Wednesday, July 20, 2011

When does safety become sheltering?

This article from the New York Times suggests that taking risk away from children's play can actually be detrimental to their emotional health in the long-run:
“Children need to encounter risks and overcome fears on the playground,” said Ellen Sandseter, a professor of psychology at Queen Maud University in Norway. “I think monkey bars and tall slides are great. As playgrounds become more and more boring, these are some of the few features that still can give children thrilling experiences with heights and high speed.”

This reminds me of those e-mails and Facebook messages I see occasionally, that say something to the effect of "When I was a child we played outside and drank from the hose, we survived and today's children should do that too." I suspect that each generation bemoans the way the current generation of children is being treated, but I also think that that this article has some merit. I wonder if it's possible to have a discussion about the value of raising children with some risk without turning it into a rant about "kids these days." 

Original article here. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Antipsychotic medication on the rise

The opening line of this article from Aljazeera says it all: "Has America become a nation of psychotics? You would certainly think so, based on the explosion in the use of antipsychotic medications."

Prescriptions for antipsychotic medications have exploded, to the point where antipsychotics are the top selling type of medication, even more so than drugs used for high cholesterol and acid reflux. As a therapist, I certainly believe this. I frequently see clients who are prescribed antipsychotic medication, who disclose that their physician gave it to them "for help sleeping," or even for depression. But the really interesting part of this article comes later, when the author suggests that the rise in prescriptions may be a result of the marketing strategies of pharmaceutical companies, and that the medications being prescribed may not actually be helping patients. 

This is not the first article of this type, but it is worth a read. 

Here is the article:  Mass psychosis in the US.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The connection between anxiety and activity

An interesting piece of research from Southern Methodist University suggests that individuals who engage in high levels of physical activity are less likely to have anxiety and panic:
People with an intense fear of the nausea, racing heart, dizziness, stomachaches and shortness of breath that accompany panic — known as "high anxiety sensitivity" — reacted with less anxiety to a panic-inducing stressor if they had been engaging in high levels of physical activity, said researchers at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and the University of Vermont in Burlington.

The research is worth looking at, but the methodology raises questions about the practicality of using this in treatment. Often, people with anxiety are encouraged to use physical activity as a way of reducing the anxiety; this research raises the question (but does not answer it) of whether or not the level of activity matters. In other words, do those who exercise more intensely suffer less from anxiety than those who exercise moderately? That is a question worth answering, I believe.

Here is the article. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Reparative therapy and politics

I try not to post anything too political on this blog. But the recent revelation that Marcus Bachmann, husband of current presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann, practices reparative therapy is something that I feel is of interest to those who are concerned with mental health as a profession. 

Reparative therapy--psychotherapy designed to "cure homosexuality" by helping same-gender-loving people learn to repress their feelings and act like heterosexuals--has been discredited by every major mental health association in the United States. It is unethical and damaging. 

This article in The Daily Beast by Michelle Goldberg sums up nicely what the problem is with reparative therapy, and why it's a big deal that the husband of a presidential candidate owns a clinic which practices it. A quote:
Why does any of this matter? Bachmann may be dishonest about his practice, but he’s not the one running for president. Yet in describing herself as a small-business owner, Michele Bachmann clearly takes partial credit for Bachmann & Associates, and so its activities reflect on her. 
Consider what it would mean for GLBT citizens of the US to have Marcus Bachmann, PhD, living in the White House. It is not hard to imagine that giving Mr. Bachmann access to a national microphone could be detrimental to the mental health of millions of queer Americans. 

Original article here.