Since 1992, the year that Hurricane Andrew struck South Florida, Annette M. La Greca has been investigating how best to define post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in children.
Dr. La Greca, distinguished professor of psychology and pediatrics at the University of Miami (UM) has been trying to gain a better understanding of how disasters impact the mental health of children, to identify which children in particular may need support services post-disaster, and to know which key factors help most with recovery.
In a new study, published in the International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology, La Greca, along with UM graduate student BreAnne Danzi, examine how well the “preschool” definition of PTSD identifies school-aged children with significant distress after a major hurricane.
“The good news is that most children are resilient, even after a very devastating storm,” said La Greca. However, children have different ways of expressing distress than adults.
The findings come as recent hurricanes have led to massive evacuations of children and families and wreaked havoc: Hurricane Harvey in Texas, Hurricane Irma in Florida and the Caribbean and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The study involved 327 children (ages 7-11) from six elementary schools in Galveston, Texas, who were directly in the path of Hurricane Ike, a Category 2 storm that made landfall in September 2008.
The researchers found that the preschool definition of PTSD identifies more distressed children than the typical “adult-based” definition. Thus, the preschool definition may be more helpful when screening elementary school-age children (ages 7-11) for PTSD-risk.
Additional research by La Greca and her team also found that two-thirds of children who are initially distressed after a disaster recover naturally over the course of the school year. They found that children who do recover are more likely to have greater social support from friends and family, fewer life stressors in the disaster’s aftermath and more positive coping skills than those who remain chronically distressed.
“We now know from research that some children who endured a stressful evacuation or experienced scary or life-threatening events during the storm are at risk for a poor recovery over time,” she said.
“Children who need extra support include those who report feeling anxious or depressed, as well as stressed, and who lack social support from friends and family. They also have multiple stressors to deal with after the storm. All of those factors contribute to poor recovery and less resilience.”
“There is no doubt that hurricanes and other extreme weather events can be stressful for children and for adults,” said La Greca. “But as with many stressful experiences, a little extra support can go a long way.”
Source: University of Miami
In the largest brain-imaging study of cardiovascular stress physiology to date, researchers have introduced a brain-based explanation of why stress might impact a person’s heart health.
The findings, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, show that as we experience stressful events, our brains produce a distinct pattern of activity that appears to be directly tied to bodily reactions — such as rises in blood pressure — that increase the risk for cardiovascular disease.
“Psychological stress can influence physical health and risk for heart disease, and there may be biological and brain-based explanations for this influence,” said Peter Gianaros, Ph.D., the study’s senior author and psychology professor at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania.
For the study, the researchers conducted mental stress tests and monitored the blood pressure and heart rates of 310 participants (157 men and 153 women) undergoing an MRI procedure. The mental tests were designed to create a stressful experience by having the participants receive negative feedback as they came up with time-pressured responses to computer challenges.
The participants (aged 30 to 51 years) were enrolled in the Pittsburgh Imaging Project, an ongoing study of how the brain influences cardiovascular disease risk. As expected, the mental stress tests increased blood pressure and heart rate in most of the volunteers compared to a non-stress baseline period.
Using machine-learning, the researchers discovered that a specific brain activity pattern could reliably predict the size of the participants’ blood pressure and heart rate reactions to the mental stress tests.
The brain regions that were especially predictive of stress-related cardiovascular reactions included those that determine whether information from the environment is threatening and that control the heart and blood vessels through the autonomic nervous system.
The research involved middle-aged healthy adults at low levels of risk for heart disease, so the findings may not be applicable to people with existing heart disease. In addition, brain imaging does not allow researchers to draw conclusions about causality.
“This kind of work is proof-of-concept, but it does suggest that, in the future, brain imaging might be a useful tool to identify people who are at risk for heart disease or who might be more or less suited for different kinds of interventions, specifically those that might be aimed at reducing levels of stress,” Gianaros said.
“It’s the people who show the largest stress-related cardiovascular responses who are at the greatest risk for poor cardiovascular health and understanding the brain mechanisms for this may help to reduce their risk.”
Source: American Heart Association
A new study suggests it is okay if we are not always happy. In fact, investigators discovered life satisfaction is a product of experiencing both negative and positive emotions.
In an international study, researchers discovered people may be happier when they feel the emotions they desire, even if those emotions are unpleasant, such as anger or hatred.
“Happiness is more than simply feeling pleasure and avoiding pain. Happiness is about having experiences that are meaningful and valuable, including emotions that you think are the right ones to have,” said lead researcher Maya Tamir, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
“All emotions can be positive in some contexts and negative in others, regardless of whether they are pleasant or unpleasant.”
The cross-cultural study included 2,324 university students in eight countries: the United States, Brazil, China, Germany, Ghana, Israel, Poland, and Singapore.
The research is the first study to find this relationship between happiness and experiencing desired emotions, even when those emotions are unpleasant, Tamir said.
The study appears online in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.
Participants generally wanted to experience more pleasant emotions and fewer unpleasant emotions than they felt in their lives, but that wasn’t always the case.
Interestingly, 11 percent of the participants wanted to feel fewer transcendent emotions, such as love and empathy, than they experienced in daily life, and 10 percent wanted to feel more unpleasant emotions, such as anger or hatred. There was only a small overlap between those groups.
For example, someone who feels no anger when reading about child abuse might think she should be angrier about the plight of abused children, so she wants to feel more anger than she actually does in that moment, Tamir said. A woman who wants to leave an abusive partner but isn’t willing to do so may be happier if she loved him less, Tamir said.
Participants were surveyed about the emotions they desired and the emotions they actually felt in their lives. They also rated their life satisfaction and depressive symptoms.
Across cultures in the study, participants who experienced more of the emotions that they desired reported greater life satisfaction and fewer depressive symptoms, regardless of whether those desired emotions were pleasant or unpleasant.
Further research is needed, however, to test whether feeling desired emotions truly influences happiness or is merely associated with it, Tamir said.
The study assessed only one category of unpleasant emotions known as negative self-enhancing emotions, which includes hatred, hostility, anger, and contempt. Future research could test other unpleasant emotions, such as fear, guilt, sadness, or shame, Tamir said.
Pleasant emotions that were examined in the study included empathy, love, trust, passion, contentment, and excitement. Prior research has shown that the emotions that people desire are linked to their values and cultural norms, but those links weren’t directly examined in this research.
The study may shed some light on the unrealistic expectations that many people have about their own feelings, Tamir said.
“People want to feel very good all the time in Western cultures, especially in the United States,” Tamir said.
“Even if they feel good most of the time, they may still think that they should feel even better, which might make them less happy overall.”
“But you don’t look sick”
“You can’t have social anxiety, you’re way more confident than me”
“I saw a picture of you on facebook, looked like you were having a good time. You can’t be that depressed”
They are called invisible illnesses for a reason.
Whether it’s a mental or physical illness, if it’s not as obvious onÂ the outside then there are always people who will try to diminish what you’re going through. ‘Cause it’s not like you can laugh at a joke when you have a broken bone or anything and it’s not like you can tell people that a bruise doesn’t hurt when it actuallyÂ does.
It’s called putting on a brave face, not just because you want people to think you’re okay but because sometimes it’s hard to talk about, sometimes people just don’t understand and because flippant & hurtful comments sometimes make you feel like you have to conceal even the worst of days.
I’ve been around groups of people, trying to laugh and joke and act normal while going through severe endometriosis pain, losing crazy amounts of blood at the same time (not even gonna sugar-coat it) and enduring the lovely chronic fatigue that comes with it.
I’ve been in many social situations where I’ve pretended to be confident to mask how I really feel. I also joke around a lot when I’m nervous but I’ve spent years trying not to show how anxious I am… The physical symptoms I get from having anxiety only make my anxiety worse, so I’ve mastered the art of not looking like I’m dying every time I’m in a social situation.
I’ve held my head up high in front of everyone I’ve known, while dealing with depression in the dark. I’ve smiled and even enjoyed myself at times during those dark periods but that feeling wouldn’t last because I’d still have to go back to my life and deal with what was causing my depression, even if that was nothing at all.
I don’t wear my illnesses on my face everyday of my life because they don’t define me as a person and I shouldn’t have to justify being sick to anyone.
More importantly, if having a chronic or mental illness means I’m not allowed to smile, laugh or have fun once in a while then what is the point of struggling through the bad days?
Just because I look fine, it doesn’t automatically mean I am fine.
The post Just Because I look Fine, Doesn’t Mean I AM Fine appeared first on Anxious Lass.
Postpartum depression is a relatively common occurrence among females. Now, a new study finds that an elevation or a decline in a father’s testosterone level after childbirth may play a significant role in emotional health and relationship satisfaction.
Researchers from the University of Southern California (USC) discovered fathers face a risk of experiencing depression if their testosterone levels drop nine months after their children are born.
Moreover, researchers also found that a father’s low testosterone may affect his partner, but in an unexpectedly positive way. Women whose partners had lower levels of testosterone postpartum reported fewer symptoms of depression themselves nine and 15 months after birth.
Paradoxically, fathers whose testosterone levels spiked faced a greater risk of experiencing stress due to parenting and experienced a greater risk of acting hostile. Characteristics of hostile behaviors include showing emotional, verbal, or physical aggression toward their partners.
The findings support prior studies that show men have biological responses to fatherhood, said Dr. Darby Saxbe, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor of psychology at USC.
“We often think of motherhood as biologically driven because many mothers have biological connections to their babies through breastfeeding and pregnancy,” Saxbe said.
“We don’t usually think of fatherhood in the same biological terms. We are still figuring out the biology of what makes dads tick.
“We know that fathers contribute a lot to child-rearing and that on the whole, kids do better if they are raised in households with a father present,” she added. “So, it is important to figure out how to support fathers and what factors explain why some fathers are very involved in raising their children while some are absent.”
Saxbe worked with a team of researchers from USC, University of California at Los Angeles, and Northwestern University.
For the study, which appears in the journal Hormones and Behavior, researchers examined data from 149 couples in the Community Child Health Research Network. The study by the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development involves sites across the country, but the data for this study came from Lake County, Illinois, north of Chicago.
Mothers in the study were 18 to 40 years old; African-American, white, or Latina; and low-income. They were recruited when they gave birth to their first, second, or third child. Mothers could invite the baby’s father to participate in the study as well. Of the fathers who participated and provided testosterone data, 95 percent were living with the mothers.
Interviewers visited couples three times in the first two years after birth: around two months after the child was born, about nine months after birth, and about 15 months after birth.
At the nine-month visit, researchers gave the fathers saliva sample kits. Dads took samples three times a day — morning, midday, and evening — to monitor their testosterone levels.
Participants responded to questions about depressive symptoms based on a widely-used measure, the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression. They also reported on their relationship satisfaction, parenting stress and whether they were experiencing any intimate partner aggression. Higher scores on those measures signaled greater depression, more stress, more dissatisfaction, and greater aggression.
Relatively few participants — fathers and mothers — were identified as clinically depressed, which is typical of a community sample that reflects the general population. Instead of using clinical diagnoses, the researchers looked at the number of depressive symptoms endorsed by each participant.
Men’s testosterone levels were linked with both their own and their partners’ depressive symptoms — but in opposing directions for men and for women.
For example, lower testosterone was associated with more symptoms in dads, but fewer symptoms in moms. The link between their partners’ testosterone levels and their own depression was mediated by relationship satisfaction. If they were paired with lower-testosterone partners, women reported greater satisfaction with their relationship, which in turn helped reduce their depressive symptoms.
“It may be that the fathers with lower testosterone were spending more time caring for the baby or that they had hormone profiles that were more synced up with mothers,” she said. “For mothers, we know that social support buffers the risk of postpartum depression.”
Fathers with higher testosterone levels reported more parenting stress, and their partners reported more relationship aggression.
To measure parenting stress, parents were asked how strongly they related to a set of 36 items from the Parenting Stress Index-Short Form. They responded to statements such as “I feel trapped by my responsibilities as a parent” and “My child makes more demands on me than most children.” A high number of “yes” responses signaled stress.
Relationship satisfaction questions were based on another widely-used tool, the Dyadic Adjustment Scale. Parents responded to 32 items inquiring about their relationship satisfaction, including areas of disagreement or their degree of closeness and affection. Higher scores signaled greater dissatisfaction.
Mothers also answered questions from another scientific questionnaire, the HITS (Hurts, Insults, and Threats Scale), reporting whether they had experienced any physical hurt, insult, threats, and screaming over the past year. They also were asked if their partners restricted activities such as spending money, visiting family or friends, or going places that they needed to go.
“Those are risk factors that can contribute to depression over the long term,” Saxbe said.
Although doctors may try to address postpartum depression in fathers by providing testosterone supplements, Saxbe said that the study’s findings indicate a boost could worsen the family’s stress.
“One takeaway from this study is that supplementing is not a good idea for treating fathers with postpartum depression,” she said. “Low testosterone during the postpartum period may be a normal and natural adaptation to parenthood.”
She said studies have shown that physical fitness and adequate sleep can improve both mood and help balance hormone levels.
In addition, both mothers and fathers should be aware of the signs of postpartum depression and be willing to seek support and care, Saxbe said. Talk therapy can help dads or moms gain insight into their emotions and find better strategies for managing their moods.
“We tend to think of postpartum depression as a mom thing,” Saxbe said. “It’s not. It’s a real condition that might be linked to hormones and biology.”
My self harm story started when I was just 11 years of age. I didn’t know that I had a Social Anxiety Disorder, I didn’t know that I was suffering with Depression. I was just 11 years old. To me, I was just a weird kid who pretended to be sick every day so I didn’t have to go to school, the kid who was bullied most out of the whole class, the kid who obviously didn’t fit in or know how to function as a real person.
The amount of loneliness I felt at that age was insane and I didn’t know what to do with it. I didn’t know any better, I didn’t think life would get any better.
At the time my Grandad was my best friend, I spent every day that I didn’t go to school at his house and even when I did go to school, I’d go straight to his house afterwards. I remember the day I first cut myself like it was earlier today. I remember watching TV with my Grandad, needing the bathroom and while in there, seeing his razor. I’d never even heard of self harm before but for some reason all I wanted to do was cut myself with it. So I did. Two bleeding arms later and I’m wrapping them in toilet tissue and covering it with my sleeves. Back downstairs watching TV and no one ever knew.
It quickly became a drug to me. I hurt myself in the toilets at school. I hurt myself in my bedroom a few times a day. I hurt myself in the shower. I couldn’t stop. It was the only thing that I knew how to do to make myself feel better.
Of course it was only every a temporary, fleeting relief. Sometimes it made me feel calm when I was angry or sad and sometimes it helped me to feel something when all I felt was numb.
I successfully hid my self harm addiction from everyone for 3 years. After a suicide attempt, my family saw my injuries and then everybody knew.
The Turning Point
Finding out that I had a Social Anxiety Disorder after my suicide attempt was probably the biggest turning point in my recovery. I finally had an answer to what I was feeling. I wasn’t “just a weird kid who would never fit in”, I had a mental illness that was treatable. Finally, a small flickering ember at the end of my long and sombre tunnel.
It took me until I was 18 to truly feel like I was over my addiction and when I say over it, I mean able to not give into impulses, to not be triggered every time I hurt myself accidentally, to not go back to how it was after every slip up – and trust me there were a few slip ups.
Self Harm Myths
It’s unusual that it’s taken me this long to talk about my self harm, even though my whole blog is based on a mental illness that I have and am not ashamed or embarrassed to talk about. I just think there are still so many misconceptions about itÂ that make it harder to talk about.
Myths such as…
It’s only for attention
Only teenagers self harm
People who self harm enjoy pain
Self harm is an “emo thing”
Self harm is a mental illness or only people with mental illnesses self harm
Self harm is a suicide attempt
There are so many things that can be misconceived about self harm. It’s not so black and white. Some people self harm and don’t have a mental illness like I did. Some people can self harm only a few times, it’s not always an addiction.
I’ve known adults to self harm. I’ve self harmed as an adult myself. It’s not just a teenage thing.
I definitely don’t enjoy pain, I actually hate it but pain made me feel alive at a time when I couldn’t feel anything and sometimes it was just punishment to myself for just being me.
Self harm isn’t usually for attention, in fact a lot of people who self harm go to great lengths to cover it up. If someone is going to that extremeÂ for attention though, they need just as much help!
Also “emo” wasn’t even a thing when I started self harming. Self harm has also been around a lot longer than that unfortunately. Lots of different people self injure, sometimes people you would never expect. People of any age, gender, race or religion. It doesn’t just happen in one specific group of people.
Lastly self harm isn’t a suicide attempt. Not everyone who self harms is suicidal. It’s a coping strategy.
There is help for self harm
I wish I’d have known about all the help when I was 11 years old but that was 16 years ago and I didn’t have a computer or the internet, so I wasn’t a Google whizz back then. I think it’s much easier to find help now that the internet and all these great organisations are far more accessible.
Here’s just a few of them:
National Self Harm Network (NSHN)
Recover Your Life
Recovering from Self Harm
There are lots of different ways to recover from self harm but first is trying to recognise what it is that is actually causing you to self harm, recognising triggers and patterns. It’s difficult to recover from self harm if the reason you’re using it as a coping method in the first place is stillÂ occurring. Trying to find different, healthier ways of coping may be a good short term solution. Exercising releases the same kind of chemicals that cutting releases but in a healthier way. Trying to keep your hands busy.
Putting on my headphones and going for a long walk is my favourite way of overcoming a self harm urge. Or punching or screaming into a pillow if things get really bad. There’s always an alternative, I promise.
It’s been nearly 3 years since I got my first self harm tattoo. I had birds on my arms where I used to cut as a teenager, inspired by Freebird by Lynyrd Skynyrd (my favourite song) and I’m planning on having my legs tattooed as they are much more badly scarred and where I hurt myself as an adult. It helps to look down and them and know how far I have come but it also kills any urge to want to cut, as I wouldn’t want to ruin my beautiful tattoos!
Do you have a self harm story? What has helped you to stop self harming?
The post Let’s Talk About Self Harm appeared first on Anxious Lass.
A new Swedish study rebukes the assertion that the benefit of antidepressant drugs, especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are a result of the placebo effect.
The theory had gained considerable attention in international media, including Newsweek and the CBS broadcast 60 minutes.
According to the challenged hypothesis, the fact that many people medicating with antidepressants regard themselves as improved was because they expected to be improved by the medication — even if the medicine lacks actual effect.
However, if SSRIs had indeed acted merely by means of a placebo effect, these drugs should not outperform actual placebo in double blind clinical trials. These trials or experiments, measure depression relief when patients have been treated with an SSRI or with a placebo pill. The study design means that neither the physician nor the patient knows which treatment the patient has been given until the study is over.
To explain why antidepressants in such trials nevertheless often cause greater symptom relief than placebo, it has been suggested that SSRI-induced side effects influence a patient’s perception. That is, the side-effects inform a person that they have not been given placebo, thereby enhancing his or her belief of having been given an effective treatment.
The beneficial effect of SSRIs that has been shown in many studies should thus, according to this theory, not be due to the fact that these drugs exert a specific biochemical antidepressant action in the brain, but that the side effects of the drugs enhance a psychological placebo effect.
This theory has been widely disseminated despite the fact that there has never been any robust scientific support for it.
In order to examine the “placebo breaking the blind” theory, a research group at the Sahlgrenska Academy in Gothenburg, Sweden, analyzed data from the clinical trials that were once undertaken to establish the antidepressant efficacy of two of the most commonly used SSRIs, paroxetine, and citalopram.
The analysis, which comprised a total of 3,344 patients, showed that the two studied drugs are clearly superior to placebo with respect to antidepressant efficacy also in patients who have not experienced any side effects.
The researchers conclude that this study, as well as other recent reports from the same group, provides strong support for the assumption that SSRIs exert a specific antidepressant effect.
The finding shows that the benefit of antidepressants is real, and not a function of a placebo interpretation.
Investigators warn that the frequent questioning of these drugs in media is unjustified and may make depressed patients refrain from effective treatment.
Source: University of Gothenburg
Dealing with anxiety alone can be really isolating. Even if the people in your life know that you have anxiety and are supportive, it can still be difficult when you can’t talk explicitly about it to someone who knows what it’s like.
For years I had no idea that other people would wake up in the middle of the night panicking about some tiny embarrassing thing they did 10 years ago! Or that other people think extremely hard about where to place their hands in a conversation or hate going to get a hair cut because the small talk is excruciating.
I also didn’t realise that other people struggled to make eye contact the same way I did for years and struggle making or answering phone calls the same way I still do.
It was so thrilled the first time I got to speak to other people who suffered with Social Anxiety, just like me. To find out that all the quirks I had because of my disorder were totally part and parcel of it and there were other people who felt just the same way as I did, that was strangely comforting.
I think it’s so important to talk to people about your anxiety but also even more important to talk to people who struggle with the same issues. It helps to know that there are people in the same boat but it also helps to have someone there who can encourage you too.
These are my top 5 Reasons To Talk To Other People With Anxiety:
This is why I created The Anxiety Lounge – a closed Facebook group just for people with anxiety, to support each other and give each other positive encouragement to achieve our goals. I wanted a group where you could ask for advice, post your goals and talk to friendly people who also have anxiety. This is what we’re doing.
If you’d like to be a part of the group, we’d love to have you there <3
i am proud to share that for the second year in a row my blog was named by healthline.com as one of the best blogs on depression. healthline carefully selected these blogs because we are “…actively working to educate, inspire, and empower readers with frequent updates and high quality information.” it is truly an honor to be included on this list and each one of you helped to make this possible. i am grateful every day for the positive impact that this blog is making – both for me personally and for my readers. each conversation, each story helps me heal. and to know that my own experiences are helping others find hope and inspiration means more than i could every say (or write). mental illness isn’t easy to live with and it isn’t easy to talk about. this blog has given me a safe place to do both. so thank you – from the bottom of my heart.
check out healthline’s writeup on bluelightblue:
on blue light blue, amy marlow chronicles her experiences living with major depression, anxiety, and ptsd. At thirteen, amy lost her father to suicide, a loss that continues to inform her view on the world and her own journey living with mental illness. her posts are reflective, thoughtful, and deeply personal. check out her blog for more on living with loss and depression, as well as creative takes on how depression changes daily life.
and a little more background on why they recognize the best blogs each year:
everyone gets the blues now and then, but do your blues last for weeks at a time? if so, you may have depression, and you’re not alone. major depression is one of the most common mood disorders in the united states — about 16.1 million adults (that’s almost 7 percent) and 3 million teenagers will have at least one major depressive episode per year.
there are also multiple types of depression, including major depression,persistent depressive disorder, and bipolar disorder. postpartum depression, experienced after giving birth, affects up to 1 in 7 women in the united states.
depression can make it difficult to do everyday things, like getting out of bed or concentrating at work. depression can also be incredibly difficult to talk about. that’s why we’ve rounded up the best blogs on depression out there. these online warriors are fighting depression and inspiring others to do the same by sharing their stories.
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