Friday, April 1, 2011
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Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Early identification of opioid use disorder (OUD) in pregnant women can be challenging. Self-reports underestimate use and shame, fear of prosecution or involvement of child welfare services, and guilt can further erode self-report. Women with OUD may have irregular menses and might not be aware of their pregnancy until several months after conception. Also, women with OUD who are maintained on opioid agonist therapies may misinterpret early signs of pregnancy—such as fatigue, nausea, vomiting, headaches, and cramps—as withdrawal symptoms and may respond by increasing their opioid dosing, thus exposing their fetus to increased drug levels. Finally, many women with OUD experience amenorrhea as a result of their stressful, unhealthy lifestyle, which may preclude pregnancy despite sexual activity. When these women later enroll in an opioid maintenance program, their endocrine function may return to normal, leading to unexpected pregnancy.
Screening for OUD in pregnant patients has not been well studied. An interviewer’s nonjudgmental, empathic attitude may be more important than the specific questions he or she asks. It may be best to begin with less threatening questions and proceed to more specific questions after developing a therapeutic alliance.
Although anxiety disorders are common at all ages, there is a misconception that their prevalence drastically declines with age. For this reason anxiety disorders often are underdiagnosed and undertreated in geriatric patients, especially when the clinical presentation of these disorders in older patients differs from that seen in younger adults.
In older persons, anxiety symptoms often overlap with medical conditions such as hyperthyroidism and geriatric patients tend to express anxiety symptoms as medical or somatic problems such as pain rather than as psychological distress. As a result, older adults often seek treatment for depressive or anxiety symptoms from their primary care physician instead of a psychiatrist. Unfortunately, primary care physicians often miss psychiatric illness, including anxiety disorders, in geriatric patients.
Treating suicidal adolescents is fraught with challenges. Antidepressants may be associated with increased suicidal ideation in adolescents, although some data suggest that increased adolescent suicide rates are correlated with decreases in antidepressant prescribing. Adolescents hospitalized after a suicide attempt are likely to attempt suicide again after they are discharged. Such patients might not attend outpatient psychotherapy; a study of 167 adolescents discharged after a suicide attempt found that 26% never attended follow-up appointments and 11% went once.
Emerging research supports the effectiveness of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) for suicidal adolescents. DBT is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy that combines individual therapy, skills training, and telephone coaching and is implemented by a therapist consultation team that meets weekly. This article reviews evidence supporting the efficacy of DBT for suicidal adolescents and describes principles of outpatient DBT for these patients as developed by Miller et al.
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Psychiatrists occasionally encounter a case of folie à deux, where 2 persons share the same false belief. Paradoxically, it is more common for a large number of people to share a false belief (folie en masse) and uphold it as fact because the idea appears enticingly valid as an “explanation” for a problem or event.
“Conspiracy theories” abound in our society and yet conspiracy theory advocates would express shock and disdain at the infamous event when 918 followers of Jim Jones drank cyanide-laced Kool-Aid because they believed their leader’s irrational ideas. Apart from recognizable cults—some of whom claim to have their own “solutions” for mental illness—many ordinary people uphold beliefs that are not supported by evidence but widely “accepted” as true:
Persons with psychosis are dangerous. This incorrect belief was prevalent before the tragic events at Virginia Tech and Tucson, AZ (remember the “Son of Sam” in New York?) and was reinforced by them. Clinicians know that, similar to the general population, only a small proportion of persons suffering from a psychotic illness exhibit violent behavior. In fact, their illness renders them more likely to be victims than perpetrators of crime.
Read the full text (free access)
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Mood swings is a popular term that is nonspecific and not part of DSM-IV-TR diagnostic criteria for BD. The complaint of “mood swings” may reflect severe mood lability of pediatric patients with BD. This mood lability is best described by the Kiddie-Mania Rating Scale (K-MRS) developed by Axelson and colleagues as “rapid mood variation with several mood states within a brief period of time which appears internally driven without regard to the circumstance.” On K-MRS mood lability items, children with mania typically score:
Moderate—many mood changes throughout the day, can vary from elevated mood to anger to sadness within a few hours; changes in mood are clearly out of proportion to circumstances and cause impairment in functioning
Severe—rapid mood swings nearly all of the time, with mood intensity greatly out of proportion to circumstances
Extreme—constant, explosive variability in mood, several mood changes occurring within minutes, difficult to identify a particular mood, changes in mood radically out of proportion to circumstances.
Patients with BD typically exhibit what is best described as a “mood cycle”—a pronounced shift in mood and energy from 1 extreme to another. An example of this would be a child who wakes up with extreme silliness, high energy, and intrusive behavior that persists for several hours and then later in the day becomes sad, depressed, and suicidal with no precipitant for either mood cycle. BD patients also will exhibit other symptoms of mania during these mood cycling periods.
This article explains correctional facilities’ obligation to provide for inmates’ mental health needs and describes correctional mental health processes and how psychiatrists can play a role in screening, evaluation, and suicide prevention.
Henry A. Nasrallah, MD
Many psychiatrists would agree that schizophrenia is the most devastating psychiatric brain disease. Its disabling effects result in stigma, unemployment, poverty, loneliness, homelessness, victimization, incarceration, malnutrition, infections, social isolation, ostracism, discrimination, suicide, poor health, medical neglect, and early death
The consequences of schizophrenia are in many ways more malignant than those of cancer, where sympathy, prompt medical care, and preservation of friends and employment are assured. Also, unlike schizophrenia patients, persons with cancer are never hauled to jail, even when a slow-growing brain tumor causes erratic or violent behavior.
Monday, January 3, 2011
Kristine J. Steffen, PharmD, PhD, Research Scientist, Neuropsychiatric Research Institute, Fargo, ND
Bariatric surgery is the most effective treatment for obesity (defined as a body mass index [BMI] >30 kg/m2) and is recommended for extremely obese individuals (BMI >40 kg/m2) age >18. Most patients experience significant weight loss accompanied by improvements in mood, physical comorbidities, and quality of life. Despite these favorable outcomes, several aspects of postoperative care—such as management of mental health issues—remain unclear. Bariatric surgery candidates show high rates of preoperative psychopathology, particularly depression and dysphoria. Little is known about how bariatric surgery affects absorption of psychiatric medications, leaving prescribing clinicians with minimal guidance when a postoperative patient reports changes in mood symptoms.
This article discusses the psychosocial status of bariatric surgery candidates and presents a rationale for increased medication monitoring after surgery.
Ms. B, age 48, is admitted to our hospital after overdosing on unknown amounts of amitriptyline, diphenhydramine, and laxatives. Three days after admission, the psychiatry service is consulted to assess her for “bipolar disorder.” Although Ms. B does not have a psychiatric history, her internist believes her pressured speech and psychomotor agitation warrant investigation.
During the initial psychiatric interview, Ms. B is disoriented, with fluctuating alertness and cognition. The Confusion Assessment Method for the Intensive Care Unit (CAM-ICU) is positive for delirium. We perform a delirium workup while we start Ms. B on olanzapine, 5 mg/d orally and 5 mg intramuscular (IM) every 8 hours as needed.
Ms. B’s laboratory results (complete blood count, complete metabolic profile, urinalysis, chest roentgenogram, vitamin B12 level, blood alcohol level, urine drug screen, arterial blood gas, and head CT) are unremarkable except for her amitriptyline/nortriptyline level, which is in the toxic range. On physical examination, Ms. B’s heart rate and temperature are elevated, her pupils are dilated and sluggish, and her skin is hot and dry. Based on these findings, we determine that Ms. B’s delirium most likely is an anticholinergic syndrome from amitriptyline/diphenhydramine toxicity. We discontinue olanzapine after only 2 doses because of its potential anticholinergic effects.
Henry A. Nasrallah, MD
Like all other medical specialties, psychiatry has its share of dogmas that are perpetuated via the clinical apprenticeship model from one generation of physicians to the next, despite the lack of hard evidence. They become “articles of faith” that go unchallenged by trainees who acquire them from their supervisors. A dogma masquerades as a truism and eventually becomes a sacred feature of the “clinical lore.”
Sooner or later, however, the bright light of scientific evidence will reveal the ersatz nature of a dogma and it will come crashing down. Similar to a revolution to depose a dictator, the demise of a dogma will have a salutary effect on medical practice and a liberating effect on practitioners.
Here are examples of psychiatric dogmas that were part of my training but have been/or are in the process of being taken to the slaughterhouse of obsolete tenets:
Psychiatrists should not touch their patients. Really! How can we be practicing physicians if we don’t? This dogma arbitrarily sexualized the physical exam, including drawing blood, measuring blood pressure or waist circumference, assessing neuroleptic-induced cogwheeling, or checking the body for a drug-induced rash. This dogma is the antithesis of good medical care for psychiatric patients, who frequently suffer from serious physical ailments and often do not have a primary care provider. It was created during the primordial phase of psychiatry (aka psychoanalysis) and is irrelevant in modern-era psychiatry.