Binge eating and bulimia may be equally harmful says the World Health Organization. Both involve excessive food consumption and a loss of control but bulimia involves purging and had been considered a more serious condition. WHO’s research, based on surveys and interviews with 22,635 adults in 12 countries, shows that both disorders often began in adolescence and may be related to depression, anxiety and physical disorders later in life. "Binge-eating disorder has been largely ignored by health care providers, but it has a tremendous cost to the physical and psychological well-being of people with the disorder," said senior author Ronald Kessler, Harvard Medical School. Researchers say the negative effects of binge eating and bulimia may be prevented with early detection and treatment.
Commonly Used by Military
The FDA has ordered that mefloquine hydrochloride, an anti-malaria drug routinely given to U.S. troops, be slapped with a black box label reserved for drugs with high risks of serious side effects. The agency said some neurological and psychological effects of the drug can be long lasting. One study found that 29% of travelers who took it experienced dizziness, seizures, anxiety, depression or insomnia. The drug is linked to violent behavior and some think it may have played a role in the March 11, 2012 killing of 16 Afghan civilians by Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales. Epidemiologist Dr. Remington Nevin, a leading critic of the drug, said that hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops have taken it. "Now the military needs to take responsibility to clean up the toxic mess it's created," he said.
The Multitasking Blues
Results from a study conducted by psychologists at Michigan State University have found a direct correlation between depression and anxiety with the number of screen devices used at one time. Three hundred and nineteen college students were surveyed and those who used two screens simultaneously were about two times more likely to say there were depressed and anxious. These results lend support to the hypothesis that “second screening” causes stress, but there is still a question as to whether the anxiety or depression is a result of the technology or vice versa. This study is important since a Nielson report revealed that 40 percent of Americans watch TV and use a mobile device at least once a day. Future studies will determine if certain devices are more strongly linked to these feelings.
Childhood obesity may affect the timing of puberty and lead to reproductive difficulties, especially in females, finds an analysis published in Frontiers in Endocrinology. While extremes - anorexia and obesity - have been associated with reproductive problems, researchers are still learning about the effects of obesity on the endocrine system. Experts note that puberty appears to be starting earlier, especially in girls. The study indicates that, within the last decade, scientists have begun to uncover the molecular mechanisms that affect pubertal development. The issue is controversial and widely debated. Some studies indicate correlations between early puberty, metabolic disease, some cancers, depression and anxiety as well as delinquent behavior that may persist into adulthood.
Structural, Functional Changes
A study in which 40 prisoners, 20 of them psychopaths, had their brain scans revealed structural and functional differences between those with a disorder in which they do not feel empathy and guilt and those who do. Psychopaths do not have as many connections between the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and the amygdala compared to most people so the communication between the two is poor. The ventromedial prefrontal cortex plays a role in feeling guilt and empathy while the amygdala regulates feelings of fear and anxiety. This study is the first of its kind in showing both structural and functional differences in the brains of psychopaths and the researchers believe the results are important first step in understanding how the disorder starts and ways that it can be treated.
Stand Up Straight!
Slouching makes a bad impression, and it can also make you physically weaker says a study by Scott Wiltermuth, USC and Vanessa K. Bohns, U of Toronto who found that adopting dominant postures decreases one’s sensitivity to pain. Their study found that by simply adopting a dominant pose, people felt more in control and able to tolerate distress. The researchers suggest that the next time you’re in a tense situation, say, in the dentist’s chair, sit up straight and puff out your chest; the experience may be more tolerable than if you’d adopted a passive posture. Prior research indicates that expansive postures lead to elevated testosterone and decreased cortisol, the stress hormone. The researchers also postulate that dominant postures may help us cope with emotional distress.
Dogs Replace Drugs?
The thought of having an MRI is often fraught with anxiety which may cause poor image quality or early termination. While anti-anxiety medications are often prescribed, Allison Ruchman, a 15-year old girl, came up with a non-invasive alternative. Allison thought that therapy dogs could alleviate patient tension and, after becoming a certified dog therapist, conducted a study with physicians at Monmouth Med. Ctr., NJ, in which patients had a session with a therapy dog prior to their MRIs. A small control group of patients did not interact with the dog. Results indicate that time spent with the therapy dog could substitute for anti-anxiety medication. Say scientists, this is the first research to study the use of animal therapy in the radiology department.
Absence of Afterglow
One in three women suffer post-sex blues, according to a study from Queensland U of Technology. Postcoital dysphoria or having negative feelings after satisfactory sex is not usually dinner table conversation, yet, according to researcher Prof. Robert Schweitzer, “32.9% of women reported experiencing symptoms of postcoital dysphoria” at some point in their lives while 10% reported experiencing symptoms some or most of the time. Says Schweitzer, “Individuals who experience postcoital dysphoria may express their immediate feelings after sexual intercourse in terms of melancholy, tearfulness, anxiety, irritability or feeling of restlessness." While the causes of postcoital dysphoria remain unknown, Schweitzer says there may be a biological predisposition.
Coffee Overdose Unlikely
It would be difficult to drink enough coffee to die of caffeine overdose, but combining energy drinks and other medications or herbal substances that contain caffeine can be much more dangerous. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, caffeine side effects include fast heart rate, depression, nausea, excessive urination, vomiting, restlessness, anxiety, tremors and difficulty sleeping. Yet, it might take as many as 42 eight-ounce cups of coffee at one sitting to cause death by caffeine, says New York Times. The fatal oral dose of caffeine is 5 to 10 grams. Most cups of coffee contain only 60 to 120 milligrams of caffeine. However, 4,183 cases of caffeine overdose with one death were reported by the American Association of Poison Control Centers in 2007.
Not Just a Fad
Mindfulness therapy, a meditation-based treatment with roots in yoga and Buddhism, is the new buzzword among some therapists who say it eases anxiety and improves mood, according to an article in the LA Times. The modality encourages practitioners to focus on their breathing and their body and to live in the moment. It may sound New Agey, but it works, says Stefan Hofmann, Boston U, who evaluated 39 previous studies on 1140 patients and found it to be particularly beneficial for people diagnosed with mood disorders, including anxiety and depression. While some experts recognize the benefits of mindfulness therapy, they say it’s not a cure for severe or ongoing depression although it may provide a valuable defense against future episodes once recovery from depression begins.
Especially in Kids
New research from Oklahoma State University suggests that consuming energy drinks early in life may make some more prone to anxiety, depression and addictive behaviors later on. Dr. Conrad Woolsey calls the drinks a “pharmacological Molotov cocktail.” Because the human brain does not fully develop until age 25, it is more susceptible to being affected by the ingredients in the pumped-up soft drinks. Energy drinks often contain additives such as taurine and inositol which are used in some anti-anxiety and antidepressant medication. When taken alongside a stimulator, like caffeine or guarana, they can affect the action of neurotransmitters in the brain. Overstimulation of stress neurotransmitters early in life can cause them to be overactive later, leading to anxiety and depression.
Choosing Texting over Sleeping
Teenagers keep sending text messages after going to bed, say researchers who report that the teens are sending an average of 34 messages a night (3,400 a month) while they're supposed to be trying to sleep. The study results are a cause for concern. Half of the teens staying awake to text, play games or listen to music on electronic media suffered from cognitive and mood problems like anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning issues and depression. Lead researcher and sleep expert Dr. Peter Polos told MSNBC that interactive distractions like texting are worse about delaying sleep than TV. Research also revealed that girls text more at night, while boys play games or surf the Internet.
Anxiety, Sleep Meds Implicated
Medications used to treat anxiety and insomnia are associated with a 36 percent increase in mortality risks finds a new study. Researchers compiled 12 years’ worth of data to conclude that respondents who used insomnia or anxiety medications had a mortality rate of 15.7 percent compared with a mortality rate of 10.5 percent for non-users. Researchers controlled for certain factors that might affect mortality rates including alcohol and tobacco use. "These medications aren't candy, and taking them is far from harmless," says study leader Dr.Geneviève Belleville. "Given that cognitive behavioral therapies have shown good results in treating insomnia and anxiety, doctors should systematically discuss such therapies with their patients as an option.”
Little Pink Pill on Hold
"The sexist FDA advisory committee thinks that women are too stupid to make intelligent decisions about their own lives"
- Brock in the comments
Flibanserin, a drug intended to boost sexual desire in females, failed to gain acceptance from the Food and Drug Administration advisory committee on Friday. The flibanserin decision isn't final yet, but the FDA usually follows the advice of the committee, reports CNN. The advisory committee says that the drug, developed by Boehringer Ingelheim, isn't effective. According to Boehringer Ingelheim, women with low libido who weren't taking the drug had an average of 2.8 sexually satisfying events a month, compared with women taking flibanserin who had 4.5 such events in a month. However, the advisory committee believes that the drug's side effects outweigh its benefits. Around 15 percent of women taking flibanserin stopped the drug due to anxiety, dizziness, nausea and insomnia.
Fear of Waking During Surgery
An overwhelming majority of surgical patients who participated in a survey reported anxiety about general anesthesia. While 17 percent said they were extremely anxious, 22 percent said they were quite anxious. Forty-six percent expressed some anxiety; 15 percent said they had none. Patient fears ran the gamut of dying while asleep to waking up during surgery. The survey, published in the May issue of the Journal of Advanced Nursing, highlights the need for the way information is imparted to patients, says Dr. Mark Mitchell, University of Salford, UK. He said that many patients are unaware of how general anesthesia works and, citing patient fears of waking during surgery, he added that misconceptions about general anesthesia need to addressed in order to reduce patient anxieties.
Concerns About Safety
Herbal supplements St. John’s wort, valerian and kava extract have not been shown to have an effect on symptoms of anxiety, according to a review that focused on drugs used to treat the illness. The data was compiled by Kimberly Zoberi, M.D., Saint Louis University School of Medicine, who not only debunked the popular opinion that these supplements are beneficial for fighting anxiety and depression, but raised concerns about the use of valerian, a supplement that has not been widely studied. Zoberi, who also compared different prescription drugs used to fight anxiety, found that medications from the anti-convulsant class of drugs, as opposed to SSRIs, had the lowest side effects for patients. Findings were published in the Journal of Family Practice.
Wider Reach Than Drugs
Researchers at Southern Methodist University analyzed numerous studies to determine that exercise is a magic drug for treating anxiety and depression. Exercise is inexpensive, easily achievable and may be better than drugs or behavior therapy. "Exercise appears to affect, like an antidepressant, particular neurotransmitter systems in the brain, and it helps patients with depression re-establish positive behaviors. For patients with anxiety disorders, exercise reduces their fears of fear and related bodily sensations such as a racing heart and rapid breathing," says Jasper Smits, director of the Anxiety Research and Treatment Program at SMU. Researchers say that health care providers should tell patients of the immediate benefits of exercise and not focus on the long term for best success.