The first time Jessica Calise can remember her 9-year-old son Joseph’s anxiety spiking was about a year ago, when he had to perform at a school concert. He said his stomach hurt and he might throw up. “We spent the whole performance in the bathroom,” she recalls.
After that, Joseph struggled whenever he had to do something alone, like showering or sleeping in his bedroom. He would beg his parents to sit outside the bathroom door or let him sleep in their bed. “It’s heartbreaking to see your child so upset and feel like he’s going to throw up because he’s nervous about something that, in my mind, is no big deal,” Jessica says.
Jessica decided to enroll in an experimental program, one that was very different from other therapy for childhood anxiety that she knew about. It wasn’t Joseph who would be seeing a therapist every week — it would be her.
The growing popularity of microdosing — taking tiny amounts of psychedelic drugs to boost mood and mental acuity — is based on anecdotal reports of its benefits. Now, a study in rats by researchers at the University of California, Davis suggests microdosing can provide relief for symptoms of depression and anxiety, but also found potential negative effects. The work is published March 4 in the journal ACS Chemical Neuroscience.
“Prior to our study, essentially nothing was known about the effects of psychedelic microdosing on animal behaviors,” said David Olson, assistant professor in the UC Davis departments of Chemistry and of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, who leads the research team. “This is the first time anyone has demonstrated in animals that psychedelic microdosing might actually have some beneficial effects, particularly for depression or anxiety. It’s exciting, but the potentially adverse changes in neuronal structure and metabolism that we observe emphasize the need for additional studies.”
Growing up, I had the picture-perfect family. I lived in a beautiful home in the suburbs of Detroit with my parents and younger brother. I had every opportunity in the world, attended private schools, and even made it onto the honor roll. I was involved in dance, theater, and many of the school sports teams.
Beneath the surface, however, I always felt a lot of pressure to be perfect.
I was the first of 12 grandchildren, and this led to me feeling that I had to be the best at everything I did, which gave me terrible anxiety from the early age of 5.
As more and more people discuss mental health issues in public forums, it seems to be lifting some of the stigma surrounding the topic. New research reveals that the number of students seeking help for mental health problems has risen considerably between 2009 and 2015.
Sara Oswalt, from the University of Texas at San Antonio, is the lead author of the new study, which was published in the Journal of American College Health.
According to estimates that the scientists cite, around 26 percent of people aged 18 and above in the United States live with a mental health condition in any given year.
In an NIMH-funded study, researchers have identified differences in how the brains of irritable youth react to frustration. The findings, published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, could provide new paths for developing treatments for children and adolescents with severe irritability.
Whether it’s having to wake up earlier than usual or being asked to turn off a favorite TV show, all children can become irritable sometimes. However, some children are more irritable than others, with an increased tendency to experience anger and frustration in comparison with their peers. Children who have severe, chronic irritability can experience significant problems including at home, at school, and with peers. They also tend to have high rates of health care service use, hospitalization, and school suspension and are more likely to develop anxiety and depressive disorders.
Woodside High School senior Valentina Lovazzano joined the student advisory board at Menlo Park’s youth mental health advocacy organization SafeSpace midway through her junior year, after she finally found help for debilitating anxiety problems that had at times made it hard for her to leave the house.
Once Lovazzano got the help she needed, “the first thing I wanted to do was reach out to other people,” she says. “I wanted everyone to feel it’s a normal thing, you’re not alone. We’re all teenagers, we’re going to go through stuff. It’s going to be OK,” she says.
Now Lovazzano and a group of other students who serve on SafeSpace’s student advisory board are sharing those messages in five short videos SafeSpace is releasing this week to coincide with National Suicide Prevention Week.
If you feel anxious prior to exams, take note: studies suggest that you can learn how to be resilient and manage your stress and anxiety.
Researchers at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois recently examined a sample of 85 healthy college students to see how a number of personality traits can protect an individual’s brain against symptoms of emotional distress, namely depression and anxiety.
“In this study, we wanted to look at commonalities across brain regions and across personality traits that contribute to protective factors,” said Matt Moore, a Beckman Institute Graduate Fellow and co-author of the study. “We targeted a number of regions in the prefrontal cortex, looking specifically at the volume of those regions using structural magnetic resonance imaging. We did a confirmatory factor analysis, which is basically a statistical approach for testing whether there is a common factor underlying the observed measurements.”
High maternal levels of the stress hormone cortisol during pregnancy increase anxious and depressive-like behaviors in female offspring at the age of 2, reports a new study in Biological Psychiatry. The effect of elevated maternal cortisol on the negative offspring behavior appeared to result from patterns of stronger communication between brain regions important for sensory and emotion processing. The findings emphasize the importance of prenatal conditions for susceptibility of later mental health problems in offspring.
Interestingly, male offspring of mothers with high cortisol during pregnancy did not demonstrate the stronger brain connectivity, or an association between maternal cortisol and mood symptoms.
“Many mood and anxiety disorders are approximately twice as common in females as in males. This paper highlights one unexpected sex-specific risk factor for mood and anxiety disorders in females,” said John Krystal, MD, Editor of Biological Psychiatry. “High maternal levels of cortisol during pregnancy appear to contribute to risk in females, but not males.”
At the beginning of his second year at Loughborough University, Rahul Mathasing started struggling. His moods were becoming darker, his motivation disappeared and he started missing lectures. He approached the university medical centre, which referred him to the local NHS community mental health team. His pattern of behaviour – manic episodes in which he couldn’t concentrate or sleep, as well as episodes of very low moods – led to a diagnosis, in February 2015, of bipolar disorder.
The systems engineering student, who continues to see a psychiatrist and is on medication to treat his disorder, has had help from the students’ union, the medical centre, and his department, which gave him a leave of absence: “They’ve done every thing they can to help me get to a level I’m happy with.”
Students can be more stressed and anxious than other young people. “You don’t have family around you, necessarily, and you are probably having a massive shift in your support systems,” says Micha Frazer-Carroll, welfare and rights officer at the University of Cambridge students’ union.
The tech sector is built on bright minds developing new solutions to create economic or social impact. This fast-paced industry has high stakes, which require people to meet even higher expectations. Many individuals within the sector — especially startup founders — have small teams (meaning each person serves in multiple roles), work long hours, second jobs or are still in school and constantly worry about “making it.”
At the DMZ, we see that many entrepreneurs are still not talking openly about their mental well-being. And these challenges aren’t special to our organization. Mental health concerns in tech entrepreneurship are often referred to as “founder’s blues.” Between 2011 and 2017, founder’s blues has contributed to a number of high-profile suicides in the startup world, including Aaron Swartz, co-founder of Reddit.
Researchers from the University of California found that 72% of entrepreneurs surveyed self-reported mental health concerns. And about 49% disclosed they deal with ADD, ADHD, bipolar disorder, addiction, depression or anxiety. These figures were described as “significantly higher” than non-entrepreneurs.