Friday Roundup – Smartphone Separation Anxiety, PTSD and Diabetes, Toxic Stress, and Much More!


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Friday Roundup – The Latest in Mental Health News

(and other stuff)

Separation Anxiety From Your Phone

USA Today reports on research, recently published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, that finds people experience psychological and physiological effects when being separated from their phone (the study focused specifically on iPhones). According to the study, the distress caused by being away from your phone “can negatively impact performance on mental tasks.”

Researchers from the University of Missouri analyzed the effects of phone separation as participants took simple word search puzzles. They found a decrease in performance when completing the puzzle and an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, and anxiety, all measures deemed “significant” by the study.

The head author states smartphones “are capable of becoming an extension of our selves such that when separated, we experience a lessening of ‘self’ and a negative physiological state.”

PTSD Linked to Type II Diabetes in Women

According to a recent study published in JAMA Psychiatry, women with the most number of symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may be twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes compared to women who do not have PTSD. The study evaluated data over 22 years following 50,000 female civilian participants.

After the study analysis, researchers from Harvard School of Public Health and Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University found  that the higher the number of PTSD symptoms and severity of symptoms, the higher the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Andrea Roberts, Ph.D., lead author of the study, states “women with PTSD and the health professionals who care for them should be aware that these women are at greater risk for diabetes. As fewer than half of Americans with PTSD receive treatment, our study adds urgency to the effort to improve access to mental health care to address factors that [could potentially] contribute to diabetes and other chronic diseases.” 

Phone Consultation Helps Children’s Mental Health in Primary Care Settings

A report recently published in Health Affairs described a special project aimed at meeting the mental health needs of children seen in primary care settings. The Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Access Project received legislative approval in 2004. The project includes hubs in six regions, each with a child psychiatrist, licensed therapist, and care coordinator. The six hubs together are available to almost 96 percent of Massachusetts’ children. In 2013, the project served over 10,000 children.

The project reported significant improvement in the ability to meet the psychiatric needs of patients because they were able to provide telephone psychiatric consultations and specialized care coordination services to primary care providers.

According to John Strauss, M.D. director for special projects at Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership and Barry Sarvet, M.D., chief of child psychiatry and vice chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Baystate Health in Springfield,  “Access to behavioral health care for children is essential to achieving good health care outcomes. Pediatric primary care providers have an essential role to play in identifying and treating behavioral health problems in children. However, they lack adequate training and resources and thus have generally been unable to meet children’s need for behavioral health care…..Telephone child psychiatry consultation programs for pediatric primary care providers, many modeled after the Massachusetts project, have spread across the United States.”

Long-Term Effects of Childhood Stress and Adversity

A study recently published in Pediatrics focuses on the lifelong effects of stress and difficulty experienced in childhood, as early as the prenatal period. The study aims to describe (across multiple scientific disciplines) how experiences and environmental factors early in life can have long-lasting effects on genetic predispositions and long-term health. The study also examines how “toxic stress” experienced early in life is linked to experiencing difficulties with learning, behavior, and physical and psychological well-being later on in life.

The study highlights the current conceptualization of nature vs. nurture with development being understood now as “nature dancing with nurture over time.” The authors state “beginning prenatally, continuing through infancy, and extending into childhood and beyond, development is driven by an ongoing, inextricable interaction between biology (as defined by genetic predispositions) and ecology (as defined by the social and physical environment).

While genetic variability plays a definite role in how we react to stress, our experiences and environmental influences have a significant impact as well. The literature finds that as as early as the prenatal period, both human and animal studies posit that fetal exposure to maternal stress later influences stress responsiveness. In young children, toxic stress can lead to permanent changes in brain structure and function. Cognitive impairment, as a result of toxic stress, can lead to deficits in later learning, behavior, and health.

According to the study’s authors, “stress-induced changes in the architecture of different regions of the developing brain (eg, amygdala, hippocampus, and PFC) can have potentially permanent effects on a range of important functions, such as regulating stress physiology, learning new skills, and developing the capacity to make healthy adaptations to future adversity.” The study also points out physiologic disruptions caused by stress experienced in childhood and that last into adulthood, such as alterations in immune function, significant increases in inflammatory markers (linked to poor health outcomes), viral hepatitis, liver cancer, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, autoimmune diseases, poor dental health, and depression.

The study’s findings lead to the significance of educating front-line providers to enhance the facilitation of early interventions. “It calls for pediatricians to serve as both front-line guardians of healthy child development and strategically positioned, community leaders to inform new science-based strategies that build strong foundations for educational achievement, economic productivity, responsible citizenship, and lifelong health.”


This week’s roundup is dedicated to moving on in the face of adversity and to the innocent victims of senseless violence and tragedy.

“The pen is mightier than the sword.”


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