Category Archives: Depression

Smog and Depression

While we know smog affects our respiratory and cardiovascular system health, it could also have important implications for mental health and cognitive abilities.

Research by Shakira Franco Suglia, ScD, of the School of Public Health at Boston University, and colleagues found that higher levels of exposure to black carbon was associated with lower memory test scores and verbal and nonverbal IQ in a sample of 200 children in Boston, whom they followed from birth through age 10 (American Journal of Epidemiology, 2008).  Rrederica Perera, DrPH, from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, and colleagues found higher levels of attention problems, anxiety and depression symptoms among children with higher levels of exposure to air pollutants called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are widespread byproducts of fossil fuel combustion, while in utero  (Environmental Health Perspectives, 2012).


Stop the Stigma: Getting Real about Treatment for Mental Illness

Guest Post, by Anne

When I went in to a new doctor to refill my Sertraline (Zoloft) prescription, the doctor looked at me with a mix of condescension and pity and asked rhetorically, “you haven´t been able to stop the medication after all this time?”  Granted, this was a general practitioner MD, not a psychiatric specialist, as I had just moved and an appointment with a psychiatrist wasn´t available for several months.  But, this encounter left me wondering at this perception, even from a highly trained medical professional, that continued use of medication to treat depression was an indication of personal weakness.   The encounter left me feeling ashamed and embarrassed, like I had to explain my failure away.  But then I got angry.  A medical professional has a responsibility to be up to date on the current understandings of disease processes and conditions.   A person who is charged with caring for people at their most vulnerable, and who, of all people, should have been well versed in the complexity of the workings of neurotransmitters and their dysfunctions in the body, blamed me for a disease that is standard medical textbook, completely shutting down the possibility of trusting communication.  The inspiration for this article stems in part from this experience.

The reality is that he doctor´s attitude reflected a general stigma against mental illness we as a society still have, which perceives many mental illnesses as stemming from a character flaw, and failure to “get off the meds” as a personal failure rather than a medical one.   Many people who suffer from depression and other psychiatric conditions do not seek help for this very reason, and suffer needlessly, sometimes for entire lifetimes, when appropriate care and medication could have given them their lives back. People who say they, “don´t want to be dependent on any drug” are conflating the successful treatment of a physiological condition with substance dependency and abuse, or sometimes inferring that people who use psychiatric medication to treat their depression are gullible cash cows manipulated by the pharmaceutical industry.  While no medication is perfect and the pharmaceutical industry has its challenges, the reality is that, similar to other chronic conditions, depression and psychiatric illness are conditions that sometimes improve without medical treatment, and sometimes they don´t, much in the same way that some people´s diabetes can be controlled through dietary means alone, while other people must take insulin daily.  There is no real difference between the efficiency of mere will to make the disease get better for people with diabetes and people with depression.  It´s time we stopped shaming people who need to take medication over the long term for chronic depression and instead rejoiced that some people are helped by medication, as well as focused on the need to create medications that can help more people who are not responsive to the current treatments available.

This problem stems partly from the continued separation, in western allopathic thinking, of the body from the mind.  All mental workings are chemical processes.  When this system breaks down, illness can result.  The differences in physiology and chemistry between people with depression and those without can be temporary, caused by a transient disequilibrium brought about by some jarring incident or life event, or can be long lasting, often stemming from physiological causes.  Sometimes the pattern can be seen across generations.  For example,  my great grandmother had severe depression.  The stories passed down to me in our family indicate that, as the lonely wife of a minister who moved to a new parish every few years, she would leave her three daughters unattended while staring blankly out the living room window for hours at a time.  One time her father had to be called to come from across the country, summoned by a neighbor who told him “the girls are running wild.”  I remember her as the fragile but independent 97 year-old with a four-pronged cane, whose house smelled of vitamins and who had cat clocks and statues everywhere, but she suffered her whole life from what was often debilitating, bone crushing depression.

Despite her struggles, she managed to raise very successful daughters and lived to an old age.  Given the prevailing attitudes of the early 1900´s in terms of stigma against mental illness, she probably felt extremely guilty about her depression and chalked her inability to be free of it up to a deep character flaw.  However, based on her symptoms, it appears clear that she suffered from chronic major depression, and possibly OCD.  Though it seems to have skipped my grandmother, my mother was chronically depressed and had OCD.  In addition, I have chronic depression that only subsides with medical treatment and have had major episodes of major depression and OCD at various times throughout my life.

While I have started and stopped treatment with Sertraline various times throughout my experience with depression, the depression, for me, always comes back.  If I can one day find a way to be free of needing to take medication, I would welcome it gladly, as it would confer many liberating effects. I would appreciate not having the extra cost of the medication and doctor visits, as well as not having to ensure I have the proper amount of supply along with a doctor´s note when I travel internationally.  But I want to enjoy my life too.  I´m not willing to sacrifice the preciousness of each day that I don´t feel depressed, that I can work and enjoy spending time with others, that I can be productive, that I feel happy, in order to satisfy a false premise.  And I should not be looked at as less for that.

Promising Treatment for OCD and Depression

A significant number of people who suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) also suffer from depression.  While the exact mechanics are not fully understood, It is believed that OCD often increases depressive symptoms, sometimes leading to major depression, although OCD can exist in non-depressed individuals as well.  Similarly, depression can involve OCD components, as well as lead to their manifestation over time. When OCD and depression occur together, it can be more challenging to decide how to best treat the patient.  Seratonin-Reuptake Inhibitors (SRI´s) may or may not be totally effective at controlling both the OCD and the depression at a given dose, and, at the same time, it is often desirable to make the medication regimen as simple as possible.  The effects of some medications, when taken simultaneously, counteract or exacerbate the effects of another leading to undesired effects, and sometimes a single medication would be effective for both OCD and depression, but at different doses.  This presents a complex situation for assessing which treatment of combination of treatments will work best in a given patient´s situation. Continue reading Promising Treatment for OCD and Depression

Understanding the Services of Depression Treatment Centers

The success of depression treatment centers is measured by the services offered. Good depression facilities offer holistic therapy which is a complete combination of exercise and diet plans, counseling and talk therapy sessions, motivation tapes and medication among other materials. Millions of individuals are affected by depression each year but only about 29 percent seek help from depression centers according to CDC. The remaining percentage is either ignorant of their depression status or cannot afford depression treatment.

Visiting depression treatment centers is a voluntary process which calls for commitment from both the patient and the therapist. The mode of action of each depression center is different. When some of the centers are run privately, others are charitable organizations. Some are run by universities and others by Christian missionaries. Besides, there are day treatment as well
as residential depression treatment centers to cater for the needs of all individuals.

Treatment Options: What to Expect when you Visit Depression Treatment Facilities

The series of services offered in depression treatment facilities is almost similar. First off, a psychiatric examination will be offered. This assists the facility in knowing the cause of your depression. That is, if the depression is medical or psychological. This is important in setting a plan of action.

Individual and Group Therapy

Individual therapy follows psychiatric examinations where the therapists determine how the negative thoughts influence behavior and the best way to correct this. This stage uses a cognitive-behavioral therapy approach. Group therapy as the name suggests is for those recovering from depression. Patients are brought together to enhance communication between them and for motivation. When together with individuals struggling with different or same challenges as yours, you will learn many things such as medication, coping skills and most importantly motivate your through the therapy session.

Family Therapy

The family comes handy when a patient is recovering from mental health disorders. In most cases, the family helps the patient get through aftercare. The depression treatment centers teach the family members to look out for signs of a relapse. To ensure that the services offered are holistic and the patient fully benefits, the facilities offer extra services including massage therapy, exercise therapy, music therapy, pet therapy, activity therapy, relaxation therapy and spiritual counseling among others. The services will vary from one depression treatment center to another.


Discerning the Best Depression Treatment Center

Telling upscale centers and poor depression treatment centers apart can be a daunting task to a newbie. In most cases, luxury depression centers boost of seamless services and even allow you to take an on-site tour that familiarizes you with their system. However, knowing the doctors and the equipment a facility has is not enough. There are a myriad of factors to consider before settling for a specific center. These are:

The History of the Facility
A simple search on the internet will show you the various details regarding a facility. Check whether the facility is licensed in the state it operates in, conduct a background check on their doctors, how long the facility has been in operation and any reviews from third party sites regarding the facility.

Request an On-site Tour
Tours give you the chance to ask any questions that you may have about a facility. Most of the depression treatment centers will offer on-site tours to prospective clients. While at it, ask about the facilities and the amenities the center prides on, the current programs and the charges for the specific therapies. If allowed, you can interview some of the doctors/therapists or staff. Ensure that the center you choose has enough facilities to cater for emergencies.

Understand the Depression Treatment Program

Though the family will be informed of the therapies and the procedures to be involved in depression treatment, it is up to you to find how the current programs run. Learn about the medications and the therapies involved. Check whether there are specialized programs for individuals of different ages.

Aftercare and Privacy

Depression treatment centers should hold the privacy of the patient highly. The privacy should not only be maintained during the treatment but also after treatment to ensure the patients get back to their jobs. In most cases, the patient will attend group therapies inside the facility and later a therapist will offer aftercare at their homes. You can read the privacy policies of different depression centers to learn more.