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Most mothers experience the "baby blues" during the first few weeks
after giving birth. Telltale symptoms such as anxiety,
irritability, and weepiness typically worsen by the fourth or fifth
day after delivery and subside on their own within two weeks.
An unfortunate few develop postpartum psychosis. This rare but
life-threatening disorder requires immediate treatment (see
Postpartum depression lies somewhere in between these two states.
This disorder affects about 10% to 15% of mothers, whose "baby
blues" turn into something more persistent. A mother with
postpartum depression may feel sad, worthless, or guilty. She may
be unable to concentrate or take interest in anything, even her
baby (see "Symptoms of postpartum depression").
Postpartum depression also affects men. One analysis estimated that
as many as 10% of fathers develop postpartum depression within the
first year after the birth of a child.
Although postpartum depression is surprisingly common, those
affected may be embarrassed about feeling depressed and overwhelmed
at what is supposed to be one of the happiest times of their lives.
As a result, many people are reluctant to seek help. Fewer than
half of women with postpartum depression seek treatment.
Lack of treatment for postpartum depression can take a toll not
only on a parent's mental health, but also on a child's
development. In some cases, offspring of parents with any kind of
untreated depression suffer delays in cognitive development, take
longer to mature emotionally, or develop depression themselves.
Fortunately, multiple treatment options exist for postpartum
It's no secret that children and teenagers are spending a
tremendous amount of time online. Popular digital communities
include social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter and virtual
worlds and gaming sites such as Club Penguin and Second Life.
According to one poll, more than half of youths log on to some type
of social media site at least once a day. Roughly one in four logs
on to such sites at least 10 times a day.
Although digital communities enable youths to socialize with peers
and develop multimedia skills, these online forums also have risks.
A common one is cyberbullying — a form of bullying that takes place
entirely online in cyberspace. Another is sexting, a term that
combines the words sex and texting and refers to the exchange of
sexually explicit digital messages and images. Fortunately there
are ways for parents to help their children avoid these new types
Mental health clinicians undergo rigorous training in their fields
before treating patients with psychiatric disorders. Family
members, on the other hand, may find themselves suddenly thrust
into crisis situations with a loved one, struggling to understand
an illness they know little about — all while dealing with their
own powerful emotions.
The result, not surprisingly, is that families often do not know
how to respond effectively when a loved one develops a mental
illness. Anger, guilt, shame, and other negative emotions —
reinforced by society's continuing stigma about mental illness —
may hobble families' abilities to support patients. And while
clinicians would like to better involve and support family members,
doing so can become a daunting task in the real world of
conflicting demands of patient privacy, overbooked schedules, and
Recognizing the challenges, the National Alliance on Mental Illness
(NAMI) offers a free 12-week course, the Family-to-Family Education
Program. The curriculum includes medically reviewed and regularly
updated content about major depression, bipolar disorder,
schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, and
substance use disorders.
People who are perfectionists set high standards for themselves. In
itself, this is not such a bad personality trait to have — it helps
some people become corporate leaders, skilled surgeons, or Olympic
champions. But it is the dark side of perfectionism that gives this
quality a bad name: a tendency toward endless self-criticism and
focus on mistakes rather than on achievements.
Perfectionism is sometimes a manifestation of a psychiatric
disorder. In people with eating disorders, for example,
perfectionism may show up as excessive self-criticism about weight
or appearance. In people with depression, it may appear as a
tendency to ruminate about failures. And in people with
obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), it may be expressed as an
obsession with arranging things symmetrically — such as lining up
hangers or placing clothes in drawers in a specific way.
But perfectionism does have its advantages. Desirable aspects of
this personality trait include conscientiousness, endurance,
satisfaction with life, and ability to cope with adversity.
Dr. Jeff Szymanski, a clinical instructor of psychology at Harvard
Medical School and executive director of the International OCD
Foundation, believes it is possible to become a better
perfectionist — by building on the strengths of this quality and
learning to minimize its drawbacks. In his book, The Perfectionist's Handbook, he
discusses this theory in greater detail and provides exercises
people can try on their own at home.
A study comparing treatments for chronic fatigue syndrome found
that cognitive behavioral therapy yielded the best results, but
the benefit from any of the treatments was modest.
Research on secondhand smoke found that its effects were the same
on the brains of both smokers and nonsmokers.
I heard a news story about people using bath salts to get high.
How is that possible? My husband and I have two teenagers. Should
we talk with them about this?