All posts by Satu Woodland

Owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions and Talk and Walk in Boise, Idaho with an additional office in Meridian, ID.

Both obese and anorexic women short on “feel-good” chemical

If you’re anorexic or obese, there’s a good chance you’re depressed, too. More than 50 percent of anorexic women and 43 percent of obese people suffer from depression.

Surprisingly, a new study shows the biochemistry contributing to depression and anxiety in those two opposite physical conditions appears to be the same. Both obese and anorexic women have low levels (50 percent of normal or less) of allopregnanolone, a steroid that enhances the signal produced when the neurotransmitter GABA binds to its receptors, resulting in a general feeling of well being. Women in either weight category with low levels of allo were more likely to suffer from depression or anxiety.

Several previous studies have connected low allo levels with depression in the past, but its levels have never before been linked to anorexia or obesity.

Meds that increase the body’s ability to convert progesterone into allo could be helpful for treating depression and anxiety in these women who are outside normal body weights. We need more research before going that route, though. Scientists are working on that.

If your weight is at either end of the spectrum and you’re feeling depressed, come on in. We can talk about how to successfully modify your behavior to get you to a healthier weight along with what medications might help.

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.

Spanked children grow into depressed adults

My headline overstates it — not all people who were spanked as children grow up to suffer from depression — but a new study shows there is a link. Children who are spanked are more likely than children who are not spanked to feel depressed, attempt suicide, have drinking problems, and use drugs as adults.

That puts spanking — defined as “using physical force with the intention of causing a child to experience pain, but not injury, to correct or control the youth’s behavior” — on the spectrum of physical and emotional abuse. Other violent acts against children have similar effects to those associated with spanking.

Opinions vary about the best ways to discipline children, but experts agree that good behavior should be taught calmly and consistently. The goal of parental discipline should be to teach a child to discipline him or herself eventually. Go here to read more about age-appropriate discipline.

The spanking study recommends public health outreach to direct parents toward positive parenting — focusing more on recognizing and promoting good behavior than on punishing bad behavior.

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.

Early school start times linked to adolescent depression and anxiety

Want a simple way to cut down teenage anxiety and depression across a community? Start school at 8:30am or later.

Earlier this month, researchers released the results of a study that showed adolescent students with school starting at 8:30am or later have better mental health than their earlier-starting counterparts.

You might think it’s because they’re getting more sleep, but that’s not necessarily true. Even when you just look at the students who are already getting enough sleep (between 8 and 10 hours), those with later start times were mentally healthier.

That’s not to say good “sleep hygiene” can’t help. For teenagers, healthy sleep means avoiding caffeine after 6pm, turning off electronics before bedtime, keeping a consistent sleep schedule, and getting between 8 and 10 hours of sleep. Across the board, with early or late school starts, the teens who met those guidelines were less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.

Here’s what one of the researchers had to say:

“Our study is consistent with a growing body of research demonstrating the close connection between sleep hygiene and adolescent mental health. But ours is the first to really look at how school start times affect sleep quality, even when a teen is doing everything else right to get a good night’s sleep. While there are other variables that need to be explored, our findings show that earlier school start times seem to put more pressure on the sleep process and increase mental health symptoms, while later school start times appear to be a strong protective factor for teens.”

Teenagers are going through a complicated time already, with brain development, hormones, and social pressures all bearing down on them constantly. If we can help them out by adjusting their school schedule, let’s do it.

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.

World Mental Health Day: Putting the stigma to rest

October 10th was World Mental Health Day, and the world took note.

Publications across the web published articles and opinion pieces about mental illness, and public figures as well as everyday people spoke up about their own experiences on social media. Here are some highlights:

“It’s an important day because we’re forced to talk about something that so many of us have shame around, and that’s our feelings of inadequacy, our feelings of feeling that we’re not enough, dealing and struggling with depression — these are things we all deal with. I have been to a therapist because I have felt depressed. It’s not something to be embarrassed about. It’s normal. … If you’re feeling that, please know you’re not alone.”
-Justin Baldoni, actor and director, on Instagram

“Globally, more than 300 million people suffer from depression, and 260 million suffer from anxiety disorders—many of whom live with both conditions. A study by the World Health Organization found that such disorders cost the global economy $1 trillion in lost productivity each year.”
-World Mental Health Day 2017 By the Numbers, Fortune

“It’s #WorldMentalHealthDay. Look after yourself. And others :)”
-Rickey Gervais, actor, on Instagram

“If you don’t struggle with mental illness, you might not know that there are big differences between being depressed and feeling sadhaving anxiety and being nervous, or feeling jumpy and suffering from PTSD. Contrary to some outdated beliefs, a person suffering from mental illness is not able to will themselves to be well, though as someone who has suffered from depression my entire life I can fake being well because sometimes I have to.”
-What Is World Mental Health Day? 5 Ways To Show Your Support This Year, Bustle.com

“Mental health affects us all just as physical health. Just because we can’t see what’s in someone’s head doesn’t mean it’s not happening. This is something that’s been a big part of my life and has affected me and many around me. We need to change the way we talk about people experiencing mental health difficulties. It is very very real.”
-Conor Mason,  singer, nme.com

Kindness Matters: Youth with high mental health inventory scores are significantly more likely to describe their environments as kind. 79% of “mentally healthy” high schoolers say their schools are kind places. However, 61% of youth describe themselves as stressed and 1 in 4 say they are nervous all or most of the time. 90% of youth think mental health is an important priority but less than half talk about it with anyone. ☹️ These statistics are highlights from a “Kind Communities Survey” done by @btwfoundation with Benenson Strategy Group. It focused on youth (15-24) and parents to explore the factors that impact youth mental wellness including a their relationship and environment. So simply, #BeKind #BeKind #WorldMentalHealthDay #BornThisWay #BornThisWayFoundation #mentalhealth #mentalhealthawareness #depression #anxiety

A post shared by xoxo, Gaga (@ladygaga) on

 

“We hope that this small act helps to continue a growing conversation about mental health in our community.”
-Investors Group Field lighting up purple for World Mental Health Day, cba.ca

“Whatever your problems may be, (diagnosed or not), they don’t equate to you being broken. In my own life, it’s been unhelpful to think of mental health problems in this way, particularly when you’re struggling. You are who you are at this moment in time, and you’re doing your best. Brains are plastic. People can, and do, change.”
-There’s nothing wrong with you, marinabook.co.uk  (Marina Diamandis, singer)

“New Zealand has a population of almost 4.7 million and the 606 Kiwis who took their lives in 2016-17 show that the problem isn’t getting any better. This most recent national suicide rate in New Zealand marks the third consecutive year the figure has risen, as well as the highest number for the country since the start of statistics began being recorded.”
-World Mental Health Day: Shoes Lined Up Around The World To Show The Devastating Costs Of Suicide, huffingtonpost.com.au

“While the conflict is mainly between armed groups, it is the people of Tumaco who have borne the brunt of the violence. Pervasive  fear and insecurity have had a devastating impact on people’s health. Every day people suffer threats, extortion, displacement, injury, torture, sexual violence, forced recruitment, and other abuses, and see family and friends lose their lives. This has led to high levels of anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems.”
-World Mental Health Day: Healing Hidden Wounds in Columbia, doctorswithoutborders.org

“As some of you may know, I was recently diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, a form of depression. Depression affects more than 16 million people in this country and there’s no cure per se, but for anyone dealing with it, there are treatments that can help. First of all, if you think you’re depressed, see a doctor and talk to them about medication. Also, be healthy. Eating right and exercise can make a huge difference. And finally, if you’re in the cast of a late night comedy show it might help if they do more of your sketches.”
-Pete Davidson addresses borderline personality disorder on ‘Saturday Night Live,’ usatoday.com

I could go on and on. It has been fantastic to see all the people who are willing to speak up about mental illness and reach out to others who might be suffering. The stigma around mental illness is fading, but it’s still a big hurdle for many who need treatment. I hope awareness and understanding will continue to grow!

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.

Changing the brain for stressful social situations

I never cease to be amazed at how we can physically change our brains with the thoughts and behaviors we choose.

This week I read about a study focused on determining how different mental exercises affect our brains and our responses to social  stressors. The study found that each of three mental training programs changed the structure of the brain networks supporting the skills the programs focused on. Everyone in the study felt less stressed after dealing with an uncomfortable social situations, and some of the participants — depending on which type of mental training they did — produced significantly less stress hormone in these situations.

It’s exciting — if you feel like social situations stress you out, you can change that.

The first type of training in the study was mindfulness meditation. Six days a week for three months, participants engaged in sessions where they focused on their breath, on sensations in their body, and on visual and audio cues in their environment. At the end of the three months, their brain structures had changed in areas known to be associated with executive function and attention.

The second type of training was “socio-affective.” That means it centered around developing positive feelings in interactions with others—feelings like gratitude and empathy— as well as developing skills for dealing with difficult emotions. At the end of three months, the brains of subjects who received socio-affective training had changed in areas related to these emotions and behaviors. These subjects also showed lower levels of stress hormone following a stressful situation.

The final type of training was “socio-cognitive.”  It helped participants to both understand their inner workings and perceive experiences from the perspective of those they interacted with. Along with changes in the perspective-related areas of the brain, these subjects also showed a reduction in stress hormone release after a stressful social situation.

If you feel like you could benefit from some  changes in the social areas of your brain, seek out counseling. A mental health professional can help you develop new thought patterns and reduce the amount of stress you feel in difficult social situations.

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.

Counseling for depression and drinking

Depression and excessive alcohol drinking can each be debilitating issues. When someone struggles with both — which is common, each leading to the other — treatment is critical.

A new study shows depression and harmful drinking can be successfully treated with counseling, and the results are lasting.

Because not everyone has easy access to mental health care from trained specialists, this study utilized counseling programs that can be given by non-specialists.

One was called the Healthy Activity Program, which takes 6-8 sessions. HAP focuses on getting a severely depressed subject to engage in activity –such as writing assignments, activity scheduling, and physical exercise — that can change problem behavior. It brings in the individual’s family and social support network and teaches strategies for dealing with triggers.

Sixty-three percent of people who participated in this counseling program were able to reduce depression symptoms, compared to 48 percent of people who received more typical medical care.

Another program, called Counseling for Alcohol Problems, can also be delivered by care providers who don’t specialize in mental health — the same providers treating depression symptoms. It seeks to change thinking and behavior related to alcohol and involves practicing these changes in session and out.

Those who participated in CAP were more likely to stop drinking — 54 percent compared to the 32 percent of people who didn’t receive the counseling.

With lives all over the world being darkened by depression and excessive alcohol use, it’s heartening to see researchers developing ways to reach these individuals. If you’re struggling with depression or alcohol use, counseling helps! Give it a try!

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.

“Immuno-neurology”: The future of mental health treatment?

The evidence has been building up for years: Inflammation and depression are linked, and treating inflammation can lead to improvement in depression symptoms.

It looks like scientists have gotten to the point where the connection is no longer a maybe.

Here’s what Cambridge’s head of Psychiatry said at a recent forum:

“In relation to mood, beyond reasonable doubt, there is a very robust association between inflammation and depressive symptoms. … The question is does the inflammation drive the depression or vice versa or is it just a coincidence? In experimental medicine studies if you treat a healthy individual with an inflammatory drug, like interferon, a substantial percentage of those people will become depressed. So we think there is good enough evidence for a causal effect.”

Inflammation is a symptom of an overactive immune system–hence the “immuno-neurology” Professor Bullmore believes is around the corner. When the immune system receives signals that indicate a threat, it triggers inflammation: It’s gathering blood cells and making other changes the body needs to heal a wound. These changes can lead to a depressed mood.

So scientists are planning formal trials using anti-inflammatory drugs to treat depression. Other tests have shown anti-inflammatory drugs work well as supplements to anti-depressants, but researchers are confident the anti-inflammatories will work well by themselves.

In the meantime, here are some tips for reducing inflammation from telegraph.co.uk:

  • Exercise — Depression can result from chronic ongoing stress and exercise acts like a biological insurance plan against the bodily effects of stress. 20 minutes, three times a week or more of anything that gets you sweaty is all that’s needed.
  • Diet — Eliminate processed foods, especially sugar and refined carbohydrates which may increase inflammation in the body. Eat plenty of natural foods including fruits and vegetables, pastured animal products and eggs and wild fish.
  • Meditate — Meditation stimulates the expression of genes that are powerfully anti-inflammatory. Just ten minutes a day of mindfulness, deep breathing or gratitude journaling can help mood.

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.

 

Brain region for “hearing voices” identified

Good news for schizophrenic people who hear voices: Scientists have found the region of the brain involved in the delusion. It’s a specific spot in the temporal lobe, where language originates.

Even better, targeting that area with magnetic pulses decreased the symptom for some patients.

The magnetic pulse success ratio was not overwhelming — in the recent study, 34.6 percent of people who received the magnetic treatment saw significant improvement, compared to 9.1 percent of people who didn’t have the treatment — but it’s still a good sign. It’s good to have options, especially for patients who don’t respond to medication.

Hearing voices, or Auditory Verbal Hallucination, is a common symptom of schizophrenia: About 70 percent of people suffering from the disorder will hear voices at some point.

Other symptoms of schizophrenia include:

  • Visual hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Thought disorders (unusual or dysfunctional ways of thinking)
  • Movement disorders (agitated body movements)
  • “Flat affect” (reduced expression of emotions via facial expression or voice tone)
  • Reduced feelings of pleasure in everyday life
  • Difficulty beginning and sustaining activities
  • Reduced speaking
  • Poor “executive functioning” (the ability to understand information and use it to make decisions)
  • Trouble focusing or paying attention
  • Problems with “working memory” (the ability to use information immediately after learning it)

The term “schiz” comes from the Greek word for “split” — which is probably why a lot of people confuse schizophrenia with multiple personality disorder (now known as dissociative identity disorder). In reality, the two are distinct disorders. Schizophrenia is so named because of the disconnect (or split) from reality its sufferers often feel.

Most people develop symptoms of schizophrenia between the ages of 16 and 30.

If someone you love is showing signs of schizophrenia, encourage him or her to get treatment. There’s a lot we can do to help!

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.

What you’ll find when you Google “depression”

Google has partnered up with an unexpected ally: the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Together, they’re rolling out a cool new feature to point depressed people toward help.

Starting this week, when you use a mobile device to search “depression” or something similar, here’s what you’ll see:

If you click on the link to check if you’re depressed, it will first bring up this screen:

and then will walk you through the nine questions of the PHQ-9 Questionnaire–the one medical professionals use to diagnose depression:

Select your answers for each question, and you’ll see your results:

I love that the new feature emphasizes that depression is common and treatable. Right now, only a fraction of people suffering from depression are receiving appropriate care. I hope as more people understand that the condition is treatable, the number of people seeking care will grow. The understanding of how common depression is should help, too, with reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness. If you know your condition is shared by millions of Americans, you’re less likely to be ashamed and more likely to acknowledge your problem enough to seek help.

Good move, Google and NAMI!

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.

Close friendships as a teen matter for later mental health

from mail.co.uk

A new study shows it’s not the popular teens who are setting themselves up for good mental health later in life; it’s the ones who form close friendships, however few they are.

A group of researchers followed 169 teenagers over 10 years. They questioned them every year about friendships and mental health. The teens with higher quality friendships tended to improve in mental health over time, while the popular teens without close friendships more often developed social anxiety after high school.

It’s not that those close high school friendships always last, the authors said, but the ability to develop close friendships tends to stay with you throughout your life. Furthermore, good friends help you feel good about yourself at an age when personal identity is being developed.

Here’s what the study’s coauthor had to say:

“Our study affirms that forming strong close friendships is likely one of the most critical pieces of the teenage social experience. Being well-liked by a large group of people cannot take the place of forging deep, supportive friendships. And these experiences stay with us, over and above what happens later. As technology makes it increasingly easy to build a social network of superficial friends, focusing time and attention on cultivating close connections with a few individuals should be a priority.”

Mental health challenges can make it harder to form friendships. If you’re a teen struggling to make the friendships that could serve you well throughout your life, here are some tips from the National Alliance on Mental Illness:

  • Identify things you enjoy and look for clubs, classes, or teams of people who enjoy the same thing (meetup.com is a great resource!)
  • Volunteer with an organization you care about.
  • Attend mental health support groups with people in your age range.
  • Don’t wait for people to reach out to you: send a text, post a message, initiate a conversation.
  • Be a good friend: listen, keep secrets, offer advice when appropriate.
  • Don’t give up if not all your attempts are successful! Every relationship teaches you something. Learn and grow.

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.