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Category: Stress

How Work-Life Imbalance Makes You Sick

Dr. Sheldon Cohen‘s keynote presentation at the 8th International Congress of Behavioral Medicine was published in International Journal of Behavioral Medicine (2005 Vol 12 No 3, 123-131).

Cohen summarized 20 years of research on psychosocial influences on infection susceptibility.

Cohen also debunks these pervasive myths of stress and disease:

  • Myth: Infectious disease-causing agents is wholly responsible for causing infectious disease.
  • Myth: Stress suppresses the immune system, which makes us susceptible to infections and disease.
  • Myth: Stress overstimulates cortisol production, which leads to susceptibility to disease.

According to Cohen’s article, infectious disease-causing agents are not sufficient causative agents for disease. Our immune system’s modulating responses against viruses in our body determine whether we become infected.

We would also assume that health-related behaviors like smoking, alcohol consumption, sleep, exercise, and diet contributed to disease susceptibility. Cohen has observed that these behaviors were independent of susceptibility to the common cold across five different strains of viruses (including 3 rhinovirus types).


Let Me Count the Ways to a Heart Attack

gif_heart.gif I don’t know what’s going on, but October has been a productive month for studies that show different ways to get heart attacks. For example, in addition to the “traditional way” of getting a heart attack, you can also get a heart attack by:

Undergoing prostate cancer therapy (consumer news / original research), speculated to be due to androgen deprivation – a key strategy in treating androgen (hormone) dependent prostate cancer.

100364003171311.gif Being in a bad relationship (consumer news / original research), which made a lot of sense because relationships that cause you to engage in vein-bulging screaming matches probably require your heart to work in overdrive to supply all that blood coloring your face red and engorging your vessels.

gif_people-198.gif Working in a stressful job (consumer news / original research). Here’s what I don’t get: WSJ’s blog entry stated that, “Thankfully, a majority of those who survive heart attacks are able to return to work, other studies suggest.” Huh? If your job is so stressful that it gave you a heart attack, why on earth would you want to return to that job? “Whatever doesn’t kill you make you stronger?”

Benefits of Power Napping

By Deborah Serani, Psy.D.

I am the Queen of napping. I can nap anywhere, anytime.
It’s one of my many talents.

Most often, at around 2:30 everyday, I am at rest. I am Semi-conscious, not sound asleep but not fully awake. I can ease out of this wonderful place without a jarring effect. And when I emerge from my catnap, some 20 minutes later, I feel so good.

The benefits of napping have been well documented. Research has shown that a nap can promote physical well-being, improve mood and memory, sharpen senses and revitalize a person. The neurons in brain functioning get to rest and recuperate from the day’s stress. Intellectual performance improves from the boost a midday nap provides and accuracy in performance increases too. MRI’s of nappers show that brain activity stays high throughout the day with a nap. Without one, it declines as the day wears on.

Research also says that taking a nap of 30 minutes a day is better than sleeping 30 minutes later in the morning. And from another psychological perspective, falling into a light sleep can feel meditative (like my semi-conscious experience). As you nap, the dreams and streams of thoughts you experience may offer insights you may not be able to grasp at night when you are in a deep sleep.

When you sleep under normal circumstances, your brain cycles through several different stages of Delta, Theta, Alpha, Beta, and Gamma sleep waves. You drift from one stage of sleep to another – from light sleep to deeper sleep to REM sleep to wakefulness and so on. Delta and Theta sleep, also known as Sleep I and Sleep II stages, are light stages of sleep. So, the key to napping is to not fall into the deeper stages of sleep. That is why a 15 to 30 minute nap is recommended. Napping more than that, and you’ll find yourself waking up cranky or groggy. (more…)

Suicide and SSRI When Medical Legal Risk is High

By Robert Lamberts, M.D.

I had a tough situation in the office yesterday.

One of my patients is a 17-year old who went to the ER on Sunday for shortness of breath. They said she had a panic attack and should follow-up with me as soon as possible.

When I saw her, she was clearly distressed, but not to the point of needing to be hospitalized. I asked her what was up and she told me that she had been kicked out of school recently because she stabbed someone with a knife – apparently only after that person grabbed her forcibly. She lives with her mother and her father is a homeless alcoholic. Her mother tells her not to talk to him, but he calls regularly and tells her that she is all he has. He also says that he might kill himself. She knows that he shouldn’t say this kind of thing to her, but it puts her in a hard situation. On one hand, she knows that it tears her apart to talk with him. On the other hand, she fears that if she does not talk to him, he will kill himself.

I asked her if she ever thought of killing herself, and she said she had – especially after talking to her father – but was not at this time suicidal. She had a real good friend with her who was very supportive.

So I am stuck in a dilemma. On one hand, she is clearly depressed and needs both medication and psychological counseling. On the other hand, since there is a black-box warning for using SSRI’s in teens, putting her on one would put me at huge risk for a lawsuit should she follow-through and kill herself. I think she is at very high risk of doing that in the long-run, and don’t really have a longstanding relationship with her as her doctor. I did what I could to tell her to talk with either her friend or me if she should feel she is close to killing herself, but I don’t really know her that well. I am trying to reach one of the local child psychiatrists, but most of them are several months out for new patient visits. (more…)

Interview on Self-Injury

Dr. Jane Chin: What are the biggest misconceptions or “myths” people have about self-injury?

Dr. Deborah Serani: I’d have to say that the biggest misconception about self-injury is that most people think that those who cut or self-injure are suicidal. Though any behavior that puts a person in harm’s way requires clinical evaluation, the basic reason individuals cut or self-harm comes from the wish “to control” or to “numb away feelings.”

Dr. Chin: Why is cutting or self injury such a difficult subject for people to talk about?

Dr. Serani: There is a lot of shame associated with this behavior. Seeing the scars or scabs serves as reminder to the person that they cannot find a better way to move through pent up feelings. They feel like they have failed or are flawed in some way, which exacerbates there negative feelings even more. (more…)

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