Research Articles

Hallucinations of Loss, Visions of Grief

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

Hallucinations of Loss, Visions of GriefWhen I was a boy and there was a death in the family, the mirrors in our house would be covered with a sheet, as Jewish tradition dictated.

The “official” explanation of this custom, according to our rabbi, was that gazing at one’s reflection in a mirror is an act of vanity — and there is no place for vanity in a period of mourning. But my family had a different understanding of the practice: the mirrors were covered so that we would not see the face of the deceased instead of our own reflections.

As a psychiatrist, I think this bit of folk wisdom may see more deeply into the human soul than the theological teaching.

Taking Class Notes on Your Laptop? Think Again

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

Taking Class Notes on Your Laptop? Think Again

Last year, I wrote about how certain study techniques are more effective than others. Surprising, a lot of study techniques that students routinely engage in aren’t all that helpful to memorizing and learning material (such as highlighting or underlining text, or re-reading it).

Two researchers recently expanded upon this research to answer the question — does taking class notes on your computer help or hinder the learning process?

The answer may surprise you.

How Much Does That Free Prescription Drug Sample Cost?

Friday, April 18th, 2014

fHow Much Does That Free Prescription Drug Sample Cost?This may seem like a trick question because, after all, it’s free. How can something that’s free cost anything?

People and professionals have long wondered whether there was a downside to giving away free samples of prescription drugs. Pharmaceutical companies keep doctors’ offices well-stocked on such free samples, so they obviously suspected it was a way to introduce patients to their brand and get them to come back for more. As paying customers.

Now a new study puts the matter to rest and explains why that “free” sample actually results in higher costs — for everyone.

Does Sluggish Cognitive Tempo (SCT) Exist?

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Does Sluggish Cognitive Tempo (SCT) Exist?Sluggish cognitive tempo is a long-time component believed to either be a part of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or may be its own stand-alone concern.

Parts of what we now call sluggish cognitive tempo (SCT) has been around since the 1960s, but it was in the late 1980s — long before any attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medications existed — when researchers first demonstrated that SCT symptoms are probably a unique condition or sub-type of ADHD (Lahey et al., 1988; Neeper & Lahey, 1986).

In other words, the scientific foundation for sluggish cognitive tempo has been around for nearly 30 years. It’s not new. And it’s hardly news. Scientists regularly identify dozens of proposed syndromes or symptom constellations in their research. Only a tiny minority of them ever go on to become a recognized mental disorder or diagnosis.

But does SCT really exist? Is it its own condition or disorder?

The Many Problems with the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act

Sunday, April 13th, 2014

The Many Problems with the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis ActWe haven’t yet spoken up about the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2013 (HR 3717), sponsored by Rep. Tim Murphy because we were hoping Congress would see through this less-than-subtle attempt to gut SAMHSA, coerce states to pass new forced-treatment laws (even if their citizens don’t want them), and create yet another huge federal bureaucracy in the Department of Health and Human Services that nobody has asked for, with no data to support its creation, and that nobody wants.

Sadly, that hasn’t happened. The least offensive parts of the bill are starting to get passed, and that suggests that there may be some momentum to pass the more offensive, egregious components in the future.

So here are the major problems with this bill, and why it stinks for everyone — especially patients.

Is it Good to Be Bad in the Workplace?

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Is it Good to Be Bad in the Workplace?In recent years there has been a growing examination of the dark side of personality. Researchers have begun to appreciate the role played by socially undesirable traits.

In fact, recent research has taken an interesting slant, examining the way in which dark traits actually can be advantageous. The book Snakes in Suits is an excellent example. It argues that psychopathy can in fact help executives get ahead by making them ruthless, charming and impulsive. Indeed, we have previously discussed how agreeableness can be a hindrance in business.

Ketamine Infusions Show Some Small, Limited Value in Open-Label Study

Monday, April 7th, 2014

Ketamine Infusions Show Some Small, Limited Value in Open-Label StudyThe sad state of affairs for treatment-resistant depression is that even if your treatment fails in 70 percent of the subjects you try it on, folks will still hail it as a success.

So it goes with a small study of 28 patients in the UK who had severe clinical depression that didn’t respond to any previous treatments. Only 8 of them responded to ketamine infusions. Of those 8, only 4 actually remitted — meaning they had no depression at the end of the study.

Those are not great statistics for any treatment to hail as a success. Why the disconnect?

Military, Media Quick to Report Fort Hood Shooter’s Mental Health Status

Saturday, April 5th, 2014

Military, Media Quick to Report Fort Hood Shooter's Mental Health StatusThere’s no way to stop the rare mass shootings that occur in the United States. You may not like it, but it’s a fact no amount of laws or background checks will ever fix.

Every time a new shooting occurs, it’s a tragedy. No words can begin to describe the senseless violence of a mass shooting.

But it’s even more of a tragedy when the media — with the help of the military, in this case — is quick to report that an alleged suspect in such shootings was seeking mental health treatment for a concern. Especially when it ended up having nothing to do with the shootings.

Why No One is Talking About the Possible Overdiagnosis of Autism

Friday, March 28th, 2014

Why No One is Talking About the Possible Overdiagnosis of AutismWith the latest CDC figures out, it appears autism is now appearing in about 1 in 68 children in the United States. The disorder — now officially known as autism spectrum disorder — is being diagnosed at a rate that represents a 30 percent increase from 1 in 88 two years ago.

What’s amazing to me is that I couldn’t find a single media report that floated the idea that this increase represents an overdiagnosis of the disorder. While “overdiagnosis” seems to be the first thing suggested when the topic is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder’s (ADHD) huge jump in diagnoses over the past two decades, it’s not mentioned in any description of autism’s increase.

Why the double-standard?

Taking a Closer Look at Health Benefits of Meditation

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Enlightening Our Universities and Medical Schools About the Health Benefits of MeditationMeditation research has come a long way since the first scientific study on meditation was published in a peer-reviewed journal in 1971 [1]. That study declared the discovery of a major fourth state of consciousness— the state of restful alertness — experienced during the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique.

Now there are over 1,000 published studies on various meditation practices, with over 600 studies on the TM technique alone. Many universities, medical schools and hospitals offer classes in mind-body medicine and provide training in meditation.

Nevertheless, recent press reports about a scientific review [2] published in JAMA Internal Medicine (January 2014) raised questions about the extent of health benefits that can be claimed for meditation. While the review has been criticized as too narrowly focused to represent the current state of meditation research — it excluded many major studies and randomized clinical trials — there is an upside: The JAMA review may prompt health professionals to look closer at meditation and discover how far the research has actually come at verifying the health benefits and specific effects of different practices.

$30M Trumps $15M Any Day: Why Private Industry is Putting the Federal Government to Shame

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

$30M Trumps $15M Any Day: Why Private Industry is Putting the Federal Government to ShameBack in mid-February, Rep. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.) trumped the addition of $15 million for mental health first aid training that was passed in a $1.1 trillion spending bill. Sadly, Barber also connected the funding to helping stop future instances of mass shootings — a connection that simply has no basis in reality. But hey, at least he’s doing something.

This past week, the CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, announced $30 million to help research into brain trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He also promised last year to hire at least 10,000 veterans and military spouses over the next five years.

Which do you think is doing more to help mental health? Government or private citizens & industry?

Suicidal Ideation & Cyberbullying

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014

Suicidal Ideation and CyberbullyingBullying probably is as old as mankind. However, being a longstanding part of human behavior does not make it acceptable.

Studies have shown many problems associated with being a victim of bullying, including delayed growth and development; mental health problems; medical issues; poor academic performance; and more. Many of the problems caused by bullying can last into adulthood.

It is estimated that between 5 and 20 percent of children worldwide are victims of physical, verbal and exclusionary bullying. Suicide also is a significant problem, with almost 20 percent of adolescents in America having suicidal thoughts and five to eight percent attempting it.

Recent Comments
  • Deborah: thank you, thank you for explaining what has been a very difficult event to accept. I have been wondering...
  • Nathan Feiles, LCSW: Good take on the parallels of life and Tetris. A game I always enjoyed. One thing I would add is...
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