Empty Nests Are Overrated

My younger foster daughter stormed out of the living room where we’d been doing battle.

“You knew what you were getting into when you signed up for me!” she screamed, the crash of the front door shattering my heart.

But the truth was I didn’t know what I was getting into when I became a foster parent. My husband, Saul, and I had had Janine and her sister Mariah as foster children for almost four years by then. I had known the girls since they were small. I was their pediatrician. I met them on the day their mother, Linda, dragged them into my office with no appointment — they were not even my patients yet — and announced that Mariah was sick.

“She’s not well!” Linda bawled. “You have to help her!”

Full story at the New York Times

Lucid dreaming: Controlling the stories of sleep

Have you ever started dreaming and suddenly realized that you were in a dream? Have you ever managed to gain control over your dream narrative? If your answer to these is “yes,” you’ve experienced what is called lucid dreaming.

Lucid dreaming has recently been popularized by movies such as Inception.

The movie features impressive dream artisans who are able not just to control the shape and content of their own dreams, but also those of others.

Such feats of dream manipulation may not seem possible to the same extent in our real lives, but they are not altogether absent.

Full story at Medical News Today

The small Spanish town using art to tackle mental health stigmas

The picturesque town of Sant Boi in Spain, 20 kilometers from Barcelona, is surrounded by the beautiful mountains of the Parque forestal del Montbaig nature reserve.

But other than its views, the town is famous for two things: its rich artistic heritage and the large mental health hospital at the heart of the town.
The hospital was founded in 1855, and its long history continues to shape how people view the area.
“When you’re outside of Sant Boi, for example Barcelona, and the people ask, ‘where are you from?’ and you say ‘from Sant Boi,’ they say, ‘Oh, the town of the loonies.’ This is what we want to change,” local artist Dani Sánchez told CNN.

Stress during pregnancy increases risk of mood disorders for female offspring

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.”

Full story at Science Daily

Treating Teen Depression Might Improve Mental Health Of Parents, Too

An estimated 12.8 percent of adolescents in the U.S. experience at least one episode of major depression, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. According to previous studies, many of those teens’ mental health is linked to depression in their parents.

But new research suggests there’s a flipside to that parental effect: When teens are treated for depression, their parents’ mental health improves, too.

We tend to think of depression as affecting individuals. But Myrna Weissman, a psychiatry professor at Columbia University, says, “Depression is a family affair.”

Weissman has studied depression in families for years. “We know that there’s high rates of depression in the offspring of depressed mothers,” she says.

Full story at NPR

New theory may explain cause of depression and improve treatments

A new area in depression research suggests dysfunction in mitochondria — the main source of energy for cells — could lead to major depression. Published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, this new insight to long-held theories on the causes of depression could lead to the development of novel and more effective antidepressant drugs.

Depression is a highly prevalent disorder affecting up to 20% of the population. It is commonly thought to be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, yet the specific biological mechanisms which lead to depression are not fully understood.

“Until now, most theories about the biological causes of depression have focused on the idea that depression is caused by an imbalance in neurotransmitters like serotonin,” says Dr Lisa E. Kalynchuk, co-author of the review from the University of Victoria, Canada.

Full story at Science Daily

Bipolar in the workplace: ‘I was asked whether I was taking crazy people’s meds’

Michelle Lewis* has experienced a great deal of discrimination against her in the workplace for having a mental illness. In 2016, she suffered suicidal thoughts and knew she needed help. She was diagnosed with bipolar and admitted to a clinic.

“When I was discharged from the clinic, I returned to work as normal. Before my official diagnosis, there were no complaints about my quality of work,” Lewis says. But when she returned to the office she realised something wasn’t right.

She was called into a meeting and asked what was wrong. She believed that because she had worked for the company for six months, she assumed she could be honest.

Full story at Health 24

What are some foods to ease your anxiety?

People can make a variety of lifestyle changes to help manage their anxiety. Eating a diet high in vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains, and lean protein can be helpful.

Anxiety is a widespread condition, affecting millions of people globally. Symptoms vary, and some people only experience them now and then. However, someone who experiences symptoms for 6 months or longer may have a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

The symptoms of GAD include psychological and physical symptoms, such as:

  • fear
  • tension
  • excessive worry about everyday events and problems
  • irritability
  • difficulty concentrating

Full story at Medical News Today

Please Stop Merchandising Mental Illness

I was seeing a guy from London, and he told me Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald were his favorite couple. He was charming, exciting and “got” me. His choice sounded so romantic, so like him.

Obviously I knew who they were, but I wasn’t familiar with the details of their relationship. I lay in bed and Googled eagerly. Was this the kind of great love he envisioned for us?

Zelda Fitzgerald was intensely glamorous and hauntingly beautiful. Scott called her the original flapper. Oh, and they had a turbulent relationship wracked with infidelity and excessive drinking: a love affair that ended with her dying after a fire broke out in the mental institution where she was a patient. She was schizophrenic and spent the last of her years hospitalized.

Full story at The New York Times

Inflammation in Pregnant Moms Linked to Child’s Brain Development

NIMH-funded researchers are connecting the dots between inflammation in a pregnant human mother and possible effects on her young child’s developing brain. So far, they have linked high levels of maternal inflammation during pregnancy to reduced brain circuit communications and altered long-distance brain wiring at birth, poorer cognitive function at one year – and to reduced impulse control and working memory at two years.

Inflammation and mental illness

Inflammation is part of the body’s normal defense against environmental insults, such as infections. In addition, the body can mount inflammatory responses to a host of factors, including obesity, diet, drugs (e.g., smoking), maternal depression, poverty, and stress.

Full story at NIMH