Health Careers Journal

Category — Mental Health

Hoarders: Is it “All in their Head?”


Hoarding, which is defined as the compulsive urge to acquire and retain a large number of possessions that appear to be useless or of limited value, is estimated to effect two million people in the United States alone. New research reported on at NBC News suggests a brain malfunction may be responsible, at least in part, for the disorder.

My Stuff, Your Stuff

David Tolin, adjunct associate professor of psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine and director of the Anxiety Disorders Center at The Institute of Living in Hartford, Connecticut, noticed during his extensive experience working with hoarders that people who tend to hoard become abnormally nervous when asked to discard objectively rather useless possessions. He questioned whether this high level of anxiety has a biochemical basis. His research team completed brain scans on 43 hoarders, 31 patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder and 33 control subjects with no evidence of either OCD or hoarding to see if there were significant biochemical differences in brain functioning between these groups when asked to discard clutter from their homes.

Tolin’s group had each research subject bring into his laboratory all the papers from their countertop, which he put in a box labelled, “my stuff.” He then had the researchers themselves bring in their own personal junk mail, which he put into another box labelled “your stuff.”

While each subject’s brain responses was scanned, a researcher went through each item in both boxes, asking the subject if the item could be shredded. Subjects were told no items would be thrown out without their consent. Hoarders had significantly different brain patterns during this exercise than did OCD patients or “normal” controls.

Significant differences in the insula and the anterior cingulated cortex of the hoarders’ brains were noted. There was significantly lower activity in these areas when the researchers were going through other people’s items as opposed to when they were going through the hoarder’s personal items. During these occasions, brain activity in the insula and anterior cingulated cortex skyrocketed.

Tolin speculates that increased activity in these brain areas is unpleasant for the hoarders, who respond by avoiding decision-making activities altogether. Similarly, hoarders may not notice clutter in their homes as their brain shows low activity in these brain areas when they aren’t asked to throw items out. Tolin is unsure if his hoarders’ brain patterns are genetic or environmental. Cognitive-behavioral treatment, as well as pharmacotherapy with drugs like Paxil, however, is targeted toward changing these brain patterns, no matter their origin.

In cognitive-behavioral therapy, the hoarder is systematically desensitized to decision-making with regard to throwing away his junk. He is shown an item, is asked to make a decision about whether to keep it or throw it away, and his thinking patterns are shared with the therapist. Maladaptive thinking patterns are eliminated and replaced with more adaptive ways of thinking as a way of teaching the hoarder to manage his high levels of anxiety.

According to Science Daily, Sanjaya Saxena, M.D., Director of the Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders (OCD) Program at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine, has conducted his own research, which supports the neurological hypothesis about hoarders. He found that Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors, such as Paxil, might be effective in the treatment of hoarding. His small study found that 32 patients with compulsive hoarding syndrome responded favorably to SSRI medications. Results are promising and warrant further investigation.

December 29, 2012   No Comments

Why Earn an Online Therapy Degree?


One of the best ways for busy adult learners to earn a degree is through online programs. The flexibility and convenience of online programs allows adults with multiple obligations to fit studying and school work into their schedules, rather than structure their lives around attending classes in the traditional setting. The Bureau of Labor Statistics confirms that people with graduate degrees earn substantially more than those with undergraduate degrees or only high school diplomas.

Online therapy degrees provide the opportunity to advance in careers of helping people through various kinds of counseling and therapeutic techniques. The schools included in this “Top 10″ list have proven to be reputable schools and include such criteria as flexible learning formats and specialty areas to select from in counseling and therapy fields.

Regional accreditation is the highest type in the United States, as it assures students of high quality, reputable schools and programs with recognized and valid degrees. Each school on this list maintains regional accreditation, as well as good standing with the Higher Learning Commission. These online therapy degree programs also prepare students for counseling licensure and practice.

1. Capella University – Cost: $458 per credit hour
Degree Name: Master of Science in Marriage and Family Counseling

2. Walden University – Cost: $420 per semester hour
Degree Name: Master of Science in Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling, with 3 optional concentrations

3. Liberty University – Cost: $465 per credit hour
Degree Name: Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy

4. Victory University – Cost: $400 per credit hour
Degree Name: Master of Science in Professional Counseling

5. Seton Hall University – Cost: $1,033 per credit hour
Degree Name: Master of Arts in Counseling

6. National University – Cost: $372 per credit hour
Degree Name: Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology, with 2 areas of specialization

7. University of Massachusetts-Boston – Cost: $13,097 per one year
Degree Name: Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling

8. University of the Southwest – Cost: $544 per credit hour
Degree Name: Master of Science in Education-Mental Health Counseling

9. South University – Cost: $28,961 for one year
Degree Name: Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

10. University of Massachusetts Online – Cost: $425 per credit hour
Degree Name: Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling

Source: Top 10 Best Online Therapy Degree Programs

December 27, 2012   No Comments

Psychiatrists Argue over Mental Illnesses


Publication of the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in May 2013 is a highly anticipated event for psychiatrists, who use the manual on a daily basis as a guide for diagnosing and treating their patients. The APA proposed some changes to this edition of the manual that sparked controversy among various public advocacy groups. The APA offered some compromises to be responsive to the public’s concerns.

The Major Points of Disagreement

A recent New York Times article, A Tense Compromise on Defining Disorders, describes some of the concerns. Author Benedict Carey says one area of dispute was whether bereaved individuals should be diagnosed with depression. This change sparked heated debate among advocacy and support groups, who did not want their members labeled with a clinical diagnosis for symptoms considered part of normal life experiences. After considerable debate, the APA decided to maintain their stance to eliminate the grief exclusion present in the previous edition of its manual. As a compromise, however, they added a text note reminding doctors that other significant losses may also result in depressive symptoms they should investigate further. [Read more →]

December 12, 2012   No Comments

Outpatient Mental Health Counselor – Job Profile

Outpatient mental health counselors help many people every day. They calm people with anxiety, help families communicate, and listen to people with emotional pain. This article looks at several aspects of this fulfilling career. Review information about a mental health counselor’s average income, responsibilities, practice specialties, and more.

The therapeutic relationship is at the heart of good counseling work. Working face-to-face with another human being is how change begins. Mental health counselors work with individuals, families, and sometimes groups of clients. Counselors use therapy sessions to learn about their clients, listen to them, teach them new things, and help decrease their symptoms. These sessions are done on an outpatient basis.

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April 9, 2008   No Comments

A Free Medical School and Nursing Graduate Program, Plus More

Did you know there is a school, started in 1972, that offers one of the best educations in the world? It is the F. Edward Hebert School of Medicine and Graduate School of Nursing; which is part of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland.

It serves all four branches of the military and Public Health Service. Uniformed students receive their usual pay and benefits. Medical students have a seven year obligation to serve after graduation. Only military nurses are accepted in the post-graduate nursing programs for Master’s degree or PhD completion. Some civilians who are employed by the federal government may be eligible for admission and receive their full salary while attending.

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February 16, 2008   No Comments