Tag Archives: Including

Study Finds Cigarettes ‘Trick’ Smokers’ Brains

New research shows that smokers are more susceptible to positive images of smoking, while more biased to negative images of smoking, including the health risks.
Researchers at the Institut Universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal and Université de Montréal found that chronic smokers have altered emotional reactions when they are exposed to images — both negative and positive — associated with tobacco.“We observed a bias depending on how smoking is portrayed,” said Le-Anh Dinh-Williams, a student at the Centre de recherche de l’Institut Universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal and the study’s first author.

“For example, the brains of the smokers in our study were more aroused by images that showed smoking in a positive light than by images that encouraged them to stop. They were also more affected by aversive non-smoking related images than by images of the specific negative consequences of smoking.”

In Canada and the U.S., approximately 20 percent of adults smoke cigarettes despite knowing its adverse effects, according to the researchers.

“We wanted to understand why knowing about the negative health impacts of tobacco does not prevent smokers from lighting up,” she said.

Using neuroimaging techniques, the researchers compared the emotional reactions of 30 smokers as they looked at aversive smoking-related images, such as lung cancer, compared to other aversive images — like an old man on his deathbed. They also had the smokers view positive smoking-related images, such as a smoker satisfying the urge to smoke.

The study helps explain why 70 to 95 percent of smokers who quit will, despite their best efforts, start smoking again within one year, according to the researchers.

“Many factors make it difficult for people to quit. Part of the explanation could certainly be because cigarettes ‘trick’ the brains of smokers,” said Stéphane Potvin, Ph.D., a co-author of the study and researcher at the Institut Universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal and assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Université de Montréal.

“Specifically, we discovered that the brain regions associated with motivation are more active in smokers when they see pleasurable images associated with cigarettes and less active when smokers are confronted with the negative effects of smoking.”

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Are Your Friends A Good Influence?

Friendships can benefit you in lifting your self-esteem, encouraging you to live healthier, or even just elevating the quality of your life. Your friends should lift you up and help you to be the best person you can be. Here are a few tips on deciding whether or not your friends are a good influence.

You Feel Good After Spending Time With Them

One way to determine if your friends are having a positive effect on you is to gage your mood after you’ve been with them. Do you leave feeling energized and happy? If so, chances are your friends are a good influence to your mind and body.

By contrast, if you spend an entire day with your friends and feel out-of-sorts or guilty afterwards, your pals may not be as positive as they could be. Your friends don’t necessarily need to encourage you to run marathons or help you brainstorm ideas for the next great American novel, but they do need to give you an all-around good feeling.

Negative Behavior That Can Bring You Down

When deciding whether or not your friends are a good influence, it’s important to look at the overall big picture. Your friends don’t need to be perfect (because none of us are), but they should encourage you. A friend who is a negative influence may want you to:

• Gossip.
• Gamble or spend money you don’t have.
• Make choices that will hurt you or your family.
• Engage in illegal activities.
• Shun your other friends.

For example, your pals should encourage a healthy lifestyle (since it’s something we all should adhere to), but the reality is that you might just splurge on your diet once in a while or skip your exercise class in favor of a movie. It’s not the day-to-day activities you look at when determining if someone is good for you. Rather, it’s the overall effect someone has on your life.

Finding More Positive Friends

Before you look for new friends, take a look at your friend groups to see if there is perhaps one person that encourages the rest of you to be negative. If that’s the case, stand up to them by doing things like: refusing to gossip, bowing out of activities that are dangerous or illegal, and making better choices despite that your friends might encourage you otherwise.

When you do this, pay close attention to see if someone else in the group is influenced by your behavior. Your change may inspire others in the group to resist the negativity as well. Peer pressure like this affects many different friend groups, including adults.

If you do need to find new friends, take it slow and be choosy about whom you spend your time with. If you are desperate for friends, you’ll probably end up with more of the negative types of friends you just left behind. Instead, hold out for positive friends who will encourage you to be yourself. Figure out the things you like to do, and build friendships around those goals and activities. You’ll naturally meet people through hobbies and events you enjoy, and the bonus is that your new friends will probably like doing them as well.

Standing Up to Negative Friends

Sometimes when you leave negative friends behind, they turn the tables and make it your problem. They might hold parties and not invite you, call you up to complain that you’re never around or even spread gossip or lies about you. Be strong with your commitment to live a fuller life that includes more positive friends.

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Symptoms Of Severe Depression

First, let’s get some terminology straight. ‘Severe depression’, ‘major depression’ and ‘clinical depression’, are terms that tend to be used interchangeably to mean the same thing.

What these terms refer to is the condition described technically by psychiatrists as ‘major depressive disorder’. Therefore as we discuss the symptoms of major depressive disorder in this article, bear in mind that we are looking at what may also be called:

• Major Depression Symptoms
• Clinical Depression Symptoms, and
• Symptoms of Severe Depression.

The Symptoms of Severe Depression – The Technical Version

A person is suffering from major depressive disorder or (severe or clinical depression) if for most of the day, nearly every day for at least 2 weeks, they have had at least 5 of the following symptoms, including (1) and/or (2):

1. A low/depressed mood.
2. Significantly less interest in and pleasure from usual activities (this is called “Anhedonia”).
3. Significant change in appetite or weight.
4. Inability to sleep or sleeping more than usual.
5. Fatigue, loss of energy.
6. Feelings of guilt or worthlessness.
7. Lethargy or hyperactivity.
8. Difficulty concentrating or making decisions.
9. Recurring thoughts of suicide or death.

Now, let’s break that down a bit.

Step 1

First, it is important to note that low mood and/or loss of pleasure or interest in usual activities (Anhedonia) must be present.

In effect these are the threshold conditions. Doctors are sometimes recommended to screen for depression by asking questions to establish whether either of these two conditions are present.

Step 2

If you are suffering from low mood and Anhedonia, then the next consideration is whether 3 of the other listed symptoms are present.

If you are suffering from either low mood or Anhedonia, then 4 of the other symptoms need to be present.

Step 3

The next step relates to the duration of symptoms. The relevant symptoms must have been present every day for at least two weeks and must have been felt for most of every day.

Of course you may in fact have been suffering for much longer than two weeks or have had more than one episode where the symptoms have been present for at least two weeks. This is really the norm, of course – we don’t usually go to our doctor two weeks and one day after starting to feel depressed.

Step 4

The final step that I didn’t refer to above, but which it is crucial to consider, is that your symptoms must be a change from your normal state and have a significant impact on your day to day functioning. The symptoms must: “cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.”

If you think about it, this is what is at the heart of an individual’s experience of depression. It is the inability to function normally that takes us out of the ‘feeling down’ camp into a whole new arena.

Symptoms of Severe Depression – The Real Life Version

Whilst it is useful for you to know the technical framework that doctors use to assess depression, the criteria may not necessarily reflect your own descriptions about the way you feel. We can all experience different symptoms or express them in different ways, both to ourselves and others.

Depression – what is it?:

“Diagnosis by counting is a totally absurd, and often very dangerous, proposition. When it works, we arrive at a very rough indicator of what may be wrong with us. Too often, the exercise is wholly misleading.”

For this reason, doctors assessing a patient for depression (assuming that are doing a thorough job) should ask lots of questions about the way the patient feels and look for examples of behavior that may or may not fit into the accepted criteria.

Some of the other ways that you might use to describe the way you feel, but which in substance may still fit within the technical criteria are as follows:

• Feeling flat
• Feeling very down
• Feel like I don’t care about anything
• Having to make a real effort to do anything
• Can’t really feel anything any more
• Don’t care about the things I used to
• Feel very on edge
• Feel very stressed
• Very irritable
• Can’t think straight
• Can’t make up my mind about anything
• Don’t feel like I can go on
• Feel useless
• Feel hopeless
• Don’t see any future
• Don’t see the point of anything
• Can’t get out of bed
• Don’t want to see anybody
• Don’t want to talk to anybody
• Can’t sleep
• Can’t eat
• Can’t stop eating
• Don’t have any energy
• Feel exhausted

Other Diagnoses:

If you feel that something is not quite right with your moods or the way that you feel, you need to be aware that there are various different types of depression and other behavioral or mood disorders. So, if your situation doesn’t reflect the symptoms of severe depression, then you or your doctor should consider whether any of the other possibilities might apply.

These include –

• Dysthymia (milder, prolonged depression)
• Bi-polar disorder (formerly manic depression)
• Adjustment disorder with depressed mood (a depressive reaction to a particular event or stress)
• Schizophrenia

Conclusions:

The symptoms of severe depression will usually be very clear to you if you stop to think about how you feel.

But, one of the major difficulties with depression, of course, is that it takes away our inclination to take action to put things right – we can just feel ‘too depressed’ to do anything about it.

That’s why it is essential that you discuss how you feel with somebody close to you, as they may be able to help you get the attention you need.

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