Entries in Anxiety (29)


Researchers Link Childhood Stomachaches with Mental Health Issues

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Could a simple tummy ache be a warning sign of future mental health problems? A new study says it might.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University studied nearly 500 children with and without "chronic abdominal pain," and found that more than half of those who reported pains went on to experience an anxiety disorder. Just 20 percent of the children who did not report abdominal pain suffered from anxiety disorder. Kids with chronic stomach pain were also more than twice as likely to deal with depression.

Doctors hope that this study may help them understand the link between psychiatric problems and how the body processes pain.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Study Finds Postpartum Anxiety More Common than Depression

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Many mothers are screened for depression after giving birth, but a new study shows that postpartum anxiety is even more common in the days and months following delivery.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, followed 1,132 U.S. women who gave birth between 2006 and 2009. The women were surveyed immediately after birth and followed for six months.

Seventeen percent of mothers had postpartum anxiety, according to the study. Most of the cases of postpartum anxiety discovered in the study were in first-time mothers or mothers who gave birth via Cesarean delivery.

Two weeks after delivery, the study found that anxiety levels dropped drastically. However, postpartum anxiety was linked with reduced duration of breastfeeding and increased use of health care.

While screening for postpartum depression is common, given the higher rate of postpartum anxiety, the study calls for wider screening for the mental impact of delivery on mothers.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Nor'easter Stress Is Normal for Sandy Survivors

EVA HAMBACH/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- At the height of superstorm Sandy, Jane Frank clung to her husband and three boys as the water rose. It flooded their basement and rose as high as the first floor of their Belle Harbor home in the Rockaway section of Queens. Despite the pounding rains and gusting winds, they were forced to open the upstairs windows because the smell of gas from leaks and fires in the area made it difficult to breathe.

Now their house is uninhabitable. She's relocated her family a hundred miles away to her parent's summer home in upstate New York.

And Frank said she's feeling overwhelmed and uncertain about the future. The nor'easter that bore down on the area Wednesday made her particularly anxious.

"With another storm coming in I feel like we are up against a clock," she said. "We're terrified it will set things back and it'll take even longer to get back home."

Simon Rego, the director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, said Frank's anxiety over the incoming weather is perfectly normal, considering what she's been through.

"People's brains are wired with a radar system that helps them look out for potential threats," he said. "It makes sense that after going through a traumatic event like a natural disaster we're primed to react to similar events."

Frank probably isn't the only one who's feeling nervous about the incoming storm system. Rego said anyone who weathered the worst of Sandy may already be suffering from acute stress disorder, a precursor to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Looking up at the storm clouds may make them feel anxious, fearful and depressed, he said, or they may feel a sense of emotional detachment to what's going on around them. They may have trouble sleeping and eating – or may they sleep too much and overeat. They may become obsessed with news reports about the storm or go to great lengths to avoid them altogether. Headaches, stomach upsets and other physical ailments are also typical symptoms of stress.

"For someone who has experienced Sandy, they may fear the worst is yet to come with this new storm," Rego said.

According to Rego, it's natural to feel worried about a storm coming in right on the heels of a superstorm. For people who've recently gone without power, heat, water -- or a place to live -- it brings up legitimate concerns.

But there are ways to help oneself. Rego said it's important to keep things in perspective by recognizing Sandy was a storm of historical proportions and a very rare event.

"Try to balance the extreme negative thoughts with more reality-based thoughts. There will be snow and wind this time around, but nothing that's predicted will be on the same scale as what Hurricane Sandy gave us," he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Heart Attacks Lead to Depression, Anxiety for Partner

Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Spouses of those who experience a sudden heart attack -- what doctors call an acute myocardial infarction, or AMI -- have an increased risk of depression, anxiety and suicide afterward, even if their partner survives, a new European Heart Journal report suggests.  And they tend to suffer more psychologically than the partners of people who have other serious medical conditions.

In an investigation of more than 200,000 people, American and Danish researchers found that more than three times the number of people whose significant other died from a sudden cardiac attack were using antidepressants in the year afterward, compared to the year before.  Additionally, nearly 50 times as many of the spouses were taking a benzodiazepine, a class of drug used to treat anxiety.

Men were more susceptible to depression and suicide than women, and partners experienced the same level of mental anguish, whether or not they were married.

"Those whose spouse survived an AMI had a 17 percent higher use of antidepressants after the event, whereas spouses of patients surviving some other non-AMI related condition had an unchanged use of antidepressants compared to before," says Dr. Emil Fosbøl, the study's lead author.

Dr. Neica Goldberg, a national spokeswoman for the American Heart Association notes that her experience treating patients mirrors what the study has found.

"For a long time, we've known that there are issues with the psychological health of both the patient who suffers a heart attack and their spouse," she says.  "I've noticed it and patients report it."

Goldberg says it's common for doctors to overlook how a caregiver is holding up because the caregiver is focused on prolonging the life of the patient.

"We don't always take the time to focus on quality of life or what the family is going through," she points out.

Caregivers are often reluctant to talk about their own feelings because it's their partner who is sick and in need of immediate attention.  Personal problems tend to come up in the context of their spouse's illness.  For example, Goldberg says, a partner will take her aside to ask whether the patient can climb stairs, walk up hills or return to sexual activity.

"That gives me the opportunity to ask about how they're doing and whether or not they need anything," she says.

Goldberg also makes sure that close family members are present when she speaks to patients about their condition to ensure everyone has an opportunity to ask questions and talk about all the issues, including their own.

Even if they are aware the significant other of a patient is depressed or anxious, cardiologists can't prescribe medication for them.  But, Goldberg says, the doctor can and should recommend therapy.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Math Anxiety in School? Scientists Have It Too

Photodisc/Thinkstock(BRISTOL, England) -- Tell us if this describes you.  You’re a smart person who did well in school.  You were interested in science, but you didn’t pursue it because you were worried about all the math you’d have to learn.

Sound familiar?  Apparently biologists suffer from math anxiety too, at least according to a study in Monday’s edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Tim Fawcett and Andrew Higginson, two biologists at the University of Bristol in England, searched a giant database of scientific papers and found that if a paper had more than one equation per page, it was half as likely to be followed up on by other scientists.  It was mentioned half as often in later papers, at least in their footnotes.

“Articles less than 10 pages long with up to 0.5 equations per page are just as well cited as those with no equations, but increasing the equation density to more than one equation per page more than halves the number of nontheoretical citations,” they write in their paper.

Stephen Hawking famously worried about math anxiety. He pointed out that his 1988 bestseller, A Brief History of Time, had only one equation in it -- Einstein’s E = mc2.  An editor had warned him that any more would scare readers away.

This is a big deal, say the researchers at Bristol, and one that had never been quantified before.  Modern biology, like other sciences, is increasingly based on math; think of all the studies of genetically based diseases.  Scientists publish their work in order to spread knowledge -- to get other researchers to expand on their findings, or knock them down.

But if fewer scientists are looking, they say, that’s trouble.

“It is not easy to quantify the impact on the progress of knowledge, but potentially some important theoretical contributions have been overlooked,” said Higginson in an email to ABC News.  Math, he said, “is getting more and more important because complex biological processes are hard to understand without using mathematical models. The problem may therefore be getting worse.”

Fawcett joined in: “If new theories are presented in a way that is off-putting to other scientists, then no one will perform the crucial experiments needed to test those theories,” he said in a statement to accompany the paper. “This presents a barrier to scientific progress.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Baseball Player Aubrey Huff Takes Leave for Anxiety

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) -- San Francisco Giants baseball player Aubrey Huff has been put on the 15-day disabled list because of anxiety, according to the team’s manager, Bruce Bochy, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Huff abruptly left the team Monday, when he texted Bochy saying he “had to attend to an urgent family matter,” according to CSN Bay Area. The 35-year-old first baseman and outfielder returned home to Tampa, Fla.

“Obviously, we’re putting Huff on the DL. The reason is, he had an episode of anxiety,” Bochy told the San Francisco Chronicle. “He’s gotten some treatment and he’ll continue to get treatment.

“He’s going to meet us in San Francisco when we get back, but we can’t keep going short,” he said, noting the promotion of infielder Joaquin Arias to replace Huff.

Huff has had his share of troubles. He is currently going through a divorce and his father was murdered when he was 7. His career has been floundering this year. And on Saturday, while playing second base for the first time, Huff did not cover second base on what could have been a key double play. Some described the play as “embarrassing.”

Any and all of these events could lead to anxiety and panic attacks for certain individuals, experts said.

“A very stressful life event can trigger a post-traumatic stress reaction, which could, in persons at high risk due, e.g., to adverse childhood conditions [such as Huff's father's murder], progress to post-traumatic stress disorder,” Dr. Redford Williams, director of the Behavioral Medicine Treatment Center at Duke University, wrote in an email.

It is estimated that 40 million American adults aged 18 years and older in a given year will be affected by an anxiety disorder. That equals about one in every eight adults, said Dr. Simon Rego, assistant professor of psychology at Montefiore Medical Center.

“If left untreated, anxiety disorders can have a severe, negative impact on a person’s social, work, and even home life,” said Rego, who did not treat Huff. “They can make people more vulnerable to abusing alcohol and drugs and experiencing depression and, in the long-term, can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.”"

In fact, anxiety disorders are one of the most costly classes of illness, said Rego. Research has shown that lost productivity at work because of anxiety costs about $4.1 billion per year in the U.S.

Huff’s story illustrates just how seriously the disorder can affect high-functioning individuals, but it also shows that the condition is treatable, experts said.

The good news, experts said, is that anxiety disorders are among the most studied mental health disorders, and many effective treatments, including cognitive behavioral therapy and medications, are available.

“Without interviewing Mr. Huff, it is impossible to know the precise nature of his anxiety,” said Dr. Una McCann, director of the Anxiety Disorders Clinic at Johns Hopkins Medical Institute. “However, I’m impressed that he was so open about the diagnosis, since psychiatric illnesses continue to be stigmatized.”

“By being forthright about his problem, he did a real service for all those other patients with anxiety disorders who feel that they need to hide their diagnoses or are embarrassed to speak about them,” said McCann.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Study: Trying on Swimsuits Makes Women Anxious, Depressed

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- We're heading into that dreaded time of year for many women: swimsuit season.

A study by Australian researchers seems to confirm the fear that women have of trying on bikinis or one-piece suits in store dressing rooms as the summer approaches.

What's more, just thinking about it can put women in a crummy mood, according to Flinders University psychologist Marika Tiggemann.

These negative thoughts only exacerbate feelings of self-objectification, which basically reduces women to thinking they're only being evaluated as objects.

Tiggemann says this can lead to women "always worrying about how you look, shame about the body, and [it] is linked to eating disorders and depression."

Put women in a dressing room and this self-objectification only grows worse because of "mirrors, bright lighting, and the virtual demand that women engage in close evaluation of their body in evaluating how the clothes appear and fit."

Tiggemann admits it's a tough predicament, especially if you need to buy a bathing suit, so her advice is to avoid mirrors and comparisons with others and stick to activities that deemphasize appearance such as yoga or sports.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Brains of Kids With Math Anxiety Function Differently, Says Study

Fuse/Getty Images(STANFORD, Calif.) -- Kids who get the jitters before a math test may actually have different brain functions than kids without math anxiety, according to a new study.

Researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine recruited about 50 second and third graders and separated them into either a high-math anxiety group or a low-anxiety group based on a standard questionnaire they modified for 7- to 9-year-olds.  They scanned the children’s brains while the kids did addition and subtraction problems.

They found that children with a high level of math anxiety were slower at solving problems and were less accurate than children with lower math anxiety.

“Children who said they had math anxiety had greater responses in the areas of the brain implicated in processing negative emotions like fear, particularly the amygdala,” said Vinod Menon, a co-author and professor of child psychiatry, neurology and neuroscience at Stanford.  “We also saw reduced activity in areas normally associated with mathematical problem solving.”

Math anxiety in young children has not been widely studied, and there are no clearly established criteria for diagnosis, Menon said.

“Math anxiety is underappreciated in young children, but it is very real and very stimulus-specific,” Menon said.  “These children do not have high levels of general anxiety.”

It’s unclear what type of long-term impact math anxiety has on children since it’s an area that hasn’t been widely studied in this age group, according to Menon.  But previous research in adolescents and adults has found that math anxiety led many people to avoid advanced math classes, which later affected their career choices.

The findings, the authors said, could eventually be used to develop ways to address this specific type of anxiety, which “has significant implications for an individual’s long-term academic and professional success,” they wrote.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Prenatal Pollutants Linked to Childhood Anxiety, ADHD

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Inner-city women who breathe powerful airborne pollutants called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons while pregnant are more likely to have children who develop behavioral problems by the time they reach school age, researchers report.

The findings bolster what's known about the influence of prenatal conditions on later health.

In recent years, scientists have found that in utero exposure to a host of toxins including pesticides, outdoor air pollutants, secondhand tobacco smoke and prescription drugs influence a child's susceptibility to many conditions for years to come.  The brain and nervous system of a fetus, still too immature to eliminate toxins or repair damaged DNA, may be particularly sensitive to these assaults.

The research team behind the latest findings, led by Frederica Perera, director of the Center for Children's Environmental Health at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, previously linked prenatal exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from fossil fuels including gasoline, diesel and coal, to impaired fetal growth and development, possible chromosomal changes, developmental delays at age 3 and reduced IQ at age 5.

Their newest study, published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, expands on the previous finding that breathing air fouled by PAHs during pregnancy boosts the risk of giving birth to children with signs of anxiety and depression or ADHD by ages 6 or 7 years.

The scientists knew that PAHs inhaled by the mother can pass through her bloodstream, through the placenta and into the fetus' tissues.  In the new study, they gauged the mothers' exposure by measuring PAH concentrations in home air samples collected during the third trimesters of their pregnancies. 

The scientists assessed how much of those pollutants got into their bodies by measuring blood levels of a chemical formed when PAHs interact with blood cells.  They similarly gauged the newborns' exposure to PAHs by measuring levels of the marker in their umbilical cord blood.

"This study provides evidence that prenatal exposure to environmental PAH at levels encountered in the air of New York City may influence child behavior," the authors wrote.  They said the PAH exposure "could impact cognitive development and the ability to learn."

PAHs are such a ubiquitous component of urban air pollution that air samples for 100 percent of the women contained detectable PAH levels, the researchers reported.  At the same time, 40 percent of the women reported being exposed to second-hand smoke during their pregnancies.

Perera and her colleagues have been following a group of 253 African-American and Dominican women, all non-smokers, living in New York City, who gave birth between 1999 and 2006.  They plan to follow their children to age 12.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Army Suicide Rates Soar Since Start of Iraq War, Study Finds

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Since the start of the Iraq War in 2003, the rate of suicide among U.S. Army soldiers has soared, according to a new study from the U.S. Army Public Health Command.

The study, an analysis of data from the Army Behavioral Health Integrated Data Environment, shows a striking 80 percent increase in suicides among Army personnel between 2004 and 2008.  The rise parallels increasing rates of depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions in soldiers, the study said.

The high number of suicides are "unprecedented in over 30 years of U.S. Army records," according to the authors of the study, which was published Wednesday in the journal Injury Prevention.  Based on the data and the timing of the increase in suicide rates, the authors calculated that about 40 percent of the Army's suicides in 2008 could be associated with the U.S. military escalation in Iraq.

"This study does not show that U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan cause suicide," said Dr. Michelle Chervak, one of the study's authors and a senior epidemiologist at the U.S. Army Public Health Command.  "This study does suggest that an Army engaged in prolonged combat operations is a population under stress, and that mental health conditions and suicide can be expected to increase under these circumstances."

From 1977 to 2003, suicide rates in the Army closely matched the rates of suicide in the civilian population, and were even on a downward trend.  But after 2004, the rates began to climb fast, outpacing the rates in civilians by 2008.

In 2007 and 2008 alone, 255 active duty soldiers committed suicide.  The vast majority of the suicides since 2004 were by men; and 69 percent had seen active combat duty.  Nearly half were between ages 18 and 24.  And 54 percent of those who committed suicide were from among the lower ranks of enlisted personnel.

The study found that suicide rates were higher among soldiers who had been diagnosed with a mental illness in the year before their death.

Soldiers who had been diagnosed with major depression were more than 11 times as likely to commit suicide, and suicide was 10 times more likely among those with anxiety.  More than 25 percent of the soldiers who took their lives had been diagnosed with adjustment disorder, a term for the immediate emotional fallout from proximity to stressful events.

The association between mental health woes and the risk of suicide is well known to mental health professionals, but Chervak said the purpose of the study was to validate mental health diagnoses as a major risk factor for the increasing number of suicides in the Army.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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