Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Holiday Cheer or Not?

Holidays can be a wonderful or awful time. It all depends on how your family, culture and traditions were viewed and experienced. During this holiday season, you have an opportunity to create a new set of rituals or traditions that enhance your joy of the season. Are you able to be with family during this holiday time? What is it like for you to be with your family? Do you feel alone during the holidays? What is missing for you? What would help make this a special and happy time? Take a moment to reflect upon your best or worst holiday memories or rituals you retain from from Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and/or Christmas. Holiday time may be a time of loss, sadness, or unpleasant times due to family conflict, disappointment and unfulfilled expectations. On the other hand, holiday time may have been your best childhood memories. The challenge at this holiday time may be to create your own positive rituals that represent happiness, joy, or fun and pass along some new memories to your family or current life circumstances. In an article some years ago I wrote a brief article on Beating the Holiday Blues. The core concept was as follows: "The preparation for the holiday IS the holiday." Break free of trying to make everything perfect for this holiday season. Work to reduce stress, relax to enjoy this holiday time by incorporating friends, traditions and activities that will make this holiday full of cheer for you. Make this holiday a time to enjoy and remember.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Exposure Therapy Turns Off Anxiety Neurons

A new study in mice, published in the journal Neuron, reports that exposure therapy remodels an inhibitory junction in the Amygdala, a brain region important for fear in mice and humans. The findings improve understanding of how exposure therapy suppresses fear responses and may aid in developing more effective treatments.
Researchers at Tufts University report that a fear-inducing situation activates a small group of neurons in the amygdala. Exposure therapy silences these fear neurons, causing them to be less active. As a result of this reduced activity, fear responses are alleviated.The Amygdala is the main control center for anxiety and panic. So, how do you help the Amygdala? The simple answer, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT. The Amygdala is the "Fight or Flight" center of the brain. Its job is to protect you from danger. When you perceive something as dangerous, flying, public speaking, elevators, spiders, or anything that has caused anxiety or even a panic attack, the Amygdala instantly fires off stress hormones including cortisol, adrenaline and nor-adrenaline. These very powerful hormones prepare you for battle, even though there is no imminent threat. How does one calm down? There are 3 major pathways that can help you. 1) cognitive reframing the experience by positive thinking methods or reassurance can reduce the anxiety by about 45%, 2) exposure therapy or desensitization (gradual exposure) with calming or self-soothing tools, meaning taking small steps over time to the anxiety producing stimulus until you "accommodate" to the situation without an anxiety reaction and 3) anti-anxiety medications such as Paxil, Prozac, or Zoloft. There are very effective anti-anxiety medications such as Klonopin and Xanax, however, they are highly addictive and should only be taken for short periods of time.
So, what about the article in the journal Neuron by Tufts University? "Investigators found that exposure therapy not only silences fear neurons but also induces remodeling of a specific type of inhibitory junction, called the perisomatic synapse. Perisomatic inhibitory synapses are connections between neurons that enable one group of neurons to silence another group of neurons. Exposure therapy increases the number of perisomatic inhibitory synapses around fear neurons in the amygdala. This increase provides an explanation for how exposure therapy silences fear neurons. It may be time for you to control those synapses." 
CBT works, give it a try for your anxiety and panic. 
This link is for the article. Exposure Therapy

Why Worry? Recently, a reprint of the book  Why Worry  by friend and prolific author, Eric A. Kimmel was recently released. Gayle and ...