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A new line of therapy, ‘hope therapy’ may be of significant use in treating depression. The aim of therapy is to teach hope. Hope is different to optimism; “If you feel you know how to get what you want out of life, and you have that desire to make that happen, then you have hope.” Hope can be divided into three components:

  • Goals: They have long- and short-term meaningful goals.
  • Ways to reach those goals: A plan or pathway to get there and the ability to seek alternative routes, if needed.
  • Positive self-talk, similar to the little red engine from the children’s book, telling themselves things like “I think I can.”

According to researchers, these skills can be learned, which may help depression. The study found individuals who attended Hope Therapy had increases in self-esteem, life meaning, and anxiety.

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There’s an interesting article released by the University of Chicago. Researchers from UIC have identified a particular protein, the Gs alpha protein, that may play a role in depression. The Gs alpha protein “…activates adenylyl cyclase, a link in signal transduction, and is responsible for the action of neurotransmitters such as serotonin.”. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that has been linked with depression.

While a biological test would measure only one aspect of depression (for most, depression affects multiple domains of their lives), such a test would be useful in quickly evaluating the usefulness of treatments for depression. In an interview, Rasenick said that the test “wouldn’t tell you which [medication] to start, but it would tell you if the one you’re taking is working.”

Exercise seems to be a pretty effective way to help with depression. The mental health foundation in the UK has a useful online booklet that gives some reasons why it can be helpful:

Exercise is believed to increase the release of the brain chemicals that affect our mood and make us feel happier.

Exercise helps us to get active and meet new people. This stops us from feeling isolated and unsupported.

Exercise can give us new goals and a sense of purpose.We have something positive to focus on and aim for.

Exercise can boost our self-esteem – it can improve the way we look and how we feel about ourselves.

The online booklet also gives a few suggestions for getting involved in exercise, but some of the information is specific to the UK. Other websites offer other suggestions; FamilyDoctor.org offers some practical advice, including warming up and stretches, while LifeHack.org offers some interesting approaches.

There are a lot of suggestions out there, so maybe it’s better to go ahead and do it? Pick something you think you might enjoy (even just something small), and give it a shot! See what difference it’ll make.

The Practical Philosopher by Donna Duggan

Article from MindFood.

Dr Dorothy Rowe, an Australian psychologist and author based in London, was listed in November 2007 as one of the top 100 living geniuses by global research firm Creators Synectics. Rowe is known mostly for her groundbreaking and often controversial work on depression.

Depression is Not a Physical Illness

She believes depression is not a physical illness to be treated with medication but a self-made prison you can leave, if you choose to change the way you interpret your life. Rowe also supports the growing research that shows not all people diagnosed with depression are in fact depressed – more often than not, “dispirited” would be a better term to describe how they feel.
What is depression, MindFood asked Rowe during her recent visit to Australia. “Depression is clear-cut. It’s very specific,” she says. “You’re in a prison with an invisible wall around you; no one can get in and you
can’t get out. I recently met a man who described his experience of depression as being covered by a big wet blanket he couldn’t remove.

People Able to Talk About Depression

“People who feel dispirited can be comforted. They may feel low or irritated but they can still talk about their feelings. However, talking to someone who is depressed is like talking to a brick wall. They’ve lost interest in life. Depression can come on quickly, but many people are slow to realise that’s what they’re experiencing. What usually happens is one day they notice that the strange feelings they’re having aren’t passing.”
The work of charities and government initiatives has brought depression into the open. initiatives such as Out of the Blue (New Zealand) and Beyondblue (Australia) are doing exceptional work to bring awareness to the issue of depression and to let people know help is available.
“Today people feel they’re able to talk about depression,” says Rowe. “It has lost its stigma and shame, whereas in the past women were written off as’depressives’ and men were labelled ‘alcoholics’.”

Now that there’s awareness, Rowe says we need to take another look at the treatments available. “There is an ever-increasing number of people heading to the doctor, being told they are depressed and given a prescription for an antidepressant,” she says. “Antidepressants can give a person breathing space but they offer only short-term relief. Depression tells you that there’s something wrong with the way you’re living your life, that there’s something wrong with the way you make sense of the world. But drugs don’t turn an unhappy marriage into a happy marriage; they don’t turn an unhappy childhood into a happy childhood.”
Much to Rowe’s relief, the treatment for depression is finally starting to change. Treatments are starting to focus more on ‘talking therapies’, such as psychotherapy and counselling, rather than just relying on antidepressants. Read the rest of this entry »

A BBC health news item about a new study is of interest. It seems that depressed men are less likely to be engaged with their children. Not really a surprise.

The study looked at vocabulary development. The researchers, led by paediatric psychologist James Paulson, surveyed about 5,000 families. When the children were nine months old, 14% of the mothers and 10% of the fathers were clinically depressed. They studied the use of 50 common words and found that children whose fathers were depressed when they were nine months old used an average of 1.5 fewer words than those whose fathers were fine.

This difference might seem small, but is statistically significant.

Men may not be likely to seek help for themselves but when other people who depend on them become affected, that may change the landscape.

James Paulson – Eastern Virginia Medical School

A person who knows of our interest in articles about depression lent us a magazine called MindFood. The May 2008 edition has a very youthful looking Madonna (the musician not the Mother of God) on the cover.

There were a couple of great articles in the latest version. A very good one by Findlay Macdonald telling how he succumbed to depression, which hopefully they will publish on their website later (we’ll link to it if they do).

Another was an interview with “genius” psychologist Dr. Dorothy Rowe who specialises in depression. She believes that depression is “not a physical illness to be treated with medication but a self-made prison you can leave, if you change the way you interpret your life.”

We had a look at the MindFood website and found this self-help article called Beat the Blues, by Donna Duggan. The article starts off:

There are myriad natural ways to beat the blues, lift your mood and improve your outlook, ranging from aroma-psychology to vitamins and minerals.
The section on breathing involves minimal equipment and makes the following suggestion:
No special technique is required – just take a few deep breaths when you need a break or can’t find the solution to a problem. Take a deep breath right into your stomach, hold it for a few moments, and then let the air go with a loud sigh. Deep breathing is one of the most effective mood boosters. In stressful situations many people hold their breath, or their breathing is very shallow, which restricts the flow of oxygen throughout the body and reduces mental function.

Chris Hooker is a school counsellor who heads the Student Support Faculty in a Christchurch high school. In the Press (April 4, 2008) he says:

Moves to find alternatives to drugs to treat depression are welcome, but they must not be limited to a select group of medical professionals.

It is great to see that medical researchers, the Government, district health boards and GP groups are looking towards alternatives to drug treatments for depression. I must admit to a slightly cynical initial response …, something like, “If they had asked us (school counseuors) we could have told them that 25 years ago”. But that’s not helpftd and it is good to see this development in approaches to treating depression.

Young people are comparatively well served in the holistic approach to treating depression, and there are some very successfull models in use already, which may well be adapted to treating adults. School counsellors do a huge amount of work in helping young people deal with depression, from the mdd to the severe and dangerous.

They do this in many ways. One is by counselling, and, contrary to much popular belief, school counsellors are not just well-intentioned teachers with little formal training. They are trained professionals, often qualified at postgraduate level. Other methods can include education about depression and how to deal with it, for parents, teachers and those affected.

School counsellors maintain close relationships with DHB child and adolescent mental health services, GPs, Child Youth and Family, police youth aid officers and the superb police child abuse team, a wide variety of NGOs (non-governmental organisations) church agencies and community agencies and frequently refer students to these organisations.

The adult version of the school counsellor may well be the free therapy service being trialed in many primary health organisations (PHOS) – an exciting development. The second very successful youth model is the Youth Health Centre in Hereford Street, This is a “one-stop shop” health centre, with counsellors, youth workers, and nurses backed up by a dedicated GP team, all in a youth-friendly environment. There is a strong mental health component to the work done by the centre and a deliberate holistic approach to mental health care, as evidenced by the range of staff skills. The youth-friendly nature of the service attracts many young people who are reluctant to engage witi-i mainstream services. The adult version could be a similar central city one-stop shop, providing health services with a strong focus on holistic mental health care, especially for the more marginalised members of the community.

There is also an amazing range of NGOS, church-based groups and community groups, typically relying on a great deal of volunteer labour and operating on a shoestring, but because they are in the community, user-friendly and accessible, they do sterling work. If the Government and its agencies, and GP groups, want to work towards a wider range of treatment options for depression, they must spend a lot of time consulting with the people who are already on the ground doing the work, and took at better resourcing those groups rather than reinventing the wheel in a restricted medical model.

I dispute the reported comments that the “gold standard” is treatment by a clinical psychologist. Of course this is true for many people, but for others the first steps in a therapeutic intervention ma come from their school counsellor, the trainee counsellor at the church agency or their youth group leader. Similarly, I am concerned that the medical world appears to have “discovered” cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Yes, it is good, but so are solution focused therapy, narrative therapy and other models. How about “complementary approaches to medication, rather than “alternatives”.

If the next step in the treatment of depression is limited to funding psychologists or a small traditional range of medical professionals registered under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act, to carry out a specified type of therapy (eg. CBT) in their offices, then the boat will have been well and truly missed.

by Mitch Golant, PhD

Los Angeles psychologist Mitch Golant, PhD, is The Wellness Community’s Vice President of Research & Development and author of several books including “What To Do When Someone You Love Is Depressed” (Holt, 1998).

He Says: For many years, I facilitated support groups for cancer survivors and their families at The Wellness Community in Santa Monica, California. Discussions in family groups often focus on how members can help loved ones with cancer fight for recovery without becoming overwhelmed by the burdens of caregiving. One group member, a woman of 55, talked about how she became a “strengthened ally.”

“Once a week, I have lunch with friends,” Sylvia confided. “I see our granddaughter every Friday. I also visit our son in college as often as possible. When I return from these outings, I feel renewed. That’s when I can be a source of comfort to Bill.” Sylvia’s strategies can work for you. In fact, if you ignore your own needs for the sake of your ill loved one, you can experience “compassion fatigue” and “burnout.”

What is Depression?

Depression is a biological, psychological, and social illness affecting more than 18 million people. Clinical depression has two key components: profound sadness and hopelessness. Symptoms include changes in sleep patterns, loss of interest in daily activities and hobbies, appetite fluctuations, diminished productivity, self-medication through alcohol or drug abuse, and thoughts of suicide. Although 90 percent of depressed people can be helped by a combination of medication and psychotherapy, only 30 percent receive treatment.

While not everyone coping with cancer experiences depression, sometimes the diagnosis can trigger it. For others, the side effects of treatment can lead to depression. And even caregivers can become depressed. Burnout is the feeling of having reached the limits of your ability to cope. Unfortunately, burnout is common among caregivers. According to burnout expert, Dr. Herbert J. Freudenberger, you may be experiencing burnout if you have symptoms such as headaches, insomnia, backaches, lethargy, lingering colds, gastrointestinal upsets, or cardiovascular problems.

Burnout also has emotional components. You may find yourself frustrated and angry, empty or sad, pessimistic, resentful, insecure, or depressed. These are all expectable reactions to feeling stressed beyond endurance. But before you can be helpful to your loved one, you must know how to cope with your own situation.

Becoming a Strengthened Ally

As a strengthened ally, you provide aid and comfort through self-care and knowledge. You understand that a depressed loved one is terrified of being abandoned, and yet, may push you away. Still, there are many ways to revitalize your energy: Get Support Join a support group. Research shows that talking to people who share your problems reduces stress and alleviates isolation.

  1. Educate Yourself Information is power. Understanding the course of cancer and depression, the possibility of relapse, the recommended treatments, and the side effects of medications can help you plan for the future.
  2. Keep a Journal That’s where you can dialogue with yourself to vent frustrations and problem-solve without causing conflict.
  3. Maintain Friendships Continue your contacts with friends and family
  4. Preserve Routines Retain as much control over the routines of life as is reasonable.
  5. Continue with Hobbies Don’t abandon favorite pastimes that always give you pleasure.
  6. Remember That Life Goes On You are a separate person and are entitled to enjoy your own life. Attend classes, start a hobby, go to a movie, make new friends.
  7. Learn to “Let Go” Allow yourself to feel replenished by others’ gestures – a card or a kind word left on your answering machine. Music, religious services, or a video can also help you recharge your batteries.
  8. Seek Respite Realize that you can’t do it all. Allow others to do some caring in your stead. Reach out to them.
  9. Attend to Your Physical Health Eat well and get enough sleep. Tend to any physical ailments that arise.
  10. Trigger the Relaxation Response Biofeedback, meditation, yoga, listening to music, even washing your car can relieve stress. By focusing on breathing, you trigger the mind-body connection.
  11. Deal with Frustration A short fuse can be a sign of burnout. If these suggestions have not worked, you may need more emotional support such as a support group or private therapist.
  12. Self-Care and Setting Limits Identify when you’re feeling overwhelmed and be firm in delineating what you can and can’t do.

Being a strengthened ally means having the ability to derive simple pleasures in the face of uncertainty. It means sharing your fears and struggles with someone you trust. And, it can also mean having faith in your loved one’s ability to cope.

Following on from John Kirwin’s high profile depression campaign other elite sports people seem to be at risk from depression. Not perhaps surprising that people under extreme pressure do suffer from depression. The cumulative effect of the extreme pressure to succeed, that drives top sports people, mean that when they get to the top of their game they can sometimes crash and burn. Not all top sports people suffer from depression, but we hearing more about the ones that do. Is our interest in them some kind of delight in how the mighty have fallen or is it that it makes their humanity visible.

Clive James says about celebrity:

Celebrities often have fame comparable to that of royalty. As a result, there is a strong public curiosity about their private affairs. Celebrities may be resented for their accolades, and the public may have a love/hate relationship with celebrities. Due to the high visibility of celebrities’ private lives, their successes and shortcomings are often made very public. Celebrities are alternately portrayed as glowing examples of perfection, when they garner awards, or as decadent or immoral if they become associated with a scandal.

One positive sign is that more athletes willing to talk about their experience.

New research from Professor Andrew Oswald, an economist at the University of Warwick has established that there is a peak risk of depression in middle age. Professor Oswald is known for his interest in the interface between Psychology and Economics. Previously research had suggested that the risk of unhappiness and depression stays relatively constant throughout life. The latest finding – of a peak risk in middle age – was consistent around the globe, and in all types of people.

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July 2019
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