May 9, 2022

By Don Sapatkin

Good Monday morning! In today’s MindSite News Daily: A new story from our culture writer, Sarah Henry, on the sea change in thinking about obsessive-compulsive disorder and how that’s reflected in popular culture. Now TV series and novels are finally giving this long-misunderstood mental illness its due.

And from around the web, we share stories that may help you figure out whether a therapist or a coach would be best for you, look at an impressive multimedia package that may help teens understand and talk about their generation’s staggering mental health crisis, and check the latest on state transgender laws. Also, this piece of good news: New findings suggest that people are less likely to drive stoned in states where marijuana is legal.


MINDSITE NEWS ORIGINALS


OCD: A Misunderstood Illness Finally Gets Its Due

Image credit: You Can’t Ask That,” a popular Australian TV show

There’s a culture shift in media coverage of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), once played for laughs but now recognized as an illness that is debilitating, exhausting, and for many, relentless. On the thought-provoking Australian TV series “You Can’t Ask That,” people with the disorder answer often outrageous and uncomfortable questions posed by anonymous members of the public as a way to debunk myths about the illness – a format intended to educate and entertain with compassion, kindness and wit. Big screen movies, YA novels and memoirs are also breaking down stereotypes, according to writer Sarah Henry in her latest article for MindSite News. Bonus: People may finally stop making the offensive remark “I’m a little OCD myself” to people with the illness.


NEWS FROM AROUND THE WEB


Do you need a therapist … or a coach?

Photographee EU/Shutterstock

If you’re looking for professional guidance or help with your mental well-being, figuring out whether you should look for a therapist or a coach is one of the first questions to consider. The answer very much depends on your specific needs. A good start would be reading a Washington Post article by Yael Schonbrun and Brad Stulberg – the former a practicing clinical psychologist, the latter an executive coach. They offer tips on how to go about finding someone, too.

As Schonbrun and Stulberg explain, pretty much everyone will face psychological struggles at some point: “But not all struggles are created equal, nor should they be treated as such. For instance, being sad about job loss is qualitatively different from experiencing major depression after being laid off. Worrying about your kids’ safety should not be confused with an obsessive-compulsive disorder that manifests in being afraid to drive them.”

Photo: Shutterstock

An important difference is whether your emotional discomfort is reflected not only in periodic unhappiness, doubt or angst but also causes thinking and behavior patterns that interfere significantly with your daily functioning, which is best addressed by a trained and licensed psychotherapist. Coaching, on the other hand, aims to help people who are already functioning at ordinary or even higher levels work through emotional discomfort and make additional gains. There’s a big gray area in between, of course, which the authors discuss.

One thing that they do not address is money, but we’ll briefly say that you may need it. While health insurance is far more likely to cover a licensed therapist than a coach, finding a therapist in your insurer’s network who has an opening can be a challenge. People with financial resources sometimes go outside the network and pay the full cost.


Challenging teens to think about the youth mental health crisis

Photo: Shutterstock

Two weeks ago, we shared an outstanding New York Times story that focused on a troubled 13-year-old girl’s experiences to describe the mental health crisis that has enveloped teens across the country. The Times has now followed up with an extensive “Lesson of the Day” package – technically for teachers but quite useful to parents and kids – that includes a 15-minute video, questions to ponder and write about, and a series of graphics to digest and discuss (with responses to be moderated live online on Wednesday).

By the way, the Lesson of the Day is a regular feature of the Times’s Learning Network, which includes a searchable archive that goes back several years and includes other packages about mental health issues. Meanwhile, the paper on Sunday published a separate story and photos about hundreds of suicidal teenagers forced to spend nights in hospital emergency rooms due to a shortage of inpatient psychiatric services. And while we’re at it: Psychology Today posted an open letter to parents of children with mental illness from Andrea Rosenhaft, a licensed clinical social worker who recounts her childhood suicide attempts and how they affected her parents.  


Cerebral says it will halt controversial prescribing for ADHD

T. Schneider/Shutterstock

Digital mental health startup Cerebral said it would temporarily stop prescribing controlled drugs like Adderall and ritalin to new patients with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, Forbes reported. The action came one week after a former executive filed suit, according to Bloomberg Law, alleging that he was fired for publicly accusing the company of intentionally overprescribing the stimulants in order to retain patients.

Criticism of Cerebral has multiplied since a Bloomberg Businessweek investigation reported that company staff and others detailed unethical practices that they said were intended to increase subscriptions and profits and had the effect of harming some patients. Founded in 2020, Cerebral was valued at $4.8 billion several months ago, with 200,000 patient-subscribers.

The company announced the pause in ADHD prescriptions on Wednesday while defending its safety practices but not directly addressing the allegations. Hours later, federal prosecutors issued a subpoena to Cerebral as part of an investigation of overprescribing. MindSite News’s Diana Kapp examined the burgeoning market for mental health apps, led by Cerebral, several months ago for a story that raised questions about consumer benefits. (David Mou, who was then Cerebral’s chief medical officer and whose promotion to president was included in the company’s announcement last week, responded.)


First ban on gender-affirming care takes effect just as new research undercuts a key rationale

An Alabama law that makes it a felony to provide certain treatments to transgender people under 19 was scheduled to go into effect yesterday, AL.com reported, as a federal judge reviewed testimony at a hearing, covered by the Associated Press, on a petition to temporarily block it. And a new study, covered by ABC News, found that the vast majority of children who socially transitioned still identified as transgender several years later. The research undercuts a key rationale for the law: that trans kids would revert back to the gender they were born with after rethinking ill-considered transitions supported by their families.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, is the first to examine the likelihood that pre-teens would later undertake a stressing “retransition.” It relied on health data for 317 children who underwent social transitions from ages 3 to 12 – living in line with their gender identity by changing their pronouns, first name, hairstyle and clothing. The researchers found that 94 percent of children in the study continued to identify as transgender after five years.

Social transition almost always precedes the kind of medical transition that the Alabama law criminalizes, prohibiting the provision of puberty blockers, hormones and surgeries to help transgender minors transition. Alabama Senate Bill 184, which Republican Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law last month, is the first targeting gender-affirming medical care to go into effect amid a wave of red-state actions aimed at trans people.

Anti-LGBTQ legislation has been introduced this year in 28 states and signed into law in eight, according to a tally kept by the Human Rights Campaign. The bills have been widely supported by Republican lawmakers, who have succeeded in overturning some vetoes by governors from both parties. They also have provoked a backlash: At least 19 states are making plans to offer legal refuge for transgender youth and their families who traveled to obtain gender-affirming care that would be a crime in their home states, ABC News reported.


In other news … 

Would-be Twitter King Elon Musk ginned up – surprise! – a storm of criticism from doctors and patients, the Washington Post reported, when he tweeted that Wellbutrin, the brand name for the widely used antidepressant buproprion, “should be taken off the market. Every time that drug has come up in conversation, someone at the table has a suicide or near suicide story.”

Herschel Walker, the former footballer who leads by more than 50 points in Georgia’s upcoming Republican primary for U.S. Senate, has spoken and written openly about his history with serious mental illness. A deep dive by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reveals an even more complicated past and raises questions about his treatment and therapist, who wrote his dissertation about demonic possession.

The constant dings and buzzes of smartphone notifications are not just annoying. They may also be linked to depression, anxiety and other mental health issues – and can exhaust your brain and worsen work performance, Discover Magazine reports, citing a study in the Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics and other research.

People who live in states where marijuana is legal for medical or recreational use are less likely to drive high than those in states where it is not, the news site Cleveland Scene reported, a seemingly counterintuitive finding. The authors of the study in Preventive Medicine Reports suggest one reason may be informational materials from physicians and dispensary staff that are available only where pot is legal. One caveat: Both marijuana use and driving while stoned were self-reported.


If you or anyone you know is considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. And if you’re a veteran, press 1.


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The name “MindSite News” is used with the express permission of Mindsight Institute, an educational organization offering online learning and in-person workshops in the field of mental health and wellbeing. MindSite News and Mindsight Institute are separate, unaffiliated entities that are aligned in making science accessible and promoting mental health globally.

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Don Sapatkin

Don Sapatkin is an independent journalist who reports on science and health care. His primary focus for nearly two decades has been public health, especially policy, access to care, health disparities...