Peter H Brown Clinical Psychologist

Psychology News & Resources

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

Compulsive Collecting: Finding Hope In The Misunderstood Mess of Hoarding

Compulsive collecting or Hoarding is a misunderstood and debilitating mental health issue. Many psychologists and counsellors never see someone with this condition as they very rarely present for help. This article from an Australian newspaper provides an excellent overview of the condition and issues underlying hoarding, and I have included links to two brilliant books co-authored by the researchers discussed in the article, who have developed a wholistic and novel approach to it’s treatment.

Credit: Kate Benson, Sydney Morning Herald April 8 2010

They may dress well or hold down a good job. But hoarders are unhappy people who suffer from a debilitating condition.

Every suburb has one. The elderly woman weaving through an overgrown backyard full of cardboard boxes, old tyres and discarded furniture. Cats perch on every surface; kittens roll about among the rusted drums and long grass.

Inside, behind closed curtains, the rooms are piled high with papers, cups, plates and bottles. Broken toys, old clothes and shopping bags spill across kitchen benches and floor, smothering the stove and filling the sink, neither of which has been used in years.

The stench of cat faeces, urine and food scraps fill the house.

To her neighbours, she is an oddity. Or a pest, bringing down house values and encouraging vermin.

But to therapists she is one of a growing band across Australia suffering from a debilitating condition known as compulsive hoarding, where people feel a need to collect and store items that seem useless to others.

Their homes become havens of insurmountable clutter and junk, often leaving them unable to sleep in their beds or use appliances. Many end up with electricity or gas supplies disconnected or their fridge and washing machines unusable because they fear their lifestyle will be revealed if they contact a tradesmen to make repairs.

This secrecy and shame make it difficult to know exactly how many people have the disorder.

Some experts think between 200,000 and 500,000 Australians compulsively hoard, but others put the figure closer to 800,000.

“It’s a sleeping giant,” Chris Mogan, a clinical psychologist and expert on hoarding, says. “There is no systematic estimate of how many hoarders there are in any Australian setting. I suspect there are many, many more out there than we are aware of.”

Louise Newman, the president of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, agrees.

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“I’ve only seen one case in my career [because] these people usually only come to light when the council steps in and orders a clean-up. Hoarders desperately want to keep hoarding. They don’t want to be stopped.”

There is little research on the condition in Australia and not much in the way of funding or treatment programs, but experts are hopeful hoarding will be included in the next (fifth) edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the bible used by mental health experts to diagnose psychiatric conditions.

Many sufferers fall between the cracks because hoarding is not a clinical diagnosis in its own right, but is seen more as an offshoot of obsessive compulsive disorder, muddled with depression, anxiety, panic disorder and low self-esteem.

“But it is different to OCD and once we get it in the DSM-V, therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers can then be trained in the management of it [and] we can attract funding for research,” Mogan says.

Jessica Grisham, a clinical psychologist who specialises in obsessive compulsive disorder, also believes compulsive hoarding should be included in the next edition as it requires specialised treatment.

She cites recent neural imaging studies in the US that showed that different parts of the brain were activated in hoarders than in obsessive compulsive disorder patients.

Mogan and Grisham agree that cognitive behaviour therapy, where sufferers are slowly taught to change their thought patterns, is more effective than medication alone.

But hoarders responded better to a specially adapted version of the therapy, developed by the American hoarding experts Gail Steketee and Randy Frost. It had been achieving success with about 60 per cent of hoarders – far more than standard cognitive behaviour therapy.

“But it has to be a long-term project. You don’t go in to someone’s place and do a sudden excavation against their will,” Grisham says.

“That’s a violation and it’s very traumatic for them. It might make great TV, but it’s not good clinically.”

Mogan agrees. A pay TV show, Hoarders, was damaging to the public’s understanding of the illness, because it focused on forcefully cleaning houses in three days.

“Within six to 12 months that house will be recluttered because it is a compulsion … they suffer a lot of grief after things are taken away.”

Mogan makes weekly home visits to hoarders, and focuses on getting them to reduce the associated dangers by ensuring their home has two exits for safety, and working appliances and smoke alarms.

“Just as we do with drugs and alcohol, we’re into harm minimisation. Once the house is safe, we gradually set more goals. If they are comfortable with that, they will continue to stay in touch and not reject us.”

Sometimes the problem extends beyond mounds of paperwork and clothes. Mogan and Grisham know patients who hoarded urine or fingernail clippings. Some stored their own faeces or collected one particular item, such as bicycles. One sufferer was hoarding so much junk, the only access to the house was a 30-centimetre gap at the top of the front door.

But for Allie Jalbert, of the RSPCA, the most distressing hoarders are those who keep scores of cats and dogs, all battling for attention and food on a crowded suburban block.

She has been calling for years to have hoarding classified as an illness in its own right to allow more people to receive treatment and put an end to the 100 per cent recidivism rate.

“Often, we find that hoarders might be treated for peripheral symptoms such as anxiety or depression, but their core problem, the hoarding, is not addressed. So once we have cleaned out the house, they reoffend, which is very, very frustrating for everyone involved,” Jalbert says.

Some people threatened suicide and had to be removed by police when faced with the prospect of giving up their animals or clutter.

“There’s a mixed bag of emotion when you deal with hoarders. Firstly, there is the concern for your personal safety but there is also a degree of empathy because often these people are quite emotional and attached to the animals. But it’s quite frustrating to see animals living in such horrific situations,” she says.

“I’ve seen bathtubs full of faeces and rubbish, sinks that no longer work, homes with no heating or cooling. Sometimes it’s quite an overwhelming experience.”

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Who develops the condition and why?

Some studies have shown that many hoarders have been brought up in households where chaos reigned. Some were neglected as children and witnessed pets being treated poorly.

Mogan accepts the aetiology is mostly unknown, but cites an Australian study that found sufferers reported failing to connect with their parents or growing up in households lacking emotional warmth.

“The lack of attachment causes them to become ambivalent about their identity and about other people. As a compensatory mechanism, they link with things, which they find more compelling, more predictable and dependable and less rejecting.”

But Grisham believes there is no real trigger, apart from children of hoarders being rewarded for saving things and getting punished for discarding. “Sometimes there is a traumatic head injury but those cases are very rare.”

The condition affects slightly more women than men but is found across all occupations, age groups and ethnicities. “And they are in relationships,” Mogan says. “Albeit strained ones.

“Some are going out to work, but they make sure no one comes to their house. They’re not agoraphobic. On the contrary, many hoarders go out a lot to escape. But their children’s lives can’t be normalised because they can never sit down for a meal or find space to do homework. It’s a real impost on the family experience.”

Mogan runs group therapy sessions in Melbourne and says that many patients do want to be cured.

“This condition is a disability and the source of quite a lot of human suffering and neglect. A lot of these people are quite relieved to get help.”

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April 10, 2010 Posted by | anxiety, Books, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, diagnosis, Identity, research, Resources, therapy | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Martin Seligman: Author Of “Learned Optimism” Speaks About Positive Psychology And Authentic Happiness

Martin Seligman was originally best known for his classic psychology studies and theory of “Learned Helplessness” (1967) and it’s relationship to depression.

These days he is considered to be a founder of positive psychology, a field of study that examines healthy states, such as authentic happiness, strength of character and optimism, and is the author of “Learned Optimism”.

This is a terrific talk on Positive Psychology and what it means to be happy. It’s about 20 mins. long but definitely worth a watch!

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April 1, 2010 Posted by | anxiety, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, depression, Health Psychology, Mindfulness, Resilience, Resources, Technology, therapy, video | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Self Help For Anxiety & Depression: A List Of FREE Interactive Self Help Websites

Today I wanted to get around to doing what I have been meaning to do for a while and post a list of free access interactive and/or educational websites which I have come across. These sites are fantastic resources and each one offers a different way to get involved with your recovery. Please note I am not affiliated with any of these sites and they are not affiliate sites. I hope you find one or more useful as I know many of my clients have.

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Self Help / Educational Websites

Updated 27th March 2010

There you have it! Check them out and let me know what you think. Know of any others? (No affiliate sites please).

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March 24, 2010 Posted by | Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, anxiety, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, depression, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Education, Internet, Mindfulness, Positive Psychology, Resilience, Resources, Technology, therapy | , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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

Social Anxiety: Another Side To The Struggle

Read Original Research Paper HERE (Free PDF internal link)

From ScienceDaily (Mar. 19, 2010) — When you think of people suffering from social anxiety, you probably characterize them as shy, inhibitive and submissive. However, new research from psychologists Todd Kashdan and Patrick McKnight at George Mason University suggests that there is a subset of socially anxious people who act out in aggressive, risky ways — and that their behavior patterns are often misunderstood.

In the new study published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, Kashdan and McKnight found evidence that a subset of adults diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder were prone to behaviors such as violence, substance abuse, unprotected sex and other risk-prone actions. These actions caused positive experiences in the short-term, yet detracted from their quality of life in the longer-term.

“We often miss the underlying problems of people around us. Parents and teachers might think their kid is a bully, acts out and is a behavior problem because they have a conduct disorder or antisocial tendencies,” says Kashdan. “However, sometimes when we dive into the motive for their actions, we will find that they show extreme social anxiety and extreme fears of being judged. If social anxiety was the reason for their behavior, this would suggest an entirely different intervention.”

Kashdan and McKnight suggest that looking at the underlying cause of extreme behavior can help us understand the way people interact within society.

“In the adult world, the same can be said for managers, co-workers, romantic partners and friends. It is easy to misunderstand why people are behaving the way we do and far too often we assume that the aggressive, impulsive behaviors are the problem. What we are finding is that for a large minority of people, social anxiety underlies the problem,” says Kashdan.

The researchers suggest that further studies of this subset group can help psychologists better understand and treat the behaviors. “Recent laboratory experiments suggest that people can be trained to enhance their self-control capacities and thus better inhibit impulsive urges and regulate emotions and attention,” says McKnight. “Essentially, training people to be more self-disciplined — whether in physical workout routines or finances or eating habits — improves willpower when their self-control is tested.”

Credit: George Mason University

Read Original Research Paper HERE (Free PDF internal link)

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March 20, 2010 Posted by | anxiety, Bullying, therapy | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

REPOST: Talking to Your Child About What’s in The News

I originally blogged this post on August 5th last year. With the recent natural disasters in places like Haiti and Chile, and also the very raw and terrible tragedies involving young children and youth closer to my home in southeast Queensland, Australia, I have decided to repost it. I have done so in case it is helpful for other parents who, like myself are dealing with kids who are concerned about what they see and hear and read about troubling local and world events…

My experience is that many children, particularly those who have generalised anxiety can become quite distressed by exposure to seemingly innocuous exposure to events that are a part of everyday life.

9781572245822-crop-325x325Although news gleaned from television, radio, or the Internet often is a positive educational experience for kids, problems can arise when the images presented are violent or the stories touch on disturbing topics. While we worry about our childrens’ exposure to violence and sexual content in movies, on the internet, and on tv, we need to remember that news programs shpw often live and real images and media from real events which are often distressing and increasingly graphic.

News about a natural disaster, such as the devastating earthquake in China or cyclone in Myanmar, could make kids worry that something similar is going to hit home, or fear a part of daily life — such as rain and thunderstorms — that they’d never worried about before.

Reports on natural disasters, child abductions, homicides, terrorist attacks, and school violence can teach kids to view the world as a confusing, threatening, or unfriendly place.

How can you deal with these disturbing stories and images? Talking to your kids about what they watch or hear will help them put frightening information into a reasonable context.

How Kids Perceive the News

Unlike movies or entertainment programs, news is real. But depending on a child’s age or maturity level, he or she may not yet understand the distinctions between fact and fantasy. By the time kids reach 7 or 8, however, what they see on TV can seem all too real. For some youngsters, the vividness of a sensational news story can be internalized and transformed into something that might happen to them. A child watching a news story about a bombing on a bus or a subway might worry, “Could I be next? Could that happen to me?”Natural disasters or

stories of other types of devastation can be personalized in the same manner. A child in Massachusetts who sees a house being swallowed by floods from a hurricane in Louisiana may spend a sleepless night worrying about whether his home will be OK in a rainstorm. A child in Chicago, seeing news about an attack on subways in London, might get scared about using public transportation around town. TV has the effect of shrinking the world and bringing it into our own living rooms.

By concentrating on violent stories, TV news also can promote a “mean-world” syndrome and give kids an inaccurate view of what the world and society are actually like.

Talking About the News

9780814474464-crop-325x325

To calm children’s fears about the news, parents should be prepared to deliver what psychologists call “calm, unequivocal, but limited information.” This means delivering the truth, but only as much truth as a child needs to know. The key is to be as truthful yet as inexplicit as you can be. There’s no need to go into more details than your child is interested in. Although it’s true that some things — like a natural disaster — can’t be controlled, parents should still give kids space to share their fears. Encourage them to talk openly about what scares them.

March 1, 2010 Posted by | Adolescence, anxiety, Bullying, Child Behavior, Education, Internet, Resilience, Technology | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Talking to Your Child About What’s in The News

My experience is that many children, particularly those who have generalised anxiety can become quite distressed by exposure toseemingly innocuous exposure to events that are a part of everyday life.

9781572245822-crop-325x325Although news gleaned from television, radio, or the Internet often is a positive educational experience for kids, problems can arise when the images presented are violent or the stories touch on disturbing topics. While we worry about our childrens’ exposure to violence and sexual content in movies, on the internet, and on tv, we need to remember that news programs shpw often live and real images and media from real events which are often distressing and increasingly graphic.

News about a natural disaster, such as the devastating earthquake in China or cyclone in Myanmar, could make kids worry that something similar is going to hit home, or fear a part of daily life — such as rain and thunderstorms — that they’d never worried about before.

Reports on natural disasters, child abductions, homicides, terrorist attacks, and school violence can teach kids to view the world as a confusing, threatening, or unfriendly place.

How can you deal with these disturbing stories and images? Talking to your kids about what they watch or hear will help them put frightening information into a reasonable context.

How Kids Perceive the News

Unlike movies or entertainment programs, news is real. But depending on a child’s age or maturity level, he or she may not yet understand the distinctions between fact and fantasy. By the time kids reach 7 or 8, however, what they see on TV can seem all too real. For some youngsters, the vividness of a sensational news story can be internalized and transformed into something that might happen to them. A child watching a news story about a bombing on a bus or a subway might worry, “Could I be next? Could that happen to me?”Natural disasters or

stories of other types of devastation can be personalized in the same manner. A child in Massachusetts who sees a house being swallowed by floods from a hurricane in Louisiana may spend a sleepless night worrying about whether his home will be OK in a rainstorm. A child in Chicago, seeing news about an attack on subways in London, might get scared about using public transportation around town. TV has the effect of shrinking the world and bringing it into our own living rooms.

By concentrating on violent stories, TV news also can promote a “mean-world” syndrome and give kids an inaccurate view of what the world and society are actually like.

Talking About the News

9780814474464-crop-325x325

To calm children’s fears about the news, parents should be prepared to deliver what psychologists call “calm, unequivocal, but limited information.” This means delivering the truth, but only as much truth as a child needs to know. The key is to be as truthful yet as inexplicit as you can be. There’s no need to go into more details than your child is interested in. Although it’s true that some things — like a natural disaster — can’t be controlled, parents should still give kids space to share their fears. Encourage them to talk openly about what scares them.

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August 5, 2009 Posted by | anxiety, Child Behavior, Parenting, Resilience, stress | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Exercise and Mood: Healthy Activity Can Help Beat Depression and Anxiety

It is very likely that you have heard your medical practitioner, psychologist or counsellor talk about the benefits of exercise to help get on top of your depression or anxiety.
Here is a repost of an article which discusses some recent examples of these principles in practice, as well as summaries of some recent studies. (Read while jumping up and down on the spot for no less than 15 minutes!)
..
When Gaetano Vaccaro meets with depressed patients at Moonview Sanctuary, he sometimes moves part of the session outside, taking a walk while talking. The result: “People’s state of mind can shift.”
Depression can spawn a spiral of lethargy and hopelessness, so that the last thing someone wants to do is exercise. But regular, moderate physical activity may lessen depression symptoms as much as some medications.

“On its own, exercise do51D856AGVHL._SS500_es appear to have significant effects in terms of elevating mood,” says Dr. Andrew Leuchter, professor of psychiatry at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. Physical activity, he adds, is often used to augment treatments such as medication and cognitive behavioral therapy. “If people are on medication or in treatment and haven’t had a complete recovery from depression, exercise is useful in getting them all the way there.” Exercise affects the brain in several ways. “People with depression tend to become somewhat inert, and they don’t engage in their usual activities, and exercise gets people back to their usual level of activity,” Leuchter says. That can prompt an upward cycle, inspiring people to return to work and connect again with friends and family, ultimately providing motivation to stay on course. Such connections are crucial for depressed people.

“The psychological benefits make a big difference from my perspective,” says James Blumenthal, professor of medical psychology at Duke University in Durham, N.C. “People have a greater sense of being in control. They feel better about themselves and have more self-confidence.”

A physical change can instigate a mental change, says Vaccaro, director of development at Moonview Sanctuary, a psychological treatment center in Santa Monica. “When you’re getting somebody to move and getting them to change a pattern in their life, just that little bit of pattern change can relate to a mood change, and they start to see themselves as a person who is active, not just a couch potato. They change their perception.” There may be direct physical effects on the brain as well. The treatment center encourages exercise — yoga in particular — as a way to manage many types of mood disorders. Besides having a strong mind-body connection, “yoga is something that can be modified to someone’s activity level and is something they can do throughout their life,” Vaccaro says.

Mood elevation

Several studies illustrate the benefits of exercise.In one, published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine in 2007, 202 men and women with major depression were randomly assigned to participate in a supervised exercise program in a group setting, do home-based exercise, take an antidepressant medication or take a placebo pill. After 16 weeks, 41% were in remission, meaning they no longer had major depressive disorder. Those who were in the exercise and medication groups tended to have higher remission rates than the placebo group.

Another study examined how much cardiovascular exercise was needed to see changes in mood among those with mild to moderate major depressive disorder. The 80 men and women who took part in the research were randomly placed in four exercise groups that varied in the number of calories burned and the frequency of the activity. A placebo group did flexibility exercises three days a week. Those in the group that exercised at moderate intensity three to five days a week for about 40 minutes (consistent with public health recommendations) showed the biggest decrease in depressive symptoms compared with those who exercised less, or just did stretching.

The 2005 study appeared in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Other pieces of the puzzle are still missing, however. Scientists aren’t sure what changes happen in the brain — and why — when people exercise. Many scientists and physicians believe that exercise increases levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter thought to be linked to mood regulation. However, most of the studies supporting this have been done on animals. “It’s hard to quantify it in humans for a number of reasons,” Leuchter says. “We don’t entirely understand exactly why patients get depressed in the first place. We have theories, but it’s hard to know in individual cases. And we don’t have a good way of looking at [changes] in the brain.” Scientists do know that exercise causes an increase in blood flow to the brain and raises the amount of energy the brain uses. And even though the link between blood flow and mood isn’t known, Leuchter says, “the brain in general seems to be in a healthier state.”

Activity is key

Exercise may be key in fighting depression, but no generic prescription fits everyone. Overall health and exercise history factor into what kind of regimen might be prescribed. “If someone was a runner, I’d get them back to running,” Leuchter says. “If not, I’m not going to have the goal of turning someone into a major athlete. I’d simply want to get them active, and even walking around the block might be good.” Those who aren’t currently in treatment for depression should consult with a physician before exercising to make sure they have no underlying health problems. Patients who are on medication or in therapy for depression shouldn’t consider exercise a substitute for either treatment. “The key,” Blumenthal says, “is really maintenance. You have to do it on an ongoing basis. You should find something you enjoy, but doing something is better than nothing.”

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August 1, 2009 Posted by | anxiety, depression, Exercise, therapy | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“I Just Want to be Happy!” The Struggle for Happiness PART 1: The Complete First Chapter of “The Happiness Trap”

If you’ve read some previous posts, you’ll be aware that I’m a huge fan of Australian MD Dr Russell Harris’ book “The Happiness Trap”. “The Happiness Trap” is a book which outlines the key principles of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). I have said previously that I would come back to this topic so here goes!

51j3AEpsNpLACT is a relatively new (mid to late 1990’s)  approach to cognitive therapy, based around the principles of “mindfulness” and acceptance of the difference between the realities of what is going on around you as opposed to your evaluation or judgment of what is going on around you. These evaluations and judgments are often dependent on how your thoughts and assumptions are attached to or “fused” to your emotions and perceptions of yourself and others. It is a well researched model which is widely becoming more and more accepted as an effective intervention for anxiety,depression and other mental health and wellness issues.

Sound complicated and confusing? Well actually it’s not. And to prove it I am providing a link here to The full first Chapter of Dr Harris’ book in PDF format. You will need acrobat reader (free) or another free PDF reader to access this chapter which you can find by clicking on the link below.

I will be coming back to the principle of ACT and mindulness hopefully once or twice a week, and my aim is to walk you through the rationale of this approach and show you some tools,worksheets and strategies to help you to explore and implement some of basics of ACT, so subscribe to my RSS or come back regularly to keep up!

Here’s the link!

Chapter 1 of “The Happiness Trap” – Dr Russell Harris (No catches or tricks..it’s free!)

You will probably find a copy of The Happiness Trap and other ACT Books in your local library. You can also purchase a copy Here, and if you are in Australasia, Here. You can read more about it at Dr Harris’ website and there are customer reviews in My Highly Recommended Books.

Enjoy

Part Two coming soon!

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July 26, 2009 Posted by | Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, anxiety, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, depression, Resilience, therapy | , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments