Negative Events Processed Differently in the Depressed Brain

By University College London

Negative Events Processed Differently in the Depressed BrainA region of the brain that responds to bad experiences has the opposite reaction to expectations of aversive events in people with depression compared to healthy adults, finds a new UCL study funded by the Medical Research Council.

The study, published in Molecular Psychiatry, found that the habenula, a pea-sized region of the brain, functions abnormally in depression. The same team previously showed that the habenula was activated in healthy volunteers when they expected to receive an electric shock.

“A prominent theory has suggested that a hyperactive habenula drives symptoms in people with depression: we set out to test that hypothesis” says senior author Professor Jonathan Roiser (UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience). “Surprisingly, we saw the exact opposite of what we predicted. In people with depression, habenula activity actually decreased when they thought they would get a shock. This shows that in depressed people the habenula reacts in a fundamentally different way. Although we still don’t know how or why this happens, it’s clear that the theory needs a rethink.”

The researchers scanned the brains of 25 people with depression and 25 never-depressed individuals using high-resolution functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The participants were shown a sequence of abstract pictures while they lay inside the scanner. Over time they learned that different pictures were associated with a chance of different outcomes — either good or bad. Images predicting electric shocks were found to cause increased habenula activation in healthy volunteers, but decreased activation in depressed people.

There were no differences in average habenula size between people with depression and healthy volunteers. However, people with smaller habenulae, in both groups, were found to have more symptoms of anhedonia, a loss of interest or pleasure in life.

“The habenula’s role in depression is clearly much more complex than previously thought,” explains lead author Dr. Rebecca Lawson (UCL Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging). “From this experimental fMRI study we can draw conclusions about the effects of anticipated shocks on habenula activation in depressed individuals compared with healthy volunteers. We can only speculate as to how this deactivation is linked to symptoms, but it could be that this ancient part of the brain actually plays a protective role against depression. Animal experiments have shown that stimulating the habenula leads to avoidance, and it is possible that this occurs for mental as well as physical negative events. So one possible explanation is that the habenula may help us to avoid dwelling on unpleasant thoughts or memories, and when this is disrupted you get the excessive negative focus that is common in depression.” Article Source

 

Related Continuing Education Courses

In the Zone: Finding Flow Through Positive Psychology is a 2-hour online continuing education (CE) course that offers a how-to guide on incorporating flow into everyday life. According to the CDC, four out of ten people have not discovered a satisfying life purpose. Further, the APA reports that most people suffer from moderate to high levels of stress, and according to SAMSHA, adult prescription medication abuse (primarily to counteract attention deficit disorders) is one of the most concerning health problems today. And while clinicians now have a host of resources to mitigate distress and reduce symptomatology, the question remains: how do clinicians move clients beyond baseline levels of functioning to a state of fulfillment imbued with a satisfying life purpose? The answer may lie in a universal condition with unexpected benefits…This course will explore the concept of flow, also known as optimal performance, which is a condition we are all capable of, yet seldom cultivate. When in flow we experience a profound and dramatic shift in the way we experience ourselves, our capabilities, and the world around us. Our focus sharpens, our strengths are heightened, we feel an intense sense of euphoria and connection to the world around us, and we often realize capabilities we didn’t know were possible. For clients, flow doesn’t just help them become more capable, it dramatically improves their lives – teaching them not just to expect more from themselves, but how to cultivate the very conditions that make expecting more possible. This course, packed with exercises, tips, and tools, will demonstrate just how flow can be incorporated into your everyday life, and used to help your clients move from simply surviving to a life that harnesses and builds upon their own unique potential to thrive.

 

Everyone occasionally feels blue or sad. But these feelings are usually short-lived and pass within a couple of days. When you have depression, it interferes with daily life and causes pain for both you and those who care about you. Depression is a common but serious illness. Many people with a depressive illness never seek treatment. But the majority, even those with the most severe depression, can get better with treatment. Medications, psychotherapies, and other methods can effectively treat people with depression.Some types of depression tend to run in families. However, depression can occur in people without family histories of depression too. Scientists are studying certain genes that may make some people more prone to depression. Some genetics research indicates that risk for depression results from the influence of several genes acting together with environmental or other factors. In addition, trauma, loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, or any stressful situation may trigger a depressive episode. Other depressive episodes may occur with or without an obvious trigger.This introductory course provides an overview to the various forms of depression, including signs and symptoms, co-existing conditions, causes, gender and age differences, and diagnosis and treatment options.

 

Nearly every client who walks through a health professional’s door is experiencing some form of anxiety. Even if they are not seeking treatment for a specific anxiety disorder, they are likely experiencing anxiety as a side effect of other clinical issues. For this reason, a solid knowledge of anxiety management skills should be a basic component of every therapist’s repertoire. Clinicians who can teach practical anxiety management techniques have tools that can be used in nearly all clinical settings and client diagnoses. Anxiety management benefits the clinician as well, helping to maintain energy, focus, and inner peace both during and between sessions. The purpose of this course is to offer a collection of ready-to-use anxiety management tools.

 

Professional Development Resources, Inc. is a Florida nonprofit educational corporation 501(c)(3) that offers 150+ online, video and book-based continuing education courses for healthcare professionals. We are approved by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA); the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (b); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychology & School Psychology, Dietetics & Nutrition, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, and Occupational Therapy Practice; the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board and Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology; the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs; and by the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists and State Board of Social Worker Examiners.

 

Depression Linked to Long-Term Opioid Use

By Agata Blaszczak Boxe of Live Science

Depression and Long Term Opioid UseThis article talks about the link between depression and long-term opioid use in patients with chronic pain. The study notes that people who take opioids for more than one month are at an increased risk for this mental health problem.

People who take prescription opioids, which are used for treating pain, for longer than a month may have an increased risk of developing depression, according to a new study.

Pain itself can also lead to depression, but in the study, the link between depression and opioid use held even when the researchers accounted for the potential contribution of pain to depression, according to the study.

Therefore, if people who are taking opioids for pain notice they have been feeling depressed, both they and their doctors should be aware that the use of the drugs, and not just the pain, may be a potential source of the depressed mood, the researchers said.

“We really did rigorous control for pain, and we feel strongly that these results are independent of the known contribution of pain to depression,” said study author Jeffrey Scherrer, an associate professor of family and community medicine at Saint Louis University in Missouri.

In the study, the researchers looked at data from three large groups of people who started taking opioids around the time the study started. The first group had nearly 71,000 people; the second had nearly 14,000 people; and the third had nearly 23,000 people. The ages of the people in the study ranged from 18 to 80 years.

The people did not have depression at the start of the study. The researchers followed up with the participants for seven to 10 years, depending on which group the people were in.

The researchers found that 12 percent of the nearly 71,000 people in the first group, 9 percent of the nearly 14,000 people in the second group and 11 percent of the nearly 23,000 people in the third group had developed depression during this time.

They also found that the longer the people took the opioids, the greater their risk of depression was. For example, in the group with almost 71,000 people, 11.6 percent of those who used opioids for one day to one month developed depression, compared with 13.6 percent of those who used opioids for one to three months and 14.4 percent of those who used the drugs for longer than three months. Read More…

Related CE Courses on Pain and Depression

 

Everyone occasionally feels blue or sad. But these feelings are usually short-lived and pass within a couple of days. When you have depression, it interferes with daily life and causes pain for both you and those who care about you. Depression is a common but serious illness. Many people with a depressive illness never seek treatment. But the majority, even those with the most severe depression, can get better with treatment. Medications, psychotherapies, and other methods can effectively treat people with depression.Some types of depression tend to run in families. However, depression can occur in people without family histories of depression too. Scientists are studying certain genes that may make some people more prone to depression. Some genetics research indicates that risk for depression results from the influence of several genes acting together with environmental or other factors. In addition, trauma, loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, or any stressful situation may trigger a depressive episode. Other depressive episodes may occur with or without an obvious trigger.This introductory course provides an overview to the various forms of depression, including signs and symptoms, co-existing conditions, causes, gender and age differences, and diagnosis and treatment options.

 

Medication for chronic pain is addictive; therefore, the treatment of individuals with both substance abuse disorders and pain presents particular challenges. This course is based on a document from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Managing Chronic Pain in Adults With or in Recovery from Substances Use Disorders: A Treatment Improvement Protocol (SAMHSA Tip 54). Intended for all healthcare providers, this document explains the close connections between the neurobiology of pain and addiction, assessments for both pain and addiction, procedures for treatment of chronic pain management (both pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical), side effects and symptoms of tolerance and withdrawal from pain medication, managing risk of addiction to pain medication and nonadherence to treatment protocols, maintaining patient relationships, documentation, and safety issues. Written by panel consensus, SAMHSA TIP 54 provides a good introduction to pain management issues and also a good review for experienced clinicians.

 

This course will demystify the diagnosis and treatment of chronic pain, the role and limitations of pain medications, and how to identify when pain relieving drugs may be harmful to clients. Participants will understand how to conduct a complete evaluation of clients with a pain disorder, chronic pain syndrome and co-morbid psychiatric diagnoses. Although the majority of chronic pain patients do not abuse pain medications, mental health practitioners need skills to assess when active substance abuse is present and develop appropriate treatment objectives. This course will also give special attention to specific clinical challenges for mental health professionals who treat clients with chronic pain, including suicide assessment and treatment non-adherence.

 

Prescription drug abuse is on the rise. Pharmaceuticals like OxyContin®, Adderall®, and Xanax® are some of the most commonly abused prescription drugs. For some prescription drug addicts, medication was originally taken as prescribed – until they started developing a tolerance for it. For others, members of their peer group began to abuse prescription drugs because they are easily accessible and relatively inexpensive on the street. Prescription drug abuse also affects those who don’t use – through increased costs and the inconveniences of increased security at pharmacies. Treatment is comprised of a series of steps, including detoxification, inpatient/outpatient treatment, and maintenance. In some cases, patients must be closely monitored because of the potential for withdrawal effects. Once treatment is completed, there are various options for maintaining sobriety. Laws are being tightened, and some medications have become difficult to find due to the increased rate of prescription drug abuse.

 

Professional Development Resources is approved by the American Psychological Association (APA) to sponsor continuing education for psychologists; by the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC ACEP #5590); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB Provider #1046, ACE Program); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA Provider #3159); the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA Provider #AAUM); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR Provider#PR001); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy (#BAP346), Psychology & School Psychology (#50-1635), Dietetics & Nutrition (#50-1635), Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, and Occupational Therapy Practice (#34); the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board (#RCST100501) and the Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology; the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs (#193); and the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists (#114) and State Board of Social Worker Examiners (#5678).

Bariatric Surgery and Mental Health Issues

By The JAMA Network Journals

Bariatric Surgery and Mental Health IssuesBinge eating, anxiety and depression are common symptoms in severely obese patients who are seeking and undergoing bariatric surgery, according to a recent study on mental health conditions.
 
Bariatric surgery is an accepted method of promoting weight loss in severely obese individuals. Mental health conditions may be common among patients seeking bariatric surgery; however, the prevalence of these conditions and whether they are associated with postoperative outcomes has not been known.

Aaron J. Dawes, M.D., of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis to determine the prevalence of mental health conditions among bariatric surgery candidates and recipients and the association between preoperative mental health conditions and health outcomes following bariatric surgery. The authors identified 68 publications meeting criteria for inclusion in the analysis: 59 reporting the prevalence of preoperative mental health conditions (65,363 patients) and 27 reporting associations between preoperative mental health conditions and postoperative outcomes (50,182 patients).

Results of the meta-analysis estimated that 23 percent of patients undergoing bariatric surgery reported a current mood disorder — most commonly depression (19 percent) — while 17 percent were diagnosed with an eating disorder. “Both estimates are higher than published rates for the general U.S. population, suggesting that special attention should be paid to these conditions among bariatric patients,” the researchers write. Another common mental health condition was anxiety (12 percent).

There was conflicting evidence regarding the association between preoperative mental health conditions and postoperative weight loss. Neither depression nor binge eating disorder was consistently associated with differences in weight outcomes. Bariatric surgery was, however, consistently associated with postoperative decreases in the prevalence of depression (7 studies; 8 percent-74 percent decrease) and the severity of depressive symptoms (6 studies; 40 percent-70 percent decrease).

“Previous reviews have suggested that self-esteem, mental image, cognitive function, temperament, support networks, and socioeconomic stability play major roles in determining outcomes after bariatric surgery,” the authors write. “Future studies would benefit from including these characteristics as well as having clear eligibility criteria, standardized instruments, regular measurement intervals, and transparency with respect to time-specific follow-up rates. By addressing these methodological issues, future work can help to identify the optimal strategy for evaluating patients’ mental health prior to bariatric surgery.”
 
Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160112124803.htm

Related Continuing Education Courses for Dietitians

Karin Kratina, PhD, RD, LD/N; Michelle Albers, PhD, RD, LD/N Effective treatment of eating disorders requires multidimensional and individualized interventions. Education that addresses the normal nutritional needs and the physiologic effects of starvation and refeeding is a critical component of treatment. Management often requires long-term nutritional counseling of the patient which may extend several years. This course will describe the rationale and use of providing Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) for the treatment of Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, and Binge Eating Disorder. Included are: Criteria for Diagnosing Eating Disorders; Role of Dieting in the Development of Eating Disorders; Symptomology; Treatment Overview; Nutrition Therapy; Reconnecting with Hunger and Satiety; Use of Exercise; Working with a Therapist; Pharmacotherapy; In-Patient versus Out-Patient Treatment; Refeeding; Establishing a Dietary/Eating Pattern; Comparing Traditional and Health at Every Size (HAES) Approaches to Health Enhancement; Recovery from Eating Disorders; Nutrition Care Process; and the Core Minimum Guide.

 

Susan Moyers, PhD, MPH, LD/N Overweight and obesity constitute one of the nation’s ten leading health indicators with nearly two-thirds of adults in the United States now classified as either overweight or obese. Before any diet and physical activity program can be personalized and imple­mented, a nutrition assessment is needed, along with an understanding of the individual’s readiness to change and motiva­tion. This course was developed by the Florida Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for their Manual of Medical Nutrition Therapy to provide Licensed and Registered Dietitian/Nutritionists (RDNs) and technicians with evidence-based, non-biased information on the prevention and treatment of obesity in adults. Topics covered include: obesity synopsis; reimbursement considerations; nutrition assessment (diagnosis, intervention, monitoring and evaluation); pharmacotherapy for weight-loss (prescription and OTC); and physical activity. Nutrition education handouts are included at the end of the course.

 

This course is a self-instructional module that “walks” readers through the process of replacing their self-defeating weight issues with healthy, positive, and productive life-style behaviors. It moves beyond the “burn more calories than you consume” concept to encompass the emotional aspects of eating and of gaining and losing weight. Through 16 included exercises, you will learn how to identify your self-defeating behaviors (SDBs), analyze and understand them, and then replace them with life-giving actions that lead to permanent behavioral change.* Please note – this course contains common material on eliminating SDBs with Living a Better Life with Chronic Pain: Eliminating Self-Defeating Behaviors

 

Statistics report that Americans are an increasingly overweight population. Among the factors contributing to our struggle to stop tipping the scales is the component of “emotional eating” – or the use of food to attempt to fill emotional needs. Professionals in both the physical and emotional health fields encounter patients with emotional eating problems on a regular basis. Even clients who do not bring this as their presenting problem often have it on their list of unhealthy behaviors that contribute to or are intertwined with their priority concerns. While not an easy task, it is possible to learn methods for dismantling emotional eating habits. The goals of this course are to present information about the causes of emotional eating, and provide a body of cognitive and behavioral exercises that can help to eliminate the addictive pattern.

 

This course is designed to help clinicians enhance their working knowledge of the etiology and treatment of obesity, including assessment skills, diagnostic issues, treatment planning, and current developments in pharmacological and surgical treatments. Case studies will elucidate different aspects of treatment. The information in this course will be especially helpful to clinicians who work with obese individuals and want to provide better psychological care.

Professional Development Resources is a CPE Accredited Provider with the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR #PR001). CPE accreditation does not constitute endorsement by CDR of provider programs or materials. Professional Development Resources is also a provider with the Florida Council of Dietetics and Nutrition (#50-1635).

Nutrition’s Role in Managing Depression

By LeeAnn Weintraub

Nutrition's Role in Managing DepressionWhile the holiday season is said to be bright, cheerful and merry, for people struggling with depression this can be the hardest time of the year.

Whether it is a case of “the blues” or clinical depression, seeking out support and implementing a daily routine of self-care, including balanced eating, can help you back onto the road of physical and emotional stability.

Experts point to various factors that make the holiday seasonal emotionally challenging.

First, December is a time for self-evaluation and reflection, so financial hardships, unraveling relationships and mounting piles of work can cause feelings of hopelessness.

Plus, there are the excess demands to make the holidays perfect while juggling stressful family dynamics.

People lacking social support, especially elderly people who may be isolated due to health problems and those who have recently lost a loved one, are at increased risk for depression. In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health considers depression in those 65 years and older to be a significant public health concern.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, nearly 7 percent of U.S. adults and more than 10 percent of adolescents aged 12-17 have had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.

A leading cause of mental illness, depression not only impacts the brain, but is associated with many other physical health problems.

People who suffer from depression are four times more likely to experience a heart attack and, strikingly, are four times more likely to die within the following six months after having a heart attack compared with those who are not depressed.

Depressed adolescents are twice as likely to become obese compared with non-depressed youth. A study published recently in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that weight gain in depressed adolescents is mostly a result of negative body image.

Those who perceived themselves as overweight were twice as likely to be obese one year later.

While seeking professional help is a key part to treating depression, healthful eating and nutrition can play a useful role in getting better and hopefully finding some holiday joy.

Here are some tips to get started on yourself or maybe someone you know:

  • Seek balance when enjoying holiday comfort foods. Keep portion control in mind when it comes to higher calorie holiday foods so you can eat your favorites without feeling guilty or deprived.
  • Choose nonalcoholic beverages. Remember that alcohol is a depressant, so steering away from the booze at holiday gatherings can help keep your mood more stable.
  • Low vitamin D levels are linked to depression. Since a primary source of vitamin D is from sunlight exposure, it can be extra challenging to get adequate vitamin D during winter months. Go outdoors to increase your daily dose of vitamin D.
  • Choose foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These essential fats from such foods as salmon, walnuts, flax seeds and extra virgin olive oil help reduce inflammation and support brain function, including memory and mood.
  • Don’t skip breakfast. Including a balanced morning meal with protein and fiber, such as eggs and whole grain toast, can aid with mood, memory and energy levels.


Make whole foods your base. Eating plenty of nutrient-dense whole foods will help ensure you are taking in the important nutrients needed to make neurotransmitters including amino acids, vitamins, such as vitamin B12 and folic acid, and minerals, such as zinc and iron.

LeeAnn Weintraub, a registered dietitian, provides nutrition counseling and consulting to individuals, families and businesses. LeeAnn can be reached at RD@halfacup.com.

Source: http://www.dailynews.com/health/20151130/nutrition-depression-issues-can-be-monitored

Related Online CEU Courses:

Nutrition in Mental Health is a 3-hour online continuing education (CE/CEU) course that discusses how good nutrition impacts a person’s mental health and well being.

Depression is a 1-hour online continuing education (CE/CEU) course that provides an overview to the various forms of depression, including signs and symptoms, co-existing conditions, causes, gender and age differences, and diagnosis and treatment options.

Professional Development Resources is approved to offer online continuing education (CE/CEU) courses by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA); the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychology & School Psychology, Dietetics & Nutrition, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, and Occupational Therapy Practice; the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board and Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology; the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs; and by the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists and State Board of Social Worker Examiners.

 

Seasonal Affective Disorder: Diet and Lifestyle Interventions

By Anne Danahy, MS, RD, LDN

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of mood disorder or depression, which occurs consistently in the fall and winter, and resolves in the spring and summer. Symptoms of SAD include:

  • Feeling sad, anxious, or “empty”
  • Irritability
  • Loss of interest in activities you usually enjoy
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased energy
  • Heavy, leaden feeling in arms or legs
  • Changes in weight, especially weight gain
  • Changes in appetite, usually an increased craving for carbohydrate foods


Risk Factors:

Seasonal Affective DisorderIt is estimated that SAD affects nearly one half million Americans each year, with women more likely to suffer from seasonal depression than men, and younger adults more at risk than older adults. Those who live furthest from the equator are more likely to experience SAD.

Research suggests that SAD is triggered by a reduction in the amount of sunlight or daylight, which upsets the body’s natural clock. A change in seasons can affect production of the hormone melatonin, which plays a part in regulating sleep and mood. Reduced exposure to sunlight can also negatively impact production of the serotonin, a neurotransmitter that affects mood.

Although diet and sedentary lifestyle are not risk factors for developing SAD, studies on depression suggest that those with diets low in certain nutrients, such as vitamin D and omega-3 fats, may be at greater risk for depression, and symptoms often improve when intake of these nutrients is increased. Additionally, individuals who eat a diet high in refined carbohydrates and/or lead a sedentary lifestyle may experience worse symptoms associated with SAD, especially weight gain, lack of energy, and fatigue.

What You Can Do:

While symptoms of SAD are generally minor for most, anyone who suffers from depression is advised to see their doctor to rule out any serious behavioral health issues. Studies have shown that light therapy (sitting next to a special light box which mimics the sun), is an effective treatment for SAD for many people. For those with more severe symptoms, your doctor may recommend an antidepressant or cognitive behavioral therapy. In addition, the following diet and lifestyle modifications may be helpful:

  • Increase your intake of omega-3 fats from salmon, sardines or other fatty fish, grass-fed beef, walnuts, flax seeds, soybeans, and enriched eggs. Omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in brain health. Although most studies examine their effect on mood disorders and other types of depression, several reviews of population studies, including those in Finland and Iceland, showed a negative association between fish eating and depression, including seasonal depression. In addition, researchers have found an association between lower plasma omega-3 levels and depression, and improvements in depression when subjects received supplemental doses.
  • Make sure you get adequate vitamin D by exposing your face and arms to sunlight for 10 minutes each day, eating fatty fish, eggs, and fortified milk, and taking a vitamin D supplement if necessary. Vitamin D plays many important roles in the body, and studies have found a negative association with depression. In a study that examined the effects of adding vitamin D to antidepressant treatment in subjects with major depressive disorder, researchers found that adding 1 500 international units (IU) of vitamin D to treatment was superior in treating depression. Although much research has established an association between low levels of vitamin D and higher likelihood of SAD, studies on the benefits of using vitamin D supplements alone to treat SAD have been inconsistent.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet that includes several servings of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy foods, fish, and lean proteins. Plant foods especially have beneficial nutrients and phytochemicals that may play a role in regulating mood, body, and brain health. In a review of 21 studies that compared dietary patterns to depression, Lei et al found that individuals with low intake of fruits and vegetables had higher odds of depression. The researchers also noted that although it has been difficult to establish the role of individual nutrients in preventing or treating depression, it may be possible that the various nutrients contributed by an overall “healthy diet” act synergistically to prevent depression.
  • Choose complex carbohydrates over refined carbs. One of the symptoms of SAD is an increased craving for carbohydrate foods. Unfortunately, filling up on sweets, pasta, and other refined carbohydrate foods causes a spike in blood glucose and insulin levels, and often leads to weight gain and fatigue. In addition, research from the Women’s Health Initiative found that higher glycemic index foods actually contribute to depression, especially in postmenopausal women. Choosing more high fiber, whole-grain carbohydrates such as oatmeal, brown rice, farro, or whole-wheat pastas helps to regulate glucose levels, and supplies a steady supply of lower calorie energy throughout the day.
  • Aim for exercise most days of the week. In addition to helping to prevent winter weight gain, regular aerobic exercise, for at least 30 minutes each day has been shown to improve mood and reduce both major depression and seasonal affective disorder. Exercising outside in sunlight has been shown to have even greater benefits.


Source: http://www.nutrition411.com/articles/seasonal-affective-disorder-diet-and-lifestyle-interventions

Related Online CEU Courses:

Depression is a 1-hour online continuing education (CE/CEU) course that provides an overview to the various forms of depression, including signs and symptoms, co-existing conditions, causes, gender and age differences, and diagnosis and treatment options.

Nutrition in Mental Health is a 3-hour online continuing education (CE/CEU) course that discusses how good nutrition impacts a person’s mental health and well being.

Professional Development Resources is approved to offer continuing education by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA); the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychology & School Psychology, Dietetics & Nutrition, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, and Occupational Therapy Practice; the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board and Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology; the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs; and by the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists and State Board of Social Worker Examiners.

Early Life Stress Can Increase Risk of Anxiety and Depression Later in Life

Senior Health & Science Writer, The Huffington Post

Anxiety and DepressionThe trillions of organisms living in your digestive tract can literally change the way your brain works.

Scientists continue to find more and more evidence of the significant influence of gut bacteria on mental health.

Studies have linked gut bacteria imbalances to a host of health issues, including depression, anxiety, autism and Alzheimer’s disease, and research has also suggested that a healthy microbiome can contribute to a healthy brain and good mood.

These issues can be activated at a very young age. New research suggests that a stressful childhood might set you up for gut dysfunction and mental health issues down the road.

In a study on mice, which was published this week in the journal Nature Communications, researchers from McMaster University in Canada showed that early-life stress can lead to imbalances in the gut microbiome and contribute to the development of anxiety and depression.

“Early life stress changes the composition and metabolic activity of bacteria in the gut,” the study’s lead author, Dr. Premysl Bercik, a professor of gastroenterology at the university’s medical school, told The Huffington Post in an email. “We postulate that this change is due to altered gut function induced by stress.”

The stress-bacteria connection

For the study, the researchers subjected infant mice to stress by separating them from their mothers when they were between 3 and 21 days old.

After being subjected to maternal separation, the mice had abnormally high levels of the stress hormone corticosterone and displayed anxiety and depression-like behavior. The mice also showed imbalances in gut bacteria, which the researchers attributed to the release of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in the stress response that communicates between the body and the brain.

Then, the researchers repeated the experiment in a germ-free condition where the mice were not exposed to any bacteria. This time, mice also showed high stress-hormone levels and gut dysfunction after being subjected to stress, but they didn’t show any signs of anxiety or depression.

When those same mice were colonized with bacteria, however, they began showing signs of anxiety and depression within a few weeks.

What does it all mean? Imbalanced bacteria alone wasn’t enough to bring on anxiety and depression. Instead, the findings suggest that the interaction of bacteria and early-life stress may be what determines an individual’s likelihood of developing anxiety and depression.

“We are starting to explain the complex mechanisms of interaction and dynamics between the gut microbiota and its host,” Bercik said in a written statement. “Our data show that relatively minor changes in microbiota profiles … can have profound effects on host behaviour in adulthood.”

Happy gut, happy brain

How does it work? The brain and the gut communicate via gut-brain axis, a mode of bidirectional signaling between the digestive tract and the nervous system.

There are several central mechanisms by which gut bacteria can communicate with the brain. First, imbalances in gut bacteria can trigger inflammation by increasing the permeability of the intestinal lining, which allows toxins to seep into the bloodstream. Research has linked pro-inflammatory markers (cytokines) and increased intestinal permeability with anxiety anddepression.

Secondly, bacteria can produce neurotransmitters, which are carried through the blood to the brain. Bacteria can also stimulate specific nerves in the gut that then transmit information to the brain, Bercik said.

Fortunately, you can support gut health (and therefore mental health) by eating a diet that’s rich in probiotics — the “friendly” gut bacteria that support digestion and a balanced microbiome, and are known to boost immune and neurological function.

Original Article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/gut-bacteria-mental-health-connection_55b8d6d6e4b0a13f9d1ade20

9 DIY Ways to Improve Your Mental Health

By Stephanie Pappas, Live Science Contributor

9 DIY Ways to Improve Your Mental HealthLet’s be upfront: Sometimes, achieving better mental health requires professional help. People may need a therapist, or even medication, to deal with disorders like depression or anxiety.

But those serious diagnoses aside, we could all do with a little brain tune-up. Fortunately, science has some suggestions for how to overcome personality quirks or unhealthy patterns of thinking that leave people functioning less than optimally.

Here are some things that studies have found may improve people’s mental health:

1. Set goals, but don’t take failure personally

Most people are at least a little bit of a perfectionist in some area of life. Aiming high can be the first step to success, but studies have found that high levels of perfectionism are linked to poor health and increase the risk of death. Perfectionism is also linked to postpartum depression.

The problem is that perfectionism has two facets: Perfectionists tend to set high goals for themselves, but they also tend to worry about it if they fail to reach extreme levels of performance. The high goals are not the problem as much as the so-called “perfectionist concerns,” or feelings of failure and worthlessness that come with falling short of reaching them, which can wreak havoc on mental health.

The trick to getting around this perfectionism trap might be to set goals without taking failure personally, said Andrew Hill, a sports psychologist at York St. John University in England.

One strategy, Hill told Live Science in August 2015, is for perfectionists to set small, manageable goals for themselves rather than one big goal. That way, failure is less likely, and so is the self-recrimination that can keep a perfectionist down. In other words, perfectionists should force themselves to think about achieving success in degrees, rather than in all-or-nothing terms.

2. Go outside

The indoor environment protects us from heat, cold and all manner of inclement weather. But if you don’t get outside frequently, you might be doing a number on your mental health.

A June 2015 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science found that spending 90 minutes walking in nature can decrease brain activity in a region called the subgenual prefrontal cortex. This area is active when we’re ruminating over negative thoughts. Walking alongside a busy road didn’t quiet this area, the researchers found.

This latest study is only one of many that suggest that spending time outdoors is good for the mind. A 2010 study in the journal Environmental Science & Technology found that 5 minutes in a green space can boost self-esteem. In a 2001 study published in the journal Environment and Behavior, time in green space even improved ADHD symptoms in kids compared with time spent relaxing indoors — for example, watching TV.

3. Meditate

Meditation may look like the person is sitting around, doing nothing. In fact, it’s great for the brain.

A slew of studies have found that meditation benefits a person’s mental health. For example, a 2012 study in the journal PLOS ONE found that people who trained to meditate for six weeks became less rigid in their thinking than people with no meditation training. This suggests that meditation might help people with depression or anxiety shift their thoughts away from harmful patterns, the researchers suggested.

Other studies on meditation suggests that it literally alters the brain, slowing the thinning of the frontal cortex that typically occurs with age and decreasing activity in brain regions that convey information about pain. People trained in Zen meditation also became more adept at clearing their minds after a distraction, a 2008 study found. As distracting and irrelevant thoughts are common in people with depression and anxiety , meditation might improve those conditions, the researchers said.

4. Exercise

Next we’ll tell you to eat your vegetables, right? (You should, by the way.) It’s not fancy advice, but moving your body can benefit your brain. In fact, a 2012 study in the journal Neurology found that doing physical exercise was more beneficial than doing mental exercises in staving off the signs of aging in the brain.

That study used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to scan the brains of Scottish participants in their early 70s. Among the 638 participants, those who reported walking or doing other exercises a few times a week showed less brain shrinkage and stronger brain connections than those who didn’t move. People who did mentally stimulating activities such as chess or social activities didn’t show those kinds of effects.

Exercise can even be part of the treatment for people with serious mental disorders. A 2014 review in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that physical activity reduces the symptoms of depression in people with mental illness, and even reduced symptoms of schizophrenia. A 2014 study in the journal Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica found that adding an exercise program to the treatment plan for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) reduced patients’ symptoms and improved their sleep.

5. Be generous in your relationships

A giving relationship is a happy relationship, according to a 2011 study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family. In the study, couples with children who reported high levels of generosity with one another were more satisfied in their marriages and more likely to report high levels of sexual satisfaction.

Moreover, studies show that keeping a committed relationship strong can be a big boon for your mental health. People in the early stages of a marriage or a cohabitating relationship experience a short-term boost in happiness and a drop in depression, according to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family. And among same-sex couples, the official designation of marriage appears to boost psychological functioning over domestic partnerships (though domestic partnerships provided a boost, too).

Being generous in nonromantic relationships can provide a direct mental health boost, too. A 2013 study in the American Review of Public Administration found that people who prioritized helping others at work reported being happier with life 30 years later.

6. Use social media wisely

In general, having social connections is linked to better mental health. However, maintaining friendships over Facebook and other social media sites can be fraught with problems. Some research suggests that reading other people’s chipper status updates makes people feel worse about themselves — particularly if those other people have a large friend list, which may lead to a lot of showing off. Those findings suggest that limiting your friend list to people who you feel particularly close to might help you avoid seeing a parade of peacocking status updates from people who seem to have perfect lives.

Time on social networking sites has been linked to depressive symptoms, though it’s not clear whether the mental health problems or the social media usage comes first. A study presented in April 2015 at the annual conference of the British Sociological Association found that social media is a double-edged sword: People with mental health conditions reported that social media sites offered them feelings of belonging to a community, but also said that Facebook and other sites could exacerbate their anxiety and paranoia.

The best bet, researchers say, is to take advantage of the connectivity conferred by social media, but to avoid making Facebook or Twitter your entire social life.

“You have to be careful,” University of Houston psychologist Linda Acitelli told Live Science in 2012.

7. Look for meaning, not pleasure

Imagine a life of lounging by a pool, cocktail in hand. When you aren’t sunning yourself, you’re shopping for cute clothes or planning your next party.

Paradise? Not so much. A 2007 study found that people are actually happier in life when they take part in meaningful activities than when they focus on hedonism. University of Louisville researchers asked undergrads to complete surveys each day for three weeks about their daily activities. They also answered questions about their happiness levels and general life satisfaction.

The study, published in the Journal of Research in Personality, found that the more people participated in personally meaningful activities such as helping other people or pursuing big life goals, the happier and more satisfied they felt. Seeking pleasure didn’t boost happiness.

8. Worry (some), but don’t vent

Everyone’s had the experience of worrying about something they can’t change. If constant worrying becomes a pervasive problem, though, science suggests you should just put it on the calendar.

Scheduling your “worry time” to a single, 30-minute block each day can reduce worries over time, according to a study published in July 2011 in the Journal of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics. Patients in the study were taught to catch themselves worrying throughout the day and then postpone the worries to a prearranged block of time. Even just realizing that they were worrying helped patients calm down, the researchers found, but stopping the worrying and saving it for later was the most effective technique of all.

Venting about stresses, however, appears to make people feel worse about life, not better. So set aside that worry time — but do it silently.

9. Learn not to sweat the small stuff

Daily irritations are part of life, but they can also wear us down. In a 2013 study in the journal Psychological Science, researchers used two national surveys to look at the influence of minor annoyances on people’s mental health. They found surprisingly strong links.

The more negatively people responded to small things like having to wait in traffic or having arguments with a spouse, the more anxious and distressed they were likely to be when surveyed again 10 years later, the researchers reported.

“It’s important not to let everyday problems ruin your moments,” study researcher Susan Charles, a psychologist at the University of California, Irvine, said in a statement when the research was released. “After all, moments add up to days, and days add up to years.”

Follow Stephanie Pappas on Twitter and Google+. Follow us@livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

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Picky Eating Linked to Mental Health Issues

By Tia Ghose, Senior Writer @ Live Science

Picky EaterAlmost everyone knows a 4-year-old who’s never eaten an apple, subsists off hot dogs and spaghetti or eats only white food.

But a new study suggests that such picky eating isn’t the norm, and that it may even hint at future mental health issues, in some cases. Children who are selective eaters are likelier to develop anxiety, depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to the study, published August 3, 2015 in the journal Pediatrics.

It’s not clear how or why picky eating may be tied to these conditions, but it may be that children who have heightened sensory experiences overall are also more sensitive to the food they eat, the researchers at Duke University wrote in their paper.

Picky or Healthy

Pediatricians tend to shrug off parents’ fears about children who gag at eggs or shove their broccoli off their plates, saying it is just a phase that most kids will outgrow, the researchers said.

But the research team previously found that adults who are picky eaters tend to have higher rates of psychological disorders than the general public. And some studies suggest that there are a lot of adult picky eaters out there, but because they have more control over what’s on their plates than children do, they can conceal their food likes and dislikes, said Marcia Pelchat, a psychologist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, who was not involved in the new study.

To see whether picky eating was associated with mental health issues in children, the Duke researchers asked the parents of about 3,400 preschoolers to fill out several questionnaires about their children’s eating habits, and signs of depression, anxiety, ADHD and other psychological disorders, as well as their sensitivity to sensory experiences. About two years later, the team evaluated a subset of the little ones again.

The researchers considered the kids who only ate certain foods as having a “moderate level” of selective eating, whereas kids whose range of foods was so limited that it made it difficult for them to eat with others were considered as having “severe” selective eating. (Because so many kids avoid foods like broccoli and other cruciferous veggies, the team didn’t consider hating those foods as a sign of picky eating.)

Among all children in the study, about one-fifth had at least moderate levels of selective eating, and 3 percent of parents reported severely restricted eating. Compared with the children with no eating issues, the moderate and severe picky eaters were more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression and ADHD, both at the time of the survey and in the two-year follow-up.

Cause, Effect or Neither?

Picky Eating in Kids Tied to Anxiety, DepressionIt’s possible that picky eating causes such unpleasant mealtime battles that it increases family discord, and indirectly leads to anxiety and other mental health conditions, Pelchat said. But it’s also likely that the kids with a predisposition to anxiousness may simply have more fears surrounding food, Pelchat said.

On a subconscious level, it may be that “if you have tremendous anxiety, for example, it is threatening to put food in your mouth,” Pelchat told Live Science. Humans have an adaptive tendency to avoid eating food that tastes weird or raises anxiety — this can prevent poisoning, she said. It may be that this tendency goes further than necessary in some people.

For instance, some of the most common foods in the “reject” pile have a slimy or gelatinous texture, or textural transitions (think bread with nuts in it, or tomatoes, which have crunchy seeds, slimy insides, mealy flesh and tough skin). In humans’ evolutionary past, such textures may have been tipoffs that something was spoiled or unsafe to eat, she said.

The study authors suggest that doctors should take picky eating seriously, because it could be a marker for future mental health issues. They also suggest that doctors should intervene when parents raise the issue.

As for ways to overcome picky eating, there’s not just one method that works, Pelchat said. But there are definitely some no-nos.

“What we found — and others have kind of confirmed — is that being a short-order cook and catering to the child is not helpful,” Pelchat said. “Punishing the child does not work, and rewarding or bribing does not work.”

Instead, taking pleasure in food, worrying less about it, taking time to prepare food and getting kids involved in the effort may help kids gradually reframe their experience with food, Pelchat said.

But there’s no evidence to suggest that working to overcome such picky eating on its own will help a child with anxiety or depression, Pelchat noted.

Follow Tia Ghose on Twitterand Google+. Follow Live Science@livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

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Medical Issues From Eating Disorders

By Melissa Davis @ Bulimia.com

Medical Issues From Anorexia, Bulimia and Other Eating DisordersEating disorders are complex mental health disorders that occur in many different forms, including anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder and eating disorders not otherwise specified. While each type of eating disorder has its own set of associated symptoms, all types of eating disorders have the potential to cause long-term damage to the body’s organs. Complications from the disorders, as well as co-existing mental health disorders, are wide ranging and sometimes fatal. Appropriate and prompt eating disorder treatments lead patients toward recovery, reducing the risk of medical complications and death.

Medical Issues That Arise From Anorexia

Individuals with anorexia nervosa severely restrict their food intake or engage in extreme exercise regimens in an effort to prevent weight gain or cause weight loss. According to the American Psychiatric Association, medical professionals diagnose anorexia when a patient weighs at least 15 percent less than the normal weight for the patient’s height and age. Aside from drastic weight loss, eating too little causes major nutritional deficits, denying the body many macronutrients and micronutrients it needs to function properly.

Due to severe calorie restrictions, the body does not receive adequate energy through food, and its processes slow down in order to conserve energy. According to New York Presbyterian Hospital, approximately 95 percent of patients that doctors admit to hospitals for anorexia have low heart rates. Low blood pressure and irregular heart rhythms also occur, and the risk of heart failure increases as the disease progresses. Due to changes in the endocrine system, women with anorexia often stop menstruating, and the body has a difficult time regulating its temperature.

Medical issues stemming from anorexia are not limited to the cardiovascular and endocrine systems. Bone density often decreases due to a lack of calcium and vitamin D, causing premature osteoporosis and increasing the risk of bone fractures. New York Presbyterian Hospital also highlights hematological issues, including anemia, which occurs in one-third of patients, and a low white blood cell count, which affects 50 percent of patients. Because white blood cells play a key role in immunity, a low white blood cell count increases the risk of opportunistic infections. The kidneys also suffer damage due to prolonged dehydration, and kidney failure is a possibility.

Ultimately, people suffering from anorexia risk starvation or suicide. The National Eating Disorder Association states that the mortality rate for anorexia is higher than that of any other mental illness.

Bulimia Also Causes Medical Issues

Unlike patients with anorexia, individuals with bulimia do eat, sometimes consuming thousands of calories in a single binging session. In an effort to maintain control and prevent weight gain, they then purge the food by vomiting or abusing laxatives, emetics or diuretics. This binge-and-purge cycle may happen several times per week or, in severe cases, several times per day. While individuals with bulimia are less likely to be underweight and are sometimes overweight, bulimia does cause major medical issues when left untreated. Many of the medical issues that stem from bulimia occur due to frequent vomiting. When individuals with bulimia vomit, over time, the stomach acid erodes the enamel of the teeth, leading to decay. Some individuals experience ulcers or gastroesophageal reflux disease. The esophagus becomes raw and inflamed, and forceful vomiting has the potential to rupture the esophagus. In rare cases, over-stretching the stomach causes gastric rupture, a condition in which the contents of the stomach spill into the abdominal cavity, constituting a medical emergency.

Some medical complications related to bulimia arise from the abuse of medications. Diuretic or “water pill” abuse damages the kidneys by contributing to dehydration. Laxative abuse causes gastrointestinal issues, such as irregularity and constipation. According to an article in the Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 1 to 2 percent of individuals with bulimia abuse syrup of ipecac, an over-the-counter medication that people use to induce vomiting. According to the article, this drug has toxic effects on the heart, weakening the muscle and potentially damaging the left ventricle.

Both vomiting and laxative abuse lead to electrolyte imbalances which affect the heart rate and the function of other major organs, including the kidneys. Like individuals with anorexia, people with untreated bulimia are at risk of heart failure, kidney failure and death.

Complications That Arise From Binge Eating Disorder

Like individuals with bulimia, those with binge eating disorder consume large amounts of food in a single sitting, but they do not vomit or otherwise purge the food. Because individuals with this disorder consume large amounts of fat and carbohydrates, they are often morbidly obese. The medical issues that arise due to binge eating disorder are similar to those of clinical obesity. According to the National Eating Disorder Association, individuals with binge eating disorder have an increased risk of cardiovascular problems, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease. They are also at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes and gallbladder disease.

Medical Issues Related to Co-Existing Psychiatric Disorders

Each of the aforementioned eating disorders often coexists with other psychiatric disorders, including depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Medical issues stemming from these mental health disorders range from mild, such as sleeping problems, to severe, such as suicidal behaviors.

Substance abuse and its related complications are also prevalent among those with eating disorders. The National Eating Disorder Association states that individuals with eating disorders are four times more likely to have substance abuse disorders than members of the general population. Substance abuse contributes to risky behaviors and exposes users to infectious pathogens. Compounding the problems that eating disorders cause, drugs and alcohol also damage the heart, liver and other organs. This enhances the risk of serious complications and organ failure.

The key to preventing serious medical complications related to eating disorders is prompt, appropriate treatment in an eating disorder treatment center, hospital or other qualified facility. If you are, or someone you know is, displaying symptoms of disordered eating, call us at 1-888-920-1501 to talk to a staff member about your treatment options. With the right kind of help, you or your loved one can start on the path toward recovery.

Source: http://www.bulimia.com/topics/medical-issues/

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Cyberbullying And Depression Go Hand In Hand

By Stephanie Pappas

Cyberbullying And DepressionCyberbullying on social media is linked to depression in teenagers, according to new research that analyzed multiple studies of the online phenomenon.

Victimization of young people online has received an increasing level of scrutiny, particularly after a series of high-profile suicides of teenagers who were reportedly bullied on various social networks. In 2013, for example, a spate of suicides was linked to the social network Ask.fm, where users can ask each other questions anonymously. The deaths of teens who had been subject to abuse on the site prompted Ask.fm (which was acquired by Ask.com in 2014) to launch new safety efforts. Twitter, likewise, announced plans in April to filter out abusive tweets and suspend bullying users.

Social media use is hugely common among teenagers, said Michele Hamm, a researcher in pediatrics at the University of Alberta, but the health effects of cyberbullying on social media sites is largely unknown. Regular, face-to-face bullying during the teen years may double the risk of depression in adulthood, and bullying’s effects can be as bad or worse than child abuse, studies show.

A Depressing Effect

In the new review, Hamm and her colleagues combed through studies on cyberbullying and social media, finding 36 that investigated the effects of cyberbullying on health in teens ages 12 to 18. Although the studies examined different health outcomes and sometimes defined cyberbullying differently, one finding stood out.

“There were consistent associations between exposure to cyberbullying and increased likelihood of depression,” Hamm told Live Science.

The studies covered a variety of social sites, but Facebook was the most common — between 89 percent and 97.5 percent of the teens who used social media had a Facebook account. Seventeen of the 36 studies analyzed looked at how common cyberbullying was, and the researchers found that a median of 23 percent of teens reporting being targeted. About 15 percent reported bullying someone online themselves.

Two studies examined the prevalence of so-called “bully-victims,” meaning teens who both bully others and are bullied. Research on offline bullying shows these kids to be most at-risk for mental health problems. One study found that 5.4 percent of teens were bully-victims, while the other reported a prevalence of 11.2 percent.

Safe Social Media

Despite the well-publicized suicide cases linked to cyberbullying in news reports, Hamm and her colleagues did not find consistent links between being bullied and self-harm across the studies. Nor did they see a consistent link between cyberbullying and anxiety. Some studies found evidence for these links, and others did not.

However, Hamm cautioned, the findings don’t mean these links don’t exist. The 36 studies used a variety of definitions and health outcomes, and not enough work has been done to confirm or rule out connections between cyberbullying and anxiety or self-harm.

But cyberbullying and depression went hand-in-hand, the researchers reported June 22, 2015 in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. Ten studies examined the link between social media victimization and depression, and all of them found a connection.

Alone, these studies can’t prove that the bullying caused the depression — it’s possible that depressed teens are more likely to become targets of bullying than their healthier peers. However, Hamm said, one of the 10 studies did follow the teens over time and found that the cyberbullying preceded the teens’ depression, hinting at a causal relationship. The research also found that the more cyberbullying a teen experienced, the more severe his or her symptoms of depression.

Alarmingly, teens typically suffered cyberbullying in silence. “Kids really are hesitant to tell anyone when cyberbullying occurs,” Hamm said. “There seems to be a common fear that if they tell their parents, for example, they’ll lose their Internet access.”

Therefore, it’s important for parents to respond carefully if their kids are being bullied online, and to teach teens safe Internet use rather than cutting off permission to use the Web, she said.

“Parents need to address that this is happening and that the Internet and social media is here,” Hamm said. “It’s an important part of their kids’ lives. But it needs to be a whole team approach.”

Follow Stephanie Pappas on Twitter and Google+. Original article on Live Science.

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