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August 06 2017


The Best Age Gap For Relationship Satisfaction

Many people are attracted to a younger partner, but is it worth it in the long run?

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Memory: The Freakiest Ever Fact is Actually True

Simply remembering everything that happens to us is not the point of memory.

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August 05 2017


August 04 2017


How Loneliness Affects Your Brain

Lonely people quickly move to the edges of social networks — here’s why.

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August 03 2017


The Real Reason Antidepressants Don’t Work For 50% Of People

Antidepressants may give the brain a chance to recover from depression, but more is needed.

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The Popular TV Show That Provokes Suicidal Thoughts

Show popular with teenagers linked to increased internet searches for how to commit suicide.

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August 02 2017


Very Popular Food Linked To Anxiety And Depression

Average intakes of this food exceed the level linked to common mental health problems.

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August 01 2017


This Clothing Makes Getting Job Interview 5 Times More Likely

Women applied for 400 real jobs to test the effect of clothing in their profile picture.

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July 31 2017


July 01 2017


June 15 2017


Web-Based CBT Can Help Military Personnel Manage Insomnia

Web-based CBT Helps Military Personnel Manage Insomnia

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a proven approach for treatment of chronic insomnia with therapy traditionally provided during regular, and often weekly, visits to a clinician.

Emerging research suggest that for military personnel, internet-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy appears to be an effective alternative to meeting regularly with a therapist, although it is about half as effective as traditional methods.

These study findings come from research conducted by Dr. Daniel Taylor, University of North Texas professor of psychology and director of UNT’s Sleep Health Research Laboratory.

Taylor received a $1.16 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense for the study, which was affiliated with the STRONG STAR Consortium, a federally funded network of national experts seeking the best ways to treat behavioral health problems impacting post-9/11 service members and veterans.

The study appears in SLEEP, the official journal of the Sleep Research Society.

Chronic insomnia is defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as sleeping poorly at least three nights a week for a month or longer, despite adequate opportunity for a full night’s sleep.

It is “a significant problem in the military,” said Taylor, who noted that military personnel often develop insomnia because of rapidly changing schedules and deployments that keep them constantly on alert.

Chronic insomnia is a strong risk factor for post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and substance abuse, absenteeism and occupational accidents, Taylor said. Treatment of insomnia may not only improve sleep in these soldiers, but also improve these other conditions, he said.

“About 10 percent of deployed military personnel take sleep medications, which are effective for short-term treatment of insomnia in civilian populations. For deployed military personnel, the side effects such as grogginess, slowed cognitive processing, and slowed reaction time can be dangerous,” Taylor said.

One hundred soldiers at Fort Hood who had chronic insomnia were recruited for Taylor’s study. All completed one week of sleep monitoring by keeping sleep diaries and wearing activity monitors.

One third of the participants met with clinicians at Fort Hood for cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia once a week for six weeks, while another third received the therapy via the Internet once a week for six weeks.

Both the in-person and Internet therapy had the exact same content, with the Internet lessons presented as audio recordings accompanied by visual graphics and animations. A third control group of participants was contacted by the researchers every other week during the six weeks, but did not receive cognitive behavioral therapy.

Taylor discovered that the study participants who received in-person cognitive behavioral treatment for their insomnia reported significantly greater improvements in sleep quality — as determined by the sleep diaries and activity monitors — than those who received the Internet therapy. Both groups had greater improvements in sleep quality than those who did not receive cognitive behavioral therapy.

He noted that that cognitive behavioral therapy is “a multifaceted intervention that can be difficult to administer without the benefit of a therapist.” Additional training in the therapy for behavioral health providers in all branches of the military is needed, he said.

In a previous study of civilians with insomnia, Taylor and his research team discovered that cognitive behavioral therapy led to significant improvements in sleep efficiency, with the research subjects’ use of sleep medication declining from 87.5 percent before therapy to 54 percent afterward, although the subjects weren’t required to stop taking their medication.

Dr. Kristi Pruiksma, a STRONG STAR collaborating investigator and clinical psychologist, served as a clinician on Taylor’s study. She said the benefits of the online therapy include easy access to the treatment and flexibility in times for completing the sessions, which “is really helpful for those juggling work and family demands.”

“The online program can also be done from home rather than at a military behavioral health clinic, which some service members may avoid due to concerns about stigma,” said Pruiksma, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

“Successful treatment has a real impact on patients’ daily lives. An important next step will be to figure out who is able to achieve good benefits from the online program and who is likely to need additional assistance from a therapist,” she said.

Source: University of North Texas


New Protocol Predicts Effectiveness of Interventions for Adult Autism

Researchers have created a protocol to predict individual treatment effectiveness for adults on the autism spectrum.

Investigators from the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas and George Washington University used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to identify if a virtual environment-based training program lead to changes in brain areas that are associated with social skills.

Researchers discovered that adults on the autism spectrum with greater activity in the social brain network prior to the training improved more in emotion recognition than those who showed less activity.

“We found that when participants showed more brain activation in certain regions within the social brain network, while viewing digitally represented biological motion — motion that symbolizes something a human might do, such as playing pat-a-cake — the intervention was more beneficial to the participants,” explained Dr. Daniel Yang, assistant research professor at George Washington University and Children’s National Health System.

“Whereas if these social brain network regions did not show much activation, we observed that the person may not benefit from the intervention at this particular time but, as the brain is constantly changing, could benefit in the future, for example, by increasing pretreatment activation in these regions.”

The U.S. Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) named  Yang’s finding utilizing this predictive method with pediatric populations in a separate study one of the top 20 advances in autism research of 2016.

“This study advances us one step closer toward the goal of targeted, personalized treatment for individuals with autism,” said Dr. Yang.

“We are very happy that this predictive method may be potentially able to help children, as well as adults on the spectrum, know which training might be worth their time and money based on their current brain function.”

For the study, seventeen participants between the ages of 18 and 40 years diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder were recruited from the Center for BrainHealth and the Yale Child Study Center at Yale University where Yang worked at the study’s inception. Participants completed a five-week training program that met twice a week for one hour.

The clinician-led, strategy-based intervention allowed participants to role play social interactions in a virtual environment.

“The training focuses on three core social strategies: recognizing others, responding to others and self-assertion,” said Tandra Allen, head of virtual training programs at the Center for BrainHealth, who provided the trainings.

“We use avatars to make the complex social situations such as dealing with confrontation, job interviews, or a blind date feel more approachable to practice while still drawing on the same emotions that a person would experience in the real world.”

Before the 10 hours of training, participants underwent brain imaging. While in the fMRI scanner, the participant passively viewed a series of animations. Some of the images represented a human in motion, such as a person playing pat-a-cake, while other images were scrambled and did not represent something a human would do.

Two clusters of activity stood out as significantly correlating with training success. The first is an area on the left side of the brain responsible for language processing, specifically conflicts in meanings.

The other resides on the right side of the brain and is responsible for processing non-verbal social-emotional cues, for example, being able to look at a person’s facial expression and ascertain emotional states such as fear, anger or joy.

Treatment effectiveness was measured by behavioral changes in two distinct domains of social abilities:

  1. emotional recognition, or the change in socio-emotional processing abilities and;
  2. theory of mind, or the change in socio-cognitive processing abilities.

“There is very limited intervention research for adults on the autism spectrum, so being able to help make a leap forward in creating individualized treatment programs for them is very important to the field,” said Yang.

Source: Center for Brainhealth


Bilingual Children May Recognize Voices Better

Bilingual Children May Recognize Voices Better

A new study provides yet another example of the cognitive benefits of learning another language. The findings, published in the journal Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, show that bilingual children are better than their monolingual peers at recognizing voices, including those speaking in a known language (with a foreign accent) as well as an unknown language.

“Bilingual children have a perceptual advantage when processing information about a talker’s voice,” said study author Dr. Susannah Levi, assistant professor of communicative sciences and disorders at New York University’s (NYU) Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.

“This advantage exists in the social aspect of speech perception, where the focus is not on processing the linguistic information, but instead on processing information about who is talking. Speech simultaneously carries information about what is being said and who is saying it.”

Figuring out who is speaking is an important social component of communication and begins to develop even before birth. The researchers investigated how children process information about who is talking and sought to determine whether differences exist between monolingual and bilingual children.

The study involved 41 children, composed of 22 monolingual English speakers and 19 bilingual children. The bilingual children all spoke English and either spoke or were exposed to a second language (other than German) on a daily basis. The children were divided by age into two groups: nine years and younger and 10 years and older.

The children completed a series of tasks listening to different voices. For example, in one task, they listened to pairs of words in a language they knew (English, spoken with a German accent) and an unfamiliar language (German). They were then asked to determine whether a pair of words was spoken by the same person or two different people.

In another task, the young participants learned to recognize the voices of three speakers represented by cartoon characters on a computer screen. After listening to these characters speak a series of words, a hidden character spoke a word and the children had to identify the speaker.

The experiments revealed that older children performed better than their younger counterparts, confirming prior research showing that perceiving information about who is talking improves with age.

The findings also show that bilingual children performed better than monolingual children in recognizing and processing voices speaking in both English and German. When listening to English, bilingual children were better at discriminating and learning to identify voices. They were also faster at learning voices. When hearing German, bilingual children were better at discriminating voices.

“The study is a strong test of the benefits of bilingualism because it looked for differences in both a language familiar to all participants and one unfamiliar to them. The bilingual advantage occurred even in a language that was unfamiliar,” Levi said.

Levi suggests several possible reasons for this bilingual advantage: Bilingual children may have more experience listening to accented speech (as the English was spoken with an accent) and multiple languages, may have better cognitive control and focus for the tasks, or may have better social perception — an important tool for perceiving voices.

“While we need more research to explain why bilingual children are better and faster at learning different voices, our study provides yet another example of the benefits of speaking and understanding multiple languages,” said Levi.

Source: New York University


Podcast: What Is Persistent Depressive Order Like?

In this episode of the Psych Central Show, host Gabe Howard interviews his co-host, Vincent M. Wales, about living with persistent depressive disorder (formerly known as dysthymia).  Vincent speaks candidly about how he came to realize that he had chronic depression, the mistakes he made in treating it, his suicidal years in college, and how living with depression affected his writing, especially with regard to the creation of his character, Dynamistress.

 Listen as Our Hosts Explain Certified Peer Support:

“There’s pretty much not a day that goes by that I don’t have depressive symptoms. The irony about this is that it took me an awful long time to realize that I had this.” ~ Vincent M. Wales


About The Psych Central Show Podcast

The Psych Central Show is an interesting, in-depth weekly podcast that looks into all things mental health and psychology. Hosted by Gabe Howard and featuring Vincent M. Wales.

The Psych Central Show Podcast iTunes
Google Play The Psych Central Show


Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar and anxiety disorders. In addition to hosting The Psych Central Show, Gabe is an associate editor for Gabe is a prolific writer and his work can be found all over the internet. He also runs an online Facebook community, The Positive Depression/Bipolar Happy Place, and invites you to join.  To work with Gabe, please visit his website,




Vincent M. Wales
 is a former suicide prevention counselor who lives with persistent depressive disorder. In addition to co-hosting The Psych Central Show, Vincent is the author of several award-winning novels and the creator of costumed hero Dynamistress. Visit his websites at and


Previous episodes can be found at




Living with Chronic Disease Ups Risk of Suicide

Living with Chronic Disease Ups Risk of Suicide

The suicide rate has increased by 24 percent over the last 15 years, with more than 45,000 people dying from suicide each year.

Now, new research finds that 17 physical health conditions, such as back pain, diabetes, and heart disease, are associated with an increased risk of suicide. Two of the conditions — sleep disorders and HIV/AIDS — represented a greater than twofold increase, while traumatic brain injury made individuals nine times more likely to die by suicide.

The research appears in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

While the rates of other causes of death have declined in recent years, suicide continues to trend upwards across all ages and genders. Many people who die by suicide do not have a prior mental health diagnosis, which means that patients at an increased risk for self-harm are somehow being missed by the mainstream healthcare system.

This understanding led researchers to examine whether there is a link between physical illness and suicide risk. Investigators believe new knowledge surrounding the rise in suicide rates can help them develop novel interventions to prevent the tragic outcomes.

“These data represent among the first findings from areas across the U.S. documenting an increase in suicide risk for people with a variety of major physical health conditions,” said lead investigator Brian K. Ahmedani, Ph.D., L.M.S.W., director of psychiatry research for the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit.

This study included 2,674 individuals who died by suicide between 2000 and 2013 along with 267,400 controls matched on year and location in a case-control study across eight Mental Health Research Network health care systems.

Seventeen of 19 medical conditions investigated were linked to an increased suicide risk: asthma, back pain, brain injury, cancer, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, diabetes, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, heart disease, hypertension, migraine, Parkinson’s disease, psychogenic pain, renal disorder, sleep disorders, and stroke.

While all of these conditions were associated with greater risk, some conditions showed a stronger association than others.

For example, people with a traumatic brain injury were nine times more likely to die by suicide, while those with sleep disorders and HIV/AIDS were at a greater than twofold risk. Along with varying rates among conditions, having multiple physical health conditions also substantially increased risk.

“Although suicide risk appears to be pervasive across most physical health conditions, prevention efforts appear to be particularly important for patients with a traumatic brain injury, whose odds of suicide are increased nearly ninefold, even after adjusting for potential confounders,” Ahmedani said.

“This is the first large, multisite study conducted within the general U.S. population demonstrating a significant, large-magnitude relationship between brain injury and suicide.”

According to this study, targeted interventions in primary care and specialty care may be the key to preventing suicides. It’s reported that 80 percent of individuals who die by suicide make a healthcare visit in the year before their death and that 50 percent go to the doctor within four weeks of dying by suicide.

Because most these patients do not have a diagnosed mental health problem, limiting suicide prevention efforts to standard behavioral healthcare settings may miss many of the individuals at risk.

“Several conditions, such as back pain, sleep disorders, and traumatic brain injury were all associated with suicide risk and are commonly diagnosed, making patients with these conditions primary targets for suicide prevention,” said Ahmedani.

“Given that nearly every physical health condition was associated with suicide, widespread suicide prevention efforts in all health care settings seem warranted.”

Source: Elsevier/EurekAlert

June 14 2017


Even Therapists Get the Blues

“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them — every day begin the task anew.” -Saint Francis de Sales

My first depressive episode came at the age of 19, again at 23 and then again at 27. A decade later I would graduate with a Masters degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. In that time came pharmacology and psychotherapy.  I also found what behaviors and beliefs helped me take care of myself and have allowed me to maintain my mental health ever since.

It was in the middle of my last depressive episode, at the age of 28, when I realized yoga was more than just a wonderful way to exercise, for example. Over the years, I have found Yoga Studios to be harbors of community, generosity and solace and return to them whenever I feel myself drifting too far out to sea.

As a Clinical Psychotherapist, I understand the patterns, chemistry and treatments for Depression. I also understand the resistance and denial that can come between my patients and their care. I resisted the same insight I give to others: meditation, medication, exercise, gratitude, support. I tried to deny, numb, or diffuse the symptoms just like everyone else.  

A mood disorder doesn’t care about a wall of certificates and diplomas. When I recognize the signs that depression is lurking, I must return to a self-care discipline which I know will bring me back into balance.

Sometimes I sit across from patients and want to say, “Me TOO!” Of course, I don’t. I’d never say just how much I understand, but I do know it gets better and what has helped me. 

A Psychotherapist is trained to separate their reactivity and bias from their work. I often tell my patients “I am clinically trained to not take stuff personally.” I encourage their honesty and we explore their transference onto my neutrality in our sessions. By remaining unknown beyond a few obvious or innocuous personal details, my life, past and present, remains outside of my office.  

But clinical orientation has not made me immune to circumstances or genetics.  A life separate from the work exists after my last appointment, and within that space lie relationships, politics, disappointments, loss; the messy stuff of life.  Maintaining my own psychotherapy and mental health check-ups are not just best practice (to ensure counter-transference does not interfere with my work) but the best choices for my personal growth and relationships.

While our own challenges make us more relatable to others, if we insisted upon shared experience (as a condition for accepting support) we would certainly exhaust much of the help that is offered. A professional does not have to experience something to know about it. Many male doctors have delivered babies. Nevertheless, we all have a unique version of a universal struggle, even those who help and heal. That is both my professional and personal opinion.

The signs and symptoms of Major Depression include the following:  

  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness for more than two weeks
  • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Tiredness and lack of energy
  • Changes in appetite
  • Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or blaming yourself
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches

If you or someone you know is struggling with any of these symptoms for longer than two weeks please contact your doctor or a mental health professional and ask for an evaluation.


Very Popular Drink Linked To Brain Damage

The drink was linked to shrinkage in the hippocampus, an area critical for memory and other mental functions.

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The Upside of Chance

Many people fear chance because to them it means unpredictability, uncertainty, and loss of control. These horrors may be overstated. Chance can contribute to creativity and fun.
Making the theoretical practical: Engaging undergraduate students in research methods by Hannah Mohammad
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