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Love key to brain development in children
March 12th, 2012
11:51 AM ET

Love key to brain development in children

Editor's note: Dr. Charles Raison, CNNhealth's mental health expert, is an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Ever noticed how scientific opinions swing from one extreme to the other?

Take the importance of mothers in the development of children. In the early days of psychiatry almost every mental illness, from depression to schizophrenia to autism was blamed on bad mothering. Then in the 1960’s and 70’s the discovery of medications that helped these illnesses allowed psychiatry to reframe them as biological conditions, no different from cancer or heart disease. Parents were fully absolved for the mental illnesses of their children, except to the degree that they passed along bad genes that caused chemical imbalances in the brain.

Myths inevitably survive long after they’ve been scientifically disproven. Such is the case with the fantasy that mental illnesses can be written off solely to genes and chemicals. Over the last decade a string of scientific discoveries has shown that the biology driving mental illness has at least as much to do with the environment as with chemicals or genetic inheritance. And it increasingly appears that the single most powerful environmental factor is the love - or its lack - that children receive from their parents. So in a very real way we parents are back on the hook for the lifelong emotional well-being of our kids.

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Doctor: 'The Vow' shows our brains are stranger than fiction
February 10th, 2012
04:23 PM ET

Doctor: 'The Vow' shows our brains are stranger than fiction

Editor's note: Dr. Charles Raison, CNNhealth's mental health expert, is an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Between kids banging their heads in sports and soldiers banging their heads in battle, traumatic brain injury (TBI) gets a lot of press these days.

Sadly, TBI is very common, occurring in 1.7 million people annually in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The condition ranges in severity from mild concussions with no long-term consequences to severe brain damage leading to coma and/or death.

Now Hollywood is entering the national discussion about TBI with “The Vow," a movie inspired by real events that tells how a tragic case of TBI nearly destroyed the love between a married couple.

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Why the definition of autism matters
January 24th, 2012
03:26 PM ET

Why the definition of autism matters

Editor's note: Dr. Charles Raison, CNNhealth's mental health expert, is an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

The American Psychiatric Association is in the midst of redesigning a document often called the Bible of Psychiatry. It's known more officially as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM for short.

For practical purposes, including insurance reimbursement, the DSM determines what does and does not qualify as a psychiatric illness in the United States.  Because of this, changes to the document can lead to profound effects on patients’ lives.  Changing criteria can dictate who and who cannot be considered to have a mental illness worthy of treatment... and insurance coverage.

Nowhere have proposed changes to the upcoming edition of the DSM generated more angst, or media coverage, than in the area of autistic disorders.
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October 18th, 2011
04:14 PM ET

How can I move on after my son's death?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Tuesdays, it's Dr. Charles Raison, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University, and an expert in the mind-body connection for health.

Asked by Trena, Cerritos, California

My baby boy died January 12, and my life has been a nightmare ever since. I have tried therapy, and I have been prescribed different antidepressants and nothing seems to help. I'm told I have post-traumatic stress disorder due to the nature of his death. Is there any natural alternative? Are there any other options out there, be it holistic or medicinal? How long does the grief last? I want to feel better for the sake of my other kids, but I just feel worse.

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October 4th, 2011
02:57 PM ET

Is there a wrong way to detox off Xanax?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Tuesdays, it's Dr. Charles Raison, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University, and an expert in the mind-body connection for health.

Question asked by D. Epps from Georgia:

Is there a wrong way to detox off Xanax?

Expert answer:

Sadly, there are probably more wrong ways to detox off Xanax than right ones. Lots of people have a very hard time getting off Xanax if they’ve been on it for awhile no matter what approach they take. This is one of the reasons Xanax has fallen from favor in the last decade.
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September 20th, 2011
12:12 PM ET

How can I help my teen be more responsible?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Tuesdays, it's Dr. Charles Raison, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University, and an expert in the mind-body connection for health.

Question asked by Risha from Sacramento:

My son suffers with anger and low self-esteem but is outrageously cocky toward me. He is almost 18, we don't get along lately, and I feel like he is jealous of my happiness. I feel like it is my fault, as I raised him as a single mom and spoiled him a lot, and now it feels like it has all backfired on me. I am crushed, but I am also starting to have my own resentment toward him.

He suffers from ADHD and most likely a mood disorder, but he refuses to make time to see the doctor. When I schedule appointments, he often wants to reschedule, which leads to having to start the whole process over. I don't want to give up, but with no support, I just don't know what to do. I am 35, I had him young, and I want to have a life, too; and I just don't see how that can happen when he refuses to help himself. It's like he wants me to do everything for him. Please advise.
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September 13th, 2011
11:22 AM ET

What's the next step in fighting depression?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Tuesdays, it's Dr. Charles Raison, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University, and an expert in the mind-body connection for health.

Question asked by Emma from New York:

I have had depression for almost seven years. I saw a psychiatrist and therapist for eight months, two years ago; it made me feel worse. I started to see another psychiatrist and therapist last November; it only mildly helped. I tried Prozac first, but when the dosage increased, I started to have hallucinations and delusions. I was then prescribed Celexa (disrupted my sleep greatly) and then Cymbalta, which showed no change. I also was given several sleep medications. Medications just do not seem to work; they all have side effects. I just moved and have not found more doctors here. My depression and sleep problems seem to get worse with every day. What should my next step be?
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August 30th, 2011
10:34 AM ET

How can I control my panic attacks?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Tuesdays, it's Dr. Charles Raison, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University, and an expert in the mind-body connection for health.

Question asked by Stephanie via e-mail

I've been having a lot of panic attacks, almost every day; sometimes when I'm working, dealing with the kids or just nothing at all. I'll get shortness of breath, chest hurts on both sides or just one side, and a lot of my heart skipping a beat. And it scares me. I'm 29 years old and in good health. How can I control this?
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August 23rd, 2011
01:29 PM ET

Could my bipolar brother develop schizophrenia?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Tuesdays, it's Dr. Charles Raison, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University, and an expert in the mind-body connection for health.

Question asked by Benjamin from St. Catharines, Ontario

I was wondering if my brother, who we have been told is bipolar, could develop schizophrenia? My uncle, my mom's brother, was schizophrenic and unfortunately fell victim to the mental illness. We are aware that there have been some mental health issues with males on my mother's side of the family, so could it be possible that he could be schizophrenic as well as bipolar?
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August 16th, 2011
12:35 PM ET

Why are my OCD feelings so intense?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Tuesdays, it's Dr. Charles Raison, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University, and an expert in the mind-body connection for health.

Question asked by Susan from Oklahoma

I have OCD. When I hear the sink faucet turn off, it makes a squeaking noise, and I feel tense and need to use antibacterial wipes on my hands. I also feel tense and need to use antibacterial wipes when I hear someone say the word "gas," when I see a red gas tank anywhere, when I see a gas nozzle at a gas station (or on TV), and the red color of a gas tank on anything plastic similar to a red gas tank. I also hate looking at sinks in the bathroom and kitchen because I feel tense and literally walk around the apartment covering my eyes so I do not see those objects when I am passing them. Why do I feel so intensely about these things? What can I do?
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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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