It is already common knowledge that getting a good night’s sleep is vital to overall wellbeing, including mental health. A recent study, however, suggests that more significant to the improvement of mental health than the amount of sleep is a consistent daily sleep-wake cycle, also called the circadian rhythm.
Sticking to a daily rhythm, which means that tasks and activities are done during the day and the night is devoted to sleep, leads to better mood and cognitive functioning.
The study, which is the biggest of its kind, so far, was conducted in UK, had an unprecedented sample size of 91,000 participants, took place from 2013 to 2015, and was carried out by researchers from Scotland, Ireland, and Sweden.
The research subjects were provided with an accelerometer device that they wore on their wrist and tracked their daily activity levels for a one-week period. Those who had their circadian rhythm disrupted, which was characterized by more nighttime activities and less during the day, showed signs of bipolar disorder or depression. They also showed diminished cognitive functioning, as exhibited by a computerized test.
While the study does not ascertain causality, it remains consistent with several studies conducted in the past that link sleep disruptions and mental health problems.
Jonathan Lauter, M.D. is an accomplished psychiatrist who has served in varying capacities in the field, including academic, clinical, and administrative positions. Visit this website for similar articles.
New studies continue to be conducted and published to better the practice of psychiatry and improve mental health. Here are some of the more important trends in the field that have come out in the past year.
First is an update in the guideline on dealing with mild cognitive impairment or MCI. This study was published by the American Academy of Neurology just last February. This new guideline stresses the importance of proper MCI diagnosis, to assess for reversible causes which in turn would help families and patients themselves better understand the condition and deal with it. Included in this guideline is the discussion of prognostic implications on the risk of dementia, as well as recommending neuropsychological testing as soon as a patient is tested positive for MCI.
A study done in November 2018 looked at primary care records in England, matching young people between the ages of 10 and 19 who had episodes of self-harm with a group that doesn’t have any. Those who had instances of self-harm (which refers to non-suicidal self-injury or attempt) were proven to be three times more likely to pass away from unnatural causes. This study emphasizes the importance of seeking professional help and treatment for children and adolescents who have had an episode of self-harm.
Last is the use of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) for treating ADHD among adults. MBCT combines mindfulness meditation in a clinical setting with aspects of cognitive therapy. The trial done in the Netherlands showed that, compared with the control group, patients were given MBCT had their core ADHD reduced and the effects maintained for six months. This study is showing that, while still requiring further testing, MBCT is proving to be an effective treatment for ADHD.
Jonathan Lauter, M.D., is certified in both general and child/adolescent psychiatry. He is an elected fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. For more insights on mental health, check out this link.
Mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder, are typically considered “no-casserole” diseases. It means that unlike other health conditions, such as cancer or physical injuries, people are hesitant to provide support by bringing casseroles or other forms of help and comfort. Sometimes, it is not that people do not want to help, rather, they are not sure how to do so.
Here are a few tips in providing support for loved ones suffering from bipolar disorder are the following:
Learn about the illness
As they say, “knowing is half the battle.” By learning about bipolar disorder, one can be better equipped to handle the symptoms, especially since these occur unpredictably. Most of the time, those who suffer from it cannot see clearly or deny that they are experiencing symptoms, so discerning warning signs would be helpful.
Be patient and understanding
Sometimes, what bipolar disorder patients need, in addition to treatments, are sympathetic ears and encouraging words. But dealing with them can be difficult, especially when they want to be alone. It is important to know when to give them space or when to talk or spend time with them. Remember also that managing the illness is a lifelong process.
Know when to seek help
Some people with bipolar disorder can be destructive, violent, or suicidal. When these behaviors flare up, ask for professional assistance to make sure that everyone is safe.
Jonathan B. Lauter, M.D. is an accomplished psychiatrist who maintains a private practice in Manhattan and serves as a clinician at Refuah Health Center in Spring Valley, NY. For more information about mental illnesses, click here.
Parents are often preoccupied with the “now” of childcare, and it is forgivable that foresight is lost in the melee of fulfilling their child’s daily needs. There are, meanwhile, forward-looking measures integrated into daily routines that can (almost) reassure parents their children will pick up the virtue of independence. These neither have to be harsh nor uptight.
Teaching a child independence starts with the small chores. So-called “over-parenting,” the tendency to tolerate children’s every caprice, or to perform tasks—down to the minute ones of the daily routine—has been seen in direct opposition to austere and strict parenting. It is assumed that this more understanding stance produces an environment of warmth and affection children will fondly look back on and will help them grow in love as adults.
While this parenting style does produce, in later years, memories of a loved childhood, it also neglects to teach children basic skills and initiative. Parents who have “over-done” their jobs might be hard-pressed to get their children to clean their rooms, for instance, or have them help around the house by simply picking up after themselves. This could end in frustration for parents, who might find themselves nagging their children in the future to adopt these habits of independence.
One school of thought advises parents to take themselves out of the equation from time to time: summer camps are excellent examples of leaving children to their own devices in certain situations. These environments cultivate habits of independence through a peer environment. As long as the activities therein speak to the child’s passions and interests, he or she will find a way to get along, abide by the camp’s rules and expected responsibilities, and get a taste of life without too much supervision.
Another way is to simply be uncompromising about it. Parents should learn to delegate some household chores to their kids and make them realize that reward or punishment shouldn’t be the motivation in accomplishing tasks. The ultimate lesson is that independence the normal way of life.
Jonathan B. Lauter, M.D., is an accomplished psychiatrist and a fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, who is certified in both general and child and adolescent psychiatry. A clinician at Refuah Health Center in Spring Valley, New York, he also runs a private practice in Manhattan. For more articles on child and adolescent psychology, visit this blog.
Video gaming is subject to bad raps for supposedly inducing among teenagers addictive playing. But while playing for more than four hours could be a cause for concern, it is not a plain and simple indication of depression.
The link between depressive symptoms and excessive playing must not be ignored, however. New research from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health reveals that the effects of game addiction could be tempered by the use of mobile applications and social media platforms in aid of socialization. The facilitation of socialization and formation of friendships online could be instrumental in warding off depressive symptoms. This led researchers to claim that not all video game addicts are vulnerable to depression. Gamers (mostly boys) who interact with their peers through such platforms then display better-adjusted behavior.
The study comes on the heels of frequent research on compulsive video gaming, which is recognized as a modern psychological disorder. Rehabilitation centers for video game addicts have come into existence, while children, teenagers, and young adults are the focus of most research. Common observations derive a link between aversion to socialization and increased propensity for habitual gaming. Longitudinal studies to the effect have been undertaken in countries such as China and Singapore, with respondents observed for manifestations of anxiety disorders and depressive symptoms.
While the link between these psychological issues and video gaming remains tenuous, parents are reminded that compulsive playing remains an unhealthy lifestyle choice. Gamers should be taught early on the balance between doing what they love and living life without a controller in their hands.
Jonathan Lauter, M.D., is an accomplished psychiatrist with a celebrated career spanning several positions in various organizations, most recently as the director of ambulatory behavioral health services and associate professor of psychiatry at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. For more reads similar to this, visit this blog.
Abuse, domestic violence, and rape have been making rounds in media and the community, and a lot of parents are alarmed how the victim could have been their child.
Children, even at a young age, can learn about boundaries and consent. While a lot of parents worry that it may tarnish their children’s innocence, teaching them about consent does not have to be explicit and full of terms. They can package it in a way that is age-appropriate and understandable in the language their children speak. Here are examples parents can teach pre-school children about the importance of consent.
Give them the freedom to express their opinion
A child learns best by example. Parents can teach consent and boundaries by giving their children the freedom to make their own choices and voice out their own opinion while being in the boundaries of what has to happen.
For example, parents can invite the child to sleep by asking them which pajama they want to use to bed. When preparing for breakfast, they can ask the child which cereal they want to start the day with.
Teach them to ask for permission
Parents can start by teaching children to ask for permission when they want something. A simple “can I play with the robot today?” can teach children about good behavior. Beyond sharing what they already have, asking for permission goes a long way.
Let them know that “no” is a valid answer
Just because they asked for permission, it doesn’t mean that a “yes” can be automatically given. Teaching children that giving and receiving a “no” (but not the unnecessarily rude “no”) is okay and normal.
Dr. Jonathan Lauter is a child and adolescent psychiatrist based in New York. Read similar articles by visiting this blog.
Schizophrenia is a rare but severe medical illness that usually manifests in adulthood. But the onset and its early warning signs may appear during childhood and adolescence.
Diagnosing schizophrenia is very difficult because of its rare manifestation in children under age 13, and because the symptoms are similar to autism and conduct disorder. Ruling out the latter disorders, which are more common among children, is the first step to a prognosis for schizophrenia. Some early indications of the disease are language delays, unusual motor behaviors, and hearing voices that are not real.
The disease progresses in puberty, at which point an adolescent may recognize that their experiences are a cause for concern. Signs of a developing psychosis are hallucinations, disorganized thinking or bizarre thoughts, paranoia, severe anxiety, confusing movies or dreams from reality, increased isolation, and difficulty in focusing.
Children and adolescents showing these symptoms must be evaluated by a specialist immediately for early diagnosis. The disease can be managed with medication, individual and family therapy, specialized programs, and life skills training.
Dr. Jonathan Lauter is a certified psychiatrist and a fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. He runs a private practice in Manhattan and holds a clinic at the Refuah Health Center in Spring Valley, New York. For more articles on child and adolescent mental health, subscribe here.