Tuesday, July 20, 2010


POSTERIZE: From Wikipedia: North American slang [1] derived from an action in the game of basketball, in which the offensive player "dunks" (see slam dunk) over a defending player in a play that is spectacular and athletic enough to warrant reproduction in a printed poster.

After the Lakers championship win over (my beloved) Celtics this year, Ron Artest did a very curious thing in his post-game interview.

He thanked his psychiatrist. Twice.

Artest thanked "everybody in my hood," "my doctor" and "my psychiatrist."

"Thank you so much," he said to the ABC reporter. "There's so much commotion going in the playoffs. She helped me relax."

Do we have a new Poster Boy for Mental Health?

Now, Artest is no shrinking violet. He's no New Age Bill Walton type, nor some sensitive European Dirk Nowitzki. (Although I could picture the latter going on about his psychoanalysis on a very long couch: "Ich habe eine neue Weltanschauung") No, Artest is about as Mean Streets as it comes. He was once called, by ESPN, "The Scariest Man in Basketball." He was suspended, and darn near kicked out of the NBA, for taking a fight right into the stands during a game in Detroit.

Sure, he was forced to undergo anger management, and (according to the same ESPN report) he has been in therapy since childhood. But to mention it on a post-game interview on one of the biggest nights of his professional career was fascinating.

The blogosphere in the shrink world has tried  to make hay of this interview. The gamut runs from giving kudos to his therapist and psychiatrist, to hoping that the stigma of mental illness may be lessened by his "coming out." Some in the sports world are not a as kind, and harassed him and his "craziness," yet most were at least pleased with the bit of honest fresh air.

Poster Boy? I'm still not sure. (He did also plug his new music single in the interview.)  But it seems that Ron is at least benefiting from some of what we call in the shrink biz as "insight:"  To quote Ron: "When I'm upset, it's not good. I'm not really thinking about the game. I feel like I've failed." 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Music Update

I've been listening to quite a bit of Muse and was fortunate enough to see them live as they opened for U2, and as headliners at the Patriot Center in Fairfax, VA. Muse has been one of those bands that has just been doing their own thing for the past decade, regardless of popularity. They've found a significant audience in their home in the UK, and have a rapidly growing audience here in the states, perhaps due, in part, to the popularity from their work on the Twilight soundtrack.
Muse pulls from all sorts of genres: alternative, prog, classical, jazz, electronica, and metal. The eclectic mix is often compared to Queen, Radiohead, and Pink Floyd, although I think that is selling the absolute diversity of this band quite short. Lead Matthew Bellamy is a complete virtuoso, and appears completely comfortable behind seemingly any instrument.
Their albums span all of the above genres, often covering several in the same song. The song "Knights of Cydonia," is off the album Black Holes and Revelations. The video solidifies what one hears on the song: that Matthew and Company were Ennio Morricone fans.
As enjoyable as all of their albums are, Muse is one of the few not-to-be-missed live bands in the past 20 years. These guys own the stage from start to finish, and are able to create the "Big Rock Show" sound at will.

You've never heard of Eliane. Unless you happen to have been attending coffeehouse shows in NYC or Switzerland. Trained at The New School in Jazz, she adds Brazilian and rock sounds, for a wonderful eclectic mix. She's has turned a few heads in the music world recently, and has toured internationally over the past few years.  This song "As If" is off a self produced CD, and is just one facet of this exceptionally talented young woman. I do hope to hear much more from her in the future.

Worthwhile Research

A study done at UCSD and UC-Davis has looked at the link between chocolate consumption and depression.  Shari Roan at the LA Times has a nice report on it here

A snippet:

When the researchers controlled for other dietary factors that could be linked to mood — such as caffeine, fat and carbohydrate intake — they found only chocolate consumption correlated with mood.
It's not clear how the two are linked, the authors wrote. It could be that depression stimulates chocolate cravings as a form of self-treatment. Chocolate prompts the release of certain chemicals in the brain, such as dopamine, that produce feelings of pleasure.

There is no evidence, however, that chocolate has a sustained benefit on improving mood. Like alcohol, chocolate may contribute a short-term boost in mood followed by a return to depression or a worsened mood. A study published in 2007 in the journal Appetite found that eating chocolate improved mood but only for about three minutes.
it's also possible that depressed people seek chocolate to improve mood but that the trans fats in some chocolate counteract the effect of omega-3 fatty acid production in the body, the authors said in the paper. Omega-3 fatty acids are thought to improve mental health.
Another theory is that chocolate consumption contributes to depression or that some physiological mechanism, such as stress, drives both depression and chocolate cravings.
"It's unlikely that chocolate makes people depressed," said Marcia Levin Pelchat, a psychologist who studies food cravings at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. She was not involved in the new study. "Most people believe the beneficial effects of chocolate are on mood and that they are learned. You eat chocolate; it makes you feel good, and sometime when you're feeling badly it occurs to you, ‘Gee, if I eat some chocolate I might feel better.' "

Some Thoughts:

1. I hope this will lead to a double blind study, as I would be very willing to sign up. I'm not sure what the placebo control group would ingest, though! What's a placebo to chocolate?

2. We now have chocolate Cheerios!?!

3.  Previous studies on chocolate and mood show  a few consistencies:  Women reach for the cocoa more than men, there is at least a short term elevation of mood, and those with mixed anxiety/depression or atypical depression seem to use chocolate more.

4. Why does chocolate have any effect? Chocolate has several chemicals that are likely psychoactive: Serotonin is a mood enhancer (increased by medications like Prozac) and Tyramine potentiates Serotonin. Theobromine and Caffeine are both stimulants. (Side note: Dogs lack the enzyme to break down Theobromine, thus it is neurotoxic to dogs). Chocolate also has Phenylethylamine, which releases endorphins (natural opiods) which give  a sense of euphoria. This is similar to the "runner's high." One study done in 1995 (by Andrew Drewnowski at the University of Michigan)  showed that when one blocked this natural endorphin with a medication (Naltrexone), than the subjects ate less chocolate. (Side note: Phenylethylamine is also released when one is falling in love)

5. Over 3 million tons of cocoa beans are consumed around the world annually. The market value of the current annual cocoa crop is $5.1 billion. (Source: World Cocoa Foundation)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

This too shall pass.

For those not living in a bunker, (which is where I think some of the far-right leaning shack-in-Montana types may be), Obama and the Democrats passed through a health care bill on Sunday. There has been much misinformation regarding the bill, and plenty of unfounded rhetoric across the political spectrum. I have read through the Senate version, but not all of the "fixes" yet, and I might examine and opine on some of the details in some future postings, until then I am just going to offer a few general thoughts and observations for now:

1. Sadly, I fear that there will be many unintended consequences of the recent healthcare legislation. The shift towards "universal healthcare" will likely result in a two-tiered system in which those who are utilizing insurance will find themselves limited to very overcrowded and lower quality medical centers. This system is fairly common in New York, where some clinics have two doors into the same building-- one for those with insurance, and one for those that pay cash.

2. This bill does not implement a public option. Period.

3. The rhetoric on the left has been horrible. The White House, and many of the Democrats have basically said, "If you do not agree with this bill, you are for the status quo." This is intellectual bankruptcy and complete arrogance. It reminds me of George W. Bush's attitude regarding amnesty (and a few other issues!). Most individuals are in favor of access to quality health care. Disagreement with this bill does not equal a preference for others to have no access to healthcare.

4. The rhetoric on the right has been horrible. "Baby Killer?!?!" Are you kidding me? Fearmongering (see item 2 above) regarding things that are not in this bill is intellectual bankruptcy and counter-productive. Agreement with this bill does not equal a preference for the destruction of America.

5. While the Democrats seemed (to me) to make this a case regarding access, I think they are off target. This should be a discussion about cost. More importantly than "is this a right that everyone should have" is "how can we ensure that we don't bankrupt our country, as we are currently doing with health care costs?" If we cannot afford the system, access is moot.

6. To that end, the elephant in the room is exactly that-- medical economics. This bill does very, very, little to address the actual problem in how we practice medicine and its economic ramification. Simply put, we are going to need to change this. Too much time and money are wasted in the practice of overly defensive medicine, beaurocracy, and in dealing with systems outside of the doctor-patient relationship. Until we have a new weltanschauung on the methods and delivery of health care, it will not matter who is stroking the check, our GDP will not be able to cash it.

7. The current batch of Republicans who are whining need to take a long, hard look in the mirror, and use their pointer finger. The issue of burgeoning health care costs did not appear overnight. Their failure to address that with any viable legislation is a substantial reason that they got to play the role of by-stander this go around.

8. The current batch of Democrats should not be too quick to light their cigars (outside of DC or Maryland public places, please). This bill was rushed, ramrodded, and back-doored to death. Rep. Patrick Kennedy says (in an ABC interview Monday) to those that dislike this bill, "I would say, wait until you hear more about it." That's a problem; Americans should have heard more about it before the vote. The administration hasn't sold us on it. Again, it reminds me of how Bush handled the war, and I think it will result in a similar election outcome.

9. I just can never understand the uproar over the issue of who is paying for abortion. If ever a cause makes for strange bedfellows, this is it. This is one area where my pragmatist logic reaction causes a sharp pain behind and between my eyeballs.

10. As I will now be preparing to pay significantly more taxes, I might as well have fun. My favorite tax in the bill? Tanning Tax: A 10 percent excise tax on indoor tanning services.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Honey, it's for you. It's your medication calling.

3-D Television, LCD screens in microwaves, refrigerators that let you know when you're out of milk, and now this product being rolled out by Express scripts.  An electronic pill container.

The container—actually a high-tech top for a standard pill bottle called a "GlowCap"—is equipped with a wireless transmitter that plugs into the wall. When it is time for a dose of medicine, the GlowCap emits a pulsing orange light; after an hour, the gadget starts beeping every five minutes, in arpeggios that become more complicated and insistent. After that, the device can set off an automated telephone or text message reminder to patients who fail to take their pills. It also can generate email or letters reporting to a family member or doctor how often the medication is taken.


Some Thoughts:

1. I see that our boomers are entering the age that there's a greater probability of forgetfulness.

2. Likewise, this would be useful for men who don't have the most effective reminder system to date: Their spouses. I know that works for my father. Perhaps we could incorporate voice recordings of a wife yelling "Don't forget to take your Xanax."  On second thought, scratch that. It could lead to an overdose.

3. This could be very embarrassing for some medications: "Dad? What's Cialis?"

4. Psychiatrists need to be aware of this, lest we start hospitalizing patients who report that  their medications are talking to them .

5. Novartis' edible chip in a pill  "that sends a signal to the patient and designated individuals," sounds very cool, but a tad scary. Who would need to know that information other than those who wanted enforced compliance? Given the number of states that have been rewriting their laws on outpatient committment, this certainly can create some ethical issues.

6. Play the clip on the automated telephone message. It seems a bit, I don't know, something.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

(Hopefully) The Last of The Red Hot Lovers

The issue of sexual relationships between therapist and patient is serious, this one made the news recently: The following is a quote from the AP report.

TAMPA, Fla. — A psychologist is accused of having sex multiple times with one of his female patients and billing her insurance company $1,400 for "sessions," according to records from the Florida Department of Health.

Dr. Daniel Lerom, 49, and a 37-year-old patient identified only as "H.F." had a sexual relationship between February and May of 2009, department board members wrote in a report filed in January. Lerom also repeatedly asked H.F. for her prescription medications, saying he needed them for back pain.

The relationship ended when Lerom's wife discovered the affair, the report said.

Lerom's license has been suspended and the patient is suing him, claiming malpractice, gross negligence, breach of duty of care and infliction of emotional distress, among other things.

She claims in the lawsuit she suffered a "complete emotional collapse" and was institutionalized after being rejected personally and professionally by Lerom.

Lerom did not return messages left at his home and office. An assistant for patient H.F.'s attorney said the attorney would not be commenting on the case.

Both the lawsuit and the Department of Health documents are filled with extensive, and often salacious, details.

According to the report, Lerom would often text H.F. after their trysts, often at her condo or a hotel. He said that he was "falling in love with her" and gave her jewelry from Tiffany's.

"U r sooo hot!!! i worry that i m holding u back from a younger stud who can really meet your needs!! lol!!" one alleged text from Lerom to H.F. said.

Another: "if i were there i would rub u all over and kiss u all over!!! that's the dr. dan cure!!! XOXOXO."

The doctor also referred to himself as a "RHL," or, "red hot lover."


Some Thoughts:

1. That is so 1980's hollywood. At what point are those in the therapy biz gonna figure out that sleeping with your patient is malpractice?

2. As a professional therapist, he should lose his licence to practice, and face whatever legal or civil consequences come his way.

3. As a 49 year old man, for texting "u r sooo hot," and calling himself "RHL," he should receive the death penalty.

4. Did you know that many of the founders of psychotherapy had sexual realtionships with their patients? The list includes: Jung, Balint, Groddeck, Rado, Rank, Reich, and Tausk. One of Freud's inner circle, Sandor Ferenczi, had a particularly interesting number of such relationships including the following, noted in a letter from Elma Palos-Laurvik, his stepdaughter, whom he seduced and then abandoned amply demonstrated these factors. Mrs. Palos began an analysis with Ferenczi after the suicide of her lover, at the recommendation of her mother, Gisella Palos, Ferenczi's mistress. Mrs. Palos later recalled her "therapeutic" experience in a letter to Michael Balint:

"...So, after a few sessions (on the couch) Sandor got up from his chair behind me, sat down near me on the couch and obviously carried along by passion, kissed me and in a state of great excitement told me how much he was in love with me and asked me if I could love him. I don't know if it was true or not, but I answered him 'yes' and I hope that I really believed it...I don't remember for how many days or weeks Sandor came daily to lunch with us as my fiance before I realized that already I loved him less than I had thought during the analysis."

5. 19 States have enacted laws making it a crime to have sexual activity with a patient.

6. Yes, there are many factors involved in why such horrific boundary violations occur. Therapists should have a good education regarding the very emotionally sensitive nature of therapy. Transference reactions certainly are likely to be a large issue in these boundary issues. But, in my opinion, there should no longer be any excuse for such destructive behavior, and therapists who have sex with patients should be tossed out of the professional pool.