Thursday, August 27, 2009

Is It OK To Name Your Child After Your Therapist?

Yes. With the exclusion of any unhealthy attachments.

A therapist is someone who is a significant figure in a person’s life and memory. We frequently name our babies after significant people whom we don’t really know or interact with (grandparents, names passed down through tradition, famous figures). I think when we choose a name in this fashion, the purpose is to honour the source. We admire the qualities of a person and want to pass on those same qualities, albeit through memory, onto our progeny.

The important thing when doing this is to remain mindful that you are honouring a memory and idea of the person and to not use the name as a way to try to force the therapist’s attributes onto another so that you can pretend they are the therapist.

If you are currently in therapy, even with the best of intentions, this may be difficult to do. Transference is natural. This can be damaging to all parties involved, but it can also be beneficial, depending on the type of feelings being transferred.

Also, if you are in therapy, it would be polite to ask permission from your therapist first. At the very least, it will open discussion about the nature of interpersonal dynamics in the therapeutic framework. As well, if this is a person you admire, it makes sense that you would not want to keep such a secret from them or disconcert them when they ask you what you named your baby.

So as long as the individual distinction between baby and therapist isn’t confused and you can healthily view these two people as separate entities, I think the name would be a compliment to all the positive work you accomplished during a difficult period of time in your life with the help of a (hopefully) thoughtful, attentive, kind, and loving therapist.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Vitamin E

Vitamin E comes in eight different forms with alpha-tocopherol being the most widely studied form. Antioxidant is a word commonly associated with vitamin E. The antioxidant mechanism involves the vitamin giving up one of its electrons to a free radical, which is an electron short of stability, thereby reducing the free radical’s damaging effects on cellular structure. Vitamin E is also important in the formation of red blood cells and vitamin K absorption.

Antioxidant properties may temper symptoms of mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. As well, low serum levels of vitamin E have been noted in depression (1). Research is still being conducted on whether or not the primary role and biological necessity of vitamin e is indeed its antioxidant property.

A study done in 2005 concluded that the lower levels of vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) in depressed patients was not a result of poor dietary intake.

A review done in 2008 concluded there was no significant benefit of vitamin E treatment for Alzheimer’s or mild cognitive impairment and that the role of vitamin E in managing cognitive impairment was questionable.

Another study comparing vitamin E with donepezil produced similar results showing no slowing of progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

A study, with no placebo group, showed a combination of vitamins E and C with omega fatty acids decreased the effects of positive and negative symptoms in schizophrenia.

The recommended daily intake of vitamin E is about 400 IU/day and therapeutic values can be up to 1600 IU/day.

Toxicity can occur at very high doses of about 3000 IU/day. However, when vitamin K deficiency is also present, doses of over 1600 IU/day can interfere with normal haematological processes such as bleeding time and clotting (2). Vitamin E supplementation may impair the haematological response to iron in children with iron-deficiency anaemia. As well, high doses of vitamin E may increase cardiovascular risks (3, 4).

Sources of vitamin E include mustard greens, turnip greens, chard, sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, collard greens, parsley, kale, papaya, olives, bell pepper, brussel sprouts, kiwi, tomato, blueberries, and broccoli.

References: 1, 2, 3, 4

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Elegance of the Hedgehog – A Review of Mindfulness

The arrogance of the writing in this book caused me such upset that at times I either had to put it down (lest I take out my frustration on an innocent, furry creature) or impose extra irony onto the characters. That’s not to say that the writing was inadequate; indeed the author is quite fluent. And though I found the philosophical ponderings of the characters to be on the level of the third Matrix movie, there were some more profound moments as well. The ending fell extremely short, in my opinion, though again some of the reflections were simple and elegant.

One passage that I found to be of particular note was the young girl’s description of a school choir singing:

“Every time, it’s a miracle. Here are all these people, full of heartache or hatred or desire, and we all have our troubles and the school year is filled with vulgarity and triviality and consequence, and there are all these teachers and kids of every shape and size, and there’s this life we’re struggling through full of shouting and tears and laughter and fights and break-ups and dashed hopes and unexpected luck-it all disappears, just like that, when the choir begins to sing. Everyday life vanishes into song, you are suddenly overcome with a feeling of brotherhood, of deep solidarity, even love, and it diffuses the ugliness of everyday life into a spirit of perfect communion.”

Also, there was the idea put forth by the young, suicidal girl of a double journal, one journal dedicated to musings and another reserved for movements. I really like this idea as a sort of combination of CBT insights and mindfulness. Most people engaged in therapy already are probably doing some sort of thought and behaviour monitoring, so the idea of journaling this isn’t a far leap from the type of homework already being done.

However, mindfulness training in its early stages is typically designed as a two minute exercise. I think having a journal specific towards mindfulness based observations could really enhance the training. In the novel, the girl reflects on the movement of an object or person, from something small like a rose petal quivering to something more macroscopic like two people tugging on a piece of material, once a week. Something similar might be appropriate for mindfulness homework. The idea is to capture the detail of the movement – light, colour, texture, direction, etc…, while keeping the focus on the one event without brining in any judgements associated with the movement.

While I do consider each of these two journals to have there own benefits (though some care must be taken to avoid ruminations when thought-journaling), the concept of having two simultaneous, but separate records is extra appealing, even aesthetically (I do have a fascination with empty notebooks). It would be interesting to review at the end of the week the similarities and differences in unrelated thoughts and physical perceptions. In order to accomplish this though, one would have to journal about both things each day (or second day or week… as long as both get done on a particular day, not just one).

One thing I predict is that even in severe mood states, a person can still find the beauty in something simple. And maybe that idea can evolve one small event at a time, into a guileless way of living.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Depression in Preschoolers

A press release titled, “Study: Depression can hit even preschoolers,” was released in
Science Daily today (and USA Today yesterday).

The study, which followed 306 children for up to two years depression is present and chronic even at a young age and that the presence of depression is a predictor for later depression.

Family history of affective disorders was also found to be a major predictor for later depression.

“The condition also showed a chronic and recurrent course among preschoolers—in a subset of 119 preschoolers with depression or depressive symptoms…, 57 percent of those with depression had an episode during at least two follow-up points during study and 18 percent followed a chronic course...”

This study provides evidence for the importance of early intervention when treating psychiatric disorders as well as ethical issues regarding pharmacotherapy in children.