An expert weighs in on cyber-bullying

Dr. Robin Kowalski, a psychology professor at Clemson University, recently completed a large-scale survey investigating cyber-bullying. Eighteen percent of 6th to 8th graders reported online harassment in the past two months. Dr. Kowalski expressed concern about the bind in which parents find themselves; because the internet is an increasingly important mode of communication among youth, taking computers away from victims of cyber-bullying may be a major punishment. However, some youth have experienced severe mental health issues, and a few have even committed suicide as a result of online harassment.

Dr. Kowalski recommends that parents monitor their children’s online activity, but suggests restraint. Supervision, not a keystroke logger, is appropriate. As discussed on a previous episode of The Family Anatomy Podcast, victims of bullying in “the real world” were more likely to be bullied online as well.

Doctor Giuseppe and I believe that it’s important to teach youth strategies to avoid or reduce cyberbullying. Teaching children how to block screen names and ignore users can be helpful.

You can read more here.

Subscribe to The Family Anatomy Podcast by clicking here.

Deep brain stimulation and OCD

A study published on November 13 in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that deep brain stimulation may be a viable treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Symptoms of the disorder include intrusive thoughts and rituals that can significantly interfere with daily functioning.

The small trial included only 16 patients, but the study found that 4 of them were nearly symptom-free following the treatment. The stimulation used a “brain pacemaker” and targeted the subthalamic nucleus, an area of the brain thought to be involved with motion, thinking, and emotion. Electrodes were surgically implanted in the brain and periodically emitted a charge to stimulate the area. A similar treatment has been used to block tremors in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Overall, OCD symptoms were found to decrease by about 25% in patients who underwent the treatment.

Unfortunately, many of the research subjects experienced side effects, some of which were serious, including a cerebral hemorrhage and two infections.

In July, a similar story was posted at Family Anatomy indicating that severe depression may be treated using deep brain stimulation of the subcallosal cingulated gyrus. You can read more about the OCD study here.

Subscribe to The Family Anatomy Podcast by clicking here, or get your free subscription directly through iTunes.

The Effects of Stress During Pregnancy: Second of a Series

HeartYesterday, we reviewed the research on the effects of stress on pregnancy. As was mentioned, the results can leave one feeling confused and more stressed! Despite this, there is a general trend in the research that does allow for a some relatively straightforward truths.

The main question is, does stress negatively effect pregnancy? The answer is, yes, if the stress is unusually intense. That is, intensely stressful experiences like the death of a loved one, abuse, or trauma, tend to be associated with premature birth or low birth weight. These outcomes have, in turn, been linked to difficulties later in life for some children (e.g., learning disabilities). However, it is also true that these types of experiences are difficult to avoid. Given this fact, it begs the question, what benefit is gained from knowing that intense stress can negatively effect your pregnancy? While we cannot control traumatic events in our life, we can turn to resources both internal and external in response to these stressors. Stress reduction techniques are within our control and have been proven to be effective.

The answer to our question also leads us to another common wisdom gleaned from the research. If you are pregnant and are under low or moderate levels of stress,  there is no need to worry – it will only make you more stressed! Pregnancy, by its very nature, typically brings with it low to moderate levels of stress. And rightly so. For the majority of us who live in a modern urban atmosphere where we feel as though life is within our control, watching nature take over our body to produce life can be anxiety provoking. Miscarriages, morning sickness, birth complications, childbirth, and birth defects, are just some of the fears expecting parents have to deal with. If these very common stressors were the cause of significant pregnancy complications then nearly everyone could expect negative consequences. Fortunately, this is not the case. While the average stress that accompanies pregnancy need not, in and of itself, be a source of worry, dealing with this stress will make for a more pleasant and rewarding pregnancy. Therefore, here again, stress reduction techniques are recommended.

Psychiatric Symptoms May Predict Internet Addiction in Adolescents

InternetCHICAGO – Adolescents with psychiatric symptoms such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), social phobia, hostility and depression may be more likely to develop an Internet addiction, according to a report in the October issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Although the Internet has become one of the most significant information resources for adolescents, addiction to the Internet can negatively impact school performance, family relationships and adolescents’ emotional state, according to background information in the article. “This phenomenon has been described as Internet addiction or problematic Internet use and classified as a possible behavior addiction,” the authors write. Previous studies report that 1.4 percent to 17.9 percent of adolescents are addicted to the Internet in both Western and Eastern societies; therefore, there have been suggestions to add Internet and gaming addictions to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical  Manual of Mental Disorders. “Identification of the risk factors for Internet addiction is therefore of clinical significance for the prevention of, and early intervention into, Internet addiction in adolescents.”