Archive for April, 2010

A new study published in The British Journal of Psychiatry makes a strong case that processed junk food can trigger or contribute to depression, while eating whole and healthy food seems protective.  Here are some tips for food-based approach to mood disorders.

Reduce processed and refined carbohydrates and eat more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. These healthy carbohydrates are important for reducing anxiety, as they increase serotonin levels in the brain, which allows one to feel calmer. Examples include:

  • Apples, pears, blueberries, and strawberries.
  • Brown rice, oats, whole wheat pasta, and beans
  • Broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, and cabbage

Don’t skip meals. As blood sugar levels fall, stress hormones are released to make emergency fuel for the body. This can lead to jitteriness, irritability, and feeling anxious. It is very important to maintain a stable blood sugar by eating a combination of lean protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates every three to four hours. Some examples include:

  • A slice of whole grain bread with peanut butter.
  • Low-fat yogurt with sliced apple and 1 Tbsp of walnuts
  • Whole grain pita bread with hummus and carrot sticks
  • Fish with brown rice and steamed veggies

Increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for mental health.

  • Add fish 2 times per week to your diet and nuts and seeds everyday

Avoid caffeine. This alkaloid, found in coffee, tea, chocolate, many sodas and even certain medications, produces an effect similar to the stress response in our bodies. As little as two servings per day can cause jitteriness and worsen anxiety.

  • Substitute decaf for caffeinated coffee or tea.
  • Choose herbal teas that don’t contain any caffeine.
  • Drink water and/or flavored water to stay hydrated.

Reduce your alcohol intake. While small amounts of alcohol can be good for your heart, too much can aggravate depression and also deplete your body of important vitamins and minerals.

Ensure adequate magnesium intake. Studies suggest that low magnesium can trigger anxiety and depressive symptoms.

  • Almonds, cashews, and other nuts are a great source of magnesium.
  • Green vegetables, such as soybeans and spinach, are also good sources of magnesium.

Ask your clinician if should have your vitamin B12 and vitamin D levels checked. Deficiencies in these vitamins can increase the risk of depression and you might need to take a supplement. Otherwise:

  • Get 10 minutes of sun 2–3 times per week, exposing 25% of your skin without sunscreen to increase vitamin D levels.

(Tips courtesy of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine)


5 Misconceptions About Therapy

I was inspired by Therese Borchard’s post today, “9 Rules for Survivng Therapy” to include some common misconceptions that I have encountered regarding therapy.

  1. Therapy is good for everyone:  Although Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living”, it doesn’t follow that every person is ready to go through therapy at any given time.  Issues with psychological or internal resistance can be uncomfortable at best, and requires that the individual be stable and secure enough in one’s ego to tolerate such conflict.
  2. All therapy is the same:  There are many different types and styles of therapy (psychoanalysis, psychodynamic, Gestalt, Interpersonal, Cognitive Behavioral, Supportive). Most therapist practice a few different types of therapy, but generally have one therapeutic approach that is their primary focus. Not all therapists and therapies may be the right fit for all patients.
  3. My therapist is my friend:  This is a difficult one for many people. The therapeutic relationship is by nature supportive, non-judgement, and personal.  While the therapeutic relationship may feel “friendly” it is a one-sided relationship (whereas friendships are inherently two-sided).  Excepting certain revelations for specific therapeutic intent, the therapist doesn’t reveal much to the patient. This allows for therapeutic process of “transference” to occur (where the patient projects their own ideas and feelings about other people onto the therapist).
  4. Therapy should feel good:  Another common misconception is that therapy should leave the patient “feeling good” after each session, much the way a visit to a “spa” would feel.  The reality is that, while most individuals eventually feel better, therapy is hard work.  Most people will feel worse, perhaps disheartened, as issues are brought up and discussed; but eventually may feel relief as issues are resolved.
  5. Therapy should be easy:  While therapy may seem simple, it is very hard work and can emotionally draining.  It takes a great deal of courage for any person to face their “demons” and come to terms with the things in their life that may be keeping them “stuck”.

While the many mental (and even physical) health benefits of friendship  have been well established, I was struck by the similarity in benefits that GNO’s share with traditional group therapy.  I was asked about the topic by Malena Lott for an article she wrote for the Oklahoma Gazette.  Turns out, these Ladies-only events may actually be good for you as well as a fun break from everyday life.

In both situations, there can exist:

  • an opportunity to belong and to confide in others
  • an atmosphere that is both accepting and non-judgmental
  • a forum for sharing–for giving and receiving support and empathy
  • participating in and benefiting from group problem solving/collective reasoning
  • reassurance to the individual that she is not “the only one” who is experiencing the trials of everyday life
  • an occasion to be one’s “true self”: without having to maintain any pretense for fear of judgement or recrimination
  • a means to maintain a sense of connectedness with others
  • the possibility to “let loose”–to relax in the absence of day to day responsibilities

While a Girl’s Night Out is certainly not an appropriate substitute for Group Therapy (which is performed by trained and licensed specialists to address such complex issues as depression, addiction, abuse, and more), it can provide an opportunity for many women to reap some of the same therapeutic benefits as can be experienced in the group therapy setting. Women naturally communicate for the purpose of socialization to achieve closeness and intimacy; having a Girl’s Night Out utilizes our natural tendencies to connect with and support others through female friendships by providing a dedicated forum in which to do so. Girls’ Night Out can provide a wonderful opportunity to maintain and develop female friendships that can improve one’s overall happiness.

April 2, 2010 will mark the third annual celebration of World Autism Awareness Day.  While recognition of Autism Spectrum Disorders continues to increase; so does the incidence.  Here are some facts:

–  Estimated prevalence 1 in 110 children have an autism spectrum disorder
–  67 children are diagnosed per day
–  1 in 70 boys is on the autism spectrum
–   57% increas in just 4 years
–  A new case is diagnosed almost every 20 minutes
–  More children will be diagnosed with autism this year than with AIDS, diabetes & cancer combined
–  Autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the U.S.
–  Autism costs the nation over $35 billion per year, a figure expected to significantly increase in the next decade
–  Autism receives less than 5% of the research funding of many less prevalent childhood diseases
–  There is no medical detection or cure for autism

Despite not having any known medical cure, early recognition and intervention have been shown to be effective in improving outcomes.  We were lucky; we recognized the signs of Autism in my son early (at 15 months) and began intervention at 18 month.  April 2nd is my son’s 3rd birthday.  After 18 months of working with our wonderful treatment team: including a speech therapist, occupational therapist, and child psychologist, my son now is able to communicate most of his needs (through a combination of words & sign language) and even asks for me to “wok” him at night.  He still has far to go; he is more than 50% delayed in areas of communication, social interaction, and adaptive functioning, but the changes we have witnessed have been phenomenal and have occurred as result of diligent intervention by all members of our team.

Please join with us on this 3rd annual World Autism Awareness Day to help raise awareness for Autism.  There are many ways to participate including joining with Autism Speaks to “Light It Up Blue” for Autism.