FA035 – Anatomy of Three Things, Part 5

Doctors Brian, Giuseppe and Richard talk about studies recently discussed  on the Family Anatomy website, including: the impact of drinking on brain size, predictors of social withdrawal and rejection in elementary school students, and the test performance of bilingual kids.

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Note: Posts on Family Anatomy are for information only. If you need to talk to someone about family or mental health issues, you can get a referral from your family doctor.

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US Task Force: Screen teens for depression

DepressionThe U.S. Preventive Services Task Force reviewed studies of depression in teens in a study published in the April issue of Pediatrics. Although the researchers acknowledged that the data are limited, they concluded that screening methods can be an effective method of identifying teen depression and that there are treatments that can address the symptoms. The Task Force suggested that teens should be routinely screened for depressive symptoms.

Depressive symptoms are surprisingly common in teens. In 1993, Drs. Ian Manion and Simon Davidson conducted the Canadian Youth Mental Health and Illness Survey. They found that youth were at high risk for mental health problems, and that they were unlikely to talk to professionals about their difficulties. Hopefully, the relationship between teens and their family doctor would allow for some honest responses to screening measures.

Tetris vs. Trauma: Fight!!

The online journal PLoS One recently posted a study examining the effect of videogame play on traumatic memories. The authors were looking for a “cognitive vaccine” against post-traumatic stress; they argued that traumatic memories are sensory, visual-spatial images and that playing a videogame might disrupt the consolidation of those memories and therefore reduce flashbacks.

Participants watched a traumatic film of real injuries and death. Following a 30-minute break, they either played Tetris for 10 minutes or were placed in a “no activity” group. For those of you who did not develop a finger-crippling Tetris addiction 15 years ago, it’s a puzzle game in which rapidly-falling shapes have to be rotated to fit together. Those who played the game after watching the film experienced a significant reduction in flashbacks over the following week, but their memory of the film remained intact.

The researchers hypothesized that playing Tetris immediately following trauma might reduce the occurrence of intrusive memories by competing for visuospatial resources; this is one theory that has been proposed to explain the effectiveness of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) in treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Further research is needed, and the use of the game to “vaccinate” trauma survivors should be tested. It may be valuable to compare the effects of other games as well. Tetris may be convenient because it can be installed on mobile devices, but it is possible that its impact may be reduced if played on a smaller screen. Although the researchers examined the video game as a preventative measure, if it works on the same principles as EMDR, it may be worth investigating its effectiveness as a treatment for the disorder.

You can read more here.

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Note: Posts on Family Anatomy are for information only. If you need to talk to someone about family or mental health issues, you can get a referral from your family doctor.

Family therapy: Healing family conflicts

Recently it came to my attention that we have not re-explored the topic of family therapy for a while. I felt that it would be important to remind our listeners as well as people visiting our website what family therapy is about and what it means to seek help in this area. It is important to underatand that family therapy is a type of psychotherapy. It helps families or individuals within a family understand and improve the way family members interact with each other and resolve conflicts.

There are several types and approches of family therapies and these are based on different philosophies and theoretical orientations.  The website that I found from the Mayo Clinic gives a good oversight of what constitutes family therapy and how it can be helpful to individuals.

read more here:

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/family-therapy/HQ00662

Editor’s note from Dr. Brian MacDonald: I heard a former teacher of mine, Dr. Sue Johnson, on the radio yesterday discussing marital and family therapy. Dr. Johnson’s recent book, Hold Me Tight: Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, will be out in paperback in April. She said, and I agree, that people are more willing today to seek therapy to address relationship issues than they were 10 years ago. She sees the psychologist as a “consultant” who can provide suggestions to help families overcome conflict or other difficulties. Research in psychology has provided a good understanding of relationships and how they work, and there are therapeutic methods that have been scientifically proven to be effective in improving the bonds between people. Dr. Johnson’s approach is on that we haven’t talked about previously. She uses Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) to help couples and family members create a secure bond. You can read more about her approach here.

Subscribe to The Family Anatomy Podcast by clicking here, or get your free subscription directly through iTunes.
Note: Posts on Family Anatomy are for information only. If you need to talk to someone about family or mental health issues, you can get a referral from your family doctor.