Psychiatric Times Vol 26 No 12

Violence Risk Assessment in Everyday Psychiatric Practice

December 14, 2009

Hy Bloom provided an expert psychiatric report in a multiple murder case in which the accused, who had schizophrenia and depression, had killed his wife and 2 children. Before the murders, the accused had been seeing a psychiatrist and family physician for treatment of the mental disorders.

Medical Decision-Making Capacity of Patients With Dementia

December 14, 2009

The United States Census Bureau projects that by 2010 nearly 13% of the US population will be over the age of 65. The elderly are one of the most rapidly growing segments of the US population and are expected to account for more than 20% of the total population by 2050.1 In 2001, the prevalence of dementia in North America was 6.4%. A 49% increase in the number of people with dementia is expected by 2020, and a 172% increase by 2040.2 Patients with dementia may lack the capacity to consent to treatment. The need to evaluate capacity to consent to treatment will therefore increase as the aging population grows.

Critical Information for the Practice of Psychiatry

December 11, 2009

It is my privilege and pleasure to highlight this Special Report on forensic psychiatry. (The first articles in this series appeared in the November issue and are posted on The respected authors provide us with the most recent thought on subjects that should be of interest to every practicing psychiatrist.

Antonio Damasio’s Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain

December 09, 2009

Descartes’ Error1 can be read in 2 ways. To start, it works as an engagingly written, accurate piece of science journalism (which is something that we need more of; it’s hard to imagine running a democracy without it).

Cognitive Impairment in Patients With Bipolar Disorder

December 07, 2009

It is widely accepted that patients with schizophrenia have some degree of cognitive deficiency and that cognitive deficits are an inherent part of the disorder. Historically, there has been less focus on cognitive deficits in patients with bipolar disorder; however, numerous studies of cognition in patients with bipolar disorder, including several comprehensive meta-analyses of bipolar patients who were euthymic at the time of testing, have recently been undertaken.1-4 Each of these analyses found that cognitive impairment persists during periods of remission, mainly in domains that include attention and processing speed, memory, and executive functioning.4

The Cellular and Molecular Substrates of Anorexia Nervosa, Part 2

December 07, 2009

I think I am going to talk about the neurobiology of happiness in my next column. The reason has to do with the nature of our 2-month journey into the biology of eating disorders-a subject that, considering the dearth of explanatory data, is tough to write about. It’s also a bit depressing, considering how difficult it can be to treat. This is the second installment in a 2-part series that focuses on the neurobiology of restricting-type anorexia nervosa (AN).

Obesity and Psychiatric Disorders

December 05, 2009

Obesity has emerged as a significant threat to public health throughout the developed world. The World Health Organization defines overweight as a body mass index of 25.0 to 29.9 kg/m2 and obesity as a BMI of 30.0 kg/m2 or greater.1 Nearly two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese according to these criteria.2 Numerous health problems, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and cancer, are associated with obesity. In addition, overweight and obese persons are more likely than their normal-weight peers to have a variety of psychiatric disorders.

New Compounds, Novel Applications Evaluated

December 05, 2009

New compounds and novel applications for established products were evaluated in many of the clinical trials reported at the recent 49th annual NIMH-sponsored New Clinical Drugs Evaluation Unit meeting.

Can It Be Done Alone? Solitude and Personality Maturation

December 03, 2009

At 47 she was happily married with an 11-year-old daughter and expressed much satisfaction with her work as a masters-level psychotherapist. Her adolescence and young adulthood, however, were different stories, filled with chaos. She described impulsive, promiscuous behaviors beginning at age 13. Heavy drug use began in her late teens, and her parents kicked her out of the house. She fended for herself as a waitress and had a series of relationships with abusive men. As age 30 approached, she began to get herself under control, stopped using drugs, and married a musician she described as “very straight.” With his encouragement, she attended a community college, majored in psychology, and ultimately obtained a masters degree in counseling. Currently she is employed at a public agency for abused women.

NARSAD Awards for Psychiatric Research

December 02, 2009

Award ceremonies abound, from the Oscars for film to the Clio awards for advertising, but none are as important to mental health and psychiatry as the NARSAD annual awards. NARSAD is a unique organization that is dedicated to mental health research, and the NARSAD awards are considered to be the most prestigious prizes in psychiatric research. On October 30, NARSAD presented its 22nd annual awards for outstanding achievement in mental health research. This year the prizes went to 8 distinguished scientists whose work is making a huge impact on the way psychiatric disorders will be diagnosed and treated.

The Ethics Inventory

December 02, 2009

A number of scholars have criticized contemporary bioethics for its focus on what have been called the “neon issues”-end-of-life care, genetic technology, and resource allocation-rather than on the far less dramatic but much more common dilemmas of everyday practice, such as obtaining adequate informed consent for treatment, respecting confidentiality and privacy, and maintaining sound but reasonable boundaries in the therapeutic relationship.1-3 From the “searching and fearless” fourth step of Alcoholics Anonymous to the rigorous spiritual exercises of the Jesuits, many spiritual traditions have proposed a regular and deliberate period of introspection as an effective means of increasing the understanding of and responsiveness to ethical conscience and conduct.

Practical Implications of a Study on Treating Chronic Insomnia

December 01, 2009

More than a thousand articles on mental disorders are published in medical journals each month! Also, clinicians have limited training, time, and inclination to keep up with reading research articles critically on a regular basis. Thus, a disturbing disconnect (for which there are no easy solutions) exists between clinical research and usual clinical practice.

When a Psychiatrist Kills: The Ultimate Violation of Do-No-Harm at Fort Hood

December 01, 2009

The details may, by now, be familiar but they are no less shocking: Army psychiatrist, MAJ Nidal Malik Hasan, MD, accused of killing 13 people and wounding 33 others-including fellow behavioral health providers- is recovering from gunshot wounds and meeting with his attorneys.

The State of the Evidence on Pediatric Bipolar Disorder

December 01, 2009

Pediatric bipolar disorder (PBD) is a serious psychiatric illness that impairs children’s emotional, cognitive, and social development. PBD causes severe mood instability that manifests in chronic irritability, episodes of rage, tearfulness, distractibility, grandiosity or inflated self-esteem, hypersexual behavior, a decreased need for sleep, and behavioral activation coupled with poor judgment. While research in this area has accelerated during the past 15 years, there are still significant gaps in knowledge concerning the prevalence, etiology, phenomenology, assessment, and treatment for PBD.

Psychiatry and the Heart of Darkness

November 30, 2009

The press reported it in various ways-either as a “brutal gang rape” or, more forensically, as a “21/2-hour assault” on the Richmond High School campus. Any way you look at it, the horrendous attack on a 15-year-old girl raises troubling questions for theologians, criminologists and, of course, psychiatrists. How do we understand an act as brutal as rape? What factors and forces in the rapist’s development can possibly account for such behavior? And how on earth do we explain the apparent indifference of the large crowd that watched the attack in Richmond, Calif, and allegedly did nothing to stop it-or even, to report it?