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3 Ways to Lift Loneliness

All of us, from time to time, have experienced the ache of loneliness, whether we’re actually by ourselves or among others. And, of course, it never feels good.

But, curiously, this “social pain” is actually adaptive. According to John T. Cacioppo and William Patrick in their book, Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection:

Keep in mind, too, that feeling the pain of isolation is not an unalloyed negative. The sensations associated with loneliness evolved because they contributed to our survival as a species. "To be isolated from your band," wrote John Bowlby, the developmental psychologist who pioneered attachment theory, "and, especially when young, to be isolated from your particular caretaker is fraught with the greatest danger. Can we wonder then that each animal is equipped with an instinctive disposition to avoid isolation and to maintain proximity?"

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Best of Our Blogs: September 30, 2011

When the seasons change and the weather gets colder, I start to hear more warnings about fall and winter illnesses. Just like the sudden talk of Halloween in September, there is an influx of information on the common cold and flu prevention. Important topics for sure. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), seasonal flu can start as early as October. And the National Center for Health Statistics says there are about 62 million cases of the common cold each year. Besides no one likes to get sick.

But ever wish the media would spend just a little more attention on mental health? (Our Facebook friends thought so and voiced their opinions here.) We can't wash our hands to prevent mental illness like we can with the common cold. But few would argue about the importance of mental health awareness in suicide prevention, ending stigma, and in helping others get appropriate treatment.

That's why I'm excited and proud that we're doing this. Our first ever World Mental Health Day Blog Party on October 10, 2011. It's your chance to share your stories about mental illness, educate others and help reduce prejudice and stigma.

And if you want to learn how to make more positive changes in your life and relationships, read our best posts below from this past week.

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Blog Party: World Mental Health Day, October 10

In recognition of World Mental Health Day on October 10, 2011, Psych Central is hosting an international blog party to celebrate the day and bring greater awareness to mental health issues.

We're asking all bloggers around the world -- whether you blog on health or mental health topics specifically or not -- to blog an entry on October 10 about mental health -- to help increase awareness and education about...
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Anxiety and Panic

Social Anxiety Disorder: Cognitive Therapy or Interpersonal Therapy?

If all you did was watch TV, you might think social anxiety disorder was as prevalent as depression -- or as big a problem. Also called social phobia, social anxiety disorder is often treated first with medications, such as an SSRI antidepressant (you know, regulars like Paxil or Prozac). Psychotherapy is also an option -- it's just not as popular as medication.

In a randomized controlled research study published recently, two psychological interventions were put head to head to see which one would come out on top.

Cognitive therapy (CT) focuses on the modification of biased information processing and dysfunctional beliefs of social anxiety disorder. Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) aims to change problematic interpersonal behavior patterns that may have an important role in the maintenance of the problem.

According to the researchers, no previous direct comparison of these two treatment options exists.

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5 Ways To Escape An Abusive Relationship

This guest article from YourTango was written by Acinta Monteverde. 

If you or someone you care about is in an abusive relationship, there are ways to break away and stop the cycle of domestic violence. I have personally experienced physical and emotional abuse, and lived through the challenges associated with rebuilding my life as the single parent of a young child.

I am here to say that it is not only possible to survive, but it is possible to thrive with the right support and commitment. With these tips, my hope is that you will feel empowered to love yourself.

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Anxiety and Panic

Research Update: Childhood PTSD, Perinatal Depression, Anxiety Symptoms

Meta-analysis is a scientific term that refers to a structured review of a particular topic in the research literature. Meta-analyses look at a bunch of research studies that have been previously published, combine all their data (or look at all of their data in a systematic fashion), and come to some broad, general conclusions from the analysis.

Meta-analyses are helpful to researchers, clinicians and laypeople alike, because they help distill the entire research literature on a specific topic into an easily digested summary.

In this research update, we look at cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for childhood posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), effective treatments for depression in a mother surrounding the birth of her child, and a look at anxiety symptom prevention with cognitive-behavioral interventions.

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The 3 Basic Types of Descriptive Research Methods

One of the goals of science is description (other goals include prediction and explanation).  Descriptive research methods are pretty much as they sound -- they describe situations. They do not make accurate predictions, and they do not determine cause and effect.

There are three main types of descriptive methods: observational methods, case-study methods and survey methods. This article will briefly describe each of these methods, their advantages, and their drawbacks. This may help you better understand research findings, whether reported in the mainstream media, or when reading a research study on your own.

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Best of Our Blogs: September 27, 2011

Anger can be expressed in a multitude of ways. If we attempt to hide it, it can fester leading to resentment. If we ignore it, it can use food, shopping and other addictions to get our attention. If we focus all our energy on it, it can seep out, toxic and destructive, hurting everyone it touches. But if we simply listen to it, quietly, non-judgmentally, we may learn something.

Anger is an emotion that we're often afraid of. As a kid, you're taught to "play nice,"or to keep quiet when you're upset. Sometimes the things adults don't say in response to our negative emotions have the greatest impact of all. Maybe the adults in your life were fearful of their own anger and so you didn't learn how to healthily express your own.

The bright side is that we can always make different choices. You could seek help from a professional, support from a friend and/or use the top posts below to start to become aware of how anger works or doesn't work in your life. What will you choose to make better choices and live free of being afraid of your emotions?

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8 Tips to Feel Better About Yourself

First came the self-esteem movement. Then came the backlash to the self-esteem movement.

What's pretty clear is we don’t get healthy self-esteem from constantly telling ourselves how great we are, or even from other people telling us how great we are. At the same time, it’s a rare person who isn’t sometimes -- or often -- plagued with painful self-doubt.

So what's the secret? When you’re feeling lousy, what can you do to feel better about yourself? It turns out that we feel better about ourselves when we behave in ways that we find worthy of our own respect -- such as helping other people, surmounting a fear, and the like.

Here are some suggestions that I try to remember when I'm feeling full of self-doubt and self-anxiety (a term I just made up -- is there a more elegant term for this feeling?).

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Brain and Behavior

Practicing Mindfulness for Busy People

Most of us fly through our days with just enough time to get dressed, eat and go to work. Who really has the time to stop and smell the roses?

But we don’t need much time to practice mindfulness, which is a great thing because being mindful can really perk up our lives. (Plus, it comes in especially handy when we’re knee-deep in dull tasks.)

As author Jan Chozen Bays, M.D., writes in her book, How to Train a Wild Elephant: And Other Adventures in Mindfulness, “Mindfulness unifies our body, heart and mind, bringing them together in focused attention.” Mindfulness helps to build intimacy, overcome fears, alleviate anxiety and support spirituality, she notes.

The title of this post is inspired by a section in Russ Harris’s book The Confidence Gap: A Guide to Overcoming Fear and Self-Doubt. In it, Harris, a physician and stress management therapist, says that “when we are mindful, we are able to engage fully in what we are doing, let go of unhelpful thoughts and act effectively without being pushed around by our emotions.”

So how can the busiest of busy people be fully present in their lives? He provides readers with suggestions for engaging mindfully in a variety of activities, from your morning routine to chores to, as he says, “anything and everything.” In other words, you can practice mindfulness anytime, anywhere.

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On Reclaiming Laughter: An Interview With Rev. Susan Sparks

Is it possible to be a stand-up comedian and minister simultaneously?

I didn't think so until I learned about Rev. Susan Sparks, Senior Pastor of Madison Avenue Baptist Church. Her book, Laugh Your Way to Grace: Reclaiming the Spiritual Power of Humor, is a fantastic read and will put you in a good mood before you've even turned a page. I was so intrigued with her journey that I wanted to interrogate her a little more, and she accepted the invitation.

1. How did you become an ex-lawyer, turned standup comedian and minister?

Rev. Sparks: After ten years as a trial lawyer, I left the practice to pursue a career in ministry and standup comedy -- a job that frankly, didn't exist. I had felt a call to the ministry for some time, but was unsure how a comedian would ever fit into organized religion. I decided to travel around the world hoping to find some -- any kindred spirits.

I traveled for two years doing everything from working for Mother Teresa and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to driving my Jeep Wrangler from NYC to Alaska. Everywhere I went, whether it was the laughter of Buddhist monks or the Sacred Clowns of the Navajo, I found examples of how comedy -- joy and laughter -- was an integral part of the Holy. Consequently, I returned and entered Union Theological Seminary, graduating with an honor's thesis on humor and the sacred and eventually became the senior pastor of the historic Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York City (and the first women in its 160 history).

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Skype Away: Online Therapy is Still Exciting!

It must be a slow news week, as The New York Times ran another article extolling the virtues of online therapy, with a focus on videoconferencing and Skype. In a well-crafted article, Jan Hoffman gets quotes from a half dozen or so professionals to demonstrate how online therapy (or e-therapy) is on a roll.

But like most articles on this topic, the reporter does the easy legwork -- talking to experts in the field -- but seemingly doesn't ask any serious questions. It's a puff piece wrapped in beautifully baked fantasy-land pastry.

So what's new? Let's find out.

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