Monthly Archives: April 2012

Could antidepressants do more harm than good?

Heather Rudow April 25, 2012


Researchers from McMaster University are suggesting that the negative physical side effects from commonly prescribed antidepressants outweigh any good the medications do for patients.

“We need to be much more cautious about the widespread use of these drugs,” said lead author Paul Andrews. “It’s important because millions of people are prescribed antidepressants each year, and the conventional wisdom about these drugs is that they’re safe and effective.”

The study examined previous studies on the effects of antidepressants and determined that the benefits of most antidepressants, even taken at their best (should we say even taken exactly as prescribed? Taken at their best is a little unclear), are outweighed by the risks, which researchers say include negative health effects on all processes normally regulated by serotonin:

“Antidepressants are designed to relieve the symptoms of depression by increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain, where it regulates mood. The vast majority of serotonin that the body produces, though, is used for other purposes, including digestion, forming blood clots at wound sites, reproduction and development.”

Explained Andrews, “Serotonin is an ancient chemical. It’s intimately regulating many different processes, and when you interfere with these things, you can expect, from an evolutionary perspective, that it’s going to cause some harm.”

Their findings included elevated risks of the following:

  • Developmental problems in infants
  • Problems with sexual stimulation and function and sperm development in adults
  • Digestive problems such as diarrhea, constipation, indigestion and bloating
  • Abnormal bleeding and stroke in the elderly

“The thing that’s been missing in the debates about antidepressants is an overall assessment of all these negative effects relative to their potential beneficial effects,” Andrews said. “Most of this evidence has been out there for years and nobody has been looking at this basic issue. … It could change the way we think about such major pharmaceutical drugs. You’ve got a minimal benefit, a laundry list of negative effects — some small, some rare and some not so rare. The issue is: Does the list of negative effects outweigh the minimal benefit?”

Source: Newswise

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at

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New tool aims to identify workaholics

Heather Rudow April 24, 2012

(Photo:Flickr/Alex E. Proimos)

Researchers from Norway and the United Kingdom have created a new tool to measure workaholism. According to researcher Cecilie Schou Andreassen, in the wake of globalization, new technology and blurred boundaries between work and private life, the world is witnessing an increase in workaholism.

“A number of studies show that work addiction has been associated with insomnia, health problems, burnout and stress, as well as creating conflict between work and family life,” Andreassen said in a statement. “By testing themselves with the scale, people can find out their degree of work addiction: non-addicted, mildly addicted or workaholic.”

The study for the tool, called the Bergen Work Addiction Scale, consisted of 12,135 Norwegian employees from 25 different industries. The scale, which was administrated to two cross-occupational samples, reflects “the seven core elements of addiction: salience, mood modification, tolerance, withdrawal, conflict, relapse and problems.”

The results of the study revealed that the scale can accurately differentiate between workaholics and non-workaholics:

“The Bergen Work Addiction Scale uses seven basic criteria to identify work addiction, where all items are scored on the following scale: (1) Never, (2) Rarely, (3) Sometimes, (4) Often and (5) Always:

  • You think of how you can free up more time to work.
  • You spend much more time working than initially intended.
  • You work in order to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness and depression.
  • You have been told by others to cut down on work without listening to them.
  • You become stressed if you are prohibited from working.
  • You deprioritize hobbies, leisure activities and exercise because of your work.
  • You work so much that it has negatively influenced your health.”

If you answer “often” or “always” on at least four of the seven items, according to the study, it could suggest you are a workaholic.

Read the April 2012 Counseling Today cover story, “Bringing work home,” which discusses how work can affect the lives of clients.

Sources: University of Bergen, RedOrbit

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at

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Will computers make it easier for pregnant women to admit to domestic violence?

Heather Rudow April 23, 2012


The aim of a five-year study about domestic violence is not only to identify more victims but also to determine whether pregnant women are more likely to admit to a computer that they’re victims of domestic violence.

The study is being funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, one of the National Institutes of Health. According to researchers Linda Bullock and Phyllis W. Sharps, the hope is to “to identify pregnant abused women and help them move toward a better, sounder, safer future.” Previous research has shown that women who suffer abuse prior to pregnancy are more likely to be abused during pregnancy, and those abused during pregnancy have a higher risk of abuse in the early weeks after the baby is born.

“If you don’t address the violence, you’re not going to have positive pregnancy outcomes for babies and their moms,” Bullock says.

And, in terms of addressing the violence, Bullock and Sharps’ earlier research has also revealed that nurses who visit the women at home  “feel uncomfortable about asking about the abuse, and that fact may be the barrier between a woman getting help and considering leaving their abuser — or not.”

According to Bullock, “What we find is that when we’re using real, live home visitors, they’re very uncomfortable asking about abuse. There is a huge variety of educational levels among these folks. And many have been abused themselves.”

Oftentimes, the researchers say, the abuser is present during these home visits and monitoring what is being said.

The current study consists of 4,000 women from Baltimore as well as rural areas of Virginia and Missouri:

“[H]alf will be screened for abuse by the current method — being asked orally by a visiting nurse. The other half will be handed a mobile tablet (akin to an iPad or an Android hand-held computer) and earbuds by the visiting nurse, and then guided through a series of on-screen questions and prompts about intimate partner violence. Should the abuser enter the room, a ‘safety button’ prompts a cloaking video. Though it remains to be proven, Sharps and Bullock hypothesize that using mobile tablets will increase the number of women who identify themselves as victims of domestic abuse by as much as a third. And once they’re identified, women who are victims can be given appropriate interventions that range from the straightforward — having extra sets of house and car keys, a packed bag with several days’ supplies of clothes and toiletries, having a ‘safety plan’ to exit the residence quickly — to the more complex: protective order information, shelter locations and creating a repository for important paperwork, like Social Security cards and marriage and birth certificates.”

“What makes this new grant exciting is introducing mobile health technology into traditional prenatal home visits,” Sharps says. “Our ultimate aim is to improve maternal and infant health outcomes.”

Source: University of Virginia

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at

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Social media networks enacting suicide prevention measures

Heather Rudow April 20, 2012


Much has been made of the rise of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr and their connection to instances of cyberbullying, suicides and low-self esteem in some users. But mental health organizations are beginning to put features in place on these networks in an effort to prevent suicides.

This past December, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) announced a partnership with Facebook that allows users to click a link next to a user’s post or chat and report it to the Facebook Help Center. The user is then contacted by NSPL, asking the user to set up a one-on-one online chat with one of the center’s counselors or to call its help line. As reported by The Atlantic, NSPL is extending its efforts to other social media sites beyond Facebook:

“Twitter users are also able to report suicidal behavior on the micro-blogging platform. Reporting a tweet via the Twitter support center results in an email being sent to the LifeLine alerting them to the activity on the user’s feed. Currently, Twitter does not release the email address of the user for privacy reasons, a policy the LifeLine hopes they will change their position on. The LifeLine is therefore only able to contact the user via their Twitter account. Tumblr’s help center allows users to report safety concerns in a similar way. Tumblr takes these reports and emails the reported user, encouraging them to call the LifeLine.”

The search engine Google has also adjusted its algorithms so that when, for example, a person types “I want to kill myself” into the search bar, the top hits are suicide prevention sites, and YouTube has also forbidden videos containing “gratuitous violence” or “someone getting hurt” to be uploaded to its website.

Read the rest of the article

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at

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Group hopes to get D.C. professionals to play more, decrease their stress levels

Heather Rudow April 19, 2012

(Photo:Flickr/ Dima Bushkov)

A new group in Washington, D.C., is striving to remind some of the city’s stressed out inhabitants that playtime doesn’t have to end just because their school days are in the past.

Spacious, founded by 23-year old Joey Katona and 51-year-old Cary Umhau, says on its website that the group is “engaged in a playful revolution to help people bust out of the straitjackets, cubicles and little boxes we all find ourselves in from time to time.”

According to The Washington Post, so far Spacious has planned events across D.C. such as “Be/Bring Your Own Kid Adult Recess,” which involved some of Washington’s most professional – and stressed – workers partaking in games such as Twister and tug-of-war.

But eventually, says The Post, Katona and Umhau would like to rehab decommissioned ice cream trucks and use them “to cruise the city offering services such as on-the-spot hairdressing, chefs serving up cookies and milk or ‘recess teams’ that will bring line-dancing flash mobs to downtown sidewalks.”

“This city is so obsessed with business and politics — you have to work 50 hours a week and then go to all the right happy hours — that we don’t prioritize recess and fun,” Katona said.

However, Spacious’ aim is actually part of a larger movement in the mental health community:

“In the past seven months, there have been four national conferences on the value of play; a fifth, ‘The Importance of Being Playful,’ will be hosted by the Minerva Foundation at the end of May at the University of California at Berkeley. A forthcoming documentary — ‘Seriously! The Future Depends on Play,’ directed and produced by Bay Area ‘play consultant’ Gwen Gordon — aims to illustrate how play restores health in communities around the world.”

“We stop playing at our peril,” said Gordon, a member of the Association for the Study of Play. “We think we are a playful culture, but we are really overworked. Americans on average have 13 paid vacation days per year, and most people don’t even take them. Other countries have 40. We take our weekends to play hard, but that’s really to let off steam from our play-deprived lives and just get enough energy to get back into the ring.”

Adds David Ballard, director of the American Psychological Association’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program, “Certainly stress levels are very high. People are working longer hours and also don’t feel valued, which gets tied to physical and mental health and motivation — so a conga line could be a great way to get people outside, get them moving and connect humor and happiness to work, and that’s important.”

According to the APA’s 2012 Workplace Survey, low salaries were the top workplace source of stress, along with lack of opportunity for advancement and heavy workloads.

Read the rest of the article

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at

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