Yoga for Eating Disorders (& other New Research Studies to Benefit Mental Health)

Research projects on mental health issues take place all the time. As an armchair reader of mental health studies, I find it truly fascinating to read about the variety of studies just getting started and to find out what new therapies are being studied. It’s not just drugs being tested out (which is an easy, rational assumption to make). To be clear, this post isn’t a suggestion for anyone to become a guinea pig or lab mouse, no; this isn’t a chapter from The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (but, my God, you should read the Henrietta Lacks book and learn about HeLa cells.) But I wanted to share what’s going on out in the wide world of mental health research. Some of the various studies going on involve research into “alternative” and non-drug methods, as well as those using pharmaceutical drugs. (Actually, illicit drugs, too are being studied; the use of Ecstasy as a treatment for PTSD is an ongoing study that you can read a summary of here.) In one case, depression in the workplace is being studied. Another is the study of Omega-3 fats combined with talk therapy in depressed children. And – there’s a yoga practice for eating disorders study gearing up as well.

The Omega-3/talk therapy childhood depression study is being run by L. Eugene Arnold, a child psychiatrist/researcher/professor who is based at Ohio State University together with Dr. Mary Fristad, a clinical child psychologist and researcher at the University. While adults can take anti-depressant medications as part of their depression treatment, it’s just not that simple for kids. Kids’ bodies and minds are still developing, for one, and the adverse effects of anti-depressant medications are just too risky for kids. So, safer (more natural) methods are important to study. That appears to be where this study comes in. The study began this past September and will wrap up in the spring of 2014 – about a year and a half. For the study, sixty (60) kids will take part (boys and girls ages 7-14) and some will take doses of Omega-3 supplements while some will take a placebo. All of them will get talk therapy, in which a parent will also take part, since it’s the family that will support/facilitate the child in his or her ongoing well-being. The outcome will, if positive, lead to a more comprehensive study and eventually possible new ways of addressing depression in kids. (And that is heartening!) By using a placebo on some of the kids, the researchers should be able to see what degree of additional impact the Omega-3 supplement is having on the children’s depression. (Hmmm. I wonder what source of Omega-3 they’ll be using – nut oils or fish oils?)

In this article (and video) researcher Dr. Mary Fristad talks about the study of depression in children.

If you’re interested in browsing through studies, Psych Central’s website has a listing of current clinical trials, organized by category (for example, substance abuse, dissociation, bulimia, autism, ADD, anxiety, depression, insomnia, eating disorders, etc.) Here’s the list of research projects on Psych Central’s site. And here’s another listing of clinical trials which is (searchable) on the U.S. National Institute of Heath site.

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