Providing Insights for Better Mental Health

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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

on Monday, 26 August 2019.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Our negative thoughts heavily influence our physical and psychological state. By re-training our thoughts and altering behaviors, we feel better physically, experience less stress, and experience an improved quality of life.

How this transformation is achieved is where cognitive behavioral therapy comes in.

Cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT is a type of psychotherapy that helps patients understand the thoughts and feelings that influence behaviors. It is used for a variety of mental disorders and has shown great improvements in phobias, addictions, depression, anxiety and more through a goal-oriented and systematic procedure.

bStable CBT module. CBT is at the center of bStable. The bStable platform’s support of CBT through the CBT module allows both patients and providers to track exercises and monitor goals that assist clients in their psychotherapy and utilize the findings to better communicate with their providers. Insights from a patient’s life (triggers, stressors, negative beliefs, healthy beliefs, predictions or theories) are recorded in bStable and incorporated into CBT psychotherapy exercises. 

CBT - part of a comprehensive bStable solution. The bStable platform offers a complete, holistic, and comprehensive system that can support all aspects of life for patients with a variety of different mental health disorders and co-morbid conditions. bStable offers patients, providers and loved ones an all-inclusive platform to monitor every aspect of a patient’s mental health. From tracking patterns to examining outliers, bStable provides an opportunity to gain insight into the unknown while empowering patients through self-service discovery and optimizing patient-provider communication.

Ready to get started on the bStable platform or have any questions about how bStable works? Contact Us today.

Why do individuals with mental illness need bStable?

on Wednesday, 21 August 2019.

Why do individuals with mental illness need bStable?

How many times have you been to the doctor only to spend the majority of the appointment sharing basic information and updates? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a way to conveniently and efficiently communicate with a medical professional, so you can spend more time working on important problems during your face-to-face time together? At McGraw Systems, we agree.

Our software, bStable, helps patients manage their mental illness in order to see real growth and improvement!

2 key reasons patients using bStable love our software:

  1. Symptom Monitoring: With improvements being made in diagnosing mental illness, we saw a need for a convenient way to allow those with mental illness to actively and efficiently monitor their symptoms along with their clinicians, which is why bStable was developed.
  2. Crisis Prevention: In addition to more proactively dealing with and minimizing symptoms of mental illness, bStable also provides a platform to assist in the prevention of crisis situations with real time symptom management.

Using bStable, individuals with mental illness can share progress on their mental health, while medical professionals - psychologists, psychiatrists, primary care physicians, etc. - can easily track key indicators that are presented through rich, graphical and interactive reports. These dynamic reports can help medical professionals monitor ongoing progress so that when the face-to-face meetings happen, they are already filled in on what is going on.

There is so much happening in life that it is necessary to have a system that helps in communicating with health providers and managing every aspect of a person’s mental health. bStable does just that. Ready to take a step toward improving your mental health? We’re here to help, share this information with your mental health provider.

How to Improve Mental Healthcare in the United States

on Monday, 12 August 2019.

How to Improve Mental Healthcare in the United States

Did you know that tens of millions of Americans are affected by mental health conditions every single year? That's right. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, roughly one in five adults are living with a mental illness, and estimates suggest that less than half of the individuals with mental health conditions receive treatment. From anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD, schizophrenia and so many more conditions, there are so many Americans struggling.

Ignoring the mental health epidemic that we have in the United States has reverberating effects on our nation’s physical health. According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, mood disorders are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S., and many mental illnesses, if left untreated, can be the cause of chronic health issues.

We are finally seeing an emphasis being placed on the epidemic we have with mental health in the United States and more solutions being offered to help individuals manage their lives. On the awareness front, the public has fortunately seen an increase in people opening up about their personal struggles with their own mental health conditions with things like the #myfavoritemeds hashtag that started on Instagram in which people took pictures of their hands holding their prescription medications as they attempted to end the stigma of dealing with mental illness. Many celebrities joined in on the movement, starting many conversations.

Throwing more providers (that are already limited in number) at the problem cannot fix mental healthcare in the United States. Technology must be a part of the solution. Our products, bStable and bStable Go! provide information technology solutions to assist those struggling with mental health conditions along with individuals struggling with co-occurring mental health needs and developmental disabilities so that better communication is exchanged between the patient and their mental healthcare provider. This leads to better mental health outcomes for all parties involved. bStable is used by patients, loved ones, psychiatrists, psychologists, payers and providers all over the world and has been proven in research studies to be highly effective.

Learn more about our solutions by contacting us today!

Address Your Corporation’s Responsibility to Employee Mental Health

on Saturday, 10 August 2019.

Address Your Corporation’s Responsibility to Employee Mental Health

It is the age of competition. Businesses are booming, thriving, and growing. And to sustain the growth, employers need consistency and dependability from the people they hire. Employees prioritize work culture more than in any age we’ve ever seen. This dramatically changes the way corporations need to present themselves.   

Why Do Something?

1. Innovate Technology is the future; and the future is technology. That isn’t a mystery. It’s incredible to think that in the age of technology, mental healthcare providers are still asking their patients to record their symptoms on paper. Do you manage your thriving and growing business on paper? More than likely the answer is no. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the pencil-paper method shouldn’t last much longer. The future of mental health and corporate wellness programs will be in technological solutions, not paper. Incorporating bStable into your corporate wellness program gets your corporation ahead of your competition and sets you apart as a forward-thinking leader.

2. Be Conscientious Mental health for employees should be a top executive priority and most corporations know that. Don’t take our word for it though, here’s an article from Forbes’ to build the case. In today’s professional climate, research has shown that work culture is THE defining factor for employees’ productivity and loyalty to any given organization.

3. Be Distinguishable The incorporation of a generic wellness program no longer really sets companies apart – in the 20th century, it’s more of an expectation. Subsidizing a gym membership or helping with health insurance co-pay does little to distinguish corporations from one another. Your employees don’t just have physical health needs, they also have mental health needs. It is time for you as a leader to acknowledge this, accept this, and address your employee’s mental health needs ASAP!

Why Leverage bStable?

bStable is ready NOW to help set your organization apart. Our software is multi-faceted enough to handle all of your employee's needs. It is a research backed proven asset to anyone who is given the opportunity to utilize the application. bStable can be used on a personal level or in conjunction with any type of corporate mental health wellness program to enhance results. This means happier and healthier employees so you can make your shareholders happy! Get in touch with us today.

3 Key Benefits of bStable at a Nonprofit

on Sunday, 14 July 2019.

3 Key Benefits of bStable at a Nonprofit

Awareness of the mental illness epidemic is on the rise. The United States has a very long way to go in providing the appropriate care and resources to those with mental healthcare needs. Many individuals who are working to improve the mental healthcare system have moved to the nonprofit community to provide direct support, healing, education, and resources.

There is a lot to juggle when running a nonprofit.  bStable was created to help mental healthcare nonprofits run more efficiently with their clients and expand their reach.

3 key benefits our nonprofit customers have gained from using the bStable software are:

  1. Consistency: In a nonprofit, there is a lot of change. Sometimes different mental healthcare providers meet with one client. bStable makes communication between the providers and clients simple and seamless. Providers have all the information they need in bStable ready and available. Clients can easily share their information with multiple providers.
  2. Time: Time is the most precious resource we have; especially when it comes to helping someone who is struggling with a mental illness. bStable answers the initial questions most providers ask around ‘how have you been doing.’ The provider can review information from bStable prior to walking into the session in order to be able to ask more pointed and direct questions. This benefits the client and provider by ensuring that the time they have together is optimized. Our study results have proven bStable eliminates inefficient information gathering techniques by 50%. On a scale of 1 to 10, normal talk therapy approaches were measured at a 5, with bStable they were a 9. Clients felt like they were being heard, their issues were understood, and they were able to work on the major issues at hand vs. just relaying information.
  3. Red Flag Alerts: Providers that work in a nonprofit help as many individuals as they can and sometimes, everyone misses a red flag. bStable allows a provider to see red flags quicker and more expeditiously aid a patient who may need immediate help. bStable’s algorithms catch things that human eyes don’t always recognize, with more speed and accuracy.

Does bStable sound like a solution that could improve your mental health nonprofit? As the inventor of bStable, I would love to offer you a personalized demonstration of bStable and discuss how we can help your organization. Simply take a moment to contact me now in order to set up a time.

Hope Services Has Deployed bStable!

on Thursday, 18 April 2019.

Hope Services is the leading provider of services to people with developmental disabilities in Silicon Valley. The term developmental disability refers to a severe and chronic disability that is attributable to a mental or physical impairment that begins before adulthood, such as intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism, and Down syndrome. Hope Services serves more than 3,900 people and their families in six counties and provide a broad spectrum of services for infants through seniors such as children’s services, day programs, staffing, mental health services, community living services, and senior services.

Hope also operates a number of businesses to raise funds and to provide employment for people with developmental disabilities, including a Recycle/Reuse business for clothing, household goods, and e-waste donations; Auto donations; HopeTHRIFT stores; and Employment (staffing solutions for businesses).

More than 60 years ago, a group of concerned parents who had children with special needs came together to change the way young people with developmental disabilities were treated. These courageous parents believed that their kids who had autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and other related conditions deserved the same opportunities as everyone else.

Among their earliest achievements was opening one of the first preschools for these children. In 1952, 12 children with developmental disabilities walked through the door of a one-room schoolhouse in San Jose and entered a new world – a world where they could receive an education and make friends.

The founding families of what later grew to be Hope Services left a lasting legacy that reflects a simple philosophy that has guided the mission of Hope: to improve the quality of life for individuals with developmental disabilities.

McGraw Systems to Present at Caminar Mental Health Symposium

Written by Administrator on Friday, 12 May 2017.

On May 18, 2017 Caminar will host their annual educational symposium focused on new research in mental health and its impact on early diagnosis and treatment.

Panelists

  • Ben McGraw, President and CEO, McGraw Systems - Using bStable for active symptom monitoring to prevent crisis situations
  • Steven Adelsheim, M.D., Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University - Adolescent mental health early intervention programs
  • Libby Craig, Crisis Text Line - Using data and tech to increase support for people in crisis
  • Rebecca Bernert, Ph.D., Director, Suicide Prevention Research Laboratory, Stanford Mood Disorders Center - New findings in suicide prevention and treatment
  • Kathleen Kara Fitzpatrick, Ph.D., Clinical Assistant Professor, Stanford University School of Medicine - Interventions for eating disorders in adolescents and young adults
  • Eric Kuhn, Ph.D., Research Clinical Psychologist, National Center for PTSD, VA Palo Alto - How tech is helping people manage mental health conditions, such as PTSD

Panic Disorder

on Saturday, 14 December 2013. Posted in General

Part 1 of this 2-part podcast series, Stephen V. Sobel, MD, sheds some light on the pathogenesis.

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is a tremendously vexing challenge: keys to its management include appropriate use of psychotropic medication and psychotherapy predicated on an understanding of the biopsychosocial underpinnings. In part 1 of this 2-part podcast series, Stephen V. Sobel, MD, sheds some light on the pathogenesis. (For Part 2, please click here).

See more at:

http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/panic-disorder/panic-disorder-keys-management?GUID=027D74F9-294C-4019-B4F6-6C862BE2E981&rememberme=1&ts=31102013#sthash.l1FBhlrv.dpuf

The Psychology Of Fight Club

on Saturday, 31 August 2013. Posted in General

Thanks to Brietta Mengel of topcounselingschools.org. Source: http://www.topcounselingschools.org/the-psychology-of-fight-club

The Psychology Of Fight Club

Source: http://www.topcounselingschools.org/the-psychology-of-fight-club/ 

Fight Club’s narrator’s illness is the manifestation of trite and tedious modern life. Watch capitalism push fight club members to the edge in the following steps:

Board One(insomnia)

  • Side one
    • “We buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like.”
    • 9-5 grind, obsession with trendy living
  • Side two
    • Neither sleep nor wakefulness
    • 24 hour fog
  • Side three
    • Doctor wont provide rx
    • Sent to support groups to see others in real pain
    • “feeling sorry for yourself plaza”
  • Side Four
    • Make yourself feel like a victim at prostate cancer support group
    • get a great rush
    • Cure your insomnia
    • Meet Tyler Durden: pull a card
    • Marla sees you as a phony, ruins the rush: find a new hobby
      • Card: ” Narrator: A new car built by my company leaves somewhere traveling at 60 mph. The rear differential locks up. The car crashes and burns with everyone trapped inside. Now, should we initiate a recall? Take the number of vehicles in the field, A, multiply by the probable rate of failure, B, multiply by the average out-of-court settlement, C. A times B times C equals X. If X is less than the cost of a recall, we don’t do one.
        Woman on plane: Are there a lot of these kinds of accidents?
        Narrator: You wouldn’t believe.
        Woman on plane: Which car company do you work for?
        Narrator: A major one.”
      • Experience Trauma, create imaginary friend, advance to board two
    • Go square: “pass go, do it again!”

Board Two(dissociative identity disorder)

  • Side one
    • Redemption through violence: get a rush
    • Who is Tyler Durden?
    • New Player Joins: Tyler Durden game piece placed at the same place
  • Side two
    • Apartment blown up, join Project Mayhem
    • What’s your hand? Draw a card
      • Card 1: Invisible hand of production. Capitalism moves towards the highest effiency for everyone.
      • Card 2: Tyler Durden pours lye on your hand. Experience another trial by fire.
  • Side three
    • Tyler sleeps with Marla, get jealous.
    • What direction are you headed, anyway?
      • Card 1:Homogenous capitalism: all experience can be reduced to a price. Everything can be bought and sold.
      • Card 2: Heterogeneous Capitalism: Some experiences are incompatible with normal buying and selling. Pick a sacred apple, buy/sell an orange.
  • Side four
    • Tyler kidnaps Marla, picks fight with you.
    • Realize you’re holding the gun and shoot Tyler in the mouth
    • Tyler disappears, you are hailed as Tyler
    • Watch credit card buildings blow up, holding Marla’s hand
    • “The first rule of fight club is: you don’t talk about fight club.”

Cultural Influence

  • Gentlemen’s Fight Club
    • Was founded in Menlo Park by tech workers in 2000
  • Princeton University Fight Club
    • Was founded in 2001, but broke the first rule of fight club by talking about it
  • Luke Helder
    • Planted pipe bombs in mailboxes across the U.S. trying to blow up a smiley face on the map
  • 17 y.o. founder of Manhatten fight club
    • Jailed for planting a bomb outside of capitalist standard-bearer Starbucks

Sources

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fight_Club
  2. http://www.academia.edu/193320/Diagnosing_Chuck_Palahniuks_Fight_Club
  3. http://videoeta.com/news/287

Effective Personalized Strategies for Treating Bipolar Disorder

on Saturday, 17 August 2013. Posted in General

Bipolar disorder causes havoc in patients’ lives. Even in the best of circumstances, successful treatment is challenging

Effective Personalized Strategies for Treating Bipolar Disorder

By Stephen V. Sobel, MD

Bipolar disorder causes havoc in patients’ lives. Even in the best of circumstances, successful treatment is challenging. Treatment targets constantly shift; patients are frequently nonadherent; and comorbidity is the rule, not the exception. Diagnosis of bipolar disorder is often difficult. Comorbidities need to be identified and addressed if treatment is to be effective.

The importance of an accurate diagnosis

With apologies to Charles Dickens, bipolar disorder is often experienced as the “best of times and the worst of times.” This polarity often causes bipolar disorder to be undiagnosed, overdiagnosed, or misdiagnosed. Bipolar disorder is associated with a significantly elevated risk of suicide. Moreover, bipolar patients often use highly lethal means for suicide.1 Contributing factors include early age at disease onset, the high number of depressive episodes, comorbid alcohol abuse, a history of antidepressant-induced mania, and traits of hostility and impulsivity.

Bipolar I disorder, with episodes of full-blown mania, is usually easier to diagnose than bipolar II disorder, with episodes of subtler hypomania. Recognizing that the primary mood state may be irritability rather than euphoria increases the likelihood of diagnosis as does the recognition that symptoms often last fewer than the 4 days required for diagnosis by DSM-IV.2 Focusing more on overactivity than mood change further improves diagnostic accuracy, and the use of structured questionnaires is helpful.

Given the greater frequency of depression than manic episodes in bipolar disorder, what clues indicate bipolar disorder rather than unipolar depression? The Table lists factors that may help identify unipolar depression.

A moving target needs moving treatment

Effective personalized treatment recognizes bipolar disorder as a biopsychosocial disorder, but mood-stabilizing medications are the backbone of treatment. These medications fall into 3 categories: lithium, antikindling/antiepileptic agents, and second-generation antipsychotics. The mechanisms of actions by which these medications work are numer-ous and include increasing levels of serotonin, γ-aminobutyric acid, and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and decreasing glutamate levels; modifying dopamine pathways; stabilizing neuronal membranes; decreasing sodium channels; decreasing depolarization; decreasing apoptosis; and increasing neural cell growth/arborization.

Double-blind placebo-controlled studies of the medications—lithium, divalproex, carbamazepine, and atypical antipsychotics—used to treat symptoms of acute mania have demonstrated a response rate of approximately 50% to these drugs. Response was defined as a 50% decrease in symptoms using the Young Mania Rating Scale (YMRS) with onset of response within a few days.

An increasingly intriguing aspect of treatment with lithium and atypical antipsychotics involves their effect on BDNF. In a study of 10 manic patients treated with lithium for 28 days, most (87%) showed an increase in BDNF level (ie, from 406 pg/mL to 511 pg/mL). 

Factors that suggest bipolar depression rather than unipolar depression

In a typical 3-week study of acute mania, approximately half of the benefit was seen by day 4. A 3-week, double-blind, inpatient study of olanzapine and risperidone in 274 patients with acute mania found that of 117 patients who had a less than 50% decrease in the YMRS score at 1 week, only 39% responded and 19% had symptom remission at end point. Of 40 patients with a less than 25% decrease in the YMRS score at 1 week, only 25% responded and only 5% had symptom remission at 3 weeks. Of 157 patients who had at least a 50% decrease in the YMRS score at week 1, 84% responded and 64% had symptom remission at 3 weeks.4 Clinically, a medication change should be considered for patients who do not demonstrate substantial benefit by week 1.

A meta-analysis comprising 16,000 patients who had acute mania found that the most effective agents were haloperidol, risperidone, and olanzapine. The least effective were gabapentin, lamotrigine, and topiramate.5

A combination of medications—typically lithium or an antiepileptic with an atypical antipsychotic—is often necessary to successfully treat acute mania. A meta-analysis found the response rate increased from 42% to 62% when an antipsychotic was added.6

Bipolar depression has proved to be more resistant to medication treatment than mania. The same medications are used, with lamotrigine for maintenance treatment. The FDA has approved Seroquel, Seroquel XR, and Symbyax (the combination of olanzapine and fluoxetine), for the acute treatment of bipolar depression. Studies of acute bipolar depression have typically lasted 8 weeks. Approximately half of the benefit oc-curs by week 2, with statistical separation from placebo between weeks 1 and 3.7-9

The best treatment is prevention

Patients who have bipolar disorder almost always require lifelong maintenance treatment, frequently with 2 medications: one to prevent the upside (ie, hypomania/mania), and another to prevent the downside (ie, depression).

Findings from a registration trial showed that lamotrigine more effectively prevented depressions than lithium but lithium prevented mania/hypomania more effectively than lamotrigine.10

Another study added placebo or lamotrigine to lithium treatment for 124 patients. The median time to relapse/recurrence was 3.5 months for those taking lithium monotherapy but 10 months for those who received combination treatment.11

The effectiveness of a combination maintenance regimen was also seen in a study of 628 patients with bipolar I disorder treated for 2 years: 65% of those taking lithium or divalproex alone experienced a recurrence compared with 21% who received quetiapine added to lithium or divalproex.12 However, combination treatment may result in more adverse effects and increased risk of drug-drug interactions.

The best mood stabilizer

The best mood stabilizer for a patient is the one he or she will take. No matter how effective a medication is, it will not relieve symptoms if it is not being taken. The key to effective personalized treatment of bipolar disorder is a good patient-physician connection in which the patient is part of the treatment decision-making process.

Psychotherapy is an integral part of the effective treatment of bipolar disorder, not just an augmentation strategy. Psychotherapies that are helpful include cognitive-behavioral therapy and social rhythm therapy.13 Psychotherapy can focus on several areas, such as education, comorbidities, medication adherence, and interpersonal relationships. In addition, therapy can challenge the automatic, distorted, and dysfunctional thoughts and help the patient maintain social rhythms (eg, consistent sleep). The involvement of family members in treatment enhances success.

Patients may stop taking their medications because the adverse effects become intolerable; they may miss what they perceive as their more satisfying and productive hypomania; and they might believe that a period without symptoms means that they are cured and no longer need medications. One study of 3640 patients with bipolar disorder who made 48,000 physician visits found that 24% of patients were nonadherent (defined as missing at least 25% of doses) 20% of the time. Factors associated with nonadherence included rapid cycling, suicide attempts, earlier onset of illness, anxiety, and alcohol abuse.14

Patients who have bipolar II disorder spend far more time depressed than hypomanic. Lithium appears to be less effective than antikindling agents for rapid cycling as well as for mixed bipolar disorder states.15

Maintenance treatment is necessary for patients with acute mania or acute depression; therefore, choose medications that are more tolerable to the patient to facilitate long-term adherence. Recognize that medications may need to be adjusted or changed—in the acute phase of illness, rapid efficacy is often the priority, while medication adherence is the priority during the maintenance phase.

Other factors to consider when choosing the best medication for a particular patient include:

• A history of treatment response

• A family history of response

• Adverse effects of a particular drug

• Drug interactions

• Pregnancy

• Breast-feeding

Antidepressants

The use of antidepressants in bipolar disorder is controversial because they may induce rapid cycling, especially in patients with episodes of rapid cycling.16 In a study by Altshuler and colleagues,17 patients who had breakthrough depression despite treatment with a mood stabilizer were treated with antidepressants for at least 60 days. Patients who had symptom remission for 6 weeks were followed up for 1 year: 36% of patients who continued antidepressants for longer than 6 months relapsed versus 70% who discontinued antidepressants before 6 months.

A randomized discontinuation study with antidepressants found no statistically significant symptomatic benefit in the long-term treatment of bipolar disorder.18 Trends toward mild benefits, however, were found in patients who continued antidepressants. This study also found, similar to studies of tricyclic antidepressants, that rapid-cycling patients had worsened outcomes with continuation of modern antidepressants, including SSRIs and SNRIs.

An NIMH study of 159 patients who had breakthrough depression despite receiving a mood stabilizer were treated with sertraline (mean dosage, 192 mg/d), bupropion (mean dosage, 286 mg/d), or venlafaxine (mean dosage, 195 mg/d) for 10 weeks with a 1-year follow-up.19 At the end of 1 year, only 16% of the patients had continued remission while more than 55% had switched to mania/hypomania. The worst results were seen with venlafaxine and the best with bupropion.

In a study by Sachs and colleagues,20 patients who had breakthrough depression despite being treated with mood stabilizers were randomized to paroxetine (mean dosage, 30 mg/d), bupropion (mean dosage, 300 mg/d), or placebo. No significant differences on any effectiveness or safety outcome, including remission rates or affective switch frequency, were found.

Overall, these studies indicate that the role of antidepressants is limited and that, in fact, a trial of a mood stabilizer cannot be considered to have failed unless the failure occurs in the absence of an antidepressant. A meta-analysis of 18 studies with 4105 patients found that combination treatment including a mood stabilizer and an antidepressant was not statistically superior to monotherapy.21

When symptoms persist

Establish the context of each appointment by focusing on changes in occupational, social, family, and health status. Evaluate medication regimens, with a focus on effectiveness for carefully chosen target symptoms and adherence to treatment, as well as medication tolerability and patient attitudes. Be alert to the emergence of early symptoms of mood change, and adjust medications if necessary. Remember that treatment modalities often need to change over time.

Mood stabilizers should be optimized with combination therapy for sustained remission. Antidepressants may worsen the disease course, and a true trial of a mood stabilizer can-not occur within the setting of antidepressants. If symptoms persist, ask: Is the patient taking anything that is making symptoms worse, eg, drugs, alcohol, or antidepressants? Is the patient taking the medications? Is treatment adequate? Is another condition (including subclinical hypothyroidism) interfering with treatment? Is psychotherapy being ignored?

bStable Should Have Been Mentioned in Our Data, Ourselves - Discover Magazine 2011 Issue

on Friday, 02 August 2013. Posted in General

“Self-Tracking” enthusiasts collect 
data on every aspect of their lives. If digital navel-gazing goes mainstream, 
it could transform medicine.


bStable Should Have Been Mentioned in Our Data, Ourselves - Discover Magazine 2011 Issue

By Kate Greene|Thursday, December 08, 2011

 

Bob Evans has spent most of his life obsessing over how to track data. When the Google software engineer was a boy in Louisville, Kentucky, he collected star stickers to show that he had done his chores. In college, where he studied philosophy and classical guitar, Evans logged the hours he spent playing music. Later, as an engineer for a Silicon Valley software company, he defended his dog, Paco, against a neighbor’s noise complaints by logging barks on a spreadsheet (the numbers vindicated Paco, showing he was not the source of the public disturbance). For Evans, collecting data has always been a way to keep tabs on his habits, track his goals, and confirm or dispel hunches about his daily existence.

Last May, Evans reminisced about those early days in data collection as we sat in a large-windowed conference room in Building 47 of the Google campus, near San Jose, California. His personal fixation is shared by a growing number of self-trackers, a movement that is spreading far beyond data-obsessed engineers. Taking advantage of new wearable wireless devices that can measure things like sleep patterns, walking speeds, heart rates, and even calories consumed and expended, more and more people are signing up to download and analyze their personal data. Nearly 10 million such devices will be sold in North America in 2011, according to the market forecasting company ABI Research.

Most self-trackers are extreme fitness buffs or—like Evans—technology pioneers inherently interested in novel software applications. But Evans believes that personal data collecting could have stunning payoffs that go beyond just taking a better measure of everyday behavior. Already, some proponents claim personal benefits from logging their habits—eliminating foods that trigger migraines or upset stomachs, for instance, or saving certain tasks for their most productive time of day. Applied more broadly, data collected by self-trackers could help them find better treatments for diseases and even predict illness before symptoms become obvious.

Evans also sees the potential for individual citizens to pool nonmedical data collected through tracking experiments. Such data sets could have important social benefits. For instance, if members of a community tracked their feelings about safety in their neighborhood and shared their data regularly, crime trends could be detected earlier and addressed more effectively.

As Evans’s history with data collection shows, basic self-tracking is possible with nothing more than a pencil and paper. Still, people have been reluctant to sign on to an activity that has historically required inordinately high levels of self-curiosity and motivation. Now, with the wildfire spread of smartphones and tablet computers, that resistance could be melting away—and Evans plans to capitalize on the change. He has developed a tracking tool, conveniently contained in a mobile phone app, that he thinks can make self-tracking appealing to the masses.

Most self-tracking devices currently on the market measure only a few data points and have their own proprietary software and code limiting how users can analyze their own metrics. Evans’s app is different: It can be set up to track any kind of behavior or event and keeps data in one place, making it possible to analyze it all together. It is also designed to address another major objection to such detailed self-reporting, the fear that our personal data could too easily be leaked, stolen, or simply exposed to the public.

My visit to Google was a chance to understand Evans’s vision and to try out its practical application. I’m not a data obsessive by any means. If Evans could convert me, self-tracking just might be for real.

In 2009, while Evans was working for Google to help create new tools to increase programmers’ efficiency, he realized no one was working on the “soft science” side of the equation to help the programmers become more productive in their personal behavior. In his data-oriented way, he set out to understand everything that happens in a programmer’s work life. He wondered how attitudes toward food, distractions, and work environment—sampled throughout the day
—might affect creativity. If a programmer was stressed out or unhappy with a project, could a glance at her daily stats help set her right? Could immediate insight from a survey encourage her to make a change for the better? Evans had a hunch that by gathering the right data sets, he could help people improve their job performance in real time.

To make this process as simple as possible, Evans decided to collect the data through the smart cell phones that Google employees already kept close at hand. He set up an app so a programmer’s phone would chime or buzz a few times throughout the day at random times, as if a text message had arrived. When the employee clicked the message open, the app would ask her if she felt passionate and productive about her project. If not, it asked what she could do to change it.

In addition to gathering data about work habits, Evans set up another survey that asked programmers to outline their work goals. When the app checked in later, it listed those goals and asked which one the programmer was engaged in—the idea being that if a programmer had been distracted, a reminder of what she wanted to accomplish might improve her focus. “I thought it would be cool to build a platform that was not just for collecting data,” Evans says. “It could have the tools and interventions so people could do their own self-improvement.”

The survey was rolled out two years ago to a small number of programmers at the Google campus. Although Evans worried that the app would be too intrusive, he was heartened to see that most programmers continued to use it even after the pilot program officially ended. Since each programmer had different goals, measuring the overall effectiveness of the app was difficult, Evans says, but subjectively, he and his colleagues felt the simple act of observing their behavior through the app led them to change in ways that helped them meet their work goals.

Evans’s daily productivity surveys soon inspired him to create a broader, more flexible mobile platform for self-experimentation that he dubbed PACO—an acronym for Personal Analytics Companion, but also a tribute to the dog that helped inspire his data-tracking ideas. Now PACO is used by thousands of Google employees, and not just for productivity. The app is fully customizable, which means it can track any data point a user dreams up. Some Googlers employ it to log exercise or participation in volunteer programs. Evans tailored his version of PACO to monitor his work tasks and exercise and as a reminder to eat fewer sweets. A colleague uses it to track carbohydrate intake and weight fluctuations and to compare trends across PACO experiments. “I look at the information I track every couple of months and remind myself of the progress I’ve made, or where I need to change my behavior,” Evans says.

After hearing him describe all the ways PACO has subtly changed the lives of his colleagues, I was ready for my own plunge into the world of self-tracking.

Logging personal data is probably as old as writing itself, but some modern self-trackers trace its origin to that godfather of American ingenuity, Benjamin Franklin. He was interested in how well he adhered to his famous 13 virtues, including frugality, sincerity, and moderation. Each day for several years he noted the ones he’d violated in a book he kept especially for the purpose.

More recently, Gordon Bell, a computer pioneer and researcher at Microsoft, introduced the concept of “life logging.” From 1998 to 2007, Bell collected his emails and scanned documents, photographs, and even continuous audio and video recordings of his day-to-day life into a searchable online database—an attempt to create a digital record of every thought and experience he’d had for a decade.

Within the past three years, though, self-tracking has grown into a veritable grassroots movement, embodied by an organization called Quantified Self, a community of data-driven types founded in the San Francisco Bay Area by journalists Kevin Kelly and Gary Wolf. Most Quantified Selfers have technology backgrounds, or at the very least a penchant for numbers. They gather in online forums and at face-to-face events to talk about their self-experimental methods, analyses, and conclusions. How does coffee correlate with productivity? What physical activity leads to the best sleep? How does food affect bowel movements? Mood? Headaches? No detail, it seems, is too intimate or banal to share.

The current explosion in 
self-tracking would not be possible without the mass digitization of personal data. Websites for tracking, graphing, and sharing data about health, exercise, and diet—many of which are linked to phone apps—are on the rise. RunKeeper, a popular data collection app for runners, reports 6 million users, up from 2 million in November 2010. The new small, affordable sensors, like the $100 Fitbit, can wirelessly log all sorts of human metrics: brainwave patterns during sleep, heart rates during exercise, leg power exerted on bike rides, number of steps taken, places visited, sounds heard. And a number of these sensors, such as microphones, GPS locators, and accelerometers, come inside smartphones, making some types of tracking effortless. Research firm eMarketer projects that by the end of 2012, 84.4 million people will use smartphones in the United States, up from 40.4 million in 2009.

2011 study by Pew Internet, a project at the Pew Research Center that investigates the impact of the Internet on American society, estimates that 27 percent 
of Internet users have kept track of their weight, diet, or exercise or monitored health indicators or symptoms online. Still, the Pew report also hints at a limitation inherent in the current self-tracking paradigm. It is still done mainly by conscientious people who are highly motivated to collect specific types of data about specific cases. Of the adults surveyed who own a cell phone, only 9 percent have mobile apps for tracking or managing their health.

“It’s still a relatively new idea that phones are windows into your behavior,” says computer scientist Alex Pentland, director of the Human Dynamics Laboratory at MIT. Most people, he adds, think that “health is the responsibility of your doctor, not you.” But self-tracking tools that give both patient and physician a snapshot of symptoms and lifestyle could become increasingly important to personal health.

Health is exactly what was on the mind of Alberto Savoia, a Google software engineer who supervises Evans, when he joined us in the conference room to discuss which PACO experiments had worked best for his team.

Savoia himself had created an experiment to track the effects of his allergy shots. He’d never had allergies until he moved to America from Italy. “I made fun of Americans,” he says, for sneezing at everything from cats to dust. “But lo and behold, I started to sniffle.” He suspected that his shots were helping, but as an engineer, Savoia knew to be skeptical of his own perceptions. He wanted quantitative proof. “Our brains construct fabulous stories,” he says. The daily reports he logged into PACO indicated that his shots for cat dander and pollen were working well: His symptoms were less severe and less frequent than they had been before the shots.

During the same test period, Evans created an experiment called Food Rules, based on the book of that name by Michael Pollan, a journalist who advocates eating simply and avoiding processed food. After each meal, PACO would ask: Did you eat real food? Was it mostly plants? Evans found that the very act of responding to these questions made him more aware of his eating habits. He started choosing his food in the Google cafeteria more carefully, knowing he would have to answer for it after lunch. Within weeks he stopped running the experiment because every answer was “yes.”

I considered their examples. It occurred to me that I sometimes sneeze fairly aggressively after meals. When I was a teenager, I ribbed my mother for her after-dinner sneezes, but in my early twenties I started sneezing too, with no obvious connection to specific foods. My mother had a hunch that the trigger was sugar, but I had my doubts: Who ever heard of a sugar allergy? I never kept a food log to find the actual culprit, but the question seemed perfect for PACO. In just a couple of minutes, the Google engineers walked me through the steps of creating my own experiment, which I called Sneezy, to track the problem.

I constructed a handful of 
other experiments as well, including one I dubbed Good Morning, Sunshine! in which PACO was programmed to ask me how well I had slept and what I’d dreamed about; Flossy, in which PACO asked me if I had flossed the day before; and the self-explanatory Call Your Mother, 
which had PACO pestering me on Sunday evenings to see if I had talked to my mother lately—and if so, what we’d discussed.

I chose to keep these experiments private: No one else could sign up to use them, and my data would be stored, encrypted, on a PACO server. The issue of privacy looms large over discussions of personal data collection. “It’s your daily ebb and flow,” Evans says of PACO-
collected data. “That’s something you need to control.” As PACO is currently built, a user can keep everything private, or she can share data by joining an experiment created by someone else. The information is stored in the cloud, on servers rented from Google. But unlike search terms, data from PACO are not mined by the company for patterns.

Self-tracking tools will probably never catch on with the wider public unless people are confident that their data are safe. “The key is giving individuals more control over their data, yet the flexibility to share it when they need to,” says MIT’s Pentland. To do this, he suggests, data should be protected by a “trust network” that is not a company or government agency. People might then establish their own personal data vaults for which they define the rules of sharing.

Pentland participates in a group called id3, which brings together government officials, academics, and industry representatives to establish guidelines for such networks. He expects the details to be worked out within the next two years. The stakes are high. If secure methods for sharing data anonymously can be developed, it won’t be just individuals taking advantage of the information they gather through self-tracking. Society as a whole could benefit.

in 2009 Matt Killingsworth, a psychology doctoral student at Harvard University, put a call out for people to join a study he called Track Your Happiness. An iPhone app queried participants—ranging in age from 18 to 88, living in 83 countries, and working in 86 job categories—throughout the day about their state of mind, their current activity, and their environment, among other things. At the end of the study, participants were given a happiness report, with graphs illustrating how happy they were and the activities and environment that affected their mood.

In 2010 Killingsworth analyzed responses from more than 2,200 people to see if what they were thinking about affected their happiness. The most striking result was that overall, people’s minds were wandering in almost half the survey responses, 
and people were less happy when their minds were wandering than when they were not. The findings were unexpected because previous studies, done with small numbers of people in the lab, concluded that people’s minds wander less often.

“The project illustrates that the promise and ability to track things in real time on a mobile phone in the course of your daily life is incredibly powerful,” Killingsworth says. Most previous studies would have been limited to questions asking a small number of people, after the fact, how they had felt at a certain time. Using mobile phones for this sort of study is “incredibly exciting,” Killings­worth says. “It allows us to collect more accurate data from many thousands of people.”

In the same vein as the health-oriented PACO experiments, Ian Eslick, a Ph.D. candidate in the New Media Medicine group at MIT’s Media Lab, is helping online patient communities convert anecdotes about treatments, such as how certain diets affect symptoms, into structured self-experiments. He is building an automated recommendation system that can suggest experiments to people based on their previous symptoms and responses to interventions.

For instance, no studies have uncovered a solid connection between diet and the symptoms of psoriasis, an inflammatory skin condition from which Eslick suffers. Some people find that cutting out sugar alleviates symptoms, while others 
do not. Eslick hopes that by collecting information on people’s self-experiments over a long period of time, he’ll have enough useful data to warrant the deployment of a traditional clinical trial to investigate the most successful interventions for psoriasis. “It’s a very different model than traditional medical research,” Eslick says. “Trials are expensive and hard to administer. They’re short. They run once and have to get your answer.” Self-experimentation, on the other hand, has the luxury of time. Experiments can run longer and produce more data because they are cheap to administer.

Customizable data collection systems like PACO make it easy to run those experiments, Eslick says. “PACO is cool not so much because it does data collection, but because it’s trying to make it easier to collect just the data you want, and just the stuff that’s relevant.”

Today’s smartphones can collect data such as location, speech patterns, and motion without any active input from the user. This sort of passive sensing of a person’s daily life makes them powerful tools for personal medical and psychological diagnostics.

Data sets of a person’s speech and movement could provide insight into conditions such as depression and Alzheimer’s disease. Some people’s speech and movements slow when they experience severe depression. If phone sensors could effectively measure change in speech or movement over time, then an app could suggest a doctor’s visit when a person’s state of mind declines.

A 2010 study by William Jarrold, a cognitive scientist at the University of California, Davis, suggests that an automated system that analyzes speech patterns on phone calls can potentially pick up on cognitive impairment and clinical depression or determine if someone is in the very early stages of Alzheimer’s. “Machine learning is getting better, the prevalence of cell phones and cloud computing is increasing, and we’re getting more data and doing more studies,” Jarrold says. “When data are collected over the course of years, they can provide relevant information about a person’s cognitive functions, diagnosing a decline before obvious symptoms arise.”

Data tracking could even help monitor infectious disease. Pentland has shown that certain patterns picked up by a person’s phone—such as a decrease in calls and text messages—correspond to onset of the common cold and influenza. If outfitted with software that can intervene when data analysis suggests the early stages of an illness, your next phone could help you figure out you’re sick before you are even aware of a problem.

My PACO experiments ran for about a month. Initially I wasn’t sure I’d like the distraction of a self-tracking app, let alone one that insisted I respond seven to nine times a day. Unexpectedly, I came to appreciate the way the app made me mindful of what I ate and how well I slept.

One thing I learned was that my mother was wrong: It wasn’t sugar that caused my sneezes. The Sneezy experiment told me that my morning meal was the main offender, especially when I drank coffee with cream. Beer also seemed to give me sniffles, though not every time. Thanks to PACO, I have narrowed down the possible culinary culprits. The experiment Happy Work Day was less surprising but also instructive. Twice a day it asked if I was working at my desk, and it often caught me doing something other than work (16 counts for not working to 25 counts for working). It made me more aware of the non-work tasks, like household chores, I spend time on during the day. I’ve since left many of these tasks for after conventional work hours.

The two experiments I hoped would influence my behavior were telling. According to Call Your Mother, I spoke with my mother only three times over the course of the experiment. I can’t say I have radically changed that behavior yet. But Flossy was a complete success. Having PACO ask me every day if I had flossed the day before seemed to do the psychological trick. I’m flossing every day. It’s a small miracle.

My thoroughly nonscientific experiences also suggest that PACO will have widespread appeal. When I explained it to my nontechnical friends, most instantly grasped the possibilities. A social worker imagined using the app to help find the triggers for negative feelings or actions in clients. A teacher wanted to use it to measure how exercise and food affect student engagement in class. A college professor I met thought he could use PACO to get a sense of how students are handling their workload.

It is still early days for the self-tracking movement, and future versions of applications like PACO will, no doubt, be much more powerful. Even if PACO itself doesn’t catch on, the idea of a program that allows people to adjust their behavior and monitor their well-being is too enticing to ignore; someone will make it work. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the mHealth Alliance, a group that includes representatives from the United Nations and the Rockefeller Foundation, are already encouraging the development of health-related phone apps. They are acting on the premise that a world in which it is easy for anyone anywhere to collect and securely share data with medical researchers could be a healthier place for all of us.

As any self-tracker knows, there is strength in numbers.

Iron Man 3: Reconciling Psychiatry’s Warring Camps

on Sunday, 28 July 2013.

Tony Stark could really use bStable to figure out what's going on in his head...

Iron Man 3: Reconciling Psychiatry’s Warring Camps
 

[Spoiler alert: You might choose to wait to watch the movie—or read this article. —Eds.]

In Iron Man 3, former arms manufacturer Tony Stark is a superhero who aspires to facilitate world peace. In the process, he wages a one-person war against villains who aim to overthrow the powers that be and attain world dominion. Given his mighty missions, who would expect Tony Stark (the Iron Man) to propose peace between warring schools of psychiatry and to attempt to reconcile the armies of the mind with the armies of the brain?

No one, probably—and that’s what makes this twist in Iron Man 3 so intriguing. Tony Stark embarks on a psycho-philosophical quest when he asks if he defines Iron Man, because he manufactures Iron Man’s suit, or if his personal identity is subsumed by this intense public persona. Jungians, Eriksonians, Kohutians—and others—will delight in this dilemma.

Admittedly, Iron Man 3 has a much more involved, action-oriented plot. The psychiatry subtext is just that: a subtext. Still, this subtext speaks directly to neuropsychiatrists, psychopharmacologists, psychotherapists, just plain psychiatrists—or whatever they call themselves. The epilogue that begins after the film ends fleshes out this footnote.

Neuropsychiatry figures prominently in this 2013 riff on the Marvel Comics 1963 character—but so do aerospace engineering and international politics. The MacGuffin of the movie is a substance known as “Extremis.” Extremis enters the CNS via a virus and binds with the brain, promoting DNA changes that send electronic and neurochemical signals to weaponize the body, impart superhuman strength, and make machines move by mind-power alone.

Iron Man 3 does not dwell on Extremis, but comic book fans will recall the original story line in which Extremis facilitates direct brain-based connections with inanimate armor.1 That process allows Tony Stark to become one with his armor. He can now accomplish humanly impossible feats. In other words, Tony becomes Iron Man, both in body and in mind. Hence, his existential identity question emerges.

Unlike some superheroes, Tony Stark is a mere mortal, even though he is a genius inventor and industrialist. He battled the bottle and was a philanderer, but he abandoned his wanton ways to become a philanthropist who devotes his vast fortune to saving the world, even (or especially) if it means putting his own life in peril. Iron Man’s red armor recollects the red cape of the Man of Steel, for both Iron Man and Superman fly through the air. However, Superman’s powers are inherent, while Iron Man’s abilities depend on man-made machinery.

Appropriately and convincingly, Stark is played by actor Robert Downey Jr, whose own struggles with substance abuse were well publicized. Downey’s back-story enhances the casting choice, as does his ability to combine tongue-in-cheek comedy with action-adventure swagger.2

Like Batman, Iron Man fetishizes gadgets. Both possess vast wealth. Unlike Batman, Iron Man designs and builds his own contraptions without relying on his butler. Stark understands neurotransmitters enough to explain how Extremis operates. His conversation sounds fanciful, except for the fact that strikingly similar engineering feats are already in the works.

Minds can communicate with machines in real life, and not just in reel life. For instance, recent news reports revealed that electrode-laden caps allow wearers to communicate with a plane via the mind alone.3 The cap-wearer makes the plane change course when he or she concentrates on making a fist with one hand or the other. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has been experimenting with such technologies for years. Private industry will soon bring related bioengineering feats to commercial markets. Such One Step Beyond–style “mind-control” was previously the province of parapsychology, but no more.

Still, the Iron Man 3 story itself remains science fiction. In Iron Man 3, Extremis has supercharged an army of invaders. World powers and underground conspirators are in hot pursuit of this mysterious substance that can potentiate their evil goals. They are ready to battle Iron Man and anyone else who tries to obstruct their plans to overtake humanity. A once-suicidal scientist, an easily swayed botanist, and a drug-addicted actor figure into the fast-paced plot.

After the movie ends, and after Tony Stark has disarmed his enemies and rescued his love object, spectators are in for another surprise: an epilogue involving Tony Stark and Dr Bruce Banner. The epilogue screens after the last credits roll, when the film is officially over.

In this scene, Tony sits on a sofa, wearing his “civvies,” his armor out of sight. Tony recounts his triumphs and travails. Superhero fans know Dr Banner (Mark Ruffalo) as the physicist who turns into The Hulk whenever his anger is aroused. He becomes big, green, and amygdala-driven. Superficially, this scene looks like a teaser for the forthcoming Marvel film, Avengers 2, which features both Iron Man and The Hulk. However, psychiatrists who listen with their third ear hear tacit messages embedded in the dialogue, replete with reflections about rifts in mental health care.

Tony talks to Dr Banner “. . .and thank you, by the way, for listening. There’s something about getting it off my chest and putting it out there in the atmosphere, instead of holding this in. I mean, this is what gets people sick. . . . Wow, I had no idea you’re such a good listener. . . to be able to share all my intimate thoughts, my experiences with someone . . . it just cuts the weight of it in half. . . and the fact that you’re able to help me process . . . you heard me?”

At that moment, the camera shifts to Dr Banner, who sits in a chair behind the couch. How curious! A film that revolves around neuropsychiatry, DNA alterations, neurotransmitters, and bioengineering comes around full circle to highlight the importance of talking, processing, communicating, and sharing.

Tony Stark never implies that talking it out would have changed anything—or that he wanted to change anything. (Thank goodness, for that would deprive both him and his audience of both past and future action-adventures!)

Yet he endorses the value of making meaning out of life experiences, including save-the-world kind of experiences. He affirms his belief that psychotherapy can contribute to this philosophical pursuit. Unfortunately, he has chosen someone who is “not that kind of doctor.” It’s not just that Dr Banner is a physicist, and a hard scientist, but Dr Banner tells Tony that he does not have the “temper . . . or temperament” to do that kind of doctoring: Dr Banner turns into The Hulk when his emotions are aroused—not a good trait for a therapist.

DISCLOSURES

Dr Packer is Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY. She is also in private practice in New York City. She is the author of Superheroes and Superegos: Analyzing the Minds Behind the Masks (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger/ABC-CLIO; 2010) and several other books, for which she receives royalties.

REFERENCES

1. Ellis W, Granov A. Iron Man Extremis Director’s Cut. New York: Marvel Comics; 2010.

2. Packer S. Superheroes and Superegos: Analyzing the Minds Behind the Masks. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger/ABC-CLIO; 2010.

3. Kingson JA. An old Torah, older sunken boats and a seriously old primate. New York Times. June 10, 2013. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/11/science/old-sunken-boats-an-older-torah-and-a-seriously-old-primate.html?_r=0. Accessed July 12, 2013.

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God's Psychiatrist

on Monday, 08 July 2013.

Funny portrayal of a psychiatrist analyzing some events in the Old Testament

God's Psychiatrist

By H. Steven Moffic, MD

Chapter 1. A Psychiatrist in Biblical Times

In Genesis, it is described that man, and then presumably woman in a first example of matchmaking, is created in the image of God. Imagine a modern day psychiatrist time traveling back to observe this creation. If you don’t believe in such a God, but are a parent, think of a child created, at least half genetically speaking, in your image.

As holy as it may seem to be created in the image of a God, would a psychiatrist think that this was mentally healthy? What happens to the children of parents who want their children to fulfill their own dreams? Could it be too much of a narcissistic wish and expectation to be created in anyone’s image? Wouldn’t this make normal separation and individuation more difficult, the psychiatrist wondered?

Indeed, the psychological challenges and problems for Adam and Eve emerge quickly in the Garden of Eden. The psychiatrist observing this scenario wondered about offering a walk, as Freud did about a century ago with Mahler, to discuss the temptation and symbolic meaning of the Serpent and the Tree of Knowledge. But the psychiatrist wondered if this was an impossible paradox to resolve. Without knowledge, how does one understand the risks of obtaining knowledge?

So Eve goes ahead, and she and Adam are banished from the Garden in shame. If our psychiatrist could have met them in this wider world, perhaps they could have processed their shame and the current status of their relationship before they had children. Instead, the result is 2 sons, Cain and Abel, who portray the first sibling conflict and competition, so severe that Cain murders Abel.

After this tragedy, history seems to progress adversely until Noah. Noah is said to be the best of his time. In the Ark that he builds, his family, animals, and himself survive drastic environmental and climate changes. If a psychiatrist were also on the Ark, there would have been ample time to discuss how Noah felt about the responsibility of saving the world, and how he might prepare himself for a different future. As it turns out, he becomes drunk afterward. Noah might have needed detox and Alcoholic Anonymous; his family might have sought support from Al-Anon. However, just like the lives of so many modern day celebrities, their lives and the story goes on without completing treatment.

The next major figure is Abraham. No one claims to know, not even himself, why he is chosen to start a new religion. Later on in his life, sibling rivalry emerges again, but now between stepbrothers. After Abraham has his son Ishmael by the handmaiden, Hagar, Abraham and his wife Sarah have their own son, Isaac. Can’t you just predict the need for some challenging family therapy? Instead, Sarah, with the apparent approval and support of God, orders Ishmael to be banished. Abraham acquiesces, and God, to seemingly even things out a bit, says that Ishmael will start his own Kingdom, which many have taken to become the Arab people.

Abraham is later asked to sacrifice Isaac. Any psychiatrist might say that at times of exasperation, a parent might think of sacrificing their child. But this time it includes the actual preparation, without the apparent knowledge, of Sarah. Isaac is spared at the last minute, but to a psychiatrist, it might seem that he suffered PTSD. Sarah may have died soon afterward from the shock of grief.

Without treatment, as family problems are wont to do, the sibling conflicts continue in Isaac’s sons, Esau and Jacob, and then again in Jacob’s sons. Esau also goes off in exile, perhaps to start what will become the Roman people.

This story should be enough to call forth a psychiatrist, shouldn’t it? Finally, do we see the prototype of God’s psychiatrist in Jacob’s son, Joseph? Though Jacob’s favoritism, culminating in his giving Joseph the coat of many colors, seems to produce excessive narcissism, Joseph overcomes the trauma of being sold by his brothers and given jail time in Egypt, to use his prophetic interpretation of dreams. He attributes this skill to God, succeeding beyond anyone’s wildest dreams in a new culture, in which he prepares successfully for climate change, forgives his brothers, and is united with his father. After this family forgiveness, the cycle is broken and there is just “normal” sibling rivalry depicted in the Old Testament.

With the psychological path cleared in one way, but challenging in another, Moses arrives. A psychiatrist in the court might wonder if his stuttering was a consequence of an unusual child rearing, both in the Egyptian court, where he is adopted, and with the surreptitious involvement of his own family. Maybe he was dealing with buried anger, too. Moses, despite being so humble, has several outbursts of anger, which cost his entry into the Promised Land. Would anger management and/or a prn calming medication have helped him? If he were calmer, perhaps he would have recommended group psychotherapy for those disgruntled among his people, and maybe then sought psychoanalysis for himself. Following the death of Moses, the Old Testament ends.

Chapter 2. Psychiatry in the Common Era


Let’s go on to the Rabbis who replaced Jewish priests in the diaspora outside of Israel after the beginning of the Common Era. They seemed to grasp some therapeutic principles that would help sustain the Jewish people and keep them together over the next 2 millennia, despite pogroms, exiles, and most recently, the Holocaust. They came to interpret the Old Testament in different ways and on many levels, including the Talmud, Midrash, Kabalah, weekly Torah study around the world, and pastoral counseling. In the early Middle Ages, one particular Rabbi—Maimonides—who was a general physician and philosopher all in one, conveyed basic concepts of mental well-being, supportive psychotherapy, and even the basis of our most popular and evidence-based therapy, cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy.1

Nevertheless, there was still no formal field of psychiatry, that is, until a Jewish physician emerged about a century ago to complement the work of Kraepelin. Sigmund Freud, after a childhood as an honor student in Jewish religious schools, went on to take the new field of psychiatry to a different level with his psychoanalytic theories.

Like Joseph, Freud arrived at his conclusions after analyzing his own dreams. The difference is that Freud analyzed the conflictual issues in his dreams, and Joseph analyzed their prophetic meanings. In the ensuing therapeutic process, different levels of interpretation paralleled the Rabbis’ interpretation of the teachings in the Torah.

Was Freud God’s psychiatrist at long last? Not likely. Actually, Freud’s views may reflect why a psychiatrist was not around from the beginning of humanity in Biblical times. Freud, though publicly valuing his Jewish cultural background and involved with B’nai B’rith meetings in Vienna, was famous (or infamous) for claiming that religion was an illusion, an opium for the masses, and that belief in God was a matter of the transference of feelings toward one’s parents.

Freud also seems to underestimate anti-Semitism, which labeled psychoanalysis as that “Jewish science,” only leaving his home at the last minute when his daughter’s life was threatened. Since Jewish theology values action over thoughts and beliefs, Freud’s actions—to find new ways to heal people—couldn’t be more Jewish. What did it mean, then, that Freud died on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, in 1939? And if he was thinking of his death in the physician-assisted morphine mental state, did he reassess his feelings about God?

What about that other famous psychiatrist from Vienna, who studied some with Freud? That was Viktor Frankl. In one of life’s ironies, he lived for a time in close proximity to Hitler. What if he, or another psychiatrist, had at one point been able to treat Hitler during his troubled childhood? As it turned out, however, Dr Frankl2 was about to go to America, only to have an existential crisis:

Should I foster my brainchild, logotherapy . . . or should I concentrate on my duties as a real child of my parents and stay by them?2

He returned home to find the letters of the Ten Commandments stating to honor thy father and mother. He let his Visa lapse. Sent not long after to Auschwitz, he became a sort of concentration camp psychiatrist, struggling to give meaning to the struggle to survive. That meaning was to see his wife again and to lecture about the psychological lessens learned. Only the latter came to pass. After the war, he resettled in Vienna and remarried a Christian woman. He soon published the perennial best seller, Man’s Search for Meaning, and established Logotherapy, a “therapy of meaning.”

Although I was trained in Freudian psychotherapy in the early 1970s, by the end of my clinical career, I came to follow the path of Freud to Frankl by focusing on the meaning of life for the decreasing amount of time I had with each patient.3

Did Dr Frankl end up believing in a God? He never would say.

In our time, it seems that the number of psychiatrists who believe in a God are increasing, parallel with the decreasing influence of Freud’s ideas. Jewish psychiatrists, although still prominent in the newer areas of group psychotherapy, cognitive therapy, understanding brainwashing, and even Freud’s predicted psychopharmacology, are nevertheless decreasing in their relative numbers.

Perhaps the notable example of a Jewish psychiatrist who clearly and overtly believes in God is Dr Abraham Joshua Twerski, who is also a Rabbi and scion of a Hasidic dynasty, and specializes in substance abuse. For a comparable Christian psychiatrist, we can cite the late Dr E. Mansell Pattison, who was also a minister.

Chapter 3. The Moral of the Story

What, then, is the moral of this tale, as Hannah, my grandchild of 2 Rabbis, would ask? Just in time, a valued teacher and colleague asked, “Isn’t God a Psychiatrist”? If God is a psychiatrist and we psychiatrists were also created in God’s image, and if we psychiatrists have come currently to view religion and psychiatry as more overlapping than conflictual, then together we can work to help and maybe even improve human nature. Amen.

References1. Pies RW. The Judaic Foundations of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. Bloomington, Ind; iUniverse; 2010.
2. Scully M. Viktor Frankl at Ninety: An Interview. First Things. April 1995. http://www.firstthings.com/article/2008/08/004-viktor-frankl-at-ninety-an-interview-18. Accessed April 1, 2013.
3. Moffic HS. The meaning of life in a 15-minute med check. Psychiatr Times. May 19, 2011. http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/bipolar-disorder/content/article/10168/1864201. Accessed April 1, 2013.

- See more at: http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/god’s-psychiatrist-april-fool’s-tale-3-chapters/page/0/2#sthash.cfTiiQbN.dpuf

- See more at: http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/bipolar-disorder/god’s-psychiatrist-april-fool’s-tale-3-chapters#sthash.1Ku3jKyS.dpuf

Thanks Dr. Phelps!

on Sunday, 07 July 2013.

The attached image is from psycheducation.org which is run by Dr. Jim Phelps. His review of bStable can be seen at the bottom of the page.

Thanks Dr. Phelps!

James Phelps, MD, is Director of the Mood Disorders Program at Samaritan Mental Health in Corvallis, Ore. His Web site, PsychEducation.org, gathers no information on visitors and produces no income for him or others. He is the author of Why Am I Still Depressed? Recognizing and Managing the Ups and Downs of Bipolar II and Soft Bipolar Disorder (New York: McGraw-Hill; 2006), from which he receives royalties. Dr Phelps stopped accepting honoraria from pharmaceutical companies in 2008. - See more at: http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/bipolar-disorder#sthash.v9Cugh8x.dpuf

 

He is the section editor on Bipolar Disorder for the Psychiatric Times.

Celebrities with mental disorders

on Saturday, 15 June 2013. Posted in General

God love them for stepping forward and spreading awareness!!!

Celebrities with mental disorders
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