Sunday Smorgasbord

I'm back in my normal groove with a rather strange array of tidbits for this week's smorgasbord. I hope you all enjoy!

Need CBT? There's an app for that...

The tech blog Tuaw mentioned the release of a cognitive behavioral therapy app for the iPhone, called CBT Referee. The app (which you can download here for $4.99) was designed by a man trying to supplement his therapist-led CBT in an informal, user-friendly way. He added it to the iTunes app store in the hopes that other people might find it useful. The app contains a brief intro to CBT and how the therapy works, as well as directions to use the program.

From Tuaw:

When a negative thought occurs, the app directs you to write it down immediately. Once done, tapping the next button takes you through a screen of ten potential fallacies inherent in your entry. Some of these include: Nothing or All (black and white thinking where one small flaw kills an entire concept), Conclusion Jumping (assuming facts that don't' exist), Emotions as Evidence (assuming that if you feel a certain way, it must be true), and many others.

With the journaled text visible, scroll through the list and check any of the options that you think may apply to your statement. Next, you are presented with a type-in screen titled: Referee Says, where, based on your statement and the options you have chosen, you try to write as objective an assessment as possible, to negate the statement.

Finally you are presented with a screen showing a reverse chronological listing of each journaled entry. Tapping on one brings up a screen with the entry, the chosen options and the refereed response. From all of this, the idea is to try and discover patterns, and over time, become more objective and a better personal referee. This can lead to a fuller understanding of yourself, and the potential to avoid thinking similar erroneous thoughts over and over. This app isn't intended to be a panacea, but rather an indication of how you think and how that thinking can be improved to be less toxic.

Yet another reason for this CrackBerry owner to have iPhone envy... I think this app totally captures the spirit and essence of CBT in a portable way. If I had the iPhone, I would definitely download it.

Sugar Addiction In Your Body, Not Just Your Mind

I was initially wary of posting a link to this article because I remain relatively uncertain about how one can be addicted to food or sugar. It is, after all, necessary for life. If that is the case, I'm also addicted to breathing, defecating, and urinating. Yet recent research studies are making me rethink my "nuh-uh, no way" perspective on the addictive nature of food.

Writes Psychology Today blogger Kelly McGonigal:

Researchers at the National Institute for Physiological Sciences in Japan were curious how the brain and body might adapt to the expectation of eating something sweet (1). They found that when mice expect a sweet treat, their brains release a chemical called orexin. Orexin triggers the body's muscles to take up whatever sugar is circulating in the bloodstream. In this way, the body is preparing for an expected increase in blood sugar levels. This is a great adaptation if you eat the food, helping to keep blood sugar levels steady.

But what if you decide you want to resist the temptation of the sweets? Then the drop of blood sugar comes with two very unwanted side effects: cravings to eat, and decreased energy to resist. The result? It's much harder to say no, and you may even need to eat to feel normal. Much like the cigarette addict who needs to smoke, or the pain medication addict who needs to take a pill, just to feel normal.

This study is the second this year to suggest that high-fat or high-sugar food can trick the brain and the body into consuming more. That doesn't mean that food should be considered an addiction on par with other substances. But it does make you wonder how else our eating behavior is influenced by biological processes we can't control or even observe.

And really, it's the last line that contains the key point for me. We really don't know a whole lot about how our body regulates hunger and fullness, how it regulates when, where, and what we eat. We just don't know.

Have you consumed your 34 gigabytes of information today?

I'm so used to measuring consumption of food and calories, that it was a fun fact to learn on the Discover Magazine blog that the average American consumes 34 gigabytes of information every day.

DSM-V Publication Pushed back until 2013

The title says it all: the publication of the next edition of the DSM has been pushed back one year, from 2012 to 2013. American Psychiatric Association president Alan Schatzburg said:

"The field trials [of proposed revisions] were going to take a little longer," he said, and vetting reviewers for conflicts of interest had also introduced some delay.

Schatzberg said another motivation was to better harmonize DSM-V with the forthcoming U.S. implementation of the so-called ICD-10-CM codes for Medicare and Medicaid claims reporting, according to the APA announcement.

Vaughn at Mind Hacks was slightly more blunt, calling the "conflicts of interest" a "shitstorm" of controversy, and was doubtful a year would work out all of the kinks, although it might provide a stronger scientific basis for the DSM-V. Although I'm frustrated at the delay, I do hope that the diagnoses can be better studied and refined.

The skinny on diet drinks

In the Journal of the American Medical Association, a commentary was published by David Ludwig titled "Artificially Sweeted Beverages: A Cause for Concern." The Washington Post health blog covered the commentary and had this to say about it:

Ludwig argues that diet drinks pose tricky challenges for our bodies. Their lack of nutrients and intense sweet flavor might condition our minds and bodies not to be satisfied with naturally sweet, nutrient-rich foods such as fruit and non-sweet foods such as vegetables and legumes, leading us to make food choices that aren't conducive to weight control. And because they offer sweet taste without calories, over time, diet-drink consumers may cease to associate sweet taste with caloric intake.

Plus, he writes, "Calories displaced by artificial sweeteners may be replaced over time from other sources; the nature and completeness of this compensation would therefore determine the ultimate effects on body weight and other health outcomes."

One of the stereotypes of people with eating disorders is that the consume a lot of artificial sweeteners; I'm no exception. We hoarded the little packets in treatment, stealing them from the cafeteria, off others' dinner trays, snatching them on a rare trip out from the treatment center. Although I still prefer the fake stuff to regular sugar, it's always good to remind myself that the little pink (or blue or yellow or green) packets may not be as innocuous as they seem.

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Katie said...

I was never a fan of sweeteners, they tend not to agree with my irritatingly oversensitive digestive system. Maybe I should stop being annoyed with it and thank it for that instead!

Oh dear, I think if I had an iPhone I would probably never do anything productive ever again, I'd just play with the apps all day! CBT on a phone is such a clever idea though, and $4.99 is certainly cheaper than therapy ;)

Alexandra Rising said...

When I read, "Need CBT? There's an app. for that.." I giggled.
When I read on and saw that it was an actual app I put my head in my hands. What will they think of next?!

Anonymous said...

How about a Mindfulness app?
"Put down your phone and be mindful of your surroundings and how you feel." Perhaps not, Carrie may steal the phone!

DSM-V? We could start a pool. I guess Feb 2015.

Sugar addiction theory, not sold. And for the record some people need a pain reliever to feel somewhat normal because they are in PAIN!(Yes, she lost me by making sweeping statements.)

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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