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Showing posts from September, 2012

Tech News

Last week, an article came out featuring UCLA's medical center and a web-based program they use with their IBD patients. It is a state of the art program where patients can download an app for tablets and smartphones to help monitor their illness. They started the trial on IBD patients, but plan on expanding it to other chronic illnesses such as heart failure, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). 
In a culture like ours, which is moving more and more towards embracing technology, it seems as if this medical center is ahead of the curve. Their program is called "Home Care" and "has several modules for patient support. It incorporates a tool called My Academy that enables patients to take tests to gauge their knowledge about their condition. The program also teaches the patients about medication that treats their ailments. Patients answer questions in an interactive app on the iPad about their disease activities, quality of…

Who Needs Sleep?

Insomnia is a common side effect to having a chronic illness.  Heck, insomnia is common in general.  Whether it's having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early, if you're not getting the sleep you need it can have really detrimental effects on your health.  There is no ideal amount of time we should sleep as every person is different.  The question is how much sleep do you need to feel rested when you wake up?  If you've been dealing with insomnia, there are probably some behaviors you can change to help.

The technical term for sleep habits is "sleep hygiene," which sounds like something you should be doing in the shower versus in bed.  Here are some things to think about and evaluate if you're having a hard time sleeping:

No caffeine after 3 p.m.  That's right, none.  As a recovering caffeine junkie from my grad school days, I appreciate how hard this might be if you're a regular coffee/soda/tea/monster/red bull drinker.  And 9…

Research Hits from the Interwebz

Here are some of our favorite stories from the research world this week:

Researchers in the UK have identified a potential link between overuse of antibiotics in childhood and later development of inflammatory bowel disease.  Published in the journal PediatricsRead more...Understanding the psychology behind portion sizes, which are a leading contributor to America's obesity epidemic.  How much we expect a certain food to fill us up can influence how much we eat - or overeat.  Read more...A 2005 theory about the causes of Alzheimer's Disease, which some are calling "Type 3 Diabetes," is gaining momentum as new evidence becomes available linking poor diet and this debilitating disease.  Read more...  The American Psychological Association (APA) discusses the importance of psychotherapy as a first line treatment for depression rather than going straight to anti-depressant medications.  Read more...Keeping with the Alzheimer's-and-healthy-habits theme, researchers…

Monday Metacognition #2

Today's term is Dichotomous Thinking.  The tendency to see things from an "all or none," "black or white" perspective.  It's either this or it's that, there's nothing really in between.

I think we can all see this on the grand stage of politics or other hot-topic issues that we'll refrain from bringing here.  I'm right, you're wrong, there's no room for discussion.  Period.  We can also see how this way of thinking can cause a lot of problems, especially when we use it to evaluate ourselves.

Here's an example:

Shannon was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis this past summer.  Her doctor told her that her case was relatively mild and that by following the treatment plan of daily medications, stress reduction and watching her diet she would be able to keep her symptoms under control.  Shannon is highly motivated to stay well so she made sure to follow her doctor's recommendations to the T.  She took her medication, began exercis…

Top 5 Things We Wish Every MD Said

Physicians are busy people.  They're often constrained by practice rules outlined by insurance companies to keep appointments short and patients moving.  So many times there isn't time to cover everything, and patients leave the exam room with unanswered questions or concerns.  It's an unfortunate fact of life of today's medical world.  But there are some things that I, as a health psychologist, wish physicians would say to their patients.  Here are my top 5, from the home office in Oak Park Illinois:
What do you do to de-stress?
Most MDs acknowledge that while stress doesn't cause most illnesses, it certainly isn't going to help once you have a chronic condition.  It's probably safe to say everyone experiences stress, and not all stress is bad.  It can be a great motivator.  But there is a tipping point where stress begins to deplete our mental and physical resources, which in turn can cause spikes in symptoms.  Now that we've covered that, the more imp…

Monday Metacognition #1

Metacognition:  The act of thinking about ones own thinking.  Sounds pretty simple, doesn't it?  But how often are we truly aware of our thought processes versus setting ourselves on autopilot and going along for the ride?  The human brain is only quiet for a few seconds at a time.  It is always processing information, moving memories into long-term storage, scanning the environment for threats, and testing what we see or hear against our own experiences and biases.


It's usually during periods of down time, like when we're trying to fall asleep, when we become very aware of the thoughts that are streaming through our head, often just beyond our awareness.  Our thinking becomes automatic, which is a good thing most of the time.  But sometimes automatic thinking can be negative and wreak havoc on your life.

Today marks our first entry into our soon-to-be-award-winning series about Metacognition, where we'll discuss why we think the way we do, common thinking traps that …

Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness- Part 2: FMLA

Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week- Part 2: FMLA

Hello everyone! This is my first entry on our blog, and I figured it was a great week to begin my blogging adventure, as we are promoting awareness of invisible chronic illnesses. I wanted to start by saying that I hope this blog serves as a place for people to come and find encouragement and wisdom as they travel the journey with chronic illness. It is not an easy road, nor one that many talk about, as so many patients suffer silently. We hope that our practice can provide a safe place for people to be able to talk freely about their experience- the hope, the grief, the ups, the downs...all of it.

To add to what Tiffany was saying about disclosure, I have noticed that it is helpful for patients to have a specific plan when talking to their employers about their illness. In a work setting, there may sometimes be no choice but to disclose something about your illness, as there are often continued, numerous absences that need explanat…

Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week

September 10-16 is Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week.  
For the millions of people affected by an invisible illness, there comes the time where they must decide how to disclose that they are sick, to whom, and in what level of detail.  It seems like it should be a relatively straight forward task:  open mouth, speak words "I have [insert illness name here]."  But often, disclosing your chronic illness status feels like navigating a minefield.  What we do know from the research is that people who disclose their illness to others report significantly less psychological distress and have better illness outcomes than people who choose to keep their illness identity completely hidden.  Easier said than done, Dr. Taft.  
I think the mantra of disclosure is "Easy Does It."  Think about the people in your life and who you trust to share this information with; this will likely be on a continuum of "Absolutely" to "No Way."  This can be tricky wit…

The Social Media of Chronic Illness

Many of my clients have said they either currently use or have used an online support community for their condition.  And there is certainly no shortage of chronic illness support groups, message boards, or  (ahem) blogs.  A quick Google search brings back 2.2 million hits for blogs alone, each one documenting the personal experiences and opinions of its owner.  For a little levity, there is even a Facebook page dedicated to a "Chronic Illness Cat" meme.

So how does one sift through this mountain of information and determine which sites are helpful and which may be not so helpful?  Here are 5 questions to ask yourself when using social media as a support mechanism:

Who is the source of this information?  There is a common saying about opinions and everyone having one.  Even within the medical community, there are debates about what is the best course of action in managing a particular illness.  This is a good thing as it advances the science and leads to new discoveries.  If …

Another Day, Another Blog

So...we've started a blog.  It's funny how I've written a dissertation and several peer-reviewed publications yet I'm feeling a bit daunted by this task.  Then again, blogs need to be interesting...candid...and contain information that you, our reader, can take in, process, and deem valuable in a matter of seconds.  No pressure.

I should first introduce myself and my colleague, Stephanie, and what we're trying to do.  We both recently completed our graduate studies, she in Social Work and I in Clinical Psychology, and decided to start a private practice dedicated to helping people affected by a chronic physical illness.  Our specific focus is on those diagnosed with chronic gastrointestinal (GI) illness, such as inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, or eosinophilic GI diseases.  But we welcome all people with all chronic conditions, as well as those who may be struggling with their weight or considering bariatric surgery.

Both Stephanie and I have b…