Benzodiazepines and Dementia

ValiumI haven’t written about my opposition to the widespread use of psychiatric medications in quite some time, mostly because I feel I’ve already said most of what I have to say on this issue. (See the collection of posts under the heading “The Medicalization of Mental Health,” to be found at the lower right of this page.) But a new study was recently released which demonstrates a link between the use of benzodiazepines and the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. While this study says nothing about the long-term effects of SSRIs, the history of benzodiazepine usage offers a cautionary tale as to how little we truly understand about a drug’s side effects during the years immediately after psychiatrists and physicians begin prescribing it.

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The Up-Regulation of Joy

My client Ari got married this past weekend. Given his family background, and in light of a gloomy prognosis for his future made by a former therapist, it was a major and moving event. And yet, in our sessions leading up to the ceremony, Ari seemed “dispassionate,” as I expressed it to him. I found no evidence for the joy I expected him to feel. I tried to help him connect with his happiness, while suggesting some reasons why he might find it difficult to rejoice.

During the session, I felt moved on his behalf though at first I didn’t say so. Then, toward the end of the hour, Ari said, “Trying to help me connect with my joy is not the same thing as telling me you’re happy for me.” Words to that effect. I can’t remember exactly how we got to that point, why my feelings about him mattered at that moment, but it really caught my attention. He needed to feel my joy on his behalf.

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Los Angeles Radio Interview

UPDATE: Here’s a link to the archived interview, in case anyone wants to listen. As I said on my Facebook page, this was the first time that I felt absolutely no anxiety before a public appearance. I’ve found my personal “answer” to the problem of performance anxiety: just be yourself and say exactly what you think.


Looking forward to my appearance on Los Angeles public radio station KPFK, airing live on Labor Day at 4 pm Pacific. Available on 90.7 FM in Los Angeles and in most of Southern California, 98.7 FM in Santa Barbara, 99.5 FM in Ridgecrest/China Lake and on 93.7 FM in Rancho Bernardo/North San Diego.

The interview will also be available to stream live online at:

My hosts are Layla Ashley and Mikhail Tank.

A Request for Input

In response to my recent post about The Self-Serving Lie, I had a very interesting email exchange with a site visitor. An intelligent and thoughtful woman, a strong believer in the value of psychotherapy, she felt that by writing such a post, I was behaving in an unprofessional manner. She felt such personal disclosures devalued the profession and debased my own standards. I’m curious about what other readers might think.

As a response to that exchange, I wrote my most recent post on The Evacuation of Pain — definitely more “professional” in the sense that I focused on certain psychological dynamics I’ve encountered in my practice with minimal reference to my “outside” experience. What I find interesting is how many more reader Comments I received in response to the more personal post. Also to the earlier one on Belonging.

Here is my opinion, and feel free to contradict me. When I write a post like the one about pain, I come much more from the place of professional authority; readers can acknowledge that they have experienced something similar and they can relate their own stories. But posts like the one about self-serving lies or the need to belong leave readers greater room to participate, to join me on a more equal footing, and even to offer me advice. Almost everyone has dealt with self-serving liars. Everyone needs to belong. I find that type of post and reader interaction much more satisfying. In fact, all those responses to my post on belonging actually gave me a feeling of community, even if it is a virtual one.

I suppose I’ll continue with a variety of different post styles, but I’d welcome your feedback. Which type of post do you prefer? Do you think it “unprofessional” to write from a more personal perspective rather than as a therapist offering insight? Please chime in!