Ant McPartlin has no reason to apologise. His addiction is not his fault | Chris Owen

The TV star says he feels he’s let people down. But after spending time in rehab I know how important it is that addiction is seen as an illness, not as self-inflicted

The weekend brought the news that Ant McPartlin, one half of Ant and Dec – PJ of PJ and Duncan fame – has checked into rehab for addiction problems with alcohol and drugs. He’s to spend a couple of months in recovery, where – hopefully – he’ll come out armed with the knowledge of how he became unwell in the first place, and how he can keep himself safe and sober in the long term.

Related: Ant McPartlin speaks out about depression and addiction

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Riding a romantic roller coaster? Relationship anxiety may be to blame

Loves me, loves me not. Turns out that anxiety over that very question may be detrimental to the long-term success of a relationship.

In a recent study in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, Florida State University graduate student Ashley Cooper explores how high levels of fluctuation in how secure an individual feels in his or her relationship may actually doom its success.

“For people anxious in their attachments, they have anxiety as to whether the person is going to be there for them and whether they are worthy of others,” said Cooper, a second-year doctoral student in the College of Human Sciences. “I was interested in how attachment security impacted partners’ experiences in their relationship on a daily basis. Some couples experience instability from one day to the next in their relationship, so we sought out to explore what could increase or decrease this volatility.”

Cooper and her colleagues found that individuals who experience high levels of anxiety about their partner’s commitment were likely to experience more volatility in their feelings about the relationship from one day to the next. Furthermore, when women experienced this anxiety, their male partners experienced similar volatility in their feelings about the relationship.

Researchers interviewed 157 couples and asked them a series of questions about how the couples communicated their attachment to each other, how comfortable they were in emotionally connecting with their partners, their relationship satisfaction and the type of conflict that existed in the relationship.

Of the sample, 74 percent of the participants were dating and nearly 50 percent of participants were in relationships of two years or less.

Researchers specifically looked at the couples in which one or both partners experienced high attachment avoidance — that is, behaviors associated with the distrust of relying on other people — and attachment anxiety — behaviors associated with fears regarding consistent care and affection.

When an individual reported high attachment avoidance, both the individual and partner reported generally low levels of relationship satisfaction or quality. When individuals reported high attachment anxiety, there tended to be increased volatility in relationship quality.

Cooper said the findings will be helpful to clinicians involved in premarital or couples counseling and for individuals who experience drastic differences in their feelings about their relationships from day to day.

“For the average person, stay attuned to what your partner is saying and avoid making assumptions that can escalate conflict,” she said. “Trusting in your partner and your relationship is important to daily interactions and stability for your relationship.”

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Materials provided by Florida State University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Number of under-18s on antidepressants in England rises by 12%

Data shows over 166,000 were given such medication between April 2015 and June 2016, including 537 aged six or under

Tens of thousands of young people in England, including children as young as six, are being prescribed antidepressants by their doctors. The figures have prompted concern that medics may be overprescribing strong medication because of stretched and underfunded mental health services.

Data obtained by the Guardian shows that 166,510 under-18s, including 10,595 seven-to-12-year-olds and 537 aged six or younger, were given medication typically used to treat depression and anxiety between April 2015 and June 2016. The figures, released by NHS England under the Freedom of Information Act, show a 12% rise in the numbers taking the drugs over the same time period.

Related: Antidepressants prescribed far more in deprived English coastal towns

Related: Antidepressant prescriptions in England double in a decade

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Ant McPartlin speaks out about his depression and addiction

Presenter has reportedly entered rehab for treatment for anxiety and prescription drug and alcohol abuse

Ant McPartlin has said he feels he has let people down as he reportedly enters rehab following a battle with depression, alcohol and substance abuse.

The TV presenter, one half of the duo Ant and Dec, said he wanted to speak out about his issues in order to help others.

Very brave Ant to go public. This is the first stage of the road to recovery. All the best Ant it, will all be sorted for sure @antanddec https://t.co/lDcg5SjttD

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Meditation could be a cheaper alternative to traditional pain medication, study suggests

Just ten minutes of mindfulness meditation could be used as an alternative to painkillers, according to research by Leeds Beckett University.

Results of the study suggest that a single ten-minute mindfulness meditation session administered by a novice therapist can improve pain tolerance, pain threshold and decrease anxiety towards pain.

The research was carried out by the School of Clinical and Applied Sciences at Leeds Beckett and used a group of 24 healthy university-aged students (12 men and 12 women). They were randomly split into a control group and a meditation group.

A cold-pressor task was used to cause pain to the participants; they put their hand in warm water for two minutes before removing it and placing it immediately into ice water for as long as they could manage and only removed it when the pain became too much and could no longer be tolerated. They then either sat quietly for ten minutes (control group) or meditated for ten minutes before repeating the cold-pressor task.

Five groups of data were then collected; anxiety towards pain, pain threshold, pain tolerance, pain intensity and pain unpleasantness. Pre-intervention the figures didn’t differ greatly between the control and meditation groups but following the ten-minute meditation session, the participants from the meditation group saw a significant decrease in anxiety towards pain and a significant increase in pain threshold and pain tolerance.

Speaking about the results of the study, Dr Osama Tashani, Senior Research Fellow in Pain Studies, said: “While further research is needed to explore this in a more clinical setting on chronic pain patients, these results do show that a brief mindfulness meditation intervention can be of benefit in pain relief. The ease of application and cost effectiveness of the mindfulness meditation may also make it a viable addition to the arsenal of therapies for pain management.

“The mindfulness mediation was led by a researcher who was a novice; so in theory clinicians could administer this with little training needed. It’s based on traditional Buddhist teachings which focuses attention and awareness on your breathing.”

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Materials provided by Leeds Beckett University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Women can still have it all. Can’t they? | Victoria Coren Mitchell

Over tea and muffins, I was almost convinced of the case for tighter apron strings. Oh, crumbs!

Last week was a significant one for me because I nearly changed my mind about something. And who ever does that? I didn’t change my mind (nobody ever does, about anything) but I did have – I think – a small insight. I won’t say “epiphany”. Not least because I find it hard to pronounce. But I will say insight.

It came about over a cup of tea with a friend, whom I won’t name for fear that people will find her on Twitter and shout at her. Let’s just call her @elspeth157. I’m joking. We’ll call her Janet.

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Low-dose THC can relieve stress; more does just the opposite

Cannabis smokers often report that they use the drug to relax or relieve stress, but few studies provide clinical evidence of these effects.

Now, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Chicago report that low levels tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana, does reduce stress, but in a highly dose-dependent manner: very low doses lessened the jitters of a public-speaking task, while slightly higher doses — enough to produce a mild “high” — actually increased anxiety.

Cannabis is a highly regulated category 1 substance, and permits to study the drug are difficult to obtain. While it is common knowledge that many people use cannabis for its stress-relieving effects, “very few published studies have looked into the effects of THC on stress, or at the effects of different levels of THC on stress,” says Emma Childs, associate professor of psychiatry in the UIC College of Medicine and corresponding author on the study, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

“We found that THC at low doses reduced stress, while higher doses had the opposite effect, underscoring the importance of dose when it comes to THC and its effects.”

Childs and her colleagues recruited 42 healthy volunteers 18 to 40 years old who had some experience with cannabis use but who were not daily users.

Participants were randomly divided into three groups: The low-dose group received a capsule containing 7.5 milligrams of THC; the moderate-dose group received a capsule containing 12.5 milligrams of THC; and a placebo group received a capsule containing none. Neither the participants nor the researchers knew who was in each group.

“The doses used in the study produce effects that are equivalent to only a few puffs of a cannabis cigarette,” said Childs, noting that it is difficult to compare doses of smoked cannabis to doses of ingested THC. “We didn’t want to include a much larger dose, because we wanted to avoid potential adverse effects or cardiovascular effects that can result from higher doses of THC.”

Participants attended two four-hour sessions at the University of Chicago, five days apart. At each session, they took their capsule and then relaxed for two hours to allow the THC to be absorbed into the bloodstream.

During one session, participants were asked to spend 10 minutes preparing for a mock job interview. They were then subjected to a five-minute interview with lab assistants who did not offer any feedback, verbally or through body language, although video display was visible to the participant, showing their performance. Participants were then instructed to count backwards from a five-digit number by subtracting 13, for five minutes — a task that is “very reliably stress-inducing,” Childs said.

In their second visit, participants were asked to talk to lab assistants about a favorite book or movie for five minutes and then play solitaire for another five minutes.

Before, during and after each of the two activities, participants rated their stress levels and feelings about the tasks. Blood pressure, heart rate, and cortisol, a key stress hormone, were measured at intervals.

The participants who received 7.5 milligrams of THC reported less stress after the psychosocial test than those given a placebo, and their stress levels dissipated faster after the test.

Participants who received 12.5 milligrams of THC before the two tasks reported greater negative mood before and throughout the task, and were more likely to rate the psychosocial task as “challenging” and “threatening” beforehand. Participants who received this dose also had more pauses during the mock interview compared to those in the placebo group.

There were no significant differences in participants’ blood pressure, heart rate or cortisol levels — before, during or after the doses or the tasks.

“Our findings provide some support for the common claim that cannabis is used to reduce stress and relieve tension and anxiety,” Childs said. “At the same time, our finding that participants in the higher THC group reported small but significant increases in anxiety and negative mood throughout the test supports the idea that THC can also produce the opposite effect.”

“Studies like these — examining the effects of cannabis and its pharmacological constituents under controlled conditions — are extremely important, considering the widespread use of cannabis for both medical and non-medical purposes,” she said. “Unfortunately, significant regulatory obstacles make it extremely difficult to conduct this type of research — with the result that cannabis is now widely available for medical purposes with minimal scientific foundation.”

Internet withdrawal increases heart rate and blood pressure

Scientists and clinicians from Swansea and Milan have found that some people who use the internet a lot experience significant physiological changes such as increased heart rate and blood pressure when they finish using the internet.

The study involved 144 participants, aged 18 to 33 years, having their heart rate and blood pressure measured before and after a brief internet session. Their anxiety and self-reported internet-addiction were also assessed. The results showed increases in physiological arousal on terminating the internet session for those with problematically-high internet usage. These increases in heart rate and blood pressure were mirrored by increased feelings of anxiety. However, there were no such changes for participants who reported no internet-usage problems.

The study, published in the international peer-reviewed journal, PLOS ONE, is the first controlled-experimental demonstration of physiological changes as a result of internet exposure.

The study lead, Professor Phil Reed, of Swansea University, said: “We have known for some time that people who are over-dependent on digital devices report feelings of anxiety when they are stopped from using them, but now we can see that these psychological effects are accompanied by actual physiological changes.”

There was an average 3-4% increase in heart rate and blood pressure, and in some cases double that figure, immediately on termination of internet use, compared to before using it, for those with digital-behaviour problems. Although this increase is not enough to be life-threatening, such changes can be associated with feelings of anxiety, and with alterations to the hormonal system that can reduce immune responses. The study also suggested that these physiological changes and accompanying increases in anxiety indicate a state like withdrawal seen for many ‘sedative’ drugs, such as alcohol, cannabis, and heroin, and this state may be responsible for some people’s need to re-engage with their digital devices to reduce these unpleasant feelings.

Dr. Lisa Osborne, a clinical researcher and co-author of the study, said: “A problem with experiencing physiological changes like increased heart rate is that they can be misinterpreted as something more physically threatening, especially by those with high levels of anxiety, which can lead to more anxiety, and more need to reduce it.”

The authors go on to speculate that internet use is driven by more than just the short-term excitement or joy of the technology, but that over-use can produce negative physiological and psychological changes that may drive people back onto the internet, even when they do not want to engage.

Professor Reed said: “The individuals in our study used the internet in a fairly typical way, so we are confident that many people who over-use the internet could be affected in the same way. However, there are groups who use the internet in other ways, like gamers, perhaps to generate arousal, and the effects of stopping use on their physiology could be different — this is yet to be established.”

Professor Roberto Truzoli of Milan University, a co-author of the study, added: “Whether problematic internet use turns out to be an addiction — involving physiological and psychological withdrawal effects — or whether compulsions are involved that do not necessitate such withdrawal effects — is yet to be seen, but these results seem to show that, for some people, it is likely to be an addiction.”

The study also found that the participants spent an average of 5 hours a day on the internet, with 20% spending over 6 hours a day using the internet. Additionally, over 40% of the sample reported some level of internet-related problem — acknowledging that they spend too much time online. There was no difference between men and women in the tendency to show internet addiction. By far the most common reasons for engaging with digital devices were digital communication media (‘social media’) and shopping.

Previous studies by this group, and many others, have shown short-term increases in self-reported anxiety when digitally-dependent people have their digital devices removed, and longer-term increases in their depression and loneliness, as well as changes to actual brain structures and capability to fight infections in some.

Professor Phil Reed said: “The growth of digital communication media is fuelling the rise of ‘internet’ use, especially for women. There is now a large amount of evidence documenting the negative effects of overuse on people’s psychology, neurology, and now, in this study, on their physiology. Given this, we have to see a more responsible attitude to the marketing of these products by firms — like we have seen for alcohol and gambling.”

Half of adults with anxiety or depression report chronic pain

In a survey of adults with anxiety or a mood disorder like depression or bipolar disorder, about half reported experiencing chronic pain, according to researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. The findings are published online in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

“The dual burden of chronic physical conditions and mood and anxiety disorders is a significant and growing problem,” said Silvia Martins, MD, PhD, associate professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health, and senior author.

The research examined survey data to analyze associations between DSM-IV-diagnosed mood and anxiety disorders and self-reported chronic physical conditions among 5,037 adults in São Paulo, Brazil. Participants were also interviewed in person.

Among individuals with a mood disorder, chronic pain was the most common, reported by 50 percent, followed by respiratory diseases at 33 percent, cardiovascular disease at 10 percent, arthritis reported by 9 percent, and diabetes by 7 percent. Anxiety disorders were also common for those with chronic pain disorder at 45 percent, and respiratory at 30 percent, as well as arthritis and cardiovascular disease, each 11 percent. Individuals with two or more chronic diseases had increased odds of a mood or anxiety disorder. Hypertension was associated with both disorders at 23 percent.

“These results shed new light on the public health impact of the dual burden of physical and mental illness,” said Dr. Martins. “Chronic disease coupled with a psychiatric disorder is a pressing issue that health providers should consider when designing preventive interventions and treatment services — especially the heavy mental health burden experienced by those with two or more chronic diseases.”

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Materials provided by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Prenatal stress predisposes female mice to binge eating

Stress changes our eating habits, but the mechanism may not be purely psychological, research in mice suggests. A study published May 30 in Cell Metabolism found that stressed mouse mothers were more likely to give birth to pups that would go on to exhibit binge-eating-like behavior later in life. The female mouse pups from stressed mothers shared epigenetic tags on their DNA, but these epigenetic markers only made a difference when the researchers put the young offspring into a stressful situation. Furthermore, the researchers were able to prevent their binge eating by putting the young mice on a diet with “balanced” levels of nutrients such as Vitamin B12 and folate.

Previous studies have found an epidemiological link between binge eating and traumatic or stressful events during early life, but untangling the biology behind that correlation has proved difficult. “Here we established a model where we can actually show that early life stress increases the likelihood of binge eating in females,” says senior co-author Alon Chen, a neurobiologist at the Weizmann Institute in Israel and the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich, Germany. “The second thing that is really interesting is that prenatal stress is causing an epigenetic signature in the embryo’s brain,” says Mariana Schroeder, the postdoctoral fellow that led this study.

To test the impact of prenatal stress, the researchers genetically engineered a line of mice, where the brain circuit responsible for releasing cortisol and other stress hormones could be manipulated. Many different systems within the brain contribute to “stress,” but the researchers wanted to be able to zero in on one specific neuroendocrine circuit — called the corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) system — to see if it had an effect. In humans, high levels of CRF activity have been linked to increased anxiety, suppressed appetite, and inflammation, all of which can take a long-term toll.

When these mice became pregnant, the researchers activated the CRF system during their “third trimester” in order to kick the stress circuit into high gear. Their goal was to simulate chronic CRF stress in isolation, but because being handled by humans usually causes all of a mouse’s stress circuits to kick in, they developed a CRF-triggering technique with minimal intervention. “We didn’t actually handle the mice at all; we just changed the water that included the genetic trigger in the third trimester,” Chen says. Handling the mice is usually a source of stress.

They found that female pups from these stressed mice exhibited epigenetic markers in tissue from their hypothalami. However, the presence of epigenetic methyl tags alone was not enough to cause binge eating. The mouse pups’ tendency to binge only surfaced when they were placed in a stressful situation where the researchers restricted their access to food. The mice on the “limited access” diet could eat as much this very rewarding food as they wanted, but they only had access to food for 2-hour windows three times per week, prompting some mice to eat excessively large amounts of food very quickly during the meal windows.

Interestingly, all 10 of the female mice that were subjected to the restricted feeding scenario exhibited a binge-eating phenotype. The researchers used an equal number of female offspring from the stressed out mothers that were not subjected to the restricted feeding schedule as a control. If the same pathways are involved in human eating disorders, it could partly explain why women diagnosed with eating disorders outnumber their male counterparts.

The chemicals that cells use to epigenetically annotate their genes come from food sources. In this case, the epigenetic marker was a methyl tag, and the cell grabs methyl groups from vitamins such as B12 and folate for epigenetic tagging, so the researchers decided to test what would happen if they adjusted the levels of methyl-donating vitamins in the mice’s diet. The genetically predisposed mice on the methyl-balanced diet did not exhibit the binge-eating-like behavior, suggesting that non-invasive dietary interventions may be able to prevent binge eating.

However, the researchers emphasize that this is a pre-clinical study in mice. We don’t know yet what a methyl-balanced diet for humans would look like or whether it would even have an effect on human eating disorders. “We found a balance, but it might not be the relevant balance for humans. This is something that needs to be tested,” says Chen.

Chen hopes that this work will help researchers understand the neurobiology behind eating disorders. “The general public is less aware of the fact that we are dealing with a very biological mechanism that changes a person. People say, ‘Oh, it’s only in the brain.’ And yes, it’s in the brain. It involves changes in your genes, in your epigenome, and your brain circuits.”

All of this underscores the importance of avoiding stressful situations as much as possible during pregnancy. “We all know this, but people ignore it for various social or economic reasons,” says Chen. “But the price we pay later in life — whether it’s psychiatric disorders, metabolic syndromes, or heart-related illnesses — is heavily impacted by the way your brain was programmed early in life.”

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Materials provided by Cell Press. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

It’s good to talk about mental health. But is it enough? | Eva Wiseman

With Princes William and Harry speaking up about the death of their mother, mental health awareness has had a much needed boost. But it’s what happens next that really counts

My toddler has recently learned to talk, and she speaks as if she’s recording her podcast, an unedited till roll of thoughts with a small pause for congratulations at the end. Occasionally she will prod me for praise. “That was a lovely story I just told wasn’t it?” Yes baby. “I piggy pardon?” Yes, that was a lovely story.

It very often is a lovely story, but a time will have to come, maybe when she turns three, when she will learn that talking is not enough. Talking is rarely the end – talking is the vehicle, the bus, the bike. The meandering journey to another place.

May has pledged to tackle the ‘stigma’ of mental health. But the crisis has been fuelled by her party’s cuts

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LGBT people are prone to mental illness. It’s a truth we shouldn’t shy away from | Alexander Leon

We should be defiant in our acceptance of mental health problems in the same way that we would about our sexuality or gender identity

I almost didn’t write this. It wasn’t from not wanting to. I cradled my head in my hands, desperate to contribute to the reams of social media positivity I had seen surrounding Mental Health Awareness Week.

I almost didn’t – couldn’t – because I was depressed.

Related: Gay men are battling a demon more powerful than HIV – and it’s hidden | Owen Jones

Related: Theresa May wants to scrap the Mental Health Act. Here’s what should replace it | Mark Brown

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What I wish I could tell my boss: ‘When I told you I was depressed, you fired me’

Watching you talk about how you support people will mental health makes me anxious – I hope no one else has to endure what I did

Before I started working for you, I idolised you. Your office looked incredible and I couldn’t think of anything better than having dogs running around my feet as I worked, and in-office play equipment which took me back to the days I spent running around soft play areas as a child. I couldn’t have been more infatuated, until you started talking about mental health. When you told the camera how supportive your company was, I knew I needed to work for you.

Related: What I wish I could tell my boss: ‘I was broken, and you fixed me’

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How to manage stress and prevent burnout

Entrepreneur Victoria Walford overcame PTSD and now helps other professionals avoid burnout. She shares her stress-busting tips

A cycling accident 11 years ago left me with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I suffered flashbacks to my accident at work and at home. With the help of psychological treatment, I learned how to manage my condition and went on to launch my own bakery business.

We can start learning how to deal with stress by understanding the situations that act as emotional triggers for us. Emotional triggers affect us all. Yours could be a comment directed at you or a situation you find yourself in that wouldn’t particularly bother another person, but that has the potential to upset you for the rest of the day.

Related: Battling end-of-year burnout? Bring some hygge to work

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Social media and bullying: how to keep young people safe online

Social media can connect like-minded young people, providing vital support for those experiencing mental health issues, however, many sites can also promote harmful behaviour. Is there a solution?

For all the benefits to mental health a digital world can bring, such as a sense of belonging and information and support for those with problems, there are also myriad dangers associated with online activity. In the very worst cases, people have live-streamed their suicide and had people cheer them on in the comments section.

Meanwhile, cyberbullying and trolling, along with communities and groups on social media that foster, glamorise or even encourage self-harm are pervasive. Stephen Buckley, head of information at the charity Mind, acknowledges these risks: “It is vital to recognise the huge danger created by any site or social media trend that promotes self-harm, suicide or eating disorders. They can be hugely damaging and possibly dangerous to someone in a crisis.”

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