The stereotypical idea of counselling or psychotherapy often includes the patient lying in front of a therapist on a couch. For years the analyst’s couch has been shorthand for therapy in movies and cartoons, but the reality is that the use of a couch can be incredibly effective and helpful in counselling and psychotherapy.
A new study suggests that up to 50% of the cause of anorexia can be attributed to genetic factors. The findings could lead to potential new treatments for the illness, but it also raises the question of ‘blame’ that we often encounter in mental health issues as people seek an explanation for what are often very traumatic experiences.
There was recently a hearing in the US that contributed to an ongoing broader debate on the impact that social media and other online communities are having on people individually and society at large, specifically how these platforms may be deliberately trying to make people addicted. Is this possible? And what does it say about the nature of addiction?
This is really worth listening to: 'Unhappy Child, Unhappy Adult'. A Radio 4 programme on the effect of adverse childhood experiences on adult mental health.
We already know that unhappy experiences in childhood are more likely to lead to mental health issues in later life.
What's becoming clear, however, is that chronic stress and anxiety during this time can trigger dramatic changes in the body which contribute to our risk of developing diseases like diabetes, heart disease, cancer and stroke. Chronic stress in childhood is also associated with a shortened life span.
Health-harming behaviours which contribute to disease risk, like smoking, drinking alcohol and drug use, are more common among those who have endured traumatic experiences in childhood.
But scientists are now revealing that these stressful childhood experiences have a direct impact on our physical health, through their impact on the developing brain and the immune system.
The question now is how to use this knowledge to improve the nation's health. Should health professionals routinely ask patients about traumatic events in their childhoods? And if so, who should broach the subject, where and when?
Geoff Watts visits a GP practice which is about to trial this novel idea, and looks at the growing body of evidence revealing how adverse childhood experiences contribute to poor health and shorter lives.
Producer: Beth Eastwood.