5 Interesting Articles for You: Your Occasional Reader

– Posted in: Opinion

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?

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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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21 comments… add one
Chris May 5, 2009, 5:21 pm


Another excellent post. Thank you!

So, I am going to be completely selfish here: keep them ALL coming…the long ones and short ones. I can’t tell you how often a word or phrase in your posts gives me just the right lift in my day.

Warm Regards..

Chris’s last blog post..It Really is in the Little Things

Mike May 5, 2009, 5:36 pm

Chris, thanks for your comment and your kind compliments!

For a while I posted these interesting-article posts on Saturdays, but I got out of the habit. One of the reasons is that I stopped making time for them amongst all the research and writing I was doing for the larger posts.

But I’m learning that my readers like the shorter posts, too, and I promise I will be providing them in the future, not only lists like this, but more how-to articles, as well.

An old dog can learn new tricks — you just have to get his attention!

Tracy May 5, 2009, 10:37 pm

What memories would you get rid of if you could?

Not too many, but there are some memories of things that never happened that I’d be well rid of. For example, once I was attacked on the street, the guy punched me and kicked me and I fell to the ground – that memory isn’t too bad but what haunts me is that I was holding onto a stroller with one of my sons in it and every so often I’ll have a flash to the stroller being propelled into the oncoming traffic from the force of me falling. It’s funny how something that could have happened is more terrifying than what actually did.

Would you take a medication to help you not overeat when stressed?

I’m one of those that stops eating when stressed, so it’s very hard for me to say. All medication has side effects, so I’d like to say my first inclination was to try every available behavior modification trick first but who knows? I’ve no idea what it is like to have an overeating problem, perhaps it’s a lot more difficult to control than I’d could imagine.

Do you think that therapy by telephone would work for you?

Not exactly the same, but coaching by phone has worked wonders for me! I’ve done therapy face to face and again, it’s not exactly the same, but after getting over not being able to see my coach’s face (to gauge his reaction to what I said), I felt extremely relaxed. In fact, I think maybe not being able to try and seek his reaction helped me put that concern aside and focus on telling him exactly what was going on in my mind without worrying about what he was thinking.

You are right, finding child care and paying for it would have been a huge roadblock to seeing a coach in person.

What kinds of articles would you like to see more of?

I like all kinds! I did really like the funny post you did about the different names of phobias, but I understand why you can’t have funny posts all of the time. The short ones are a nice break between the longer posts, so a mix would suit me.

Thanks for all of the interesting links!

Tracy’s last blog post..How Life Coaching Helped My Blog

Adam M. Aguiar May 5, 2009, 11:46 pm

I always thought IT was due to my motther

Mike May 6, 2009, 3:15 am

Tracy, thanks for your thoughtful comment!

I have several traumatic memories that I would like to get rid of. Yours sounds particularly frightening, especially the “what if” part. I think we all have “what if’s.” Mine involves a 1978 head-on collision, that if it had been 1/2 second later, neither my wife nor I, nor my best friend would be here right now. I can’t get rid of the “what if” scenario, imagining what it would have been like to be completely run over by a huge truck. The memory has faded some with the years, but not enough to prevent a chill going down my back every time I think of it, which is almost every time I drive the car.

I don’t know whether I’d take yet another medication for overeating while stressed — I already take 13 daily. But I don’t overeat much when I’m stressed because I’ve learned how to control it. Used to, though.

I’ve never tried telephone therapy or coaching, but I do suppose not being able to see the therapist’s face might be disconcerting at first. But how many of us try to please or influence others by watching their faces while we speak, rather than speaking truthfully about what is within us? Not seeing the therapist’s or coach’s face might be an advantage for the reasons you give.

However, one of the drawbacks I see in telephone therapy is the therapist’s not being able to see the patient’s body language. My therapist has told me how much body language communicates to him — often more than the patient actually says, and often in contradiction to what is said. But I suppose telephone therapy is better than no therapy!

I would like to post something funny soon, but the subject of Anxiety Disorders is not very mirth-filled, and I find it hard to come up with ideas that won’t offend someone! I’ve been looking around for some cartoons and for crazy therapist tales and jokes, though. I’m thinking about some kind of therapist-from-hell contest!

Shorter articles are definitely on the way, and often. It has been drilled into me from education and from a sense of responsibility to do all the research possible for an article to be authoritative, but that makes them very long.

What I’ve decided to do is 1) to choose more succinct subjects that can be shorter with less research, and 2) do more opinion and help pieces that require little research at all. And I’ll be doing more link pieces more often, maybe even once a week.

Mike May 6, 2009, 3:21 am

Adam, thanks for dropping by and commenting.

There are many IT’s that could be caused by mother, or father, or aunt, or neighbor. Our psychological makeup is determined by genetic factors, certainly. But as much or more, they are caused by environmental factors as well, and that means everything in your environment: family, friends, school, sports — everything! In my opinion, environment works on inborn propensities to develop mental illnesses.

todd May 6, 2009, 4:12 pm

I’m sick of people telling me its just a phase when I know people out there dying from eating disorders! Lend a hand; don’t avoid the problem people.


Mike May 6, 2009, 4:31 pm

Todd, thanks for the comment — please feel free to visit again!

Your comment was caught by my spam filter because of the URL you included. I just checked my spam and approved your comment — I hope you didn’t have to wait too long for it to appear!

Eating disorders are indeed a serious problem that is largely covered up by society. In fact, it’s made worse by the wraith-thin supermodels and celebrities whose pictures are pasted on seemingly every popular magazine you see.

Of course, eating disorders are not one of the Anxiety Disorders, although people with eating disorders often have an Anxiety Disorder as well. I wish I could write more about eating disorders, but since this blog is focused on the Anxiety Disorders, it would be seriously off-topic.

I encourage my readers to click on the link Todd provided to learn about anorexia nervosa and eating disorders in general.

Kim Woodbridge May 16, 2009, 11:15 am

Therapy by telephone is a wonderful idea! If the point is talking through things than there is no reason that it needs to be done face to face and it would enable people who were unable to make appts. to still get the help that they need. I suppose it’s a similar idea to suicide hotlines.

Although erasing bad memories seems like a great idea I don’t think that I would want to. Don’t our memories and the interpration of those events help shape who we become? While a memory may be painful I feel that by erasing it I would be losing a part of myself. This actually reminds me of the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Kim Woodbridge’s last blog post..Freelancing During a Recession

Mike May 16, 2009, 10:29 pm

Kim, thanks so much for the thoughtful comment!

I like the idea of therapy by telephone. I’ve actually asked my therapist whether we could have a session by phone from time to time, such as when I am out of town or too physically ill to make the appointment. Although he would be willing, my insurance doesn’t pay for it, so that ended that.

I, too, am leery of erasing memories. It seems to me that doing so would leave a void in a person’s history, since we think about memories, and these thoughts become memories, too. Sort of like the old conundrum of time travel: what if you went back and made sure your great-great-great-great grandmother never conceived your great-great-great-grandmother?

Of course, the rationale is to eliminate memories of severe trauma that cause mental disorders like PTSD. Even in this case, I think there are many ethical and philosophic questions that have to be answered.

Sophia June 4, 2009, 3:59 am

All the 5 articles are good but i liked one the most

“Seven habits that could transform your life”. Am trying to follow the steps given in the article

Richard Day June 18, 2009, 10:12 am

What an excellent article. It covers so many facets of life. I especially like the idea of telephone therapy. It won’t be long before you can probably get people to do therapy with an inexpensive video camera and skype.

Would you think that adding video might help? I think it would.
.-= Richard Day´s last blog ..Blue Medicare Supplement – How Is It Different? =-.

Mike Nichols June 18, 2009, 12:17 pm

Sophia, thank you for the comment!

The reason I included the Zen Habits article is because I found it so useful, as you have. I really like that site because Leo always has thoughtful and helpful articles.

Mike Nichols June 18, 2009, 12:24 pm

Richard, thank you for the compliments!

I think phone and/or video therapy is possibly the wave of the future. There are so many reasons why people can’t get to face-to-face therapy, but could use the phone. Unfortunately, at the present most insurance companies don’t cover phone therapy. Mine doesn’t.

I have had videos before in my occasional pieces like this. I have thought seriously about video for this blog, but I don’t have the video equipment right now. It’s on my list of things to buy in the future.

Roy Creator November 13, 2009, 11:39 am

Now I did not know why I was eating when stressed, I wonder if is also why people turn to drink. I am lucky I managed to cure my anxiety.

Anxiety Therapy November 20, 2009, 6:51 am

Great article, I had no idea why my body overheated so much when I used to get really stressed out, nor why I was so hungry at the same time. To quote Roy above me, i’m also glad i’ve cured my anxiety, couldn’t imagine still living with it!

Keranamu Gula November 14, 2010, 5:40 am

I would like to try the phone theraphy. Who knows, something good might happen… Thanks.

Roy November 19, 2010, 10:34 am

Excellent post. I’m glad that I found your blog.

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