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« on: March 18, 2006, 07:59:18 PM »

Members:  please help us keep the resources section running smoothly!

These are retired articles that have value.

Thanks in advance for helping us to build a strong resource center for all the membership to use and enjoy!

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« Reply #1 on: November 29, 2006, 02:37:36 AM »

Looking For Love in All the Wrong Faces - By Susan Peabody


Many love addicts find they have a history of falling in love with an unavailable person and they wonder why this keeps happening over and over again. The following is a list of the most common reasons love addicts keep falling into this trap.

Reminders of our first love: We are always attracted to people who remind us of our first love. If a person's first love was an absent or emotionally unavailable parent, then he or she is only attracted to unavailable people, and this is the only kind of person they pursue. They do this out of habit, despite the pain it will cause them later on.

Looking for the happy ending: Many love addicts are not only attracted to unavailable people, they choose them as partners in order to recreate the past and change the ending. They often become obsessed trying to gain, through their current partner, the love they never got as a child. They do this unconsciously over and over again. It is a form of insanity. It is their inner child forcing his or her will on them despite the painful consequences. (See Recovery section for more about the inner child.)

Miscalculations: Many love addicts do not choose an unavailable person. They just fall in love before they find out the person is unavailable. Then, out of stubbornness, and because they have become so dependent, they refuse to give up and move on.

Unrequited Love: Some love addicts can only fall in love with the person of their dreams. Since no such person really exists, they project their fantasies onto someone and then see in that person only what they want to see. These completely unavailable people are a good target for this kind of projection because the love addict never really gets to know them. They are always who the love addict wants them to be. Love addicts, who are also addicted to fantasizing, are drawn to the phenomenon of unrequited love.

Excitement: Chasing after someone who is unavailable can be exciting. It can really get the adrenalin going, not to mention the libido. Romance addicts often go after unavailable people because they are addicted to the chase.

Unconscious Fear of Intimacy: While love addicts consciously obsess about love, they often have an underlying fear of intimacy. Choosing to fall in love with someone who is unavailable (to one degree or another) is one way to avoid facing this fear.


Many love addicts find themselves drawn into abusive relationships and do not understand why. The following is a list of the most common conscious and unconscious reasons love addicts fall into this trap:

Love is blind: Most love addicts fall in love or get married before they find out their partner is abusive. The abusive partner keeps this hidden until the trap is sprung. After the abuse starts, these love addicts continue to love their abuser. They tell themselves that they are just taking the good with the bad.

Dependency on the relationship: Other love addicts don't love their abuser, but they are dependent on the relationship, and they would rather suffer physical pain than endure the emotional pain of breaking up. They cannot tolerate separation anxiety.

Low self-esteem: Some love addicts have such low self-esteem that they don't think they deserve any better. So they just stick with it. They think this is better than nothing.

Abusive parents: Some love addicts had an abusive parent so this abuse is not out of the ordinary for them. It is seen as the norm. It may even be equated with love. An abusive parent can also be loving, so battered children grow up confusing love with abuse. This confusion becomes a distorted value which influences them as adults.

Neighborhood norm: To some love addicts abuse may seem ordinary because all of their friends are being abused as well. In some neighborhoods domestic violence is the norm. It may seem futile to try and change the status quo.

It's my fault: Some love addicts blame themselves rather than their partner. They are sure it is their own fault„Ÿthat they did something to provoke their partner. Sometimes they even think they deserve the abuse. They keep trying to change themselves so it won't happen anymore.

Gullibility: Some love addicts are gullible and don't learn from the past. They believe their partner when he or she says the abuse will never happen again. Like children, they cling to the fantasy that this person will change.

Sympathy: Many love addicts feel sorry for their partner when he or she asks for forgiveness. They know their partner is sick so they decide to take care of him or her rather than end the relationship. Caretakers are used to putting the needs of others before their own. This is misguided compassion.

Loyalty: When some love addicts make a commitment they feel they must be loyal no matter what„Ÿthat they have no right to change their mind. They feel guilty if they reject someone, even if that someone is abusing them. This is misguided loyalty.

Projecting one's fear of abandonment: Some love addicts project their fear of abandonment onto their partners. They are so afraid of being rejected themselves that they become overly empathetic. They feel their partner will suffer from the rejection and they cannot bear to see someone else suffer, even someone who hurts them.

Fear of revenge: Many love addicts are terrified of leaving an abusive partner because they fear revenge or because they are financially dependent on this person.

Martyr's complex: Some love addicts have a martyr's complex. They feel superior when they suffer in the name of love. They wear abuse like a badge of courage. In a twisted sort of way this actually elevates their self-esteem. Christians especially fall into this trap. They think that because Christ died on the cross for the sins of mankind that they should die on the cross for the sins of their partner. They should not. They are not Christ. Some Christians read in the Bible that "love bears all things" and they think that this includes abuse. I don't think it does. Non-Christians fall into this trap also. They listen to the song "Stand by your man," and they think it is romantic to stick with a relationship no matter what.

Self-pity: Some love addicts let people abuse them because they like feeling sorry for themselves. They like licking their own wounds. Their self-esteem is so low that they substitute self-pity for self-love. Then they become dependent on the self-pity and allow, or even promote, abuse to get a fix.

Making up: Some love addicts don't like being abused, but they like making up. For instance, when their partner is begging for forgiveness they feel superior and in control. They like the attention. They like the flowers and apologies, so they talk themselves into believing that these gestures of remorse actually make up for the abuse.

Negative attention: Many love addicts are so starved for attention that even negative attention will do. They might tell themselves that if he didn't love me so much he wouldn't be so angry. This is twisted thinking and can lead to trouble.

Sexual stimulation: Some love addicts find some aspects of abuse sexually stimulating, so they endure the pain to get the pleasure that follows.


If having an abusive partner is a pattern, love addicts may have to face the fact that they have become addicted to the abuse„Ÿnot to their partners. The phenomenon of pain followed by pleasure can be especially addictive. One actually starts to believe that the only way to find pleasure is to suffer first.

Susan Peabody is the author of Addiction to Love: Overcoming Obsession and Dependency in Relationships and The Art of Changing: Your Path to a Better Life

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« Reply #2 on: May 16, 2008, 03:42:41 PM »

The Neurobiology of Trust  - Paul J. Zak

Scientific American June 2008 

Article: www.scribd.com/doc/3298464/The-Neurobiology-of-Trust


The researchers set up a trust game.  Subjects get $10 for participating in the study.  Subject 1 can give 0-$10 to Subject 2.  For every dollar given to subject 2, its tripled.  So if Subject 1 gives Subject 2 $6, subject 2 actually receives $18.  At this point, Subject 1 has $4 and Subject 2 has $28 (original 10 +18).  Subject 2 can give any amount to Subject 1.  Generally, the more money subject 1 gave to subject 2, the more the trust - and oxytocin in the system.  Subject 2s generally returned a proportional amount of money as reward of trust.

They then used a nasal spray on subject 1 (oxytocin breaks down in the stomach - nasal spray goes to the brain).  They noted an increase in the amount of money Subject 1 gave to Subject 2 and a dramatic increase in the % who gave all their money to Subject 2 (sound familiar?).

Two things from the article that struck me.

1)  There is an opposite affect in distrust and its different for men and women.  If men feel distrusted (low amount of money received from subject 1), they have a spike in DHT which is type of testosterone.  This also causes muscle building, hair growth and aggression.  Women don't generate the same amount of this hormone.  Most male subject 2s who felt distrusted didnt return any money.  Female subject 2s still returned a proportional amount of money across the board.  They called the women subjects "cool responders".

2)  Just gonna write this paragraph verbatim:  "Although most people can be deemed trustworthy, 2 percent of subject 2s in our studies were particularly untrustworthy - they kept all or nearly all the money they were sent - and significantly, they exhibited unusually high levels of oxytocin.  This result suggests that these individuals have oxytocin receptors in the wrong brain regions (for instance, those that do not modulate dopamine release) or have dysregulated receptors.  In the latter case, the neurons would essentially be deaf to oxytocin release, regardless of much was made.  Tellingly, the highly untrustworthy possess personality traits that resemble sociopaths, who are indifferent to or even stimulated by another's suffering."

I can't help but look at that 2% in the study and the 2% affected by BPD.  I know thats really a coincidence, but wow.

I'm also thinking that in the case of nons... .sex can be used to manipulate/trigger us into trusting the BPD.  Our receptors work fine.  The article goes on to further state that a safe nurturing environment may stimulate more oxytocin and stress, uncertainty and isolation have the opposite affect.  The scientists will continue studies to better understand how oxytocin allows people to have empathy for and sustain trust in those around them.

For me, this is so interesting because of the fear of abandonement.  Perhaps the BPD doesn't trust the non to stay in the relationship and sabotages the relationship (infidelity, lieing, et al).  Maybe they can't develop trust because their receptors can't pick up the oxytocin.  Maybe thats cart before the horse - maybe some past childhood trauma affected the BPD's development of the oxytocin receptors.

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like simply spraying more oxytocin up the nose of a BPD will "cure" them.  But I wonder, if these hypotheses are correct, if they can correct the oxytocin receptors.  Perhaps some hope for those with BPD... .and those involved with them.   

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« Reply #3 on: January 09, 2009, 08:40:51 AM »

Here's a good article in TIME magazine on BPD:

Minds on The Edge

By John Cloud/Seattle Thursday, Jan. 08, 2009

Because our knowledge of the mind's afflictions remains so limited, psychologists--even when writing in academic publications--still deploy metaphors to understand difficult disorders. And possibly the most difficult of all to fathom--and thus one of the most creatively named--is the mysterious-sounding borderline personality disorder (BPD). University of Washington psychologist Marsha Linehan, one of the world's leading experts on BPD, describes it this way: "Borderline individuals are the psychological equivalent of third-degree-burn patients. They simply have, so to speak, no emotional skin. Even the slightest touch or movement can create immense suffering."

Borderlines are the patients psychologists fear most. As many as 75% hurt themselves, and approximately 10% commit suicide--an extraordinarily high suicide rate (by comparison, the suicide rate for mood disorders is about 6%). Borderline patients seem to have no internal governor; they are capable of deep love and profound rage almost simultaneously. They are powerfully connected to the people close to them and terrified by the possibility of losing them--yet attack those people so unexpectedly that they often ensure the very abandonment they fear. When they want to hold, they claw instead. Many therapists have no clue how to treat borderlines. And yet diagnosis of the condition appears to be on the rise.

A 2008 study of nearly 35,000 adults in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that 5.9%--which would translate into 18 million Americans--had been given a BPD diagnosis. As recently as 2000, the American Psychiatric Association believed that only 2% had BPD. (In contrast, clinicians diagnose bipolar disorder and schizophrenia in about 1% of the population.) BPD has long been regarded as an illness disproportionately affecting women, but the latest research shows no difference in prevalence rates for men and women. Regardless of gender, people in their 20s are at higher risk for BPD than those older or younger.

The rest is at:


It mentions Opposite Action, I guess they're talking about this:


I'd really like to see a review on this video. 

I wonder if showing this DVD to my uBPDw would make her more receptive to attending DBT sessions.

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« Reply #4 on: January 12, 2009, 08:10:07 AM »


The Time article defines and explains Borderline Personality Disorder.  The article also interviews Marsha Linehan, the mental health professional who developed Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for BPD and interviews a patient named Lily.  

The article does an adequate job explaining the BPD from a clinical staNPDoint, but falls short on adequately describing how devastating BPD is to the patient and those around the patient.  It fails to mention or describe how a boarderline will change the facts to fit thier feelings.

The author describes meeting Lily, a woman afflicted with BPD.  Lily was described as "friendly but not terrible expressive, and that she carried an aura of self-protection."  The article explains how it came to be that Lily sought help after cutting herself.  That Lily felt empty and had 'dark emotions.'  It details a half-hearted suicide attempt.

I can't help but feel disappointed in the article.  The author suggests that borderline may be the 'illness of our age,' just as it seemed that other illnesses, such as bi-polar, depression and schizophrenia seemed to be he diagnosis of the day in years past.  The author awknowledges that mental health providers don't like to give the diagnosis of Boardline Personality Disorder because of the grave nature of the diagnosis since it is difficult to treat.  

The author also provides new statistics: that 5.9% of the population have been given the diagnosis of BPD.  Way up from the 2% given in 2000.  Of course that number doesn't include those who are not diagnosed.  The article never mentions that many with BPD don't seek treatment or stick with treatment.

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« Reply #5 on: February 20, 2009, 10:38:19 AM »

The Pursuit of Happiness
by Carlin Flora, Psychology Today Magazine, Jan/Feb 2009

Welcome to the happiness frenzy, now peaking at a Barnes & Noble near you: Last year 4,000 books were published on happiness, while a mere 50 books on the topic were released in 2000. The most popular class at Harvard University is about positive psychology, and at least 100 other universities offer similar courses. Happiness workshops for the post-collegiate set abound, and each day "life coaches" promising bliss to potential clients hang out their shingles.

In the late 1990s, psychologist Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania exhorted colleagues to scrutinize optimal moods with the same intensity with which they had for so long studied pathologies: We'd never learn about full human functioning unless we knew as much about mental wellness as we do about mental illness. A new generation of psychologists built up a respectable body of research on positive character traits and happiness-boosting practices. At the same time, developments in neuroscience provided new clues to what makes us happy and what that looks like in the brain. Not to be outdone, behavioral economists piled on research subverting the classical premise that people always make rational choices that increase their well-being. We're lousy at predicting what makes us happy, they found.

It wasn't enough that an array of academic strands came together, sparking a slew of insights into the sunny side of life. Self-appointed experts jumped on the happiness bandwagon. A shallow sea of yellow smiley faces, self-help gurus, and purveyors of kitchen-table wisdom have strip-mined the science, extracted a lot of fool's gold, and stormed the marketplace with guarantees to annihilate your worry, stress, anguish, dejection, and even ennui. Once and for all! All it takes is a little gratitude. Or maybe a lot.

But all is not necessarily well. According to some measures, as a nation we've grown sadder and more anxious during the same years that the happiness movement has flourished; perhaps that's why we've eagerly bought up its offerings. It may be that college students sign up for positive psychology lessons in droves because a full 15 percent of them report being clinically depressed.

There are those who see in the happiness brigade a glib and even dispiriting Pollyanna gloss. So it's not surprising that the happiness movement has unleashed a counterforce, led by a troika of academics. Jerome Wakefield of New York University and Allan Horwitz of Rutgers have penned The Loss of Sadness: How Psychiatry Transformed Normal Sorrow into Depressive Disorder, and Wake Forest University's Eric Wilson has written a defense of melancholy in Against Happiness. They observe that our preoccupation with happiness has come at the cost of sadness, an important feeling that we've tried to banish from our emotional repertoire.

Horwitz laments that young people who are naturally weepy after break-ups are often urged to medicate themselves instead of working through their sadness. Wilson fumes that our obsession with happiness amounts to a "craven disregard" for the melancholic perspective that has given rise to our greatest works of art. "The happy man," he writes, "is a hollow man."

Both the happiness and anti-happiness forces actually agree on something important—that we Americans tend to grab superficial quick fixes such as extravagant purchases and fatty foods to subdue any negative feelings that overcome us. Such measures seem to hinge on a belief that constant happiness is somehow our birthright. Indeed, a body of research shows instant indulgences do calm us down—for a few moments. But they leave us poorer, physically unhealthy, and generally more miserable in the long run—and lacking in the real skills to get us out of our rut.

Happiness is not about smiling all of the time. It's not about eliminating bad moods, or trading your Tolstoy-inspired nuance and ambivalence toward people and situations for cheery pronouncements devoid of critical judgment. While the veritable experts lie in different camps and sometimes challenge one another, over the past decade they've together assembled big chunks of the happiness puzzle.

What is happiness? The most useful definition—and it's one agreed upon by neuroscientists, psychiatrists, behavioral economists, positive psychologists, and Buddhist monks—is more like satisfied or content than "happy" in its strict bursting-with-glee sense. It has depth and deliberation to it. It encompasses living a meaningful life, utilizing your gifts and your time, living with thought and purpose.

It's maximized when you also feel part of a community. And when you confront annoyances and crises with grace. It involves a willingness to learn and stretch and grow, which sometimes involves discomfort. It requires acting on life, not merely taking it in. It's not joy, a temporary exhilaration, or even pleasure, that sensual rush—though a steady supply of those feelings course through those who seize each day.

There has been real progress in understanding happiness and how to get it. Here are the greatest hits, as it were, that jump out from the research.

Some People Are Born Happy
Some lucky souls really are born with brighter outlooks than others; they simply see beauty and opportunity where others hone in on flaws and dangers. But those with a more ominous orientation can alter their outlook, at least to a point. They can learn to internally challenge their fearful thoughts and negative assumptions—"she thinks I'm an idiot," "I'm going to get fired," "I'll never be a good mom"—if not eliminate them altogether. Engaging in positive internal dialogue is actually a mark of the mentally healthy.

Getting What You Want Doesn't Bring Lasting Happiness
You think happiness would arrive if you were to win the lottery, or would forever fade away if your home were destroyed in a flood. But human beings are remarkably adaptable. After a variable period of adjustment, we bounce back to our previous level of happiness, no matter what happens to us. (There are some scientifically proven exceptions, notably suffering the unexpected loss of a job or the loss of a spouse. Both events tend to permanently knock people down a notch.)

Our adaptability works in two directions. Because we are so adaptable, points out Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, we quickly get used to many of the accomplishments we strive for in life, such as landing the big job or getting married. Soon after we reach a milestone, we start to feel that something is missing. We begin coveting another worldly possession or eyeing a social advancement. But such an approach keeps us tethered to the "hedonic treadmill," where happiness is always just out of reach, one toy or one notch away. It's possible to get off the treadmill entirely, Lyubomirsky says, by focusing on activities that are dynamic, surprising, and attention-absorbing, and thus less likely to bore us than, say, acquiring shiny stuff.

Pain Is a Part of Happiness
Happiness is not your reward for escaping pain. It demands that you confront negative feelings head-on, without letting them overwhelm you. Russ Harris, a medical doctor-cum-counselor and author of The Happiness Trap, calls popular conceptions of happiness dangerous because they set people up for a "struggle against reality." They don't acknowledge that real life is full of disappointments, loss, and inconveniences. "If you're going to live a rich and meaningful life," Harris says, "you're going to feel a full range of emotions."

The point isn't to limit that palette of feelings. After all, negative states cue us into what we value and what we need to change: Grief for a loved one proves how much we cherish our relationships. Frustration with several jobs in a row is a sign we're in the wrong career. Happiness would be meaningless if not for sadness: Without the contrast of darkness, there is no light.

Mindfulness Brings Happiness
Mindfulness, a mental state of relaxed awareness of the present moment, marked by openness and curiosity toward your feelings rather than judgments of them, is a powerful tool for experiencing happiness when practiced regularly. "If you bring mindfulness to bear on negative feelings, they lose their impact. Just let them be there without struggling against them, and you'll eventually feel less anxiety and depression," Harris says. Don't banish your negative feelings, but don't let them get in the way of your taking productive actions, either.

Happiness Lies in the Chase
Action toward goals other than happiness makes us happy. Though there is a place for vegging out and reading trashy novels, easy pleasures will never light us up the way mastering a new skill or building something from scratch will.

And it's not crossing the finish line that is most rewarding; it's anticipating achieving your goal. University of Wisconsin neuroscientist Richard Davidson has found that working hard toward a goal, and making progress to the point of expecting a goal to be realized, doesn't just activate positive feelings—it also suppresses negative emotions such as fear and depression.

Yes, Money Buys Happiness—At Least Some Money and Some Happiness
Money does buy happiness, but only up to the point where it enables you to live comfortably. Beyond that, more cash doesn't boost your well-being. But generosity brings true joy, so striking it rich could in fact underwrite your happiness—if you were to give your wealth away.

Happiness Is Relative
Whether or not we are keeping up with the Joneses—a nagging thought known as status anxiety—affects how happy we are. Some are more obsessed with status than others, but we're all attuned to how we're doing in life relative to those around us. To stop status worries from gnawing at your happiness, choose your peer group carefully. Owning the smallest mansion in a gated community could make you feel worse off than buying the biggest bungalow in a less affluent neighborhood.

Options Make Us Miserable
We're constantly making decisions, ranging from what to eat for dinner each night to whom we should marry, not to mention all those flavors of ice cream. We base many of our decisions on whether we think a particular preference will increase our well-being. Intuitively, we seem convinced that the more choices we have, the better off we'll ultimately be. But our world of unlimited opportunity imprisons us more than it makes us happy. In what Swarthmore psychologist Barry Schwartz calls "the paradox of choice," facing many possibilities leaves us stressed out—and less satisfied with whatever we do decide. Having too many choices keeps us wondering about all the opportunities missed.

Happiness Is Other People
Positive psychologist Chris Peterson, a professor at the University of Michigan, says the best piece of advice to come out of his field is to make strong personal relationships your priority. Good relationships are buffers against the damaging effects of all of life's inevitable letdowns and setbacks.

Do Your Happiness Homework
You can increase positive feelings by incorporating a few proven practices into your routine. Lyubomirsky suggests you express your gratitude toward someone in a letter or in a weekly journal, visualize the best possible future for yourself once a week, and perform acts of kindness for others on a regular basis to lift your mood in the moment and over time. "Becoming happier takes work, but it may be the most rewarding and fun work you'll ever do," she says.

Happiness Hinges on Your Time Frame
Feeling happy while you carry out your day-to-day activities may not have much to do with how satisfied you feel in general. Time skews our perceptions of happiness. Parents look back warmly on their children's preschool years, for example. But Daniel Kahneman of Princeton University found that childcare tasks rank very low on the list of what makes people happy, below napping and watching TV. And yet, if you were to step back and evaluate a decade of your life, would a spirited stretch of raising children or a steady stream of dozing off on the couch each day in between soap operas illustrate a "happier" time? Evaluate your well-being at the macro as well as the micro level to get the most accurate picture of your own happiness.

You're Wrong About What Will Make You Happy and You're Wrong About What Made You Happy
Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert discovered a deep truth about happiness: Things are almost never as bad—or as good—as we expect them to be. Your promotion will be quite nice, but it won't be a 24-hour parade. Your break-up will be very hard, but also instructive, and maybe even energizing. We are terrible at predicting our future feelings accurately, especially if our predictions are based on our past experiences. The past exists in our memory, after all, and memory is not a reliable recording device: We recall beginnings and endings far more intensely than those long "middles," whether they're eventful or not. So the horrible beginning of your vacation will lead you astray in deciding the best place to go next year.

Gilbert's take-away advice is to forgo your own mental projections. The best predictor of whether you'll enjoy something is whether someone else enjoyed it. So simply ask your friend who went to Mexico if you, too, should go there on vacation.

Happiness Is Embracing Your Natural Coping Style
Not everyone can put on a happy face. Barbara Held, a professor of psychology at Bowdoin College, for one, rails against "the tyranny of the positive attitude." "Looking on the bright side isn't possible for some people and is even counterproductive," she insists. "When you put pressure on people to cope in a way that doesn't fit them, it not only doesn't work, it makes them feel like a failure on top of already feeling bad."

The one-size-fits-all approach to managing emotional life is misguided, agrees Julie Norem, author of The Positive Power of Negative Thinking. In her research, the Wellesley professor of psychology has shown that the defensive pessimism that anxious people feel can be harnessed to help them get things done, which in turn makes them happier. A naturally pessimistic architect, for example, can set low expectations for an upcoming presentation and review all of the bad outcomes that she's imagining, so that she can prepare carefully and increase her chances of success.

Happiness Is Living Your Values
If you aren't living according to your values, you won't be happy, no matter how much you are achieving. Some people, however, aren't even sure what their values are. If you're one of them, Harris has a great question for you: "Imagine I could wave a magic wand to ensure that you would have the approval and admiration of everyone on the planet, forever. What, in that case, would you choose to do with your life?"

Once you've answered honestly, you can start taking steps toward your ideal vision of yourself. You can tape positive affirmations to your mirror, or you can cut up your advice books and turn them into a papier mache project. It doesn't matter, as long as you're living consciously. The state of happiness is not really a state at all. It's an ongoing personal experiment.

Comments:  January 5, 2009 - 8:28pm — russ harris


I like the article, but I wasn’t totally happy with the way they misquoted me, here: "If you bring mindfulness to bear on negative feelings, they lose their impact. Just let them be there without struggling against them, and you'll eventually feel less anxiety and depression,"

I didn’t actually say it this way. The journalist cut out a couple of sentences. My original comment went something like “Just let them be there without struggling against them, and instead of investing your energy in trying to control how you feel, invest it in acting on your values - in doing the things that make life rich and meaningful. And there’s a great bonus that comes from taking this approach: even though you’re not trying to get rid of your negative feelings, you’ll find they commonly reduce in frequency and intensity."

The way she’s misquoted me makes it sound as if the purpose of mindfulness is to reduce unwanted feelings.

Cheers, Russ Harris

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« Reply #6 on: March 03, 2009, 07:10:21 AM »

Hi, I thought this was quite interesting reading,  from research carried out at the Harvard Medical School

Full article here


"Negative emotions such as fear and anger are inborn and are of tremendous importance.

"Negative emotions are often crucial for survival. Careful experiments such as ours have documented that negative emotions narrow and focus attention so we can concentrate on the trees instead of the forest."

Professor Vaillant, who is director of the Study of Adult Development, which published the research, said uncontrolled fury was destructive.

"We all feel anger, but individuals who learn how to express their anger while avoiding the explosive and self-destructive consequences of unbridled fury have achieved something incredibly powerful in terms of overall emotional growth and mental health.

"If we can define and harness those skills, we can use them to achieve great things."

Ben Williams, an occupational psychologist who runs his own company, said: "This is really to do with passivity, aggression and assertiveness.

"People who are assertive are able to stand their ground, while remaining respectful. They show concerns for their team, as well as others.

"That wins them the respect of peers and means they are in a good position when promotions come round."

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« Reply #7 on: March 13, 2009, 08:39:11 AM »

People prone to stormy social lives display brain activity that may prompt oversensitivity to emotion and an inability to resolve conflicting information

By Bruce Bower

February 14th, 2009; Vol.175 #4 (p. 13)   

People diagnosed with the mental ailment known as borderline personality disorder hemorrhage emotion. Real or perceived rejections, losses or even minor slights trigger depression and other volatile reactions that can lead to suicide.

New brain-imaging research suggests that in people with borderline personality disorder, specific neural circuits foster extreme emotional oversensitivity and an inability to conceive of other people as having both positive and negative qualities.

Psychiatrist Harold Koenigsberg of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City described his team’s results January 17 in New York City at the winter meeting of the American Psychoanalytic Association.

“I suspect that in social situations, people with this disorder activate the brain in unique ways,” Koenigsberg says.

Koenigsberg’s findings unveil brain networks that may underlie the “faulty brakes” that borderline personality patients attempt to apply to their emotional reactions, remarks psychiatrist John Oldham of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. It’s not yet clear whether the types of brain activity observed in the new study also occur in any of a handful of other personality disorders, Oldham adds.

Borderline personality disorder affects one in five psychiatric patients. It most frequently affects women, especially those who are also depressed, and men who also display violent and criminal tendencies classed as antisocial personality disorder. About one in 10 people with borderline personality disorder commit suicide. This condition is extremely difficult to treat, Koenigsberg notes.

His group first tested 19 adults diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and 17 others who had no serious psychiatric conditions. Participants reclined in a functional MRI scanner as they viewed five pleasant images — such as a laughing man playing with two children — and five disturbing images, including a scowling man assaulting a young woman. Each image appeared for six seconds.

Compared with emotionally healthy volunteers, borderline personality disorder patients displayed markedly heightened blood flow — a marker of neural activity — in the brain’s chief visual area as well as in the amygdala, a key structure in emotion regulation. Visual and emotional areas are closely connected in the brain.

This finding fits with earlier evidence that borderline personality disorder patients detect brief emotional expressions on others’ faces that, typically, emotionally healthy people do not notice. “Borderline patients may have a visual system that lets them see others’ facial emotions through a high-powered lens,” Koenigsberg says.

In a second functional MRI experiment, the researchers asked 18 borderline personality disorder patients and 16 emotionally healthy volunteers to view a series of emotionally neutral images and disturbing images. On some trials, participants were asked to simply look at the images; on others, participants tried to assume the role of a detached observer.

As detached observers of disturbing scenes, emotionally healthy participants displayed pronounced activity in brain areas that have been implicated in regulating attention and in resolving internal conflicts between competing impulses or choices. Borderline personality disorder patients showed almost no activity in those brain regions when trying to take a detached perspective.

Most people have an important capacity for resolving conflict: the ability to perceive both favorable and negative aspects of the same person. Lacking this skill, borderline patients find it easier to veer back and forth between regarding those they know as either wonderful or awful, Koenigsberg suggests.

His findings follow another team’s 2008 report that borderline patients, compared with healthy volunteers, fail to recognize when unfair transactions take place in an economic cooperation game and lack neural reactions in an area linked to trusting others.

“We can’t say to what extent brain changes in borderline personality disorder are inherited or acquired,” Koenigsberg says. Some genetic variants promote depression only in those who experience childhood abuse or trauma, a pattern that may also apply to borderline personality disorder, he hypothesizes. Borderline patients often report having endured childhood physical or sexual abuse.

Koenigsberg’s team is now repeating its functional MRI experiments with avoidant personality disorder patients, people who feel highly anxious around others and avoid personal contact.


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« Reply #8 on: April 15, 2009, 10:34:45 AM »

Hi All

I thought that this was an interesting article.

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« Reply #9 on: September 27, 2009, 11:26:06 PM »


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« Reply #10 on: October 23, 2009, 02:22:46 AM »

Interesting video about the physiology of emotion.  

How chronic stress can damage the amygdala producing PTSD and memory issues.  Many of BPD's symptoms seems to be related to this area of the brain especially with fear, rage, and aggression.

Date: Dec-2006Minutes: 53:30

Limbic System: Sex, Hallucinations, Emotion, Memory, PTSD, Amygdala

The lecture came from Brainmind.com

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« Reply #11 on: January 11, 2010, 02:42:18 PM »

There is a research paper that included an experiment in which borderline pd patients were paired with normal, non BPD individuals to play a game with each other.  Their brains were being scanned the same way, with a real-time, 3-D, computerized MRI scanner, and this experiment also clearly showed that the brains of the BPD individuals were not "lighting up" in the same areas as the non-BPD individuals.   I think the whole area of brain research in relation to personality disorder is fascinating.  

Here is the link to the BPD research study:


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« Reply #12 on: March 19, 2010, 12:13:30 PM »

Abuse checklist

Emotional abuse assessment guide [for women]: Factors, tactics, impacts, how to respond to the abuse victim.

Symptoms of emotional abuse [for men]: our culture of "men need to be changed/'fixed' by a woman", common characteristics of abusers who are female, questions to ask yourself.
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« Reply #13 on: April 18, 2010, 10:17:32 AM »

We all know that BPD relationships are troubled and a lot of fighting happens. In that light I believe the following "general" marital article is relevant to our community:

"Is Marriage Good for Your Health?" www.nytimes.com/2010/04/18/magazine/18marriage-t.html?src=me&ref=general

5 page article about marital benefits, distress and effects on immune system and heart. The first two pages are a bit slow but then a series of newer investigations and results are quoted. Just two appetizer here:

In both cases, the emotional tone of a marital fight turned out to be just as predictive of poor heart health as whether the individual smoked or had high cholesterol. It is worth noting that the couples in Smith’s study were all relatively happy. These were husbands and wives who loved each other. Yet many of them had developed styles of conflict that took a physical toll on each other. The solution, Smith noted, isn’t to stop fighting. It’s to fight more thoughtfully. “Difficulties in marriage seem to be nearly universal,” he said. “Just try not to let fights be any nastier than they need to be.”


Coan says the study simulates how a supportive marriage and partnership gives the brain the opportunity to outsource some of its most difficult neural work. “When someone holds your hand in a study or just shows that they are there for you by giving you a back rub, when you’re in their presence, that becomes a cue that you don’t have to regulate your negative emotion,” he told me. “The other person is essentially regulating your negative emotion but without your prefrontal cortex. It’s much less wear and tear on us if we have someone there to help regulate us.”

Underline by me - sounds like validation is very important in this context... .

  Writing is self validation. Writing on bpdfamily is self validation squared!
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« Reply #14 on: April 30, 2010, 11:47:48 AM »

Mindfulness for Clients, their Friends, and Family Members

Cindy Sanderson, Ph.D.

A Definition of Mindfulness

Mindfulness is “awareness without judgment of what is, via direct and immediate experience”. You’re being mindful when :

•   You eat dessert and notice every flavor you are tasting, instead of eating the dessert while having a conversation and looking around the room to see who you know. If you’re being mindful, you’re not thinking about “is it good or bad to have dessert?” you’re just really having dessert.

•   Having gotten free of your anxiety or self-consciousness, you dance to music and experience every note, instead of wondering if you look graceful or foolish.

•   Thinking about someone you love or someone you hate, you pay attention to exactly what your love or your hate feels like. You’re not caught up in justifying the love or hate to yourself; you’re just diving into the experience, with full awareness that you’re diving in.

•   You walk through a park, you actually walk through the park. What does that mean? It means you let yourself “show up” in the park. You walk through the park aware of your feelings about the park, or your thoughts about the park, or how the park looks, or the sensation of each foot striking the pavement. This is different than taking a walk in the park and not “showing up” – instead, walking through the park while you are distracted by thoughts of what you’ll have for lunch, or the feelings towards a friend with whom you just argued, or worries about how you’re going to pay this month’s bills.
If you stop to think about it, you’ll realize that very few of us devote ourselves to living mindfully, meeting each moment of life as it presents itself, with full awareness, letting our judgments fall away. Instead, we do things automatically, without noticing what we’re doing. We churn out judgments about ourselves and others. We regularly do two or three or five things at once. We frequently get so caught up in our thoughts and feelings about the past or future that we’re lost in them, disconnecting from what is happening right now in front of us.

The description of mindfulness that follows is for anyone interested in the topic, although it’s written mainly for those of you brand new to the concept. It’s drawn from the work of Marsha Linehan, Ph.D., the psychologist who developed DBT. When you read things in quotation marks, they are her words verbatim. Dr. Linehan is among several prominent therapist-researchers who are integrating mindfulness skills with other standard ways of doing therapy. They all are working to create new and more effective ways to help people.

While Dr. Linehan’s ideas are what I’ll be discussing below, I want to acknowledge, as she would, that she has drawn on the work of many other people and reads widely on the research being conducted on mindfulness. She “practices what she preaches”, meaning, she practices mindfulness, as do I and the majority of therapists who teach DBT.

My way of teaching mindfulness is to write or talk a bit about it and then give plenty of examples. I hope you’ll find this way of teaching helpful.There are lots of rewards for living this way--we can get a lot done quickly, think of ourselves as efficient, and be seen by the world as productive and smart. In highly industrial or technological societies, a high value is placed on doing a lot at once. In fact, people sometimes make fun of each other by saying, “What’s wrong with you? Can’t you do two things at once?”

We also live without awareness because sometimes living with full awareness is very painful. We avoid painful thoughts, feelings, and situations when we are afraid or angry or ashamed or sad because we’re convinced that we can’t do anything to change them AND because we’re convinced we can’t stand to live with them.

But there’s an important distinction to make between the unavoidable pain of having a problem with a person you love versus the suffering you cause yourself by letting fear control you, judging yourself for feeling afraid, assuming nothing you’d try would work instead of trying out solutions, feeling guilty about feeling anger towards someone you love, or judging the person for causing the problem.

There’s so many ways mindfulness could help with the above example, it’s hard to know where to start. Because of limited time and space, I’ll only discuss a few.

1.   You could use mindfulness skills and bring your full attention to the feelings of annoyance, instead of pushing them away or trying to talk yourself out of them. Maybe you’re afraid you can’t stand to feel annoyed, but actually, watching how you feel inside, you realize, “hey, it’s just annoyance for 10 minutes and I CAN stand it”.

2.   You could use mindfulness to become a great detective and notice exactly how and when you feel annoyed. Maybe it’s when he or she has had three cups of coffee before seeing you; maybe it’s when both of you are tired; and, maybe it’s when he or she’s had a bad day at work. In this way, you use awareness to get specific and clear about what contributes to the problem. The more specific you get about what goes into the problem, the better chance you have to solve it. Ask her to drink less coffee or switch to decaffeinated coffee; make plans to get together when you’re both rested; don’t meet on bad work days.

3.   You could use your mindfulness skills to watch how your mind generates thoughts like “It shouldn’t be this way; why can’t we just get along! Real friends don’t have problems’. Listening in on your thoughts, you realize that your expectations don’t fit with reality, so you work on changing your expectations.

4.   You could use mindfulness skills, as you talk through the problem with your friend, to bring your full and open awareness to whether or not you experience your friend listening to and understanding you or defending herself and criticizing you. If she’s really listening and caring, you might notice relief inside and decide to keep working with her on the problems in the friendship. On the other had, if you notice that she is dismissive or non-responsive each time you talk about a problem, you might notice that you are sad and disappointed but not willing to put more energy into a friendship that makes you unhappy.

To summarize, mindfulness is awareness, without judgment, of life as it is, yourself as you are, other people as they are, in the here and now, via direct and immediate experience. When you are mindful, you are awake to life on its terms – fully alive to each moment as it arrives, as it is, and as it ends. Of course, in order to build and maintain mindfulness requires specific skills that are practiced over and over. That’s what comes next.

How and Why to Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a skill that can be learned like any other. There is nothing mysterious about it. It’s like learning to ride a bike or cook good meals or paint with watercolors or play a musical instrument. You start with easy practice and progress to harder practice. You take classes in it from people who know more about it than you do. You make friends with other people who are interested in it so you have a built in support group to keep you going when you get discouraged. Sometimes you’ll feel like you’re making a lot of progress; other times you’ll be discouraged. But, it is certain that if you practice, practice, practice, your skill at mindfulness will improve.

So what’s the practice? The practice of mindfulness is “the repetitive act of directing attention to only one thing in this one moment”. And if you are brand new to mindfulness, you may respond with either “I can already do that” or “Why on earth would I do that?’

My reply is : a) it’s a lot harder than it sounds b) the reason you do this kind of practice is to gain control of your attention.

I hope you’ll stop and think about the following sentence:

EXAMPLE: Perhaps you’ve decided to take a break from working so you can make yourself some tea; as you stand at the stove, your mind wanders off and ruminates about a conversation you had yesterday. You don’t get a break because your mind isn’t on the tea; your mind is worrying and carrying you away.

EXAMPLE: Perhaps you are sitting in a session with a therapist who cares about you and has a kind expression on her face; but you’re not looking at her face... .not really. Instead, you are feeling so self-conscious and ashamed that you begin to “space out”. You miss out on a moment of connection with a person who cares for you and instead have one more moment of rejecting yourself.

“The repetitive act of directing your attention to only one thing in this one moment” means training your mind to pay attention to what you choose to pay attention to instead of letting your mind hijack you. There are lots of metaphors that describe what the untrained mind is like and they provide a good contrast to the trained mind. Here are several:

•   Your mind is a TV that’s always on but you can’t find the remote. The TV set gets 300 cable channels but because you don’t control the remote, your untrained mind keeps playing the same painful or scary or enraging show over and over again.

•   This one’s from Zen. The untrained mind is like a new puppy. You tell your puppy to sit and stay, but your puppy immediately runs away, rummages in your closet, chews up your new shoes, goes through the garbage can, and has an accident on the carpet.

•   A third metaphor comes from a Christian contemplative, Thomas Merton. He said the untrained mind is like a crow flying over a wheat field in winter. The crow spies lots of things that sparkle in the field, swoops down to pick them up, only to discover that what’s glittering in the field are old pieces of scrap metal, not something delicious to eat or something to use for a nest.

If you train your mind to pay attention, then you’ve found the remote control, trained the puppy, and become a smarter crow. To teach your mind to pay attention, you practice paying attention over and over again. Here’s an example of a typical practice. If you want to, you could take a break from reading right now and do the practice.

Linehan has a helpful metaphor for this type of practice: Your mind is like a boat that is tied to a chain with an anchor. Mindfulness is the anchor and chain that gently pull the boat (your attention) back each time the waves start to carry it away. Even if your mind wanders off 1,000 times, you’ve done the exercise if you gently pull your attention back to your point of focus. There’s no right or wrong to it. All that matters is paying attention to your experience while you do the exercise as well as you can. You can do this type of practice with anything you care to bring your full and undivided attention to. In doing so, you’ll learn a lot about yourself, about other people, and about any situation in which you find yourself. And, just like a muscle that gets stronger and stronger with exercise, your capacity to move your attention to what you want it to focus on will grow stronger.

This is one type of practice but there are others. In Linehan’s Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder (1993), there is a clear explanation of mindfulness, as well as lots of suggestions for practice. It’s an excellent place to learn more about the topic. Further, she has broken mindfulness into six specific skills that can be practiced by anyone to strengthen the capacity to pay attention in a way that leads to greater and greater awareness.

The Goal of Mindfulness Practice

In DBT, the goals of mindfulness practice are simply to practice and to experience “Wise Mind”. You’re in Wise Mind when your emotions and your thoughts work together so that wise action is easy, even when your life and/or circumstances are really hard. You’re in Wise Mind when you can meet each moment of life as it is, not as you would have it be, and respond to it skillfully. People have different names for Wise Mind. Some people call it the “true self”, others call it “spirit”, and others refer to it as “being centered”. The name doesn’t matter. What matters is the capacity to have it. And everyone has that capacity. Further, anyone and everyone can decide to work on making the capacity for Wise Mind stronger and stronger.

Notice that we’re not saying the goal of mindfulness practice is happiness or having a life free from trouble or having an experience of nonstop joy. However, people who practice mindfulness will tell you that they get better at enduring pain, better at solving problems, better at not creating misery for themselves, and better at participating fully in those moments of life that are joyful.

Change your perceptions and you change your life.  Nothing changes without changes
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« Reply #15 on: October 20, 2010, 04:12:27 PM »

The Mystery Behind Self-Injury

Most therapists view self-injury to some extent as a coping mechanism.

By Lee Bowman

Source: www.seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/health/2013087237_webinjury11.html

In some cultures and beliefs, ritualistic self-abuse is viewed as an act of contrition.

But in most of the world, doing physical harm to one's self is considered a sign of mental disorders ranging from deficiency in emotional regulation to depression.

Most therapists view self-injury to some extent as a coping mechanism, used to turn emotional pain into a temporary physical pain somewhat within the person's control.

However, recent brain-imaging studies reported by a team of German scientists document that painful stimuli actually do seem to help reduce negative emotions in some people with borderline personality disorders.

Scientists at the University of Heidelberg reported in the August issue of the journal Biological Psychiatry on their conducting of brain images on a group of people with personality disorder while the subjects were being shown pictures intended to induce negative, positive or neutral emotions. The researchers found that the amygdala and other elements of the brains' emotional circuits were unusually active compared with those of a control group.

But when the study group was given a painful heat stimulus, the level of activity in the amygdala was inhibited. This also occurred in the healthy control subjects' amygdalae, which the authors said presumably suppressed emotional reactivity.

Earlier research had shown that people with borderline personality disorders experience emotional hyperactivity, and the new findings suggest that pain suppresses that tendency in the brain, rather than simply distracting it from the disturbing emotions.

Although doctors have recently gotten better guidelines for screening the teens and young adults most likely to engage in self-harm as a result of emotional disorders, another new study, done by researchers at Stanford University and the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, indicates that many don't always screen teens with an eating disorder for such behavior.

They looked at records of more than 1,400 patients ranging in age from 10 to 21 who were treated for eating disorders between 1997 and 2008. They found that nearly 41 percent had engaged in intentional self-inflicted injury — about 85 percent of those cut themselves. Yet only about half the patients had been asked about this type of behavior by hospital staff when they entered care.

Dr. Rebecka Peebles, lead author of the report published online by the Journal of Adolescent Health, said it appeared that many providers had adopted a narrower profile for screening than the results showed, and that the hospital now inquires about self-harm behavior in all new patients at the eating-disorders clinic.

Other research has found that between 13 percent and 40 percent of all American adolescents engage in some form of self-injury. Those practicing the behavior are also at elevated risk for suicide.

Although cutting is considered the most common type of self-harm, wounds inflicted with heated metal objects and other materials also are regularly seen.

A report last month by researchers at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, highlighted the practice of embedding foreign objects under the skin. According to findings in the journal Radiology, nearly 2 percent (11 of 600) patients included in an injury survey were found to have self-embedded objects.

In most of the cases, parents and pediatricians had no idea that the children had put the objects under their skin themselves, It required additional imaging to reveal any implanted glass or plastic items or the extent of the embedding.

In all, the 11 patients — nine of them girls, and an overall average age of 15 — had embedded a total of 76 objects, including paper clips, staples, pencil leads, and glass and plastic fragments. They were found to be suffering from mental-health conditions, including bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety disorders, panic disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder.

One of the authors of the study, radiologist Dr. William Shiels, noted that radiologists may often be the first doctors to see the items and understand what they imply.

He also noted that using advanced X-ray and ultrasound technology allow surgeons to remove the objects using forceps and other minimally invasive methods to avoid physical scars for children as they're trying to heal emotionally.


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« Reply #16 on: July 17, 2011, 08:43:11 AM »

I've found indirect communication leads to conflict.  Here's a site that describes what I'm referring to:


Not just BP's use indirect communication, though for my wife it seemed to be her default mode of communicating.  For example she would say, ":)o you want to watch this movie?" instead of "I would like to watch this movie".  Instead of saying, "I'd like you to stay home with the kids tomorrow so I can meet one of my friends for lunch", she'd ask me what my plans are for tomorrow.  I'd often say, "I don't know; it depends on what I feel like doing".  Several times that lead to her complaining how she can't make any plans because I won't tell her what I'll be doing.

I mentioned that this was an issue, but she'd reframe it as direct communication being my style, and there is nothing wrong with her style.  I tried to be even more direct in my communication so as to set an example, but I think that made things worse; she'd interpret it as controlling.

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« Reply #17 on: February 04, 2012, 08:24:49 PM »

Borderline Personality Disorder and Emotion Regulation: Insights from the Polyvagal Theory. Brain Cognition. 2007 October; 65(1): 69–76.

     "The current study provides the first published evidence that the parasympathetic component of the autonomic nervous system differentiates the response profiles between individuals diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and [those without].

     The findings were consistent with the Polyvagal Theory, illustrating different adaptive shifts in autonomic state throughout the course of the experiment. The BPD group ended in a physiological state that supports the mobilization behaviors of fight and flight [my emphasis], while the control group ended in a physiological state that supports social engagement behaviors. These finding are consistent with other published studies demonstrating atypical vagal regulation of the heart with other psychiatric disorders.

     The phylogenetic model of the autonomic nervous system, described in the Polyvagal Theory, provides an innovative theoretical framework to study the potential involvement of the parasympathetic nervous system in BPD. The theory focuses on the role that autonomic state plays in mediating both prosocial and defensive behaviors. The theory emphasizes an integrated Social Engagement System that regulates the muscles of the face and head involved in social engagement behaviors (e.g., gaze, expression, prosody [rhythm, stress, and intonation of speech], gesture) and a component of the parasympathetic nervous system, the myelinated vagal pathways to the heart that calm visceral state and dampen sympathetic and HPA [Hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis] activity.

     The Polyvagal Theory emphasizes how neural circuits involved in the regulation of autonomic state evolved to support various adaptive biobehavioral responses to challenges. The theory proposes that autonomic reactions to challenges follow a phylogenetically ordered hierarchy with three distinct adaptive biobehavioral strategies. Each biobehavioral strategy reflects a specialized neurophysiological substrate that evolved to maximize adaptive strategies in safe, dangerous, or life-threatening contexts. Within this model the nervous system, through a process of “neuroception,” is continuously evaluating risk and safety in the environment. Neuroception is not a conscious process, but rather it occurs via unconscious subcortical systems that functionally trigger one of these three adaptive neural circuits.

     Therefore, based on the Polyvagal Theory, difficulties in emotional regulation that are associated with a diagnosis of BPD could be interpreted as a behavioral expression of a physiological state that has evolved to support defensive strategies in dangerous and life-threatening situations [my emphasis]. According to the Polyvagal Theory, the myelinated vagus, which phylogenetically evolved with mammals, is critical for two reasons: to inhibit defensive limbic circuits and to establish social bonds.

     The mammalian vagus functions as an active vagal brake to maintain calm states in social contexts. However, when risk is detected, the vagal brake can be rapidly withdrawn to support defensive mobilization behaviors. Thus, BPD might be associated with difficulties in regulating the vagal brake in social settings. The vagal brake provides a neural mechanism to change visceral states by slowing or speeding heart rate. Neurophysiologically, the influence of vagal brake is reduced or removed to support the metabolic requirements for mobilization (e.g., fight/flight behaviors) and maintained or increased to support social engagement behaviors.

     [All study participants viewed 3 film clips, two of which were rated by both BPD and non-BPD as emotionally arousing while third was emotionally neutral. The two arousing scenes showed a character in conflict with his mother and a character in conflict with his father]. The BPD participants exhibited a vagal withdrawal, which would support the increased metabolic demands of fight/flight behaviors. The control participants exhibited an increase in vagal influences to the heart, which would support social engagement behaviors... .Thus, although the experimental conditions provided the same context and task demands for all subjects, the BPD group reacted with a visceral state to promote defensive behaviors [my emphasis], while the control group reacted with a visceral state to promote increased spontaneous social engagement behaviors."

Drawback was there were only 9 pwBPD in the study, so it may not be widely applicable.


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« Reply #18 on: March 03, 2012, 08:06:41 AM »

I thought this was an interesting article and wanted to see what some of your thoughts were on it.

Article:Sexual Orientation and Relationship Choice in Borderline Personality Disorder over Ten Years of              Prospective Follow-up.

By: Laboratory for the Study of Adult Development, McLean Hospital, and the Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School.

Here is the link: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3203737/

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« Reply #19 on: August 21, 2012, 12:02:55 PM »

I read this article last week - very interesting when it comes to coparenting (in contention) and how it's going to change the way custody is awarded:



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« Reply #20 on: July 15, 2013, 05:55:00 PM »

I read this article this morning and thought it might be useful to get inside the head of a narcissist... .

Confessions of an Australian narcissist




July 15, 2013 4:30PM

Why I destroy the women who love me

Like Don Draper from Mad Men, our self-confessed narcissist said "I am dangerous for any loving partner and have vowed to never subject myself on a partner again".

WHEN a news.com.au reader saw an article by Amanda Platell last week entitled 'Why some men enjoy humiliating women' he was "struck by an all too familiar recognition of my own controlling behaviours".

This is his remarkable story, in his own words. He has chosen to remain anonymous for the sake of his career and all who loved him, only to be hurt by him:

IN public, I am a successful, charismatic, well-liked person who is gregarious, always the life of the party and almost certainly is always the centre of attention.

However, "behind closed doors", I am a manipulative, deceitful, scheming, calculating person who is constantly seeking to "manage" events and the people around me.

As a control freak, I will only keep friends close if I feel they will afford me the respect I think I deserve. When the adoration and respect stops, invariably, so too does the friendship.

Those close to me however, in a so-called loving relationship, don't have the good fortune of me walking away. Not only am I not going anywhere, I am going to make it almost impossible for my partner to leave. If my controlling actions have been successful (as they invariably are), any partner of mine will have been convinced that they are next to useless, and that they cannot possibly survive without me.

My most recent ex-spouse was a lively, self-confident, vibrant, gentle and carefree loving person when we met, who was successful and working towards an acting career. Over fifteen long years, I managed to turn this wonderful person into a fearful, paranoid, drug-taking, diagnosed depressed person with absolutely no zest for life and robbed of all ambition and self-respect.

Fortunately, my ex-spouse eventually worked up the courage and found enough self-belief to walk away, and while it has been difficult for my ex-partner, there is now a renewed sense of self-worth, success and ambition coming to the fore once again.

Over the last few years through my journey of self-discovery, I have finally come to the view that I am dangerous for any loving partner and have vowed to never subject myself on a partner again. I have finally found some empathy for others and am proud of my ex-spouse for leaving and for climbing out of the black hole created through my constant emotional and psychological abuse.

The burning question of course is why am I a control freak? Why do I need to manipulate and dominate events and people around me? Why do I belittle my partners and make them feel worthless?

Believe it or not, it's because I have a very poor opinion of myself. In an absolutely pathetic piece of irony, my controlling behaviour is designed to provide me with some feeling of positive self-belief, because the reality is, I have extremely poor self-esteem.

Partners, friends, colleagues, even the guy at the local shop, are all seen as sources of self-esteem. I am constantly going to seek validation and praise from those around me. Because I have such a low opinion of myself, I am constantly going to challenge a partner to "prove" their love for me. Unfortunately, this will often be done by reducing my partner's opinion of themselves, to the point where they become dependent on me both financially and emotionally, thereby reinforcing my own self-worth.

The medical community has now defined this "affliction" as a Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Maybe it's a cop-out to look for some label for what I've done over the years and thereby somehow shift the responsibility for my wrong behaviours on some "dis-ease". In my case, I endured a very abusive childhood and clearly, I decided the only way to hide my inadequacies and self-doubt was to present a strong character and convince everyone around me that I was worthy of praise and respect.

Don't get me wrong. My controlling behaviours are not right. They are the sign of a weak person - someone who needs validation from those around me to provide me with a sense of self-worth. But I have discovered that very few Control Freaks or NPDs are aware, nor are prepared to admit, that they have misgivings … for to do so, would be an acceptance of their own inadequacies and a reinforcement of their own poor self-esteem.

Even when they are aware of their abject flaws, as I am, the behaviour of a Control Freak or NPD is so ingrained and part of our DNA that it is difficult to change.

So much so, that even psychologists are reluctant to "take us on", because ultimately, we don't believe that "anyone knows better than us" and we will not provide the "expert" with any kudos and will believe that we know better than they do. This is why marriage counselling or couple therapy will not work for the Control Freak or NPD in denial - nobody knows anything better than we do!

In summary, a Control Freak or NPD who is not evolved enough to understand who they or are or why they behave the way they do, is best to be avoided … no only to be avoided, but to run away from. They will not give up, regardless of what they say, what they do or what they are prepared to promise - they cannot be trusted and they will continue to find ways to make you adore them … and watch out if you don't!

Ultimately, if you are in a relationship with one of these people (male or female), you will not survive with your dignity, self-respect or self-esteem intact. As Rudyard Kipling once said, "there are many reasons, but not many excuses". Unless and until a control freak or NPD is willing to accept who they are and why they do what they do, there will be no change in their behaviour. Don't get me wrong, we are not victims, we are people who are not evolved enough to understand that we need to find our self-esteem through ourselves and not through others.

As someone who has perpetrated controlling behaviours against a series of partners over 30 years, my strong advice to anyone involved in relationship with a Control Freak or NPD is … GET OUT, as fast as you can. There are plenty of freethinking, self-assured potential partners out there who are willing to accept you for who you are and encourage you to be the best person you can be. Unlike the Control Freak or NPD, who will only continue to use you as a tool for their own self-gratification and self-worth.

Read more: www.news.com.au/lifestyle/relationships/confessions-of-an-australian-narcissist/story-fnet09p2-1226679633215#ixzz2Z9rUvqXt
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« Reply #21 on: August 07, 2013, 12:15:19 PM »

Thanks for posting this. My NonDH has become rather interested and has watched like 6 seasons this summer of Mad Men and I am looking forward to sending this article to him. He wonders if the Narcisssists and Sociopaths are happier than the rest of us based on shows like this and Breaking Bad.

One of his co-workers who we believe is NPD modeled the past few years of his life after Draper including dressing like him and leaving his wife and taking up with a BPD woman 15 years younger. My DH has a BPDexW and knows the new GF of his co-worker is BPD -- but on the outside the couple appear happy and they spend money like crazy and his GF posts constantly about how happy they are and how she is vacationing with the guys sons and blah blah blah. However the co-worker has already confided that the r/s is bad and she has become cold and refused sex for a period of time and broken up with him and gotten back together -- yet we just got word that they got engaged in a huge way. The thing is though, NPD co worker has all the power in the relationship and we know he could walk away and not care at all. It's sick to watch it all unfold, yet look so lovely on facebook.

At any rate, the appeal of the NPD male and BPD female is pretty strong and very common in Hollywood so it's nice to see an article that shows the other side of the glamour.


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« Reply #22 on: April 26, 2014, 09:12:10 AM »

We have a lot of good reviews for Margalis Fjelstad's book here, and this is an article by Randi Kreger in Psychology Today about the concept of the Caretaker in BPD/NPD relationships:


Some highlights from the article:

Being a caretaker can lead to a heady feeling of being a strong, wise, and needed person. Playing this role as a child can make you feel equal or even superior to the adults in the family. Unfortunately, being a caretaker means learning to be overly vigilant of the needs of others and pretty much ignorant of your own feelings, needs and reactions. But you may not even notice that since you are so focused on the BP/NP.

Whenever the borderline acts normally, you become immensely elated believing, time and time again, that now "everything will be better," only to be let down when the s/he returns to his dysfunctional thinking and behaving again.

When the narcissist does something especially thoughtful, you think that s/he has "turned a corner," matured, and will now be the loving partner you want. It seems so logical.

The BP/NP has had many rejections in love before you came along. Others have experienced the BP/NP's controlling and even selfish behaviors in relationship and have left.

You, however, see the clues but don't leave. Instead you feel drawn in, you may feel normal, you may feel the BP/NP needs you, and you may feel rewarded for your Rescuer responsibilities. You feel a level of excitement and hope.


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« Reply #23 on: August 07, 2014, 10:23:04 AM »

Just found it rather fascinating, even if it is a year old.

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« Reply #24 on: March 20, 2015, 04:32:32 PM »

If Facebook Use Causes Envy, Depression Could Follow

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Browsing Facebook has become a daily activity for hundreds of millions of people. Because so many people engage with the website daily, researchers are interested in how emotionally involved Facebook users can be with the social networking site and how regular use can affect their mental health. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri have found that Facebook use can lead to symptoms of depression if the social networking site triggers feelings of envy among its users. Margaret Duffy, a professor and chair of strategic communication at the MU School of Journalism, says that how Facebook users use the site makes a difference in how they respond to it.

“Facebook can be a fun and healthy activity if users take advantage of the site to stay connected with family and old friends and to share interesting and important aspects of their lives,” Duffy said. “However, if Facebook is used to see how well an acquaintance is doing financially or how happy an old friend is in his relationship—things that cause envy among users—use of the site can lead to feelings of depression.”

For their study, Duffy and Edson Tandoc, a former doctoral student at MU and now an assistant professor at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, surveyed young Facebook users and found that some of those who engage in “surveillance use” of Facebook also experience symptoms of depression while those who use the site simply to stay connected do not suffer negative effects. Surveillance use of Facebook occurs when users browse the website to see how their friends are doing compared with their own lives. The researchers found that Facebook postings about things such as expensive vacations, new houses or cars, or happy relationships can evoke feelings of envy among surveillance users. They say that these feelings of envy can then lead to Facebook users experiencing symptoms of depression.

“We found that if Facebook users experience envy of the activities and lifestyles of their friends on Facebook, they are much more likely to report feelings of depression,” Duffy said. “Facebook can be a very positive resource for many people, but if it is used as a way to size up one’s own accomplishments against others, it can have a negative effect. It is important for Facebook users to be aware of these risks so they can avoid this kind of behavior when using Facebook.”

“Social media literacy is important,” Tandoc said. “Based on our study, as well as on what others have previously found, using Facebook can exert positive effects on well-being. But when it triggers envy among users, that’s a different story. Users should be self-aware that positive self-presentation is an important motivation in using social media, so it is to be expected that many users would only post positive things about themselves. This self-awareness, hopefully, can lessen feelings of envy.”

Margaret Duffy, a professor and chair of strategic communication at the MU School of Journalism, found that Facebook use can lead to symptoms of depression if the social networking site triggers feelings of envy among its users.

Patrick Ferrucci, a former doctoral student at the MU School of Journalism and currently an assistant professor at Bradley University, also co-authored the study. This study, based on a survey of more than 700 college students, was published in Computers in Human Behavior.

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« Reply #25 on: March 20, 2015, 10:46:18 PM »

This has a similar dynamic amongst youth. I'm FB friends with a few of the youth I was involved with for 2 years when I was a mentor with at-risk youth. It's sad enough when adults get caught up in a high school dynamic, but younger people are still trying to determine who they are.

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« Reply #26 on: April 02, 2015, 09:35:47 AM »

My 25yr old son, who has been living away from our home town for just over a year now, had to stop going on FB.  It was just too hard for him to see all his old friends/family back home there, regretting not being at special events, missing out on the little things.  He felt being involved on fb fed his feelings of homesickness.

The rest of us were left feeling shut off from him, because we didn't have the comfort of knowing that he was right there, sharing our lives.  My mom really took it hard.  She felt it was the 'only' way she could stay in touch with him.  He and I just switched to other forms of connecting (text/emails), and this works great for me because all the clever things that show up on my fb feed, I can now share with him and look real smart for finding them. 

Another thing I've noticed is that if you are really honest and post about the roller coaster of emotions that define real life for most of us, then you will likely be ousted by many.  We post here, and we can share whatever negativity we are feeling, and it's accepted.  Post it on fb, and you get crickets and blocked (for me anyway.  It may depend on who your 'friends' are tho.)  

This dynamic alone tells me that my people aren't there because they want to know how I'm doing.  They are there because they want to be entertained by me and my life.  They want to be in the know.  Struggles and pain are not considered entertaining, apparently. 

It is an odd feeling for me to go into a public place filled with acquaintances, knowing they all know the latest news about my life and I haven't actually spoken a word to them in months.  The PD, Social Anxiety Disorder I think it's called, could possibly be seeded by these types of emotions IMO.

My daughter, now 24yr old, was diagnosed with this when she was a teenager, and it really upset me.  If the doc had just told her: you need to practice conversing,face to face in public places, and working as a team with a common goal with real people.  Eventually, you will feel more safe doing it, each time you do it.  As this happens the anxiety will diminish, and you will be okay.  No, she called her 'sick' and labelled her disordered, so now she can carry guilt around too!   

... .apologies... .hot topic for me.    

My point is she was hanging around with a little black box all the time, and she started on fb, and she tucked herself into that pretend webbed world and stopped living a real life.  IMO, herein lies the evidence of a direct correlation between depression and fb.

For me, examining what I get out of being on fb is a good way to avoid following this path of hiding in the webbed world.  One's own motives must always be considered, or we risk following the path of ignorance, of distracted stuckness in all our actions - including our time on FB.  Awareness is key, IMO too.

Great base study, Dr Duffy, and cheers to U of Missouri for their great work!

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« Reply #27 on: April 19, 2015, 07:06:12 PM »

This article has really made me realize how much the trauma of my relationship with my exfiance did me harm. I experience many of the symptoms I read about in this article and often read about other people posting similar experience. i hope it can help some of us to feel less "crazy" about our reactions and experiences.


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« Reply #28 on: April 19, 2015, 07:39:25 PM »

A Drug Trial’s Frayed Promise

By Katie Thomas

April 17, 2015

*The following is an excerpt from an article about the drug seroquel to treat BPD in the New York Times

Last fall, an article in The American Journal of Psychiatry caught the attention of specialists who treat borderline personality disorder, an intractable condition for which no approved drug treatment exists.

The article seemed to offer a glimmer of hope: The antipsychotic drug Seroquel XR reduced some of the disorder’s worst symptoms in a significant number of patients. “It was an exciting development,” recalled Mark F. Lenzenweger, a professor at Binghamton University and Weill Cornell Medical College and an expert in borderline personality disorder.

In the realm of clinical trials, however, reality is sometimes far messier than the tidy summaries in medical journals. A closer look at the Seroquel XR study shows just how complicated things can get when a clinical trial involves psychiatric disorders and has its roots in intersecting and sometimes competing interests: a drug company looking to hold onto sales of a best-selling drug, a prominent academic with strong ties to the pharmaceutical industry and a university under fire for failing to protect human study subjects.

The trial was paid for by AstraZeneca, the maker of Seroquel XR, and was conducted by Dr. S. Charles Schulz, the head of psychiatry at the University of Minnesota. Two of the study participants were living in a residential treatment facility for sex offenders and may have lied about their diagnoses to qualify for the trial. One of those men slipped the drugs to unwitting treatment center residents and staff, an alarming development that nevertheless did not seem to ruffle the university oversight board that is charged with looking into such episodes.

The University of Minnesota’s clinical trial practices are now under intense scrutiny. In February, a panel of outside experts excoriated the university for failing to properly oversee clinical trials and for paying inadequate attention to the protection of vulnerable subjects. The review, commissioned by the university after years of criticism of its research practices, singled out Dr. Schulz and his department of psychiatry, describing “a culture of fear” that pervaded the department.


“Medical research involving drugs like this — involving potentially vulnerable human subjects — shouldn’t be done sloppily,” said Dr. Michael Carome, director of the health research group at Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy organization. “Because when we do things sloppily, we do things where people could potentially be harmed.”


Studies have examined the use of antipsychotics, including Seroquel, in patients with the disorder, but they have been small and did not measure patient progress compared with a placebo, which is considered the gold standard for clinical trials.

Dr. Schulz said he had hoped that a larger, placebo-based trial — involving about 100 patients followed over eight weeks at three study sites — would help clarify whether antipsychotics such as Seroquel could help people with the disorder, and he proposed the trial to AstraZeneca.


AstraZeneca was a top seller for the company, bringing in billions of dollars a year. But by the time Dr. Schulz proposed the borderline disorder study in 2007, the company knew that Seroquel’s blockbuster days were limited: It stood to lose its patent protection in 2012. When that happened, a flood of cheap generic alternatives would cause sales to plummet. Seroquel XR, the extended-release version and the subject of Dr. Schulz’s study, would keep its patent protection until 2017, but with generic competition for the standard version, sales were unlikely to be robust.

“I know that they wanted things to be done quicker,” he said, “but they said we could keep our grant and finish the study.”


Still No Treatment

In March 2013, four years after recruiting the first patient, the investigators closed the trial after enrolling almost 100 patients. A statistically significant number of participants who took a lower dose of the drug, the researchers concluded, saw their symptoms improve over eight weeks.

But even as some said the study offered a new treatment option, others questioned spending so much on a trial that was unlikely to lead to major improvements in the way the condition was treated.

Dr. Lenzenweger, the borderline personality disorder expert who cautiously praised the trial, also noted that the short time period limited its applicability. “This trial only lasted eight weeks, and personality disorders last for years,” he said.

And even during that short period, about one-third of the participants — many citing the sedating effects of the Seroquel — dropped out.

“There is something phony — wrong — about doing a study that can only run for eight to 12 weeks in what’s basically a long-term condition, and where the side effects of the drug are really the big issue,” said Dr. Ross McKinney, director of the Trent Center for Bioethics at Duke University. “Unless you have an immediate plan to take it into something long term, I’m skeptical that it’s of any value at all.”

But Dr. Donald W. Black, the investigator at the Iowa site, said short-term trials were the norm for testing drugs for psychiatric conditions.

“Ideally, these studies would last six months, one year, two years or longer, but who’s going to do it, who’s going to pay for it, and what patient is going to stay in a study that long?” he said.

The study of Seroquel XR was valuable, he said, because even with about 100 patients, it was larger than the previous trials.

“Bottom line,” he said, the drug “seems to work in borderline patients, who improve in many different ways.”

People with borderline personality disorders, meanwhile, do not appear to be any closer to getting an approved treatment for their condition. After five years and the $700,000 that AstraZeneca paid for the trial, it seems the company has no plans to market Seroquel XR for use in borderline personality patients.

Michele Meixell, a spokeswoman for the company, said that while trials like this one were once approved “in areas where the company may have had a therapeutic interest,” she added, “we do not currently have a further interest in borderline personality disorder.”


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« Reply #29 on: April 19, 2015, 07:56:42 PM »

The article seemed to offer a glimmer of hope: The antipsychotic drug Seroquel XR reduced some of the disorder’s worst symptoms in a significant number of patients. “It was an exciting development,” recalled Mark F. Lenzenweger, a professor at Binghamton University and Weill Cornell Medical College and an expert in borderline personality disorder.

I am curious to know what the "worst symptoms" were and how many patients reported the reduction.

Dr. Lenzenweger, the borderline personality disorder expert who cautiously praised the trial, also noted that the short time period limited its applicability. “This trial only lasted eight weeks, and personality disorders last for years,” he said.

This is a good point, maladaptive behaviors have been engrained into a pwBPD since childhood.  Viewing BPD from a biosocial prospective,  can a medication "fix" learned behavior or does it only help with biological vulnerabilities ?

And even during that short period, about one-third of the participants — many citing the sedating effects of the Seroquel — dropped out.

High attrition rates are never good for the validity of a clinical trial.


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« Reply #30 on: October 25, 2016, 07:37:56 PM »

When Gut Bacteria Changes Brain Function
David Kohn, The Atlantic, June 24, 2015

Some researchers believe that the microbiome may play a role in regulating how people think and feel.

By now, the idea that gut bacteria affects a person’s health is not revolutionary. Many people know that these microbes influence digestion, allergies, and metabolism. The trend has become almost commonplace: New books appear regularly detailing precisely which diet will lead to optimum bacterial health.

But these microbes’ reach may extend much further, into the human brains. A growing group of researchers around the world are investigating how the microbiome, as this bacterial ecosystem is known, regulates how people think and feel. Scientists have found evidence that this assemblage—about a thousand different species of bacteria, trillions of cells that together weigh between one and three pounds—could play a crucial role in autism, anxiety, depression, and other disorders.

“There’s been an explosion of interest in the connections between the microbiome and the brain,” says Emeran Mayer, a gastroenterologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who has been studying the topic for the past five years.

Some of the most intriguing work has been done on autism. For decades, doctors, parents, and researchers have noted that about three-quarters of people with autism also have some gastrointestinal abnormality, like digestive issues, food allergies, or gluten sensitivity. This recognition led scientists to examine potential connections between gut microbes and autism; several recent studies have found that autistic people’s microbiome differs significantly from control groups. The California Institute of Technology microbiologist Sarkis Mazmanian has focused on a common species called Bacteroides fragilis, which is seen in smaller quantities in some children with autism. In a paper (1) published two years ago in the journal Cell, Mazmanian and several colleagues fed B. fragilis from humans to mice with symptoms similar to autism. The treatment altered the makeup of the animals’ microbiome, and more importantly, improved their behavior: They became less anxious, communicated more with other mice, and showed less repetitive behavior.

Exactly how the microbes interact with the illness—whether as a trigger or as a shield—remains mostly a mystery. But Mazmanian and his colleagues have identified one possible link: a chemical called 4-ethylphenylsulphate, or 4EPS, which seems to be produced by gut bacteria. They’ve found that mice with symptoms of autism have blood levels of 4EPS more than 40 times higher than other mice. The link between 4EPS levels and the brain isn’t clear, but when the animals were injected with the compound, they developed autism-like symptoms.
“We may be able to reverse these ailments. If you turn off the faucet that produces this compound, then the symptoms disappear.”

Mazmanian, who in 2012 was awarded a MacArthur grant for his microbiome work, sees this as a “potential breakthrough” in understanding how microbes contribute to autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. He says the results so far suggest that adjusting gut bacteria could be a viable treatment for the disease, at least in some patients. “We may be able to reverse these ailments,” he says. “If you turn off the faucet that produces this compound, then the symptoms disappear. That’s what we see in the mouse model.”

Scientists have also gathered evidence that gut bacteria can influence anxiety and depression. Stephen Collins, a gastroenterology researcher at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, has found that strains of two bacteria, lactobacillus and bifidobacterium, reduce anxiety-like behavior in mice (scientists don’t call it “anxiety” because you can’t ask a mouse how it’s feeling). Humans also carry strains of these bacteria in their guts. In one study, he and his colleague collected gut bacteria from a strain of mice prone to anxious behavior, and then transplanted these microbes into another strain inclined to be calm. The result: The tranquil animals appeared to become anxious.

Overall, both of these microbes seem to be major players in the gut-brain axis. John Cryan, a neuroscientist at the University College of Cork in Ireland, has examined the effects of both of them on depression in animals. In a 2010 paper (2) published in Neuroscience, he gave mice either bifidobacterium or the antidepressant Lexapro; he then subjected them to a series of stressful situations, including a test which measured how long they continued to swim in a tank of water with no way out. (They were pulled out after a short period of time, before they drowned.) The microbe and the drug were both effective at increasing the animals’ perseverance, and reducing levels of hormones linked to stress. Another experiment (3), this time using lactobacillus, had similar results. Cryan is launching a study with humans (using measurements other than the forced swim test to gauge subjects’ response).
Related Story

In Autism, the Importance of the Gut

So far, most microbiome-based brain research has been in mice. But there have already been a few studies involving humans. Last year, for example, Collins transferred gut bacteria from anxious humans into “germ-free” mice—animals that had been raised (very carefully) so their guts contained no bacteria at all. After the transplant, these animals also behaved more anxiously.

Other research has examined entire humans, not just their bugs. A paper published in the May 2015 issue of Psychopharmacology by the Oxford University neurobiologist Phil Burnet looked at whether a prebiotic—a group of carbohydrates that provide sustenance for gut bacteria—affected stress levels among a group of 45 healthy volunteers. Some subjects were fed 5.5 grams of a powdered carbohydrate known as galactooligosaccharide, or GOS, while others were given a placebo. Previous studies in mice by the same scientists had shown that this carb fostered growth of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria; the mice with more of these microbes also had increased levels of several neurotransmitters that affect anxiety, including one called brain-derived neurotrophic factor.

In this experiment, subjects who ingested GOS showed lower levels of a key stress hormone, cortisol, and in a test involving a series of words flashed quickly on a screen, the GOS group also focused more on positive information and less on negative. This test is often used to measure levels of anxiety and depression, since in these conditions anxious and depressed patients often focus inordinately on the threatening or negative stimuli. Burnet and his colleagues note that the results are similar to those seen when subjects take anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medications.

Perhaps the most well-known human study (4) was done by Mayer, the UCLA researcher. He recruited 25 subjects, all healthy women; for four weeks, 12 of them ate a cup of commercially available yogurt twice a day, while the rest didn’t. Yogurt is a probiotic, meaning it contains live bacteria, in this case strains of four species, bifidobacterium, streptococcus, lactococcus, and lactobacillus. Before and after the study, subjects were given brain scans to gauge their response to a series of images of facial expressions—happiness, sadness, anger, and so on.
“This was not what we expected, that eating yogurt twice a day for a few weeks would do something to your brain.”

To Mayer’s surprise, the results, which were published in 2013 in the journal Gastroenterology, showed significant differences between the two groups; the yogurt eaters reacted more calmly to the images than the control group. “The contrast was clear,” says Mayer. “This was not what we expected, that eating a yogurt twice a day for a few weeks would do something to your brain.” He thinks the bacteria in the yogurt changed the makeup of the subjects’ gut microbes, and that this led to the production of compounds that modified brain chemistry.

It’s not yet clear how the microbiome alters the brain. Most researchers agree that microbes probably influence the brain via multiple mechanisms (5). Scientists have found that gut bacteria produce neurotransmitters (6) such as serotonin, dopamine and GABA, all of which play a key role in mood (many antidepressants increase levels of these same compounds). Certain organisms also affect how people metabolize these compounds (7), effectively regulating the amount that circulates in the blood and brain. Gut bacteria may also generate other neuroactive chemicals (8), including one called butyrate, that have been linked to reduced anxiety and depression. Cryan and others have also shown that some microbes can activate the vagus nerve (9), the main line of communication between the gut and the brain. In addition, the microbiome is intertwined with the immune system (10), which itself influences mood and behavior.

This interconnection of bugs and brain seems credible, too, from an evolutionary perspective. After all, bacteria have lived inside humans for millions of years. Cryan suggests that over time, at least a few microbes have developed ways to shape their hosts’ behavior for their own ends. Modifying mood is a plausible microbial survival strategy, he argues that “happy people tend to be more social. And the more social we are, the more chances the microbes have to exchange and spread.”

As scientists learn more about how the gut-brain microbial network operates, Cryan thinks it could be hacked to treat psychiatric disorders. “These bacteria could eventually be used the way we now use Prozac or Valium,” he says. And because these microbes have eons of experience modifying our brains, they are likely to be more precise and subtle than current pharmacological approaches, which could mean fewer side effects. “I think these microbes will have a real effect on how we treat these disorders,” Cryan says. “This is a whole new way to modulate brain function.”


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