Are You Depressed, Or Just Human?

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Depression can be devastating. Its worst form, major depressive disorder, is marked by all-encompassing low mood, thoughts of worthlessness, isolation, and loss of interest or pleasure in most or all activities.

But this clinical description misses the deep, experiential horror of the condition; the suffocating sense of despair that can make life seem too arduous to bear. Here’s something else we can say confidently about depression: it is complex. The cause is often a mix of factors including genetic brain abnormalities, sunlight deprivation, poor nutrition, lack of exercise, and social issues including homelessness and poverty. Also, cause and effect can be hard to tease apart — is social isolation a cause or an effect of depression?

Unfortunately, we can make one more unassailable observation about depression: the disorder — or, more precisely, the diagnosis — has gone stratospheric. An astonishing 10 percent of the U.S. population was prescribed an antidepressant in 2005; up from 6 percent in 1996.

Why has the diagnosis become so popular? There are likely several reasons. It’s possible that more people today are truly depressed than they were a decade ago. Urbanized, sedentary lifestyles; nutrient-poor processed food; synthetic but unsatisfying entertainments and other negative trends, all of which are accelerating, may be driving up the rate of true depression. But I doubt the impact of these trends has nearly doubled in just ten years.

So here’s another possibility. The pharmaceutical industry is cashing in. In 1996, the industry spent $32 million on direct-to-consumer (DTC) antidepressant advertising. By 2005, that nearly quadrupled, to $122 million. It seems to have worked. More than 164 million antidepressant prescriptions were written in 2008, totaling $9.6 billion in U.S. sales. Today, the television commercial is ubiquitous:

  •  A morose person stares out of a darkened room through a rain-streaked window.
  • Quick cut to a cheery logo of an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, the most common type of antidepressant pharmaceutical).
  • Cross-fade to the same person, medicated and smiling, emerging into sunlight to pick flowers, ride a bicycle or serve birthday cake to laughing children.
  • A voiceover gently suggests, “Ask your doctor if [name of drug] is right for you.”

The message — all sadness is depression, depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain, this pill will make you happy, your doctor will get it for you — could not be clearer. The fact that the ad appears on television, the ultimate mass medium, also implies that depression is extremely common.

Yet a study published in the April, 2007, issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, based on a survey of more than 8,000 Americans, concluded that estimates of the number who suffer from depression at least once during their lifetimes are about 25 percent too high. The authors noted that the questions clinicians use to determine if a person is depressed don’t account for the possibility that the person may be reacting normally to emotional upheavals such as a lost job or divorce (only bereavement due to death is accounted for in the clinical assessment). And a 15-year study by an Australian psychiatrist found that of 242 teachers, more than three-quarters met the criteria for depression. He wrote that depression has become a “catch-all diagnosis.” What’s going on? It’s clear that depression, a real disorder, is being exploited by consumer marketing and is over-diagnosed in our profit-driven medical system.

Unlike hypertension or high cholesterol — which have specific, numerical diagnostic criteria — a diagnosis of depression is ultimately subjective. Almost any average citizen (particularly one who watches a lot of television) can persuade him or herself that transient, normal sadness is true depression. And far too many doctors are willing to go along. The solution to this situation is, unsurprisingly, complex, cutting across social, medical, political and cultural bounds.

But here are three major changes that are needed immediately: Medically, thousands of studies confirm that depression, particularly mild to moderate forms, can be alleviated by lifestyle changes. These include exercise, lowered caffeine intake, diets high in fruits and vegetables, and certain supplements, particularly omega-3 fatty acids. Physicians need to be trained in these methods, as they are at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona in Tucson. See Natural Depression Treatment for more about these low-tech methods, or the “Depression” chapter in the excellent professional text, Integrative Medicine by David Rakel, M.D. (Saunders, 2007).

Politically, if Congress — which seems hopelessly addicted to watering down all aspects of health care reform — can’t manage to ban all DTC ads in one stroke, it should start by immediately ending those for antidepressants. Personally, be skeptical of all DTC ads for antidepressants. The drugs may turn out to be no more effective than placebos. Many of them have devastating side effects, and withdrawal, even if done gradually, can be excruciating. While they can be lifesavers for some people, in most cases they should be employed only after less risky and expensive lifestyle changes have been tried.

Finally, recognize that no one feels good all the time. An emotionally healthy person can, and probably should, stare sadly out of a window now and then. Many cultures find the American insistence on constant cheerfulness and pasted-on smiles disturbing and unnatural. Occasional, situational sadness is not pathology — it is part and parcel of the human condition, and may offer an impetus to explore a new, more fulfilling path. Beware of those who attempt to make money by convincing you otherwise.

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Weil's-new-book-availableAndrew Weil, M.D., is the founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and the editorial director of http://www.DrWeil.com. Become a fan on Facebook. Follow Dr. Weil on Twitter. Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrew-weil-md/are-you-depressed-or-just_b_307734.html

Bipolar Disorder– Basic Stuff

 

If you have bipolar disorder, you may recognize many below. Not everyone has exactly the same symptoms. Talk with your healthcare provider about your symptoms at each visit.

  • Feeling sad or blue, or “down in the dumps”
  • Loss of interest in things you used to enjoy, including sex
  • Feeling worthless, hopeless, or guilty
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Changes in weight or appetite
  • Feeling tired or having little or no energy
  • Feeling restless
  • Problems concentrating or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

 

Symptoms of mania may include:

  • Increased energy level
  • Less need for sleep
  • Racing thoughts or mind jumps around
  • Easily distracted
  • More talkative than usual or feeling pressure to keep talking
  • More self-confident than usual
  • Focused on getting things done, but often completing little
  • Risky or unusual activities to the extreme, even if it’s likely bad things will happen

Here are some behaviors that may be seen in people with bipolar disorder. Please note some of these behaviors may also indicate a different problem, so proper diagnosis is important.

  • Agitation
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Irritability
  • Excessive gambling
  • Violence
  • Poor judgment with decisions
  • Careless spending, buying sprees
  • Talking about hurting oneself
  • Risky sex or change in sexual activity
  • Impulsive financial investments
  • More arguments
  • Change in energy level, appetite, or sleep pattern
  • Relationship problems at home or work
  • Mounting debt
  • Drinking or drugging for ‘escape’ or maintenance purposes
  • Legal/criminal issues
Visit http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/bipolar-disorder-manic-depression for more detailed information about bipolar disorder and its symptoms.

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Browsers for My Friends

Often we have issues with the mechanics of how we surf the internet.  There are really good browsers that are just out there waiting to be downloaded.  I have eight myself, and I really haven’t had issues of glitches.

Click for a List of Available Browsers

All a browser is just a way to load web pages.  There seems to be myopic view that what we are currently using is the perfect way.  But there are hundreds of great browsers out there, some of which will run circles around MS Explorer or Firefox.

I would encourage you to download a few of these.  Check them out.  I personally can vouch for Chrome, Opera, Maxthon or Flock. All of these do what you want them to do. And each have features the others don’t have.

What is important for me is how fast do pages load?  How customized can I go, and how much space will this browser will take up on my hard drive?  Does it have a solid connection with Facebook, built-in news links, or multiple search engines?

Click for a Closer Look at Google

I’m using Google quite a bit.  It just seems cleaner and more intuitive for me. I was a hardcore MS Explorer user for a long time.  Used both Netscape and Opera for a while.  If I was stranded on a desert island and could only take one browser with me, I would without hesitation choose Google Chrome.

(But if I was stuck out there I probably wouldn’t have a wi-fi signal, lol)

OK, so I’m shamelessly plugging Chrome.  IMHO it is the easiest and the best.  But check out the rest.  If you want to download the Chrome browser here is where you could start.

Download Free Google Chrome Browser

Some Simple Facts

•The World Health Organization predicts that by 2020, mental illness will be the second leading cause of disability worldwide, after heart disease.

•Major mental disorders cost the nation at least $193 billion annually in lost earnings alone, according to a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health‘s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

•When workers with depression were treated with prescription medicines medical costs declined by $882 per employee per year and absenteeism dropped by 9 days (Health Economics).

•Half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14, three-quarters by age 24. Treating cases early could reduce enormous disability, before mental illnesses become more severe.

•One in four adults experiences a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year, including our returning troops. One in ten children has a serious mental or emotional disorder.

•Suicide is the third leading cause of death for America’s youth ages 15-24. More youth and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease combined. The vast majority of those who die by suicide have a mental illness-often undiagnosed or untreated.

•Our jails and prisons are now the largest psychiatric wards in the nation, housing well over 350,000 inmates with serious mental illness compared to approximately 70,000 patients with serious mental illness in hospitals.

•One out of every five community hospital stays involves a primary or secondary diagnosis of mental illness.

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Source: NAMI.org