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Everyone experiences pain at some point, but in people with
depression or anxiety, pain can become particularly intense and
hard to treat. People suffering from depression, for example, tend
to experience more severe and long-lasting pain than other people.
The overlap of anxiety, depression, and pain is particularly
evident in chronic and sometimes disabling pain syndromes such as
fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, low back pain, headaches,
and nerve pain. For example, about two-thirds of patients with
irritable bowel syndrome who are referred for follow-up care have
symptoms of psychological distress, most often anxiety. About 65%
of patients seeking help for depression also report at least one
type of pain symptom. Psychiatric disorders not only contribute to
pain intensity but also to increased risk of disability.
Researchers once thought the reciprocal relationship between pain,
anxiety, and depression resulted mainly from psychological rather
than biological factors. Chronic pain is depressing, and likewise
major depression may feel physically painful. But as researchers
have learned more about how the brain works, and how the nervous
system interacts with other parts of the body, they have discovered
that pain shares some biological mechanisms with anxiety and
Many people want to remain mentally (as well as physically) fit, so
that they can perform well at school and at work. A controversial
way to improve focus and mental functioning is to take a "smart
pill" — the slang term for using prescription stimulants such as
amphetamine (Adderall) or methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta) to
try to boost mental functioning rather than to treat a problem like
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. One survey of U.S.
college students found that 7% had used prescription stimulants in
an effort to improve academic achievement, for example.
But there are nonpharmacological ways to boost mental performance.
Jeff Brown, a cognitive behavioral psychologist at Harvard Medical
School, and Mark Fenske, a neuroscience researcher at the
University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, have described a set of
strategies for remaining mentally sharp even under trying
circumstances. In their book, The Winner's Brain: Eight Strategies Great
Minds Use to Achieve Success, Drs. Brown and Fenske outline an
approach they derive from well-known psychotherapies and
discoveries in neuroscience. The strategies they suggest can be
applied in the clinic, the classroom, and the workplace.
Each year, about 1% to 6% of children and teenagers develop major
depression. This mood disorder not only interferes with school
achievement and relationships, but also increases the risk of
suicide (the third leading cause of death in adolescents). Early
onset of depression also raises the risk of developing more severe
and chronic symptoms later in life.
Several reviews have concluded that interventions to prevent or
delay depression are modestly effective, at least in the short
term. More recent research suggests that these programs are most
effective when offered to those youths most likely to develop
A study of people with bipolar disorder found that those who took
lithium, either alone or in combination with valproate, were less
likely to relapse than those who took valproate alone.
If you've ever had a song stuck in your head, you're not alone.
Researchers in England found that every person they interviewed
had had such an experience.
I've recently started dating a man who is afraid of dogs. The
problem is, I've owned a black lab for 10 years and don't want to
surrender my pet. Are there any treatments for this type of
I have a friend who was diagnosed with body dysmorphic disorder.
What is this disorder and what causes it?