MonthJuly 2015

Reading of the Week: Insomnia and Its Treatment

Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) is a multicomponent treatment package that usually includes stimulus control, sleep restriction, and cognitive therapy and has emerged as the most prominent nonpharmacologic treatment for chronic insomnia. Previous meta-analyses have found that CBT-I improves sleep parameters and sleep quality at post treatment and follow-up for adults and older adults. Most of these studies selected individuals with primary insomnia, excluding patients with co-morbid psychiatric and medical conditions. However, patients with insomnia who present to internists and primary care physicians are likely to report comorbid conditions associated with the sleep disturbance. Furthermore, insomnia was previously conceptualized as a symptom arising from the comorbid disorder and treatment was targeted at the underlying disorder. However, accumulating evidence indicates that insomnia can have a distinct and independent trajectory from the comorbid disorder, thus indicating a need for separate treatment from the comorbid condition.

So begins this week’s Reading, which considers CBT-I for people with insomnia. Here’s a quick summary: big study, big journal – and big relevance to your patients.

This week’s Reading: “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia Comorbid With Psychiatric and Medical Conditions: A Meta-analysis” by Jade Q. Wu et al. was just published in JAMA Internal Medicine. Find the paper here.

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Wu et al. consider a very common problem: insomnia. Many patients – whether they have mental health issues or physical health issues – struggle with insomnia. Boston University health economist Austin Frakt has written about his insomnia for The New York Times. He notes that he decided to receive treatment when:

One weekend afternoon a couple of years ago, while turning a page of the book I was reading to my daughters, I fell asleep. Continue reading

Reading of the Week: ADHD and Overdiagnosis

Overdiagnosis in psychiatry occurs where patients are identified with a mental disorder when they do not have significant impairment and would not be expected to benefit from treatment. These problems can arise even when diagnostic criteria are met, that is, in the presence of milder symptoms that fall close to, or within, a normal range on a diagnostic spectrum. Overdiagnosis can lead to unnecessary labelling, unneeded tests, unnecessary therapies, and inflated health care costs. In medicine, with the best of intentions, practice has come to favour more tests and more treatments, all of which tend to drive overdiagnosis. This problem may be worsened by a prevailing cultural ethos that more is better.

Outside of psychiatry, there are clear examples of overdiagnosis. For example, screening programs designed to detect early stages of certain cancers appear to increase incidence estimates, but may have no discernable effect on mortality…

Psychiatry has followed this trend. It has been estimated that at least 40% to 50% of the population will meet criteria for at least 1 psychiatric diagnosis during their lifetime. The current system of nosology in psychiatry, based on phenomenology, that is, subjective reports and clinical observations, encourages overdiagnosis. The presence or absence of mental disorders is not defined by biomarkers, allowing diagnostic constructs to describe broad spectra that cross over into normality.

So begins a short, sharp article on overdiagnosis in psychiatry that has just been published. The authors raise significant issues about psychiatry in general and adult ADHD in particular – they argue that the DSM diagnosis is flawed and impractical; they take aim at patients (yes, patients); they then turn their sites on researchers and industry.

The comments of sensational journalists? The skewed opinion of Scientologists on a blog? Actually, the Reading comes from the pages of The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry and, for the record, the paper’s first author is one of the most prominent psychiatrists in the country; Dr. Joel Paris is the past chair of McGill’s Department of Psychiatry and the author of more than a dozen books.

This week’s Reading: “Is Adult Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Being Overdiagnosed?” by Paris et al.

Here’s the link:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26175391

The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry has always been worth reading, but its new editor, Dr. Scott Patten, has taken this journal to the next level. And, in my opinion, this “perspective” paper is a must-read – one of the most important papers written this year. Continue reading

Reading of the Week: Depression: Is There an App for That?

Depression is a serious, common, and recurring disorder linked to diminished functioning, quality of life, medical morbidity, and mortality. There has been a 37.5% increase in health life years lost to depression over the past two decades. Depression was the third-leading cause of global burden of disease in 2004 and the leading cause of burden of disease in high- and middle-income countries. It is projected to be the leading cause globally in 2030. While effective treatments for depression are available, they are underused. Barriers to treatment include geography, socioeconomic status, system capacity, treatment costs (direct and indirect), low mental health literacy, cultural beliefs, and stigma. A 2010 study found that 75% of primary care patients with depression in urban areas could identify more than one structural, psychological, cultural, or emotional barrier to accessing behavioral treatments. The rate was substantially higher in rural areas.

So begins a new paper that considers an old problem – the difficulty of patients accessing mental health care.

But this paper is different. It considers a modern approach to access: smartphone and tablet applications (or apps) for depression. And it’s not just the topic that is so modern with this week’s Reading. Consider: the paper was published in a new journal, JMIR mHealth and uHealth, available only on-line, and focused on the very modern topic of mobile health. (This journal is a spin-off of JMIR, the Journal of Medical Internet Research, itself a relatively new journal, which boasts an impact factor of 4.7 in 2013.)

This week’s Reading: “Finding a Depression App: A Review and Content Analysis of the Depression App Marketplace” by Nelson Shen et al. In it, the authors seek to shed light on a poorly studied area. As they note early in the paper, despite the incredible popularity of apps, only one recent systemic review looked at depression apps, and included just 4 papers. And so, Shen et al. consider apps for depression, drawing out common characteristics and purposes.

This is, then, an important topic. The potential here is great: with so many of our patients empowering themselves with apps, those with depression could potentially access good information, screening tools and even treatments such as CBT.

What did Shen et al. find in their paper? It’s best summarized by the old Roman phrase caveat emptor (let the buyer beware). Continue reading

Reading of the Week: Suicide and Religion

The relationship between religion and suicide was first established in Emile Durkheim’s 19th-century seminal treatise. This has since been corroborated in different countries,most recently by Swiss researchers who used a year 2000 census-based cohort study to show that such risk patterns still persisted, with risk highest for those with no religious affiliation, lowest for Roman Catholics and intermediate for Protestants. Why religion should exhibit this protective effect is less clear: Durkheim attributed it to the sense of community that arises from active church membership, with attendance the most commonly cited attribute. Others, however, emphasise the moral and religious objections to suicide,although Durkheim was at pains to rule this out as an explanation. Perhaps a more pertinent question is why, given increasing societal secularisation, does the relationship between religion and suicide still seem to persist? Increasing secularization is also evident in Switzerland, where by the end of the 1990s nonpractising Christians made up almost half the population, and a further 11% cited no religious affiliation. This has led many social researchers, including some in Switzerland, to conclude that affiliation bears little correspondence to religious belief or practice but is more likely to reflect a diverse set of traditions or social convenience.

So begins a new paper from the British Journal of Psychiatry looking at what seems to be a very old and established relationship: religion and suicide. This is heavily treed ground, as the above quotation suggests, with work going back to Durkheim’s 1897 book.

Emile Durkheim

I remember medical school and residency conversations on this topic of religion and suicide, referencing Durkheim. Though people debated the reasons, this much seemed to be taken for granted: religion bestows a protective quality on its followers. For Durkheim, the thinking was that church attendance – highest among the Catholics – provided the advantage.

In “Religion and the risk of suicide: longitudinal study of over 1 million people,” Dermot O’Reilly and Michael Rosato focus on Northern Ireland, drawing on census data.

Dr. Dermot O’Reilly

It’s a short, clever study. It also raises a simple question: is Durkheim’s thinking dated?

Continue reading