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Dr. Grohol's Blog of Psychology

    Bloggin' the mental health Internet since 1999. Blog Archives.
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 Wednesday, June 25, 2003

My laptop died.....
Sorry for the inconsistent updates, but two issues have greatly affected my usual daily routine -- my trusted laptop's screen decided to go kaput (the laptop works fine!), making it largely useless for the task it was purchased for; and it's summertime!! I've been enjoying the nice weather we're finally having around Boston, and working on finishing yet another new edition of my book. My nephews are also coming to visit in July, so it's going to be a fun, yet hectic, summer.

Let me take this moment to wish you a peaceful, fun-filled summer as well, just in case it slips by so quickly I forget! Enjoy!

(Posted at 12:52:47 PM EDT.) Discuss this...

 Friday, June 20, 2003

FDA: Children Shouldn't Use Paxil
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Thursday warned that patients younger than 18 should not take GlaxoSmithKline's antidepressant Paxil because of a possible increased risk of suicidal impulses associated with the drug. Read the rest of the article here.

I'd go one better and remind readers that most psychopharmacological medications are not tested on or for children until many years after they've been FDA approved. If your child is taking a medication that has been on the market for less than 3 years and that is not specifically made for children, I would definitely double-check with your doctor about whether the medication is appropriate for children. You can find this out by a simple question, "Doctor, has this medication been FDA approved and/or tested for use in children?" The surprising answer most of the time is, "No."

(Posted at 03:29:32 PM EDT.) Discuss this...

Attack at the American Psychiatric Association Convention
A reader recently wrote us about an attack that occurred on a psychiatrist who was attending the annual convention of the American Psychiatric Association in San Francisco on May 18, 2003. We dug up this account of the attack, in case you were wondering what happened. Yet another argument for ensuring that folks who are homeless are better taken care of...

(Posted at 09:24:13 AM EDT.) Discuss this...

 Sunday, June 15, 2003

A Virtual Path to Suicide
"Unbeknownst to her friends and loved ones, 19-year-old Suzy Gonzales logged onto an obscure Internet site to confide her darkest thoughts to strangers. There, Gonzales found people who told her that suicide was an acceptable way to end her despair, and who gave her instructions on how to obtain a lethal dose of potassium cyanide and mix it into a deadly cocktail.

During the early hours of March 23, after she cleaned her apartment and fed her kittens, Gonzales checked into a Tallahassee motel, where she stirred the poison into a glass of tap water, checked its acidity with a pH meter, and drank it."

This is a well-researched, heart-wrenching SF Gate article about the Usenet newsgroup,, which has actually been in existence for as long as I can remember (ala 1992?). You can follow Suzy's postings to the group for yourself. The Internet provides for great things, like thousands of support groups online, but also provides for things like this, educating folks how to be successful in dying. All I can say is, in the end, it's a life cut short, a candle snuffed short soon after it was lit.

(Posted at 10:31:49 AM EDT.) Discuss this...

 Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Web falls short on suicide prevention
It is a familiar tale. June 6: St. Louis police find a 52-year-old woman dead in her home, an apparent suicide. Near her body: printouts from the Internet with explicit instructions on how to die painlessly. It's well-known that the Internet is full of chat rooms, bulletin boards and Web sites that urge desperate people to take their own lives. But there are hardly any virtual resources where suicidal people are urged to keep on living.

MSNBC has the article, which points to a distressing lack of immediate, crisis-oriented suicidal resources online. Unfortunately, as media sometimes does, it got some important facts wrong when quoting me.

"Grohol's organization advocates fee-based online therapy." First off, the International Society for Mental Health Online is not my organization! Second, ISMHO doesn't advocate any such thing. It was formed to promote the efforts of those who saw the value in mental health education and services online. That's a far cry from advocating a very specific position such as this one (and it's not one I said in my interview with the reporter).

(Posted at 04:04:12 PM EDT.) Discuss this...

 Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Against Depression, a Sugar Pill Is Hard to Beat
After thousands of studies, hundreds of millions of prescriptions and tens of billions of dollars in sales, two things are certain about pills that treat depression: Antidepressants like Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft work. And so do sugar pills.

A new analysis has found that in the majority of trials conducted by drug companies in recent decades, sugar pills have done as well as -- or better than -- antidepressants. Read the rest of this year-old article at the Washington Post Web site. This doesn't surprise any professional who's actually delved into the research, and certainly doesn't surprise me.

(Posted at 02:12:31 PM EDT.) Discuss this...

 Friday, May 23, 2003

Many pregnant women may have depression, but few getting treatment, study finds
One in five pregnant women may be experiencing symptoms of depression, but few are getting help for it, a new University of Michigan study finds. And those with a history of depression any time before their pregnancy -- about one in four women -- are about twice as likely to show signs of depression while pregnant as those with no prior depression.

(Posted at 10:54:12 AM EDT.) Discuss this...

American Psychiatric Association's Convention Updates
Well, this past week, the American Psychiatric Association held its annual convention and I've received a bunch of press releases from the floor of the convention. It's time to clear out my mailbox of these releases and let you know about some of the pharmco's news from the convention. All of it is medication related, naturally... After all, these are psychiatrists! Click on the link above to read more...

(Posted at 08:45:25 AM EDT.) Discuss this...

 Sunday, May 18, 2003

Dating a Blogger, Reading All About It
"While blogging journalists like Andrew Sullivan, Mickey Kaus and Eric Alterman get a lot of attention, a vast majority of bloggers are average citizens like Mr. Bruner, who draw from their personal experiences - and often the personal experiences of relatives, friends and colleagues - to create a kind of memoir in motion that details breakups and work and family issues with sometimes startling candor."

This new article on blogging is published in Sunday's N.Y. Times (free registration required to read the article).

(Posted at 07:48:13 AM EDT.) Discuss this...

 Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Henry Saeman, a pioneer in psychology, passed away
Recognized nationally when he was inducted into the Psychology Academy of the National Academies of Practice, Henry Saeman, publisher of the National Psychologist, was the first non-psychologist ever elected to this select group. He passed away on Monday, May 12, 2003.

(Posted at 03:39:31 PM EDT.) Discuss this...

SARS is mostly a media-fueled mass hysteria
Michael Fumento recently wrote me to let me know that there was an update to his article from a few weeks ago illustrating how out-of-proportion the SARS scare has been compared to other communicable diseases. The name of the interesting update is Hysteria, Thy Name is SARS and is definitely worth the read if you are someone who is concerned about the SARS "epidemic."

Michael has also written a very powerful article about the realities of ADHD entitled, Trick Question: A Liberal Hoax Turns Out to Be True. Conservatives love to mock the ADHD diagnosis, but as Fumento clearly shows with scientific evidence, ADHD is a real, treatable childhood disorder. Not news to folks who have to deal with it or the mental health professionals who've been treating it for nearly two decades, but it will be to many skeptics.

(Posted at 09:54:19 AM EDT.) Discuss this...

Stanford research pinpoints online consumer health use
It may be popular for playing games, chatting with friends and checking scores, but the Internet is not as commonly used for health-care purposes as is sometimes reported. While some reports have put the figure at 80 percent, a Stanford University Medical Center study has found that 40 percent of American adults with Internet access, or about 20 percent of the general adult population, use the Internet to look for advice or information on health or health care. It also found the use of the Internet for health has limited impacts on health-care use. Previous reports on the prevalence of Internet use for health information vary widely. Some studies report that 75 to 80 percent of online adults use the Internet for this purpose; others put the figure as low as 35 percent.

I'm sure this will not be the last word on this issue. This study relied on a self-reporting survey to attain its data, certainly not the most accurate nor reliable technique for getting quantifiable data such as this. Having study participants place a small piece of software on their computer that actually tracks where the users go on the Internet is the more robust, reliable, and preferred method for obtaining this sort of data. I wonder why the researchers didn't do that?

(Posted at 09:45:12 AM EDT.) Discuss this...

For best results, stick to one search engine
Web users who stick to one or two search engines and learn those well will have better results for their queries than users who try the same query or various engines, a Penn State researcher says.

"There are no wholesale rules about structuring a query that will work on multiple search engines," said Bernard J. Jansen, assistant professor of information sciences and technology (IST). "And what works on one engine, such as narrowing a query, can have the opposite effect on other search engines."

(Posted at 09:33:06 AM EDT.) Discuss this...

Time drags for smokers trying to quit
Not being able to estimate accurately how long something is taking may contribute to the performance declines and discomfort smokers typically experience while trying to quit, say Penn State researchers. In this recent study, 20 daily smokers, who went without a cigarette for 24 hours, overestimated the duration of a 45 second interval. To the abstaining smokers, the interval felt approximately 50 percent longer than 45 seconds or more than one minute.

Might be another factor and explanation as to why smokers find it so difficult to quit -- every moment feels like two to them!

(Posted at 09:30:15 AM EDT.) Discuss this...

Personality is not set by 30, can change throughout life
Do peoples' personalities change after 30? They can, according to researchers who examined 132,515 adults age 21-60 on the personality traits known as the "Big Five": conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness and extraversion. These findings are reported in the May issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. This study contradicts an often cited view that personality traits are genetically programmed to stop changing by early adulthood. There is considerable evidence against it, say the authors.

Indeed, the common view amongst therapists is that personality disorders are the hardest to treat because they are so ingrained and a part of the person. This study shows that people's behaviors do change over their lifetime, so there is much hope for people diagnosed with a personality disorder.

(Posted at 09:28:29 AM EDT.) Discuss this...

 Friday, May 9, 2003

Patient, doctor education improves health outcomes
Improving how doctors discuss health issues with patients and boosting patients' understanding of what ails them could do at least as much to combat illnesses across the nation as new wonder drugs and innovative medical procedures.

Dr. Darren A. DeWalt, a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar and instructor in medicine and pediatrics at the UNC School of Medicine, based his conclusions on findings from new UNC research and an extensive review of work by other investigators over the past 20 years. "Low health literacy prevents many people from receiving the full benefit of the biomedical advances of the 20th century," DeWalt said. "Improving patient-physician communication is an important strategy to lessen the burden of low health literacy."

It's amazing that something as simple as spending 5-10 minutes during a patient visit (and this would apply equally to the initial mental health visit as well) discussing the patient's diagnosis, treatment options, and the like could be so helpful. Yet most doctors still don't spend the necessary time to do this. It's not often taught in medical schools, and if it is, its importance is often minimized.

(Posted at 09:06:48 AM EDT.) Discuss this...

U.S. has high rate of mental illness, low rate of treatment
The United States has a higher prevalence and lower treatment rate of serious mental illness than a number of other developed countries, according to a study published in a special edition on international health care in the May/June issue of the policy journal Health Affairs. Treatment was also to be more strongly related to the ability to pay and less to need for care in the United States than the other countries.

This sort of thing just really makes me question America's priorities. Given that resources such as money and professionals are limited, how does our country choose to spend them? By cutting services to the poor and folks who can't otherwise afford needed treatment.

(Posted at 09:03:19 AM EDT.) Discuss this...

New research says better social skills not nicotine patches help smokers quit
New research by psychologist Dr Stephen Joseph at the University of Warwick into why people smoke reveals that neurotic smokers and introverts find it hardest to kick the habit and says that carefully tailored treatment, including training to enhance social skills and counselling, could help smokers give up.

Although nicotine replacement therapy can support some people trying to quit smoking, the fact that some smokers use cigarettes to help them deal with social situations or to help themselves feel better implies that counselling and psychotherapy would be more appropriate in certain cases.

(Posted at 08:52:56 AM EDT.) Discuss this...

Cognitive decline after bypass surgery mostly temporary and reversible
More than two thirds of patients who undergo coronary artery bypass surgery may experience problems with their ability to think, remember and learn, and are slower at tasks like writing and drawing immediately following surgery than they were before surgery. Now, researchers at Johns Hopkins concerned about the lasting mental effects of bypass surgery have discovered that they are generally reversible and last for no more than three months.

(Posted at 08:52:00 AM EDT.) Discuss this...

How 9/11 changed us: First-ever quantitative research documents the before and after effect
If a goal of terrorism is to make victims feel less in control of their own destinies, the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 succeeded, according to new research from Saint Louis University. The unusual study, published in this month's Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, is the first to compare people's attitudes before and after the attacks.

This is pretty fascinating because research of this nature really has never before been attempted. At least not for an incident of this size and nature.

(Posted at 08:42:25 AM EDT.) Discuss this...

 Tuesday, May 6, 2003

Are State Cuts Leading to Deaths?
"Farrah [who was diagnosed with schizophrenia] was terrified but put her hope in Measure 28, a temporary income tax increase she thought could save the program. But voters overwhelmingly rejected the measure on Jan. 28, and the money Farrah needed to pay her February rent never arrived.

On Feb. 5, the manager of Farrah's apartment building gave her a 72-hour notice of eviction. Less than 24 hours later, Farrah swallowed a 30-day supply of her antipsychotic medications and died alone in her bedroom."

Read the rest of this heartbreaking story in the Oregonian, and then ask yourself, has our society become so cold-hearted as to leave our most needy out in the cold? Why does the federal goverment spend billions of dollars for oversea wars while cutting state funding for necessary social programs?? Why are the American taxpayers getting a tax cut when states are facing the largest budget deficits they've seen in decades???

(Posted at 12:11:58 PM EDT.) Discuss this...

 Monday, May 5, 2003

Internet Explorer Pop-Up Killer
Want an easy, free way to kill those annoying (and unwanted) pop-up ads in Internet Explorer? I found this simple, free download that seems to be doing an excellent job and just thought I'd pass it along, it's called Free Surfer. See the first section on this page, How to use FS. (The direct download link is also available.) Enjoy!

(Posted at 11:04:45 AM EDT.) Discuss this...

I'm Engaged!!
Just a quick note to let you know that over the weekend, I proposed to my girlfriend Nancy over the weekend at Walden Pond. It was a beautiful spring day, so we decided to visit Walden and take a walk around the pond. In a semi-secluded part of the path on the lake, we stopped to sit for awhile and it was there I asked her to be my partner for the rest of our lives. It was all very romantic and a happy time. She tearfully said yes, and we've been on cloud 9 since then!!

(Posted at 08:26:06 AM EDT.) Discuss this...

 Friday, May 2, 2003

Counseling Provides Help for Postpartum Depression
The misery of postpartum depression can be alleviated, at least in the short term, by counseling or psychological therapy given at home, British researchers said on May 1, 2003. Their study of three different forms of psychological treatment found that all three helped women who became depressed after giving birth to recover faster from their depression -- which often clears up by itself after four or five months.

"We found that what we had done was speed up the natural process of people tending to recover anyway," said Professor Lynne Murray, who published two articles on the study in the British Journal of Psychiatry, along with Professor Peter Cooper and others.

(Posted at 03:24:13 PM EDT.) Discuss this...

Bedwetting may be linked to social status
Bedwetting and behavior problems may not be related to each other but, rather, to a child's socioeconomic status, according to a new study. Previous research hinted at a connection between bedwetting and psychological problems, particularly attention-deficit disorders, say the researchers. But their study is the first to examine how socioeconomic status might be related to bedwetting.

"What seemed to be a marked association between bedwetting and psychological problems is merely the presence of two separate problems mediated by a common underlying factor," say Eline Van Hoecke, M.Sc., of Ghent University Hospital in Belgium and colleagues.

(Posted at 03:21:18 PM EDT.) Discuss this...

The price of prejudice: Interactions with minorities can sap mental capacity
In a study to be published in the May issue of Psychological Science, Jennifer Richeson of Dartmouth College and Nicole Shelton of Princeton found that white people with a high degree of racial bias suffer a decrease in a key element of thought called "executive function" immediately following interactions with black people.

(Posted at 03:20:04 PM EDT.) Discuss this...

Depression may worsen high blood pressure
Depressed people with high blood pressure are less likely to have their blood pressure under control than those who are not depressed, researchers reported April 28, 2003 at the XVth Scientific Meeting of the Inter-American Society of Hypertension, which is co-sponsored by the American Heart Association's Council for High Blood Pressure Research.

(Posted at 03:15:01 PM EDT.) Discuss this...


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 13 Jul 2007
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