Brain and cognitive health

Misophonia: When sounds really do make you “crazy”

James Cartreine, PhD
James Cartreine, PhD, Contributing Editor

The little-studied condition misophonia causes people to experience a strong, unpleasant reaction to ordinary sounds (common trigger sounds include eating and breathing) . Research is beginning to explore what causes it, and has found a connection to a specific part of the brain. There are treatments that show promise for managing this condition.

A strengths-based approach to autism

Monique Tello, MD, MPH
Monique Tello, MD, MPH, Contributing Editor

Because children on the autism spectrum experience the world differently, some developmental experts advocate an approach to therapy that is based in an individual child’s interests, instead of trying to force a child to conform to established learning patterns.

When a loved one is addicted to opiates

Peter Grinspoon, MD
Peter Grinspoon, MD, Contributing Editor

Considering the death toll from opioid overdoses, responding to loved one’s opioid addiction love and empathy might be the safer and more effective method for friends and families to take. At the same time, It is essential to pay attention to the wellbeing of the family members themselves, as having a loved one with a substance use disorder can be profoundly stressful and disruptive, even traumatic.

Binge drinking continues to rise — particularly among women and seniors

Beverly Merz
Beverly Merz, Executive Editor, Harvard Women's Health Watch

Data from several surveys indicate that the percentage of women who drink has been increasing for decades. The numerous health effects associated with alcohol consumption mean that women should be especially attentive to how much they drink.

When are self-help programs “helpful”?

Srini Pillay, MD
Srini Pillay, MD, Contributor

There is an explosion of books, tapes, podcasts, programs, and apps that claim to provide self-help. If you are considering any sort of self-help program, making the effort to evaluate its merits (underlying research, if any; reputation and qualifications of its source; whether or not the program is a good match for your needs) will increase the odds you find something appropriate and effective.

Let the sun shine: Mind your mental health this winter

Dominic Wu, MD
Dominic Wu, MD, Contributing Editor

There are several ways to tackle the changes in mood and energy levels that can arise as the days get the shorter and the weather more dreary. A form of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects many people during the winter months. It’s also important to take steps to mind your mental health during the winter months and to know when to seek the help of a medical professional.

What the 21st Century Cures Act means for behavioral health

Richard Frank, PhD
Richard Frank, PhD, Contributor

The 21st Century Cures Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in December, provides or extends funding for a variety of health initiatives, including support for people with mental health and substance use issues. It builds on important innovations introduced in the Mental Health Parity and Addictions Equity Act and the Affordable Care Act.

Understanding head injuries

Jonathan Nadler, MD
Jonathan Nadler, MD, Contributor

Treatment for a head injury depends on the nature of the injury, whether or not there is bleeding in the brain, whether the bleeding is coming from an artery or a vein, and several other factors. Imaging may or may not be needed and doctors rely on well-established guidelines to determine when a CT or other scan is necessary. Most important, do everything you can to avoid head injuries, including proper use of helmets.

The power and prevalence of loneliness

Charlotte S. Yeh, MD
Charlotte S. Yeh, MD, Chief Medical Officer, AARP Services, Inc., Guest Contributor

In addition to the emotional toll felt by millions of older people, loneliness affects brain function and physical health as well. The simple connection of regular contact with others provides support and helps alleviate isolation. Older people experiencing loneliness also miss simple everyday moments, such as sharing a meal, holding hands, taking country walks, or going on holiday.

A healthy lifestyle may help you sidestep Alzheimer’s

Heidi Godman
Heidi Godman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter

By now it’s evident that healthy lifestyle habits have clear benefits, and evidence suggests that keeping Alzheimer’s disease at bay may eventually be added to the list. Data are strongest for regular exercise, a Mediterranean diet, and sufficient sleep as important ways to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. Other lifestyle choices may help as well.