Depression may occur at any time of the year, but the stress and anxiety of the holiday season—especially during the months of November and December (and, to a lesser extent, just before Valentine's Day)—may cause even those who are usually content to experience loneliness and a lack of fulfillment.
"[People] may start to question the quality of their own relationships," he says.
According to one 1999 Canadian study of patients treated by emergency psychiatric services during the Christmas season, the most common stressors were feelings of loneliness and "being without a family."
Facts & Statistics: The Truth About the Holiday Suicide Myth
The myth has been repeated so many times, most people consider it common knowledge: more people commit suicide between Thanksgiving and Christmas than at any other time of the year. Although it sounds reasonable, it simply isn't true.
Contrary to popular belief, December actually has the fewest suicide attempts of any month of the year. The facts, while seemingly encouraging, may be more complicated, however.
While it's true that suicide attempts tend to drop off just before and during the holidays, there is a significant uptick in suicide rates following Christmas—a 40 percent uptick, according to one large Danish study. Christmas itself seems to have a protective effect with regard to certain types of psychopathology, say researchers, but there is a significant rebound effect immediately following the holiday.
Although fewer people utilize emergency services or attempt suicide during December, there is an increase in certain other kinds of psychopathology, including mood disorders such as dysphoria and substance abuse.
by Pete Earley
“Why won’t you just take your medication? I take pills for my cholesterol every night and its no big deal?”
“Every psychiatrist we’ve seen has said you have a mental illness. Why won’t you accept it? Why would the doctors tell you that you’re sick, if it weren’t true?”
“Let’s look at when you were doing well and when you got into trouble. What was the difference? Medication. It was the difference. When you were on your meds, you were fine. And when you weren’t, you got into trouble. Can’t you see that?”
These quotes may sound familiar to you if you are a parent and have a a son or daughter with a severe mental illness. I’ve said everyone of them to my son, Mike.
It often is frustrating for us – parents — to understand why our children will not take anti-psychotic medication or take it only until they get better and then stop. The remedy seems so clear-cut to us, so simple - and watching them experience the mania, depression, and delusions that happen when they become psychotic is heartbreaking and horrific.
Early on, I tried every trick out there to get Mike to take his pills. Those of you who have read my book know that during one of his first breakdowns, I crushed his pills and mixed them into his breakfast cereal only to be caught by him. I snuck into his room and counted his pills too one day and when I discovered that he had stopped taking them, I followed the advice of a therapist who had told me that I needed to practice “tough love.” I told Mike that if he didn’t take his medication, he had to move out of my house. He did – that very same day.
Another time, I offered to pay him to take his medication — a $1 per pill.
It was my friend, Xavier Amador, author of the book, “I’m Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help” who finally convinced me to back off. “I can promise you, Pete,” he said, “your son knows exactly how you feel about medication. You don’t need to ever mention it to him again.”
And since that day, I haven’t. Not a word.
So why do persons with mental illnesses refuse to take their medication or stop taking them as soon as they become stable?
I am asked that question more than any other after I give a speech.
Let’s skip the obvious reasons –that some anti-psychotic medications can dull a person, make them feel physically lousy, kill their sex drive, cause them to gain weight or send them to bed exhausted even though they are already sleeping for 16 hours a day. Let’s ignore the fact that no one really knows the long term health impact that medication can cause on a person’s body.
Instead, let’s dig deeper.
One day, I asked Mike to explain to me in writing why he had struggled so much when it came to taking his medication.
The Ebola Drug Pipeline
The World Health Organization has said that it is ethical to use unproven drugs in the current epidemic. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has granted expanded access to several experimental drugs for use on Ebola patients. The drugs prevent replication of Ebola virus and the vaccines work by triggering an immune response. The drugs and vaccines listed here are in clinical trials and have received support for further development, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Andeonia Patients Restors the Ability to Experience PleasureWithin Minutes in Depressed Patients Within Minutes with Ketamine
There are many faces to depression: sadness, hopelessness, trouble sleeping, lack of motivation, an inability to experience pleasure.
That last one has a medical name—anhedonia—and people experiencing it often no longer enjoy activities that used to bring happiness. Anhedonia is not found just in depression; it can be an important part of other disorders, including schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder and addiction.
In a study published this month in Translational Psychiatry, researchers have found that a drug called ketamine can help quickly reverse anhedonia in patients with treatment-resistant bipolar depression (also known as manic-depression or bipolar disorder).
Ketamine has previously been shown to help rapidly reverse other aspects of depression in a number of studies; doctors use the drug to treat patients at several hospitals around the country, although it remains illegal to possess without a prescription and hasn’t yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for psychiatric purposes. On the party drug circuit it’s sometimes called “Special K” and is abused for its anaesthetic and hallucinogenic effects.
The researchers found that a single injection of ketamine led to a significant improvement in normal pleasure-seeking behavior in as little as 40 minutes, and this dramatic improvement lasted as long as two weeks for some of the 36 participants.
You've seen the TV commercials, the person in black and white and sad while they watch their friends and family in color happy as can be? Then the sad individual gets help, sees the world in color and has a dog run into frame to play with them, or they are suddenly on the couch petting their beloved cat. Well, there's a reason for that, pets can help individuals with depression/illnesses/anxiety.
"Pets offer an unconditional love that can be very helpful to people with depression," says Ian Cook, MD, a psychiatrist and director of the Depression Research and Clinic Program at UCLA.
Depression affects millions of individuals in the USA alone. A lot of people reading this suffer from some form or know someone who does. A pet might not be right for everyone, so don't just show up with a pet one day for someone you know with depression.
Study finds it might be safer alternative to standard antipsychotics
TUESDAY, Feb. 18, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- The antidepressant Celexa shows promise in easing the agitation people with Alzheimer's disease often suffer, and may offer a safer alternative to antipsychotic drugs, a new study finds.
"Agitation is one of the worst symptoms for patients and their families: it puts the Alzheimer's patient at risk for other system overloads (cardiac, infection), wears them out physically, and exhausts caregivers and families," noted one expert, Dr. Alan Manevitz, a clinical psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
He said that while antipsychotic drugs are typically used to help ease the agitation, they are also associated with a higher risk of death for Alzheimer's patients, so safer alternatives would be welcome.
The new study was led by Dr. Constantine Lyketsos, director of the Johns Hopkins Memory and Alzheimer's Treatment Center in Baltimore. It included 186 Alzheimer's patients with agitation symptoms such as emotional distress, aggression, irritability, and excessive movem
The diagnosis of bipolar disorder in her 20s came as a relief to Hope Richardson. There was finally a name for what she felt and something that could be done, she said. Because mental illness is a lifelong condition, staying well takes effort, and she's mindful of that every day.
Once afraid of others not liking her and unable to stand up for herself, Richardson said she often walked around with her head down and hair covering her face. She went through bouts of depression and struggled with anger, manic episodes and suicidal thoughts.
Early on, she was hesitant to talk about her condition.
"I didn't want people to know. I was kind of embarrassed and ashamed," said Richardson, 44, of Des Moines.
Through therapy and support, she has learned to "live with," rather than "suffer," mental illness and says the only way to end stigma is to educate others.
She's part of a group of trained speakers who open up about their disorders through In Our Own Voice, a public awareness program sponsored by the National Alliance for Mental Illness Greater Des Moines. The local chapter began offering the program last fall.
Sharing their stories serves as a type of ongoing therapy for the speakers and a chance to paint a realistic picture of mental illness, which affects one in four adults — about 61.5 million Americans every year. One in 17, or 13.6 million Americans, live with a serious mental condition such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder.
By MARC E. AGRONIN, M.D.
The woman described the sensation as a delicate flicker, like a moth trapped in a small gauze bag. She ran her slender fingers repeatedly over the spot in her slightly distended abdomen and said, “Doctor, right here.”
Sometimes, she told me, the flicker gave way to a more forceful kick that rippled beneath her hand and then spread like a warm tide over her body. She felt contented and soothed as she imagined the baby growing inside.
I was tempted to smile, but I kept still. An actual pregnancy would have been international news: the woman was 83 years old, recovering from a hip fracture and pneumonia. But her delusion was not unique. Indeed, our nursing home was having something of a baby boom.
Just the day before, another woman who had recently suffered a stroke insisted that she had given birth to twin boys, who were now crying in the adjacent nursery. I reminded her that she was 90, but my words were no match for the force of her belief. She looked at me blankly and called again for her babies.
Her husband, distraught, begged me to consider some pharmacologic remedy. But I was struck not by any mental suffering on the woman’s part, but by the opposite.
In the face of terrible losses and confusion, her mind had found refuge in imaginary children. Their coos and cries brought comfort and hope.
Pseudocyesis, as delusional pregnancy is called, is neither common late in life nor a normal response to aging or illness. It is a form of psychosis, and it can lead to severe anxiety or disruptive behavior that must be treated.
But it is too easy to see pathology in what may actually be a protective mechanism in the aging brain. What a psychiatrist might call a symptom held deep meaning for each woman, and prompted them to focus on recovering from severe illness.
In each case, I had to act in the opposite direction of my instinct as a doctor. Medication might have only sedated them and even taken away a protective cocoon. Instead I let time do its work: the delusions faded, and physical and mental recovery took hold.
Such examples are relatively rare and, one might argue, easily romanticized. But they hold a larger lesson about the aging brain.
What we perceive as a brain in flight or decline, disengaging from the world or tumbling into a netherworld of oldness, might actually be a more selective, creative and wiser brain.
The paradox is that even as the normal aging brain loses capacity across numerous discrete skills — memory-processing speed, verbal reasoning and visuospatial ability, to name a few — it is simultaneously growing in knowledge, emotional maturity, adaptability to change and even levels of well-being and happiness.
I witnessed this common phenomenon in a couple I know well. The woman is a sharp and active 82-year-old who only recently retired as a social worker. Her new husband, now 92, was a World War II bomber pilot and retired marketing genius who always prided himself on his mental discipline and physical stamina.
Recently he began to complain bitterly of creeping short-term memory impairment and a general slowing of his motor functions. Both factors can bring him great unhappiness. During a recent meeting, however, I pressed him on his complaints, asking, “Is that all there is to growing old — decline, slowing and loss?”
His bride interrupted and told how their relationship was unique because of old age, in many ways deeper and more intimate than either had experienced as younger people.
Even as his memory declined, she said, his emotional maturity and wisdom had increased, opening perspectives and relationships he had never had before. Here was old age — and an aging brain — acting as a force that added even as it took away.
In telling this tale as a relatively young doctor who works primarily with older individuals, I could easily be accused of painting an overly rosy picture of what I want growing old to be.
If so, I plead guilty. But I do so in the spirit of the gerontologist Thomas Cole, who suggests that the ways in which we look at old age begin to constitute its reality.
We will all grow old, and despite the inevitable changes we do have choices. Indeed, growing evidence suggests that the aging brain retains and even increases the potential for resilience, growth and well-being.
I have seen this lesson lived in my friends, loved ones and older patients, whether free of illness or fettered by it. I saw it in the two older women whose imagined pregnancies brought needed hope at a time of threatened despair. Their fervent wishes, though unattainable, allowed them to achieve something better.
Similarly, we can all hope for a vital and meaningful old age — for our elders, ourselves and our children. In the end, we may actually get what we wish for.
Dr. Marc E. Agronin, a geriatric psychiatrist at the Miami Jewish Health Systems in Florida, is the author of the new book “How We Age.”
Dr. Marc E. Agronin, a geriatric psychiatrist at the Miami Jewish Health Systems in Florida, is the author of the new book “How We Age.”