Monday, May 30, 2011

Make Mental Health Your Priority Every Month

By Felicia Wong, M.D

As the month of May comes to an end, make a promise to yourself that personal mental wellness will remain a daily priority.  Mental Health America has been working for 100 years to promote well-being for all Americans and recently developed a resource called 10 Tools to Live Your Life Well based on extensive scientific evidence.

Each day, we face all sorts of demands and drama which can lead to insomnia, lack of concentration, problems in our relationships, and other mental health issues
These "10 Tools" provide proven, healthy ways to cope with stress and boost your overall well-being.  Make a commitment to follow this list and feel more relaxed, fulfilled, and focused long after Mental Heath Month is over. . .  
1) Connect with Others. People who feel connected are happier and healthier--and may even live longer.
2) Stay Positive. People who regularly focus on the positive in their lives are less upset by painful memories.
3) Get Physically Active. Exercise can help relieve insomnia and reduce depression.
4) Help Others. People who consistently help others experience less depression, greater calm, and fewer pains.
5) Get Enough Sleep. Not getting enough rest increases risks of weight gain, accidents, reduced memory, and heart problems.
6) Create Joy and Satisfaction. Positive emotions can boost your ability to bounce back from stress.
7) Eat Well. Eating healthy food and regular meals can increase your energy, lower the risk of developing certain diseases, and influence your mood.
8) Take Care of Your Spirit. People who have strong spiritual lives may be healthier and live longer. Spirituality seems to cut the stress that can contribute to disease.
9) Deal Better with Hard Times. People who can tackle problems or get support in a tough situation tend to feel less depressed.
10) Get Professional Help if You Need It. More than 80 percent of people who are treated for depression improve.
So now you know the tools. . . Today is the perfect time to start incorporating this list into your day-to-day routine.  For more information, go to

Friday, May 6, 2011

Yes, Food Addiction is Real. Do You Know Someone Suffering?

By Sarah Johnson, M.D.
The obesity epidemic is a huge problem (no pun intended) due to associated medical problems and their burden on the healthcare system. In 2009, an estimated 25% of Americans met criteria for obesity. This figure has steadily increased since the 1970’s.

Obesity leads to heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, diabetes, and may be associated with increased risk for depression. It has been suggested that over-eating and other eating behaviors associated with obesity may share features with drug and alcohol addiction. This would certainly explain why this epidemic is so difficult to combat.  

The DSM IV-TR defines substance dependence as three or more of the following symptoms occurring within one year: tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, substance taken in larger amounts or for a longer duration than intended, attempts to cut back, excessive time spent pursuing, using, or recovering from use, reduction or discontinuation of important activities because of use, and continued use despite adverse consequences. 

Food cravings associated with binge eating can trigger the same area of the brain that is activated in drug craving. Although research is preliminary and limited at this time, specific foods such as carbohydrates may actually have a direct effect on mood in those who crave them.

Certain eating behaviors, such as restriction combined with overeating or binge-purge cycles may emulate addictive behaviors. Personality traits such as impulsivity have been found in samples of addicts and obese individuals. Children with behavior disorders such as ADHD and Conduct Disorder may be at increased risk for both addictions and obesity.  

Prevention is the best way to reduce the impact of behaviors associated with obesity. While eating may have similarities with addiction, we live in a toxic food environment, and awareness is key in prevention. Family members can seek help from medical professionals for loved ones who may be exhibiting pathological eating behaviors

For more information: Corsica JA, Pelchat ML. Food addiction: true or false? Curr Opin Gastroenterol. 2010 Mar;26(2):165-9.
Wilson GT. Eating disorders, obesity, and addiction. Eur Eat Disord Rev. 2010 Sep-Oct; 18(5):341-51.