Gooden Center
A residential drug treatment center for men located in Pasadena, CA. The Gooden Center is a proud member of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP).

(626) 356-0078
191 North El Molino Avenue Pasadena, CA 91101 US

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Google’s Depression Assessment Tool

Posted on: September 17th, 2017 by The Gooden Center No Comments

Google Depression Tool

When you type in the word “depression” on Google, you might find resources explaining the disorder and its symptoms but soon you will also be prompted with a self-assessment tool. Google is partnering with the National Alliance on Mental Illness to make depression screening a part of searches on the subject. Google announced that when you search for “clinical depression” you will have the option to tap a button saying “check if you’re clinically depressed” which will bring you to page with a questionnaire.

Although the health screening questionnaire is clinically validated to test a person’s likely level of depression, the assessment tool has already caused some controversy. Some mental health experts are worried that the tool will lead to overdiagnosis of depression and possibly over-prescription of antidepressant medications. One professor claimed that the Google tool was actually funded by the major drug company Pfizer which profits from sales of antidepressants.

The goal of Google’s assessment test is not necessarily to provide a diagnosis but to encourage people to take the results to a psychiatrist for a proper assessment. The search company asserts that they worked closely with NAMI to ensure that the questionnaire is accurate and useful. In a NAMI news release it was noted that 1 in every 5 Americans will experience an episode of depression in their lifetime while only half of them actually seek treatment.

NAMI’s intention in partnering with Google for the tool was to help people become more aware of depression and seek treatment instead of allowing the symptoms of their mental illness to worse over time. According to the organization, people wait an average of 6 to 8 years before getting professional treatment for symptoms of depression. The intention is to motivate people to get help if the quiz indicates that they might have some mental health issues that need to be addressed.

Mixed Response from Mental Health Experts

Some experts are on board with the assessment tool and others are concerned about the possible effects of people scoring high for depression on the questionnaire. While NAMI’s claim that the tool could help people take the extra step into getting the necessary help is promising for many experts hoping to reduce depression numbers, others worry that may lead to over-treatment. The test results include links to materials and phone helplines for people with higher scores to set up with treatment immediately.

Experts who believe the tool can be helpful emphasize the fact that it is not meant to be an actual diagnosis. People with high depression scores will only receive treatment if they are get a professional diagnosis from an actual psychiatrist. They believe people taking the quiz will simply be more informed and empowered to get the help they need.

Others in the field of mental health are concerned that unregulated screening could be ineffective and end up causing more harm than good. Some believe that Pfizer was involved in funding the tool and that data generated from the quiz could be used to market antidepressants. Google says that the questionnaire will not threaten privacy because it does not store or log any results.

Aside from privacy issues, some experts are concerned that people will take the quiz and mistake temporary psychological distress that they are experiencing in that moment with a more pervasive clinical disorder. Google has received some criticism from experts for bypassing the usual checks and balances that are in place for screening tools in order to prevent the risk of overdiagnosis. Certain clinicians even believe that this type of unregulated screening tool will cause harm rather than improve people’s health.

One of the criticisms of the questionnaire itself is that it uses outdated ways of thinking about mental health in assessing depression. It focuses on physiological and biomedical symptoms, placing an emphasis on dysfunction and framing distress from the outset as an illness. If someone is distressed following a certain event, they may score high on the quiz even though their symptoms may not be connected to an actual disorder.

Screening for Depression

Google and NAMI assert that their intentions for their screening tool are to get more people the help that they need for depression. Some experts argue that this type of screening is generally inaccurate and could lead to a lot of false positives. Others such as the US Preventative Services Task Force have found evidence that screening improves the accurate identification of patients with depression.

The tool is meant to educate users and prompt informed conversations with clinical professionals so that patients can get an accurate diagnosis. If people use the Google tool as a starting point for treatment that they really need then it could be helpful in preventing gaps in depression recovery. To prevent overdiagnosis and over-prescription of antidepressants people should follow up the test with an accurate clinical assessment from a professional.

Trauma of a Natural Disaster

Posted on: September 14th, 2017 by The Gooden Center No Comments

Trauma of a Natural Disaster

People can experience trauma in a number of different ways depending on how they handle certain events in their life. Trauma can occur following the death of a loved one, witnessing a terrible accident, or fighting in a war. One of the less common types of trauma can happen when a person experiences a natural disaster.

Any overwhelming and distressing experience can trigger trauma in an individual no matter what age or prior life experience. Natural disasters can be especially traumatic because they can involve people seeing multiple accidents and even deaths in many cases. Experiencing a natural disaster can cause you to fear for your own safety and can often lead to symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

One of the worst aspects of natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, landslides and tsunamis is that they can cause widespread trauma to the population of people that experienced it. Natural disasters can also cause issues such as “survivor’s guilt” that can make people feel wrong about surviving when others didn’t. Trauma can especially be caused by natural disasters because they are usually sudden and overwhelming.

Responses to a Natural Disaster

Initially most people that experience natural disasters respond through shock and may have trouble functioning the way they normally would. They might feel a sense of numbness or denial and may avoid talking about the event. Because they are in shock at first they might seem unemotional or appear stoic about what they have been through.

Once the initial shock wears off they might enter a more emotional state and have trouble controlling their feelings. They might experience very high levels of anxiety, guilt or depression for a period of time. People that have lost loved ones in a natural disaster will be coping with both symptoms of PTSD and the stages of grief as they try to adjust after the event.

Immediately after a disaster people may feel helpless and not know how to move on especially if they are living in a shelter or their home has been damaged. They must cope with the disaster itself and the aftermath of finding a new place to live or repairing their home.

One of the issues that many people have following a natural disaster is a loss of spirituality and faith or the sense that they have been “betrayed” by God. It can be difficult to understand how a higher power would allow that kind of devastation to happen in their lives. They may feel an emptiness or believe that the world is a hostile place because they have lost their faith.

PTSD Symptoms Following a Disaster

People may have different levels of emotional response after a natural disaster but there is a strong possibility that survivors will experience PTSD. Some of the symptoms of PTSD associated with a natural disaster are:

  • Intense, unpredictable feelings
  • Repeated flashbacks of the events of the disaster
  • Physical reaction to flashbacks or vivid memories such as rapid heartbeat or sweating
  • Confusion or trouble making decisions
  • Insomnia or loss of appetite
  • Constant fear that the disaster will occur again
  • Changes in social relationships such as more conflict or withdrawn isolation
  • Nightmares about the event causing sleeping issues

Victims of natural disasters may not always exhibit these symptoms immediately after the event but they may gradually develop over time as they attempt to return to normal life. In fact many survivors may seem perfectly fine right after the disaster ends and will show no signs of emotional problems. However, this could be a coping mechanism due to shock and symptoms will later begin to progress.

Treating Natural Disaster Trauma

Although PTSD can be a very debilitating mental health issue, it is also very treatable with professional help. If someone finds it difficult to regain control of their life after experiencing a natural disaster then they might benefit from seeking a psychologist to receive a diagnosis. If they are identified as having PTSD there are a many treatment programs available that can help them recover.

People who have been through the effects of a natural disaster need to find a way to feel safe again and heal from the things they have seen. Talking with a therapist can help them process the events of the disaster and discuss the feelings that they have been struggling with. People with PTSD may also benefit from medication but cognitive behavioral therapy is the most important element of treatment.

It can also be very healing for them to talk about their issues with people who experienced the same disaster. Joining a support group or speaking with friends and family members who were there during the natural disaster can help build strong connections. It can help people with PTSD to feel less alone as they hear other people’s stories that may be similar to theirs.

State of Emergency Called for Opioid Crisis

Posted on: August 25th, 2017 by The Gooden Center No Comments

State of Emergency Called For Opioid Crisis

Cases of opioid abuse and overdose have been rising drastically in recent years, causing widespread concern for the health of the country. Recently a white house panel created by Trump recommended that the president to declare the opioid crisis a national emergency.

His commission on the opioid crisis was created in March with Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie appointed to lead it. The panel held its first public meeting last month and just recently issued an interim report about the state of opioid addiction and abuse in the U.S.

The commission members wrote that the death toll for opioid abuse has reached an unprecedented level of 142 Americans dying every day. They believe that if the president declared the crisis a state of emergency that it would force Congress to focus on providing funding for treatment and prevention and empower the executive branch to take steps to reduce this loss of life.

Treating and Preventing Opioid Abuse

Within the report, the commission also proposed waiving a federal rule that places a strict limit on the number of people who can receive addiction treatment through Medicaid. They called for greater access to medications used to treat opioid addiction as well as legislation to allow states to use naloxone which is employed by first responders to reverse the effects of an overdose. They also emphasized prevention methods such as requiring “prescriber education initiatives”.

The main goal of declaring a state of emergency would be to allow Americans to take the crisis more seriously as an urgent matter affecting the country. A state of emergency would also mean that federal agencies would focus more attention and coordination toward the issue to save as many lives as possible.

Certain states have already taken the step to declare a state of emergency for the opioid crisis including Arizona, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts and Virginia with Alaskan governor Bill Walker issuing a disaster declaration. Alaska’s health department found that the emergency declaration helped improve coordination between agencies and worked to expand access to naloxone.

Implications of an Emergency Declaration

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Tom Frieden believes a state of emergency may not be the right solution as it is usually reserved for national disasters and infectious diseases such as the H1N1 virus. He thinks the focus should be placed on improving prescribing methods and cutting down the flow of illegal opioids into the country.

However, those involved in anti-addiction groups across the country assert that a state of emergency could be a significant step in acknowledging how severe the crisis is currently and how much effort is needed to curb abuse and overdose deaths. They believe the opioid crisis needs national emergency funding and changes to regulations which could potentially save lives.

According to the commission’s report, an emergency declaration could give the government the power necessary to quickly expand access to inpatient treatment services and even lower prices for naloxone so that more people recover from overdoses. People are concerned about how the Trump administration might respond to the report because of their past record regarding policies to limit healthcare access for drug users. The administration had proposed in their health care bill (which recently failed to pass the senate) to cut funding for agencies addressing the opioid crisis.

The Opioid Crisis and Healthcare

The opioid crisis commission has been plagued by contradictions between the Trump administration’s policies and proposed solutions which emphasize expanded healthcare access rather than stricter Medicaid regulations. Their main concern is that the administration’s efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act could be detrimental to dealing with the current level of opioid addiction. Members of the commission asserted that the crisis could become worse if the government makes it harder and more expensive to receive healthcare coverage for addiction treatment.

Threats to cut funding have made the situation difficult for key agencies who are tasked with responding to the crisis. The white house had initially proposed cutting 95% of funding to the Office of National Drug Control Policy as part of its new budget but eventually restored funding in a revised version due to backlash from both Republicans and Democrats.

Dealing with the crisis has also been hampered by leadership vacancies such as Trump’s decision to fire the US surgeon general in April. This position has not yet been filled and the CDC only recently appointed a new director after Frieden resigned in January.

If President Trump agrees with the commission and declares a state of emergency it will remain to be seen how his administration chooses to handle the crisis. Expanding access to treatment and prevention will be a key element in stemming the tide of overdose deaths in the country if the government decides to become more active in handling the emergency.

Age Of Technology or Age of Anxiety

Posted on: August 20th, 2017 by The Gooden Center No Comments

Technology And Anxiety

Our modern age has made us seemingly more connected than ever but what is the real impact of technology? People have become dependent on smartphones and internet access in order to communicate but they don’t always realize how the experience is affecting them. There are some aspects of the use of mobile phones and social media sites that have been proven to increase anxiety and loneliness in spite of their intention to help people connect.

Although for most people using a smart phone will not cause any mental health problems, the tendency to compulsively check your phone can worsen existing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Studies have shown that the average person aged 18-54 checks their phone 34 times a day and that these checks often occur within 10 minutes of each other. This compulsive checking is an unconscious behavior that causes people to become dependent on and even in some cases addicted to technology.

People who tend to have very addictive styles of cell phone use also generally score higher on depression and anxiety scales. In some cases however, the motivation for going online can influence the effect that technology has on mental health. One study showed that people who use their phone out of boredom rather than a compulsive need to keep checking had no issues with mental health problems as a result.

Dependence and Withdrawal from Smartphones

A common problem associated with the use of smartphones is an intense separation anxiety that occurs when people lose or don’t have access to their phones. It casually referred to as “nomophobia” or the fear of having no mobile phone. People experience a kind of withdrawal when they are not able to use their phone because they are broken, out of battery or have no connection.

Studies have revealed the extent to which smartphones become comfort items to individuals who prefer to always have their phone. In one experiment researchers exposed participants to a stressful situation either with or without access to their phone. Those who were allowed to keep their phone during the stressful event were less negatively affected than those who did not have their phones.

Smartphone access can ease anxiety for some people because they are dependent on their phones. The feeling of being disconnected from technology can be stressful because people worry that they are missing out on something important and wonder what is going on without their knowledge. Studies show that 70 percent of women and 61 percent of men have cell phone related separation anxiety.

Technology Addiction and Anxiety

It is not surprising that people become dependent and essentially addicted to technology as many aspects of apps and social media sites are intentionally designed to keep people coming back compulsively. A former Google employee Tristan Harris has spoken out about the practices of smartphone app designers who often seek out ways to exploit our psychological vulnerabilities.

These company designers use the concept of variable intermittent rewards which basically means the notifications you receive on your phone will unpredictably vary between meaningless and important messages. The more variable the rate the reward, the more addictive the app becomes. This is the idea behind slot machines which are the form of gambling that most quickly leads to problematic behavior.

Harris, a design ethicist, believes that these design features are harmful because of their addictive nature and companies like Apple and Google have a responsibility to reduce efforts to include variable intermittent rewards. Smartphone apps can cause symptoms of addiction, withdrawal and anxiety in many cases making them unethical in design.

Avoiding Smartphone Stress

Even though technology can cause compulsive behavior and dependence, it does not guarantee mental health problems in all cases. It remains unclear whether symptoms of anxiety cause excessive smartphone use or vice versa but there seems to be a connection between the two. For individuals with existing mental health problems they might seek out excessive use of their social media apps to evade negative feelings or seek out social interactions.

People who don’t necessarily have a compulsive motivation to use their phone and simply use it to escape boredom are less likely to experience mental health problems like anxiety or depression. Minimizing the use of smartphones as much as possible and increasing face to face interaction can help to diminish the stress caused by technology. People use certain apps as a kind of social reward, so meeting up with friends or having a conversation with someone can be a better option.

Addiction to technology can cause an increase in anxiety as any type of addiction would. Thinking about your motivation behind smartphone use and whether your habits are compulsive can help you start to make changes. Any efforts toward moderating cell phone usage can be beneficial for improving your social connections and your overall mental health.

How Connected are Football Concussions and Mental Health Issues?

Posted on: August 18th, 2017 by The Gooden Center No Comments

Concussions And Mental Health Problems

Football may be a favorite national pastime for most Americans but professional NFL players often have to deal with the physical toll that the sport can take on them. Football players usually experience repeated traumatic injuries that can affect their body and brain. Recently researchers have discovered that concussions and brain trauma which are common in the game can actually lead to severe mental health issues as players age.

There have been instances of mental health problems in former football players that made headlines. Junior Seau, a former player for the San Diego Chargers, committed suicide in 2012 and his autopsy revealed a brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy. It is a progressive, degenerative brain disease that has been found in a large number of former NFL players and boxers.

CTE is caused by repetitive brain trauma including concussions which begin to trigger progressive degeneration of brain tissue. The disease often leads to symptoms such as:

– memory loss

– confusion

– impaired judgement

– aggression

– depression

– suicidality

– dementia

Unfortunately, because of the effects of CTE Seau’s suicide could have been directly related to the concussions he experienced while playing football.

Seau’s depression is not an isolated incident; former Philadelphia Eagles Star Andre Waters committed suicide in 2006 at the age of only 44. His autopsy revealed that his brain had so much damage it resembled an 85 year old man with alzheimer’s disease. Waters’ head injuries throughout his career most likely contributed to his depression and severe brain damage.

Clinical Depression and Brain Trauma

A study in 2007 by the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes surveyed former NFL players who received multiple concussions throughout their career. Those with three or more concussions were three times as likely to develop clinical depression than those who had never received concussions. There were also five times more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment.

Concussions occur when a sudden impact jostles the brain causing it to hit the surrounding skull or rotate unnaturally. Short term effects of a concussion include memory loss, unconsciousness, nausea and slurred speech. A person may be able to recover easily from a single concussion but repeated concussions which are common for football players can lead to severe neurological damage.

Many former NFL players who suffer from depression are found to have noticeable abnormalities in their brain’s white matter. Inside the brain, white matter is critical for transmitting signals and concussions can cause some of the connections within it to tear. Studies have shown a strong correlation between players with depression and white matter damage.

Former NFL Players and their Mental Health

Although there seems to be an increased risk for brain damage and depression among NFL players, it is not always the case that concussions cause these issues. There are a number of retired players who have had no problems with mental health such as Troy Aikman of the Dallas Cowboys who suffered an astonishing total of 10 concussions over 12 seasons. In spite of these extensive injuries, Aikman is often in front of the camera and has not suffered any mental health issues related to his brain trauma.

The statistics however, generally seem to confirm that there is a strong connection between repeated brain trauma and mental health issue in former players. About 22 percent of players who have received multiple concussions have experienced a bout of depression compared to only 6 to 7 percent among those with no concussions. Depression related to concussions tends to occur in older retired players as they reach their 50s and 60s.

Injuries and Recovery

Any time a player experiences a concussion it is best to keep them out of play until it has fully healed to avoid issues like second impact syndrome. This is an illness that develops when a second concussion occurs before the first one is properly healed. Second impact syndrome can be a life-threatening condition so it important for players to be cleared by a physician before they return to the game.

It can also be helpful for football players to receive testing following every concussion they receive to determine if there has been any damage. A neurocognitive test such as the imPACT test prior to the season can serve as a baseline test of an athlete’s neurocognitive abilities. If players receive a concussion they can be removed from play and tested for any damage or changes in their abilities.

New helmet technology currently in the works could eventually help to reduce the number of concussions that occur in the games. Studies in the field of concussion rehabilitation could also help treat these injuries more effectively to prevent long term damage. A better understanding of how concussions happen in the sport and the best methods for treating them could help improve the outlook for NFL players in the future.