneliness. Researchers at Aarhus University in Denmark studied loneliness in a population of adolescent boys with autism spectrum disorders (an area of great controversy in the proposed DSM-5 criteria). More than a fifth of the sample described themselves as “often or always” feeling lonely—a finding that seems to run counter to the notion that those with autism are emotionally disconnected from other people. Furthermore, the study found that the more social support these boys received, the lower their degree of loneliness. We have no cure for autism in adolescents–but the remedy for loneliness in these kids may be as close as the nearest friend.

And lest there be any doubt that loneliness has far ranging effects on the health of the body, consider the intriguing findings from Dr. S.W. Cole and colleagues, at the UCLA School of Medicine. These researchers looked at levels of gene activity in the white blood cells of individuals with either high or low levels of loneliness. Subjects with high levels of subjective social isolation—basically, loneliness — showed evidence of an over-active inflammatory response. These same lonely subjects showed reduced activity in genes that normally suppress inflammation. Such gene effects could explain reports of higher rates of inflammatory disease in those experiencing loneliness.

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Could inflammatory changes, in turn, explain the correlation between loneliness and heart disease? Inflammation is known to play an important role in coronary artery disease. But loneliness by itself may be just one domino in the chain of causation. According to Dr. Heather S. Lett and colleagues at Duke University Medical Center, the perception of poor social support — in effect, loneliness — is a risk factor for development, or worsening, of clinical depression. Depression may in turn bring about inflammatory changes in the heart that lead to frank heart disease. This complicated pathway is still speculative, but plausible.

Loneliness, of course, is not synonymous with “being alone.” Many individuals who live alone do not feel “lonely.” Indeed, some seem to revel in their aloneness. Perhaps this is what theologian Paul Tillich had in mind when he observed that language “… has created the word “loneliness” to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word “solitude” to express the glory of being alone.” Conversely, some people feel “alone” or disconnected from others, even when surrounded with people.

Let’s admit that not everybody is capable of experiencing the “glory of being alone” or of transforming loneliness into “solitude.” So what can a socially-isolated person do to avoid loneliness and its associated health problems? Joining a local support group can help decrease isolation; allow friendships to form; and give the lonely person an opportunity both to receive and to provide help. This reciprocity can bolster the lonely person’s ego and improve overall well-being. Support groups geared to particular medical conditions can also help reduce disease-related complications. Although there are always risks in going “on line” to find support, Daily Strength appears to be a legitimate and helpful website for locating support groups of all types, including those for loneliness. Psych Central also provides opportunities to exchange ideas and “connect” with many individuals who feel isolated or alone. For those who feel lonely even in the midst of friends, individual psychotherapy may be helpful, since this paradoxical feeling often stems from a fear of “getting close” to others.

No, loneliness is not a disease or disorder. It certainly shouldn’t appear in the DSM-5 — but it should be on our minds, as a serious public health problem. Fortunately, the “treatment” may be as simple as reaching out to another human being, with compassion and understanding.

Ronald Pies MD is a psychiatrist affiliated with Tufts University School of Medicine and SUNY Upstate Medical University. He is also Editor-in-Chief of Psychiatric Times and author of Everything Has Two Handles: The Stoic’s Guide to the Art of Living. . Disclosure information for Dr. Pies may be found at www.psychiatrictimes.com

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April 29, 2010 Posted by | Age & Ageing, anxiety, Aspergers Syndrome, Books, brain, depression, diagnosis, Health Psychology, Identity, mood, Pain, self harm, stress | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Families, Alcohol, Recovery & ‘The Limits Of Love’

I have re-posted this article from psych central as it is a thorough, well written and balanced view of the impact of alcoholism in families, the hope for recovery and the role of families and the community in helping those with substance over-use illnesses: Please read!
By William L. White, M.A. and Robert J. Lindsey, M.Ed., CEAP

Gredit: psychcentral.com

On April 25th, Hallmark Hall of Fame will broadcast the movie “When Love Is Not Enough — The Lois Wilson Story,” starring Winona Ryder and Barry Pepper (CBS, 9:00 pm ET). The movie, which portrays the life of Lois Wilson, co-founder of Al-Anon Family Groups and wife of Alcoholics Anonymous co-founder Bill Wilson, is based on William G. Borchert’s 2005 book, The Lois Wilson Story: When Love Is Not Enough.

Borchert’s earlier screenplay was the basis of the acclaimed movie My Name is Bill W. which starred James Woods, James Garner, and JoBeth Williams. The premiere of the movie also falls during the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc.’s (NCADD) 24th Annual Alcohol Awareness Month with its theme, “When Love Is Not Enough: Helping Families Coping With Alcoholism.”

Lois Wilson fell in love with a man whose alcoholism brought his life and their relationship to the brink before he began his personal recovery and helped found Alcoholics Anonymous. Lois and many of the other wives of early AA members also began to band together for mutual support, formalizing these meetings into Al-Anon Family Groups in 1951.

When Love is Not Enough is the story of Lois Wilson and her life with Bill Wilson. The reach of her and their stories is unfathomable and inseparable from the larger stories of AA and Al-Anon and the influence their lives would exert on the larger story of the professional treatment and recovery of individuals and families affected by addiction to alcohol and other drugs. As William Borchert suggests:

“In the end, Bill Wilson’s alcoholism proved not to be the tragic undoing of this brilliant and loving couple, but rather the beginning of two of the twentieth century’s most important social and spiritual movements- Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon Family Groups.”

There are presently more than 114,500 Alcoholics Anonymous groups (with a combined membership of more than 2 million) and more than 25,000 Al-Anon/Alateen groups (with a combined membership estimated at more than 340,000) hosting local meetings worldwide.

When Love is Not Enough is clearly more than a love story, though it is surely that. Readers of Psych Central and the people they serve will discover in this movie six profound lessons about the impact of alcoholism and alcoholism recovery on intimate relationships and the family.

1. Prolonged cultural misunderstandings about the nature of alcoholism have left a legacy of family shame and secrecy. Centuries of debates between those advocating religious, moral, criminal, psychiatric, psychological, medical and sociological theories of alcoholism failed to offer clear guidance to individuals and families affected by alcoholism. When Love is Not Enough is in part a poignant history of the hidden desperation many families experienced before the birth of Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon, and modern alcoholism treatment. Lois Wilson and Anne Bingham helped change that history in 1951 when they organized 87 groups of wives of AA members into the Al-Anon Family Groups.

2. Alcoholism is a family disease in the sense that it also wounds those closest to the alcohol dependent person; transforms family relationships, roles, rules, and rituals; and isolates the family from potential sources of extended family, social, and community support. And, it has far reaching, long-lasting effects on the physical and emotional health of the family and children. When Love is Not Enough conveys the physical and emotional distress of those struggling to understand a loved one who has lost control of drinking and its consequences.

It vividly portrays the disappointment, confusion, frustration, anger, resentment, jealousy, fear, guilt, shame, anxiety and depression family members experience in the face of alcoholism. The recognition that significant others and their children become as sick as the person addicted and are in need of a parallel pathway of recovery were the seeds from which Al-Anon and Alateen grew.

3. The family experience of alcoholism is often one of extreme duality. When Love is Not Enough poignantly conveys this duality: brief hope-inspiring interludes of abstinence or moderated drinking, periods of peacefulness, moments of love and shared dreams for the future — all relentlessly violated by explosive bouts of drinking and their devastating aftereffects. Memories of that lost person and those moments and dreams co-exist even in the face of the worst effects of alcoholism on the family.

It is only in recognizing this duality of experience and the character duality of the alcoholic that one can answer the enigmatic question that is so often posed about Lois Wilson’s contemporary counterparts, “Why does she/he stay with him/her?” As clinicians, we can too often forget that these family stories contain much more than the pathology of alcohol or drug dependence (White, 2006).

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4. Family recovery from alcoholism is a turbulent, threatening and life-changing experience. The hope of all families and children wounded by alcoholism is that the drinking will stop and with it, the arrival of an idyllic family life. Lois Wilson’s story confirms what research on family recovery from addiction is revealing: recovery from alcoholism can destabilize intimate and family relationships. Stephanie Brown and Virginia Lewis (1999), in their studies of the impact of alcoholism recovery on the family, speak of this as the “trauma of recovery.”

People recovering from alcoholism, their families, and their children can and often do achieve optimum levels of health and functioning, but this achievement is best measured in years rather than days, weeks, or months. That recognition in the life of Lois Wilson underscored the need for sustained support for families as they went through this process.

5. We cannot change another person, only ourselves. If there is a central, singular message from Lois Wilson’s life and from the Al-Anon Family Groups program, this may well be it. Al-Anon’s defining moments came when family members stopped focusing on how they could change and control their addicted family member and focused instead on their own need for regeneration and spiritual growth, the overall health of their families and the comfort and help they could offer each other and other families similarly affected.

Their further discovery that AA’s twelve step program of recovery could also guide the healing of family members marks the birth of the modern conceptualization of family recovery. The 2009 Al-Anon Membership Survey confirms the wide and enduring benefits members report experiencing as a result of their sustained involvement in Al-Anon—irrespective of the drinking status of their family members.

6. The wonder of family recovery. As a direct result of Lois’s groundbreaking work in co-founding Al-Anon and the impact it has had on the field of alcohol and drug treatment, family recovery from alcoholism is a reality for millions of Americans today, and the hope, help, and healing of family recovery has become the most powerful way to break the intergenerational cycle of alcoholism and addiction in the family.

The growing interest in the lives of Bill and Lois Wilson — as indicated by a stream of memoirs, biographies, plays, and films — is testimony to the contributions that Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon Family Groups have made to personal and family recovery from alcoholism and to the ever-widening adaptation of the Twelve Steps to other problems of living (Wilson, 1994).

Psych Central readers will find much of value in “When Love Is Not Enough — The Lois Wilson Story,” including the power of Al-Anon as a tool of support for clients living with someone else’s alcoholism. A DVD of the movie and a Viewer’s Guide, for use as a tool in family and community education, will be available at www.hallmarkhalloffame.com on April 25th, the day of the movie’s premiere.

References

Al-Anon membership survey. (Fall, 2009). Virginia Beach, VA: Al-Anon Family Headquarters, Inc.

Borchert, W.G. (2005). The Lois Wilson story: When love is not enough. Center City, MN: Hazelden.

Brown, S., & Lewis, V. (1999). The alcoholic family in recovery: A developmental model. New York & London: Guilford Press.

White, W. (2006). [Review of the book The Lois Wilson Story: When Love is Not Enough, by W. G. Borchert]. Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, 24(4), 159-162.

Wilson, L. (1979). Lois remembers: Memoir of the co-founder of Al-Anon and wife of the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. New York: Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc.

Additional Resources

Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, 800-4AL-ANON (888-425-2666), Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., ET.

Alcoholics Anonymous

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD).

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April 26, 2010 Posted by | Addiction, Alcohol, Books, depression, diagnosis, Health Psychology, Intimate Relationshps, Marriage, mood, Resources, Spirituality, stress | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Anxiety & Depression: Self-Help Internet Interventions Work!

A little while ago I posted a list of free interactive self-help web sites, all research based, which have been shown to effective in the treatment of anxiety & depression. A recent study adds to the body of evidence which supports web based intervention as a viable treatment option or adjunct.

Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) via the internet is just as effective in treating panic disorder (recurring panic attacks) as traditional group-based CBT. It is also efficacious in the treatment of mild and moderate depression. This according to a new doctoral thesis soon to be presented at Karolinska Institutet.

Read the original research thesis here (PDF)

“Internet-based CBT is also more cost-effective than group therapy,” says Jan Bergström, psychologist and doctoral student at the Center for Psychiatry Research. “The results therefore support the introduction of Internet treatment into regular psychiatry, which is also what the National Board of Health and Welfare recommends in its new guidelines for the treatment of depression and anxiety.”

It is estimated that depression affects some 15 per cent and panic disorder 4 per cent of all people during their lifetime. Depression can include a number of symptoms, such as low mood, lack of joy, guilt, lethargy, concentration difficulties, insomnia and a low zest for life. Panic disorder involves debilitating panic attacks that deter a person from entering places or situations previously associated with panic. Common symptoms include palpitations, shaking, nausea and a sense that something dangerous is about to happen (e.g. a heart attack or that one is going mad).

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It is known from previous studies that CBT is an effective treatment for both panic disorder and depression. However, there is a lack of psychologists and psychotherapists that use CBT methods, and access to them varies greatly in Sweden as well as in many other countries. Internet-based CBT has therefore been developed, in which the patient undergoes an Internet-based self-help programme and has contact with a therapist by email.

The present doctoral thesis includes a randomised clinical trial of 104 patients with panic disorder and compares the effectiveness of Internet-based CBT and group CBT within a regular healthcare service. The study shows that both treatments worked very well and that there was no significant difference between them, either immediately after treatment or at a six-month follow-up. Analyses of the results for the treatment of depression show that Internet-based CBT is most effective if it is administered as early as possible. Patients with a higher severity of depression and/or a history of more frequent depressive episodes benefited less well from the Internet treatment.

Jan Bergström works as a clinical psychologist at the Anxiety Disorders Unit of the Psychiatry Northwest division of the Stockholm County Council. This research was also financed by the Stockholm County Council.

“Thanks to our research, Internet treatment is now implemented within regular healthcare in Stockholm, at the unit Internetpsykiatri.se of Psychiatry Southwest, which probably makes the Stockholm County Council the first in the world to offer such treatment in its regular psychiatric services,” says Jan Bergström.

Read the original research thesis here (PDF)

Credit: Adapted from materials provided by Karolinska Institutet.

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April 18, 2010 Posted by | anxiety, Books, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, depression, diagnosis, Education, Internet, research, stress, Technology, therapy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Fast Food, Fast You! How Fast Food Makes You Impatient

Like it or not, the golden arches of McDonalds are one of the most easily recognised icons of the modern world. The culture they represent is one of instant gratification and saved time, of ready-made food that can be bought cheaply and eaten immediately. Many studies have looked at the effects of these foods on our waistlines, but their symbols and brands are such a pervasive part of our lives that you’d expect them to influence the way we think too.

Read the original research paper (PDF)

And so they do – Chen-Bo Zhong and Sanford DeVoe have found that fast food can actually induce haste and impatience, in ways that have nothing to do with eating. They showed that subliminal exposure to fast food symbols, such as McDonalds’ golden arches, can actually increase people’s reading speed. Just thinking about these foods can boost our preferences for time-saving goods and even nudge us towards financial decisions that value immediate gains over future returns. Fast food, it seems, is very appropriately named.

Zhong and DeVoe asked 57 students to stare at the centre of a computer screen while ignoring a stream of objects flashing past in the corners. For some of the students, these flashes included the logos of McDonald’s, KFC, Subway, Taco Bell, Burger King and Wendy’s, all appearing for just 12 milliseconds. We can’t consciously recognise images that appear this quickly and, indeed, none of the students said that they saw anything other than blocks of colour.

The students were then asked to read out a 320-word description of Toronto and those who had subconsciously seen the fast food logos were faster. Even though they had no time limit, they whizzed through the text in just 70 seconds. The other students, who were shown blocks of colours in place of the logos, took a more leisurely 84 seconds.

Zhong and DeVoe also found that thoughts of fast food could sway students towards more efficient, time-saving products. They asked 91 students to complete a marketing survey by saying how much they wanted each of five product pairs. One option in each pair was more time-efficient (as rated by an independent panel of 54 people), such as 2-in-1 shampoo rather than regular shampoo or a four-slice toaster versus a one-slice one.

If the students had previously thought about the last time they ate at a fast food joint, they were more likely to prefer the time-saving products that students who had thought about their last visit to the grocery store. Zhong and DeVoe say that this supports their idea that thinking about fast-food makes people impatient. [This seems to be]  the weakest part of their study, for products like 2-in-1 shampoo are as much about saving money (perhaps more so) as they are about saving time. Fast food is not only served quickly but priced cheaply, and it may be this aspect that altered the students’ preference.

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However, the duo addressed this issue in their third experiment. They randomly asked 58 students to judge one of four different logos on their aesthetic qualities, including those of McDonald’s, KFC and two cheap diners. Later, they were told that they could either have $3 immediately or a larger sum in a week. They had to say how much it would take to make them delay their windfall.

As predicted, those who considered the fast food logos were more impatient, and demanded significantly more money to forego their smaller immediate payment in favour of a larger future one. It seems that they put a greater price on instant gratification over larger future returns

Of course, these results can’t tell us if fast food actually contributes to a culture of impatience and hurry, or if it’s just a symptom of it. Nor do they say anything about whether this effect is good or bad. That would all depend on context. As Zhong and DeVoe note, a brisk walking speed is a good thing if you’re trying to get to a meeting but it would be a sign of impatience if you’re aiming for a leisurely stroll in the park.

Their study does, however, suggest that fast food and the need to save time are inextricably linked in our minds so that even familiar brands can make us behave more hastily. They could even affect our economic decisions, harming our finances in the long run. As Zhong and DeVoe say, even our leisure activites are “experienced through the coloured glasses of impatience” and “it is possible that a fast food culture that extols saving time not only changes the way people eat, but also fundamentally alters the way they experience events”

Read the original research paper (PDF)

Credit: discovermagazine
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April 17, 2010 Posted by | Books, Cognition, Eating Disorder, Health Psychology, research, Social Psychology, stress, Technology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Exercise DOES Help Improve Mood! And Just 25 Minutes Worth Will Decrease Stress & Increase Energy

Having an Honors degree in Human Movement Studies and working in gyms in a former life while studying for my Clinical Masters degree, I have seen this to be true.  Of course it seems self evident, but these researchers have used great science with an excellent and now research-proven written program and workbook. These, along with their recent meta-analytic research review, show just how effective exercise can be in improving mood.

Credit: PhysOrg.com) — Exercise is a magic drug for many people with depression and anxiety disorders, according to researchers who analyzed numerous studies, and it should be more widely prescribed by mental health care providers.

“Exercise has been shown to have tremendous benefits for mental health,” says Jasper Smits, director of the Anxiety Research and Treatment Program at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “The more therapists who are trained in exercise therapy, the better off patients will be.”

The traditional treatments of cognitive behavioral therapy and pharmacotherapy don’t reach everyone who needs them, says Smits, an associate professor of psychology.

“Exercise can fill the gap for people who can’t receive traditional therapies because of cost or lack of access, or who don’t want to because of the perceived social stigma associated with these treatments,” he says. “Exercise also can supplement traditional treatments, helping patients become more focused and engaged.”

The Program used in the study is available from bookstores-Click Image to view description

Smits and Michael Otto, psychology professor at Boston University, presented their findings to researchers and mental health care providers March 6 at the Anxiety Disorder Association of America’s annual conference in Baltimore.

Their workshop was based on their therapist guide “Exercise for Mood and Anxiety Disorders,” with accompanying patient workbook (Oxford University Press, September 2009).

The guide draws on dozens of population-based studies, clinical studies and meta-analytic reviews that demonstrate the efficacy of exercise programs, including the authors’ meta-analysis of exercise interventions for mental health and study on reducing anxiety sensitivity with exercise.

“Individuals who exercise report fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression, and lower levels of stress and anger,” Smits says. “Exercise appears to affect, like an antidepressant, particular neurotransmitter systems in the brain, and it helps patients with depression re-establish positive behaviors. For patients with anxiety disorders, exercise reduces their fears of fear and related bodily sensations such as a racing heart and rapid breathing.”

After patients have passed a health assessment, Smits says, they should work up to the public health dose, which is 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity.

At a time when 40 percent of Americans are sedentary, he says, mental health care providers can serve as their patients’ exercise guides and motivators.

The patient workbook which accompanies the program - Click image to view description

“Rather than emphasize the long-term health benefits of an exercise program — which can be difficult to sustain — we urge providers to focus with their patients on the immediate benefits,” he says. “After just 25 minutes, your mood improves, you are less stressed, you have more energy — and you’ll be motivated to exercise again tomorrow. A bad mood is no longer a barrier to exercise; it is the very reason to exercise.”

Smits says health care providers who prescribe exercise also must give their patients the tools they need to succeed, such as the daily schedules, problem-solving strategies and goal-setting featured in his guide for therapists.

“Therapists can help their patients take specific, achievable steps,” he says. “This isn’t about working out five times a week for the next year. It’s about exercising for 20 or 30 minutes and feeling better today.”

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April 5, 2010 Posted by | anxiety, Books, brain, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, depression, Exercise, Health Psychology, Positive Psychology, research, Resilience, Resources, stress, therapy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Multitasking: New Study Challenges Previous Cognitive Theory But Shows That Only A Few “Supertaskers” Can Drive And Phone

Read The Original Research Paper HERE (PDF – internal link)

A new study from University of Utah psychologists found a small group of people with an extraordinary ability to multitask: Unlike 97.5 percent of those studied, they can safely drive while chatting on a cell phone.

These individuals – described by the researchers as “supertaskers” – constitute only 2.5 percent of the population. They are so named for their ability to successfully do two things at once: in this case, talk on a cell phone while operating a driving simulator without noticeable impairment.

Jason Watson, a University of Utah psychologist, negotiates cybertraffic in a driving simulator used to study driver distractions such as cell phones and testing. While many people think they can safely drive and talk on a cell phone at the same time, Watson's new study shows only one in 40 is a "supertasker" who can perform both tasks at once without impairment of abilities measured in the study. Credit: Valoree Dowell, University of Utah

The study, conducted by psychologists Jason Watson and David Strayer, is now in press for publication later this year in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin and Review.

This finding is important not because it shows people can drive well while on the phone – the study confirms that the vast majority cannot – but because it challenges current theories of multitasking. Further research may lead eventually to new understanding of regions of the brain that are responsible for supertaskers’ extraordinary performance.

“According to cognitive theory, these individuals ought not to exist,” says Watson. “Yet, clearly they do, so we use the supertasker term as a convenient way to describe their exceptional multitasking ability. Given the number of individuals who routinely talk on the phone while driving, one would have hoped that there would be a greater percentage of supertaskers. And while we’d probably all like to think we are the exception to the rule, the odds are overwhelmingly against it. In fact, the odds of being a supertasker are about as good as your chances of flipping a coin and getting five heads in a row.”

The researchers assessed the performance of 200 participants over a single task (simulated freeway driving), and again with a second demanding activity added (a cell phone conversation that involved memorizing words and solving math problems). Performance was then measured in four areas—braking reaction time, following distance, memory, and math execution.

As expected, results showed that for the group, performance suffered across the board while driving and talking on a hands-free cell phone.

For those who were not supertaskers and who talked on a cell phone while driving the simulators, it took 20 percent longer to hit the brakes when needed and following distances increased 30 percent as the drivers failed to keep pace with simulated traffic while driving. Memory performance declined 11 percent, and the ability to do math problems fell 3 percent.

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However, when supertaskers talked while driving, they displayed no change in their normal braking times, following distances or math ability, and their memory abilities actually improved 3 percent.

The results are in line with Strayer’s prior studies showing that driving performance routinely declines under “dual-task conditions” – namely talking on a cell phone while driving – and is comparable to the impairment seen in drunken drivers.

Yet contrary to current understanding in this area, the small number of supertaskers showed no impairment on the measurements of either driving or cell conversation when in combination. Further, researchers found that these individuals’ performance even on the single tasks was markedly better than the control group.

“There is clearly something special about the supertaskers,” says Strayer. “Why can they do something that most of us cannot? Psychologists may need to rethink what they know about multitasking in light of this new evidence. We may learn from these very rare individuals that the multitasking regions of the brain are different and that there may be a genetic basis for this difference. That is very exciting. Stay tuned.”

Watson and Strayer are now studying expert fighter pilots under the assumption that those who can pilot a jet aircraft are also likely to have extraordinary multitasking ability.

The current value society puts on multitasking is relatively new, note the authors. As technology expands throughout our environment and daily lives, it may be that everyone – perhaps even supertaskers – eventually will reach the limits of their ability to divide attention across several tasks.

“As technology spreads, it will be very useful to better understand the brain’s processing capabilities, and perhaps to isolate potential markers that predict extraordinary ability, especially for high-performance professions,” Watson concludes.

Information from University of Utah

Read The Original Research Paper HERE (PDF – internal link)

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March 31, 2010 Posted by | anxiety, Books, brain, Cognition, Health Psychology, research, stress, Technology | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Money & Happiness: Higher Income Only Increases Contentment If You’re ‘Keeping Up With The Jones’s’

Read the original research paper HERE (Free PDF internal link)

Source :ScienceDaily (Mar. 22, 2010)

A study by researchers at the University of Warwick and Cardiff University has found that money only makes people happier if it improves their social rank. The researchers found that simply being highly paid wasn’t enough — to be happy, people must perceive themselves as being more highly paid than their friends and work colleagues.

The researchers were seeking to explain why people in rich nations have not become any happier on average over the last 40 years even though economic growth has led to substantial increases in average incomes.

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Lead researcher on the paper Chris Boyce from the University of Warwick’s Department of Psychology said: “Our study found that the ranked position of an individual’s income best predicted general life satisfaction, while the actual amount of income and the average income of others appear to have no significant effect. Earning a million pounds a year appears to be not enough to make you happy if you know your friends all earn 2 million a year.”

The study entitled “Money and Happiness: Rank of Income, Not Income, Affects Life Satisfaction” will be published in the journal Psychological Science. The researchers looked at data on earnings and life satisfaction from seven years of the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS), which is a representative longitudinal sample of British households.

First they examined how life satisfaction was related to how much money each person earned. They found however that satisfaction was much more strongly related to the ranked position of the person’s income (compared to people of the same gender, age, level of education, or from the same geographical area).

The results explain why making everybody in society richer will not necessarily increase overall happiness — because it is only having a higher income than other people that matters.

The three authors of the paper were Chris Boyce, Gordon Brown (both of the University of Warwick’s Department of Psychology), and Simon Moore of Cardiff University.

Read the original research paper HERE (Free PDF internal link)

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March 23, 2010 Posted by | depression, Health Psychology, Identity, Social Psychology, stress | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Academic Dishonesty = Fail: Procrastination & Copying Homework Increases Failure Rate Irrespective of Aptitude

Read The Original Research Paper HERE (PDF)

From ScienceDaily (Mar. 21, 2010) — The history of students who copy homework from classmates may be as old as school itself. But in today’s age of lecture-hall laptops and online coursework, how prevalent and damaging to the education of students has such academic dishonesty become?

According to research published online March 18 in Physical Review Special Topics: Physics Education Research, it turns out that unnoticed student cheating is a significant cause of course failure nationally.

A researcher from the University of Kansas has teamed up with colleagues from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to get a better handle on copying in college in the 21st century.

Young-Jin Lee, assistant professor of educational technology at KU, and the Research in Learning, Assessing and Tutoring Effectively group at MIT spent four years seeing how many copied answers MIT students submitted to MasteringPhysics, an online homework tutoring system.

“MIT freshmen are required to take physics,” said Lee. “Homework was given through a Web-based tutor that our group had developed. We analyzed when they logged in, when they logged out, what kind of problems they solved and what kinds of hints they used.”

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Lee said that it was easy to spot students who had obtained answers from classmates before completing the homework.

“We ran into very interesting students who could solve the problems — very hard problems — in less than one minute, without making any mistakes,” said Lee.

Students also were asked to complete an anonymous survey about the frequency of their homework copying. (According to the survey, students nationally admit to engaging in more academic dishonesty than MIT students.)

Among the researchers’ most notable findings:

* Students who procrastinated also copied more often. Those who started their homework three days ahead of deadline copied less than 10 percent of their problems, while those who drug their feet until the last minute were repetitive copiers.

The students who copied frequently had about three times the chance of failing the course.

* Results of the survey show that students are twice as likely to copy on written homework than on online homework.

* This study showed that doing all the homework assigned is “a surer route to exam success” than a preexisting aptitude for physics.

“People believe that students copy because of their poor academic skills,” Lee said. “But we found that repetitive copiers — students who copy over 30 percent of their homework problems — had enough knowledge, at least at the beginning of the semester. But they didn’t put enough effort in. They didn’t start their homework long enough ahead of time, as compared to noncopiers.”

Because repetitive copiers don’t adequately learn physics topics on which they copy the homework, Lee said, the research strongly implies that copying caused declining performance on analytic test problems later in the semester.

“Even though everyone knows not doing homework is bad for learning, no one knows how bad it is,” said Lee. “Now we have a quantitative measurement. It could make an A student get B or even C.”

At the beginning of a semester, the researchers found that copying was not as widespread as it was late in the semester.

“Obviously, the amount of copying was not so prevalent because the academic load was not as much at the beginning of the semester,” said Lee. “In order to copy solutions, the students need to build their networks. They need to get to know each other so that they can ask for the answers.”

But the KU researcher and his MIT colleagues also demonstrated that changes to college course formats — such as breaking up large lecture classes into smaller “studio” classes, increasing interactions between teaching staff and students, changing the grading system — could reduce student copying fourfold.

Read The Original Research Paper HERE (PDF)

Adapted from materials provided by University of Kansas

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March 22, 2010 Posted by | Adolescence, anxiety, Cognition, Education, stress, Technology | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment