Tag Archive: ptsd

Apr 23

Avoid Intimidation

Rick Hanson has written an elegant and timely newsletter article about how to avoid intimidation and fear from paper tigers and media demagogues. I love his weekly email newsletters and it is again time to encourage readers of this blog to sign up. Here is the link. One of Rick’s themes, elegantly outlined in this …

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Nov 15

Coping with Political Uncertainty

Many of the people that I work with on a regular basis have been experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety related to the recent election results. Unfortunately, mental health professionals are no better as news analysts than the so-called professionals. I have been struggling a little bit trying to figure out what to say to …

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May 14

Media Violence – Psychological Effects

Media Violence Psychological Effects

A lot of attention has been focused on the question of whether exposure to media violence is linked to an increase in violent behavior. Less attention has been focused on the question of the other psychological effects of exposure to media violence. The recent study presented at the British Psychological Society’s 2015 annual meeting suggests …

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May 28

Stress and Trauma as Risk Factors for Bipolar

I have long been interested in the relationship between traumatic experiences and bipolar disorder. A couple of years ago I gave a presentation at the University of California, San Francisco, Bipolar Disorder Clinic on the topic. I got interested in the issue because I noticed how many of the women in my clinic with bipolar …

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May 09

Mood Swings – What Causes Them?

What causes mood swings? What do we think about when someone says their mood has been “up and down?”Among the most common causes of mood shifts are the following: A mood disorder such as bipolar, or an atypical depression. Bipolar as a cause is obvious, but an atypical depression can also be associated with mood swings. …

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Feb 20

Passing on PTSD to Children

At a recent scientific meeting, Rachael Yehada showed that traits that are related to posttraumatic stress disorder PTSD can be passed on to children during pregnancy. Mothers in New York City who were pregnant on September 11, 2001 and developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) had children with low cortisol in their blood (a sign of …

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Feb 03

Media Makes PTSD Much Worse

  It was a sunny October day in 1989. Game 3 of the Battle of the Bay baseball World Series between Oakland and San Francisco. Then the largest earthquake in almost a hundred years hit the bay area. I was, as it happens, in my therapist’s office, my wife was at work. I rushed home …

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Nov 07

PTSD Psychotherapy Affects Gene Activity

  Mind-body dualism seems alive and well in the land of mental health. I am still surprised how often someone will say, “well that’s not a biological depression.” Meaning that it is the kind of depression that can be understood as a result of events in that person’s life, or that it can be treated …

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Sep 15

Child Abuse Update

Twenty years ago the National Research Council (NRC) issued a comprehensive report on child abuse. That report noted that child abuse was much more common than previously thought and called for urgent action. This past week the NRC and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released an update: New Directions in Child Abuse Research. The good …

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Aug 30

Childhood Trauma – Brain Effects

Experiencing trauma in childhood is associated with changes in the brain during teenage years, according to a study of 117 adolescents using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The researchers compared MRI’s from age 12 with MRI’s from age 16. They asked the teenagers about childhood trauma and also did psychiatric diagnostic interviews. There were significant differences in …

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Apr 21

Stress and Your Brain

Stress has a major affect on our bodies and our brain. The release of catecholamines (adrenaline and related chemicals) and cortisol causes significant changes throughout our body that are designed to prepare us for “fight or flight.” By shutting down all non-essential functions the stress response system prepares us for a life and death struggle …

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Mar 17

On the Borderline

I am writing a presentation for the UCSF Bipolar Program on the topic of the relationship between Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar Disorder and I thought I would jot down some of my thoughts in a quick post. Borderline personality disorder involves a “pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image, and affects, and marked impulsivity” …

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Feb 05

10% of Americans Suffered Childhood Sexual Abuse

Approximately 10 percent of American adults were sexually abused as children, according to a study reported in Comprehensive Psychiatry. They are more at risk of psychopathology and suicide attempts than are adults who were not sexually abused as children. This study fits with other evidence. The global prevalence of child sexual abuse has been estimated at 19.7% for females …

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Nov 14

Reclaim Your Home: Engaging in the World

I have always loved what I now call the territorial sports: the cross country skiing, running, hiking, bicycling, etc. These are sports that involve navigating through the outdoors where the goal is to cover a fair amount of territory in the process of getting exercise. However, it wasn’t until the San Francisco earthquake of 1999 …

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Nov 06


After nearly 20 years of work in the field of post-traumatic stress disorder, one thing that continues to trouble and baffle me is the phenomena that was described by Freud as the repetition compulsion.  Why is it that people who have been victimized in terrible ways are at much higher risk of being victimized again.  One would …

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Nov 06

Disaster’s Aftermath

The recent hurricane that hit New Jersey and New York reminded us of the research on the aftermath of disaster conducted by a friend and colleague, Kent Harber, PhD. Kent has been very interested in posttraumatic stress disorder, and in particular, the work of Dr. James Pennebaker, on the value of sharing one’s story in …

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Sep 15

Bad Memories

Unstable moods and bad memories seem to go together. In the clinic where many of us work we have noticed how often it is that folks who we see with bipolar have had traumatic experiences in childhood. Why that happens is speculation. But we do know that dealing with those experiences can be very, very …

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Sep 04

Francine Shapiro: EMDR – A Crazy Idea that Works

As a young psychiatrist I was interested in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD – psychological reactions to severe traumatic events) and did a research fellowship on the subject with Charles Marmar at the San Francisco VA Hospital. One Thursday morning, during our regular clinical case conference, we had a woman come in to tell us about …

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