Radar Online published a curious story Saturday that led with this: "Jenny McCarthy wants everyone to know that her son WAS diagnosed with autism and she’s never thought otherwise."
Excuse me, but didn't we know that? And why the emphasis on "was"?
That's because this story followed a Radar report hours earlier claiming that Jenny McCarthy had revealed that her son did not have autism. That would have been huge news. McCarthy is by far the most vocal and visible critic of vaccines, alleging that they caused her son's autism. If he doesn't have autism, her case collapses. (There is no case to start with -- there is no link between vaccines and autism. But even her own argument would collapse if her son did not have autism.)
Radar's error provoked a storm of reaction, not least from McCarthy herself, who has reportedly threatened to sue Radar. (I use the word "reportedly" with trepidation in this context.)
But this wasn't just a simple error: Radar made almost every error it's possible to make.
First, it published incorrect information.
Second, it attributed that information to a "new" TIME magazine article that was actually published in 2010.
Third, the TIME story by Karl Taro Greenfield did not say that McCarthy had changed her mind. Here's what it did say (paywall):
There are dark murmurings from scientists and doctors asking, Was her son ever really autistic? Evan's symptoms--heavy seizures, followed by marked improvement once the seizures were brought under control--are similar to those of Landau-Kleffner syndrome, a rare childhood neurological disorder that can also result in speech impairment and possible long-term neurological damage. Or, as other pediatricians have suggested, perhaps the miracle I have beheld is the quotidian miracle of childhood development: a delayed 2-year-old catching up by the time he is 7, a commonplace, routine occurrence, nothing more surprising than a short boy growing tall.
Note that this did not come from McCarthy. It was speculation.
Fourth, when Radar discovered its mistake, it simply hit delete. It did not acknowledge the error nor did it explain to confused viewers what happened. Depending upon how you get to the site, you either see the replacement story or this: "This should not be on your Radar..."
This is the first thing Radar got right. Its story should not be on your radar. I searched the site and the web for evidence of a correction or the initial story, and I couldn't find either one.
I did, however, find the original story in Google's cache. Here's the headline: "Changing Her View? Jenny McCarthy Abandons Controversial Position On Vaccines And Says Her Son May Not Have Autism After All!"
This is not only a mistake, or a series of mistakes, but a violation of the most basic compact that a news site can have with its readers -- to tell the truth and to honestly admit mistakes and correct them -- not to beam them into Internet obscurity.
Even celebrity journalism deserves better than this.
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CrossFit was the best thing that happened to my family in 2013.
I know that sounds like an overstatement of immense proportions. It's not.
Annie, my wife, agrees. And if you knew Annie, she doesn't overstate anything.
Don't get me wrong, we had a lot of awesome things happen personally (I taught my daughter how to ride a bike... on Father's Day!) and professionally (my second book came out), but the last year has been tough.
Honestly, we've sort of been reeling since Sept. 18, 2012. That's the day we learned that our son Griffin might be on the autism spectrum. In 2013, after jumping through all sorts of hoops and watching our son be poked and prodded again and again in the name of evaluations, we learned that our little Griffy is autistic.
So much of our hearts and minds have been wrapped up trying to learn what autism means and what to do and how to feel. We struggled. We cried. Nothing we could say or do made it better. Much of whatever free time was left after a day of wiping ends of kids, feeding, bathing, and putting them to bed was spent talking about autism.
We took less photos. We spent less time with friends. We both were depressed.
But then my friend BJ opened a CrossFit gym in Muncie, Ind., and things started to change.
Something to talk about
We suffered together.
I'm not sure I had ever seen Annie do a push up in her life. At one of our early workouts she did like a hundred of them.
I had never climbed a rope. At one of our first workouts Annie climbed the rope like it wasn't a big deal. I thought, "Oh crap! My wife just climbed that rope! Now I have to." And then I did.
We witnessed the strength and weakness in one another.
We pushed each other and before long, Annie, a pretty good high school athlete who hadn't worked out in a decade, started to beat me on a regular basis. I'm okay with it, really. Seriously, I don't die a little on the inside every time Annie beats me. When I rush into the gym to check Annie's time on the leader board, that's me making sure the coaches got her time right and not looking for a time to beat, right? (Okay... now I'm just trying to convince myself.)
We've been doing CrossFit now for about five months. Yesterday, our 4-year-old daughter Harper told us, "All you ever talk about is working out."
She's right. We compare strategies for the workouts and form on the lifts. Annie taught me how to do a handstand push up. A lot of the time we can't work out together, but we're always on the phone checking in to see how the other did.
CrossFit gave us something else to talk about other than therapies and behaviors and symptoms.
Out of the house into the Box
When I'm not traveling for research or talking on a college campus, I'm alone in my office. I don't have a boss. I don't have any coworkers. It's just me in a room with my thoughts. If you saw me write, you would think I was a mad man. I talk to myself. Cuss at myself, and regularly crack myself up. It can be a little lonely.
Annie is anything but alone. She's at home with the kids. Griffin needs Annie like a rose needs the sun. He sits on her lap and twirls her hair. Any conversation with Harper may end with the appearance of her alter ego -- Butt Girl (why couldn't she just pretend to be a princess?) -- and her bare bottom.
When we learned about Griffin, we isolated ourselves even more. When you get together with friends and see their kids doing things your kid should be doing, it's hard not to get down. So we just stopped getting together with folks, even though both of us need to get out a little and be around living, breathing, adult humans.
My friend's gym forced us to do just that. We've made a lot of new friends inside the box (CrossFit slang for gym), who've become our friends outside of the box as well.
In October, our community came together to do a work out to raise funds for autism. That meant a lot. Annie told me that when she saw her fellow CrossFitters pushing themselves to the limit, she teared up for the first time in a long time.
Dance parties are better
The other morning I got out of bed and walked into the bathroom and noticed in the mirror that there was something different with my stomach. "Great," I thought. "What's wrong with me now? How much is this going to cost?" There was nothing wrong. There were just abs. Abs!
Annie has them too!
When I list the ways CrossFit has changed our lives over the past year, it's weird how fitness comes near the bottom of that list. But we are definitely fitter.
You should see our dance parties! We spin Harper and Griffin until they're dizzy. We throw them higher into the air until they inform us that's high enough. Dance parties were once limited by our strength and stamina. No more!
Dance parties are way better.
A community that inspires inspiration
We need hope and strength and encouragement. All things in endless supply in the CrossFit community.
Just today, I saw a guy who I've working out with for months complete 20 unassisted pull ups for the first time. In the past few months, he's dropped 40 pounds, become stronger, and is a regular at the top of the leader board. Watching him give everything he had to complete his pull ups inspires me to dig deeper.
Annie came home from today's workout and told me that Jennifer, who she had been working out with for months, was upset that she was struggling so much to complete her fifth consecutive rope climb. Two months ago, Jennifer couldn't do a single rope climb. Jennifer reminds us that each day is a struggle, but we need to remember how far we've come.
Annie still gets down, and so do I. Five months ago, Griffin wouldn't acknowledge me when I walked in a room. Now he runs to me with open arms and a smile full of giggles. He and we have come a long way.
There's so much in life we can't change or overcome. There are burdens that we can never put down. But for an hour each day Annie and I climb, pull, carry, and push ourselves to new heights and weights. We overcome things that we thought we couldn't. We lift the burden of barbells over our heads and let them go, dropping to the floor with a thud and a bounce, and the knowledge that we can do it, that we can bare a little more if need be.
CrossFit has shown us how strong we can be.
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Severe depression, extreme irritability, over-exuberance: possible symptoms of bipolar disorder. Dying your hair and then missing the old color? Not bipolar disorder.
Which is why Kylie Jenner's tweet saying as much was met with understandable backlash.
We were glad to see that Twitter users criticized her blasé misappropriation of such a serious mental illness. Bipolar disorder is all too commonly used in this way (read: not medically diagnosed), which not only minimizes the severity of actual symptoms, but also belittles the people who live with bipolar disorder every day.
Bipolar disorder is just one of many diagnoses we'd like everyone to stop misusing. Here are a few of what we've deemed the greatest offenders.
Moods change all the time, but the drastic mood swings, as well as the intense changes in energy and activity levels of someone with bipolar disorder are life-altering. People with bipolar disorder may put jobs, schoolwork, relationships and their own health and safety at risk.
About 5.7 million American adults have bipolar disorder or roughly 2.6 percent of the 18-and-over population, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
The urge to double check that the oven is off is wildly different from the rituals performed by people who really do have obsessive compulsive disorder or OCD. Behaviors like constant hand washing or ensuring the door is locked dozens of times truly disrupt lives. The NIMH estimates that unhealthy obsessions and compulsions take up at least an hour a day.
Approximately 2.2 million American adults have OCD. That's about 1 percent of the adult population.
Attention disorders are often flung around cavalierly to mean any varying level of general distraction. Everyone gets lost in the occasional daydream or struggles to stay organized from time to time, but the symptoms in people with an actual diagnosis are at times insurmountable. Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often miss details, forget things, talk nonstop, lose things, seem to not be listening and struggle to follow instructions, among other symptoms. The undiagnosed claiming ADD may just have popcorn brain.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) estimates that 5 percent of children have ADHD, however other surveys report up to 11 percent of children ages 4 to 17 being diagnosed, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Yes, a migraine is a very bad headache. Yes, it's difficult to know what a migraine really feels like until you've had one. But to call any bad headache a migraine is not just incorrect, it's also insensitive to the people who struggle with colossal migraine pain and other frightening and uncomfortable symptoms. Throbbing or pulsing pain is often indicative of a migraine as opposed to another type of headache. Migraines are also often accompanied by sensitivity to light and sound and, occasionally, nausea or vomiting. Some migraine sufferers also deal with constipation or diarrhea, confusion, irritability, muscle stiffness, fatigue or aura in the hours before the pain starts. And once the pain does start, it can last up to 72 hours. People with frequent migraines -- meaning their headaches interfere with their daily lives twice a week or more -- are often advised by their doctors to consider preventive treatments.
Around 36 million Americans, or 12 percent of the population, suffer from migraines, according to the American Migraine Foundation.
There's a difference between a stomachache and a true intolerance to gluten. Celiac disease is a reaction of the body's immune system to gluten, which leads to inflammation that can damage the small intestine. That damage in turn can lead to bloating, diarrhea, weight loss and malabsorption of some nutrients, according to the Mayo Clinic.
More than 2 million people -- about 1 percent of the population -- have celiac disease, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse.
On The Spectrum
Greater awareness of autism, Asperger syndrome and other autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) has led to improved diagnoses, care and understanding for many, but it has also led to mass generalizations and misguided assumptions that land someone who has committed one single moment of social indiscretion "on the spectrum."
ASD symptoms are different from person to person, but may include avoiding eye contact, difficulty understanding others' feelings, repetitive hand or body movements and strong reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look or feel, according to the CDC. While certain social interactions can certainly be more difficult for people with an ASD, it's not helpful for you to blame some fleeting social anxiety on an actual disorder.
At age 8, about 1 in 88 children have an autism spectrum disorder, according to the CDC, which is roughly 1 percent of the 8 year old population.
You've undoubtedly heard someone claim to be depressed... about the fact that his vacation is over, say, or that she has to wait until 2014 for the next season of "Orange Is The New Black." The occasional down day does not a diagnosis make. Major depressive disorder is disabling, long-lasting sadness that makes once-enjoyable activities uninteresting. People with depression often have trouble sleeping, eating and going to work or school. Depression is a disease in the brain most likely caused by a combination of genetic, environmental and psychological factors, according to the NIMH.
About 14.8 million American adults have major depressive disorder, about 6.7 percent of the adult population.
Lots of life events merit a little anxiety, like starting a new job or moving away. But people with a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) worry about things extensively, often when there is little reason to do so, to the point that their worries may even keep them from going about everyday life, according to the NIMH. Even if they realize their anxiety isn't warranted, they have trouble relaxing. They may also have headaches and trouble sleeping, feel irritable and out of breath or startle easily.
About 6.8 million American adults -- 3.1 percent of the adult population -- have a generalized anxiety disorder.
What do you wish people would stop saying they have? Let us know in the comments below.
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BY GENE EMERY
NEW YORK Wed Dec 18, 2013 5:15pm EST
(Reuters Health) - Women who take a common type of antidepressant during pregnancy are not more likely to have a child with autism, according to a new study from Denmark.
But children did have a higher than usual risk when their mothers took the drugs - known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) - for depression or anxiety before becoming pregnant.
That suggests a possible link between a mother's preexisting mental health issues and the developmental disorder that hinders social and communication skills.
"Our interpretation is that women with indications for SSRI use differ from women who do not use SSRIs because of these indications (depression, anxiety), and some of these differences are somehow related to an increased risk of having children who develop autism," Dr. Anders Hviid said. He led the study at the Statens Serum Institute in Copenhagen.
"Whether these differences are genetic, social or something completely different is speculation at this point," Hviid said.
The findings, combined with a separate analysis of the same database published last month in the journal Clinical Epidemiology, suggest people looking for a link between autism and SSRIs need to look elsewhere, Dr. Mark Zylka said.
Zylka, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, has studied autism but was not involved in the analyses.
"There's been a big question in the literature about whether these drugs affect brain development in any way and cause autism," he told Reuters Health. That's important because of how many people take antidepressants, including pregnant women.
A much smaller study conducted in Northern California and published in 2011 suggested SSRI use during pregnancy is tied to a two-fold higher risk of autism.
For the new study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the researchers used data on 626,875 babies born in Denmark in 1996 to 2005.
They recorded which mothers had taken a SSRI like Prozac, Zoloft or Paxil before or during pregnancy, based on a nationwide registry of prescription drugs.
Of the 3,892 children found to have an autism spectrum disorder, 52 had mothers who took one of those drugs while pregnant.
The researchers calculated the risk of autism was 20 percent higher among children whose mothers took an SSRI during pregnancy. But the difference was so small among the small number of women involved that it could have been a coincidence.
Children whose mothers once used SSRIs but stopped at least a few months before becoming pregnant were 46 percent more likely to have autism than other children. That finding was not likely to be a coincidence.
Because taking SSRIs during pregnancy didn't seem to cause autism, other factors may explain the higher rate among children whose mothers used the drugs before becoming pregnant, Hviid told Reuters Health in an email.
"At this point I do not think that this potential association (SSRI and autism) should feature prominently when evaluating the risks and benefits of SSRI use in pregnancy," he said.
"People who are taking these drugs prior to pregnancy often have some underlying psychiatric condition, and what they did find in the study was that having some psychiatric disorder does increase the risk of autism," Zylka said.
A study published last year showed children who had a parent or sibling with schizophrenia had an almost three times higher risk of developing autism (see Reuters Health story of July 5, 2012 here: reut.rs/1dmVFM8.
Similarly, in the new study, women who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia before delivery were three and a half times more likely to have a child with autism.
"The numbers are remarkably consistent," Zylka said.
The study also showed taking mood stabilizers or antipsychotics during pregnancy was linked to an increased risk of autism among children, he noted. That gives researchers "ammunition" for where to look in the future, Zylka said.
SOURCE: bit.ly/1bDXoxo New England Journal of Medicine, online December 18, 2013.
Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.
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