Know The Difference Between Feeling Anxious And Anxiety Disorder

Posted By emiley


Lately, the caseload in my counselling practice has been largely preoccupied with individuals who have self-diagnosed themselves with an anxiety disorder.

They often sit across from me during our sessions and lament that they experience feelings of worry about doing well on a long sought-after job interview or about completing a work project to their satisfaction. When I begin to ask them questions about their situation, they will invariably tell me that they ended up landing the job they had worried about or completed the work project successfully.

“So what exactly is the problem here?” I typically ask them. After all, they were able to work through their worry and accomplish what they had set out to do. In fact, they were able to use their worry as a motivator to push ahead and focus on the task at hand. Most of them, however, will respond to my question with “I just don’t want to feel those feelings in the first place.”

Where one is normal and healthy, the other is dysfunctional.

We all feel worried or anxious at times; that’s what makes us human. Anxiety can be a healthy internal warning system for us to pay attention to something important. It’s our body’s way of signalling to us that something matters and needs to be done.

For me, a large component of being a mental health advocate and counsellor is educating the public. There is a difference between experiencing anxiety, now and then, and having an anxiety disorder. Where the former can be a helpful feeling that motivates us to act, the latter causes excessive, persistent and unreasonable fears that significantly impact our lives, including how we think, feel and act. Where one is normal and healthy, the other is dysfunctional.

For example, it’s the difference between being squeamish when you discover your home has a cockroach infestation and having entomophobia (a fear of insects), which can be so bad that you may avoid being in your house at all costs.

Sure, nobody wants to share their home with unwelcome cockroaches. A heightened reaction to a home infestation is normal; it’s what motivates you to call an exterminator to eliminate the problem. A phobia, on the other hand, would be a fear so strong that it may make you avoid ever eating or sleeping in your home again, even long after the exterminator has eliminated the problem.

Alternatively, a phobia may also look like you continuing to live in your home afterward, but enduring feelings of such severe distress that they interfere with your day-to-day life. In essence, a phobia is a disability that causes you cognitive, physiological and behavioural stress.

Phobias, like other anxiety disorders, are highly treatable with proper therapeutic interventions. Psycho-education and one-on-one counselling can help individuals explore and reduce their triggers by lowering their phobic avoidance of the object or situation that causes their exaggerated stress response. A good counsellor will teach you healthy coping strategies, such as anxiety management and calming skills, mindfulness, realistic and positive self-talk, and repeated exposures to the feared object or situation.

When I was younger, I had a phobia of animals. It was so bad that, when I would spot a dog walking toward me, I would have to cross the street to the opposite sidewalk to avoid coming into proximity with the dog. If I was at a park, my heart would race and my body would freeze in fear if I spotted any off-leash dogs frolicking about. I was so hyper-vigilant that I often avoided parks with known off-leash areas altogether.

It took a lot of inner work for me to get over my unreasonable fear of man’s best friend. It wasn’t easy to overcome; the work wasn’t pleasant. But overcome this phobia I did. Today, most people would be shocked that I ever had this phobia at all, given I am such a devoted dog lover who opened my home and heart to an adorable dog who loved me unconditionally. Had I not overcome my excessive and persistent fear of dogs, I would have missed out on one of the greatest joys of my life.

There is a difference between casual feelings of fear or worry and full-fledged anxiety disorders, which cause significant impairment in the enjoyment of day-to-day life. Anxiety disorders are real and can be debilitating. But they are also highly treatable with the help of a good counsellor.

The goal of therapy isn’t to make you stop feeling any and all anxious moments; as human beings, it is healthy for us to experience distressing moments from time to time. However, when your anxiety is getting so bad that it’s preventing you from living a full life, you’re probably dealing with an anxiety disorder. Understand the difference between the two, and recognize when to seek help.

Marijuana For Veterans With Anxiety Is Finally Going to Be Legal


Medical marijuana for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has finally been given the go-ahead by the U.S. federal government.

Before full legalization, the federal government has allocated money to researchers to begin testing marijuana for treating military veteranswith post-traumatic stress disorder.

Far from a hypothetical move, the study parameters have already been approved by the Department of Health and Human Services as of March 2014. These proposed studies had been opposed by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, until last Wednesday when they finally signed off on the government supplying drug for clinical trials.

The United States government reports that 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans have experience PTSD. This is a significant rise from the 12% suffering from PTSD after the first Gulf War, according to the Department of Veteran Affairs.

To put that in perspective, 15% of Vietnam vets have been diagnosed as suffering with PTSD at one time or another.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the suicide rate of those returning returning from Iraq and Afghanistan is 50% higher than non-military sufferers.

Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) have co-sponsoring the relevant bill for these studies and the legalization that is expected to result, called the Veterans Equal Access Act. That bill will allow physicians at VA hospitals to prescribe medical marijuana for veterans suffering from PTSD. .

“Our antiquated drug laws must catch up with the real suffering of so many of our veterans,” Rohrabacher explained during a joint news conference related to the introduction of the bill. “This is now a moral cause and a matter of supreme urgency.”

Do you agree?


The Link Between PCOS & Autism Is Hard to Ignore

baby with autism

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that’s been linked to fertility issues, depression, weight gain, acne, anxiety, and depression. Now, new research links it to yet another medical condition — autism.

If you have PCOS, you’re not at risk. But your baby could be.

According to a new study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, moms who’ve been diagnosed with PCOS have a 59 percent increased risk of having a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

This wasn’t some random, small study, FYI. Researchers from the Karolinka Institute in Sweden analyzed data from all children born in Sweden between 1984 and 2007 and found 24,000 on the autism spectrum.

Further analysis of the info led to this significant link with PCOS. It’s the first study to do so. But now, experts are tasked with figuring out why.

Here’s what’s known so far: If you have PCOS, your body makes more androgens (like testosterone) than other women. This imbalance throws all your hormones out of whack.

Aside from all the symptoms we mentioned earlier, pregnancy becomes a challenge. And not just getting pregnant. Women with PCOS also have higher rates of miscarriage and premature delivery.

But here’s the thing with androgens. They’re also known to affect the development of the brain and central nervous system. And apparently, being exposed to those androgens in the womb affects baby, too.

Researchers found the risk of having a baby with autism was even greater when the mom-to-be had PCOS and was obese. The two conditions go hand in hand, but obesity can increase androgen production even more.

Researchers do acknowledge that other things might be at play here, too, including family genes and other metabolic problems that affect women with PCOS.

But still — 59 percent? That’s hard to ignore. As is the fact that PCOS is extremely common. As many as 5 million women have it — as many as 1 in 10 women of childbearing age.

So what can you do with this info? Well, it’s too early for researchers to make recommendations. But they do urge women who have PCOS to talk to their providers about this connection. And not just your OB/GYN and midwife, but your child’s pediatrician.

Knowing your medical history might enable an earlier detection of ASD to be made in your child.

Clinical Study Will Pay You $3000 Per Week To Smoke Marijuana

3000 per week to smoke marijuana

A National Research Center has been commissioned by the National Institute of Marijuana Research to conduct research on the effects of marijuana on the body. According to researchers, the facility, along with six other facilities across the nation, intend to put stoners under the microscope in an attempt to find out if marijuana can relieve stress while still being able to function a normal life.

“Do you smoke marijuana? Have you used in the past 30 days? If so, and you are 18 to 50 years old, you may qualify for a research study evaluating the effects of marijuana on the body.”

“This is one of the first, very promising studies, that will finally reveal the answer of the age old acquisition that stoners are ‘Just Lazy’,” said lead researcher Michael Gregory. “It’s an exciting new study that may push the legality of marijuana to all 50 states.” Each participant will be required to stay at the facility for six months, while doing various chores such as cleaning, reading, and watching TV, as they are evaluated by medical staff. Researchers are hoping to gather over 300 recruits into their facilities to begin this study.

– See more at:

13 Things To Remember When You Love A Person Who Has Depression

By Koty Neelisasitansuave

1. Depression is not a choice.
Depression is one of the most helpless and frustrating experiences a person can have. It’s sometimes feeling sad, sometimes feeling empty, and sometimes feeling absolutely nothing at all. There are times when depression can leave someone feeling paralyzed in their own mind and body, unable to do the things they used to love to do or the things they know they should be doing. Depression is not just a bad day or a bad mood and it’s not something someone can just “get over.” Remember no one chooses to be depressed.

2. Saying things like “it’ll get better,” “you just need to get out of the house,” or “you’ll be fine” is meaningless.

It’s easy to tell someone these things because you think you’re giving them a solution or a simple way to make them feel better and to ease their pain, but these kinds of phrases always come across as empty, insulting, and essentially meaningless.

Saying these phrases to them only create more tension within, making them feel as though they’re inadequate, and like you’re not acknowledging what they’re going through by trying to put a band aid on a much larger issue. They understand you’re just trying to help but these words only make them feel worse. A silent hug can do so much more than using cliched sayings.

What you can say instead:

I’m here for you. I believe in you. I believe you are stronger than this and I believe you’ll get through this. What can I do to help you? What do you think would make you feel better?
Avoid offering advice but instead just let them know you’re there for them and ask them questions to help guide them in discovering what could make them feel better.

3. Sometimes they have to push you away before they can bring you closer.

People who suffer from depression often get frustrated with feeling like they’re a burden on other people. This causes them to isolate themselves and push away people they need the most, mentally exhausting themselves from worrying about if they’re weighing their loved ones down with their sadness. If they become distant, just remember to let them know you’re still there, but don’t try to force them to hang out or talk about what’s going on if they don’t want to.

4. You’re allowed to get frustrated.

Just because someone deals with depression doesn’t mean you have to cater to all of their needs or walk around eggshells when you’re around them. Depressed people need to feel loved and supported but if it begins to create a negative impact on your life you’re allowed to acknowledge this and figure out how to show them love and kindness without self-sacrificing.

5. It’s important to discuss and create boundaries.

In those moments of frustration it’s important to take a step back and look at how you can help the depressed person while also maintaining your own sense of happiness and fulfillment. Be patient. Talk to them about your concerns and explain the boundaries you need to create within your relationship. Find out something that works for both of you.
6. They can become easily overwhelmed.

Constant exhaustion is a common side effect of depression. Just getting through the day can be an overwhelming and exhausting experience. They may seem and look totally fine one moment and in the next moment feel tired and have no energy at all, even if they’re getting plenty of sleep every night. This can result in them canceling plans suddenly, leaving events early, or saying no to things altogether. Just remember it’s not about anything you did. It’s just one of the prevalent side effects of living with the disease.

7. It’s not about you.

When you have a loved one dealing with depression it can be difficult to understand what they’re going through and to consider how their sadness is a reflection of your relationship with them. If they need space or become distant don’t blame yourself and wonder how you could do things differently to heal them. Understand their depression is not about you.

8. Avoid creating ultimatums, making demands, or using a “tough-love” approach.

Telling someone you’re going to break up with them or not talk to them anymore if they don’t get better is not going to magically cure them of their illness. They won’t suddenly become the person you want them to be just because you’re tired of dealing with their problems. It’s a personal decision to walk away from someone if their issues become too much for you and your relationship with them, but thinking the ‘tough-love’ approach will make them better is unrealistic and manipulative.

9. They don’t always want to do this alone.

Many often assume people dealing with depression want to just be left alone. While there are may be times when they want their space, this doesn’t mean they want to face their fears completely alone. Offer to take them on a drive somewhere. Ask if they want to get coffee or a meal. One on one time where you can bring them out of their routine and where you two can connect can often mean everything for them. Reach out to them unexpectedly. Remind them they don’t have to do this alone.

10. Try not to compare your experiences with theirs.

When someone is going through a rough time we often want to share with them our own stories to let them know you’ve gone through something similar and can relate with their struggle. When you say something like, “oh yeah, this one time I was depressed too…” it only makes them feel like you’re minimizing their pain. Express empathy but don’t suppress their feelings. The greatest resource you can share with your friend is your ability to listen. That’s all they really need.

11. It’s okay to ask your friend where they are in their feelings.

How are they really feeling and how are they coping with their depression? Suicidal thoughts are a common occurrence for depressed people and it’s okay to directly ask them ways they’re practicing self-care and to come up with a safety plan for times when their depression becomes too overwhelming.

12. Schedule time to spend together.

Offer to spend time with them once or twice a week to exercise, grocery shop, or hang out together. Ask if you can cook dinner with them and plan a friend date. One of the hardest parts of depression is feeling too exhausted to cook healthy meals, so you can really help them out by cooking food they can store in their fridge or freezer for a later time.

13. Just because someone is depressed doesn’t mean that they’re weak.

In his book Against Happiness: In Praise Of Melancholia, author Eric G. Wilson explores the depths of sadness and how experiencing mental anguish can actually make us more empathetic, creative people. Although he explains the difference between depression and melancholia, he rejects the idea of inflated happiness our culture and society is obsessed with, and instead explains why we reap benefits from the darker moments in life. Wilson writes:

“I for one am afraid that our American culture’s overemphasis on happiness at the expense of sadness might be dangerous, a wanton forgetting of an essential part of a full life. I further am wary in the face of this possibility: to desire only happiness in a world undoubtedly tragic is to become inauthentic, to settle for unrealistic abstractions that ignore concrete situations. I am finally fearful over our society’s efforts to expunge melancholia from the system. Without the agitations of the soul, would all of our magnificently yearning towers topple? Would our heart-torn symphonies cease?”
In a similar manner psychiatrist and philosopher, Dr. Neel Burton, discusses in his Tedx talk about how some of the most influential and important people in history have experienced depression. He explains the way our culture looks at and treats depression and how traditional societies differ in their approach, seeing human distress as an indicator of the need to address important life problems, not a mental illness.

It’s important to remember depression is not something that should be considered shameful and experiencing it doesn’t make someone weak or inadequate.

New Israeli Treatment For Fibromyalgia Helped 100% Of Sufferers In New Study

A clinical trial involving women diagnosed with fibromyalgia showed the painful condition improved in every one of the 48 who completed two months of hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Brain scans of the women before and after treatment gave credence to the theory that abnormal conditions in pain-related areas of the brain may be responsible for the syndrome.

Above: The interior of a hyperbaric chamber at the Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research in Israel, used to treat patients with fibromyalgia in a recent trial. Courtesy of the Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicineand Research

The interior of a hyperbaric chamber at the Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research in Israel, used to treat patients with fibromyalgia in a recent trial. Courtesy of the Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research – See more at:

Hyperbaric Hope For Fibromyalgia Sufferers
Mike Williams • Rice University

Rice University part of Israel study to test novel treatment for little-understood condition

Women who suffer from fibromyalgia benefit from a treatment regimen in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, according to researchers at Rice University and institutes in Israel.

A clinical trial involving women diagnosed with fibromyalgia showed the painful condition improved in every one of the 48 who completed two months of hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Brain scans of the women before and after treatment gave credence to the theory that abnormal conditions in pain-related areas of the brain may be responsible for the syndrome.

Results of the study appear in the open-access journal PLOS One.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain syndrome that can be accompanied by – and perhaps related to – other physical and mental conditions that include fatigue, cognitive impairment, irritable bowel syndrome and sleep disturbance.

More than 90 percent of those diagnosed with the syndrome are women, said Eshel Ben-Jacob, a lead author of the proof-of-concept study who developed the analytical method used to show the association between patients’ improvement and changes in their brains. He is an adjunct professor of biosciences at Rice University, a senior investigator at Rice’s Center for Theoretical Biological Physics and a professor of physics and member of the Sagol School of Neuroscience at Tel Aviv University.

“Symptoms in about 70 percent of the women who took part have to do with the interpretation of pain in their brains,” Ben-Jacob said. “They’re the ones who showed the most improvement with hyperbaric oxygen treatment. We found significant changes in their brain activity.”

Scientists have not pinned down the syndrome’s cause, although another recent PLOS One study identified a possible RNA-based biomarker for its diagnosis. A variety of treatments from drugs to lifestyle changes have been tried to relieve patients’ suffering, with limited success, Ben-Jacob said.

“Most people have never heard of fibromyalgia,” he said. “And many who have, including some medical doctors, don’t admit that this is a real disorder. I learned from my M.D. friends that this is not the only case in which disorders that target mainly women raise skepticism in the medical community as to whether they’re real or not. However, these days there are increasing efforts to understand the effect of gender on body disorders.”

Researchers at the Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research at the Assaf Harofeh Medical Center and Tel Aviv University were studying post-traumatic brain injury patients when they realized hyperbaric oxygen treatment (HBOT) could help patients with fibromyalgia.

“Patients who had fibromyalgia in addition to their post-concussion symptoms had complete resolution of the symptoms,” said Dr. Shai Efrati, who noted his own mother suffers from the syndrome. Efrati is lead author of the study, head of the research and development unit at the Assaf Harofeh Medical Center and a member of the Sagol School of Neuroscience at Tel Aviv University.

Hyperbaric oxygen chambers that expose patients to pure oxygen at higher-than-atmospheric pressures are commonly used to treat patients with embolisms, burns, carbon monoxide poisoning and decompression sickness (known to divers as “the bends”), among many other conditions.

One effect of exposure is to push more oxygen into a patient’s bloodstream, which delivers it to the brain. Efrati’s earlier trials found HBOT induces neuroplasticity that leads to repair of chronically impaired brain functions and improved quality of life for post-stroke and mild traumatic brain injury patients, even years after the initial injury.

Ben-Jacob said two patients spearheaded the push for the study. One was an Oxford graduate student who developed fibromyalgia after suffering a traumatic brain injury in a train crash. “By chance, the secretary of the department where she worked is the mother of the nurse in charge of the HBOT. She said you have to go and try to do it,” he recalled.

The other, he said, is a professor of sociology who specializes in post-traumatic stress disorders due to child abuse. The professor had suffered from fibromyalgia for many years. Her symptoms got worse through the initial treatments – a common experience for other patients in the study who she said had suppressed memories due to child abuse – before they got better. But by the end of treatment both women showed remarkable improvement, Ben-Jacob said.
The interior of a hyperbaric chamber at the Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research in Israel, used to treat patients with fibromyalgia in a recent trial.

Efrati said some patients will likely require follow-up sessions. “The abnormalities in brain regions responsible for the chronic pain sensation in fibromyalgia patients can be triggered by different events,” he said. “Accordingly, the long-term response may be different.

“We have learned, for example, that when fibromyalgia is triggered by traumatic brain injury, we can expect complete resolution without any need for further treatment. However, when the trigger is attributed to other causes, such as fever-related diseases, patients will probably need periodic maintenance therapy.”

The clinical trial involved 60 women who had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia at least two years earlier. A dozen left the trial for various reasons, but half of the 48 patients who completed it received 40 HBOT treatments five days a week over two months. The 90-minute treatments exposed patients to pure oxygen at two times the atmospheric pressure.

The other half were part of what Ben-Jacob called a crossover-control group. They were evaluated before the trial and after a control period that saw no improvement in their conditions. After the two-month control, they were given the same HBOT treatment as the first group and experienced the same relief, according to the researchers.

The researchers noted the successful treatment enabled patients to drastically reduce or even eliminate their use of pain medications. “The intake of the drugs eased the pain but did not reverse the condition, while HBOT did reverse the condition,” the researchers wrote.

Efrati said the findings warrant further study. “The results are of significant importance since, unlike the current treatments offered for fibromyalgia patients, HBOT is not aiming for just symptomatic improvement,” he said. “HBOT is aiming for the actual cause — the brain pathology responsible for the syndrome. It means that brain repair, including even neuronal regeneration, is possible even for chronic, long-lasting pain syndromes, and we can and should aim for that in any future treatment development.”

Co-authors of the paper are Ham Golan, Olga Volkov, Gregori Fishlev, Jacob Bergan and Mony Friedman of the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University and the Assaf Harofeh Medical Center, Zerifin, Israel; Yair Bechor of the Institute of Hyperbaric Medicine at Assaf Harofeh; Yifat Faran of Ashkelon Academic College, Israel; Shir Daphna-Tekoah of Ashkelon Academic College and Kaplan Medical Center, Israel; Gal Sekler of Tel Aviv University; Jacob Ablin of the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center and Tel Aviv University; and Dan Buskila of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel.

Your Anxiety Isn’t An Excuse To Be An Asshole

By Chelsea FaganSuffering in silence

Hey. Yeah, you, with the anxiety. I’d like to talk to you for a second, because I feel – between the all-consuming monster that is Introvert Culture, and the enabling, garbled pseudo-psychology that is Tumblr Advice – that we’ve gotten a little out of control about what it means to be anxious, and what that entitles you to. While it’s an excellent thing that we’re finally talking somewhat openly about mental illness (or, well, anxiety and depression, which are basically the only things the internet likes discussing asides generalized introversion), it’s important that we talk about these things in a constructive way. So let’s do that. But first, some credentials, because I don’t like yelling about things I don’t understand. (Yes, I do.)
I have been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (for the first time about two years ago), and have since taken various medications at different times for its symptoms. I have long taken Ambien for my anxiety-induced insomnia, which I initially thought was its own, separate thing. I have taken Xanax for the more acute symptoms. I have also taken a whole host of herbal and holistic remedies, and have drank more tea and taken more long baths than anyone should in a lifetime. I have practiced #RadicalSelfCare and #RadicalSelfLove. And though my particular symptoms tended to manifest very physically – constant tremors, splitting headaches, severe indigestion — I also experienced many mental signs of the disorder, ranging from “extreme distress in social situations” to “inability to effectively communicate at work and in my personal life.” So I get it, I do.

And I’m probably one of those people that Tumblr would hate, because you know what finally made my symptoms dissipate nearly-entirely? You know why I no longer take Ambien, Xanax, or any of the many herbal remedies (except on planes, because those things are Fucking Scary)? It’s because I am now getting regular physical activity, eating a balanced diet, and working a job that does not trigger any of my stressors. I also have a dog now, which is by far the most soothing and helpful thing that’s ever happened to me. Point being, though, I was able to work on myself actively and intelligently – which mostly involved treating my body much, much better – and I was able to manage my symptoms. Do I still have a tendency to get into my unproductive anxiety spirals? Sure. But it’s not the same as it was.
But that’s not the point, because what worked for me won’t work for everyone, and I get that. I could very well still be in the depths of my anxiety, when I was on the verge of losing every important relationship I’d ever built, including my long-term boyfriend and my parents, none of whom could deal with my constant shit. I could still be at the place where I was losing jobs and missing out on others, because my tension and hesitation was keeping me from following up on perfect opportunities. I could still be there, as many people are today. And if I were, the last thing in the world I would need is this dumb fucking self-care rhetoric that essentially tells you, “You’re a golden anxiety flower, and everyone else has to deal with you.”

Seriously, nothing is worse than the writing and the ~comic strips about mental illness~ and the pandering videos which tell us that people with anxiety are these fragile butterflies who must be catered to at every turn. “Just take care of yourself,” this rhetoric says. “Practice self-care! Take a bath! Cancel your plans! Don’t explain yourself! If your friends can’t give you space and be totally understanding, that means they’re not your friends!!! They’re toxic! GET THEM OUT OF YOUR LIFE. You have no obligation to keep around Toxic People. If you need to throw your phone into a river and spend two weeks locked in your room eating Ding Dongs, that’s what you need!! :3”

Do you know where someone would be if they practiced this terrible, indulgent advice? Jobless, friendless, and very possibly homeless. (Of course, this advice is directed to coddled young people on the internet, not single mothers of three who have no choice but to forgo treating their anxiety to keep a roof over their childrens’ heads. But who cares about them?? [Insert robotic laugh here.]) The point is, this terrible and enabling advice a) only applies to people who can afford to drown their sorrows with a Lush bath bomb and a glass of Pinot Grigio, and b) encourages you to treat everyone around you like total shit, because your anxiety is some sort of Get Out Of Jail Free Card to abuse and neglect your social circles.

But the truth is that your friends/family/coworkers are HUMAN BEINGS, TOO. Just because they don’t have clinical anxiety or depression (and maybe they do, you don’t know their life), that doesn’t mean that they can act as your neurotypical punching bag until you finally decide you’re well enough to act like a decent person again. If you ignore them, cancel on them frequently, snap at them, take out your stress or anger on them, or simply not pull your emotional weight in the relationship, they have every right to drop your ass as a friend. Maybe they will be kind and deal with some of your episodes because they love you, but if they are not getting more out of that relationship than they’re putting in, they should walk away. Do you know why? Because anxiety is very capable of making you a Toxic Person, and indulging your worst impulses only makes you more of one. When a very close friend told me, honestly, “I don’t know if I can be your friend anymore. You’re so angry and stressed all the time,” she was absolutely right. She was GRACIOUS not to drop me as a friend. I didn’t deserve her, because I was being selfish, and taking everyone in my life for granted.

Your anxiety is not an excuse to be an asshole. It’s not an excuse to not follow through on things, or be caring, or be dependable. If you break the social contract and decide to be the full asshole your anxiety-riddled self wants to be, fine. But you don’t deserve close friends, because no one deserves that. No one has to put up with your bullshit, and if you don’t actively work on making yourself a better and more rewarding person to be around, no one should wait around for you. Only in making conscious, proactive decisions towards better-ness did some of my closest people start warming back up to me after a serious low point, and I am forever lucky and grateful that they did. Because I could very well be alone right now, after a long stretch of believing that I was a Special Anxiety Snowflake who was entitled to being a selfish, irritable, flaky jerk. I got through to the other side, and maybe you will, too. But not by being an asshole.

New grant funds initiative to aid people who care for Alzheimer’s patients

As the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease has grown, so too has the number of family members responsible for their care.

Now, after years of lobbying by advocates, an initiative that will begin early next year in Western New York and elsewhere in the state reflects a major new investment in services to help unpaid caregivers.

Catholic Charities of Buffalo and its eight partners are preparing to start their piece of the state’s Alzheimer’s Disease Caregiver Support Initiative, the result of a five-year, $7.5 million grant to the organization and its partners.

The money will go toward five core services: care consultations to the caregiver and family members; family consultation provided by trained professionals; caregiver support groups; education and training programs; and respite programs to deliver temporary relief to caregivers.

“Our goal is to put in place a safety net for caregivers,” said James Nowak, assistant director of Catholic Charities Department of Clinical and Aging Services.

Catholic Charities is one of nine groups statewide with similar five-year grants to improve support for family members who care for the nearly 380,000 New Yorkers living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia, including 55,000 in Western New York.

“Unprecedented” is how Leilani Joven Pelletier, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association of Western New York, described the effort.

“Finally, we have the funding we need to deploy the resources we need,” she said.

The state last year made significant increases in new funding in a handful of programs, including the support initiative, to help older people and their caregivers, following proposals in Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s executive budget. Overall, it’s believed to be the largest amount committed to people with Alzheimer’s and their families, Pelletier and others said.

The support initiative led here by Catholic Charities will cover seven counties, excluding Orleans, and will involve the Alzheimer’s Association, Erie County Department of Senior Services, Allegany County Office for the Aging, Cattaraugus County Department of Aging, Chautauqua County Office for the Aging, Genesee County Office for the Aging, Niagara County Office for the Aging, and Wyoming County Office for the Aging.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and the number of cases in New York State is expected to increase to 460,000 by 2025, according to a state estimate.

Advocates say improved support to caregivers respects older individuals’ wishes to avoid institutionalization, reduces the need and cost of nursing home use, and alleviates caregiver stress.

“We have to support people in their homes, but we have been underfunded for so long,” Pelletier said. “This will put boots on the ground.”

Alzheimer’s causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior, with symptoms becoming worse over time. An estimated 5.3 million Americans suffered from the disease in 2015, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, and the number is expected to increase significantly as the population ages.

As such, public health officials and others have advocated for more aggressive efforts to help caregivers and conduct research, such as into early detection. Among the efforts, President Obama in 2011 signed into law the National Alzheimer’s Project Act, which resulted in development of a national plan to address the disease.

Nowak said that dependence on nursing homes and other institutions to care for dementia patients is not sustainable or desirable.

“The goal should be the least restrictive environment,” he said.

The challenge he and others now face is recruiting the volunteer workforce that will be needed to make the services available throughout the region, Nowak said.

UW researcher receives $1.75 million grant to research epilepsy

More than 3 million U.S. citizens are plagued by epilepsy, characterized by multiple seizures. With the help of a $1.75 million grant, University of Wyoming researchers are playing their part in understanding and eventually treating the disease.

UW professor Qian-Quan Sun recently won a $1.75 million grant from the National Institute of Health to continue his many years of work on epilepsy after a research breakthrough proved promising.

“We write a proposal, it goes through the review process, and the review gives it a score,” he said. “Our proposal was ranked in the top 4 percent, so we got a big, fat check on continuing our work with the five-year grant.”

Such large grants from the NIH are rare. Giving $1.75 million to Sun shows just how important his work is to the institute.

“We are not part of a medical school,” he said. “We are in the College of Arts and Sciences, so we are basically competing with medical schools whose mission is to study diseases. So we are at a disadvantage situation. It’s pretty difficult to gather this grant.”

Sun is part of the graduate neuroscience program, meant to provide students with a broad background for use in research positions. While several specialized areas are ingrained in the program, a “particular emphasis of the program is the utilization of novel mammalian and nonmammalian species for neurobiological studies,” the program’s website states.

Sun’s epileptic research fits neatly into this category, he said.

“We have a long history of using animal models to research the mechanisms of epilepsy, and the bottom line is, none of this research has been successful,” he said.

In the past 20 years, no animal models have successfully reproduced severe, spontaneous seizures common in epileptics. This is what sets Sun’s research apart — he is the first to successfully create an animal model in rodents that can be used to study certain forms of epilepsy.

“The most important contribution my lab has been working on, and which has been highly appreciated by the reviews, was because the animal model we created reproduces very reliably, a very severe, generalized epilepsy in the mouse model,” Sun said.

“Using devices to study the brain functions of the mouse over a long period of time … we found that we documented the first animal model of a human disease that’s identical to epilepsy that’s recorded in humans,” he added.

Epilepsy is a broad term. Essentially, anyone who’s had more than one seizure can be described as epileptic, making it difficult to research everything that could possibly cause seizures.

“We are studying a very unique type of epilepsy which is associated with problems of embryonic development and child development,” he said. “It’s developmental epilepsy — the disease is called focal cortical dysplasia.”

This disease is normally found in children, Sun said, and can cause major problems throughout their life.

“What’s unique about this syndrome is, it’s very devastating because the seizure that’s associated with focal cortical dysplasia — there is no treatment,” he said. “The impact of this seizure is affecting a lot of cognitive disabilities like language issues, always associated with developmental delay, sometimes with cerebral palsy. The consequences are broad.”

Children with focal cortical dysplasia normally have seizures during sleep, Sun said. So, in addition to the problems associated to the seizures themselves, a child can also contract any negative side effects of disturbed and short sleep cycles.

Brain surgery is the current treatment, said researcher Dan Petrus.

“It causes a malformation in the brain which can lead to brain seizure activity, which can be pretty devastating,” he said. “It can be pretty difficult to treat without actually cutting out a piece of the brain.”

Sun’s animal model is the next step to figuring out a possible cure.

“What’s unique about the animal model is, you know exactly where the injury is, and you can do close monitoring across their entire lifespan, and you can do pharmacological and physiological manipulation to try to stop the seizure,” he said. “Whereas in humans, you have very limited ability. You can’t just apply some new approach to kids.”

The lab’s work is diverse, from analyzing electrical impulses in the brain to looking at slices of a brain through a microscope, Petrus said.

“One of the things about neuroscience is it’s a very multifaceted area of research,” he said. “We’re approaching this field of epilepsy from multiple directions, from the very basic cellular level to the brain circuitry and even out to outward behavior so we can get the whole picture with what’s going on so we can eventually treat it and understand how it occurs.”

Once the researchers figure out exactly how the seizures start, possible tests on treatment can occur, Sun said.

“When we have an animal model, it’s just the beginning,” he said. “We just have a model to replicate the process that happens in humans. The treatment part would be the last step. If you want to treat a disease, you have to know how it happens.”

The lab will soon share their findings to the rest of the scientific community, Sun said.

“The whole idea is to, eventually, benefit human wellbeing,” he said. “As soon as we have made progress, which we have, we are reporting and summarizing our research in a paper for others to use.”

New weapon in the fight against rheumatoid arthritis

Vancouver’s Augurex offers simple diagnostic test for early detection


A chance conversation between two scientists in a cafeteria lineup sparked a discovery that could improve the lives of millions of people with rheumatoid arthritis.

A chance conversation between two scientists in a cafeteria lineup sparked a discovery that could improve the lives of millions of people with rheumatoid arthritis.

When Walter Maksymowych and Aziz Ghahary started trading thoughts about parallels between the healing of wounds in burn patients and healing in joint destruction, it occurred to Maksymowych that a “sibling” of a protein in Ghahary’s research could play a role in rheumatoid arthritis.

Maksymowych is a professor of medicine specializing in rheumatology at the University of Alberta; Aziz Ghahary is now a professor in the University of B.C.’s Department of Surgery and director of the B.C. Firefighters Burn and Wound Healing Laboratory.

“Often at universities we are all working in silos, very focused on our own research,” Maksymowych said.

“It really is fortuitous that it was quite a long lineup for a sandwich. It really led to some remarkable work.”

When Maksymowych examined the joint fluid of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, they soon found a unique and previously unexamined protein, one that occurs naturally and harmlessly inside of cells, but outside of cells triggers a cascade of autoimmune reactions, proteins and enzymes that attack joint tissue.

Fast forward 10 years and the discovery of the apparent role of protein 14-3-3 in rheumatoid arthritis has yielded a test that detects rheumatoid arthritis earlier and more reliably than ever, a test that is now in commercial production by the Vancouver-based biotech firm Augurex.

The blood-borne proteins and antibodies normally used to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis may be absent in about 33 to 40 per cent of patients.

That limited the effectiveness of the most widely used tests for early detection and meant many people had joint damage before a proper diagnosis was made.

The JOINTstat test offered by Augurex helps to close that gap by looking for that previously unknown marker for the disease.

The protein is detectable in many patients well before their symptoms meet the criteria for rheumatoid arthritis, said Anthony Marotta, chief scientific officer for Augurex.

Recently published research based on a Japanese study of 149 patients suggests that drug treatments that eliminate the 14-3-3n protein from the blood result in better patient outcomes, meaning the simple and inexpensive test can be used to assess the effectiveness of treatments by measuring the protein in the blood, allowing doctors to adjust quickly when treatments are not effective.

More importantly, the research suggests that 14-3-3 itself is a “bad actor” in the development of the disease and therefore an important new target for drug treatment.

“If a drug treatment can reduce the 14-3-3 protein to undetectable levels (in a patient’s blood), we are confident we are using the right approach,” said Maksymowych.

With earlier detection and the “precision treatment” allowed by their discovery, Maksymowych believes the remission rate for rheumatoid arthritis, currently about 30 per cent, could double to 60 per cent or higher.

The tests developed to monitor 14-3-3 may also help many patients in remission live their lives without drugs, which can cost as much as $20,000 a year.

“This is a huge change, because we have the ability to achieve remission with current treatments,” said Maksymowych.

Once a patient is in remission, regular surveillance for 14-3-3 could be used as an “early warning signal” to prevent relapse, he said.

A next-generation test due out in the new year for both the 14-3-3 protein and the 14-3-3 antibody could push early detection as high as 93 per cent, according to data presented last year at a European congress of the world’s leading rheumatologists and since published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Rheumatology.

Maksymowych believes that 93 per cent may really be 100.

“We are starting to wonder if those last seven per cent of people who are negative for all four (conventional blood factor and JOINTstat) tests have rheumatoid arthritis at all,” he said. “They may have something else.”

In Canada, the JOINTstat test developed by Augurex is available through LifeLabs on a patient-pay basis for about $75. The test is offered by Quest Diagnostics in the United States and has become available for clinical use in Europe, Japan and Australia.

While early detection and treatment of rheumatoid arthritis is known to lead to more effective treatment and symptom control, the 14-3-3 family of proteins and antibodies may also help guide the development of more effective treatments personalized to the specific needs of each patient.

Marotta and co-founder CEO Norma Biln formed Augurex in 2006 to identify and develop early stage discoveries in the biomarker space. Aguruex licensed the discovery from the University of B.C. after becoming convinced of its commercial and clinical potential in meetings with Ghahary, Maksymowych and their research partners.

As the Augurex immunoassay test was refined it soon became apparent that 14-3-3 is a “very strong differential signal” in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. “You want to see that, so you don’t end up with a lot of false positives,” said Marotta.

With funding from the National Research Council of Canada’s Industrial Research Assistance Program, they undertook studies to prove that their target protein was part of the mechanism of disease and not simply a bystander.

“We could see that when 14-3-3 was added to cells in concentrations similar to those in the body that it caused those cells to produce factors linked to the process of the disease,” he said.

The protein 14-3-3 is the first of four closely related markers Marotta and Biln believe have clinical importance to rheumatoid arthritis, potentially aiding the development of robust tools for diagnosis and treatment.

“It’s very rewarding to see a discovery move from bench to bedside and help the people it was intended for.” said Biln.

Augurex is also in the early stages of developing a drug to suppress 14-3-3 in rheumatoid arthritis patients.