How Barbara Arrowsmith-Young Rebuilt Her Own Brain

She realized that part of her brain was not functioning properly so she devised a series of cognitive exercises to develop it. The results changed her life – and now she has helped thousands of children with learning disabilities (Click here to view her book on

It’s the kind of memory that stays with you. When she was in first grade, Barbara Arrowsmith-Young‘s Ontario primary school teacher told her mother – in her presence – that she had some kind of “mental block”, and would never be able to learn. Now that she has helped more than 4,000 learning-disabled children overcome precisely that kind of diagnosis, of course, she can laugh at it. But she didn’t at the time.

Arrowsmith-Young, now 61, talks fluently and passionately and with great erudition. She has a masters  degree in school psychology. She has just published a groundbreaking, widely praised and enthralling book called The Woman Who Changed Her Brain. But back at school – indeed, up until she was in her mid-20s – she was desperate. Tormented and often depressed. She didn’t know what was wrong.

On the one hand, she was brilliant. She had near-total auditory and visual memory. “I could listen to the six o’clock news, and reproduce it word-for-word at 11pm. I could open a book, read the first sentence, the second, the third, visualise them. I could memorise whole exercise books.” On the other hand, she was a dolt. “I didn’t understand anything,” she says. “Meaning just never crystallised. Everything was fragmented, disconnected.”

She could recite film scripts, but not grasp the relationship between the hands of a clock to tell the time. So in exams, she often got 100%. Other times, whenever the task involvedreasoning, logic, connection, interpretation, or when she simply pulled in the wrong information from her memory, she would get 10%. “The teachers did not understand,” she says. “At school I used to get the strap, for not trying. They really thought I wasn’t trying.”

Her mother, a teacher, devised a series of flash cards with numbers and letters and, by dint of much hard work, she achieved literacy and numeracy, of a sort. “For a long time, I reversed almost every letter and number,” she says. “I was just not attaching meaning to symbols.” In secondary school, and later at university, she disguised her numerous learning disabilities by working 20 hours a day: “I used to hide in the bathroom when the security guards came around the college library at night, then come back out and carry on.”

The breakthrough came when she was 26. A fellow student gave her a book by a Russian neuro-psychologist, Aleksandr Luria: The Man with a Shattered World. The book contained Luria’s research and reflections on the writings of a highly intelligent Russian soldier, Lyova Zazetsky, who had been shot in the brain at the battle of Smolensk in 1943, and recorded in great detail his subsequent disabilities.

For the first time, Arrowsmith-Young says, “I recognised somebody describing exactly what I experienced. His expressions were the same: living life in a fog. His difficulties were the same: he couldn’t tell the time from a clock, he couldn’t understand bigger and smaller without drawing pictures, he couldn’t tell the difference between the sentences ‘The boy chases the dog’ and ‘The dog chases the boy.’ I began to see that maybe an area of my brain wasn’t working.”

Reading Luria’s research, Arrowsmith-Young learned that the bullet that struck Zazetsky had lodged in his left occipital-temporal-parietal region – the critical junction where, in principle, all incoming information from the lobes responsible for sight, sound, language and touch is synthesised, analysed and made sense of. She realised that, in all probability, this was the region of her own brain that had been malfunctioning since she was born.

by Jon Henley at The Guardian

Heat and Medication Warning

Some medications can put you at higher risk of heat-related illness in the hot summer, CBC’s medical specialist Dr. Karl Kabasele says.

Any medication that changes the balance of fluids in your body, or your perception of temperature can be a problem.

Both prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications like some antihistamines for allergies can intensify reaction to high temperatures.

New Brunswick’s health department offers a list of drugs that can impair response to heat.

Medications and the Heat

Before the onset of warmer weather, ask your doctor, pharmacist or nurse if your medications increase your sensitivity to heat.

If you are taking any of the medications listed below, you are at higher risk for heat-related illnesses, especially if you are exercising a lot or performing heavy work and are not drinking enough water.
If you are on two or more medications, your risk could be increased. You should not modify how you take your medication unless you have first consulted with your doctor.

Please note that these lists may not be complete.

Common medications:
• Some antihistamines (e.g. Benadryl, Chlortripolon)
• Over-the-counter sleeping pills (e.g. Nytol)
• Anti-diarrhea pills (e.g. Lomotil)

Psychiatric drugs such as: 
• chlorpromazine (Thorazine, Largactil)*
• thioridazine (Mellaril)*
• perphenazine (Trilafon)*
• fluphenazine (Modecate, Moditen)*
• thiothixene (Navane)*
• trifluoperazine (Stelazine)
• prochloperazine (Stemetil)
• haloperidol (Haldol)
• clozapine (Clozaril)
• risperidone (Risperdal)
• loxapine (Loxapac, Loxitane)
• fluspirilene (IMAP)
• pimozide (Orap)
• olanzapine
• flupenthixol (Fluanxol)
• zuclopenthixol (Clopixol)
• reserpine (Serpasil, Serpalan)
• Lithium

*These medications and others may make it easier for your skin to sunburn. To be sure, ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

Anti-parkinson drugs such as:
• benztropine (Cogentin)
• biperiden (Akineton)
• ethopropazine (Parsitan, Parisdol)
• procyclidine (Kemadrin, Procyclid)
• trihexyphenidyl (Artane, Trihexane)
• levodopa (Dopar)
• selegiline (Eldepryl)
• amantadine (Symmetrel, Symadine)

Anti-depressant drugs such as:
• amitriptyline
• doxepine (Sinequan)
• clomipramine (Anafranil)
• protriptyline (Vivactil)
• imipramine (Tofranil)
• desipramine (Norpramin)
• nortriptyline (Pamelor)

–New Brunswick’s Health Department

1/4 of Persons With Severe Mental Illness Have Been Victims of Crime in the Last Year

Crime victimization in adults with severe mental illness: comparison with the National Crime Victimization Survey.


Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, 710 N. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60611, USA.



Since deinstitutionalization, most persons with severe mental illness (SMI) now live in the community, where they are at great risk for crime victimization.


To determine the prevalence and incidence of crime victimization among persons with SMI by sex, race/ethnicity, and age, and to compare rates with general population data (the National Crime Victimization Survey), controlling for income and demographic differences between the samples.


Epidemiologic study of persons in treatment. Independent master’s-level clinical research interviewers administered the National Crime Victimization Survey to randomly selected patients sampled from 16 randomly selected mental health agencies.


Sixteen agencies providing outpatient, day, and residential treatment to persons with SMI in Chicago, Ill.


Randomly selected, stratified sample of 936 patients aged 18 or older (483 men, 453 women) who were African American (n = 329), non-Hispanic white (n = 321), Hispanic (n = 270), or other race/ethnicity (n = 22). The comparison group comprised 32 449 participants in the National Crime Victimization Survey.


National Crime Victimization Survey, developed by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.


More than one quarter of persons with SMI had been victims of a violent crime in the past year, a rate more than 11 times higher than the general population rates even after controlling for demographic differences between the 2 samples (P<.001). The annual incidence of violent crime in the SMI sample (168.2 incidents per 1000 persons) is more than 4 times higher than the general population rates (39.9 incidents per 1000 persons) (P<.001). Depending on the type of violent crime (rape/sexual assault, robbery, assault, and their subcategories), prevalence was 6 to 23 times greater among persons with SMI than among the general population.


Crime victimization is a major public health problem among persons with SMI who are treated in the community. We recommend directions for future research, propose modifications in public policy, and suggest how the mental health system can respond to reduce victimization and its consequences.

Outcome Predictors in First-Episode Psychosis Depend on Disorder

Baseline factors predicting functional outcome after first-episode psychosis differ depending on whether the psychosis is caused by schizophrenia or another type of disorder, a team of researchers in Spain has found.

In a study that enrolled 95 people with first-episode psychosis who were followed up for 2 years, processing speed significantly predicted most functional outcome measures in patients who were found to have schizophrenia spectrum disorders.

Among people who were later diagnosed with bipolar disorder and other nonschizophrenic syndromes, however, visuospatial functioning (spatial orientation, motion detection, and stimulus perception) was the only significant predictor of functional outcomes.

For both groups together, higher levels of negative symptoms at baseline predicted worse functional outcomes, a finding consistent with those of many previous studies.

For the current study, published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research (2012;46:774-81), Javier Peña of the University of Deusto in Bilbao, Spain, and colleagues recruited 109 patients who were admitted to one psychiatric hospital’s first-episode psychosis unit.

After patients were stabilized for positive symptoms, each underwent an extensive neuropsychological evaluation and completed a battery of cognitive tests. Subjects’ functional outcomes were measured using three standardized exams: the WHODAS (WHO Disability Assessment Schedule), the GAF (Global Assessment of Functioning) scale, and the CGI (Clinical Global Impression) scale.

Of the 95 subjects who completed follow-up and were entered into analysis, 58 were ultimately diagnosed with schizophrenia syndromes and 37 were diagnosed with nonschizophrenia psychotic syndromes (including bipolar disorder, delusional disorder, and acute/transient psychosis).

By: JENNIE SMITH, Clinical Psychiatry News Digital Network

Volunteering and its Surprising Benefits

With busy lives, it can be hard to find time to volunteer. However, the benefits of volunteering are enormous to you, your family, and the community. It can help you find friends, learn new skills, and even advance your career. Volunteering can also help protect your mental and physical health.

Benefits of volunteering #1: Volunteering connects you to others

One of the better-known benefits of volunteering is the impact on the community. Unpaid volunteers are often the glue that holds a community together. Volunteering allows you to connect to your community and make it a better place. However, volunteering is a two-way street, and it can benefit you and your family as much as the cause you choose to help. Dedicating your time as a volunteer helps you make new friends, expand your network, and boost your social skills.

Volunteering helps you make new friends and contacts

One of the best ways to make new friends and strengthen existing relationships is to commit to a shared activity together. Volunteering is a great way to meet new people, especially if you are new to an area. Volunteering also strengthens your ties to the community and broadens your support network, exposing you to people with common interests, neighborhood resources, and fun and fulfilling activities.

Volunteering increases your social and relationship skills

While some people are naturally outgoing, others are shy and have a hard time meeting new people. Volunteering gives you the opportunity to practice and develop your social skills, since you are meeting regularly with a group of people with common interests. Once you have momentum, it’s easier to branch out and make more friends and contacts.

Volunteering as a family

While it might be a challenge to coordinate everyone’s schedules, volunteering as a family has many worthwhile benefits. Children watch everything you do. By giving back to the community, you show them firsthand how volunteering makes a difference and how good it feels to help others and enact change. It’s also a valuable way for you to get to know organizations in the community and find resources and activities for your children and family.

Benefits of volunteering #2: Volunteering is good for your mind and body

Volunteering provides many benefits to both mental and physical health.

  • Volunteering increases self-confidence. Volunteering can provide a healthy boost to your self-confidence, self-esteem, and life satisfaction. You are doing good for others and the community, which provides a natural sense of accomplishment. Your role as a volunteer can also give you a sense of pride and identity. And the better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to have a positive view of your life and future goals.
  • Volunteering combats depression. Reducing the risk of depression is another important benefit of volunteering. A key risk factor for depression is social isolation. Volunteering keeps you in regular contact with others and helps you develop a solid support system, which in turn protects you against stress and depression when you’re going through challenging times.
  • Volunteering helps you stay physically healthy. Volunteering is good for your health at any age, but it’s especially beneficial in older adults. Studies have found that those who volunteer have a lower mortality rate than those who do not, even when considering factors like the health of the participants. Volunteering has also been shown to lessen symptoms of chronic pain or heart disease.

I have limited mobility – can I still volunteer?

Whether due to a lack of transportation, time constraints, a disability or other reasons, many people prefer to volunteer via phone or computer. There are many projects where you can help. Writing and graphic design lends itself to working at home, and in today’s digital age many organizations might also need help with email and websites.

If you think home-based volunteering might be right for you, contact organizations you like and ask what some of the possibilities might be. Some volunteer organizations may require you to attend an initial training or periodical meetings. You also want to make sure that you are getting enough social contact, and that the organization is available to support you should you have questions.

Authors: Joanna Saisan, M.S.W., Melinda Smith, M.A., and Gina Kemp, M.A. Last updated: February 2012 at

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Emotional Intelligence

When it comes to happiness and success in life, emotional intelligence (EQ) matters just as much as intellectual ability (IQ). Emotional intelligence helps you build stronger relationships, succeed at work, and achieve your career and personal goals. Learn more about why emotional intelligence is so important and how you can boost your own EQ by mastering five core skills.

What is emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to identify, use, understand, and manage emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges, and diffuse conflict. Emotional intelligence impacts many different aspects of your daily life, such as the way you behave and the way you interact with others.

If you have a high emotional intelligence you are able to recognize your own emotional state and the emotional states of others and engage with people in a way that draws them to you. You can use this understanding of emotions to relate better to other people, form healthier relationships, achieve greater success at work, and lead a more fulfilling life.

Emotional intelligence consists of four attributes:

  • Self-awareness – You recognize your own emotions and how they affect your thoughts and behavior, know your strengths and weaknesses, and have self-confidence.
  • Self-management – You’re able to control impulsive feelings and behaviors, manage your emotions in healthy ways, take initiative, follow through on commitments, and adapt to changing circumstances.
  • Social awareness – You can understand the emotions, needs, and concerns of other people, pick up on emotional cues, feel comfortable socially, and recognize the power dynamics in a group or organization.
  • Relationship management – You know how to develop and maintain good relationships, communicate clearly, inspire and influence others, work well in a team, and manage conflict.

Why is emotional intelligence (EQ) so important?

As we know, it’s not the smartest people that are the most successful or the most fulfilled in life. You probably know people who are academically brilliant and yet are socially inept and unsuccessful at work or in their personal relationships. Intellectual intelligence or IQ isn’t enough on its own to be successful in life. IQ can help you get into college but it’s EQ that will help you manage the stress and emotions of sitting your final exams.

Emotional intelligence affects:

  • Your performance at work. Emotional intelligence can help you navigate the social complexities of the workplace, lead and motivate others, and excel in your career. In fact, when it comes to gauging job candidates, many companies now view emotional intelligence as being as important as technical ability and require EQ testing before hiring.
  • Your physical health. If you’re unable to manage your stress levels, it can lead to serious health problems. Uncontrolled stress can raise blood pressure, suppress the immune system, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, contribute to infertility, and speed up the aging process. The first step to improving emotional intelligence is to learn how to relieve stress.
  • Your mental health. Uncontrolled stress can also impact your mental health, making you vulnerable to anxiety and depression. If you are unable to understand and manage your emotions, you’ll also be open to mood swings, while an inability to form strong relationships can leave you feeling lonely and isolated.
  • Your relationships. By understanding your emotions and how to control them, you’re better able to express how you feel and understand how others are feeling. This allows you to communicate more effectively and forge stronger relationships, both at work and in your personal life.

How to raise your emotional intelligence

All information to the brain comes through our senses and when this information is overwhelmingly stressful or emotional, instinct will take over and our ability to act will be limited to the flight, fight, or flee response. Therefore, to have access to the wide range of choices and make good decisions, we need to be able to bring our emotions into balance at will.

Memory is also strongly linked to emotion. By learning to use the emotional part of your brain as well as the rational, you’ll not only expand your range of choices when it comes to responding to a new event, you’ll also factor emotional memory into your decision-making. This will help prevent you from continually repeating earlier mistakes.

To improve your emotional intelligence—and your decision-making abilities—you need to understand and control the emotional side of your brain. This is done by developing five key skills. By mastering the first two skills, you’ll find skills 3, 4, and 5 much easier to learn.

Developing emotional intelligence through five key skills:

Emotional intelligence consists of five key skills, each building on the last:

  • Emotional intelligence (EQ) skill 1: The ability to quickly reduce stress.
  • Emotional intelligence (EQ) skill 2: The ability to recognize and manage your emotions.
  • Emotional intelligence (EQ) skill 3: The ability to connect with others using nonverbal communication.
  • Emotional intelligence (EQ) skill 4: The ability to use humor and play to deal with challenges.
  • Emotional intelligence (EQ) skill 5: The ability to resolve conflicts positively and with confidence.

Authors: Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., and Melinda Smith, M.A. Last updated: May 2012 at



Caregiver Stress & Burnout

The demands of caregiving can be overwhelming, especially if you feel you have little control over the situation or that you’re in over your head. If the stress of caregiving is left unchecked, it can lead to burnout. That’s why making time to rest, relax, and recharge isn’t a luxury—it’s a necessity. Read on for tips about how to regain balance in your life.

Caregiver stress and burnout: What you need to know

Caring for a loved one can be very rewarding, but it also involves many stressors: changes in the family dynamic, household disruption, financial pressure, and the added workload. So is it any wonder that caregivers are some of the people most prone to burnout?

Caregiver stress can be particularly damaging, since it is typically a chronic, long-term challenge. You may face years or even decades of caregiving responsibilities. It can be particularly disheartening when there’s no hope that your family member will get better. Without adequate help and support, the stress of caregiving leaves you vulnerable to a wide range of physical and emotional problems, ranging from heart disease to depression.

When caregiver stress and burnout puts your own health at risk, it affects your ability to provide care. It hurts both you and the person you’re caring for. The key point is that caregivers need care too. Managing the stress levels in your life is just as important as making sure your family member gets to his doctor’s appointment or takes her medication on time.

Signs and symptoms of caregiver stress and burnout

Learning to recognize the signs of caregiver stress and burnout is the first step to dealing with the problem.

Common signs and symptoms of caregiver stress

  • Anxiety, depression, irritability
  • Feeling tired and run down
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Overreacting to minor nuisances
  • New or worsening health problems
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Feeling increasingly resentful
  • Drinking, smoking, or eating more
  • Neglecting responsibilities
  • Cutting back on leisure activities

Common signs and symptoms of caregiver burnout

  • You have much less energy than you used to
  • It seems like you catch every cold or flu that’s going around
  • You’re constantly exhausted, even after sleeping or taking a break
  • You neglect your own needs, either because you’re too busy or you don’t care anymore
  • Your life revolves around caregiving, but it gives you little satisfaction
  • You have trouble relaxing, even when help is available
  • You’re increasingly impatient and irritable with the person you’re caring for
  • You feel helpless and hopeless

Once you burn out, caregiving is no longer a healthy option for either you or the person you’re caring for. So it’s important to watch for the warning signs of caregiver burnout and take action right away when you recognize the problem.

–Authors: Melinda Smith, M.A. and Gina Kemp, M.A. Last updated: May 2012. at

The Definition of Addiction

Short Definition of Addiction:

Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.

Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.


Addiction is more than a behavioral disorder. Features of addiction include aspects of a person’s behaviors, cognitions, emotions, and interactions with others, including a person’s ability to relate to members of their family, to members of their community, to their own psychological state, and to things that transcend their daily experience.

Behavioral manifestations and complications of addiction, primarily due to impaired control, can include:

  1. Excessive use and/or engagement in addictive behaviors, at higher frequencies and/or quantities than the person intended, often associated with a persistent desire for and unsuccessful attempts at behavioral control;
  2. Excessive time lost in substance use or recovering from the effects of substance use and/or engagement in addictive behaviors, with significant adverse impact on social and occupational functioning (e.g. the development of interpersonal relationship problems or the neglect of responsibilities at home, school or work);
  3. Continued use and/or engagement in addictive behaviors, despite the presence of persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problems which may have been caused or exacerbated by substance use and/or related addictive behaviors;
  4. A narrowing of the behavioral repertoire focusing on rewards that are part of addiction; and
  5. An apparent lack of ability and/or readiness to take consistent, ameliorative action despite recognition of problems.

Cognitive changes in addiction can include:

  1. Preoccupation with substance use;
  2. Altered evaluations of the relative benefits and detriments associated with drugs or rewarding behaviors; and
  3. The inaccurate belief that problems experienced in one’s life are attributable to other causes rather than being a predictable consequence of addiction.

Emotional changes in addiction can include:

  1. Increased anxiety, dysphoria and emotional pain;
  2. Increased sensitivity to stressors associated with the recruitment of brain stress systems, such that “things seem more stressful” as a result; and
  3. Difficulty in identifying feelings, distinguishing between feelings and the bodily sensations of emotional arousal, and describing feelings to other people (sometimes referred to as alexithymia).

–American Society of Addiction Medicine


June 26, 2012: Come to the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Congressional Forum in Chevy Chase, Maryland!

Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen, in coorperation with the Mental Health Association of Maryland, the Parity Implementation Coalition and numerous local organizations, will host a Congressional Forum in Chevy Chase to hear testimony on local, state and federal efforts to equalize mental health and addiction benefits with other health care benefits, referred to as parity.

“Both common sense and simple fairness dictate that mental health diseases be treated on an equal footing with other health conditions,” said Congressman Chris Van Hollen. “As the original supporters of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, my colleagues and I look forward to hearing from local constituents on how the law is impacting them.”

The Congressional Forum on MentalHealth & Addiction Parity will be held on Tuesday, June 26, 2012 at 7:30 pm at the Village of Friendship Heights Center, 4433 South Park Avenue, Chevy Chase, Maryland 20815.

This event is open to the public and no RSVP is required to attend.

Final Parity Forum Press Release

Village Map Directions and Parking

Final agenda

These documents are also available on

Does estrogen prove to be helpful for female patients with schizophrenia?

Recent research has been looking into a long-standing hypothesis: Does estrogen prove to be helpful for female patients with schizophrenia? The hypothesis holds that estrogen has protective and mitigating effects on women with schizophrenia, which may explain why women are less likely to have schizophrenia and when they do, they typically have a later age of onset compared to males, and report having better prognosis and treatment responses.

This may be due to how estrogen modulates dopamine and serotonin transmission. Women with schizophrenia have shown lower estrogen levels than women without the illness. As well, schizophrenia onset and relapse for women occur most often when estrogen levels drop in the menstruation cycle or during menopause when estrogen levels decrease. Researchers have been looking into estrogen replacement therapy to determine if it will be effective for treating schizophrenia patients.

Written by Magpie Media