Name it to Tame it

“Then she accused me of being the bully!” Sandro was beginning to rant. His face was red and his eyes were moist. His ex-partner had just denied him access to their 6-year-old son. I asked him how he felt. “Sh*t!” He replied. “But what kind of sh*t”, I queried. He looked at me with blank confusion. Lisa Starr and her...[ read more ]

Nerves that fire together wire together

How does psychotherapy work? People who come to see a psychologist hope and expect that they will change from the process. I ask all new clients “what do you hope to get out of therapy?” Most people hope and expect that they will change perspective or habits or both. But what does this change mean? What is happening in the...[ read more ]

Smiling: Fake it till you make it, not till you hate it

Patrick* was a relentlessly chipper chap. His cheerfulness was infectious, he was great to be around. He was going through a tortuous, spiteful divorce. Despite the lack of contact with his kids, the financial shock and constant hostile interactions, Patrick always greeted with a smile and a joke. Patrick was depressed, but no one around him knew – his sadness...[ read more ]


Tuesday 09 April: I exit work and enter the lift alone. I reflexively pull out my mobile phone (rarely used for making actual phone calls) and open a news site. Scanning headlines, I see nothing of interest and, in frustration, check a different site before the elevator doors open on the ground floor. As I walk to my car, I...[ read more ]

Little Wounds, Limbic Scars and Holes in the Street

German researchers recruited 110 people who were in hospital for Major Depressive Disorder. They scanned their brains with an MRI machine and gave them a questionnaire about childhood maltreatment. Two years later, they contacted the participants and asked them whether they had experienced in any depressive episodes since first contact. The researchers found that people who had experienced childhood trauma...[ read more ]

Youth, Devices & Mental Health

Elsewhere I’ve pondered the question of whether our mental health, as a society, is deteriorating. Certainly, most people with whom I speak seem to think that there are more people with mental health problems. Whether this is due to greater attention on mental health, or and increase in diagnoses is not always clear. A recent study in the Journal of...[ read more ]

All the Lonely People

Is it better to be lonely than to have bad people in your life? In my last post I wrote about how children and adults will often display a preference for bad attention from others rather than no attention. We know that people will often maintain “toxic” friendships and relationships over no friendships or relationships at all. This is what...[ read more ]

Little World / Big World

Your mind on Imagination Researchers at the University of Boulder, Colorado recently taught 68 people to fear a harmless bell. They did this by repeatedly pairing the sound of the bell with an electric shock(!). They then placed these people into a Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) machine which maps brain activity. They then played the bell to some of...[ read more ]

Comorbidity: Can I Have More Than One Diagnosis?

I ask about family history of mental health as part of a usual assessment. “Mate, my brother has had it all!” Said Graham*, 42. “Started with ADD** as a kid, then got ODD‡ when he was a teenager. Now he’s got a bit of depression, a bit of anxiety and BPD, but he reckons he’s got PTSD‡‡ and he’s also...[ read more ]

Are There More Mental Health Problems Nowadays?

“Are people getting crazier?” A client bluntly asked me not long ago. One of the most common types of questions I get asked is about whether the prevalence of mental health problems is increasing. People usually frame it in terms of their current diagnosis or problem: “Are more of us depressed?”; “Is there an anxiety epidemic?”; “Why are so many...[ read more ]

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