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Study Finds Women Are Twice as Likely to Suffer From Anxiety

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Our tendency to worry apparently has a gender bias: Researchers at the University of Cambridge analyzed studies on anxiety from around the world and found women were twice as likely to experience anxiety as men.

For their “review of reviews”—published in the the journal Brain and Behavior this week—the paper’s authors looked at 1232 reviews on the prevalence of anxiety; after eliminating duplicates and reviews that didn't meet their study criteria, they were left with 48 to analyze. They discovered that women are more prone than men to the kind of excessive worry, apprehension, and fear that can prove disruptive in day-to-day living. Another finding: pregnant women, in particular, were at a higher risk for obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)—a form of anxiety disorder—both during and immediately after pregnancy. 

More research is needed before the team can draw any definitive conclusions about why women are more likely to experience anxiety, but co-author Oliva Remes told the BBC that hormonal changes and the pressure of caring for children could be possible contributors.

Forbes points out that according to the World Health Organization, women are also twice as likely to suffer from depression as men, which could potentially predispose them to other nervous disorders. Compounding factors also include income inequality and post-traumatic stress after assaults. 

And gender wasn't the only thing that factors into who experiences anxiety, according to the researchers. They also found that anxiety disorders are more common for residents of North America and Western Europe than for those who live in other parts of the world. (North America tops the list with nearly 8 percent of people suffering from anxiety.) And age is a factor as well: Globally, as many as 10 percent of men and women under 35 had an anxiety disorder.

The WHO reports that just two out of five people who could benefit from mental health treatment seek help within a year of onset. Those in need of counseling can ask their physician for a referral or search for a provider with the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

[h/t NY Mag]

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New Patient Test Could Suggest Whether Therapy or Meds Will Work Better for Anxiety
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Like many psychological disorders, there's no one-size-fits-all treatment for patients with anxiety. Some might benefit from taking antidepressants, which boost mood-affecting brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Others might respond better to therapy, and particularly a form called cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT.

Figuring out which form of treatment works best often requires months of trial and error. But experts may have developed a quick clinical test to expedite this process, suggests a new study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have noted that patients with higher levels of anxiety exhibit more electrical activity in their brains when they make a mistake. They call this phenomenon error-related negativity, or ERN, and measure it using electroencephalography (EEG), a test that records the brain's electric signals.

“People with anxiety disorders tend to show an exaggerated neural response to their own mistakes,” the paper’s lead author, UIC psychiatrist Stephanie Gorka, said in a news release. “This is a biological internal alarm that tells you that you've made a mistake and that you should modify your behavior to prevent making the same mistake again. It is useful in helping people adapt, but for those with anxiety, this alarm is much, much louder.”

Gorka and her colleagues wanted to know whether individual differences in ERN could predict treatment outcomes, so they recruited 60 adult volunteers with various types of anxiety disorders. Also involved was a control group of 26 participants with no history of psychological disorders.

Psychiatrists gauged subjects’ baseline ERN levels by having them wear an EEG cap while performing tricky computer tasks. Ultimately, they all made mistakes thanks to the game's challenging nature. Then, randomized subjects with anxiety disorders were instructed to take an SSRI antidepressant every day for three months, or receive weekly cognitive behavioral therapy for the same duration. (Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of evidence-based talk therapy that forces patients to challenge maladaptive thoughts and develop coping mechanisms to modify their emotions and behavior.)

After three months, the study's patients took the same computer test while wearing EEG caps. Researchers found that those who'd exhibited higher ERN levels at the study's beginning had reduced anxiety levels if they'd been treated with CBT compared to those treated with medication. This might be because the structured form of therapy is all about changing behavior: Those with enhanced ERN might be more receptive to CBT than other patients, as they're already preoccupied with the way they act.

EEG equipment sounds high-tech, but it's relatively cheap and easy to access. Thanks to its availability, UIC psychiatrists think their anxiety test could easily be used in doctors’ offices to measure ERN before determining a course of treatment.

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Food
A Pitless Avocado Wants to Keep You Safe From the Dreaded 'Avocado Hand'
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The humble avocado is a deceptively dangerous fruit. Some emergency room doctors have recently reported an uptick in a certain kind of injury—“avocado hand,” a knife injury caused by clumsily trying to get the pit out of an avocado with a knife. There are ways to safely pit an avocado (including the ones likely taught in your local knife skills class, or simply using a spoon), but there’s also another option. You could just buy one that doesn’t have a pit at all, as The Telegraph reports.

British retailer Marks & Spencer has started selling cocktail avocados, a skinny, almost zucchini-like type of avocado that doesn’t have a seed inside. Grown in Spain, they’re hard to find in stores (Marks & Spencer seems to be the only place in the UK to have them), and are only available during the month of December.

The avocados aren’t genetically modified, according to The Independent. They grow naturally from an unpollinated avocado blossom, and their growth is stunted by the lack of seed. Though you may not be able to find them in your local grocery, these “avocaditos” can grow wherever regular-sized Fuerte avocados grow, including Mexico and California, and some specialty producers already sell them in the U.S. Despite the elongated shape, they taste pretty much like any other avocado. But you don’t really need a knife to eat them, since the skin is edible, too.

If you insist on taking your life in your hand and pitting your own full-sized avocado, click here to let us guide you through the process. No one wants to go to the ER over a salad topping, no matter how delicious. Safety first!

[h/t The Telegraph]

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