Schwartz, Jeffrey M. 1951-
SCHWARTZ, Jeffrey M. 1951-
Born 1951. Education: University of Rochester, B.A. (philosophy; with honors), 1973; Downstate Medical Center, M.D., 1978.
Psychiatrist. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA, instructor, 1985-89; University of California—Los Angeles, Neuropsychiatric Institute, medical staff, Deptartment of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, associate research professor of psychiatry; Westwood Institute for Anxiety Disorders, Los Angeles, CA, private practice. Appeared as guest expert on television programs Good Morning, America, 20/20, Oprah, and others.
Society for Neuroscience, West Coast College of Biological Psychiatry.
(With Beverly Beyette) Brain Lock: Free Yourself from Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior: A Four-Step Self-Treatment Method to Change Your Brain Chemistry, Regan Books (New York, NY), 1996.
(With Annie Gottlieb and Patrick Buckley) A Return to Innocence: Philosophical Guidance in an Age of Cynicism, Regan Books (New York, NY), 1998.
(With Sharon Begley) The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force, Regan Books (New York, NY), 2002.
(With Annie Gottlieb and Patrick Buckley) Dear Patrick: Life Is Hard, Here's Some Good Advice, Regan Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Contributor to periodicals, including British Journal of Psychiatry, Journal of Consciousness Studies, Science and Medicine, and New York Post, and to books by others, including Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders: Diagnosis, Etiology, Treatment, edited by E. Hollander and D. J. Stein, Marcel Dekker (New York, NY), 1997, and Toward a Science of Consciousness III: The Third Tucson Discussions and Debates, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA).
Jeffrey M. Schwartz's approach to psychiatry is influenced by his immersion in the philosophy of Buddhism, specifically mindfulness, or conscious awareness, which embraces the idea that the mind affects the workings of the brain. During the 1990s Schwartz developed a four-step approach to treating obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and wrote of his methods in Brain Lock: Free Yourself from Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior: A Four-Step Self-Treatment Method to Change Your Brain Chemistry, with science writer Beverly Beyette.
At the Web site of Schwartz's Westwood Institute for Anxiety Disorders, he defines OCD as being "characterized by obsessive thoughts and/or compulsive behaviors that significantly interfere with normal life. Obsessions are unwanted, recurrent, and disturbing thoughts that a person cannot suppress and that can cause overwhelming anxiety. Compulsions are repetitive, ritualized behaviors that the person feels driven to perform to alleviate the anxiety of the obsessions. The obsessive and compulsive rituals can occupy many hours of each day and seriously impair day-to-day living."
In Brain Lock, Schwartz lists the four steps he advises victims of OCD to pursue, which are to relabel, reattribute, refocus, and revalue. On the Westwood Institute Web site he writes that the idea of relabeling is to "call an obsessive thought or compulsive urge what it really is. Assertively relabel it so you can begin to understand that the feeling is just a false alarm, with little or no basis in realty." Schwartz says that the false messages coming from the brain result from biological imbalances.
For the second step, Schwartz urges that "the goal is to learn to reattribute the intensity of the thought or urge to its real cause, to recognize that the feeling and discomfort are due to a biochemical imbalance in the brain. It is OCD—a medical condition. Acknowledging it as such is the first step toward developing a deeper understanding that these symptoms are not what they seem to be."
"In refocusing," says Schwartz, "the idea is to work around the OCD thoughts and urges by shifting attention to something else, if only for a few minutes." Schwartz emphasizes the importance of keeping a journal to document progress in using self-directed therapy, thereby providing a record of which behaviors were most successful in helping to refocus.
Schwartz writes that "the process of relabeling and reattributing intensifies the learning that takes place during the hard work of refocusing. As a result, you begin to revalue those thoughts and urges that, before behavior therapy, would invariably lead you to perform compulsive behaviors. After adequate training in the first three steps, you are able, in time, to place a much lower value on the OCD thoughts and urges."
A Return to Innocence: Philosophical Guidance in an Age of Cynicism is based on both science and spirituality and consists of letters between Schwartz and sixteen-year-old Patrick Buckley, whose single mother asked Schwartz to communicate with her son at boarding school. The young man's letters are short, and Schwartz's replies emphasize the need for reembracing traditional moral values and leading a good life, enlivened by poetry, philosophy, and Schwartz's comments about lessons he has learned in his study of religion and psychiatry. A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that Schwartz "offers a sound blueprint for helping teens grow into thoughtful adults who are able to make sound moral judgements."
Schwartz and his colleagues enjoyed years of clinical and research success following his four-step approach, which is documented in his later volume, The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force. Booklist's William Beatty wrote that Schwartz and coauthor Sharon Begley "bring to life the thinking and work of many original investigators in a book that thoughtful readers will enjoy."
In The Mind and the Brain, Schwartz shows that the rechanneling of compulsive urges can change the brain's neuronal circuitry. Most important is the research that proves that neural circuits, previously thought to be hardwired for life from an early age, are in fact plastic throughout life and capable of being altered. This finding is groundbreaking in its application to stroke patients and sufferers from such conditions as dyslexia. A Publishers Weekly reviewer commented that "the medical results and treatments they summarize are exciting and deserve widespread attention."
Of the approximately 600,000 people in the United States who suffer from stroke each year, one quarter die, and half are left seriously disabled. Although damaged parts of victims' brains may not recover, Schwartz points out that undamaged parts may be "rezoned," and functions previously performed by the damaged portions can be "reallocated" to these functioning parts of the brain. This discovery was made primarily through Schwartz's research and treatment of OCD.
First Things writer William A. Dembski noted that in The Mind and the Brain Schwartz shows "not only that patients who undertook this therapy experienced considerable relief from OCD symptoms, but also that their brain scans indicated a lasting realignment of brain activity patterns. Thus, without any intervention directly affecting their brains, OCD patients were able to reorganize their brains by intentionally modifying their thoughts and behaviors. The important point for Schwartz here is not simply that modified thoughts and behaviors permanently altered patterns of brain activity, but that such modification resulted from, as he calls it, 'mindful attention'—conscious and purposive thoughts or actions in which the agent adopts the stance of a detached observer." Dembski wrote that the description of the research "is worth the price of the book."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, October 1, 2002, William Beatty, review of The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force, p. 282.
First Things, May, 2003, William A. Dembski, review of The Mind and the Brain, p. 58.
New Scientist, March 8, 2003, Itiel Dror, review of The Mind and the Brain, p. 56.
Publishers Weekly, August 24, 1998, review of A Return to Innocence: Philosophical Guidance in an Age of Cynicism, p. 36; September 23, 2002, review of The Mind and the Brain, p. 64.
Westwood Institute for Anxiety Disorders Web site,http://www.hope4ocd.com/ (August 26, 2003).*