Got OCD? Changing Your Diet Might Help


Photo Credit: BlueSkyImage/Shutterstock

“You are what you eat” is one of those little phrases that crops up all the time to remind you that food can play a big part in your well being. In other words, if you change your diet, you can change your life.

Not convinced?

Take people suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder. OCD is an anxiety disorder that leads to certain types of repetitive behavior, thoughts or compulsions that are beyond the sufferer’s control. This tends to manifest in psychological tics such as repeating gestures or rituals that help provide relief from anxiety. Ironically, by being a bit obsessive about the food they eat, OCD sufferers can actually reduce their symptoms.

OCD is a complex disorder that can be triggered by a number of factors. For that reason, there is no simple solution to reducing its effects. But thinking about the nutrients and vitamins in food and how these affect the body and mental health can make a big difference.

Tryptophan

You’ve likely heard about tryptophan as the ingredient in turkey that makes you feel sleepy. Though this is actually a bit of a myth, there is some truth to its calming effects. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, which once ingested, is first converted into another amino acid, 5-hydroxytryptophan, and then into serotonin, a mood-regulating neurotransmitter. Serotonin helps to regulate essential bodily activities like sleep, mood, pain, appetite, and—you guessed it—anxiety.

OCD sufferers often have a serotonin deficiency. There are a number of foods apart from turkey that contain serotonin-producing tryptophan, including fellow protein-rich foods like chicken, milk, eggs and cheese. Another key source of tryptophan can be found in whole grain foods such as brown rice, quinoa, beans, legumes, pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds, and nuts. When eating whole grain foods such as bread, pasta and cereal, make sure whole grains are listed as one of the main ingredients to ensure you get the full effects.

Ideal meal: whole grain cereal in low-fat milk or yogurt, topped with granola.

Fruits and Vegetables

There are many causes, known and unknown, for how OCD can develop. One theory suggests the behavior can be triggered by an excessive secretion of adrenalin, which leads to hypoglycemia, more commonly known as low blood sugar.

Clinical nutritionist Jurriaan Plesman of the Hypoglycemic Health Association of Australia explains that this is due to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance takes place when your body is unable to stabilize its blood sugar levels, which leads to an increase in the production of stress hormones such as adrenaline and in turn leads to an increase in anxiety. The solution, Plesman suggests, is a “hypoglycemic diet that can help normalize blood sugar levels and prevent the excessive secretion of the stress hormones, which in turn may reduce or prevent symptoms of OCD.”

Key to such a diet, and really any healthy eating plan, are fruits and vegetables. Along with helping to balance blood sugar levels, fruits and vegetables are a great source of antioxidants—such as beta-carotene and vitamin C—which can greatly help to reduce anxiety.

Ideal, nutrient-rich examples: berries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, leafy greens, broccoli, bell peppers, brussels sprouts and squash.

Fish, Walnuts and Flaxseed

You’ve heard fish referred to as brain food, right? Well there’s good reason for that. For one, fish are often rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help with brain function, and as some research suggests, benefit people suffering from nervous disorders. A study published last year directly attributes eating fish to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disorder. Flaxseed and walnuts are also prime sources for omega-3 fatty acids.

Ideal fish: coldwater fish such as salmon, herring, lake trout, halibut and mackerel. 

Folic Acid and Vitamin B12

Ray Sahelian, a nutrition export and author of MindBoosters has some advice in his book for people suffering from OCD. Sahelian suggests OCD sufferers eat foods “rich in folic acid and vitamin B12.” Folic acid foods include broccoli, bananas, potatoes and soy products. B12 can be found in liver and dairy products.

Just as important as eating the right food is avoiding food and certain eating patterns that can add to anxiety. WebMD suggests the following helpful tips for keeping you on the road to a healthier body and mind.

1. Avoid or limit caffeine intake.

Caffeine can heighten stress-induced anxiety, especially if consumed in high quantities. That said, if you already have a lot of caffeine in your diet, it’s important to slowly cut down to avoid sending your body into shock. Apart from coffee and tea, caffeine can also be found in soft drinks and chocolate.

2. Moderate alcohol consumption.

Drinking alcohol to deal with stress often ends up worsening the problem. Instead, “limit yourself to two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women” to keep a healthy balance.

3. Maintain consistent mealtimes.

Skipping meals can lead to a drop in blood sugar, which can exacerbate other stress-related symptoms, such as headaches and stomachaches. 

4. Don’t use food to deal with stress.

It’s important that the food you eat is healthy and helps to reduce stress, but don’t turn to food as a crutch. Comfort eating generally leads to overeating. Instead, seek out other forms of relaxation such as exercise, taking a walk in nature, spending time with pets, or taking a long bath.

“In my current life, I am healthier that I have ever been,” wrote Gianna Marinelli in a blog post explaining how her change in diet affected her life. “I am OCD and anxiety free, for the first time in 10 years, and I owe it to how I am eating. All the residual OCD symptoms are gone, and they only arise when I deviate from eating good foods.”

Marinelli stands as a testament to the benefits of better eating. That said, it’s important to note that OCD is a complex disorder that requires attention on multiple fronts. If you feel you may suffer from OCD, the first step is to reach out to your physician for a referral to a qualified psychiatrist or psychologist. From there, you can begin the holistic process toward recovery, beginning with the food you choose to eat.

Robin Scher is a freelance writer from South Africa currently based in New York. He tweets infrequently @RobScherHimself.

Exercise Shown to Alleviate Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety …

For most of our time on earth movement was required of humans. Building shelter, tending to crops, gathering, hunting, transporting water from the stream—sedentarism meant death, for if you weren’t willing to carry your load you would be left behind. The concept of ‘exercise’ did not exist. We have bodies and so we used them. 

The reasons for our sedentary present are numerous, but suffice it to stay that many modern humans would not survive the rigorous demands of physical activity if thrown back a few millennia. To counteract the slow-paced non-dynamic nature of office life ‘exercise’ became necessary. The fitness industry is one of the most booming economic drivers in our economy today. 

Yet still many do not move enough and that’s a problem. It’s not only our low back and physique that suffers when we don’t take care of ourselves. Our brain is starved as well, leading to a cascade of emotional and cognitive problems. 

As research continues to collect on just how important movement is to well-being, a new study conducted in Amsterdam shows a link between a lack of exercise and symtpoms of anxiety disorder and depression. The researchers looked at how three activities—sports participation, generally physical activity, and sedentary behavior—influence downcast and anxious attitudes. 

What the researchers term ‘sports’ is their way of expressing intentional exercise, whereas ‘general physical activity’ implies your daily movements at home and work and during leisure time. They separate this from sedentary behavior, which is reserved specifically for time spent sitting. For easier understanding I’ll refer to ‘sports participation’ as exercise moving forward. 

The researchers looked at six years of data from people suffering from depressive and anxiety symptoms to better understand the bi-directional relationship between exercise and emotional regulation. Much of the literature, they write, focuses on exercise’s role in depression and anxiety, though not if those mindsets influence exercise behavior. 

They also honed in specifically on how anxiety disorders is affected by exercise. I’ll interject briefly by stating that one way I dealt with panic attacks was by running (on a treadmill or outside) at the onset of an attack. Raising my heart rate allowed me to ‘outrace’ the physiological cascade of symptoms occurring during the attack. While my breathing rate was shortened in the beginning, within ten minutes I felt the effects of the attack subside. How one affects the other—chicken or egg—is an intriguing line of inquiry, however. 

Thus 2,981 adults with anxiety disorder and depressive disorders between the ages of eighteen and sixty-five, as well as healthy controls, from the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety (NESDA) were studied. Researchers controlled by removing those suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder, psychosis, bipolar disorder, and severe addiction. Participants were measured at the two-, four-, and six-year mark following the initial study. Seventy-five percent of participants were retained at the six-year mark. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly researchers found what much of the previous literature suggests. People who suffer from anxiety disorders and depression exercise less, as well as move around during their daily activities less, than healthy controls. Interestingly, of the three activity levels, lack of exercise was associate with greater severity of symptoms and an increase of disorder onset. This led researchers to conclude, 

Over time, there seems to a mutually reinforcing, bidirectional relationship between psychopathology and lower physical activity, particularly low sports participation. People with anxiety are as adversely affected as those with depression.

We are mobile animals with plenty of joint articulation and a combination of slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscle fibers. The range of movements available to us are endless. In order to thrive we must practice diverse movement often. The consequences go beyond a bulging middle and poor posture. Cognitive and emotional health are inextricably linked to our biological requirements for cardiovascular activity, strength training, and flexibility. Anything less is denying what evolution designed our bodies to do, and not living up to that potential is a tragedy with terrible consequences.

Derek’s next book, Whole Motion: Training Your Brain and Body For Optimal Health, will be published on 7/17 by Carrel/Skyhorse Publishing. He is based in Los Angeles. Stay in touch on Facebook and Twitter.

The brain’s failure in obsessive compulsive disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) was previously considered an anxiety disorder but is now classified as a mental illness. About 2.3 percent of the population suffers with this common, chronic and long-lasting disorder.

In the United States, the current numbers approximate 3.3 million, although some estimates have been as high as 6 million, related, in part, to how patients are diagnosed and categorized. But a recent study in the U.K. that illustrates how the OCD brain reacts compared to the average brain may help better treat these patients.

One-third of affected adults first experience symptoms in childhood, and the median age of onset is 19, with 25 percent of cases occurring by age 14. However, fewer than half of those with OCD will seek effective treatment — often delaying treatment up to nine years in the hope that symptoms will alleviate or because they feel embarrassed, ashamed or have negative connotations about getting professional help.

For everyone, the ability to assign safety to stimuli in the environment is integral to everyday functioning. The troubling symptoms of OCD include uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions, such as fear of germs, unwanted thoughts involving sex, religion and harm, and having things symmetrical or in a perfect order) and behaviors (compulsions, such as excessive cleaning and/or hand washing, ordering and arranging things in a particular way, and repeatedly checking on things) that ultimately interfere with daily life.

A recent brain-scanning study has found that the part of the brain that sends out safety signals seems to be less active in people with OCD. Naomi Fineberg of Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust in the U.K. and her team trained 78 people (about half had OCD) to fear a picture of an angry face to help explore the rituals of OCD.

A key brain region for this evaluation is the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). To investigate the importance of vmPFC safety signaling, the team used neuroimaging of Pavlovian fear reversal, a paradigm that involves flexible updating when the contingencies for a threatening (CS+) and safe (CS-) stimulus reverse, in a prototypical disorder of inflexible behavior influenced by anxiety, OCD.

Sometimes the volunteers were given an electric shock to the wrist when they saw the angry face picture while they were lying in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scanner. Then, the volunteers were shown the picture many times without a shock in a detraining effort.

Eventually, those without OCD stopped associating the face with a shock, but researchers noted that those with OCD remained afraid of the face even after the shocks had stopped. Importantly, those volunteers with OCD showed less activity in their vmPFC.

A common treatment for OCD includes exposure response prevention or focused therapy, that involves people trying to experience their triggers without resorting to their rituals basically helping them realize that nothing bad happens. However, most OCD patients who undergo this therapy fail to eliminate all of their repetitive behaviors. Many are not helped at all.

The results of this study may provide insight into the difficulty of why this approach probably takes longer than originally thought and why those with OCD need to stick with their therapy. Some researchers contend that drugs such as psilocybin, a compound in magic mushrooms that causes euphoria administered during therapy might help those with OCD to pay attention to the fact that nothing bad happens when they abandon their rituals.

Visualising anxiety: What does mental illness look like?

Unlike physical illness, mental illness is largely invisible. This makes it hard for some people to comprehend that it is a reality for at least 20 per cent of Australians each year (with anxiety disorders the most common) and nearly half of us at some point in our lives.

In an effort to make sense of and actualise the experience of anxiety, Jill Simpson, a PhD researcher from the University of York, has published an article on visualising mental illness with an accompanying data art illustration.

“What does mental illness look like? We know how it feels; at least I do, having suffered from anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) for many years,” Simpson says in the article. “But it’s hard to visualise mental illness in the same way we might visualise physical disabilities, and this can make it difficult for people with no experience of mental health problems to empathise or imagine how they affect people’s lives.”

Simpson was inspired by the Dear Data project, self-tracking anything from moods to complaints to clocks and creating striking diagrams based on the patterns.

For all the diagrams and formulas, each piece of data art is “like a fingerprint“, as our personal patterns are unique. Capturing them can provide deeper insight into the individual within the collective human experience. 

“I’ve begun to visualise my own experience of OCD by quantifying my compulsions to check and recheck the same thing over and over again,” Simpson explains of her project. “To collect the data, I tracked my behaviour for a day, noting every time I checked something, the number of times I checked it, and what it was that I was checking. 

“In order to sort through the data, I thought about what I needed to communicate to other people in order for them to understand the impact that OCD has on my life.”

A key to understanding the diagram explains that a blue circle indicates she has repeated an action four times. A pink circle represents an action repeated again “as I don’t trust myself that I checked properly first time round”. 

One detail in the picture shows a pink circle surrounding several blue circles. 

“I checked my front door handle four times. I was feeling anxious and felt compelled to check it was locked another eight times before I could walk away,” Simpson explains.

The process of creating the illustration has helped Simpson see her OCD with more objectivity.

“Visualising my own behaviour has helped me to take a step back from it, to see it as a symptom of OCD rather than a personal failing,” she says.

Whether it’s in private or public, art can be an effective way to manage and understand anxiety and mental illness.

As the attention shifts from the thoughts to the paper, our rattled nervous system can regulate and the non-verbal expression can provide some distance and perspective when feelings are overwhelming.

“Repetitive, satisfying art making may actually mediate depression and anxiety by stimulating the ‘accumbens-striatial-cortical’ connection in the brain. It is perhaps connected to what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi named ‘flow’, an experience of complete concentration and absorption,” explains psychologist and author of The Art Therapy Handbook, Cathy Malchiodi.

“Because flow is close to other mindfulness practices such as meditation and yoga, it may offer many of the same positive, attention-focused benefits through deep engagement in an art process,” Malchiodi says.

Attempting to quantify a personal experience of OCD inevitably strips away much of its complexity, yet data visualisations have the potential to communicate some of the ways in which this form of mental illness affects daily life.

11 Mental Health Disorders That Are 100% Misunderstood

Thankfully, mental health disorders are becoming less stigmatized, and not just socially. More and more health insurance companies are starting to provide better benefits for those with physical and mental disabilities. However, there’s still a lingering stigma for a few reasons. “People tend to view mental illness as a sign of weakness that people should just be able to ‘get over,’ and many view it as a title given to those who are just ‘crazy,’” Wyatt Fisher, a Colorado-based licensed psychologist, said in an interview with The Cheat Sheet.

It’s also difficult to empathize with a mental condition if you or someone you know has never experienced one. “This can lead to the ‘othering’ of people with mental health disorders,” Dr. Shanthi Mogali, a double board-certified physician in general and addiction psychiatry and director of psychiatry at Mountainside Treatment Center, told Us. “As with any systematic othering of an entire group of people, prejudice and fear can dictate how individuals with mental illnesses are treated.”

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To help demystify mental disorders, we talked to top experts in the fields of psychology for their insight into why certain mental disorders are so widely misunderstood.

1. Obsessive-compulsive disorder

Word ocd (obsessive compulsive disorder) Obsessive-compulsive disorder can be all-consuming. | iStock.com/Elen11

When most people think of obsessive-compulsive disorder, they think of someone who’s a total neat-freak or perfectionist. In reality, OCD is much more than a quirky tic, habit, or desire to be perfect. “Symptoms of OCD can range from what we’ve seen on television — like obsessive washing of hands or arranging and rearranging items until satisfied to obsessive prayer to prevent harm or constantly checking some part of the body,” said Mogali. “These obsessive thoughts and/or compulsive behaviors can cause deep distress in the individual suffering from the disorder.” The best treatment plan for someone with OCD is psychotherapy, particularly cognitive behavioral therapy, and certain medications.

What Is Pure O OCD? And How Can You Prevent It?

Trigger warning: This article contains information about violence, which may be triggering to survivors.

Have you ever felt like you were living a nightmare? Pure O sufferers feel like that all the time.

Pure O, also known as Pure Obsessional OCD, is similar to other forms of OCD with a few important differences. It involves obsessions and compulsions but are typically “unwanted, involuntary thoughts and images about taboo topics such as violence, sex and blasphemy,” Aaron Harvey, founder of IntrusiveThoughts.org tells HuffPost Canada.

These unwanted thoughts are experienced by 80 per cent of people, but can be more severe in people who already suffer from an anxiety disorder like OCD. For those with mental health issues, the intrusive thoughts can lead to debilitating obsessions and compulsions.

ocd

So, why do we get them?

Past studies suggest intrusive thoughts and OCD are linked to hyperactivation of the amygdala, a part of the brain which alerts us to danger. According to Dr. Steven Phillipson, that portion of the brain isn’t responsible for a lot of thinking, so its activation might be part of a misfiring mechanism.

ocd

And how is it different from the OCD we already know about?

“The mainstream media has taught us that a person with OCD is obsessive about germs, cleanliness and order. But OCD is an anxiety disorder characterized by unwanted intrusive thoughts that lead to debilitating compulsions,” says Harvey.

“For example, a person with obsessions about contamination may wash her hands until she bleeds. But for persons with Pure O (which is not a disorder, but a nickname for a manifestation of OCD), they may experience repetitive violent thoughts about killing their spouse. Because they have no desire to do this, they begin obsessively questioning their capability.”

They may avoid their spouse, avoid knives, perform endless Google searches to assess the characteristics of a murderer, and spend endless hours a day engaging in “checking” and “reassurance seeking” behaviours in an attempt to prove to themselves they are not capable of murdering the person they love most. All of these compulsive behaviours exacerbate the problem, strengthening the volume and intensity of the thoughts.

How can you stop these thoughts?

“First, we must accept that we should not try to stop the thoughts. This only makes them stronger,” says Harvey. Instead, as with other anxiety disorders, treatment is required. Treatment can range from mindfulness practices to exposure response prevention (ERP) to cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

Harvey also recommends focusing on mantras which can bring sufferers back to a calm, collected manner.

For Harvey, who suffers from intrusive thoughts, ERP exercises can include the following steps:

  • Repeating a phrase such as “I might be a murderer” 8x a day
  • Holding a knife to a willing partner’s neck until the anxiety passes
  • Looking at a photo of a child 8x per day

While these mantras may sound violent, they’re said in an effort to confront the fear head on, rather than burying it away.

ERP therapy is all about customization and graduation. Anxiety is measured and as the individual progresses through the treatment, lessened to the point in which the individual no longer performs the compulsions.

scared

How can you ensure a loved one who experiences intrusive thoughts will not act on it? What do you do if they do?

“The only way to beat OCD is to let go of reassurance-seeking behaviours,” says Harvey. “Constantly seeking reassurance is what leads to debilitating compulsive behaviours.”

If you or a loved one suffers from intrusive thoughts, get educated. Understand that statistically, people with OCD are no more likely to act out on unwanted thoughts than anyone else.

If intrusive thoughts have turned into obsessions and compulsions, consult a medical professional immediately.

WQLN Public Media – Living with Mental Illness

More people, from all across the Lake Erie Region are living with mental illness. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experiences some form of mental illness every year. Yet fewer than one third of these people seek help or treatment.

Psychiatrist Dr. C.J. Rush joins Lisa Adams to explore new research and treatment for depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, schizophrenia, and anxiety disorders, while learning of the successes and challenges faced by four local people who are living with these mental illnesses.

OCD Isn’t a Cute Quirk, So Stop Trivializing It

OCD is as debilitating as any other mental illness.

May is Mental Health Awareness month. As someone living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), I think this month is the perfect time to set people straight about what this disorder actually is, considering many people (and companies) seem to have no idea — we’re looking at you, Target, with your “Obsessive Christmas Disorder” sweatshirt.

Here are things you should know about OCD before you go and use it as an adjective to describe your quirks.

OCD isn’t just about hygiene or organization— The disorder can manifest in a myriad of different ways. People with OCD can experience compulsive checking, hoarding, intrusive thoughts, ritualistic behavior, and other types of symptoms many may not understand.

OCD can present itself similar to ADHD and Autism — OCD and ADHD are found as abnormal brain activities in the same neural circuit, according to Dr. Amitai Abramovitch. Though both mental illnesses spark different types of brain activity, the effects are quite similar in terms of things like response inhibition, task switching, planning, working memory, and decision-making. Because of these behavioral similarities in both OCD and ADHD, many young people are misdiagnosed, which can lead to more problems. The same goes for Autism — though many people with Autism also experience the repetitive and ritualistic behaviors associated with OCD, they experience them for different reasons. People with Autism can find comfort and solace in such behaviors, thus helping them overall. Meanwhile, those with OCD can find temporary relief from anxiety in ritualistic behaviors, but it often traps them in a cycle and does nothing to address the core of their anxieties.

OCD often lives alongside other mental illnesses, including anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and even Tourette’s syndrome — According to Stanford University, “Patients with OCD are at high risk of having comorbid (co-existing) major depression and other anxiety disorders. In a series of 100 OCD patients who were evaluated by means of a structured psychiatric interview, the most common concurrent disorders were: major depression (31%), social phobia (11%), eating disorder (8%), simple phobia (7%), panic disorder (6%), and Tourette’s syndrome (5%).”

Symptoms of OCD start displaying themselves in childhood or adolescence — The OCD Center of Los Angeles states that childhood-onset OCD is quite common, affecting 1% of all children. Additionally, research has shown that about half of all adults with OCD started experiencing symptoms in their childhood.

Childhood-onset OCD can be linked to genetics — There have been 15 family studies of OCD, and most have found that “the age-corrected morbid risk of ‘broadly defined OCD’ (i.e., OCD plus sub-syndromal obsessive-compulsive symptoms) was substantially greater in the parents of OCD probands as compared to those of controls (16% vs 3%).” Even though genetics can play a factor in OCD, environmental causes (such as trauma) can also play a part in the emergence of the disorder.

OCD can often cause isolation — it is a disorder that can cause many people to face inward and suffer alone. Because of how time-consuming many OCD rituals can be, many people living with OCD become exhausted quicker and are thus unable to enjoy social activities. The pressure to socialize can even trigger someone with OCD to complete more rituals. Additionally, family members of someone with OCD can sometimes harbor resentment for the mentally ill individual as they feel embarrassed by their obsessive and compulsive behaviors. For school-aged children and young adults especially, OCD can affect their social interactions due to the fear of how they will be perceived amongst their peers.

Psychedelic mushrooms have been used in studies of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder — A study done by the University of Arizona administered small doses of psilocybin (the naturally occurring psychedelic compound found in certain mushrooms) to nine patients with OCD. The results found that all nine patients saw a decrease in their symptoms. Organizations such as MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies) are leading the way in this field of research.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a serious mental illness. Yet many people with OCD are fed up with how trivialized the disorder is seen in mainstream culture. OCD is as debilitating as any other mental illness. It’s not cute or funny, like Monica Geller from Friends may have made it seem.

Featured Image David Rymn Creative Commons

Where you live can be a source of anxiety

By: Emily Lunardo | Brain Function | Tuesday, May 23, 2017 – 07:30 AM


where you live anxietyHaving feelings of stress and anxiety from time to time is normal. Healthy stress and anxiety pop up as fleeting, temporary feelings. However, there are people who have ongoing anxiety and worries that interfere with their day to day life. This level of continuous stress can make it challenging for individuals to leave their homes and socialize.

A recent study conducted by Cambridge University found that women living in poor or deprived areas were 60 percent more likely to have anxiety than women living in wealthier areas. This is in stark contrast to men, as the area they lived made no difference to their anxiety level.

Generalized anxiety is a disorder that has many similarities to panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and other types of anxiety. However, they are all unique in their own ways. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health problems in the western world. With that said, the estimated annual cost related to treatment is $42 million in the U.S. alone. While the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder can vary from person to person, the following are most exhibited:

  • Persistent worrying about small or large concerns, out of proportion to the impact of the event
  • Restlessness or the inability to relax
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Worrying about excessively worrying
  • Fear of making the wrong decisions leading to distress

It may also have various physical manifestations, including:

  • Fatigue
  • Muscle tension
  • Easily startled
  • Sweating
  • Headaches
  • Irritable
  • Trembling
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Nausea, diarrhea, or irritable bowel syndrome

The study

The researchers collected data from nearly 21,000 people in and around Norwich, east England who participated in the EPIC-Norfolk study between 1993–2000. The researchers found that one in 40 women and one in 22 men had generalized anxiety disorder. Women were 60 percent more likely to have the affliction than women living in areas that were not deprived. This association was not seen in men.

“Anxiety disorders can be very disabling, affecting people’s life, work, and relationships, and increasing the risk of depression, substance misuse, and serious medical conditions. We see from our study that women who live in deprived areas not only have to cope with the effects of living in poverty but are also much more susceptible to anxiety than their peers. In real terms, given the number of people living in poverty worldwide, this puts many millions of women at increased risk of anxiety,” says first author Olivia Remes.

The research team acknowledges that it’s difficult to confirm such a statement, but say that their analysis supports it. This finding may be the result of a domestic lifestyle, as women often stay at home alone. They also note that women have to balance earning income, bearing children, and even being a caretaker, all of which adds to their burden.

“Anxiety disorders affect a substantial number of people and can lead to poor health outcomes and risk of suicide. Now we know that women are particularly affected by deprivation, while men less so. This is intriguing and further research is needed on this, particularly in the most deprived regions,” explains professor Carol Brayne.

Related: Where you live could be putting your memory at risk


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How you die may be determined by where you live

Why where you live could be destroying your heart

Sources:

http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/7/5/e013590
http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/generalized-anxiety-disorder/basics/symptoms/con-20024562

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Scared of unknown threats? Your brain may be behind it | Free …

Those who have unusually large striatum, an area of the brain associated with general anxiety disorder, struggle to cope with uncertainty or the ambiguity of potential future threats

New Delhi : People who struggle to cope with uncertainty or the ambiguity of potential future threats may have an unusually large striatum, an area of the brain already associated with general anxiety disorder, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.

Fear factor

“Uncertainty and ambiguity of potential future threats are central to understanding the generation of anxiety and anxiety disorders,” said lead author Justin Kim, PhD, of Dartmouth College. “Our research suggests a relationship between an individual’s ability to deal with this uncertainty and the volume of gray matter within a specific area of the brain.” The research was published in the APA journal Emotion.

In the study, 61 students had MRI scans taken of their brains after filling out a survey designed to measure their ability to tolerate the uncertainty of future negative events. Kim and his colleagues analysed the MRIs and compared them with the intolerance of uncertainty scores. They found the volume of the striatum was significantly associated with intolerance of uncertainty.

Brain banter

“People who had difficulty tolerating an uncertain future had a relatively enlarged striatum,” said Kim. “What surprised us was that it was only the striatum and not other parts of the brain we examined.”

Previous studies focusing specifically on patients with obsessive compulsive disorder and general anxiety disorder have also found increased gray matter volumes in the striatum, but this is the first time it has been found in association with intolerance of uncertainty in the absence of a confirmed diagnosis, according to Kim.

Size matters

“Our findings demonstrate that the relationship between increased striatal volumes and intolerance of uncertainty can be observed in healthy individuals,” he said. “Having a relatively enlarged volume of the striatum may be associated with how intolerant you are when facing an uncertain future, but it does not mean you have OCD or generalized anxiety disorder.”

While the striatum has been primarily known for its role in motor function, animal studies have also suggested that it plays a role in how we predict whether or not we will receive a reward for a particular behaviour while learning new tasks, according to Kim.

“To put it another way, the striatum encodes how predictable and expected a reward is – a higher form of reward processing compared to simply responding to a reward. Given that an important component of intolerance of uncertainty is a desire for predictability, our findings offer a biological marker related to our need for predictability,” he said. Since the findings came from psychologically healthy individuals, Kim suggested that that the volume of the striatum in young adults could predict those at risk for developing generalised anxiety disorder or OCD later in life, but that remains to be seen.

Researcher investigates hallucinogen as potential OCD treatment …

Rodriguez, intent on searching for better, faster treatment for her patients with OCD, took note. There was an emerging scientific theory that ketamine affects the levels of the neurotransmitter glutamate in the brain and increasing evidence that glutamate plays a role in OCD symptoms, she said. Perhaps ketamine could help regulate OCD symptoms as well as depression.

About three years after Rodriguez’s pilot study on the 24-year-old student with OCD, she and colleagues at Columbia published their results from the first clinical trial of ketamine in OCD patients. This trial randomized 15 patients with OCD to ketamine or placebo.

Once again, the effect of ketamine was immediate. Patients reported dramatic decreases in their obsessive-compulsive symptoms midway through the 40-minute infusion, according to the study. The diminished symptoms lasted throughout the following week in half of the patients. Most striking were comments by the patients quoted in the study: “I tried to have OCD thoughts, but I couldn’t,” said one. Another said, “I feel as if the weight of OCD has been lifted.” A third said, “I don’t have any intrusive thoughts. … This is amazing, unbelievable. This is right out of a movie.”

“Carolyn’s study was quite exciting,” Zarate said, adding that there were a number of similar, small but rigorous studies following his 2006 study that found fast-acting results using ketamine to treat bipolar disorder and PTSD.

“We had no reason to believe that ketamine could wipe out any symptoms of these disorders within hours or days,” he said.

Search for a safer drug

Virtually all of the antidepressants used in the past 60 years work the same way: by raising levels of serotonin or one or two other neurotransmitters. Ketamine, however, doesn’t affect serotonin levels. But exactly what it does remains unclear.

Since coming to Stanford in 2015, Rodriguez has been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health for a large clinical trial of ketamine’s effects on OCD. This five-year trial aims to follow 90 OCD patients for as long as six months after they’ve been given a dose of ketamine or an alternative drug. Rodriguez and her research team want to observe how ketamine changes participants’ brains, as well as test for side effects from use of the drug.

Ultimately, Rodriguez said, she hopes the study will lead to the discovery of other fast-acting drugs that work in the brain like ketamine but without its addictive potential.

I just don’t like the idea of people being in pain.

Recent research in the field indicates that the glutamate hypothesis that triggered her pilot study might be further refined.

“Ketamine is a complicated drug that works on many different receptor sites,” she said. “Researchers have fixated on the NMDA receptor, one of the glutamate-type receptors, but it might not be the only receptor bringing benefit.”

In May 2016, researchers from NIMH and the University of Maryland — Zarate among them — published a study conducted in mice showing that a chemical byproduct, or metabolite, created as the body breaks down ketamine might hold the secret to its rapid antidepressant actions. This metabolite, hydroxynorketamine, reversed depression-like symptoms in mice without triggering any of the anesthetic, dissociative or addictive side effects associated with ketamine, Zarate said.

“Ideally, we’d like to test hydroxynorketamine and possibly other drugs that act on glutamate pathways without ketamine-like side effects as possible alternatives to ketamine in OCD,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez is also interested in using ketamine as a way to kick-start a type of cognitive behavioral therapy called exposure and response prevention, an evidence-based psychological treatment designed to help patients overcome their OCD. The therapy involves teaching patients with OCD to face anxieties by refraining from ritualizing behaviors, then progressing to more challenging anxieties as they experience success.

Relaxation and other techniques also help patients begin to tolerate their anxiety — for example, postponing the compulsion to wash their hands for at least 30 minutes, then extending that time period.

“My goal isn’t to have people taking ketamine for long periods of time,” Rodriguez said. But perhaps a short-term course of ketamine could provide its own kind of exposure and response prevention by allowing patients to experience that it is possible not to be controlled by their OCD, she said.

Almost a decade after her first ketamine pilot study, Rodriguez remains inspired by the magic of seeing the 24-year-old student’s eyes light up as the drug alleviated OCD symptoms that had caused her years of daily suffering.

“After the study, I was walking her to her taxi to go home,” Rodriguez said. “The side effects of the drug had worn off; she was back to her baseline. I asked what it was like not to have OCD. She said it was the strangest feeling. She could do normal things but without the OCD symptoms. So just the fact that in a matter of hours you can disconnect from OCD makes me a believer.

“I just don’t like the idea of people being in pain,” Rodriguez said. “I want to see science translated into treatments now.”    

Senate revises, approves bill regarding medical marijuana

The state Senate has approved a revised bill expanding the permissible uses for medical marijuana in Delaware, two days after the original measure failed to win passage amid unaddressed concerns of the medical industry.

Senators on Thursday approved a motion to rescind Tuesday’s roll call, then passed the revised bill unanimously.

The revised bill strikes a provision that added debilitating anxiety to the list of conditions and illnesses for which medical marijuana can be prescribed. The anxiety definition includes generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and social anxiety.

Instead, the amended legislation only removes a requirement that a psychiatrist sign an application for someone seeking to use medical marijuana to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. Instead, any physician would be allowed to verify the application.