Category Archives: Boise, ID Mental Health

Bend Mental Health

Stress relief could someday be an immunization away

A researcher examines a sample of Mycobacterium vaccae. Source: www.colorado.edu

There’s a bacterium found on the shores of a Ugandan lake that could help reduce our stress. Scientists recently injected it into stressed-out mice with promising results.

The bacterium, called Mycobacterium vaccae, reduces inflammation in the brain, which in turn prepares the brain to respond better to stress. These findings could lead to better treatments for PTSD, anxiety, and depression.

In the study, researchers injected mice with the bacterium three times, a week apart. Eight days after the last injection, the mice’s brains showed higher levels of an anti-inflammatory protein in the hippocampus, a region of the brain involved in regulating anxiety.

They then placed the mice in a cage with a larger, aggressive mouse. The injected mice showed fewer symptoms of anxiety in the stressful situation, and they had lower levels of a stress-induced, inflammation promoting protein called HMGB1 and higher levels of an anti-inflammatory receptor called CD200R1.

Researchers say other probiotics (helpful bacteria) could have similar effects, and studies are under way to explore how they can be used. One potential use would be as a preventative treatment for people going into stressful situations, like combat or emergency room employment.

There’s so much more to understand about how mental illness works, and this is an interesting step in the right direction.

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. If you would like to discuss the information in this blog further with her, please call 208-918-0958. She sees adolescents and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.

 

Women’s stress levels go down as they head into their 50s and 60s

A new study offers great news for women entering middle age: There’s a good chance you’ll feel less stressed as you get older.

Researchers tracked women — aged 42 to 53 at the beginning of the study — for 15 years. They found that most women’s perceived levels of stress dropped significantly over that time period.

Even women with less education and more financial hardship experienced this decrease, and even menopause didn’t derail the progress.

The study didn’t measure the analyze the reasons for dropping stress levels,  but researchers say the change could come from circumstantial factors — children have moved out, careers are progressing, and health is still pretty good — and/or psychological factors — women have figured out how to better regulate emotions.

“Perhaps things just don’t bother us as much as we age, whether due to emotional experience or neurochemical changes. It’s all worth exploring,” the study’s lead author said.

It’s good to hear some scientific findings backing up the good things I’ve noticed about getting older. And for all you younger people out there: Look forward to your 50s and 60s. They’re a good place to be.

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. If you would like to discuss the information in this blog further with her, please call 208-918-0958. She sees adolescents and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.

Use these for better sleep

Sleep is so important for your mental health, but 45 percent of Americans say lack of quality sleep regularly affects their daily activities.

A possible culprit these days, according to a recent study, is the blue light coming from the screens we all love. Blue light keeps us alert and regulates our internal clock. We get it naturally from the sun, but the light coming from our TVs, computers, and smart phones is stimulating our brains long past sunset.

The good news is there’s a simple solution. Either cut out screen time at night or start wearing special glasses for a few hours before bedtime.

In the study, participants wore blue light-blocking glasses for three hours before bedtime while continuing to use screens as usual. At the end of two weeks, their melatonin levels were up 58 percent — a huge increase. The participants fell asleep faster and slept better and longer than they had before using the glasses.

Just search “blue light blocking glasses” online and you’ll find plenty of retailers selling the product at various price points. Your newer devices may have a blue light-blocking setting that you could use for a similar effect.

If your mental health is not where you’d like it to be, come see me. We’ll talk about sleep and other lifestyle changes you can make to start feeling better.

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.

 

Lithium for depression: An oldie but a goodie

There are drugs far more fashionable than Lithium these days: Pharmaceutical companies pay their representatives big money to promote their latest offerings, both with mental health care providers and in advertising.

The thing is, I’m not convinced any new and fancy drug can beat tried and true Lithium in effectiveness.

John Cade, the psychiatrist who discovered Lithium’s effectiveness in treating mental health disorders.

Doctors started prescribing Lithium in the 1800s to treat gout, epilepsy, and cancer. In 1948, an Australian psychiatrist named John Cade stumbled upon its usefulness in treating mania. After testing it out on guinea pigs, who became quiet and relaxed with its injection, he took his experiment to the next level by taking Lithium himself for several weeks.

Once he determined it was safe, Cade administered the drug in liquid form to a psychotic man who had been living in a mental asylum for three decades. In three weeks, the patient began to show signs of improvement: He looked after himself, his speech slowed, and erratic behaviors decreased. At the end of two months, the man was released from the asylum and resumed normal life.

It was a game changer for psychiatry. It was one of the first success stories in using drugs to treat mental illness.

Almost 70 years later, those success stories continue — and not just with bipolar depression, its most famous application. It’s been shown to work extremely well with unipolar depression, too.

A recent Finnish study found taking Lithium significantly decreased hospital readmission for those who had previously been hospitalized for unipolar depression. Antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs lacked the same effect. Lithium alone was more effective than lithium in combination with another drug.

The study’s authors are recommending more research into Lithium as well as its wider use as treatment for depression.

Lithium does have a narrow window of effectiveness, so the dose must be carefully watched. Go here to read more about Lithium and its possible side effects.

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.

Mindfulness changes brains for PTSD sufferers

A practice tied closely to Buddhism, Taoism, and yoga is proving itself to be a valuable tool for a surprising group of people: Veterans suffering from PTSD.

A new study found mindfulness training changed the brains of veterans suffering from PTSD. (The left image highlights changes in the brains of a control group, and the right image highlights changes in the brains of a group that received mindfulness training.)

I’m talking about mindfulness, or the art of paying attention to the present. A new study found mindfulness training actually changed the brains of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans afflicted with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

People with PTSD tend to replay traumatic memories in an endless loop. When you look at their brains at rest, you’ll see heightened activity in the parts of the brain that respond to danger. You’ll also see low levels of activity in the network involved in wandering thoughts.

But after going through a mindfulness course, the veterans’ brains were different. The wandering thought network had strengthened and developed better connections to the network involved in shifting and directing attention.

Here’s what that means, according to the study’s lead researcher:

“The brain findings suggest that mindfulness training may have helped the veterans develop more capacity to shift their attention and get themselves out of being ‘stuck’ in painful cycles of thoughts. We’re hopeful that this brain signature shows the potential of mindfulness to … provide emotional regulation skills to help bring [PTSD sufferers] to a place where they feel better able to process their traumas.”

Mindfulness can help people remember that traumatic memories are in the past, helping them to feel safer and more in control. It’s an amazing tool, and I’m excited to see such good results for people with PTSD.

To read more about mindfulness, go here or here.

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.

Mindfulness: It’s good for your heart

Over the years, I’ve seen mindfulness meditation make a big difference for clients dealing with depression and anxiety. But today I learned that mindfulness is good for the heart not just metaphorically, but physically as well. 

A new study shows that people who are more mindful — in other words, they are better at focusing on “the now” instead of rehashing the past or worrying about the future — have healthier glucose levels. Two things that might help explain this connection, researchers found, are: 1. Mindful people are less likely to be obese, and 2. Mindful people have a stronger sense of control over their lives — they believe they can make important changes.

This is good news for everyone, not just the mindful among us, because mindfulness is a trait that can be learned and developed. Working with a therapist is helpful, but practicing mindful meditation on your own can be, too. You can even find apps for your smartphone that will walk you through various meditations, helping bring your mind back to what is going on inside and around you.

Eventually, we hope, doing these mindfulness exercises will help you cultivate the everyday mindfulness that will change how you behave and how you respond to stressful situations.

So let’s work to be more aware of the world around us! It’s good for our hearts!


Wondering where you fall on the mindfulness spectrum? Here are some questions to consider:

  • Do you find yourself running on autopilot frequently?
  • Do you forget names soon after you hear them?
  • Do you snack without being aware of what you’re eating?
  • Do you break or spill things out of carelessness?

Go here for the full questionnaire researchers use to measure mindfulness. 


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.

Fighting depression with sunshine and exercise

Fighting depression with sunshine and exercise 

It’s June, and here in Boise we’ve shaken off any lingering symptoms of winter. That’s good news for people suffering from depression and other mental health conditions.

Exercise and sunshine are both simple but effective tools in treating depression, so why not take advantage of both at the same time?

A 2005 study introduced a group of women to a three-part strategy for fighting their mild to moderate depressive symptoms. For eight weeks, these women walked briskly outdoors five days a week, increased their light exposure, and took a special vitamin regimen. In the end, moods significantly improved as did overall well being, self esteem, happiness, and depression. A control group who simply took a placebo vitamin showed improvement, too, but the effect was much greater in the group participating in the three-part intervention.

Another study, this one from 2002, divided 98 participants into three groups. The first group exercised in bright light, the second group exercised in normal light, and the third group stretched or relaxed in bright light.

Each group reported some relief from depression, but those who were out in the bright light (either exercising or relaxing) also showed improvement in less common symptoms like carbohydrate craving, weight gain, social avoidance, and fatigue — symptoms that exercise alone didn’t temper.

Of course, when you’re considering the benefits of sunshine, remember to also weigh its risks, including skin cancer. Vitamin D (the “sunshine vitamin”) supplements may be another effective tool to consider.

For more details on these studies and on the relationship between Vitamin D and depression, check out this report from the National Institutes of Health.

Is there a relationship between trauma and obsessive compulsive disorder?

Very interesting study came out this month in the European Journal of Psychotraumatology. It studied patients who were diagnosed both with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and posttraumatic stress disorder. (PTSD) For these people, repetitive behavior patterns, rituals and compulsions may ward off anxiety and may serve as a coping mechanism to control reminders of traumatic events. So, if a person was raped at a young age, that person may have obsessions related to being dirty or unclean and may cope with those obsessions by washing his hands several times a day. Some patients suffer so severely that she may wash her hands raw enough to make them bleed. These patients are truly in a lot of distress.
This study was a case report of a 49 years old Dutch man who was raped as a child by an unknown man. The patient was treated with Paxil (an antidepressant) as well as with 9 sessions of psychotherapy, particularly eye movement desensitization and reprocenssing (EMDR), and an exposure type of therapy. It was observed that the PTSD symptoms went away before the OCD symptoms did.
This studies conclusion found that there is a connection between PTSD and OCD and by treating the PTSD first, one may be able to subsequently cure the OCD as well.
It is my belief that for many people, EMDR can be a faster route to get relief in those who have experienced trauma and also suffer from OCD symptoms.

Family involvement and the treatment of Depression

There was an interesting study that came out this month in Psychiatr Serv. 2013 Feb 1. It was a study of Veterans who were being treated for Depression. It confirms what I have believed all along, that is to get the families involved in the treatment of those suffering with Depression.

In this study after questioning patients, it was found that 64% of Veterans did not have family involvement and the rest did. Among those that did it was found that the patients had better social support and medication adherence. This group had much better outcomes than the those that did not have family involvement.

In my practice I have always believed that a patient needs involvement of his family. Not only can family provide support and make sure that a patient takes their medications, a family can provide valuable feedback to the mental health practitioner about how the patient is doing. The family may notice side effects like irritability or anger or lack of social activity of which the patient may not be cognizant. It is common in mental illness for a patient to not have good insight regarding her illness. I often tell my patient with poor insight to ask his/her family how they think he is doing

Another reason I like to involve the family is that I like to educate them about the nature of mental illness and how to best help. Family may have wrong information about mental illness. Sometimes family may believe the patient has a character flaw that would be cured if “he would only try harder”. Proper psychoeducation can help the family be of the best help to the patient.
Depression is one of the top causes of disability benefits in this country. It a serious problem for all of us. I would like to see mental health practitioners include in the care of their patients the participation of families.

EMDR reduces the subjective vividness and objective memory accessibility.

We’ve heard a lot about EMDR or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. There have been much research supporting its efficacy, many books written, even U-tube videos made demonstrating its usefulness. What does it do exactly? The mechanism isn’t completely clear.
In eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), patients make eye movements (EM) during trauma recall. A recent study in Cogn Emot. 2012 Jul 6 showed that EMDR apparently reduces the subjective vividness of the memories, making the memories easier to deal with and handle. Thereby making the memory fade faster in susequent visits.