Author: Dhyana Kearly

Domestic violence leads to mental health setbacks

Relationship violence created signs of mental illness in both women (depression) and men (anxiety disorders)

Some forms of domestic violence double victims' risk of depression and anxiety disorders later in life, according to new research. The study found many victims of intimate partner violence at 21 showed signs of mental illness at the age of 30, with women more likely to develop depression and men varying anxiety disorders. Intimate partner violence classifies physical abuse as pushing, shoving and smacking.

University of Queensland researcher Emeritus Professor Jake Najman said the team also found equal levels of abuse by men and women. "The number of men and women who experience intimate partner violence is very similar, leading us to believe couples are more likely to abuse each other," Professor Najman said. "People generally don't end up in the hospital or a shelter, but there is a serious mental burden from this type of abuse."

The research showed defacto couples and those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds were more likely to be involved in these types of abusive relationships. Emotional abuse involves comments that make the person feel worthless. Then there is harassment -- a constant and distressing nagging that may have long-term consequences for those on the receiving end.

"It also raises the question, to what extent is this type of violent behavior not just a characteristic of the relationship the couple has with each other, but with other people around them and possibly their children," Professor Najman said. "There is a range of treatment and counseling programs available for couples and families to try and improve the way they relate to one another."

Story provided by Science Daily: University of Queensland. "Unhealthy and unhappy: Mental toll of troubled relationships." ScienceDaily 29 January 2020. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/01/200129091511.htm.


Dr. Jenny HollandDomestic violence can take the form of either physical or psychological abuse, or both, and it can affect anyone regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation, economic status or education. Domestic violence can manifest in behaviors meant to scare, physically harm or dominate a partner. This type of violence typically involves an unequal power dynamic where one partner tries to assert control over the other in a variety of ways. Narcissism can also be considered a form of domestic violence.

Women are most often the battered party in a violent relationship according to statistics which report that more than 38 million American women have been victims of domestic violence. Men can be victimized as well, in both heterosexual and same-sex relationships. Therapy in domestic violence situations often focuses on the client's inevitable loss of self-worth, feelings of anxiety and bouts of depression. Most victims of domestic violence need time and counseling to overcome the overall sense of helplessness that can be the hallmark of abuse.

To make an appointment, or to schedule a free consultation call 707-479-2946 or visit the contact page to send an email now.

Pain and Gratitude

Blogging with Dr. Jenny Holland, PsyD

The Dubious Connection between Physical Pain and Depression 

As a psychologist I understand that pain and depression are closely related. Pain can be a two-edged sword, and studies have shown that depression can cause pain just as pain can cause depression. Sometimes this kind of cycle of pain and depression or feeling low, can wear us down, create added stress and interfere with our lives and disturb sleeping patterns. To get symptoms of pain and depression under control, it’s important to take proactive steps to keep yourself on an even keel.

My Own Experience

Though I don’t often talk about it, I live with physical pain every day. When the weather is cold and damp, life becomes even more challenging. This past month has been particularly intense in this way. As such, I notice my own thoughts automatically drifting toward the negative. The mental list of things that are difficult or ‘wrong’ tabulate in my mind without effort. And I understand that the weather will probably be getting worse for the next couple of weeks, at least. As a way to tackle my own discomfort and to lift myself out of the cycle of pain and depression I thought I would blog about gratitude and how this practice has helped me.

The Study of Gratitude

In recent years, the study of how a simple action such as practicing gratitude can boost happiness and alleviate depression has gained attention and momentum among psychologists and mental health professionals all over the world. Scientists say that these techniques shift our thinking from negative ruminations to positive outcomes. Gratitude practice has been shown to produce a surge of feel-good hormones like dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin, and helps to build enduring personal connections.

Count Your Blessings

Many people find putting pen to paper to compile a gratitude list, or to start a gratitude journal provides a sort of ritual experience that lets us focus on the positive events of the day. As we journal, we can write more detail about the events that make us feel appreciative. When I put some energy into focusing on my own situation and turning my thoughts toward what is right about my life, I can begin to build a list of items that I appreciate such as:

  • I am grateful for my children and my husband. Adam and I have been together almost 25 years! That’s almost half of my life now.
  • I am grateful I am healthy and that those that I love are healthy.
  • I am grateful to have a few lifelong friends that support me, always.
  • I am grateful for my Jewish Communities.
  • I am grateful to have a job that allows me to be with people in meaningful and hopefully, in helpful ways

Expanding Gratitude into Work

Showing up and doing what I can do to help make a difference has a strong impact on my experience of pain and helps me to maintain an active, rather than a passive focus. About a year ago, I took a big leap and launched a private pay practice. Today it is thriving, and I am re-invigorated. In addition to seeing individuals, I have started a professional consultation group that is going well.  I also currently run a grief group, and I am starting groups for people with disabilities and their families. I will be traveling a bit in the next few months to spread the word about a book that is coming out in March in which I am a contributor. Fury: Women’s Lived Experiences of the Trump Era. I also started a book club this year that is feisty and fun. And on my favorite weeks, I get to do a little singing with my friends at Ner Shalom.

Gratitude is an Effort Worth Making

To count our blessings or to focus on the positive when dealing with pain, depression and/or anxiety is challenging for everyone and it takes a conscious effort. However, when we adopt the practice of gratitude as a daily habit it can become an important routine and step towards self-empowerment.

Get Started with Your Own Gratitude Practice

Journaling is probably the easiest gratitude enhancing practice we can undertake. Creating a gratitude journal can be as simple as buying a blank notebook and writing down a few things you’re grateful for each night before going to bed. You can enhance your journaling experience by turning it into a ritual such as first lighting a candle, making yourself a cup of tea, sitting quietly for five minutes before you begin, etc. Whatever you choose as a ritual, do it consistently. It strengthens the ability to turn what you’re doing into a positive habit. Anything fun and relaxing, will give you motivation to form a new habit.

 

Therapy dog study results: students reported feeling more supported, less stressed

Therapy dog sessions for stressed-out students proving beneficial for mental health

Therapy dog sessions for stressed-out students are an increasingly popular offering at North American universities. Now, new research from the University of British Columbia confirms that some doggy one-on-one time really can do the trick of boosting student wellness. "Therapy dog sessions are becoming more popular on university campuses, but there has been surprisingly little research on how much attending a single drop-in therapy dog session actually helps students," said Emma Ward-Griffin, the study's lead author and research assistant in the UBC department of psychology. "Our findings suggest that therapy dog sessions have a measurable, positive effect on the wellbeing of university students, particularly on stress reduction and feelings of negativity."

In research published today in Stress and Health, researchers surveyed 246 students before and after they spent time in a drop-in therapy dog session. Students were free to pet, cuddle and chat with seven to 12 canine companions during the sessions. They also filled out questionnaires immediately before and after the session, and again about 10 hours later. The researchers found that participants reported significant reductions in stress as well as increased happiness and energy immediately following the session, compared to a control group of students who did not spend time at a therapy dog session. While feelings of happiness and life satisfaction did not appear to last, some effects did.

"The results were remarkable," said Stanley Coren, study co-author and professor emeritus of psychology at UBC. "We found that, even 10 hours later, students still reported slightly less negative emotion, feeling more supported, and feeling less stressed, compared to students who did not take part in the therapy dog session."

While previous research suggested that female students benefit from therapy dog sessions more than male students, the researchers found the benefits were equally distributed across both genders in this study. Since the strong positive effects of the therapy dog session were short-lived, the researchers concluded that universities should be encouraged to offer them at periods of increased stress.

"These sessions clearly provide benefits for students in the short-term, so we think universities should try to schedule them during particularly stressful times, such as around exam periods," said Frances Chen, the study's senior author and an assistant professor of psychology at UBC. "Even having therapy dogs around while students are working on their out-of-class assignments could be helpful."

The therapy dog sessions were organized in partnership with UBC's Alma Mater Society and Vancouver ecoVillage, a non-profit organization that provides therapeutic services, including therapy dog sessions, and mental health wellness services.


Story Source: Article provided by Science Daily & University of British Columbia. "Sit, stay, heal: Study finds therapy dogs help stressed university students." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180312085045.htm.


Dr. Holland offers Canine Assisted Therapy

Dr. Jenny HollandConnecting with a dog can be powerfully healing and comforting for individuals of all ages and walks of life. In some cases, it can help an otherwise “stuck” patient overcome hurdles in treatment and begin making progress again. The friendly, accepting nature of these beautiful animals makes them ideal “co-therapists”. Canine-assisted therapy has been around for several decades, and will continue to be used for years to come due to its many benefits. The use of dogs as part of therapy and other forms of treatment can be beneficial for a wide range of disorders, issues, and conditions.


About Tallulah – Canine Assisted Therapy

Tallulah is a highly trained service dog who works with Dr. Holland to provide assistance to clients in a variety of ways. She is warm, friendly, and very intuitive. This Labrador Retriever provides a connection that goes beyond words and straight to the heart.  Depending on your needs, Tallulah can be merely a quiet presence in the room or be actively involved in therapy.

Empathy and closeness enhanced in siblings of children with disabilities

Siblings of children with intellectual disabilities score high on empathy and closeness

New study reveals that relationships between children and their siblings with intellectual disabilities can be incredibly positive

The sibling relationship is the longest most people will enjoy in their lifetimes and is central to the everyday lives of children. A new Tel Aviv University and University of Haifa study finds that relationships between children and their siblings with intellectual disabilities are more positive than those between typically developing siblings. The research examines the relationships of typically developing children with siblings with and without intellectual disabilities through artwork and questionnaires. It was conducted by Prof. Anat Zaidman-Zait of the Department of School Counseling and Special Education at TAU's Constantiner School of Education and Dr. Dafna Regev and Miri Yechezkiely of the University of Haifa's Graduate School of Creative Art Therapies. The study was recently published in Research in Developmental Disabilities.

"Having a child with a disability in a family places unique demands on all family members, including typically developing siblings," Prof. Zaidman-Zait explains. "Although challenges exist, they are often accompanied by both short- and long-term positive contributions. Through our research, we found that relationships among children with siblings with intellectual disabilities were even more supportive than those among typically developed siblings. Specifically, we found that children with siblings with intellectual disabilities scored higher on empathy, teaching and closeness and scored lower on conflict and rivalry than those with typically developing siblings."

Until now, research on how having a sibling with a developmental disability affects children's social-emotional and behavioral outcomes generated mixed findings. At times, the findings suggested that having a sibling with developmental disabilities led to greater variability in typically developing children's behavior and adjustment.

"But these studies did little to tap into the inner worlds of children, which really can only be accessed through self-expression in the form of art or self-reporting, independent of parental intervention, which is the route we took in our study," Prof. Zaidman-Zait says. The scientists assessed some 60 children aged 8-11, half with typically developing siblings, half with intellectually disabled siblings, through drawings and a questionnaire about their relationships with their siblings. Mothers of both sets of siblings were also asked to answer a questionnaire about their children's sibling relationship quality.

"We drew on the basic assumption that artistic creation allows internal content to be expressed visually and that children's self-reports have special added value in studies measuring sibling relationship qualities, especially in areas where parents might have less insight," Prof. Zaidman-Zait says.

Both sets of typically developing children, with and without siblings with intellectual disabilities, were asked to draw themselves and their siblings. Licensed art therapists then used several set criteria to "score" the illustrations: the physical distance between the figures; the presence or absence of a parent in the illustration; the amount of detail invested in either the self-portrait or the sibling representation; and the amount of support given to a sibling in the picture. The children were then asked to complete the Sibling Relationship Questionnaire, which assessed the feelings of closeness, dominance, conflict and rivalry they felt for their siblings.

Reviewing the children's illustrations and questionnaires, as well as the questionnaires completed by the children's mothers, the researchers found that the children with siblings with intellectual disabilities scored significantly higher on empathy, teaching and closeness in their sibling relationship and scored lower on conflict and rivalry in the relationships than those with typically developing siblings.

"Our study makes a valuable contribution to the literature by using an art-based data gathering task to shed new light on the unique aspects of the relationships of children with siblings with intellectual disabilities that are not revealed in verbal reports," Prof. Zaidman-Zait concludes. "We can argue that having a family member with a disability makes the rest of the family, including typically developing children, more attentive to the needs of others." The researchers hope their study, supported by The Shalem Foundation in Israel, will serve as a basis for further research into art-based tools that elicit and document the subjective experience of children.

Story Source: ScienceDaily, 14 January 2020. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/01/200114123525.htm.


Dr. Jenny Holland"As a physically disabled person and a parent of a disabled child, I have a unique perspective on parenting children with disabilities. I am offering two new support groups beginning in January that are geared toward helping both parents of children with disabilities and teens & young adults with disabilities to gain a sense of empowerment and control. We will offer coping and practical skills as well. The goal of the groups is to give participants a chance to talk openly and honestly about feelings, share stories and gain support through the process."

More about upcoming support groups:

Parent Support Group

Support group for teens with disabilities

Dr. Holland also offers counseling services for people with disabilities on a on-going basis. To learn more visit Living with Disabilities or call 707-479-2946.

Parental coaching can help kids navigate peer rejection, bullying and conflict

Parents can offer support and advice to youth as they navigate social challenges

During early adolescence, especially the transition to middle school, kids face a number of challenges both socially and academically. Peer rejection, bullying, and conflict with friends are common social stressors. These challenges can affect adolescents' ability to form positive peer relationships, a key developmental task for this age group. Parents can act as social "coaches," offering support and advice to youth as they navigate these challenges by offering specific suggestions for facing challenges head-on or by encouraging kids' autonomy, to "figure it out" on their own. University of Illinois researchers are finding that not all kids benefit from the same types of parental coaching because kids respond to stress differently.

In a recent study, published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, researchers report on the connection between how mothers advise their children to respond to specific peer stress scenarios and youth stress responses during conversations about real peer experiences. They also identify what mothers do or say that is particularly helpful in facilitating youth adjustment and well-being in the face of these stressors. "As we're thinking about the transition to middle school, we're looking at the extent to which mothers are encouraging their child to use active, engaged coping strategies, such as problem solving, help-seeking, or reframing or thinking about the situation in less threatening or negative ways," says Kelly Tu, assistant professor of human development and family studies at U of I.

The study also looks at how mothers may recognize that their children are transitioning into adolescence and looking for more autonomy and independence. "We wanted to examine the extent to which mothers are taking a step back, saying, 'I'm going to let you handle this in your own way -- what you think is best or what works for you,'" Tu says. Mothers and youth in the study participated during the transition from fifth grade to sixth grade. Mothers were given hypothetical peer stress scenarios such as peer exclusion, peer victimization or bullying, and anxiety about meeting new peers, as well as a variety of coping suggestions. Mothers were asked to report on how they would typically advise their child to respond.

Researchers also observed conversations between youth and their mothers about real peer stress situations. Common topics that were discussed included being around kids who are rude, having problems with a friend, and being bullied, teased, or hassled by other kids. During the conversations, researchers measured skin conductance level -- the electrical activity happening in the skin as part of the physiological "fight or flight" stress response system -- from youth's hands. "We assessed youths' physiological arousal during these problem-solving discussions to examine how the different levels of reactivity may indicate different needs of the adolescent," Tu explains.

For instance, greater reactivity during the conversations may reflect youths' higher levels of physiological arousal or anxiety in recalling that stressful experience and talking it through with the mother. Whereas less reactivity during the problem-solving conversation might serve as an indicator of youths' insensitivity to the stressful experience. And these different response patterns may require different parenting approaches. "We found that mothers' active, engaged coping suggestions were more beneficial for low reactive youth. Low reactive youth may not be attending to cues in these conversations about stressful or challenging peer experiences, and so they may behave in ways that are unexpected, non-normative, or inappropriate. But when parents give them specific advice for how to manage challenging peer situations, this appears to be helpful," Tu says. However, the same active, engaged approached predicted worse adjustment for kids exhibiting higher arousal. "Instead, self-reliant suggestions actually predicted better adjustment for these kids," Tu explains.

"These findings are interesting because this suggests that a multi-step process might work best for kids who are exhibiting high physiological arousal related to peer problems. If you're anxious or stressed, and your parent is telling you to face the problem head on, that might actually create more anxiety. But when a parent gives a highly aroused youth more autonomy about how to cope with the peer stressor, this seems to be more beneficial because parents are giving them more space and time to work through the situation in their own way," Tu says. Thus, parents may want to consider the match of their coping suggestions with adolescents' stress reactivity.


This article provided by Science Daily: University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. "Parental coaching adolescents through peer stress."ScienceDaily, 18 December 2019. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/12/191218153402.htm.


Dr. Jenny HollandThere are situations that arise for every child - spanning infancy to adolescence, that benefit from a parents’ ability to acknowledge the worthiness of the child's feelings. To be the loving, compassionate and unflappable parent requires the ability to manage your own feelings and frustrations. Over the years studies have pointed out that the best-adjusted children are nurtured by parents who find a way to combine warmth and sensitivity with clear behavioral expectations.

Dr. Holland has been in private practice for more than 17 years, helping patients to reach new levels of self-understanding and emotional well-being.  Dr. Holland will customize treatment to meet your specific needs. Contact Dr. Holland to learn more and to schedule an appointment, or call 707-479-2946.

 

Support Group for Parents of Children & Teens with Disabilities

Therapy Support Group for Parents of Children & Teens with Disabilities - Starts January 29th

“As a person with a disability and a parent of a teenager with a disability, I have a unique perspective on parenting children with disabilities. This group is geared toward helping parents gain a sense of empowerment and control while improving coping and practical skills as well. We will talk openly and honestly about feelings, share our stories and provide support through the process.”

~ Dr. Jenny Holland, PsyD

Therapy Support Group for Parents of Children & Teens with Disabilities - Starts January 29th

This therapy group will offer a safe place for you to discuss your parenting challenges, learn how others cope with similar situations, receive guidance and support, and make new friends.

Seating is limited - call to sign up today! 707-479-2946

See flyer for more details: Download flyer

Teens & Young Adults with Disabilities Support Group

Teens & Young Adults with Disabilities Therapy Support Group Starts January 29th

Connecting with others who have the same experiences and the same challenges is healing and empowering. This group will offer a safe place to talk about feelings, share experiences, receive guidance and make new friends. Seating is limited - sign up early to be included!

Call 707-479-2946 to save your seat. (see flyer for more details)

"Adolescence and young adulthood is a complicated time for most people. For people with disabilities it can often be even more challenging. In addition to dealing with issues around body image, dating, hormones sexuality, peer relationships, and identity as most teens do-teens with disabilities are often also dealing with the additional challenges of living in a body that is different, feeling different, social isolation, and physical pain, etc."

Download your copy of the flyer <---

Caregiver study focuses on the challenges of caring for a partner

Caregivers need to consider their own health as important as their spouse

Study participants had levels of depression symptoms serious enough to suggest a need for treatment

When they said their wedding vows, many of them promised to stand by one another in sickness and in health. But a new study suggests that as married couples age and develop chronic conditions, the daily demands of coping with their own health demands and those of their spouse may take a mental toll.

Depression symptoms increased over time among married men and women who themselves had two or more chronic conditions that need different types of self-care -- such as a special diet and medications for heart disease or diabetes along with pain-reducing therapy for arthritis. When husbands and wives both had chronic health conditions, and needed different kinds of self-care from their partners, husbands fared worse. Their depression symptoms were significantly higher, but this effect was not found for wives.

The new findings, made by a team from the University of Michigan using data from a long-term study of more than 1,110 older opposite-sex married couples from 2006 to 2014, are published in Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences. While less than 10% of the women and less than 7% of the men in the study had levels of depression symptoms serious enough to suggest a need for treatment, lower-level depression is important for older people, clinicians, caregivers and adult children to understand, says Courtney Polenick, Ph.D., who led the study.

In both husbands and wives, the rise of depressive symptoms didn't begin until a few years after the first assessment of their health and well-being. "Our results suggest that there's a window where, if one or both of you are managing complex conditions that don't have similar self-management goals, it may be possible to intervene and prevent the development or worsening of depression," says Polenick, who is part of the U-M Department of Psychiatry and Institute for Social Research. "This might be the time for couples, and those who care for them, to emphasize broadly beneficial lifestyle behaviors that help to maintain both mental and physical health."

For instance, a woman coping with both high blood pressure and arthritis needs to make changes to her exercise routine, but her husband without such conditions could commit to making those changes along with her. Or a wife with diabetes who does most of the cooking and has a husband with prostate cancer could adopt a healthier menu for both of them. Polenick and her colleagues from U-M's Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation looked at data from the Health and Retirement Study, which repeatedly interviews and surveys thousands of American adults in their 50s and beyond over time.
They focused on conditions that have similar treatment goals focused on reducing cardiovascular risk -- diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and stoke -- and those with treatment goals and needs that are different from each of the other conditions- cancer, arthritis and lung disease.

When one person in the couple had at least one condition with different treatment goals and needs, they're considered to have "discordant" conditions. When one member of a couple had at least one condition that has different treatment goals and needs from the other partner, the couple is considered to have discordant conditions. "Research has focused on how individuals with multiple conditions, also called multimorbidity, manage their chronic health needs," says Polenick. "But most people in later life are partnered, with similar health-related habits, and we need to understand how changing health affects the couple dynamic." The fact that both wives and husbands experienced significant increases in depressive symptoms as the years passed, when they were coping with discordant conditions in themselves, is by itself important to understand, Polenick notes. But the fact that wives whose husbands' health needs differed from their own didn't experience an even greater rise in depression is a bit surprising, she adds.

Meanwhile, husbands whose conditions had self-care needs that were different from their wives' conditions did experience an additional rise in depression symptoms. Among individuals who are baby boomers or older, wives may be more used to taking the lead in caring for the health and emotional well-being of both themselves and their husbands, she says. But when husbands have wives who are coping with different health demands than their own, the husbands may experience less of this support than usual, worsening their stress and mental health.

Polenick and her colleagues continue to explore these intra-couple dynamics, and their consequences for mental and physical health. They also hope to expand the range of chronic health conditions they examine, and to look at shorter time frames in conditions that can be managed with lifestyle changes. But in the meantime, she notes that middle-aged and older couples may want to do more now to understand the factors that they can control as they age, and those they cannot, and talk about how they feel as a result.

"This is a reminder to step back and look at what your partner is coping with, to learn about their health conditions, to be conscious of it on a daily basis, and for grown children and clinicians to do the same," she says. "Having that awareness, and helping one another manage health problems while watching for signs of depression, may help both members of a couple over time."


Story Source: Content provided by Science Daily and Michigan Medicine - University of Michigan. "In sickness and in health: Study looks at how married couples face chronic conditions." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 December 2019. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/12/191203104756.htm.


Dr. Jenny Holland
Dr. Holland

Caregivers often report feelings of exhaustion and overwhelm. While caring for a loved one can be very rewarding, it also comes with distinct elements of stress. When dealing with a long-term challenge it's extremely important to also provide for your own emotional and physical well-being. When the challenges associated with care giving are not taken into consideration the caregiver's physical health, relationships and mental health can deteriorate over time — eventually leading to burnout and exhaustion. And when it reaches that point, both the caregiver and the person being cared for suffer. Caring for yourself is equally if not more important as making sure your family member gets to their doctor’s appointment or takes their medication on time.

Focused Therapy for Caregivers

If you are having trouble with accepting or adjusting to life's challenges, Dr. Holland can help you find healthy ways of coping. The simple act of expressing what you’re going through can be very cathartic. Dr. Holland will tailor treatment to meet your specific needs. Contact Dr. Holland to learn more and to schedule an appointment or call 707-479-2946.

Physical activity found to be protective for people at risk for depression

Physical activity can influence depression in a positive way

Scroll Down for Dr. Holland's Perspective on this article

Increased levels of physical activity can significantly reduce the odds of depression, even among people who are genetically predisposed to the condition, according to a new study from researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). In a paper published in the journal Depression and Anxiety, the team reported that individuals who engaged in at least several hours of exercise each week were less likely to be diagnosed with a new episode of depression, even in the face of high genetic risk for the disorder.

Drawing on genomic and electronic health record data from nearly 8,000 participants in the Partners Healthcare Biobank, the new study is the first to show how physical activity can influence depression despite genetic risk. Researchers followed patients who filled out a survey about their lifestyle habits (including physical activity) when they enrolled in the Biobank. They then mined millions of electronic health record data points over the next two years and identified people who received diagnoses related to depression. They also calculated genetic risk scores for each participant, combining information across the entire genome into a single score that reflects a person's inherited risk for depression.

What they found was that people with higher genetic risk were more likely to be diagnosed with depression over the next two years. Significantly, though, people who were more physically active at baseline were less likely to develop depression, even after accounting for genetic risk. In addition, higher levels of physical activity were protective for people even with the highest genetic risk scores for depression.

"Our findings strongly suggest that, when it comes to depression, genes are not destiny and that being physically active has the potential to neutralize the added risk of future episodes in individuals who are genetically vulnerable," says Karmel Choi, PhD, of MGH and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and lead author of the study. "On average, about 35 additional minutes of physical activity each day may help people to reduce their risk and protect against future depression episodes."

The researchers found that both high-intensity forms of activity, such as aerobic exercise, dance and exercise machines, and lower-intensity forms, including yoga and stretching, were linked to decreased odds of depression. Overall, individuals could see a 17 percent reduction in odds of a new episode of depression for each added four-hour block of activity per week.

Depression represents the leading cause of disability worldwide. Despite its massive health burden, strategies to combat depression remain limited and the public's understanding of robust and modifiable protective factors is incomplete. "We provide promising evidence that primary care and mental health providers can use to counsel and make recommendations to patients that here is something meaningful they can do to lower their risk even if they have a family history of depression," says Choi.

Senior author Jordan Smoller MD, added, "In general our field has been lacking actionable ways of preventing depression and other mental health conditions. I think this research shows the value of real-world healthcare data and genomics to provide answers that can help us to reduce the burden of these diseases."

Beyond physical activity, the MGH team continues to leverage the Partners Biobank and other large-scale studies to explore modifiable ways that individuals might reduce their risk of depression. "We believe there may be many factors could be part of an overall strategy for improving resilience and preventing depression," emphasizes Choi. "The magnitude of depression around the world underscores the need for effective strategies that can impact as many people as possible."

Materials provided by Massachusetts General Hospital. Note: Read this article on Science Daily ---> Massachusetts General Hospital. "Physical activity may protect against new episodes of depression." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 November 2019. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/11/191105113510.htm.


Dr. Holland's Perspective

"Studies have repeatedly shown that the most effective treatment for depression is cognitive behavioral therapy. This type of therapy addresses problematic thought patterns by effectively disengaging attention from the repetitive negative thoughts that often set in motion the downward spiral of mood. Certainly, physical activity combined with cognitive therapy is a positive way to approach depression. In addition to the positive effects of exercise mentioned in this study, evidence also shows that regular mindfulness meditation, on its own or combined with cognitive therapy, can also help stop depression before it starts."

Therapy for Depression

  • Do you find yourself feeling sad, empty tired, guilty or hopeless. Are you to the point where nothing makes you happy?
  • Have you become more isolated or lonely than usual, and feel like you can’t reach out to people?
  • Does life seem like more trouble than it’s worth?

Everyone experiences the blues sometimes. But clinical depression is more than just feeling down, unhappy or a sad feeling. Major depression is not a simple emotion. It is a medical disorder that affects more than 10 percent of adults annually. Women are twice as likely to get depression as men. The earlier treatment can begin, the more effective it is and the greater the likelihood that recurrence can be prevented.

With depression, you may feel sad and hopeless and you may not understand why you feel this way. Unlike sadness or the blues, depression is actually a biochemical disorder that can affect just about every area of a person's life. Some people with depression may even have had self-destructive or suicidal thoughts. If this is your experience, it is crucial that you seek help.

Contact Dr. Holland for more information and to get help with depression.

New study reveals art therapy benefits for stressed caregivers of cancer patients

A recent study showed coloring and open-studio art therapy benefits stressed caregivers of cancer patients.

A cancer diagnosis is incredibly stressful for the person receiving the diagnosis. But those caring for the patient, both informally and formally, also experience stress, which can affect their own health and the patient's outcome. A study, led by researchers from Drexel University's Creative Art Therapies department in the College of Nursing and Health Professions, as well as researchers in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, showed coloring and open-studio art therapy benefits stressed caregivers of cancer patients.

"Families of cancer patients experience emotional trauma around the diagnosis, stress of treatment, financial concern, among others," said lead author of the study, Girija Kaimal, EdD, an assistant professor in the College of Nursing and Health Professions. "While addressing their needs understandably comes second to the patient's needs, the stressors families experience often go unaddressed." Kaimal also added oncology professionals, such as nurses, therapists and physicians, experience their own set of negative effects, like compassion fatigue and not taking time for self-care. This can lead to avoidance of empathetic care, mistakes in patient care, high turnover, health problems and burnout.

As important as their own health is, addressing the caregivers' and oncology professionals' psychosocial needs also helps to improve the patient's treatment compliance and outcomes. The mixed-methods study, supported through a cooperative agreement with the National Endowment for the Arts Research Labs program, was conducted in Penn's department of Radiation Oncology. Researchers compared two arts-based approaches for caregivers -- single sessions of coloring and open-studio art therapy. A total of 34 caregivers (25 healthcare professionals and nine family caregivers) were randomly assigned to 45 minutes of an independent, open-studio art therapy or an active-control coloring session, with all sessions run by trained art therapists.

A variety of art materials were available to participants in the open-studio session. The art therapist facilitated the session, offering guidance and interacting with the participant. With five minutes left in the session, the art therapist would process the artwork created by the participant, giving them an opportunity to discuss their work and reflect on the process. In the coloring session, participants chose a coloring sheet and were provided with markers and coloring pencils. The art therapist did not interact with the participant while they colored.

Before and after each session, participants were given surveys to self-report their positive and negative feelings, such as stress and anxiety. After both the art therapy and coloring sessions, participants expressed increases in positive affect, pleasure and enjoyment and decreases in negative affect, anxiety, perceived stress, and burnout. Many expressed a desire to continue to make art in the future, as taking time out of their busy schedules to engage in art helped them to focus on something other than their caregiving.

These findings suggest that even brief art-making interventions can be beneficial for stressed caregivers of cancer patients. The study's senior author, William Levin, MD, an associate professor of Radiation Oncology at Penn, also points out that creative activities like art-making are mindful practices, allowing patients and caregivers to stay in the moment, which by definition can free them from the stress that cancer brings. "These results show the importance of treating the mind as well as the body of cancer patients, and it is further evidence that we're on the right track as we continue our push toward a more holistic approach to cancer therapies," Levin said.

Penn recently opened a dedicated multi-purpose room to expand its ability to offer these kinds of interventions to patients, something the study's authors point out is now further supported by science. "We recommend that oncology units have similar, dedicated studio spaces with therapeutic support and different forms of art-making available to meet individual caregiver needs," said Kaimal.


Story Source: Materials provided by Drexel University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length. Chicago Drexel University. "The art of cancer caregiving: How art therapies benefits those caring for cancer patients." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 October 2019. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/10/191021094020.htm.


Providing Compassion with Life Transitions Therapy

Life Transitions Therapy is helpful for adults with serious, life-limiting medical illness, life-threatening illness as well as caregivers and those who are bereaved. Change is hard, even in the best of circumstances. Adjusting to major life transitions can be difficult. Coping and navigating the stress of a major change can cause depression and anxiety, evoke fear and confusion.

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Art Therapy with Dr. Holland -- Art therapy involves the use of creative techniques such as drawing, painting, collage, coloring, or sculpting to help people express themselves artistically and examine the psychological and emotional undertones in their art. As a credentialed art therapist Dr. Holland assists clients to understand the nonverbal messages, symbols, and metaphors often found in the unique art forms they create, which often leads to a better understanding of feelings and behavior so they can move on to resolve deeper issues.

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