Mental Health

How can I protect my middle schooler from cyberbullying?

DEAR DOCTOR K:My daughter will be starting middle school this year. How can I protect her from cyberbullying?

DEAR READER: Bullying can be particularly difficult during middle and high school, when popularity and peer acceptance feel like the most important parts of life. Adding technology to the mix makes it worse still. Cyberbullying is not simply bullying that takes place through electronic means.

Why do I have trouble remembering certain types of information but not others?

DEAR DOCTOR K: As I get older, I've noticed that I have more trouble remembering certain types of information. But other types of memory are as strong as ever. Is this true, or just wishful thinking on my part?

DEAR READER: You've made an interesting observation -- and an accurate one. As we age, some information does become harder to recall, and new memories may be harder to lay down in the brain. But other memories remain as accessible as ever.

Does “mindfulness meditation” really help relieve stress and anxiety?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I've heard a lot about "mindfulness meditation." Does it really help relieve stress and anxiety?

DEAR READER: Mindfulness meditation has become quite popular in recent years. The practice involves bringing your mind's attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future. Many people practice it hoping to stave off stress and stress-related health problems.

My 4-year-old still mispronounces many words– Should I be worried?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My 4-year-old still mispronounces many words. Adults outside of our family have trouble understanding what he's saying. Should I be worried?

DEAR READER: Just as it took time for your child to learn his first word, it takes time for children to learn to speak clearly and correctly. To see what the latest thinking on this is, I talked to pediatrician colleagues at Harvard Medical School.

Will studies of our genes change medicine and improve our lives?

In yesterday's column, a reader asked whether she should be tested for genes linked to Alzheimer's disease. Today, I thought I'd give you my view on the larger question: Will studies of our genes change the practice of medicine and improve our lives?

My answer: During my career, progress in human genetics has been greater than virtually anyone imagined. However, human genetics also has turned out to be much more complicated than people imagined. As a result, we have not moved as rapidly as we had hoped in changing medical practice.

I have seasonal affective disorder — What can I do as winter approaches?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have seasonal affective disorder so I dread the approach of winter. What can I do?

DEAR READER: Here in Boston, it can get dark before 4:30 in the afternoon. For some people, the shorter days of this time of year bring on seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as winter depression. People with SAD tend to develop symptoms every year. They start gradually in late autumn and build up during the winter months. For many, relief may not come until the longer days of spring.

Can you explain what the “placebo effect” means?

DEAR DOCTOR K: In previous columns you've mentioned something called the "placebo effect." Can you explain what that means?

DEAR READER: We used to think the placebo effect was imaginary. Today, I think the evidence indicates otherwise: It's an example of our remarkable powers of self-healing.

Why does my stomach clench up in knots when I’m stressed?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Whenever I'm stressed out my stomach clenches up in knots. Why does it do that?

DEAR READER: A particularly sad experience is described as "gut-wrenching." Hearing about a gruesome crime makes you "feel nauseated." An upcoming presentation gives you "butterflies in your stomach." We use these expressions because anger, anxiety, sadness, elation and other emotions can trigger symptoms in our gastrointestinal tract.

I’ve been drinking more recently — How can I rein in my drinking before it becomes a problem?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm a 36-year-old woman. Lately I've been drinking more than I used to. How can I rein in my drinking before it becomes a problem?

DEAR READER: Even for people who initially have a healthy relationship with alcohol, things can change over time. So how can you prevent casual drinking from crossing into problem drinking? First, some basics. A standard drink equals 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.