Recent Blog Articles

Mind & Mood Archive


Anger: Heartbreaking at any age

Updated September 1, 2006

Everyone gets angry from time to time. It's a normal human response to unfair treatment and other injustices, and it's a common reaction to frustration and criticism, whether justified or not. But normal anger is one thing, excessive hostility quite another. Some people get angry without provocation, others react excessively to minor adversity, and still others experience inappropriately intense or prolonged anger to legitimate triggers.

Outbursts of anger are never pretty, and they can damage relationships and careers. Anger can also bring on heart disease. But older men are most vulnerable to heart disease, while younger men are more likely to have short fuses. Does youthful anger affect the mature heart? Studies of anger and heart disease say the answer is yes: Excessive anger at any age can take a toll on men in midlife and beyond.

Treating opiate addiction, Part II: Alternatives to maintenance

Updated June 27, 2019

The is the second part of "Treating opiate addiction". Click here to read Part I: Detoxification and maintenance.


A different kind of drug treatment for opioid use disorder is the long-acting opiate antagonist naltrexone, usually taken once per day after detoxification. It neutralizes or reverses the effects of opiates, and triggers a withdrawal reaction in anyone who is physically dependent on opiates. A person who takes naltrexone faithfully will never relapse, but most people simply stop using it, or refuse to take it in the first place. A newer slow-release naltrexone injection is now available. However, it is too soon to know if it will have a better success rate than the oral form.

Post-traumatic stress disorder — TheFamily Health Guide

Updated April 1, 2005

Post-traumatic stress disorder

In the aftermath of a life-threatening trauma, most people recover with the support of family and friends. But some develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), an anxiety disorder that may last a lifetime if appropriate help is not available. Many unwelcome and unanticipated life events, such as a spouse's betrayal or the loss of a job, can cause distressing emotional reactions, but most such events don't lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Under the current official definition, PTSD is diagnosed only if you have been exposed to actual or threatened death or serious injury and responded with fear, helplessness, or horror.

However, the definition of PTSD is broadening, as mental health professionals gain more experience with the disorder. Individual traits and circumstances help determine how an event is perceived and how emotionally overwhelming it is. In making a diagnosis of PTSD, a mental health professional considers both the type of trauma and the individual's reaction. The point in a person's life when a trauma occurs may also predict her likelihood of developing the disorder.

Treating opiate addiction, Part I: Detoxification and maintenance

Updated June 27, 2019

Dozens of opiates and related drugs (sometimes called opioids) have been extracted from the seeds of the opium poppy or synthesized in laboratories. The poppy seed contains morphine and codeine, among other drugs. Synthetic derivatives include hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (Percodan, OxyContin), hydromorphone (Dilaudid), and heroin (diacetylmorphine). Some synthetic opiates or opioids with a different chemical structure but similar effects on the body and brain are propoxyphene (Darvon), meperidine (Demerol), and methadone. Physicians use many of these drugs to treat pain.

Opiates suppress pain, reduce anxiety, and at sufficiently high doses produce euphoria. Most can be taken by mouth, smoked, or snorted, although addicts often prefer intravenous injection, which gives the strongest, quickest pleasure. The use of intravenous needles can lead to infectious disease, and an overdose, especially taken intravenously, often causes respiratory arrest and death.

Low-tar cigarettes are not a safer choice

Updated January 23, 2017

Studies show smoking high-tar unfiltered cigarettes, as opposed to medium-tar filtered cigarettes, greatly increases your risk of lung cancer. So, cigarettes labeled as low-tar or ultra light are an even safer choice, right? Wrong. A study comparing the lung cancer risks of different types of cigarettes found this seemingly logical assumption is false.

The study six years and involved over 900,000 Americans over the age of 30. The researchers compared the risk of death from lung cancer among men and women who were smokers, former smokers, or had never smoked. When analyzed according to the tar rating of cigarette smoked, the results of the study showed the risk of lung cancer death was greatest for smokers of high-tar unfiltered cigarettes. The risk of lung cancer death was no different among smokers of medium-, low-, and very low-tar cigarettes.

Marijuana use may be harmful to mental health—The Family HealthGuide

Updated May 1, 2003

Marijuana use may be harmful to mental health

Think smoking marijuana is harmless? Think again. Chronic users of the drug often find themselves lacking motivation. Some even seem depressed or have other signs of mental illness. But does chronic marijuana use lead to psychiatric problems? Or do people suffering from mental illness use marijuana to self-medicate? While this drug was becoming increasingly popular with young people in the 1990s, researchers were busy trying to figure out if marijuana was a cause or an effect of psychiatric problems. And their work seems to have paid off. Research now indicates that marijuana use increases the risk of depression, as well as schizophrenia. But at the same time, depressed people do not use marijuana more often than their non-depressed counterparts.

In an Australian study, researchers interviewed 1,600 14- and 15-year-olds, then again seven years later. Participants filled out a questionnaire, reporting on their use of marijuana and symptoms of depression or anxiety. A surprising 60% of the participants had used marijuana by the time they were 20. The researchers found that the young women who had used marijuana weekly as teenagers were twice as likely to have depression as a young adult than women who did not use the drug. Daily use as a teenager was associated with four times the risk of depression for young women.

How your attitudes affect your health


A positive view of life and aging may help you live longer.

Giving life two thumbs up may help you stay healthier.
Image: marejuliasz/iStock

Do you look forward to the next week? Do you feel younger than your age? Do you have a sense of purpose? If so, you may already have done something to reduce your risk of degenerative diseases and may even be adding years to your life.

Dementia rate may be on the decline, major cardiovascular study indicates


Research we’re watching

The Framingham Heart Study—which has charted the lifestyles and health status of the residents of Framingham, Mass., since 1948—has been tracking the development of dementia among participants since 1975. In a recent analysis, published in the Feb. 11, 2016, issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, researchers calculated the dementia rate among 5,205 people ages 60 or older. The participants had physical exams, including tests for dementia, every five years. The researchers determined that the five-year rate of dementia was 3.6% between 1982 and 1986, 2.8% between 1991 and 1996, 2.2% between 1998 and 2003, and 2.0% between 2009 and 2013. Moreover, the average age when dementia was diagnosed went from 80 to 85 over those three decades.

The declining dementia rate was registered only in high school graduates, but they made up most of the Framingham participants. The rate of cardiovascular disease—including stroke, atrial fibrillation, and heart failure—also fell during the three decades. In that sense, the results give further support to findings that education (which may build up cognitive reserves) protects against dementia, and cardiovascular disease (which restricts blood flow to the brain) may promote it. They provide encouragement that pursuing a healthy, engaged lifestyle may pay off.

The lowdown on low-grade depression


It's called dysthymia, and it often goes unnoticed and thus undiagnosed and untreated.

Image: Thinkstock

Everyone feels down at some time. You may lack energy, have trouble sleeping, or just feel blah. The feeling often goes away, or it comes and goes, but does not seem like a cause for concern. Yet if these blue feelings persist, they could be a red flag for a type of depression called dysthymia, or low-grade depression.

"Even though dysthymia is regarded as a lesser form of depression, it should be taken seriously," explains Dr. David Mischoulon, psychiatrist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. "Its persistent hold can interfere with your health, family, and social life."

Free Healthbeat Signup

Get the latest in health news delivered to your inbox!

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Thanks for visiting. Don't miss your FREE gift.

The Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness, is yours absolutely FREE when you sign up to receive Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Sign up to get tips for living a healthy lifestyle, with ways to fight inflammation and improve cognitive health, plus the latest advances in preventative medicine, diet and exercise, pain relief, blood pressure and cholesterol management, and more.

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Get helpful tips and guidance for everything from fighting inflammation to finding the best diets for weight loss...from exercises to build a stronger core to advice on treating cataracts. PLUS, the latest news on medical advances and breakthroughs from Harvard Medical School experts.

BONUS! Sign up now and
get a FREE copy of the
Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Stay on top of latest health news from Harvard Medical School.

Plus, get a FREE copy of the Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness.