Posted by: faithful | August 16, 2014

abusive narcissists: how they do it…

Five Powerful Ways Abusive Narcissists Get Inside Your Head

July 21, 2014

In popular culture, the term “narcissistic” is thrown about quite loosely, usually referring to vanity and self-absorption. This reduces narcissism to a common quality that everyone possesses and downplays the symptoms demonstrated by people with the actual disorder. While narcissism does exist on a spectrum, narcissism as a full-fledged personality disorder is quite different.

People who meet the criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder or those who have traits of Antisocial Personality Disorder can operate in extremely manipulative ways within the context of intimate relationships due to their deceitfulness, lack of empathy and their tendency to be interpersonally exploitative. Although I will be focusing on narcissistic abusers in this post, due to the overlap of symptoms in these two disorders, this post can potentially apply to interactions with those who have ASPD to an extent.

It’s important in any kind of relationship that we learn to identify the red flags when interacting with people who display malignant narcissism and/or antisocial traits, so we can better protect ourselves from exploitation and abuse, set boundaries, and make informed decisions about who we keep in our lives. Understanding the nature of these toxic interactions and how they affect us has an enormous impact on our ability to engage in self-care.

Watch out for the following covert manipulation tactics when you’re dating someone or in a relationship.

1. The Idealization-Devaluation-Discard Phase

Narcissists and those with antisocial traits tend to subject romantic partners through three phases within a relationship. The idealization phase (which often happens most strongly during the early stages of dating or a relationship) consists of putting you on a pedestal, making you the center of his/her world, being in contact with you frequently, and showering you with flattery and praise. You are convinced that the narcissist can’t live without you and that you’ve met your soulmate. Be wary of: constant texting, shallow flattery and wanting to be around you at all times. This is a technique known as “lovebombing” and it is how most victims get sucked in: they are tired of the “games” people play with each other in communication and are flattered by the constant attention they get from the narcissist. You may be fooled into thinking that this means a narcissist is truly interested in you, when in fact, he or she is interested in making you dependent on their constant praise and attention.

The devaluation phase is subsequent to this idealization phase, and this is when you’re left wondering why you were so abruptly thrust off the pedestal. The narcissist will suddenly start to blow hot and cold, criticizing you, covertly and overtly putting you down, comparing you to others, emotionally withdrawing from you and giving you the silent treatment when you’ve failed to meet their “standards.” Since the “hot” aspect of this phase relies on intermittent reinforcement in which the narcissist gives you inconsistent spurts of the idealization phase throughout, you become convinced that perhaps you are at fault and you can “control” the narcissist’s reactions.

Even though the narcissist can be quite possessive and jealous over you, since he or she views you as an object and a source of narcissistic supply, the narcissist is prone to projecting this same behavior onto you. The narcissist makes you seem like the needy one as you react to his or her withdrawal and withholding patterns even though the expectations of frequent contact were established early on in the relationship by the narcissist himself.

You are mislead into thinking that if you just learn not to be so “needy,” “clingy,” or “jealous,” the narcissist will reward you with the loving behavior he or she demonstrated in the beginning. The narcissist may use these and other similar words to gaslight victims when they react normally to being provoked. It’s a way to maintain control over your legitimate emotional reactions to their stonewalling, emotional withdrawal and inconsistency.

Unfortunately, it is during the devaluation phase that a narcissist’s true self shows itself. You have to understand that the man or woman in the beginning of the relationship never truly existed. The true colors are only now beginning to show, so it will be a struggle as you attempt to reconcile the image that the narcissist presented to you with his or her current behavior.

During the discard phase, the narcissist abandons his or her victim in the most horrific, demeaning way possible to convince the victim that he or she is worthless. This could range from: leaving the victim for another lover, humiliating the victim in public, being physically aggressive and a whole range of other demeaning behaviors to communicate to the victim that he or she is no longer important.

2. Gaslighting.

Most abusive relationships contain a certain amount of gaslighting, a technique narcissists use to convince you that your perception of the abuse is inaccurate. During the devaluation and discard phases, the narcissist will often remark upon your emotional instability, your “issues,” and displace blame of his/her abuse as your fault. Frequent use of phrases such as “You provoked me,” “You’re too sensitive,” “I never said that,” or “You’re taking things too seriously” after the narcissists’ abusive outbursts are common and are used to gaslight you into thinking that the abuse is indeed your fault or that it never even took place.

Narcissists are masters of making you doubt yourself and the abuse. This is why victims so often suffer from ruminations after the ending of a relationship with a narcissist, because the emotional invalidation they received from the narcissist made them feel powerless in their agency and perceptions. This self-doubt enables them to stay within abusive relationships even when it’s clear that the relationship is a toxic one, because they are led to mistrust their own instincts and interpretations of events.

3. Smear campaigns.

Narcissists keep harems because they love to have their egos stroked and they need constant validation from the outside world to feed their need for excessive admiration and confirm their grandiose sense of self-importance. They are clever chameleons who are also people-pleasers, morphing into whatever personality suits them in situations with different types of people. It is no surprise, then, that the narcissist begins a smear campaign against you not too long after the discard phase, in order to paint you as the unstable one, and that this is usually successful with the narcissist’s support network which also tends to consist of other narcissists, people-pleasers, empaths, as well as people who are easily charmed.

This smear campaign accomplishes three things: 1) it depicts you as the abuser or unstable person and deflects your accusations of abuse, 2) it provokes you, thus proving your instability to others when trying to argue his or her depiction of you, and 3) serves as a hoovering technique in which the narcissist seeks to pull you back into the trauma of the relationship as you struggle to reconcile the rumors about you with who you actually are by speaking out against the accusations. The only way to not get pulled into this tactic is by going full No Contact with both the narcissist and his or her harem.

4. Triangulation.

Healthy relationships thrive on security; unhealthy ones are filled with provocation, uncertainty and infidelity. Narcissists like to manufacture love triangles and bring in the opinions of others to validate their point of view. They do this to an excessive extent in order to play puppeteer to your emotions. In the book Psychopath Free by Peace, the method of triangulation is discussed as a popular way the narcissist maintains control over your emotions. Triangulation consists of bringing the presence of another person into the dynamic of the relationship, whether it be an ex-lover, a current mistress, a relative, or a complete stranger.

This triangulation can take place over social media, in person, or even through the narcissist’s own verbal accounts of the other woman or man. The narcissist relies on jealousy as a powerful emotion that can cause you to compete for his or her affections, so provocative statements like “I wish you’d be more like her,” or “He wants me back into his life, I don’t know what to do” are designed to trigger the abuse victim into competing and feeling insecure about his or her position in the narcissist’s life.

Unlike healthy relationships where jealousy is communicated and dealt with in a productive manner, the narcissist will belittle your feelings and continue inappropriate flirtations and affairs without a second thought. Triangulation is the way the narcissist maintains control and keeps you in check – you’re so busy competing for his or her attention that you’re less likely to be focusing on the red flags within the relationship or looking for ways to get out of the relationship.

5. The false self and the true self.

The narcissist hides behind the armor of a “false self,” a construct of qualities and traits that he or she usually presents to the outside world. Due to this armor, you are unlikely to comprehend the full extent of a narcissist’s inhumanity and lack of empathy until you are in the discard phase. This can make it difficult to pinpoint who the narcissistic abuser truly is – the sweet, charming and seemingly remorseful person that appears shortly after the abuse, or the abusive partner who ridicules, invalidates and belittles you on a daily basis? You suffer a great deal of cognitive dissonance trying to reconcile the illusion the narcissist first presented to you with the tormenting behaviors he or she subjects you to. In order to cope with this cognitive dissonance, you might blame yourself for his or her abusive behavior and attempt to “improve” yourself when you have done nothing wrong, just to uphold your belief in the narcissist’s false self during the devaluation phase.

During the discard phase, the narcissist reveals the true self – the ugly, abusive and abrasive monster rears its head and you get a glimpse of the evil that was lurking within all along. You bear witness to his or her cold, callous indifference as you are discarded. You might think this is only a momentary lapse into evil, but actually, it is as close you will ever get to seeing the narcissist’s true self.

The manipulative, conniving charm that existed in the beginning is no more – instead, it is replaced by the genuine contempt that the narcissist felt for you all along. See, narcissists don’t truly feel empathy or love for others – so during the discard phase, they feel absolutely nothing for you except the excitement of having exhausted another source of supply. You were just another source of supply, so do not fool yourself into thinking that the magical connection that existed in the beginning was in any way real. It was an illusion, much like the identity of the narcissist was an illusion.

It is time to pick up the pieces, go No Contact, heal, and move forward. You were not only a victim of narcissistic abuse, but a survivor. Owning this dual status as both victim and survivor permits you to own your agency after the abuse and to live the life you were meant to lead – one filled with self-care, self-love, respect, and compassion.

Posted by: faithful | July 30, 2014

successful people with mental illnesses

These Wildly Successful People Will Prompt You To Rethink What It Means To Have A Mental Illness
The Huffington Post | By Lindsay Holmes

Posted: 07/30/2014

Approximately one in four American adults suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. This staggering statistic goes to show that mental illness can touch anyone — from entrepreneurs to presidents to celebrities.

Given the stigma attached to mental illness, despite its prevalence, many people suffer quietly instead of reaching out for the support they may need. But as the wildly accomplished individuals below prove, just because you’re battling a mental disorder doesn’t mean you should feel alone — or incapable of accomplishing your goals.

It’s also worth noting that the conversation around these disorders used to be much quieter. And while many prominent people have publicly revealed their diagnoses, there is a whole host of luminaries who historians suspect suffered from one disorder or another: Renowned, innovative creative-types like Steve Jobs, Charles Dickens and Charles Lindbergh as well as gifted politicians like Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson.

Catherine Zeta-Jones

The Academy Award-winning actress, who is the picture of poised on the red carpet, revealed in 2011 that she was diagnosed with Bipolar II disorder. Zeta-Jones said the condition, which causes a series of deep, depressive lows with extreme manic highs that don’t reach full-blown mania, has had a huge impact on her personal life as well as her professional career. Zeta-Jones has been open about her battle and remains optimistic about treating the illness (last year she checked back into a health care facility for additional treatment). “This is a disorder that affects millions of people and I am one of them,” she told PEOPLE magazine. “If my revelation of having bipolar II has encouraged one person to seek help, then it is worth it. There is no need to suffer silently and there is no shame in seeking help.”

Jessie Close
The upcoming author and sister of acclaimed actress Glenn Close was diagnosed with Bipolar I disorder at the age of 47 after struggling with it most of her life. “When I was finally diagnosed, I went through a long period of grief, because I had so many instances where I was manic and not in my right mind,” she told CNN earlier this year. “It’s a difficult thing to look back on a life when you’re already 50 years old.” After receiving an official diagnosis, Close joined Glenn in launching Bring Change 2 Mind, a foundation working to end the stigma and discrimination of mental illness.

Howie Mandel
The “America’s Got Talent” host is one of more than 2 million people who suffer from OCD. The condition, which is associated with repetitive thoughts and impulses, affected Mandel for most of his life before he finally sought help as an adult. “We take care of our dental health,” he told CNN in February. “We don’t take care of our mental health … I think the solution to making this world better is if we would just be healthy, mentally.”

Adam Levine

The Maroon 5 crooner has struggled with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder for most of his life, and created a public service announcement earlier this year about how he’s still dealing with the condition. Since filming the PSA, he’s been open about his battle — even admitting that it sometimes affects him in the recording studio — and hopes his public status can help someone who may be suffering from the same disorder. “ADHD isn’t a bad thing, and you shouldn’t feel different from those without ADHD,” Levine wrote in ADDitude magazine. “Remember that you are not alone. There are others going through the same thing.”

Carrie Fisher
Best known for her role as the captivating Princess Leia in the “Star Wars” franchise, Fisher has received several accolades for her activism for the mental health community. In an interview with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, she explains that people with mental illness shouldn’t feel like they have to give up their dreams just because of a disorder. “Stay afraid, but do it anyway,” she advised. “What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.” Fisher had the confidence to not let bipolar disorder define her when she publicly announced her diagnosis on 2000. “People say ‘mental illness’ like it’s not a part of the body,” she told Forbes in 2011. “It’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

Drew Barrymore

The goofy, lovable actress wasn’t always the picture of happy that she is today. Barrymore struggled with addiction to drugs and alcohol, which ultimately led to severe depression and a suicide attempt. In an interview with Teen Ink, Barrymore offered advice for teens who are struggling with similar demons: “Persevere and find people who are safe and honest and who will give you tough love and will guide you through the times,” she said. “You really can’t do everything on your own. You need love and support around you. Believe that you will get past these times. You will overcome. Things will get better. Life is a series of ups and downs and the good news, when you’re in a low, is that it will go up again. And things will become safe and clear and beautiful.”

Michael Phelps
The most-decorated Olympian of all time also faced ADHD growing up, Everyday Health reported. His inability to focus was concerning for his family — but they noticed that while he lacked discipline in the classroom, he was able to cultivate it elsewhere: the pool. “Michael has a mental toughness. He’s very intense, but he never used to be able to focus,” his mother Debbie Phelps told Everyday Health. “But even at ages 9 and 10, at swim meets he would be focused for four hours — even though he’d only be swimming himself for three to four minutes — because swimming is his passion.”

Sinead O’Connor
The pop star has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and depression, Everyday Health reported. O’Connor has been public about her battle with mental illness, and spoke out about her advocacy to end the stigma against mental disorders with TIME magazine in 2013: “Unfortunately there’s such a stigma about mental illness or perceived mental illness that people are bullied and treated like sh*t and the illnesses are used as something with which to beat people, and in a manner than a physical illness wouldn’t be,” she said.

Ludwig van Beethoven

It’s possible the musical genius also suffered from a bipolar disorder, which may have even influenced his creativity. According to François Martin Mai, author of Diagnosing Genius: The Life and Death of Beethoven, the composer showed signs of depression and episodes of mania, some of which was even reflected in his own works. In a review of Mai’s book, the New England Journal of Medicine points out some of the author’s logic, citing that Beethoven was still able to channel creative energy:

Mai thoughtfully analyzes the ways in which Beethoven’s chronic illnesses and psychopathology may have contributed to his creativity. But it is also important to acknowledge that Beethoven had an inner impulse that demanded expression — even in the face of many obstacles.

Posted by: faithful | July 30, 2014

genetic markers in mental illness

Spark for a Stagnant Search

By CARL ZIMMER and BENEDICT CAREY
JULY 21, 2014

DNA-schizophrenia-gene

“You’re talking to a guy who went from psychotic to normal with some pills,” said Jonathan Stanley, who was found to have bipolar disorder in the 1980s. The donation of a foundation started by his father is one of the largest private gifts ever for scientific research. Credit

One day in 1988, a college dropout named Jonathan Stanley was visiting New York City when he became convinced that government agents were closing in on him.

He bolted, and for three days and nights raced through the city streets and subway tunnels. His flight ended in a deli, where he climbed a plastic crate and stripped off his clothes. The police took him to a hospital, and he finally received effective treatment two years after getting a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

“My son’s life was saved,” his father, Ted Stanley, said recently. When he himself was in college, he added, “those drugs didn’t exist; I would have had a nonfunctioning brain all the rest of my life.”

The older Mr. Stanley, 84, who earned a fortune selling collectibles, created a foundation to support psychiatric research. “I would like to purchase that happy ending for other people,” he said.

Late on Monday, the Broad Institute, a biomedical research center, announced a $650 million donation for psychiatric research from the Stanley Family Foundation — one of the largest private gifts ever for scientific research.

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Psychiatric Research Revival, Second Thoughts About Consciousness, Take-Home Sleep Tests 25:05
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A family pledges one of the largest private gifts ever for scientific research; why we may never have all the pieces necessary for a theory of everything; sleep apnea tests can now be taken from the comfort of your bed. David Corcoran, Michael Mason and Joshua A. Krisch
It comes at a time when basic research into mental illness is sputtering, and many drug makers have all but abandoned the search for new treatments.

Despite decades of costly research, experts have learned virtually nothing about the causes of psychiatric disorders and have developed no truly novel drug treatments in more than a quarter century.

Broad Institute officials hope that Mr. Stanley’s donation will change that, and they timed their announcement to coincide with the publication of the largest analysis to date on the genetics of schizophrenia.

The analysis, reported by the journal Nature on Monday, identified more than 100 regions of DNA associated with the disease. Many of them contain genes involved in just a few biological functions, like pumping calcium into neurons, that could help guide the search for treatments.

“For the first time, there’s a clear path forward,” said Eric Lander, the president of the Broad Institute.

Experts not affiliated with the institute or the new paper agreed that the news on both fronts was good, but characterized the research as a first step in a long process. “The signals they found are real signals, period, and that is encouraging,” said David B. Goldstein, a Duke University geneticist who has been critical of previous large-scale projects. “But at the same time, they give us no mechanistic insight, no targets for drug development. That will take a lot more work.”

Jonathan Stanley, now 48, cannot explain why he suddenly developed bipolar disorder at 19. All he knows is that his brain responded well to lithium. He was eventually able to return to college, complete law school and become a lawyer. “You’re talking to a guy who went from psychotic to normal with some pills,” he said.

When scientists began to discover psychiatric drugs like lithium in the mid-20th century, they did so mostly by accident, not out of an understanding of the biology of the diseases they hoped to cure. For many years, they worked backward, hoping that by figuring out the action of the drugs, they could understand the causes of the diseases. But they came up empty.

Continue reading the main story
Some researchers argued that a better strategy would be to find the genes involved in psychiatric disorders. This approach would give them new molecular targets for drugs they could test.

Yet the staggering complexity of the brain has yielded few secrets. More than 80 percent of the roughly 20,000 genes in human DNA are active in the brain.

In the 1990s, many scientists argued that the best approach to find “mood genes” was top-down. They would identify promising genes based on their biological properties and then survey their variants in people with and without a diagnosis.

But this approach was something like trying to find a thief in a crowd, based on a hunch of what he or she might look like. The research was “pretty much completely useless,” Dr. Lander said. “It turns out we are terrible guessers.”

By the early 2000s, the ability to decode human DNA had vastly improved, and scientists could look across our complete complement of genetic material, known as the genome, comparing samples from ever-larger groups of people. Ted Stanley’s first donation to the Broad Institute — $100 million in 2007, to found the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research — went to support precisely such research.

Yet these studies were disappointing, too, and many researchers thought they were a dead end. “We were saying, ‘Maybe it isn’t the right way to go,’ ” Dr. Lander said.

Soon, the Broad Institute joined forces with scores of other research groups to form a consortium that could pool tens of thousands of subjects for analysis. In 2011, the consortium reported five genetic markers associated with schizophrenia. The group added more people to its studies and found even more genetic links.

The new paper in Nature is a culmination of the effort to date. The consortium analyzed 37,000 people who had schizophrenia and 114,000 who did not. It found 83 regions of the genome linked to the disorder that had not been previously flagged, and confirmed 25 previously identified ones, bringing the total to 108.

Dr. Lander cautioned that each variant accounts for only a tiny portion of the risk of developing schizophrenia. “It shouldn’t be used for a risk predictor,” he said.

Still, Dr. Samuel Barondes, a professor of neurobiology and psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, who was not involved in the study, called the findings encouraging. Even though schizophrenia is a “diverse disorder, with a horribly complicated genetic basis,” he said, “it is possible to pick up a reliable genetic signal if you have enough people.”

Other research teams are making progress on other conditions, such as bipolar disorder and autism, and finding that some mutations are rare while others are common variants.

On Sunday, an international team of scientists reported a study in Nature Genetics in which they compared 466 autistic people to 2,580 others. They found that most of the genetic risk of autism involved common mutations.

But these studies of brain disorders are also revealing a deep complexity that could pose an obstacle to rapid progress to effective drugs.

For example, recent research has found that mutations in the very same gene can cause a wide range of brain disorders, including autism, schizophrenia and epilepsy. “We are implicating the exact same genes across really different neuropsychiatric disorders,” Dr. Goldstein said. “We have no idea at all about why that is, and the only way to find out is to do some hard biology — to find out not only which genes matter, but what about them matters.”

That will take time and will probably produce plenty of reversals and spurious predictions. “Expect no grand-slam home runs,” said Dr. Allen Frances, professor emeritus of psychiatry at Duke and author of “Saving Normal,” a critique of psychiatric diagnosis. “There will be lots of strikeouts and only occasional singles.” The new study in Nature found that many risk variants clustered around specific body functions, like the immune system and calcium transmission in brain cells.

To understand their underlying biology, Broad researchers plan to grow neurons with mutations in the genes they have discovered, to see how they differ from normal cells. They will engineer mice with some of the mutations to see how their brains are affected. The scientists hope these experiments will lead them to hypotheses about the biology underlying psychiatric disorders — which they will test by giving mice drugs that target specific molecules in the brain.

These studies will be expensive, which is where the Stanley foundation comes in. Last year, after the death of his wife, Vada, Mr. Stanley, the founder of MBI, began considering what he would do with his fortune. He decided that his first gift to Broad Institute was not enough.

“After I’m gone,” he said, “I just want the money to flow to them as it would if I was still alive.”

Posted by: faithful | July 22, 2014

mood and food and bipolar disorder

Internationally recognized health expert, physician, scientist, and New York Times best-selling author. Known as ‘the doc who walks the talk’.

mindbrain

 

Mood, Food and Bipolar Disorder: A New Prescription

07/21/2014

If you’re one of the estimated 5.7 million U.S. adults dealing with bipolar disorder, you know the potent control it can have on your moods, energy and emotions. What you may not know is how much power you have to control it.

Thanks to an emerging science called epigenetics, researchers have learned that DNA is no longer destiny and that each of us has the ability to influence how our genes express themselves to the rest of the body. With healthy lifestyle choices and environmental changes, we can actually alter our own destiny.

For those with bipolar disorder, it’s an empowering message: No longer are you a prisoner of your genetics, thought to play a key role in the disorder. And through healthier lifestyle choices, you may be able to decrease your reliance on medication to manage your illness, although this remains a critical part of the overall treatment equation. By taking a holistic and integrative lifestyle approach that includes the practice of mindfulness and stress reduction, using nutrition based on whole foods, and adding a more active lifestyle — what I like to call my Mind, Mouth and Muscle blueprint — you can reduce the effects of the bipolar condition and improve the quality of your life.

This isn’t just theory. I work directly with those with mood disorders and have seen firsthand the benefits that can result from choosing the apple over the doughnut, meditating rather than obsessing and ruminating over a life stress, and going for a walk instead of sitting for hours watching mindless TV. With each healthy choice that’s made, you’re influencing the proteins that switch genes on and off and affecting the messages that are delivered throughout the body. Consistently good choices translate into a better reading of your genetic script. You’re also carving neural highways that lay down a foundation for new lifestyle habits.

This attention to Mind, Mouth and Muscle can also help with a condition highly associated with the diagnosis of bipolar disorder: weight gain. A 2011 review found that 68 percent of those who seek help for bipolar disorder are overweight or obese. The medications are partly to blame for the extra pounds, but the psychobiology of the disorder itself also plays a significant role as well. Those with bipolar disorder are believed to have lower levels of the chemical messenger serotonin, which can spark a craving for carbs and sweets.

Bipolar disorder also goes hand in hand with stress, which can cause a buildup of the hormone cortisol. When cortisol levels rise, our appetite for sweetness intensifies. And top that with new research that indicates that brain circuits involved with reward are more strongly activated in people with bipolar disorder. If reward is perceived, a tsunami of the pleasure neurotransmitter, dopamine, is secreted by the brain’s reward center. The good news is that this dopamine-driven push for reward helps people with bipolar disorder become high achievers. The bad news is that they can also become side-tracked by short-term, pleasurable rewards like overeating. Not surprisingly, the foods that are over-consumed are the “hyperpalatables” — sugary, fatty, salty food combinations. One result of these psychobiological interplays is that the self-soothing and rewarding behaviors can contribute to strong, addictive-like eating behaviors that may become destructive to mental and physical health and well-being.

berries

Planning Your Menu

Here’s what science says about what should be in and out of your daily nutrition in order to help control your weight and moods, as well as manage those cravings while reining in addictive-like eating behaviors. As you plan to integrate these tips, remember to practice mindfulness, being present and aware of your daily nutrition, and taking the time to savor each bite:

Omega-3 essential fatty acids — A mountain of studies confirms it: Omega-3 fats, such as those found in fatty fish like wild Alaskan salmon, are not only great for general health, they can also help lower the incidence of depression. In fact, the more fish the population of any country eats, the less depression. If you need more proof of their power, consider this: At least one study has found that bipolar disorder is the No. 1 illness associated with lack of omega-3s. These are other fatty fish with high levels of omega-3 fats: arctic char, Atlantic mackerel, sardines, black cod, anchovies, oysters, rainbow trout, albacore tuna, mussels and Pacific halibut.

Refined sugar — You are already on a mood roller coaster with bipolar disorder. Refined sugar throws your ride into further chaos. Processed refined sugar sends insulin levels soaring, which in turn sparks a roaring craving for more sweet stuff. Sweet begets sweet. When you don’t get your sugar fix, a crash follows. Instead, satisfy yourself with moderate servings of the natural sugars in fruits and vegetables. A warning about artificial sweeteners: Ditch the Splenda and agave; they affect insulin levels in exactly the same way as processed sugar. Instead, use stevia, an herb that provides sweetness with no effect on insulin levels.

Magnesium — Magnesium has been found to function similarly to lithium, which is often prescribed for bipolar disorder as a mood stabilizer. Adding magnesium to your diet may help to decrease the symptoms of mania or rapid cycling. Magnesium also supports good sleep, another problem spot for those with bipolar disorder. Top sources for magnesium include pumpkin seeds, spinach, swiss chard, soybeans, cashews, black beans and sunflower seeds.

Vitamins — Vitamin deficiencies, especially of vitamins C, D and the B vitamins, are common in those with bipolar disorder. Vitamin B9, also known as folic acid, is especially crucial. A deficiency of vitamin B9 can increase levels of homocysteine, and higher levels of homocysteine are linked to depression. Low levels of vitamin D are also associated with mood disorders and depression. Here’s another reason to make sure you get your full requirement of vitamin D: Research shows it may help prevent some cancers such as ovarian, colon and breast. Look for vitamin C in citrus and other fruits; vitamin D in fatty fish, beef liver, cheese, egg yolks and from sunshine; and vitamin B9 in foods such as beans, spinach, asparagus, mango and whole wheat bread.

Carbs — Carbohydrate cravings come with the territory in bipolar disorder. The goal is to ditch the processed, refined carbs, usually found in manufactured foods, and stick with whole foods like vegetables, fruits and whole grains such as quinoa, barley and oats. Go for long-acting complex carbohydrates such as those found in sweet potatoes and whole grains. Try this tip for cutting carb cravings: Mix a serving of lean protein with fiber. Some examples are slices of apple and peanut butter, hummus and carrots, low-fat cottage cheese with berries, a peach and low-fat string cheese, and vegetables and salmon or chicken.

Alcohol — Drinking alcohol is a bad idea on multiple levels for those with bipolar disorder. For one, the alcohol-drug interaction can make you very sick. For another, alcohol can disrupt sleep, and so many people with bipolar disorder already have sleep problems. Finally, alcohol can affect mood swings, sending them spiraling even further out of control. If you’re socializing, opt for a glass of sparkling water with a twist of lemon or lime.

Caffeine — Any kind of stimulant can precipitate mania, so it’s best to pass on the coffee, Red Bull or any heavily caffeinated beverage. Tea, which has about one-fourth the caffeine as coffee, is a better choice than that $20 venti-size triple shot mocha. Top of the better option charts, though, are non-caffeinated herbal teas and refreshing water. If you want to jazz up your H20, buy an inexpensive infuser and add fruits, vegetables or herbs to your water. Infused water is not only delicious, it provides plant nutrients to help you kick sugar and caffeine cravings.

Fat — Healthy fats, such as those found in avocados, fish, low-fat dairy and nuts, provide vitamins and minerals and are so satisfying you won’t want to overeat.

Putting It All Together

Experts agree that bipolar disorder has no cure. However, we now know that simple lifestyle choices like opting for whole food nutrition can make a significant impact on the daily management of mood, energy and sleep. Combine that with improved stress coping abilities, along with regular physical activity and the result is a more optimized, effective and long-term treatment plan. There’s no need to feel helpless, hopeless and defeated as so many with bipolar disorder do. You can make a significant difference in improving the quality of your life. And it all starts with being mindful of every mouthful.

Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH, FACP, is a Pew Scholar in nutrition and metabolism, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland, and a fellow of the American College of Physicians. She is a New York Times bestselling author, including her latest book, The Hunger Fix: The Three Stage Detox and Recovery Plan for Overeating and Food Addiction. As Senior Science Adviser for Elements Behavioral Health, Dr. Peeke has created integrative nutrition and holistic lifestyle programs at Malibu Vista women’s mental health center in Malibu, California, and Lucida Treatment Center in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Follow Dr. Pamela Peeke on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/PamPeekeMD
MORE: Moods Bipolar Disorder Vitamins Epigenetics Mental Health Health Nutrition Diet

Posted by: faithful | July 22, 2014

altering cortisol levels

Six Tips To Lowering Your Cortisol Production:

Cherniske and Talbott both emphasize the importance of increasing our “anabolic” metabolism, the rebuild, repair and rejuvenate cycle of cell life, to reverse the consequences of elevated stress hormones and aging. Cherniske likens the anabolic/catabolic metabolic model to a seesaw. You want to have the anabolic side of the seesaw up in the air and the catabolic, or breakdown and degeneration, side down as low as it can go.

Here are 6 tips that give you their top recommendations to decrease cortisol levels and thus catabolic metabolism while you increase anabolic metabolism and experience optimal health.

     1. Eliminate caffeine from your diet. It’s the quickest way to reduce cortisol production and elevate the production of DHEA, the leading anabolic youth hormone. 200 mg of caffeine (one 12 oz mug of coffee) increases blood cortisol levels by 30% in one hour! Cortisol can remain elevated for up to 18 hours in the blood. This is the easiest step to decrease your catabolic metabolism and increase your anabolic metabolism.

     2. Sleep deeper and longer. The average 50 year old has nighttime cortisol levels more than 30 times higher than the average 30 year old. Try taking melatonin, a natural hormone produced at night that helps regulate sleep/wake cycles, before going to sleep to boost your own melatonin production that also decreases with age. You may not need it every night, but if you are waking up in the middle of the night or too early in the morning, melatonin can help you sleep deeper and lengthen your sleep cycle. If you get sleepy during the day even though you had plenty of rest, back off the melatonin for a while. It’s a sign you are getting too much.

     3. Exercise regularly to build muscle mass and increase brain output of serotonin and dopamine, brain chemicals that reduce anxiety and depression. Cherniske recommends taking DHEA supplements to shorten the adaptation period when out-of-shape muscles and cardiovascular system discourage people from continuing to exercise before they get in shape. DHEA also accelerates the building of muscle mass and increases the feeling of being strong and energetic.

     4. Keep your blood sugar stable. Avoid sugar in the diet and refined carbohydrates to keep from spiking your insulin production. Eat frequent small meals balanced in protein, complex carbohydrates and good fats like olive oil and flax seed oil. Diets rich in complex carbohydrates keep cortisol levels lower than low carbohydrate diets. Keep well hydrated – dehydration puts the body in stress and raises cortisol levels. Keep pure water by your bed and drink it when you first wake up and before you go to sleep.

     5. Take anti-stress supplements like B vitamins, minerals like calcium, magnesium, chromium and zinc, and antioxidants like vitamin C, alpha lipoic acid, grapeseed extract, and Co Q 10. Adaptogen herbs like ginseng, astragalus, eleuthero, schizandra, Tulsi (holy basil) rhodiola and ashwagandha help the body cope with the side effects of stress and rebalance the metabolism. These supplement and herbs will not only lower cortisol levels but they will also help you decrease the effects of stress on the body by boosting the immune system.

     6. Meditate or listen to relaxation tapes that promote the production of alpha (focused alertness) and theta (relaxed) brain waves. Avoid jolting alarm clocks that take you from delta waves (deep sleep) to beta waves (agitated and anxious) and stimulants like caffeine that promote beta waves while suppressing alpha and theta waves.

For a deeper exploration of the role of cortisol and the consequences of long-term elevation of stress hormones in the body, read The Cortisol Connection by Shawn Talbott, Ph.D. and The Metabolic Plan by Stephen Cherniske, M.S.

 

FOODS THAT HELP REGULATE CORTISOL

 

Dark chocolate, Omega 3 fats found in salmon, walnuts etc., microgreens, citrus fruits,

zinc, basil, spinach, beans/barley.

MAKING YOUR HORMONES WORK FOR YOU IN ACHIEVING YOUR FITNESS GOALS

By Dr. Joseph A. Debé

Exercising regularly and making healthful dietary choices takes discipline and dedication. Some people do it for their appearance – they want to build muscle and/or lose bodyfat. Others are motivated to improve their health and vitality. And then there are the competitive athletes. No matter what your fitness goals are, one of the main determinants of whether you will reach them is your hormonal status.

Although many hormones have an influence, two of the most important are cortisol and DHEA. These are the long-lasting stress hormones secreted by the adrenal glands. Cortisol has a general catabolic effect on the body. Catabolism refers to the breakdown of complex living tissue into simpler components, some of which are used as metabolic fuel. DHEA has largely opposite effects of cortisol, being an anabolic hormone. Anabolism is the process whereby food is converted into living tissue. Anabolism and catabolism are both essential processes. In order to achieve your fitness goals, cortisol and DHEA must be produced in the proper balance. Chronic stress results in imbalance, with increased cortisol and decreased DHEA production. This causes the body to shift into a catabolic state.

It is critically important to understand that mental-emotional strain is only one of many different things the body perceives as stress. Two of cortisol’s main functions are to raise blood sugar levels and to reduce inflammation. Thus, cortisol levels increase in response to drops in blood sugar and the presence of inflammation. Other types of stress include: chronic pain, chronic illness, chronic/severe allergies, trauma/injury, temperature extremes, surgery, toxic exposure, chronic or severe infections, late hours/insufficient sleep, light cycle disruption (as in working night shifts), and excessive exercise. That’s right. Excessive exercise results in elevated cortisol to DHEA ratios. Over enthusiasm about exercise can easily produce cortisol-DHEA imbalance. In addition to overtraining, the three most common stressors to be concerned about are mental-emotional stress, dysglycemia (blood sugar fluctuation), and inflammation.

How exactly does an elevated cortisol to DHEA ratio interfere with fitness goals? One way is by producing cellular amino acid deprivation. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, which are responsible for most of the cellular structure, and for enzymes which catalyze biochemical reactions. Under the influence of stress, (a high cortisol to DHEA ratio), protein synthesis slows and protein breakdown accelerates. The end result is reduced muscle mass. Proteins from the heart, bones and gastrointestinal mucosa (lining) are also targeted for breakdown. The amino acids released by the catabolism of these proteins are oxidized to produce carbon skeletons to be used for making glucose. Importantly, aging proceeds by this very process of cell protein degradation. Stress also results in the replacement of insulin-sensitive, slow oxidative type I muscle fibers by fast glycolytic type II-B muscle fibers, which impairs muscular endurance.

Elevated cortisol levels also interfere with energy production by decreasing glucose utilization. High cortisol to DHEA ratios result in fat deposition, especially around the midsection. It is possible to sometimes build muscle under stress (high cortisol : DHEA), but at the expense of the internal organs. What happens is that resistance exercise (weight training) makes the skeletal muscles the organ of demand so that protein is “stolen” from the internal organs to be used by the muscles. Bodybuilders in this condition have been found to have up to thirty percent shrinkage of the liver and catabolism of other organs, as their muscles grew. Obviously, this is detrimental to health. For those concerned about their appearance, stress strikes another blow. Elevated cortisol levels reduce skin regeneration and lead to accelerated wrinkling. The protein breakdown that occurs under stress can also accelerate osteoarthritis and bone loss, and prolong healing of injuries. Other conditions which people hope to prevent or improve by a healthy lifestyle are actually promoted by elevated cortisol to DHEA ratios. These include hypertension, ischemic heart disease depression and various cancers

Elevated cortisol: DHEA further impedes fitness goals by altering the levels and activities of other hormones. Thyroid stimulating hormone and triiodothyronine levels are reduced and reverse triiodothyronine levels increase. In other words, thyroid activity is diminished. This results in a slowing of the metabolic rate. Bodyfat becomes easier to store, more difficult to lose. Stress lowers levels of growth hormone, testosterone, and insulin-like growth factor I, all of which are muscle-building, fat-burning hormones. Stress increases levels of estrogen released from the ovaries and also increases conversion by fat cells of DHEA, androstenedione and testosterone to estrogen. The more bodyfat a person has, the more these hormones get converted to estrogen. Estrogen stimulates fat deposition, particularly around the thighs and hips. Stress is feminizing in men and women. Stress produces insulin insensitivity with subsequent elevation in insulin levels. This produces increased hunger with craving for carbohydrates. Elevated insulin levels increase fat cell proliferation and fat deposition. To sum it up, under stress, muscle is replaced by fat.

So, how does one know if they have elevated cortisol: DHEA? The best way to measure these hormones is with the Adrenal Stress Index test. This is a simple test the person performs at home. Four saliva samples are collected over the course of one day by rolling cotton swabs under the tongue and then placing them into test tubes. The kit is then mailed to the laboratory and the hormones are measured from the saliva. The testing laboratory furnishes the test kit, with all supplies needed.

Test results are sent to the ordering doctor within about two week’s time. Analysis of the test results, in combination with evaluation of the individual’s lifestyle, leads to therapies to help restore any hormonal imbalance. Scientifically proven techniques for mental-emotional stress reduction can be used. Dietary and nutritional supplement recommendations to balance blood sugar levels are often needed. Women trying to lose weight often eat too much carbohydrate. Bodybuilders often eat too much protein. Both of these situations can result in elevated cortisol to DHEA ratios, as can simply not eating enough. Sources of inflammation must be sought out and dealt with appropriately to lower cortisol output. Thorough understanding of the individual’s lifestyle can identify other sources of stress.

A nutritional supplement called phosphorylated serine is often useful in lowering elevated cortisol levels. It appears to work at the level of the brain and pituitary gland. DHEA supplementation is usually called for when levels are found to be low. In some cases, sublingual administration is preferred; in other cases, micronized capsule form is best. In cases of sex hormone related problems such as prostate or breast cancer, DHEA should not be supplemented before performing an additional test called a DHEA challenge test. This test measures the increase in testosterone and estrogen levels after supplementing DHEA for just a week. For those individuals who convert a lot of DHEA to testosterone or estrogen and have certain health conditions, DHEA can be dangerous. 7-keto DHEA is a supplement that apparently is not converted to sex hormones within the body and so can be used safely, although it will not provide all the benefits of DHEA.

An additional therapy to help lower cortisol levels is aerobic exercise. However, as was previously mentioned, excessive exercise can stress the body. There is a way to help determine if a given duration and intensity of exercise is stressing or de-stressing the body. Another test of cortisol levels is performed in relation to exercise. A saliva sample is taken five minutes before beginning exercise, five minutes after, one and three hours after finishing the exercise session. It is acceptable for cortisol levels to rise immediately after exercise. However, they should decrease by one hour after exercise. Three hours after exercise, cortisol levels should be equal to or lower than starting values. If they are, then the level of exercise is beneficial. If they are not, then this level of exercise is a stress to the body and is sabotaging fitness goals and undermining health. In this case, the type, intensity, and/or duration of exercise need to be adjusted. This test is particularly well suited for women who cannot lose weight even though they exercise aerobically and – inappropriately – eat a high carbohydrate diet and avoid weight training.

Posted by: faithful | June 23, 2014

a revolutionary approach to treating ptsd

A Revolutionary Approach to Treating PTSD
By JENEEN INTERLANDI

van der kolk
Bessel van der Kolk wants to change the way we heal a traumatized mind — by starting with the body. Credit Illustration by Matthew Woodson

MAY 22, 2014

Bessel van der Kolk sat cross-legged on an oversize pillow in the center of a smallish room overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Big Sur. He wore khaki pants, a blue fleece zip-up and square wire-rimmed glasses. His feet were bare. It was the third day of his workshop, “Trauma Memory and Recovery of the Self,” and 30 or so workshop participants — all of them trauma victims or trauma therapists — lined the room’s perimeter. They, too, sat barefoot on cushy pillows, eyeing van der Kolk, notebooks in hand. For two days, they had listened to his lectures on the social history, neurobiology and clinical realities of post-traumatic stress disorder and its lesser-known sibling, complex trauma. Now, finally, he was about to demonstrate an actual therapeutic technique, and his gaze was fixed on the subject of his experiment: a 36-year-old Iraq war veteran named Eugene, who sat directly across from van der Kolk, looking mournful and expectant.

Van der Kolk began as he often does, with a personal anecdote. “My mother was very unnurturing and unloving,” he said. “But I have a full memory and a complete sense of what it is like to be loved and nurtured by her.” That’s because, he explained, he had done the very exercise that we were about to try on Eugene. Here’s how it would work: Eugene would recreate the trauma that haunted him most by calling on people in the room to play certain roles. He would confront those people — with his anger, sorrow, remorse and confusion — and they would respond in character, apologizing, forgiving or validating his feelings as needed. By projecting his “inner world” into three-dimensional space, Eugene would be able to rewrite his troubled history more thoroughly than other forms of role-play therapy might allow. If the experiment succeeded, the bad memories would be supplemented with an alternative narrative — one that provided feelings of acceptance or forgiveness or love.

The exercise, which van der Kolk calls a “structure” but which is also known as psychomotor therapy, was developed by Albert Pesso, a dancer who studied with Martha Graham. He taught it to van der Kolk about two decades ago. Though it has never been tested in a controlled study, van der Kolk says he has had some success with it in workshops like this one. He likes to try it whenever he has a small group and a willing volunteer.

With some gentle prodding from van der Kolk, Eugene told us how he came to be a specialist in the United States Army, how he spent a full year stationed in Mosul, the largest city in northern Iraq, and how his job involved disposing of exploded bombs. It was a year of dead bodies, he said. He saw, touched, smelled and stepped in more bodies than he could possibly count. Some of them were children. He was only 26.

People turn to grease when they explode, he told us, because their fat cells burst open. He witnessed multiple suicide bombings. Once, he accidentally stepped in an exploded corpse; only the legs were still recognizable as human. Another time, he saw a kitchen full of women sliced to bits. They’d been making couscous when a bomb went off and the windows shattered. He was shot in the back of the head once. He was also injured by an improvised explosive device.

But none of those experiences haunted him quite as much as this one: Several months into his tour, while on a security detail, Eugene killed an innocent man and then watched as the man’s mother discovered the body a short while later.

“Tell us more about that,” van der Kolk said. “What happened?” Eugene’s fragile composure broke at the question. He closed his eyes, covered his face and sobbed.

“The witness can see how distressed you are and how badly you feel,” van der Kolk said. Acknowledging and reflecting the protagonist’s emotions like this — what van der Kolk calls “witnessing” them — is a central part of the exercise, meant to instill a sense of validation and security in the patient.

Eugene had already called on some group members to play certain roles in his story. Kresta, a yoga instructor based in San Francisco, was serving as his “contact person,” a guide who helps the protagonist bear the pain the trauma evokes, usually by sitting nearby and offering a hand to hold or a shoulder to lean on. Dave, a child-abuse survivor and small-business owner in Southern California, was playing Eugene’s “ideal father,” a character whose role is to say all the things that Eugene wished his real father had said but never did. They sat on either side of Eugene, touching his shoulders. Next, van der Kolk asked who should play the man he killed. Eugene picked Sagar, a stand-up comedian and part-time financial consultant from Brooklyn. Finally, van der Kolk asked, Who should play the man’s mother?

Eugene pointed to me. “Can you do it?” he asked.

I swore myself in as the others had, by saying, “I enroll as the mother of the man you killed.” Then I moved my pillow to the center of the room, across from Eugene, next to van der Kolk.

“O.K.,” van der Kolk said. “Tell us more about that day. Tell us what happened.”

Psychomotor therapy is neither widely practiced nor supported by clinical studies. In fact, most licensed psychiatrists probably wouldn’t give it a second glance. It’s hokey-sounding. It was developed by a dancer. But van der Kolk believes strongly that dancers — and musicians and actors — may have something to teach psychiatrists about healing from trauma and that even the hokey-sounding is worthy of our attention. He has spent four decades studying and trying to treat the effects of the worst atrocities we inflict on one another: war, rape, incest, torture and physical and mental abuse. He has written more than 100 peer-reviewed papers on psychological trauma. Trained as a psychiatrist, he treats more than a dozen patients a week in private practice — some have been going to him for many years now — and he oversees a nonprofit clinic in Boston, the Trauma Center, that treats hundreds more. If there’s one thing he’s certain about, it’s that standard treatments are not working. Patients are still suffering, and so are their families. We need to do better.

Van der Kolk takes particular issue with two of the most widely employed techniques in treating trauma: cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy. Exposure therapy involves confronting patients over and over with what most haunts them, until they become desensitized to it. Van der Kolk places the technique “among the worst possible treatments” for trauma. It works less than half the time, he says, and even then does not provide true relief; desensitization is not the same as healing. He holds a similar view of cognitive behavioral therapy, or C.B.T., which seeks to alter behavior through a kind of Socratic dialogue that helps patients recognize the maladaptive connections between their thoughts and their emotions. “Trauma has nothing whatsoever to do with cognition,” he says. “It has to do with your body being reset to interpret the world as a dangerous place.” That reset begins in the deep recesses of the brain with its most primitive structures, regions that, he says, no cognitive therapy can access. “It’s not something you can talk yourself out of.” That view places him on the fringes of the psychiatric mainstream.

It’s not the first time van der Kolk has been there. In the early 1990s, he was a lead defender of repressed-memory therapy, which the Harvard psychologist Richard McNally later called “the worst catastrophe to befall the mental-health field since the lobotomy era.” Van der Kolk served as an expert witness in a string of high-profile sexual-abuse cases that centered on the recovery of repressed memories, testifying that it was possible — common, even — for victims of extreme or repeated sexual trauma to suppress all memory of that trauma and then recall it years later in therapy. He’d seen plenty of such examples in his own patients, he said, and could cite additional cases from the medical literature going back at least 100 years.

In the 1980s and ‘90s, people from all over the country filed scores of legal cases accusing parents, priests and day care workers of horrific sex crimes, which they claimed to have only just remembered with the help of a therapist. For a time, judges and juries were persuaded by the testimony of van der Kolk and others. It made intuitive sense to them that the mind would find a way to shield itself from such deeply traumatic experiences. But as the claims grew more outlandish — alien abductions and secret satanic cults — support for the concept waned. Most research psychologists argued that it was much more likely for so-called repressed memories to have been implanted by suggestive questioning from overzealous doctors and therapists than to have been spontaneously recalled. In time, it became clear that innocent people had been wrongfully persecuted. Families, careers and, in some cases, entire lives were destroyed.

After the dust settled in what was dubbed “the memory wars,” van der Kolk found himself among the casualties. By the end of the decade, his lab at Massachusetts General Hospital was shuttered, and he lost his affiliation with Harvard Medical School. The official reason was a lack of funding, but van der Kolk and his allies believed that the true motives were political.

Van der Kolk folded his clinic into a larger nonprofit organization. He began soliciting philanthropic donations and honed his views on traumatic memory and trauma therapy. He still believed that repressed memories were a common feature of traumatic stress. Traumatic experiences were not being processed into memories, he reasoned, but were somehow getting “stuck in the machine” and then expressed through the body. Many of his colleagues in the psychiatric mainstream spurned these ideas, but he found another, more receptive audience: body-oriented therapists who not only embraced his message but also introduced him to an array of alternative practices. He began using some of those practices with his own patients and then testing them in small-scale studies. Before long, he had built a new network of like-minded researchers, body therapists and loyal friends from his Harvard days.

The group converged around an idea that was powerful in its simplicity. The way to treat psychological trauma was not through the mind but through the body. In so many cases, it was patients’ bodies that had been grossly violated, and it was their bodies that had failed them — legs had not run quickly enough, arms had not pushed powerfully enough, voices had not screamed loudly enough to evade disaster. And it was their bodies that now crumpled under the slightest of stresses — that dove for cover with every car alarm or saw every stranger as an assailant in waiting. How could their minds possibly be healed if they found the bodies that encased those minds so intolerable? “The single most important issue for traumatized people is to find a sense of safety in their own bodies,” van der Kolk says. “Unfortunately, most psychiatrists pay no attention whatsoever to sensate experiences. They simply do not agree that it matters.”

That van der Kolk does think it matters has won him an impressive and diverse fan base. “He’s really a hero,” says Stephen Porges, a professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. “He’s been extraordinarily courageous in confronting his own profession and in insisting that we not discount the bodily symptoms of traumatized people as something that’s ‘just in their heads.’ ”

‘If we can help our patients tolerate their own bodily sensations, they’ll be able to process the trauma themselves.’

These days, van der Kolk’s calendar is filled with speaking engagements, from Boston to Amsterdam to Abu Dhabi. This spring, I trailed him down the East Coast and across the country. At each stop, his audience comprised the full spectrum of the therapeutic community: psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, art therapists, yoga therapists, even life coaches. They formed long lines up to the podium to introduce themselves during coffee breaks and hovered around his table at lunchtime, hoping to speak with him. Some pulled out their cellphones and asked to take selfies with him. Most expressed similar sentiments:

Thank you so much for what you said about this treatment, that therapy, those studies.

Your research on cutting, child sexual abuse, family violence confirms what I have seen in my own patients, or experienced myself, for decades now.

Can you help me?

Van der Kolk’s entire life has been a study in human trauma. He was born in The Hague in the summer of 1943, three years into the German occupation of the Netherlands and one year before the great Dutch famine, when a military blockade cut off food and fuel shipments to the country’s western provinces and more than 20,000 people starved to death. His father was imprisoned in a Nazi work camp. According to van der Kolk family lore, his mother had to ride her bike to the hospital when she went into labor with him, and his first birthday cake was made of tulip bulbs because there was hardly any flour.

He was a weak and scrawny boy, but daring nonetheless. Ask him about his childhood, and he will tell you about playing amid the bombed-out ruins of his native city. Nearly everyone around him was deeply traumatized. His neighbors on either side were Holocaust survivors. His mother did not enjoy motherhood; she was pulled out of school at 14 to care for her father and then pulled away from a satisfying career to assume her wifely duties. By the time Bessel, her middle child, was old enough to know her, she had grown bitter and cold. His father was an executive at Royal Dutch Shell, and despite being a devout Protestant and dedicated pacifist, he suffered violent rages and inflicted them on his children. In his new book, “The Body Keeps the Score,” which comes out this fall, van der Kolk mentions being locked in the basement as a little boy for what he describes as “normal 3-year-old offenses” and hating himself for being too puny to fight back.

As a teenager, he began traveling on his own. He liked to hitchhike into France. On one such trip, as he passed a monastery, he heard the chanting of monks and was so taken with the sound that he asked the driver to let him off there. He spent the rest of that summer, and the following Easter break, and the summer after that, at the monastery contemplating monkhood. The abbot took a liking to him and promised that if he joined the order, they would send him to Geneva for medical school. “I seriously considered it,” he told me. But in the end, a youthful thirst for adventure beat out any yearning he might have felt for quiet meditation, and he chose the University of Hawaii instead. “I still have some spiritual feelings,” he says. “I believe that all things are connected. But organized religion gives me the creeps.”

And so in 1962, he came to the United States and made his way from the University of Hawaii to the University of Chicago to Harvard Medical School, where he posed to science and medicine all of his many questions about the horrors of human nature and the miracles of human resilience. “The human species is messed up,” he says. “We make the same mistakes over and over, and I’m deeply curious about why that is. Why do we keep doing things that we know are horrible and will have terrible consequences?”

One of van der Kolk’s first jobs out of school was as a staff psychiatrist at the Veterans Affairs clinic in Boston; he arrived there in 1978, in time for the influx of Vietnam veterans. “The waiting list to see a doctor was a mile long,” he says. “And the clinic’s walls were pocked full of fist imprints.”

The first thing van der Kolk noticed about his new patients was how utterly stuck in the past they were. Even the older veterans from World War II seemed to vacillate between one of two states: immersion in their wartime experiences or lifeless disengagement. In Rorschach tests, every inkblot was a dead baby, a fallen comrade or nothing at all. It was as if war had broken the projector of their imaginations, he says, and their only options were to play one reel over and over or turn the machine off altogether.

The second thing that struck van der Kolk was how the men managed their own conditions. Almost all of them claimed that highly risky behaviors were capable of yanking them into the present in a way that no form of therapy could (one patient, for example, rode his Harley at breakneck speeds whenever he felt himself swirling into a rage or disconnecting from his surroundings). Van der Kolk’s treatment — the only thing he had been taught in medical school — involved getting the men to talk. In both group and one-on-one sessions, he would ask them about their horrible memories, nightmares and troubles at home. But talking didn’t seem to help; in some cases, he thought, it made things worse.

Van der Kolk scoured the clinic’s medical library for books on shell shock and combat fatigue — anything that might help him better understand what he was seeing or give him some clue about how to treat it. Post-traumatic stress disorder was not yet a recognized condition. Then he came across a book at Harvard’s Francis A. Countway medical library, “The Traumatic Neurosis of War.” It was published in 1941, just before shellshocked American veterans would return from World War II. In its pages, van der Kolk found the first seeds of an idea that would ultimately shape his career: The nucleus of neurosis is physioneurosis. In other words, he thought, the root of what would eventually be called PTSD lay in our bodies.

This meshed perfectly with what van der Kolk was seeing in his patients. In addition to their nightmares and hallucinations, many of them had a host of physical ailments, including headaches, fatigue, digestive troubles and insomnia. When he tried accessing their traumas in therapy, they often became jittery, broke into cold sweats or shut down. The book, van der Kolk said, did not offer any suggestions for treatment, but it did give him a starting point. In the two decades that followed, he made a careful study of all his patients’ physiological symptoms. And in 1994, not long before his Harvard lab was shuttered, he wrote a paper in The Harvard Review of Psychiatry summarizing all he had learned. Traumatic stress, it seemed, triggered a cascade of physiological catastrophes that affected almost every major system in the body.

Eugene was on military leave in San Francisco, about halfway through his tour of duty, when he first realized something was wrong. The bay was cool and breezy; people were walking around in parkas and hoodies. But he was sweating profusely. He thought his months in the desert had maybe activated some weird sweat gene that needed time to turn itself off. He figured it would pass eventually. It didn’t. By the time he came home for good, sweat was the least of his problems. He was seeing dead bodies on the side of the road. And he could not stop going to the bathroom. At his first post-military job in the corporate offices of a large bank, he went to the bathroom so often that he was sure his co-workers wondered what was wrong with him.

The military had little to offer. “They are not even trying to help,” he would tell friends and relatives. “You say, ‘I have horrible diarrhea, and I can’t stop going to the bathroom.’ And they say, ‘Stop going to the bathroom.’ Or you say, ‘I have a horrible time with the subway; the noise just terrifies me.’ And they say, ‘Well, New York is pretty noisy.’ ” One doctor prescribed an anti-anxiety medication, but it was so strong that Eugene started walking into walls. He tried talk therapy and group therapy. Neither did anything to relieve the uncomfortable tingling up his spine or the constant feeling that he was about to be attacked from behind.

He was nearly a full decade into this private war by the time he came to sit across from van der Kolk in the room overlooking the Pacific and to tell a group of strangers how he killed an innocent man.

Mosul reminded Eugene of a movie, he said: an old western in which the bad guys take over some small town, and all the townsfolk hide indoors and tumbleweed blows across the screen. In this movie, though, the bad guys were crazy terrorists who not only fired on Eugene and his team constantly but also strapped explosives to themselves, wandered into residential areas and detonated.

Eugene was on the security detail for a bomb patrol when a man drove up without yielding for inspection. Eugene signaled to him to stop, but the man kept his foot on the gas. Eugene signaled a second time, and a third.

Stop. Stop. Stop.

The man kept driving. So Eugene opened fire. His team searched the car afterward but found no bombs. As Eugene left the scene, he saw the man’s mother. She ran over to the car, distraught.

As he told us this, Eugene stared into the empty space between him and van der Kolk. His face was red and contorted, and it was easy to imagine that he was not so much remembering what happened as reliving it. I wondered what torments had led him to submit to such an experiment. I wondered how it could possibly work.

“What do you want the mother to know?” van der Kolk asked. Again, Eugene covered his face and broke into loud sobs.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m so, so sorry. There are not words for how sorry. . . .” He buried his face in his hands again. “Do you want to look at her?” van der Kolk asked. Eugene couldn’t seem to speak, but he lifted his head and squinted at me with one eye. It was too much. He tucked his chin into his chest, wracked by sobs.

“The witness sees how truly sorry and how upset you are,” van der Kolk said. I kept my eyes focused on Eugene, so I didn’t see van der Kolk’s face. But Kresta would later tell me that watching him was like watching a wizard or a magician or a superfast computer. She could see him tracking Eugene’s facial expressions, tone of voice and changes in posture and responding to each in microseconds, posing a question or remarking “the witness sees.”

Van der Kolk instructed me in a low, steady voice. “Tell him that you forgive him,” he said. “Tell him you understand that it was a crazy time, and you know that he didn’t mean to do what he did. He was very young, and both of you were trapped in the same hell. Tell him you forgive him. And that you are O.K. now.” I repeated the words. I tried to make them sound genuine. I found myself hoping, fervently, that Eugene could hear me.

For a man who speaks to more than 15,000 people a year, van der Kolk has a surprisingly hard time projecting his voice. His thick Dutch accent is easy enough to decipher if you’re sitting right next to him, but it is difficult to penetrate from even a few feet away. As is often the case, the first audience comment at a recent lecture he gave in Philadelphia was “We can’t hear you!” Van der Kolk asked a sound technician to turn up the volume and promised the 200 or so attendees that he would speak as loudly as he could. There were some grumbles, even from people in the front row, who still couldn’t hear him. But van der Kolk is effusively charming and, as usual, managed to win the group over quickly.

“Everybody hunch their backs forward and droop their heads, like this,” he said, demonstrating. “Now try saying: ‘Oh, I’m feeling great! I’m very happy today!’ ” The audience laughed. “See, it’s impossible to feel happy in that position.” To drive the point home, he asked us to do the opposite: sit upright, assume cheerful expressions and then try to feel bad.

The mind follows the body, he said.

Trauma victims, van der Kolk likes to say, are alienated from their bodies by a cascade of events that begins deep in the brain with an almond-shaped structure known as the amygdala. When faced with a threat, the amygdala triggers a fight-or-flight response, which includes the release of a flood of hormones. This response usually persists until the threat is vanquished. But if the threat isn’t vanquished — if we can’t fight or flee — the amygdala, which can be thought of as the body’s smoke detector, keeps sounding the alarm. We keep producing stress hormones, which in turn wreak havoc on the rest of our bodies. It’s similar to what happens in chronic stress, except that in traumatic stress, the memories of the traumatic event invade patients’ subconscious thoughts, sending them back into fight-or-flight mode at the slightest provocation. Therapists and patients refer to this as being “reactivated.” In the short term, patients avoid the pain it causes by “dissociating.” That is, they take leave of their bodies, so much so that they often cannot describe their own physical sensations. This happens a lot in therapy, van der Kolk says.

In the long term, they become experts in self-numbing. They use food, exercise, work — or worse, drugs and alcohol — to stifle physical discomfort. The longer they do this, the more difficult it becomes to remain present in any given moment. “That’s why the guy at the end of ‘The Hurt Locker’ is so utterly incapable of playing with his kid,” van der Kolk says.

The goal of treatment should be to resolve this disconnect. “If we can help our patients tolerate their own bodily sensations, they’ll be able to process the trauma themselves,” he says. In his own patients, particularly those suffering from treatment-resistant PTSD, yoga has proved an especially good way to do this. So has emotional freedom technique, or tapping. With a therapist’s guidance, the patient taps various acupressure points with his or her own fingertips. If done correctly, it can calm the sympathetic nervous system and prevent the patient from being thrown into fight-or-flight mode. Ultimately, van der Kolk supports almost any therapy that involves paying careful attention to patients’ physiological states, like psychomotor therapy, or getting up and moving around through theater, dance and even karate. For patients with acute PTSD from isolated traumatic memories (think car accidents or single-episode assaults), van der Kolk is a fan of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, or E.M.D.R., in which a therapist wiggles fingers back and forth across the patient’s field of vision and the patient tracks the fingers while “holding in mind” the traumatic memory. Proponents say the technique enables patients to process their traumas so that they pass into memories and stop invading the present. Van der Kolk likes to point out that he came to the technique as a skeptic. “It’s this weird treatment,” he said. “You ask people to remember what happened to them, and you wiggle your finger in front of their eyes and have them follow it. Crazy.” More than 60,000 therapists around the world have now been certified in E.M.D.R., though the practice remains controversial, with critics and supporters debating the validity of each new study. Van der Kolk places his faith in what he sees in his own patients, he says. For them, E.M.D.R. has been a godsend.

Van der Kolk’s most vocal critics tend to have the same complaint: He overstates his case. There is far less evidence for therapeutic tapping or theater or massage therapy than for cognitive behavioral therapy or even exposure therapy. And while the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense have begun studying the benefits of yoga and E.M.D.R., van der Kolk’s own studies have been criticized for a lack of rigor and small sample sizes; there were just 88 people in his 2007 study of E.M.D.R. and 64 people in his 2014 study of yoga. “Anyone is going to tell their therapist that they’re doing better if they like their therapist,” says Patricia Resick, a clinical psychologist and researcher in the use of C.B.T. for post-traumatic stress at Duke University. “You need an independent assessor.” There is a standard in the field, Resick says, speaking broadly of his methodology. “If he wants to be taken seriously, he has to do studies that live up to that standard.” (Van der Kolk points out that his E.M.D.R. and yoga studies both had blind raters.)

Van der Kolk has also been charged with oversimplifying neuroscience to support his clinical work. He likes to divide the brain into distinct regions — rational and emotional — that he says are “not all that connected to one another.” He says the techniques he favors are capable of accessing the emotional brain, where the amygdala resides, whereas C.B.T., exposure therapy and talk therapy aren’t necessarily capable of doing so. Van der Kolk has scores of fMRI scans showing that when faced with a trauma — or in the case of PTSD, with a traumatic memory — the prefrontal cortex becomes muted, the speech center becomes muted and the amygdala becomes hyperactive. But a vast majority of neurobiologists say the so-called rational and emotional brains are much more integrated than his model suggests. In fact, the two communicate regularly through a multitude of circuitous loops that researchers have only just begun to map. And the scans that van der Kolk uses offer a bird’s-eye view of the brain — too sweeping to justify such detailed inferences. “He has a lot of interesting and important ideas, but the relatively weak connection to the brain detracts from his message,” says Joseph LeDoux, a neuroscientist at New York University. “This happens in a lot of fields now. Everybody wants to use the brain to justify certain things. But sometimes what the brain does is more important than how it does it.”

Some of van der Kolk’s closest colleagues have suggested that his exaggerations are by design. It’s not so much that he abhors conventional therapies or thinks his own methods are ironclad. It’s that he is trying to persuade people to be more open-minded. Indeed, when I pressed him on C.B.T., he acknowledged that it might have some uses, perhaps for anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder. And despite his contention that Prozac is less effective than E.M.D.R. at treating PTSD, he is not antimedication.

But there is a larger issue, too. “Testing a therapeutic technique is not like conducting a drug trial,” says Frank Ochberg, a professor at Michigan State University and clinical psychiatrist who specializes in PTSD. “With a drug trial, everyone gets the exact same pill or the exact same placebo. With therapy, you can’t separate the tools from the person using the tools. There’s no good experimental technique for measuring a therapist’s kindness, wisdom or judgment.”

For his part, van der Kolk says he would love to do large-scale studies comparing some of his preferred methods of treatment with some of the more commonly accepted approaches. But funding is nearly impossible to come by for anything outside the mainstream. In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he says, he was invited to sit on a handful of expert panels. Money had been designated for therapeutic interventions, and the people in charge of parceling it out wanted to know which treatments to back. To van der Kolk, it was a golden opportunity. We really don’t know what would help people most, he told the panel members. Why not open it up and fund everything, and not be prejudiced about it? Then we could study the results and really learn something. Instead, the panels recommended two forms of treatment: psychoanalysis and cognitive behavioral therapy. “So then we sat back and waited for all the patients to show up for analysis and C.B.T. And almost nobody did.” Spencer Eth, who was then the medical director of behavioral health services at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan, gathered data on the mental-health care provided to more than 10,000 Sept. 11 survivors. The most popular service by far was acupuncture. Yoga and massage were also in high demand. “Nobody looks at acupuncture academically,” van der Kolk says. “But here are all these people saying that it’s helped them.”

Van der Kolk is always evaluating his own clinical experiences for clues to what works best. “Maybe I should have done E.M.D.R. with Eugene instead of that structure,” he said not long after the California workshop. “I’m not sure how much good it will do.”

Back at the Trauma Center in Boston, van der Kolk and his colleagues are working on what he sees as the next step: redefining trauma itself. “We have a tendency now to label everything as PTSD,” he says. “But so much of what we see is the result of long-term, chronic abuse and neglect. And that produces a different condition than one-off, acute traumatic incidents.” Van der Kolk and his colleagues call this chronic form of traumatic stress “developmental trauma disorder”; in 2010, they lobbied unsuccessfully to have it listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a condition separate from PTSD. They’re hoping that with more data, they might finally prevail. Formal acceptance, van der Kolk says, is the key to getting support.

vanderkolkimage

“There’s a grant to give more than $8 million to help survivors of the marathon bombing,” van der Kolk mentioned one afternoon. “That’s psychotic. Yes, it was horrible, and yes, those people are suffering and deserve help. But we have tens of thousands of children being traumatized every day, right in the same city — a couple million across the country — and no one is offering to help them.” I asked why he thought that was. He told me about Pierre Janet, a psychiatrist at the Salpêtrière Hospital in 19th-century Paris. Janet published the first book on what was then called hysteria but which we now refer to as PTSD. He, too, became enmeshed in a dispute with his peers. He, too, was forced out of his laboratory.

“There’s this cycle of knowing and forgetting,” van der Kolk told me. “We discover trauma. And then when we see how horrifying and how inconvenient it is, we turn on the concept and peel off the messengers.” Without missing a beat, he segued from Janet to World War I and World War II, explaining how the military establishments in both Europe and the United States stigmatized shell shock and combat fatigue, for fear that they would undermine the war effort. It’s willful amnesia, he said, and he had plenty of more recent examples. Just a few years ago, he interviewed a group of foster children at a United States Senate hearing on the state of foster care. “Afterward, I’m sitting with the kids,” van der Kolk said. “And a judge walks past us on his way out, and he says to the kids: ‘You’re all doing so great! Look how terrific you all are!’ And I say, ‘Well, no, why don’t you ask them how they’re doing?’ These are kids that have suffered significant abuse and neglect. A couple of them are suicidal. They have substance-abuse problems. One of them cuts herself. But the judge didn’t want to hear about that any more than we want to hear about what really happens to soldiers when they’re off at war.”

Before enlisting in the Army, Eugene earned a bachelor’s degree in art history from the American University of Paris. Now he’s an antique art dealer. He lives in Queens with his wife and 3-year-old daughter but often goes into Manhattan to meet clients and visit galleries. I met him for coffee on the Upper East Side a couple of months after van der Kolk’s workshop. I wanted to know how he felt about the exercise now that some time had passed. Did he think it had any impact on his PTSD?

What intrigued him most, he said, is how well it worked in the moment. Whatever spell van der Kolk cast lingered into the next day, so that Eugene really saw me, a complete stranger, as the object of his guilt. “I was terrified of you,” he told me. It wasn’t until the following day, when van der Kolk had me forgive him a second time, that the spell finally broke and he was able to face me as just another workshop participant. “It reminded me of that movie ‘The Master,’ with Philip Seymour Hoffman,” he said. “When Amy Adams asks Joaquin Phoenix, ‘What color are my eyes?’ and he says, ‘Green,’ and she says, ‘Turn them blue,’ and you see them change color. It really reminded me of that.”

For a while at least, he said, he felt better. He recalled driving down the Pacific coast with his wife the day the workshop ended and noticing how weird it was not to feel stressed out. For weeks he was able to drive and use the subway with no trouble. “It felt like it sort of repaired my perception somehow,” he said. “I used to always feel paranoid — like, I’d get freaked out going to my doctor because there were all these security guards in the waiting room — and for a while that was lifted.”

But some of those effects were starting to fade. He was having headaches and memory problems again, and he was trying to figure out what triggered the relapse. He thought it had something to do with a painting he saw. He attended an Asian art fair earlier in the week, and an Arab dealer was selling some contemporary paintings; most of them were of soldiers, but one was of a woman. She looked like me, he said. He remembered staring at it and freezing up. The next day at a client’s house, he misplaced his briefcase. “It was like I threw it out the window,” he said. He spent 20 frantic and embarrassing minutes searching the house in a sweaty panic before he finally found it, right where he’d left it, near a window by the door.

Still, he was feeling hopeful. Van der Kolk had suggested some other possible approaches at the end of the workshop. He was planning to try E.M.D.R. next.

I asked him how he felt sitting across from me now. He said that he had to go to the bathroom and that his face felt numb around one eye. Ever since the exercise, the area around his right eye — the one he’d squinted at me with — went numb whenever he got nervous. He said he didn’t know why exactly, but he was sure it had something to do with the exercise itself. “I’ve been reading everything I can get my hands on,” he said. “It definitely helped, more than anything else I’ve tried so far. But I still have no idea what he did to me.”

Correction Note: An article on May 25 about the methods that the psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk uses to treat trauma omitted some context for the criticism made by Patricia Resick, a clinical psychologist. While she maintains that van der Kolk sometimes uses techniques in which outcomes are not measured by independent assessors, she was not referring specifically to the studies of yoga or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing that were mentioned in the article. Each of these had blind raters.

Jeneen Interlandi is a freelance writer in New York. Her last article for the magazine was about the involuntary psychiatric commitment of her father.

Posted by: faithful | June 19, 2014

antidepressants and teens: too much warning?

Warnings Against Antidepressants For Teens May Have Backfired

June 18, 2014 6:34 PM ET
Antidepressant use nationally fell by 31 percent among adolescents between 2000 and 2010. Suicide attempts increased by almost 22 percent.

Antidepressant use nationally fell by 31 percent among adolescents between 2000 and 2010. Suicide attempts increased by almost 22 percent.

Government warnings that antidepressants may be risky for adolescents, and the ensuing media coverage, appear to have caused an increase in suicide attempts among young people, researchers reported Wednesday.

A study involving the health records of more than 7 million people between 2000 and 2010 found a sharp drop in antidepressant use among adolescents and young people and a significant increase in suicide attempts after the Food and Drug Administration issued its warnings.

“This was a huge worldwide event in terms of the mass media,” says Stephen Soumerai of the Harvard Medical School, a co-author of the study, which was published in the journal BMJ. “Many of the media reports actually emphasized an exaggeration of the warnings.”

Starting in 2003, the FDA warned that popular antidepressants, such as Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil, might increase the risk that kids would think about killing themselves — or even actively attempt it.

In fact, no one knew for sure if the drugs were really dangerous. The idea was to get doctors and parents to keep a closer eye on kids taking them just in case it was true.

“The warnings were well-intentioned but people were concerned that the ferocity of the messages might affect clinicians, parents and young people in a way that would reduce needed medications,” Soumerai says.

Antidepressant use nationally fell 31 percent among adolescents and 24 percent among young adults, the researchers reported. Suicide attempts increased by almost 22 percent among adolescents and 33 percent among young adults, they said.

But some other researchers questioned the report’s conclusions.

“I don’t think one can interpret the findings the way the authors interpret the findings,” says Michael Schoenbaum of the National Institute of Mental Health.

For one thing, there could be other explanations for why antidepressant use fell. And Soumerai’s team based its conclusion that suicide attempts increased on the fact that drug overdoses rose.

“I think it’s questionable [that] the data they are using to measure suicide attempts are actually reflecting suicide attempts at all,” Schoenbaum says, noting that the drug overdoses may actually have been accidental rather than intentional.

But Soumerai and his colleagues dispute those criticisms. And other scientists say the findings are consistent with what earlier research had suggested.

“I think there were a lot of mistakes made in terms of how this risk was communicated to the public, which led a lot of parents to be terrified to have their children on these medications — and they took them off and there was a lot of untreated, serious depression,” says Robert Gibbons, a University of Chicago biostatistician who advised the FDA on the issue.

Soumerai and his colleagues say their findings show the FDA needs to do a better job of explaining warnings about drugs.

“Given the hazards of undertreatment of depression that we believe occurred here, we feel that there is a need for communications by the FDA to be coordinated better to avoid exaggerated messages to the public,” Soumerai says.

In an emailed statement, the FDA defended its warnings. “The FDA saw an important risk signal with antidepressants and we put that information in the drug labels,” the agency said, noting that it never intended to discourage giving kids antidepressants and making it clear that depression is a serious illness that needs to be treated.

Posted by: faithful | June 11, 2014

benefits of masturbation

Masturbation Myths and Truths

Female masturbation is still rather taboo in our society. Although there is a plethora of studies on male masturbation, the number of studies about female masturbation are scarce. There are some myths and facts about female masturbation worthy of discussion.

Age and religious beliefs and affiliation have been found to have a significant relationship betweenmasturbation and women. However, the book Our Bodies, Ourselves, first published in 1971, talked about how masturbation is a convenient way to experiment with and get to know our bodies. Moreover, women who masturbate are more confident, more knowledgeable about their bodies, enjoy more fulfilling sex lives, have better marriages, and have better overall health, according to certified nurse midwife Carrie Levine.

Unfortunately, female masturbation has been demonized along history and many women feel shame and guilt, which prevents them from enjoying the self-gratification that comes with masturbation.

SOME MYTHS & TRUTHS

Myth: Males are more sexual and are in more need of a sexual outlet than women.
Truth: Females are sexual beings just like men. Although men are more straightforward than women in their sexuality, women place more value on emotions when it comes to sexual arousal. Emotional connection is a positive catalyst for the sexual desire of women which makes women’s sexuality and sexual drive more complex than those of men. Nonetheless, sexual desire in women is also shaped by the environment and their cultural context. Latinas may be at a higher risk of having negative or repressed notions about masturbation due to our strict cultural socialization and marianismo—the adherence to the virtues of the Virgin Mary, which are highly revered in our culture.

Myth: The perfect orgasm happens with a male partner.
Truth: Freud argued that clitoral orgasms are immature and that mature women reached orgasms through vaginal stimulation. But what did he know, never having experience a female orgasm? The truth is that women have been socialized to think that the sexual desires of men are more important than ours. Moreover, many women indicate that reaching an orgasm through self-stimulation is more fulfilling. The 8,000 nerve fibers of the clitoris are designed only for sex and its enjoyment.

Myth: Masturbation is unhealthy.
Truth: Masturbation is perfectly fine, acceptable, and healthy. Female masturbation has many health benefits:

  • Natural Infection Fighter: Masturbation helps prevent cervical infections and relieves urinary tract infections (UTI): during masturbation, the cervix opens and acidity rises and also new fluid goes up, sending good bacteria to the cervix and old fluid comes out, flushing bad organisms out. During a UTI, masturbation relieves pain and also, the lubrication from masturbation brings in good organisms which may help mitigate the infection.
  • Good for Your Heart: Masturbation improves cardiovascular health and lowers the risk of Type-2 diabetes.
  • Sleep Aid: Masturbation helps with insomnia by releasing dopamine (the “feel good hormone”), followed by the release of oxytocin and endorphins, which have a calming effect that helps us fall asleep.
  • Good Pelvic Exercise: Masturbation strengthens the pelvic floor. The spasms produced during an orgasm exercise the whole pelvic region, lifting the pelvic floor, which leads to better sex and improved urinary health. As the pelvic muscles get tighter, orgasms become stronger and more enjoyable (for both). Also, stronger pelvic muscles help women avoid involuntary urinary incontinence.
  • Improves Your Mood: Dopamine and epinephrine, which rush through our bodies during sexual arousal, boost our moods, thus increasing self-satisfaction and overall quality of life.
  • Stress Reliever: Masturbation gives us pleasurable “me time” and relieves emotional stress.
  • More Love for Ourselves: Masturbation nurtures our emotional and physical needs and increases our self-awareness.
  • Stronger Sexual Relationships: Masturbation can also help us to strengthen our relationship with our partners. Sharing masturbation, teaching our partners how to satisfy us, or asking them to assist us to reach an orgasm through masturbation if we are still not satisfied after coitus can help keep the communication lines open and maintain arousal.

Female masturbation is perfectly fine, normal, and it is your right. In spite of the negative notions that may have been imposed on you by our culture, masturbation is a safe and healthy way to enjoy our sexuality. Just like men, we are entitled to engage in sessions of self-sexual gratification at our demand. Meet three women who enjoy masturbating:

Sex and achieving orgasm is VERY important to me it is great to relieve stress and makes me feel fulfilled as a woman. I am multi-orgasmic, which means that my mini orgasms are great and usually in crescendo, getting me more prepared and eager for the right one, until the big “O” is achieved. After this, my muscles relax, and I fall sleep. —Liana S., Panama City, Panama

Reaching an orgasm is a reward to any woman. Being recently divorced and not really knowing how dating works these days, I am not really out there seeking any companion to be intimate with and enjoy sex, so I do masturbate and that is perfectly fine. It is a natural thing for a woman to do. I have no stigmas about it. It helps me relax as well. —Carmen R., Denton, TX

I take “sex-breaks” during the day. I take a few minutes from my time and masturbate almost daily. It helps me relax and recharge. It helps me concentrate better after I am done. There is nothing like masturbating. Sex with my partner is wonderful, as he is a very gifted lover, but masturbating feels completely different. It’s a feeling that I don’t have to share with anyone, and I get to feel all the sensations and pleasure 100%. I love it! —Tricia S., Washington D.C.

I welcome your comments about this topic! To send private comments and for suggestions for future topics, please write me at dr.tanginika@gmail.com.

Posted by: faithful | May 30, 2014

five ways to better manage anxiety

 

5 reasons why anxiety is so hard to manage (and what you can do to cope)

 

If we aren’t careful, we can makes things worse. Here are some effective ways to keep your emotions under control

5 reasons why anxiety is so hard to manage (and what you can do to cope)

(Credit: hikrcn/Shutterstock)
This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

Have you ever had a friend or family member tell you to “just get over it” when you felt sad or worried? If getting rid of negative emotions is so easy, why is it that more than 21 million children and adults get diagnosed with depression each year and that depression is the leading cause of disability for adults age 15-44? Why is it that 40 million adults in the United States suffer from an anxiety disorder? The truth is we can’t just get rid of negative emotions whenever we feel like it. Sometimes we can distract ourselves or think more positively, but at other times the emotions grab hold of us and cling on.

The reason it is such a struggle to combat negative emotions is that they are there for a reason—to warn us of danger and gear up our minds and bodies for escape or self-protection or to help us withdraw and conserve energy when we face a loss. But sometimes these reactions are unwarranted, too intense, or interfere with effective coping and problem-solving. Below are five reasons why negative emotions are so hard to manage.

1. Your brain is wired for survival, not happiness. That is why it keeps bringing up negative emotions, past mistakes and worries about the future. Because of this wiring, you can get stuck in repetitive cycles of self-criticism, worry and fear that interfere with your ability to enjoy the present moment.

2. It doesn’t work to just shove negative emotions down or pretend they don’t exist. Your mind will keep bringing them up again as a reminder that you have an ongoing problem that needs to be handled (even when there is nothing you can actually do to make it better). Research by Daniel Wegner and colleagues suggests that suppressing thoughts while in a negative mood makes it more likely that both the thoughts and the negative mood will reoccur.

3. Your body and mind react to mental images and events as if they are events happening in the real world. Try thinking about smelling and then biting into a lemon. You will likely feel a change in saliva in your mouth. Now think about putting your hand on a hot stove. Do you feel your heart pounding a bit faster? You can get just as stressed by thoughts about an event as by the event itself. When negative feelings become chronic, they wear out your mind and body, causing inflammation, hormonal imbalance, or impaired immunity.

4. Negative thoughts feed on each other. You may worry about not having enough money. Next you think, “What if I lose my job?” Then you wonder you could ask for help and next thing, you’re feeling alone and unsupported. Rumination can turn a controllable problem into a set of insurmountable difficulties.

5. The things you do to avoid or try to cope with feeling negative emotions may be more counterproductive than the emotions themselves. You may turn to alcohol, marijuana, or excess use of prescription drugs to escape feeling bad. These substances can have long-term negative effects on mood and motivation and have addictive properties. Turning to food excessively can lead to overweight or obesity and low self-esteem associated with weight gain.  Getting angry and blaming others for your negative emotions can strain your relationships. Retail therapy can lead to debt.

What You Can Do

If suppression doesn’t work, what can you do with sad, angry or anxious feelings? Below are six surprising coping strategies that can help.

1. Allow Feelings In

The feelings will be there anyway, so why not take a look at them? Perhaps they have a message for you about something in your life that needs to change. Perhaps they are a symptom of past, unresolved painful events that need more processing and attention. They may signal strong unmet needs that would be helpful to pay attention to. When you invite emotions in and let them be there, they become less scary and shameful. They will naturally run their course and move on through.

2. Untangle Feelings From Negative Judgments

You may have learned negative messages about emotions from your family or culture. Perhaps you learned emotions are a sign of weakness or that they make you vulnerable and unprotected. As you begin to untangle the feelings themselves from your negative judgments about them, emotions become more palatable. You begin to create more space for them and listen to them more. You become more self-aware of your reactions and of what people and situations are personal triggers.

3. Notice the Connection Between Feelings and Events  

Feelings provide information about what you find pleasant or unpleasant; whom you love and whom you fear. Once you understand the connection between events in your life, your thoughts and your feelings, you are better prepared to take good care of yourself and protect your own boundaries. You begin to anticipate how you will react to certain people or events, which allows you to make better choices about how you spend your time. You can anticipate emotionally high-risk situations and prepare coping strategies in advance.

4. Broaden the View

Anxiety and depression make your thinking more rigid—you focus on the negative, which can lead to catastrophizing and magnifying the problem. This makes you feel even more stuck. It can help to deliberately take a step back and to ask yourself if there is a different way to look at the situation, or how an uninvolved observer might see things. Doing something you enjoy instead of worrying can create positive affect that naturally broadens your thinking. This can lead you to come up with more creative solutions that you won’t see when caught up in a negative emotional loop.

5. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is both a set of practices and a way of thinking about life that is based on Buddhist traditions that are 3,000 years old. Being mindful means having a gentle, open and accepting attitude toward your own experiences and surroundings, whatever those may be. As Eckhart Tolle, a writer and spiritual teacher, once stated: “Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it.” Meditating, focusing on your breath, or taking a nature walk and focusing on the sights, smells, and sounds are good ways to learn how to be mindful. Mindfulness creates a spaciousness of mind that allows emotions to be there without clinging to them.

6. Find Support

Sometimes, emotions can be difficult to manage alone because it’s so hard to step out of your point of view and see things objectively. It can help to get support and feedback from a friend, colleague or family member. Let the person know exactly what you are looking for, whether it is emotional support, information or resources to help. Psychotherapy can provide you with expert guidance, coping strategies and emotional support to calm negative emotions and find clarity and courage to move forward in life.

Although negative emotions are a challenge, there are effective ways to cope. By practicing these strategies, you will become more tolerant of them and less likely to get caught up in downward spirals of gloom and doom.

Posted by: faithful | May 30, 2014

myth or magic?

LATEST CANCER INFORMATION
from Johns Hopkins

1. Every person has cancer cells in the body. These cancer cells do not show up in the standard tests until they have multiplied to a few billion. When doctors tell cancer patients that there are no more cancer cells in their bodies after treatment, it just means the tests are unable to detect the cancer cells because they have not reached the detectable size.

2. Cancer cells occur between 6 to more than 10 times in a person’s lifetime.

3. When the person’s immune system is strong the cancer cells will be destroyed and prevented from multiplying and forming tumors.

4. When a person has cancer it indicates the person has multiple nutritional deficiencies. These could be due to genetic, environmental, food and lifestyle factors.

5. To overcome the multiple nutritional deficiencies, changing diet and including supplements will strengthen the immune system.

6. Chemotherapy involves poisoning the rapidly-growing cancer cells and also destroys rapidly-growing healthy cells in the bone marrow, gastro-intestinal tract etc, and can cause organ damage, like liver, kidneys, heart, lungs etc.

7. Radiation while destroying cancer cells also burns, scars and damages healthy cells, tissues and organs.

8. Initial treatment with chemotherapy and radiation will often reduce tumor size. However prolonged use of chemotherapy and radiation do not result in more tumor destruction.

9. When the body has too much toxic burden from chemotherapy and radiation the immune system is either compromised or destroyed, hence the person can succumb to various kinds of infections and complications.

10. Chemotherapy and radiation can cause cancer cells to mutate and become resistant and difficult to destroy. Surgery can also cause cancer cells to spread to other sites.

11. An effective way to battle cancer is to STARVE the cancer cells by not feeding it with foods it needs to multiple.

What cancer cells feed on:

a. Sugar is a cancer-feeder. By cutting off sugar it cuts off one important food supply to the cancer cells. Note:Sugar substitutes like NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful, etc are made with Aspartame and it is harmful. A better natural substitute would be Manuka honey or molasses but only in very small amounts. Table salt has a chemical added to make it white in colour. Better alternative is Bragg’s aminos or sea salt.

b. Milk causes the body to produce mucus, especially in the gastro-intestinal tract. Cancer feeds on mucus. By cutting off milk and substituting with unsweetened soy milk, cancer cells will starved.

c. Cancer cells thrive in an acid environment. A meat-based diet is acidic and it is best to eat fish, and a little chicken rather than beef or pork. Meat also contains livestock antibiotics, growth hormones and parasites, which are all harmful, especially to people with cancer.

d. A diet made of 80% fresh vegetables and juice, whole grains, seeds, nuts and a little fruits help put the body into an alkaline environment. About 20% can be from cooked food including beans. Fresh vegetable juices provide live enzymes that are easily absorbed and reach down to cellular levels within 15 minutes t o nourish and enhance growth of healthy cells.

To obtain live enzymes for building healthy cells try and drink fresh vegetable juice (most vegetables including bean sprouts) and eat some raw vegetables 2 or 3 times a day. Enzymes are destroyed at temperatures of 104 degrees F (40 degrees C).

e. Avoid coffee, tea, and chocolate, which have high caffeine. Green tea is a better alternative and has cancer-fighting properties. Water–best to drink purified water, or filtered, to avoid known toxins and heavy metals in tap water. Distilled water is acidic, avoid it.

12. Meat protein is difficult to digest and requires a lot of digestive enzymes. Undigested meat remaining in the intestines will become putrified and leads to more toxic buildup.

13. Cancer cell walls have a tough protein covering. By refraining from or eating less meat it frees more enzymes to attack the protein walls of cancer cells and allows the body’s killer cells to destroy the cancer cells.

14. Some supplements build up the immune system (IP6, Flor-ssence, Essiac, anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals, EFAs etc.) to enable the body’s own killer cells to destroy cancer cells. Other supplements like vitamin E are known to cause apoptosis, or programmed cell death, the body’s normal method of disposing of damaged, unwanted, or unneeded cells.

15. Cancer is a disease of the mind, body, and spirit. A proactive and positive spirit will help the cancer warrior be a survivor.

Anger, unforgiving and bitterness put the body into a stressful and acidic environment. Learn to have a loving and forgiving spirit. Learn to relax and enjoy life.

16. Cancer cells cannot thrive in an oxygenated environment. Exercising daily, and deep breathing help to get more oxygen down to the cellular level. Oxygen therapy is another means employed to destroy cancer cells.

 

Comments Noted:

1.  http://nutritionfacts.org/topics/cancer/

2.  Blood pH is not at 6… and water will not change your pH from a 6 to normal 7.4. A Blood pH of 6 would mean you have something serious wrong with your kidneys (fighting sepsis) and have a metabolic acidosis, or you stopped breathing and you created a serious build up of CO2 in your blood. A normal blood pH can shift a few points off the midline in poor diet toward acidosis, the article does raise a good point that cancer does not survive well in alkaline environments by changing diet. But unfortunately every mutation is different and some cancers are more hearty than others. Look at Steve Jobs, he went the way of non-intervention, switched his diet and he didn’t survive. I would love to see a case study to test the validity of these arguments.

3.  pH of blood outside the 7.35-7.45 is not fatal. Patients with DKA often come in with blood gas readings of pH less than 7.2 and most survive with proper therapy.

Don’t spread spread your ignorance.

4.  The information in this post is a HOAX. It is not affiliated with Johns Hopkins. Please see our statement: (ignore the part about John/Johns): http://ow.ly/xjOQu

5.  Please cite something other than YouTube. Perhaps a credible medical journal?

6.

Sugar does not “feed” cancer, see link and text excerpt from Mayo Clinic below:
http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cancer/in-depth/cancer-causes/art-20044714?pg=2
This misconception may be based in part on a misunderstanding of positron emission tomography
(PET) scans, which use a small amount of radioactive tracer — typically a form of glucose. All tissues in your body absorb some of this tracer, but tissues that are using more energy — including cancer cells — absorb greater amounts. For this reason, some people have concluded that cancer cells grow faster on sugar. But this isn’t true.

However, there is some evidence that consuming large amounts of sugar is associated with an increased risk of certain cancers, including esophageal cancer. It can also lead to weight gain and increase the risk of obesity and diabetes, which may increase the risk of cancer.

7.

Pure sugars are neutral when metabolized – Your blood pH is controlled by the kidneys, not by food –http://chriskresser.com/the-ph-myth-part-1

An alkaline diet can kill you http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/the-impending-end-of-a-horrifying-testimonial-for-an-alternative-medicine-breast-cancer-cure/

Cancer is not a single disease, but a generic term for over 200 diseases. As an example, we have lab studies showing hemp oil killing some cancer cells, while other types of cancer actually grow faster in the presence of hemp oil. To say all cancer can be treated by one particular set of treatments is not true in any way.

Distilled water has a pH of 7. It is what is used in the lab to ensure it doesn’t affect the results of tests.

John Hopkins did talk about these type of cancer treatments here –http://m.hopkinsmedicine.org/kimmel_cancer_center/news_events/featured/cancer_update_email_it_is_a_hoax.html

8.  http://terrywahls.com/about/the-wahls-foundation/

 

9.  The only thing I agree with in this article, as far as the food is the sugar, but they are telling people to cut out milk and beef. That is true if you buy conventional milk and beef. BUT eating whole RAW milk and grass feed meat is very good for us, in so many ways, but eat beef and all meat and proteins in low quantities. To much protein turns to sugar in the body, which feeds cancer, and low fat milk is like drinking a glass of sugar water. Drink whole raw milk! If you can not get raw, switch to almond and coconut milk. DO NOT DRINK SOY MILK! Soy is from GMO plants and does a crazy job to your hormones!! Wheat is horrible because it is a carb. ALL CARBS turn to sugar, all sugar is an inflammatory in the body. We should get no more then 20 grams of carbs a day, all from green leafy vegetables, and “pastured” eggs feed an organic diet and that graze on grass and bugs in a open field or large yard… If you are dairy sensitive stay away from all dairy and stick with Coconut/almond. Although many people with dairy issues have no problem when they switch to raw milks and creams. Fruit turns to sugar in the body raising your insulin and causing inflammation. If you have cancer stay away from fruit. If you don’t then stick with very small amounts. Berries are lower then all fruit on the glycemic index. BUT remember bears get fat on blueberries for winter hibernation.. Sugar is what causes cancer to grow, and anything that turns to sugar in your body. Our bodies can not distinguish between a fruit sugar, and carb sugar from bread/wheat, or white table sugar. It’s all the same to our bodies. So eliminate all sugar in all forms. Cancer will starve to death. Eat a High healthy fat diet, from MCT oils like coconut oils, Avocado and macadamia nut oils, and small amounts of a good organic, extra virgin, first cold press olive oil..(Stay away from other oils) and grass feed butter, preferably from raw cream from a grass feed cow feed no hormones, or grains, goat milk, almond milk. That should consist of 80% of your diet. Read this on cholesterol.. http://mariamindbodyhealth.com/the-cholesterol-myth/The main thing to avoid is Long Chained Triglycerides. Long-chain triglyceride impairs the healing. These fatty acids are substrates for inflammatory eicosanoid production. Polyunsaturated oils: Red meat has long been wrongly blamed for IBS for example. A study published in December 2009 shows that linoleic acid harms the gut but new reports and health websites mislead by blaming ‘red meat’ — which contains the least linoleic acid. It’s the polyunsaturated fats and oils, derived from seeds such as sunflower, safflower, soy and corn, which are the major dietary sources of linoleic acid; they are the most harmful oils because they increase inflammation. When it is absorbed in the intestinal lining, linoleic acid is transformed to arachidonic acid, which is a component of the cell membranes in the bowel. Arachidonic acid can then be converted into various inflammatory chemicals. High levels of these chemicals have been found in the intestinal tissue of people suffering from intestinal disorders. Long chained triglycerides come from VEGETABLE OILS…this means anything that is pre-packaged; salad dressings, roasted nuts, “baked” chips, popcorn, crackers, cereal…you name it! We have been wrongly pushed to replace healthy saturated fats like coconut oil with harmful fats such as canola! Coconut oil is a medium-chained fatty acid. MCFA are broken down almost immediately by enzymes in the saliva and gastric juices so that pancreatic fat-digesting enzymes are not even essential. Therefore, there is less strain on the pancreas and digestive system. This has important implications for patients who suffer from digestive and metabolic problems. Since it is easily absorbed in the digestive tract it also helps other essential healing nutrients become absorbed as well. Ulcerative colitis often begins with a virus or a bacterial infection and that the body’s immune system malfunctions and stays active after the infection has cleared. Coconut has antimicrobial properties that affects intestinal health by killing troublesome microorganisms that may cause chronic inflammation. Coconut oil resembles breast milk more than any other food…breast milk helps keep babies healthy! Protein…Eat moderate protein, no more then 75 grams or 20% of your diet, from grass feed organic no grain feed diets.. and only 5% carbs from plant sources like green leafy vegetables and herbs. No more then 20 grams. This way of eating will heal almost any disease and has, from cancer to diabetes, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, to asthma. There is new research showing that alzheimer’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease is being reversed or halted with this type of diet.. In fact Sweden has made this their National diet recommendation.. I highly recommend the book Keto-Adapted, by Maria Emmerich. There are not only testimonies of so many healed, but how to eat this way and how it all works in the body in detail. It’s Excellent!!!

7.

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