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Mental Health

The Brain

The human brain is the most complex and least understood part of the human anatomy. There may be a lot we don’t know, but here are a few interesting facts that we’ve got covered.

1.Nerve impulses to and from the brain travel as fast as 170 miles per hour. Ever wonder how you can react so fast to things around you or why that stubbed toe hurts right away? It’s due to the super-speedy movement of nerve impulses from your brain to the rest of your body and vice versa, bringing reactions at the speed of a high powered luxury sports car.

2.The brain operates on the same amount of power as 10-watt light bulb. The cartoon image of a light bulb over your head when a great thought occurs isn’t too far off the mark. Your brain generates as much energy as a small light bulb even when you’re sleeping.

3.The human brain cell can hold 5 times as much information as the Encyclopedia Britannica. Or any other encyclopedia for that matter. Scientists have yet to settle on a definitive amount, but the storage capacity of the brain in electronic terms is thought to be between 3 or even 1,000 terabytes. The National Archives of Britain, containing over 900 years of history, only takes up 70 terabytes, making your brain’s memory power pretty darn impressive.

4.Your brain uses 20% of the oxygen that enters your bloodstream. The brain only makes up about 2% of our body mass, yet consumes more oxygen than any other organ in the body, making it extremely susceptible to damage related to oxygen deprivation. So breathe deep to keep your brain happy and swimming in oxygenated cells.

5.The brain is much more active at night than during the day. Logically, you would think that all the moving around, complicated calculations and tasks and general interaction we do on a daily basis during our working hours would take a lot more brain power than, say, lying in bed. Turns out, the opposite is true. When you turn off your brain turns on. Scientists don’t yet know why this is but you can thank the hard work of your brain while you sleep for all those pleasant dreams.

6.Scientists say the higher your I.Q. the more you dream. While this may be true, don’t take it as a sign you’re mentally lacking if you can’t recall your dreams. Most of us don’t remember many of our dreams and the average length of most dreams is only 2-3 seconds–barely long enough to register.

7.Neurons continue to grow throughout human life. For years scientists and doctors thought that brain and neural tissue couldn’t grow or regenerate. While it doesn’t act in the same manner as tissues in many other parts of the body, neurons can and do grow throughout your life, adding a whole new dimension to the study of the brain and the illnesses that affect it.

8.Information travels at different speeds within different types of neurons. Not all neurons are the same. There are a few different types within the body and transmission along these different kinds can be as slow as 0.5 meters/sec or as fast as 120 meters/sec.

9.The brain itself cannot feel pain. While the brain might be the pain center when you cut your finger or burn yourself, the brain itself does not have pain receptors and cannot feel pain. That doesn’t mean your head can’t hurt. The brain is surrounded by loads of tissues, nerves and blood vessels that are plenty receptive to pain and can give you a pounding headache.

10.80% of the brain is water. Your brain isn’t the firm, gray mass you’ve seen on TV. Living brain tissue is a squishy, pink and jelly-like organ thanks to the loads of blood and high water content of the tissue. So the next time you’re feeling dehydrated get a drink to keep your brain hydrated.

Take Back Your Power

“No matter how hard the past, you can always begin again.” -

One of the greatest misconceptions in life is that we are somehow powerless to let go of what’s behind us. That we have to carry regret, shame, or disappointment, and that is has to dictate how today will unfold, at least on some level.

It doesn’t. At any moment, you can let go of who you’ve been and decide to be someone new–to do something differently. It won’t always be easy, but it is always a choice you can make.

You can either dwell and stay stuck, or let go and feel free. Give yourself space to fill with good feelings about the beautiful day in front of you–and the beautiful tomorrow you’re now creating.

Where Does Depression Hurt?

Someone with depression might think or say any of the following:

"I feel sad all the time and just don't feel like myself."

"I don't enjoy being with my friends or doing any of the things I usually love to do."

"I've been having a lot of trouble sleeping lately."

"Sometimes I feel like my life is not worth living anymore."

"I feel like I don't have any energy."

"I'm not really interested in eating."

"Even after a long day, I still feel restless."

"I feel so indecisive and that I can't make any decisions."

"I just feel so worthless."

Research suggests that about two-thirds of people diagnosed with depression talk to their family doctors first about physical symptoms.

Seek Help

Many people suffer in silence with depression. Some are ashamed or afraid to seek help; others try to downplay the severity of their symptoms. It's important to remember that depression isn't something that's "all in your head."

Take Suicidal Thoughts Seriously

Thoughts about death or suicide are common in depression, and it's important to take such thoughts seriously. If you feel like giving up or as if you might hurt yourself, get help immediately:

Call your doctor

Go to the emergency room

Call 911

Call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline: 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)

Thanks to everyone for the great response to my request for psychobabble you love to hate. Here are the best 30 submissions (including a few of my own).

1. "My pet peeve is the use of OCD in, I get really OCD about cleaning my kitchen. What's really offensive about the usage is that it suggests one can spontaneously develop and un-develop a disorder. This is offensive to people who actually live with mental illness daily. Unless it's interfering with your functioning, it's not a disorder."

2. "Using fetish to mean 'a fascination with' rather than its true meaning (causing sexual arousal)."

3. "Hands down, my biggest peeve is: reptilian brain. I heard two doctors on Oprah talk endlessly about how past life regression therapy works (!) because it bypasses your 'normal functioning brain' and goes straight for the 'reptilian brain', garnering knowing nods from the studio audience. I nearly chucked a shoe at my TV set."

4. "Every time I hear someone misuse the term acting out, I begin experiencing homicidal ideation. Of course 'acting out' is a psychoanalytic term denoting the enactment of an internal dynamic in the external world. You can't recognize the internal feeling states and so it is necessary to 'act it out.' But even among fully trained, licensed clinical psychologists this term has come to mean 'behaving badly' -- which of course makes it a useless term."

5. "Unfortunately, retard has become a word of choice as far as insults go. The words moron, cretin and idiot began as medical terms that got absorbed into common use over time."

6. "I'm not a drug addict, I've been self-medicating."

7. "Talk it out or talk it through. I understand why the therapist wants one to endlessly relive the moment, the rape, the abuse, the arguments with mommy, but I fail to see how the constant repetition does much of anything but reinforce it. Repressed feelings, if there is such a thing, don't automatically turn into mental bogeymen. In other places, it's called forgetting."

8. "My favorites: He's totally projecting. She's definitely OCD/NPD/some other diagnosis."

9. "I'm stuck at denial (without a paddle, ha ha). A reference to Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross' 'five stages of grief' which are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and, finally, acceptance. Dr. Kubler-Ross never suggested one stage had to be completed before the next and there's little evidence for these stages anyway."

10. "Since I am not a native English speaker I didn't come across someone calling me anal until I started to study in England. At first I was shocked, since I didn't immediately understand my friend was not referring to my anus, but to my personality. I don't think many people realize that they are referring to one of the personality traits emerging from the failure to successfully complete one of Freud's developmental stages."

11. "Indigo Children. Bah. Humbug."

12. "Two terms that I think are way over used and misapplied are introvert and extrovert. Contrary to what people seem to believe, you're not one or the other, and the huge lists of attributes that get attached to each term are by no means accurate for everyone."

13. "When people claim they are bipolar when they're really just moody. Saying you're bipolar abdicates all responsibility for the control of your emotions."

14. "Their brains lit up in the scanner. Parts of the brain are said to 'light up' when we remember, lie, do our taxes and, probably, go to the toilet. Surely everyone knows this is just short-hand for increased blood-flow in a certain part of the brain? Do they hell.

15. "In every mental health job I have worked, the real pain in the ass clients are referred to as borderline. Borderline has now ceased to be a disorder; it's psychobabble for 'this client is so annoying and needy I would gladly chew off my own foot to escape'."

16. "What annoys me most is conversational psychoanalysing - when someone you know (outside of a therapeutic context) frequently tells you that you don't really mean what you're saying, that you're in denial about your true feelings or ignoring what is going on at a subconscious level. Particularly annoying is when they then go on to tell you what you're really feeling!"

17. "The most irritating one is the word schizophrenia which is wrongly used whenever someone refer to split personalities. I just can't hold myself back from being a besserwisser and telling them that they have no idea what schizophrenia is."

18. "Being addicted to...anything. If you do something more than twice a week it's an addiction: from sex, to video games to the internet. Are you a marketer with something to promote? Just use the word addiction and watch those headlines flood in."

19. "When people describe themselves or others as being Type A, when in fact they're nothing like what Type A is supposed to be. Never mind the ridiculous dichotomy of dividing all human beings into 'having these collection of traits' and 'not having these collection of traits'."

20-22. "One of the richest sources of psychobabble is educational psychology, particularly in the area of giftedness. So we have every child is gifted. My favorite is the reduction of Dabrowski's overexcitabilities (in themselves a bit dubious) to OEs, as in 'I know I'm gifted because I'm an OE.' And we mustn't forget Gardner's 'intelligences,' which fertilized the ground for the creation of emotional intelligence."

23. "One of my most hated expressions is retail therapy."

24. "People don't talk about their emotions anymore, they vent. Contrary to the psychobabble, though, people are not like steam engines."

25-26. "Here are two glorious examples of psychobabble from the world of business... socialize, as in, 'let's socialize that idea around the group and get some feedback' (translation: let's let people know what our idea is and see if they like it), and institutionalize, as in, 'once we've socialized our strategy and have gotten buy-in from our sponsors, let's make sure it gets institutionalized throughout the organization'."

27-28. "After a traumatic event (say, the VA Tech shootings) 'grief counselors' parachute in to help the survivors/witnesses get closure and move on. My father died over 20 years ago; I still don't have 'closure', though I stopped grieving after what apparently was an appropriate interval. His absence is an ongoing part of my life that I don't think will 'close'."

29. "When people confuse psychologists with psychiatrists. The general public seems to have a very rudimentary understanding of two very different professions."

30. "Hardwired is surely one of the most abused terms in both science journalism and everyday language. According to even usually quite reliable sources, we're 'hardwired' for money, risky behaviour, religion, feeling others' pain, art, fraud, oh, and liking pink, if you're a girl of course."


People Who Are Depressed 'See' a Gray World

Their retinas respond less to black-and-white contrasts, scans found
THURSDAY, July 22 (HealthDay News) -- Depressed people actually 'see' the world around them in shades of gray, at least subconsciously, a new study suggests.
German researchers used retina scans to monitor the response of the retina to varying black-and-white contrasts, and found that depressed people had dramatically lower retinal response to contrast than those without depression.
This lower response was evident in depressed patients regardless of whether or not they were taking antidepressants. The researchers also found that people with the most severe depression had the lowest levels of retinal response to contrast.
The University of Freiburg team said though more studies are needed, the findings suggest retina scans could eventually be used to diagnosis and measure the severity of depression, as well as assess the success of therapy. This method may also prove valuable in research.
The study appears in the journal Biological Psychiatry.
The research "highlights the ways that depression alters one's experience of the world," journal editor Dr. John Krystal said in a journal news release. "The poet William Cowper said that 'variety's the very spice of life,' yet when people are depressed, they are less able to perceive contrasts in the visual world. This loss would seem to make the world a less pleasurable place."

More information
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about depression.

SOURCE: Biological Psychiatry, news release, July 20, 2010.

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