Family Stress In Infancy Linked to Anxiety in Teen Girls

By Associate News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on November 6, 2012
High levels of family stress during infancy are associated with future anxiety and everyday brain function problems in teen girls, according to a new study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Babies who lived with stressed mothers were more likely to become preschoolers with higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. Fourteen years later, these girls with higher cortisol showed weaker communication between brain areas associated with emotion regulation.
Finally, both high cortisol and differences in brain activity predicted higher levels of anxiety at age 18.
The males in the study did not show any of these patterns.
“We wanted to understand how stress early in life impacts patterns of brain development which might lead to anxiety and depression,” said Dr. Cory Burghy of the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior.
“Young girls who, as preschoolers, had heightened cortisol levels, go on to show lower brain connectivity in important neural pathways for emotion regulation — and that predicts symptoms of anxiety during adolescence,” said Burghy.

For the study, scans designed by Dr. Rasmus Birn, assistant professor of psychiatry, showed that teen girls whose mothers reported high levels of family stress when the girls were babies had weaker connections between the amygdala (threat center of the brain) and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (responsible for emotional regulation). To continue reading, click here.

Alcohol Abuse Common among Bullies, Victims

By Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on October 30, 2012
A new study suggests both school bullies and their victims are likely to abuse alcohol after a bullying episode.

University of Cincinnati researchers examined bullying, recent alcohol use and heavy drinking episodes among more than 54,000 7th – 12th grade students in schools across Greater Cincinnati, including the tri-state regions of Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.
Keith King, Ph.D., along with Rebecca Vidourek, Ph.D., discovered more than 38 percent of students were involved in school violent victimization, defined as ranging from verbal intimidation to threatening with and using a weapon.

Investigators also determined that school violent victimization was associated with increased odds of recent alcohol use and heavy drinking among males and females and across 7th-12th grades.
Click here to read more.

Bullying Has Long-Term Health Consequences

ScienceDaily (Oct. 30, 2012) — Childhood bullying can lead to long term health consequences, including general and mental health issues, behavioral problems, eating disorders, smoking, alcohol use, and homelessness, a study by the Crime Victims’ Institute at Sam Houston State University found.

“What is apparent from these results is that bullying victimization that occurs early in life may have significant and substantial consequences for those victims later in life,” said Leana Bouffard, Director of the Crime Victims’ Institute. “Thus, the adverse health consequences of victimization are much more far-reaching than just immediate injury or trauma. Understanding these long term consequences is important to assessing the true toll of crime on its victims and on society as well as responding to victims more effectively.” To read more, click here.

5 Tips for Talking About Mental Health

The Truth About Schizophrenia

A Most Misunderstood Illness

Borderline Personality Disorder: A Most Misunderstood Illness

by Perry D. Hoffman, Ph.D.,
President, National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder


by Joyce Burland, Ph.D.
Director, NAMI Education, Training and Peer Support Center
There is perhaps no serious mental illness more maligned and misconstrued than borderline personality disorder. Years ago, when I started my clinical career, I was warned to “stay away from ‘Borderlines’.” Being of a suspicious nature, I began to search out information about this dread diagnosis, which was primarily attached to women, and carried with it such a blatantly stigmatizing reputation. As I began working with people with this disorder, I became aware of the enormous strength and resiliency they brought to the daily struggle of coping with the disruptive symptoms of the condition, and of the patience and loyalty shown by the families who loved and supported them.
Bringing this diagnosis out of the darkness is long overdue. Individuals and families living with the illness deserve current and correct information, and we must all advocate to dispel the myths which have made borderline personality disorder a “leprosy” of psychiatric diagnoses.
As part of the formal inclusion of borderline personality disorder in its list of priority populations in NAMI’s public policy platform, NAMI has invited Perry D. Hoffman, Ph.D., to write the article that follows. She is a pioneer in educating families about this disorder, and a prime mover in forming a collaborative effort with NAMI to increase visibility and understanding of this treatable mental illness.

To read more, click here.

Life events and borderline personality features: the influence of gene-environment interaction and gene-environment correlation.


Department of Biological Psychology, VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands.



Traumatic life events are generally more common in patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD) than in non-patients or patients with other personality disorders. This study investigates whether exposure to life events moderates the genetic architecture of BPD features. As the presence of genotype-environment correlation (rGE) can lead to spurious findings of genotype-environment interaction (G × E), we also test whether BPD features increase the likelihood of exposure to life events.


The extent to which an individual is at risk to develop BPD was assessed with the Personality Assessment Inventory – Borderline features scale (PAI-BOR). Life events under study were a divorce/break-up, traffic accident, violent assault, sexual assault, robbery and job loss. Data were available for 5083 twins and 1285 non-twin siblings. Gene-environment interaction and correlation were assessed by using structural equation modelling (SEM) and the co-twin control design.


There was evidence for both gene-environment interaction and correlation. Additive genetic influences on BPD features interacted with the exposure to sexual assault, with genetic variance being lower in exposed individuals. In individuals who had experienced a divorce/break-up, violent assault, sexual assault or job loss, environmental variance for BPD features was higher, leading to a lower heritability of BPD features in exposed individuals. Gene-environment correlation was present for some life events. The genes that influence BPD features thus also increased the likelihood of being exposed to certain life events.


To our knowledge, this study is the first to test the joint effect of genetic and environmental influences and the exposure to life events on BPD features in the general population. Our results indicate the importance of both genetic vulnerability and life events.
To read more, click here.

Does Gluten Cause Mental Illness?


C.R. writes: Richard and I blogged about nutritionist Trudy Scott a few months ago, after we read her terrific book, The Antianxiety Food Solution.
Recently, over on Facebook, Trudy shared this article at CBS, containing a video about the problems with modern wheat—the gliadin component of gluten, for starters.  We were seriously happy to see this getting the main-stream attention it deserves. Scoffers abound, but gluten intolerance can contribute to a whole range of mental and physical health issues.
For example, autism. In a post called Whole-Body Strategies for Autism we explore Harvard professor and pediatric neurologist and researcher Dr. Martha Herbert’s cutting-edge holistic brain-gut approach to treating autism. Why is this still cutting-edge? After all, we’ve known about what’s sometimes called the second-brain or the brain-gut relationship for a while. (The second brain is the digestive tract! and its impact on brain function).

In the past, I’ve written about the serious mental and physical health problems we’re seeing with gliadin and gluten.  Over on my blog you’ll find a variety of posts (one on GABA rice, which is a sprouted rice, one on the possible link between serious (and mild) digestive disorders and personality, and  several posts on minimizing or avoiding gluten including the art of bread making and how you can maximize its digestibility with recipes and techniques for slow yeast-based fermentation, authentic sour dough starters, or sprouted grain breads. Click here to continue reading.

Therapists Spill: 8 Ways Clients Spoil Their Progress in Therapy (& How to Change That)

By Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.

Therapy can be tremendously effective.
But sometimes as clients, we can stand in our own way. In fact, we might unwittingly hinder the therapeutic process and spoil our progress.
Below, clinicians share eight actions that typically prevent clients from getting the most out of therapy — and what you can do.
1. A poor fit between clinician and client.
It’s common — and recommended — to try out several clinicians before making your decision. According to Ryan Howes, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist and professor in Pasadena, California, “It’s important to check a potential therapist’s license and credentials, their areas of expertise, the logistical factors [such as] cost, distance [and] insurance, and then test drive a handful of therapists before selecting one.” While it might feel uncomfortable telling a therapist you don’t want to work with them, remember that the right fit is important for your progress. “If you don’t feel safe opening up to this person, you’re not likely to meet your goals,” Howes said.

2. Not asking questions. Do you know what your diagnosis means? What your goals are in therapy? What you need to do in between sessions? Many clients don’t ask their therapist questions, Howes said. “[Clients don’t ask] because they feel intimidated, or believe it wouldn’t be polite, or can’t get a word in edgewise,” he said. “Instead, they go home and ask their friends what the therapist meant when she said ______.” Howes encouraged readers to ask questions any time you need clarification. To continue reading, click here.