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Elemental
Your life, sourced by science. A publication from Medium about health and wellness.

Mental Health

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Sweeping new studies shed light on the underlying mechanisms of PTSD, which may help optimize future treatment

Guy sitting on a rock in an ocean cove looking out over the sun setting.
Guy sitting on a rock in an ocean cove looking out over the sun setting.
Image: Keegan Houser/Unsplash

June is PTSD awareness month. Thanks to the arduous work of researchers, advocates, survivors, and psychological and medical professionals over the years, the acronym for posttraumatic stress disorder is now common parlance.

The effects of PTSD are also more widely known:


The Nuance

‘Respiratory discipline’ can activate your most potent anti-stress system

Photo: Lorenzo Fattò Offidani/Unsplash

Your body reacts to stress in a number of well-mapped ways. Heart rate and blood pressure speed up, muscles tense, digestion slows, and breathing becomes clipped and rapid.

All of this happens because your brain has registered the presence of some sort of threat. Whether physical or psychological, this threat triggers a trickle (or a gush) of adrenaline, noradrenaline, and other stress-related hormones. These chemical messengers shift the activity of your nervous and immune systems in ways that are meant to help you either flee from danger or weather some kind of ordeal or confrontation.

None of this tends to…


Prescriptions are rising, but often the drugs don’t work, and other effective treatments are dismissed

Photo: Julia Zolotova/Unsplash

This is the third in a four-part series on preventing depression, a serious and growing mental disorder that can strike at any age and, if untreated, persist and worsen.

Antidepressant drugs can be an effective treatment for many people diagnosed with depression, particularly in the most severe cases. But these medications, which can have troubling side effects, are far from the only option, and for many people they simply don’t work. …


The Nuance

Attention fatigue is a threat to your cognitive and mental health

Photo: Myles Tan/Unsplash

Imagine shining a flashlight at a wall in a dark, empty room.

If you walk toward the wall, the light will contract. The closer you get to the wall, the smaller and more concentrated the beam of light becomes. By the time the flashlight is an inch from the wall, you’ll see a tight, bright circle of light surrounded by shadow and darkness.

Your attention is a lot like the beam of that flashlight. You can focus it closely and intensely on something, or you can relax it — allowing it to grow soft and diffuse.

A lot of research…


Age Wise

Several strategies can help prevent a downward spiral — they all start with reaching out

Photo: Leon Liu/Unsplash

This is the second in a four-part series on preventing depression, a serious and growing mental disorder that can strike at any age and, if untreated, persist and worsen.

Rainy days often get me down. Even a little overcast can put me into a funk. Sometimes I just get moody for no good reason. That’s all normal. But when feelings of sadness persist day after day, any of us — me, you, a family member, or a friend — runs the risk of plunging into debilitating depression. There is no immunity. There are, however, effective prevention strategies.

“There is ample…


Age Wise

Self-care strategies to use before depression gets the best of you

Photo: Sasha Freemind/Unsplash

This is the first in a four-part series on preventing depression, a serious and growing mental disorder that can strike at any age and, if untreated, persist and worsen.

Naomi Osaka’s withdrawal from the French Open — precipitated by “huge waves of anxiety” the 23-year-old feels over obligatory press events and the “long bouts of depression” she says she has dealt with since 2018 — highlights the reality of the shadowy world of depression, an increasingly common condition that can sneak up on any of us, at any age, for reasons obvious or mysterious.

Osaka’s decision to “exercise self-care,” as…


The Nuance

Few of us fully appreciate the role of social comparison in our well-being

Photo by Marcel Strauß on Unsplash

For a 2012 study in PLOS One, researchers invited a young woman into a laboratory at Ohio University.

The woman learned that she would be taking part in an “aesthetic judgment” experiment. The researchers took a photograph of her face and then asked her to sit at a table that held two objects: a computer monitor and a mirror.

On the monitor, the woman viewed a series of headshots of what the study termed “attractive professional models” — all of them women. Following this barrage of beautiful faces, the woman’s own photograph appeared on the screen. But it wasn’t just…


New research shows the ‘tapping’ technique reduces anxiety, depression, and PTSD

Photo: Luis Quintero/Unsplash

For years people thought the practice of “tapping,” aka Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), was, well, crazy, to put it kindly. But after 100+ clinical trials have shown its efficacy, even the hard-won U.S. Veterans Administration (VA) got hip to the idea.

EFT/Tapping is a brief intervention that combines elements of somatic stimulation, exposure, and cognitive therapy — and you use your own fingertips to do it. In short, it involves quick, repeated light-touch on specific acupressure points — or energy “hot spots” — to restore balance to the body’s system. …


Combining bipolar illness with alcoholism may make both conditions much worse

Image: Gerd Altmann/Pixabay

As a former mental health nurse and recovering alcoholic, I write a lot about alcohol use and mental health. To my mind, not enough has been done to educate the general public about the dangers of alcohol use combined with mental illness. I have witnessed many people fall through the cracks in the health care system and I myself have struggled with severe depression and anxiety that resolved when I quit drinking.

Experts have found that mental health disorders (particularly anxiety) are exacerbated by alcohol use. This is because the same symptom of alcohol withdrawal is anxiety, and this symptom…


It will take time and patience to reemerge from the collective crisis of the pandemic with our mental and physical health intact

Photo: Bankim Desai/Unsplash

When I met Darren Sudman six years ago, at an event in Palm Springs, I didn’t expect that his story would be one that I would return to time and again as I began examining what makes us thrive and heal after difficult times.

Sudman introduced himself as a former lawyer and a founder of a nonprofit. In 2004, Sudman and his wife, Phyllis, experienced every parent’s worst nightmare: Their three-month-old son, Simon, was found motionless in his crib. …

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Your life, sourced by science. A publication from Medium about health and wellness.

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