Mood Charting for Complicated Problems

Lucy is a single woman who is a professor of anthropology at a local university. She is in her late 30s and she was referred to me for a consultation because of a complicated set of potentially interrelated problems with cognitive impairment, sleep disruption, anxiety, depression, a seizure disorder, and migraine headaches. She’s an interesting person and I really wanted to help her figure …

Centering

Feeling scattered and distracted is such a common experience in our lives these days. Rick Hanson talks about getting centered in today’s post in his Just One Thing series. If you are feeling scattered, take one moment to be aware of your body as you take a long, slow breath, or think about something you feel good about. In that moment …

St. John’s Wort for Depression

A recently published study raises questions about whether the natural supplement St. John’s wort is actually associated with fewer adverse effects than commonly prescribed SSRIs. Living in the Bay Area it is common for me to run into a strong conviction that any natural supplement is bound to be safer than any manufactured medication. Perhaps the most problematic of these …

Herd Instinct in Humans: The Source of Anxiety and Depression?

Jeffrey Kahn has written a fascinating book (Angst: Origins of Anxiety and Depression in Oxford Press) suggesting an evolutionary source for much of human psychopathology. He gave a Grand Rounds presentation at UCLA in February of 2015 that outlined some of his theories and that presentation has been the subject of a vigorous discussion online. In essence, Jeffrey argues that …

Through the looking glass 2 – Meeting the Therapist

The last blog posted some three hours ago jumped over this one, much as thoughts are given to do in my head. This, in fact is a description of me meeting the therapist for the first time. My earnest apologies. Maestro, the music if you please. …My wife, caught up in a Maelstrom of hypomania, seeks and finds a Therapist. I am …

Accepting Uncertainty

We are often trapped more by what we think about how things should be, or “have to be,” than by the reality of the challenges we face.  This week I have been noticing how often the phrase “I can’t stand.XX” precedes a statement that is quite obviously not true.  Someone who has been living with the uncertainty of multiple sclerosis for …

Quitting Smoking Improves Mood

A study published in the British Medical Journal reports that quitting smoking had a simillar positive effect on mood as an antidepressant. The researchers did an analysis of 26 studies using a technique called a “meta-analysis” and looked at changes in mental health (anxiety, depression, mixed anxiety and depression, quality of life, positive affect, and stress) at ≥6 weeks’ post–smoking cessation …

Reduce Your Social Stress

Regular readers of this blog know that I really like the writings of Rick Hanson (he has a wonderful email list called “Just One Thing” and a new book that is an excellent resource for personal transformation called Hardwiring Happiness). For the last couple of months, however, his posts have seemed a bit repetitive. Just in time for the New …

Therapy for Anxiety in Bipolar

Anxiety is very common in people with bipolar moods. In fact, anxiety is typically the first sign of mental health problems (often it is present in childhood) for people who later develop bipolar. As a psychiatrist, I am aware that we have fewer useful long term treatments for anxiety in bipolar than we do for the mood swings of the …

A Deep Shadowy Fear

Most of us have had the feeling that, deep in the recesses of our brain, there lurks some terrible secret or event, some deeply frightening, or even terrifying memory or experience. For some of us there may, indeed, be a past trauma and a repressed childhood memory. But the rest of us are left to wonder, if nothing seems to …

Experience a Sense of Plenty

Nothing can seem more urgent, important, and real than the sense that there is not enough for us. Not enough love. Not enough food. The sense of scarcity may not even connect to any clear sense of what is missing. But that doesn’t take away its power. Regular readers of this blog know that we appreciate the insights of Rick …

Memory, Stress and Aging

Many older people are concerned about impaired memory, and the relationship between memory, stress, and aging can be difficult to untangle. Obviously worry about memory problems can be a source of anxiety and stress. But can stress and anxiety be a cause of memory problems? And if so what can be done about it? Elsewhere we will be talking about …

Anxiety and Substance Abuse

Matt Kushner, PhD discusses the issue of substance abuse in individuals with anxiety disorders. Because substance abuse is more common in those with anxiety in comparison to the rest of the population, Kushner has created a list of risk factors and screening tools to help doctors identify individuals experiencing both disorders. Some risk factors for substance abuse in people who …

Odd Couple’s Therapy

I met today with two interesting people: they’re both attorneys. They have a remarkably different style and presentation. One of them is usually animated, energetic, and optimistic. However, he also has bipolar mood cycles. Sometimes his energized vibe may get a bit intense, while at other times he will be in a depressed state that makes it hard for him …

A Spoonful of Courage

In a previous post, I shared Linda Graham’s views on resilience from an excerpt from her article Bouncing Back :Rewiring the Brian for Maximum Resilience and Well-Being. After further reading, Graham also discusses the importance of having courage when creating a more positive outlook on life. We have the ability to experience great personal growth when engaging in new things. …

Sleep Strategies

One of the most frequent causes of insomnia is anxiety. Insomnia of this kind is caused by increased activation of the sympathetic nervous system at night. The body releases norepinephrine (the flight or fight hormone) at night when that system should be inactive. You wake up and you feel “wide awake.” A current patient of Dr. Forster’s is having difficulty sleeping …