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5 Interesting Articles for You: Your Occasional Reader

by Mike on May 5, 2009 · 21 comments

phrenology-1-smI keep a folder for interesting articles and tidbits that my readers might find fun to read and instructive. It has been growing fat!

Usually, I post a selection of these every couple of weeks or so, but have neglected to do so for quite some time. Though today’s post will not even begin to clear out the folder, at least it’s a good start!

Today’s topics cover a broad range of topics, as shown by the subject list:

  1. Therapy by Telephone
  2. Battle of the genes determine mental illnesses?
  3. Seven habits that could transform your life
  4. Is there a way to get rid of unwanted memories?
  5. Why we overeat when we’re stressed

1. Therapy by Telephone

The attrition rate for telephone therapy is only 7.6 percent

Up to half the people that enter therapy drop out after a few sessions, and among patients who say they want psychotherapy, only 20 percent actually show up for a referral.

Part of the problem is denial and the stigma of mental illness.

But another part is that people can’t get off work, can’t fit therapy into their schedules, or have transportation problems. The elderly, the poor, and the disabled find it particularly hard to make traditional therapy appointments.

In addition, people with Anxiety Disorders or depression may simply not be capable of getting themselves to the therapist’s office on a regular basis.

A new study by David Mohr of Northwestern University suggests that a better option for some patients would be therapy by telephone. He found that the attrition rate for telephone therapy was only 7.6 percent, as opposed to nearly 50 percent for face-to-face therapy. Mohr says, “The telephone is a tool that allows the therapists to reach out to patients, rather than requiring that patients reach out to therapists.”

Read the full article, “The Benefits of Therapy by Phone.”

2. Battle of the genes determine mental illnesses?

Certain illnesses are single-gene caused: Mental Illness, too?

A topic being hotly debated among scientists is the extent to which the father’s and mother’s genes influence a developing fetus. It is already known that certain illnesses, such as Angelman syndrome and Prader-Willi syndrome spring from the same gene, and are determined by whether the father’s or the mother’s genes dominate.

Now two researchers, Bernard Crespi, a biologist at Simon Fraser University in Canada, and Christopher Badcock, a sociologist at the London School of Economics, are saying that the same single-gene mechanism works with mental illness.

They hold that an evolutionary tug of war between genes from the father and the mother can tip brain development in mental illness, as well. A strong bias toward the father pushes the developing brain toward the autistic spectrum at the expense of social development. A bias toward the mother moves the growing brain along what the researchers call the psychotic spectrum, toward hypersensitivity to mood: both their own and others’. This, according to Crespi’s and Badcock’s research, increases the risk of developing schizophrenia, and mood problems such as bipolar disorder and depression later on.

While most scientists and researchers see obvious holes in this theory, they are also intrigued by it. It is generally agreed that the research will spark new avenues of investigation into the reasons behind mental illness.

The New York Times article is “In a Novel Theory of Mental Disorders, Parents’ Genes Are in Competition.”

3. Seven habits that could transform your life

Change bad habits for good

In a departure from my usual fare for Anxiety, Panic & Health, I offer an excellent article that could have a significant impact on your life.

People are overwhelmed when it comes to starting positive life changes. Leo Babauta, the host of Zen Habits, provides a list of wise ways to change bad or undesirable habits to good ones. Even if we were to follow just one or two of these 7 habits, it would make a profound difference in our lives.

The article is “7 Little Habits That Can Change Your Life, and How to Form Them.”

4. Is there a way to get rid of unwanted memories?

Get rid of trauma, fear, even a bad song

Every one of us has memories that we wish we could get rid of; they clutter up our thoughts and impede our efforts at just getting on with our lives. The memory could be a chronic fear, a traumatic loss, or a bad habit. Or it could be as simple as the music and lyrics to a bad song that obsessively runs through your mind.

These bad memories just seem to be a part of being human, but now scientists are learning how to erase specific memories with an experimental drug. So far, the research has only been done with animals, but they say that the memory system is likely to work almost identically in people.

Imagine being able to get rid of the memories of that terrible automobile accident, or Paul Anka’s “You’re Having My Baby!”

A full explanation of the research and its implications are found in the article, “Brain Researchers Open Door to Editing Unwanted Memory.”

5. Why we overeat when we’re stressed

Reason for stress eating found

It seems that many people turn to food and overeat when they’re stressed or anxious, as pointed out in my recent article, “Surviving the Recession, Part 2: Anxiety, Harmful Behavior, and Paralysis.” This is everyday knowledge among the public, but now scientists are learning why it happens, with the possibility of developing a treatment to avoid it and other eating habits.

The “hunger hormone” ghrelin increases when a person doesn’t eat. Now scientists have discovered that it increases when a person is stressed, anxious, or depressed, too. This rise in ghrelin might be the body’s defense against the symptoms of stress-induced depression and Anxiety. So ghrelin rises, we eat more, we feel better, but we gain weight.

The work of these scientists presents the possibility of developing treatments that would dampen the urge to eat when stressed. On the flip side of the coin, they are investigating ghrelin’s role in conditions such as anorexia nervosa, with the potential to learning how to treat it more effectively.

The article, “Hunger Hormone Increases During Stress, May Have Antidepressant Effect,” is very interesting, and gives a good overview of this new research and its opening the doors to treatments for both overeaters and undereaters.

What do you think?

I’ve been a bad boy!

I promise that I will do better in regularly posting this type of miscellany — the reaction from readers in the past has been good, and it’s obvious that many of you enjoy them. My problem is that I get so caught up in the big research articles that I forget that readers want and like shorter ones!

  • What memories would you get rid of if you could?
  • Would you take a medication to help you not overeat when stressed?
  • Do you think that therapy by telephone would work for you?
  • What kinds of articles would you like to see more of?

What can you do now?

Your comments are always welcome, and are important to this blog’s community! Leave a comment now, or read the comments.

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