10 Ways TO Avoid Depression Over the Holidays


Do you celebrate the holidays or do you secretly dread them? For some of us, the period between Thanksgiving and St. Patrick’s Day can be the most depressing time of the year.

The first reason is that we are exposed to less sunlight during the winter. We need light to maintain our physical, mental and emotional health. There are also societal pressures that can weigh heavily on pain patients, such as not being able to participate in holiday activities. The holidays can make us depressed, financially strained, anxiety ridden, and harder to be around.

Here are some early warning signs of depression:

  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions

  • Fatigue and decreased energy

  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness and/or helplessness

  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping

  • Irritability, restlessness

  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex

  • Overeating or appetite loss

  • Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems

  • Persistent sad, anxious or "empty" feelings

  • Thoughts of suicide or a suicide attempt

Take this seriously, as depression carries a high risk of suicide. Anybody who expresses suicidal thoughts or intentions should be taken very seriously. Do not hesitate to call your local suicide hotline immediately.

Depression can cause you to isolate yourself from others, decreasing your mobility and increasing drug dependence. A cycle begins where depression causes and intensifies the pain and stress on your body.

It can be hard to face the emotional aspects of pain, but it is important to look at the signs and be aware of them. Remember, pain causes depression, not the other way around! 

Depression can keep you from taking care of yourself. You cannot afford to let yourself fall into dark dreary moods. Be sure, no matter how you are feeling, that you are following the goals set for your care, such as taking the correct dose of medication at the correct time of each day.

It may take a little effort to keep healthy habits when you are depressed. Here are a tips fellow pain patients, friends with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and I have used over the years.  

  1. Use artificial light sources. The body’s internal biological clock can get really out of sync during the winter season. Bright light therapy becomes an important tool.

  2. Try something new, such as a craft or hobby.

  3. Progressive muscle relaxation, hypnosis and meditation can reduce stress and pain levels

  4. Stop doing things you don’t enjoy and do things you like, such as listening to music or aroma therapy.

  5. Physical therapy and exercise can break the cycle of pain and help relieve depression

  6. Make a list of life’s blessings, reminding yourself what you have accomplished in life. Even if you can’t do it now, you could once and no one can take that from you.

  7. Cognitive and behavioral therapies teach pain patients how to avoid negative and discouraging thoughts.

  8. Change everyday routines to ward off physical and emotional suffering

  9. Clean out or organize an area of the house. It could be as simple as clearing a bedside table or filing your medical records. Getting organized in one area of your life can help you manage other areas more successfully.

  10. Seek professional help if you start feeling overwhelmed. Dealing with chronic pain can slow recovery from depression. Specialists should treat both problems together.  

Getting your depression under control will help you focus on managing your health. As you learn to let go of anxiety and stress, it will help lower pain levels and make the holidays more enjoyable.  

Reprinted - By Barby Ingle, PNN Columnist

A Guide to Treating Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Life naturally slows down in winter. The days grow shorter, light becomes scarce, and we respond by planting ourselves in front of the television or hiding under the covers to stay warm. But how do you know when a seasonal slump is a more serious problem?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a category of depression that emerges in particular seasons of the year. Most people notice SAD symptoms starting in the fall and increasing during the winter months, but a few people experience a spring/summer version. Let’s take a look at some common questions you might have about this disorder.

What are the most common symptoms of SAD?

SAD symptoms are the same criteria you’d need for a diagnosis of major depression. These might include a depressed mood, feelings of hopelessness, a lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, changes in sleep and appetite, a loss of pleasure in activities you once loved, and even thoughts of death or suicide. Persons with the winter version of SAD might also notice the following unique symptoms:

  • Heaviness in arms and legs

  • Frequent oversleeping

  • Cravings for carbohydrates/weight gain

  • Relationship problems

Is SAD a “lighter” version of major depression?

No, even though this is a common misconception. SAD is a “specifier” of major depression, which is just a fancy word for a more specific kind, or subtype. Persons with seasonal affective disorder experience the symptoms at a particular time of year. With the changing of seasons, their depression goes into remission. If you notices this switch happening several times over two years, then you may qualify for this diagnosis.

What causes SAD?

Researchers have yet to uncover the specific cause for SAD. We do know however, that several factors are at play. The reduction in sunlight in winter can throw your biological clock out of whack and reduce levels of serotonin (a brain chemical that regulates your mood) and Melatonin (a chemical which regulates sleep and mood).

If you are young and female, you are also at increased risk for SAD. People who live farther from the equator or have a family history of depression also experience the symptoms more frequently.

How do I know when to call a doctor?

Sure, everyone has days in the winter when they feel sluggish or unmotivated. But if your symptoms are causing disruptions in your life, then never hesitate to reach out to a professional. If symptoms occur for days at a time, you notice major shifts in sleeping or eating, you are withdrawing socially, or the activities that usually boost your mood don’t work, then it’s time to pick up your phone. Seek immediate help if you are using alcohol to manage symptoms or you are experiencing suicidal thoughts.

How do I get the best care for SAD?

It’s never too late if you’re already experiencing symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. Seeking treatment can help prevent them from becoming worse. You can schedule an appointment with your primary care physician or make an appointment with a mental health professional, like a psychiatrist, psychologist, or licensed counselor. Check to see if your workplace has an Employee Assistance Program that offers free counseling or referrals to providers in your community.

To get the best level of care, sit down and engage your brain before your appointment. Play detective, and take some notes about the frequency and nature or your symptoms, other mental and physical health concerns you have, and observations about what helps your depression or makes it worse. You can also jot down specific questions you might have for your doctor. These might include:

  • What might also be causing my symptoms instead of SAD?

  • What treatments have your patients found helpful in the past?

  • Would you recommend a mental health provider in the community?

  • Are there any behavioral changes I can make today to help my mood?

  • Are there any written resources you’d recommend?

When you’re at the doctor’s office, he or she may conduct a physical exam or lab tests to rule out other physical causes for your depression. The doctor may also recommend that you see a mental health professional to receive a more thorough assessment.

What treatments might work for me?

With any mental health problem, there is no one-size-fits-all treatment. Here are a few options to explore with your doctor.

  • Medication – Antidepressants have proven to be effective for people with SAD, especially those with intense symptoms. Medication requires patience, because it can take several weeks before you begin to feel the effects. It’s also important not to stop taking the medication if you feel better. Consult with your doctor before you change your dosage, and let him or her know if you experience any side effects.

  • Psychotherapy – Talk therapy can be an invaluable option for those with SAD. A psychotherapist can help you identify patterns in negative thinking and behavior that impact depression, learn positive ways of coping with symptoms, and institute relaxation techniques that can help you restore lost energy.

  • Light therapy – Phototherapy involves exposing oneself to light via a special box or lamp. This device produces similar effects to natural light, triggering chemicals in your brain that help regulate your mood. This treatment has proven effective especially for those who experience the winter version of SAD. Don’t make an impulse buy on the Internet though, as it’s important to consult with your doctor first. You want to make sure you’ve purchased an effective and safe device.

But what can I do today?

In addition to seeking help from your doctor, there are lifestyle changes that can improve symptoms and lift your mood. You might try going outside more often, getting plenty of sunlight, exercising, avoiding drugs and alcohol, getting plenty of sleep, and practicing relaxation exercises.

Planning a healthier lifestyle is never a bad idea. But don’t beat yourself up if your symptoms don’t improve right away. Don’t brush them off as the January blues and simply hunker down until spring. Asking for help is a sign of strength and movement towards a better version of yourself. Consider how you can start managing seasonal affective disorder today and live a healthier life in every season.

Last Updated: Feb 14, 2018

Article by:

  • Arnold Lieber, MD

There are two types of bipolar disorder — here's how they're different

There are two types of bipolar disorder — here's how they're different

Bipolar disorder is a mental health problem that affects mood. People with bipolar experience manic episodes, periods of depression, and potentially some psychotic symptoms, according to mental health charity Mind.

In the manic or hypomanic periods, they feel high and energetic, but then the depression comes and they crash back down to Earth.

Katherine Ponte, who has lived with severe bipolar 1 disorder for over 15 years, told INSIDER it's being manic that gets you into trouble, but it's the depression that's the most dangerous.

"When you're manic, you don't think you're gonna die, you think you're on top of the world, you can do anything," she said. "When you have major depression, that can kill you."

Bipolar used to be called "manic depression" because of the two different states, but bipolar is now the most widely used term.

There are also two types of the disorder: bipolar 1 and bipolar 2.

Joseph F. Goldberg, a clinical Professor of psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in NYC told INSIDER: "In bipolar 1 disorder the high periods cause trouble, and about half the time may involve psychosis — delusions (false beliefs) or hallucinations (false perceptions)."

With bipolar 2 disorder, the highs are milder intensity, and don't involve psychosis.

"[They] don't involve psychosis, and by definition aren't disruptive to one's functioning," said Goldberg.

"In both conditions, depressive symptoms and episodes are similar although depression tends to be more enduring and predominating over highs in bipolar 2 than bipolar 1 disorder."

During Ponte's manic episodes, for instance, she made religious shrines and thought she was receiving messages about the world coming to an end.

This probably wouldn't happen to someone with bipolar 2, as they don't experience long manic episodes. Instead, they have hypomania, which can last for a few days.

"It can still have a disruptive effect on your life and people may notice a change in your mood and behavior," according to the Mind website. "But you will usually be able to continue with your daily activities without these being too badly affected."

For many, living without treatment is living without hope.

How bipolar is treated

Mood stabilizers are the cornerstone of treatment, said Goldberg. These are drugs that treat highs and lows.

Lithium, divalproex, and carbamazepine are some that work for the highs, which lamotrigine is used to treat the lows.

"Atypical antipsychotics are increasingly being used for both short- and long-term treatment management, regardless of the presence of psychosis," he said.

"Our drugs are far from perfect. Many medicines have annoying side effects like weight gain, response rates are not always as dramatic in real life as they are in research studies for numerous reasons — such as the presence of additional disorders such as substance abuse — and combination drug therapies are common."

If someone doesn't get treatment, their manic and depressive episodes persist, and they may be hospitalized over and over again.

"Persistent symptoms can cause a downward spiral... and consequences such as work and social functioning take a toll, sometimes leading to disability, isolation and loss of social supports," said Goldberg.

Ponte was taken to the hospital and locked in isolation a few times before she found the right treatment.

"Before I was living without hope, and after was living with hope," she said. With her organization , Ponte aims to connect people with others who are going through something similar, and give them a future.

"We want to increase awareness of that possibility for people," she said. "To give them that hope that they can recover from mental illness and go on to live a healthy, productive life."

Lindsay Dodgson - Insider

Oct. 31, 2018,

What is Depression? Free Hotline Numbers - Someone is always there for You.

What Is Depression?

Depression does not have to be a life sentence, even though a person experiencing a depressive episode might feel like it is.Many life events can leave us feeling sad or down, but depression is different than just being sad. Situational sadness becomes depression when it lasts longer than 2 weeks, when you experience it for most of the day nearly every day, when your symptoms are distressing, and when you experience a negative impact in one or more areas of your life.1–3  

Depression can affect your ability to function at work, school, or home and can reduce your motivation to engage in social and recreational activities.1–3 Common symptoms of depression include:1–3

  • Feeling sad, anxious, empty, hopeless, helpless, worthless, guilty, or generally pessimistic.

  • Feeling more irritable than normal.

  • Not doing the things you used to enjoy because you have no interest and/or motivation.

  • Feeling easily fatigued or generally lacking energy.

  • Experiencing changes in your sleep and/or appetite.

  • Having difficulty thinking, making decisions, concentrating, or remembering things.

  • Having an increase in physical ailments with no medical reason or evidence as to why.

  • Thinking of death or suicide.

Depression does not have to be a life sentence, even though a person experiencing a depressive episode might feel like it is. There are treatments that have proven effective, and people with depression typically find relief from a combination of psychotherapy and medication.1,2

Teenage Depression

Between 4-8% of adolescents currently experience depression, and up to 25% will experience depression by the time they reach the end of adolescence.2The symptoms of adolescent depression manifest differently depending on the developmental stage they are in.2,6

Teenage depression, like depression in adults, has a negative impact on social, school, and family functioning.2,6  Depression during formative stages of childhood and adolescence can impact personality development.2

Unlike adult depression, depression in teenagers may present as increased irritability, instead of low mood.1 Teenage depression is also unlike adult depression because it cannot be easily treated with anti-depressants.2 In fact, medications can make depression symptoms in teenagers worsen and can increase thoughts of suicide.1,2

If you are a teenager or parent of a teenager who may be depressed, contact a teenage depression hotline to get answers about the best treatment options.

Free Hotline Numbers

If your depression has caused you to lose a job, drop out of school, lose touch with family or friends, or if you’ve noticed changes in your sleep and appetite that have not improved, contact one of these free resources to learn more about treating your depression.

SAMHSA’s behavioral health treatment services locator is an easy and anonymous way to locate treatment facilities and other resources, such as support groups and counselors, to treat and manage depression.

If your depression is leading to suicidal thoughts, call the National Hopeline to connect with a depression treatment center in your area. The Hopeline also offers a live chat feature for those who don’t want to (or are unable to) call and can dispatch emergency crews to your location if necessary.

This national hotline is another valuable resource for people whose depression has escalated to suicidal or other harmful thoughts. Their network of crisis centers provide emotional support and guidance to people in distress and are also available via a chat service and a special hotline number for the hearing impaired: 1-800-799-4889.

  • National Youth Crisis Hotline: 1-800-448-4663

This resource provides brief interventions for youth who are dealing with pregnancy, sexual abuse, child abuse, depression and suicidal thoughts. They also provide referrals to local counseling, treatment centers, and shelters.

Sources:

  1. National Institute of Mental Health. (2016). Depression.

  2. Bylund, D. B., & Reed, A. L. (2007). Childhood and Adolescent Depression: Why do children and adults respond differently to antidepressant drugs? Neuro

A new investigational medication may help patients with depression find relief.

Recent data from the National Institutes of Health shows more than 16 million American adults over age 18 had at least one major depressive episode in the previous year.

The condition, known as major depressive disorder (MDD), is characterized by a depressed mood or a loss of interest in activities for at least two weeks that impairs a person’s social, occupational or educational functions.

About 7 million Americans with MDD are treated with first-line antidepressant medications. However, the therapy doesn’t work for about 4 million of those patients, who then try second-line medications. Still, that therapy doesn’t work for about 3 million people. 

Treatment-resistant depression

When two lines or more of antidepressant therapies fail to work, those patients are diagnosed with treatment-resistant depression (TRD).

Patients with TRD are typically prescribed antidepressants, talk therapy and other treatments, hoping for something to work.

The treatment approach has been, “trial and error with great difficulty,” says Charles B. Nemeroff, M.D., Ph.D., the chief of psychiatry at the University of Miami Hospital.

Innovation in research

A new investigational drug — AXS-05: a novel, oral product combining existing medicines bupropion and dextromethorphan — may be a breakthrough treatment. The investigational drug is being evaluated as part of the STRIDE-1 (Symptom Treatment in Resistant Depression 1) phase 3 study.

“There haven’t been major developments in new therapies for depression therapies in years,” says Cedric O’Gorman, M.D., MBA, senior vice president of Clinical Development and Medical Affairs for Axsome Therapeutics, the company that makes AXS-05.

Treating depression

Dr. Nemeroff, who is not an advisor to Axsome Therapeutics, is enthused that new therapies are in development. He advises patients, “You can’t give up, because the odds are you’re going to respond to one treatment or another.”

His patient, Michelle Rovere, 56, has TRD and was suicidal in 2016.

“I’d become a burden to myself, to my husband, to my children,” she says, concluding, “I was in so much emotional pain.”

Rovere, who takes antidepressants, is in talk therapy and is feeling well.

“Peace and mental wellness are achievable,” she says.

Patients with MDD who are currently depressed and have failed one or two antidepressant treatments are encouraged to see if enrollment in the STRIDE-1 clinical trial may be suitable for them. https://www.trdstudy.com/

Five Steps to Helping Someone Who May Be Considering Suicide

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers five steps to help someone who may be considering suicide.

1. Ask: There is a common misconception that asking someone if they have/ are considering killing themselves puts the idea in their head — it does not. Do not be afraid to ask!

2. Keep them safe: If someone admits to considering suicide, it is important to seek immediate medical attention, especially if they shared their plan with you or have access to firearms, the number one cause of suicide (50 percent).

3. Be there: Listen without judgment and with empathy. Let them know they have a shoulder to lean on when they need.

4. Help them connect: Help them find a support system to reach out to. Support is very important for someone battling the idea of suicide. Those who have attempted to harm themselves are often at risk of another attempt at suicide.

5. Follow up: Following up could mean preventing thoughts of suicide or another attempt.

If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741. You can reach Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 (U.S.) or 877-330-6366 (Canada) and The Trevor Project at 866-488-7386.

10 Interesting Facts about the Human Brain

The human brain is one of the most important organs in a human body. It helps us think, reason, remember, and learn new things. In fact, our brain and its superior functioning differentiate from animals and other creations of the Almighty.

Here are 10 interesting facts about the Human brain:

  1. The human brain weighs 3 pounds
  2. It comprises 60% of fat and is one of the fattest organs in the human body
  3. Human brain has the capacity to generate approximately 23 watts of power when awake.
  4. Of the total blood and oxygen that is produced in our body, the brain gets 20% of it.
  5. When the blood supply to the brain stops, it is almost after 8-10 seconds that the brain starts losing the consciousness.
  6. The brain is capable of surviving for 5 to 6 minutes only if it doesn’t get oxygen after which it dies.
  7. The blood vessels that are present in the brain are almost 100,000 miles in length.
  8. There are 100 billion neurons present in the brain.
  9. In early pregnancy, the neurons develop at an alarming rate of 250,000 per minute.
  10.  As we grow older, we are unable to remember new things. According to the researchers in the US it is because the brain is unable to filter and remove old memories which prevent it from absorbing new ideas.

To teach the working of the human brain as well as its important functions to kids, you must buy a model of the human brain.

 

** ScienceFirst - 2015

Signs of Teen Depression

Signs that their teen is depressed: Excessive irritability or generally depressed mood. Trouble sleeping or excessive sleeping. Sudden severe weight gain or weight loss. (Dreamstime/TNS)

It’s no secret that teenagers can be moody, but research shows that ongoing moodiness often is far more serious. Dr. Janna Gewirtz O’Brien, a Mayo Clinic pediatrician, says teen depression is much more common than most people realize.

“This is something that affects teenagers of all walks of life, of all backgrounds, and actually of ages from as young as 12 — sometimes even younger — and up to the young adult years,” O’Brien says.

She says new guidelines suggest screening all teens for depression starting at age 12.

“About half of kids are not identified with depression when they have it in the primary care setting, so we need to make sure that we’re catching more of those,” O’Brien says. “We can do better.”

She says parents also should look for these five signs that their teen is depressed:

• Excessive irritability or generally depressed mood.

• Trouble sleeping or excessive sleeping.

• Sudden severe weight gain or weight loss.

• A sudden drop in grades in school.

• Sudden loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy.

“So if somebody reaches out to you, an adolescent reaches out and says: ‘I’m worried. I’m depressed. Or I’m thinking about harming myself,’ that is something to be taken very seriously,” O’Brien said.

 

** Mayo clinic News

Helping a Family Member or Friend with Depression

 

When someone you love and care about experiences the symptoms of mental illness, you face unique challenges yourself, including complex family dynamics, social isolation and often unpredictable behavior. Getting support for yourself is essential for you to be able to be helpful for the person you care about.

Learn more about your loved one’s condition. Learning about the condition your loved one experiences will help you better understand and support them. Read personal accounts of lived experience, full of tips and advice on the NAMI website (www.NAMI.org)

Recognize early symptoms. Depression often has warning signs, such as a low mood, feeling fatigued or having trouble sleeping. Discuss your friend or family member’s past episodes with them to help them improve their ability to recognize the signs early.

Communicate.  Speak honestly and kindly. Don’t scold or blame people with depression or urge them to “try harder” to “just be happy.” Instead, make specific offers of help and follow through with those offers. Tell the person you care about them. Ask them how they feel and truly listen.

React calmly and rationally. Even if your family member or friend is in a crisis, it’s important to remain calm. Listen to their concerns and make them feel understood—then take the next step toward getting help.

Find emotional support from others. Share your thoughts, fears and questions with other people who have loved ones with similar conditions. Connect with others through online message boards.

Listen and be kind.

** NAMI 2017

 

Migraine News....Migraine in Children

For both children and adults, migraine impacts those around them (e.g., causes problems for their loved ones, such as parents and/or partners). Studies have demonstrated increased burden on family members as a result of migraine, with the burden for children with migraine falling on parents or caregivers  and adult migraine burden falling on partners or spouses (and children in the family). Such burden includes increased stress on family members, decreased relationship quality, and decreased family involvement in leisure or social activities. Such stressors are also related to increases in anxiety and depression in family members. Increased stressors on family are often positively correlated with higher levels of migraine-related disability in children and adults.

Migraine is, in turn, influenced by family members; however, this relationship has not been widely studied across age groups, with most research in this domain focusing on the parent-child relationship. Existing research has demonstrated that certain parenting variables can negatively impact children's migraine because of children's heavy dependence on their caregivers . For example, existing problems with family communication can lead to increased problems with pain management in children as well as increased relational difficulties between parents and children. Additionally, pre-existing physical or mental health concerns in parents can have negative impact on frequency, intensity, and ability to manage migraine in their children. Such conditions can include parents with chronic pain conditions (including migraine), and mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. Importantly, it can be difficult to determine if conditions such as depression and anxiety in parents developed as a result of managing a child with migraine.

Lifestyle recommendations

Recommendations of daily lifestyle activities for migraine management are typically consistent across age groups. These recommendations include consistent intake of food, staying hydrated, and sleeping and exercising regularly.. Specifically, at minimum, food intake should include three meals a day (without skipping meals). Hydration recommendations vary slightly depending on age and activity level, but include an average of 8-10 cups of non-caffeinated fluid per day (greater physical activity includes increased recommendations of fluid intake). Consistent with best practice for physical activity regardless of migraine diagnosis, exercising 30 minutes or more 3-5 times per week is recommended. And finally, recommended duration of sleep also varies by age, but falling asleep and waking around the same time on a consistent bases is encouraged..

While such recommendations are consistent across age groups, some age-related challenges faced by adults may interfere with their ability to adhere to these practices . For example, adults with migraine typically have more health-related comorbidities as a result of ageing that make it difficult for them to regularly exercise. Age related changes in sleep can also result in less consistent sleeping patterns and fewer hours of sleep each night for adults.

 

 

Source:  PMC5885754 NCBI

 

Symptoms of Bipolar Disease

Depression involves feelings of sadness and emptiness or a loss of pleasure or interest in things.  These feelings last most of the day, on most days for at least 2 weeks.  These symptoms are severe enough to impact negatively on work, relationships and everyday life.

 

Bipolar Depression Symptoms  include:

1. Feeling sadness or emptiness.
2. Losing interest or pleasure in one’s usual enjoyments.
3. Changes in appetite (up OR down), and/or substantial and unplanned loss of weigh or weight gain.
4. Insomnia.
5. Excessive tiredness or sleepiness, and/or lack of energy.
6. Restlessness and agitation.
7. Reduced sex drive.
8. Lack of motivation.
9. Feeing worthless.
10. Feeling guilty about things you are not responsible for.
11. Indecision.
12. “Fuzzy” thinking, problems concentrating, or memory loss.
13. Thoughts of self harm or suicide.
14. Hallucinations.

15. Delusions.

Could a blood test lead to new treatments for Depression?

Depression is among the leading causes of disability worldwide, with more than 300 million people suffering from this mental illness, according to the World Health Organization.

Despite how common depression is, scientists still have a lot to learn about it.

Among what is known is that depression is not a single disease but a variety of feelings and behaviors that may have different underlying causes.

“Depressive disorders can present differently in different people. What is known now is that depression affects not just the brain but the whole organism,”said Natalie Rasgon, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University.

But a new study of which Rasgon is a senior author finds evidence of a possible biomarker for major depressive disorder, which could lead to better treatments for this sometimes crippling disease.

The study by a group of researchers from around the U.S. and in Sweden finds that a specific, naturally-occurring chemical, called acetyl-L-carnitine, or LAC, is lower in the blood of people suffering from depression. The research was published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Previous animal studies convincingly showed the role of LAC in models of depression. This study is the first confirmation of the results from animal studies in human subjects with depression,” Rasgon told ABC News.

Levels of the chemical were lower among people with more severe depression

Researchers measured LAC levels in the blood of 116 participants, and found that those with depression had significantly lower levels of the chemical than healthy individuals. Two groups of people at two different hospitals were examined, with the same results.

LAC levels were especially low among people whose depression was more severe, who began suffering from the disease at an earlier age or who had a history of childhood trauma. Levels were lowest among females whose depression did not get better with medications or therapy, known as “treatment-resistant depression,” and who had suffered childhood trauma or neglect.

The human body naturally produces LAC from a nutrient called carnitine, but researchers found that carnitine levels were the same in people with and without depression. This suggests that differing levels of LAC can be attributed to depression and not to diet.

 

What do we know about this chemical?

LAC performs a number of important tasks, including regulating how the brain and nervous system use energy. It also can interact with DNA to change how certain genes are expressed.

In previous studies, LAC has been shown to effectively and rapidly improve symptoms of depression in mice.

A review of multiple studies published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine in 2017 showed that acetyl-L-carnitine may be better than a placebo in treating depression and may be as effective as common antidepressants but with fewer side effects. The review authors noted the studies were very small and larger trials are necessary to confirm any benefit.

There is a LAC supplement that has been used for dementia, but a 2003 review from Cochrane found it is unlikely to be of benefit for this purpose. Some studies suggest a benefit for a type of nerve pain called neuropathy.

But it is important to note this study did not test if LAC can be used for the treatment of depression.

“We are at the very beginning of this discovery and can’t recommend people to buy this supplement at the GNC store,” warned Rasgon.

How further research might lead to possible treatments

LAC has potential to be a biomarker, something measurable in the body that reflects the presence of a disease. As such, it could potentially be used to screen for and diagnose severe or treatment-resistant depression and allow for earlier and more aggressive treatment.

Researchers hope future studies could shed light on whether physical activity, dietary habits, and sleep may affect LAC levels.

This study also found that people on antidepressant drugs still had lower levels of LAC in their blood, suggesting that taking supplements of the chemical might be helpful or possibly even necessary to fully benefit from a medication.

This research, together with prior studies, suggests that correcting a deficiency in LAC could be a step toward more targeted treatments of depression, especially for those who suffered childhood trauma or began having depression at an early age.

We are excited with these results and are working on extending them to further understand the role of LAC in patients receiving treatment for depression,”Rasgon said. “It is one of the pieces of a very large puzzle that constitutes depressive disorders as an illness.”

While this study has important implications in understanding depression, Rasgon cautioned that it requires larger studies to confirm the findings. “There are many questions to be answered – who will ultimately benefit from taking this supplement, what is the right dose, what is the appropriate duration of use.”

The study was a collaboration between researchers at Stanford, Rockefeller University, Duke University, Weill Cornell Medical College, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden.

Michael MacIntyre is a psychiatry resident working with the ABC News Medical Unit.

Exercise and Migraines

Methods for Migraine Prevention

 

We’re often raving about the benefits of various types of exercise.  Yoga, running, strength-training, spinning--the list seems endless and continues to grow.  In some people, exercise has had incredible effects on symptoms of chronic disease.  But for some, exercise also causes migraines. 

If you suffer from migraines, you know that they are painful, debilitating headaches that can interrupt your entire day.  So, how does exercise affect the brain?  And how can exercise exacerbate or prevent migraines?  We asked Dr. Ashok Patel, Medical Director of the Memory and Aging Center of Toms River, NJ, for more information.

Some of us go for a run with no issue, and we even feel better afterward.  What happens differently in people with migraines?

So, actually, exercise seems to counteract the severity of migraines in some people, while exacerbating the migraines of others.  Exercise has tremendous benefits to your circulation, getting blood flowing everywhere and boosting immunity, plus regulating breathing, hormones, and strengthening bone and muscle. 

With migraines, the effects would be easier to explain if we knew the entire pathway from trigger to migraine, but we don’t know yet.  Some believe migraines are caused by neuronal overstimulation, others believe they’re a vascular problem.  Most believe migraines are caused by both--no one knows the exact mechanism yet.  What we do know is that there are ways to treat and prevent migraines.  Ideally, avoid the exact trigger, eat right, stay hydrated, and exercise just enough. 

If we’re unsure of our trigger(s), what’s the best way to differentiate them?

The best way to differentiate between triggers is to pay close attention to your environment and actions before, during, and after each migraine occurs.  When you feel a migraine coming, take note of what you’ve eaten within the last few hours, where you’ve been or what you’ve been doing. Then track the events over time.  Eventually a pattern will become clear.

And if exercise is our trigger, then how can we cope with it?

Exercise isn’t a trigger that people should avoid.  First, see if there’s a certain exertion level or type of exercise that causes or exacerbates your migraine.  If there is, then avoid overexertion.  On the other hand, if, say, running in general seems to cause a migraine, then switch to other options, like yoga or biking.  Sometimes, taking NSAIDs before exercising prevents migraines.  But because the effects are different for different people, consult your physician for the right treatment regimen.

Are medications available to prevent or help treat migraines?

Acetaminophen or ibuprofen or other NSAIDs should help with mild attacks. For severe or chronic migraines, prescription medications are available.  Your doctor can learn which medication suits you best, based on your history and their knowledge of all your options.  If you’ve tried everything, and nothing seems to work, clinical trials are also available.  There’s a chance that you don’t have to live with so much pain.  

 Consult your physician immediately if your headaches are recurring or debilitating, or if one is debilitatingly painful for a very short amount of time (seconds to a minute).

For a free consultation, schedule an appointment with us today (732) 244-2299

Being There for A Loved One Who Needs Professional Help

Mental health issues can be disruptive not only for the person affected but the whole family. Sometimes it's necessary for loved ones to intervene.

When a loved one is having emotional struggles, family and close friends will do anything they can to help.

In many instances, a caring conversation is all one needs to put things in perspective. In other cases, a person may need professional help, such as undergoing counseling or seeing a doctor.

Determining the intensity of one’s distress is the first step to deciding the appropriate level of assistance. It's normal to feel intense depression after a difficult break-up or experience debilitating grief after a loved one has passed. Sometimes, life gets disrupted, one temporarily reacts in an emotional manner and empathetic support is all that is needed.

Others may have on-going mental health concerns, such as depression or anxiety. These types of mood issues are created by a chemical imbalance in the brain that is further influenced by one’s personality traits. With therapy and medication as well as understanding family members, many are able to productively manage their day-to-day affairs.

There is, however, a small group with severe mental illness, such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or drug addiction, whose struggles disrupt not only their own life but also the lives of those around them. These individuals are in acute distress and often rationalize, deny and make excuses for their bad behavior. Many are unwilling to seek help, and an intervention  is needed.

It is a truly caring person who understands when circumstances are out of control. Often times both the troubled individual and a supportive family member have visited multiple doctors and seen a variety of therapists. Nothing seems to be help. Unfortunately, in these situations, it may be time to consider an in-patient mental health facility.

Accepting that a loved one is in major distress and requires residential treatment will create a great deal of anxiety for most family members. Some may feel like they are a bad spouse or a bad parent. In reality, there are many situational and biological factors that contribute to a person’s downward spiral into severe mental illness.

It's also normal to question if something as drastic as an intervention is the best way to move forward. Family members who are in persistent distress and lie or hide their illness may not accept help in a traditional manner. If one is constantly making excuses for the behaviors of a sick family member, desires to leave a spouse because of their emotional outbursts or wants to kick a son or daughter out of the house because of their substance use, it's time to intervene.

Engaging in an intervention would sadden any concerned person. Even when one understands that providing a residential treatment option is the best course of action, the guilt can be overwhelming. This emotion may stem from a sense of powerlessness, self-doubt that an intervention is necessary or internalized blame that you are the cause of the problem.

Interventions are, however, a loving, supportive process that can motivate one to accept assistance. When the meeting occurs, it's common for the person in crisis to deny there is a problem or promise to change because they're unable to fully grasp their situation. Stay the course. On some level, the suffering individual knows he or she is in a bad place.

Reach out to a knowledgeable professional to assist with the emotional roller coaster a mentally ill family member can create. To avoid pitfalls that often occur during the intervention process, most mental health experts recommend engaging a professional interventionist, a mental health expert who is experienced with taking ill people to treatment centers. Check with your local National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse or National Alliance on Mental Illness office to find a specialist.

Interventions are appropriate for any individual who is experiencing a mental health crisis, not just those who have addiction issues. Bringing family and friends together to help a person create change is a powerful motivator to get healthy.

Don’t wait for someone to hit bottom before intervening. Debilitating mental health issues and drug or alcohol addiction, can result in a person hurting themselves or others. Psychological and medical issues are, in many ways, the same. The earlier a problem is identified and treated, the better chance one has to successfully recover.

 

Source:   Russell Hyken

The Power of Positive Thinking

About half the carriers of a gene variant called APOE 4 get dementia. But scientists don't know why the other half don't.   It may be all in your attitude. Researchers surveyed 1, 250 older adult carriers of APOE 4 gene variants on their beliefs about aging.  They presented statements such as "True or False: The older I get, the  more useless I feel"  Those who were most positive about aging were significantly less likely to develop dementia over the next four years.  In fact, their risk for dementia was the same as if they didn't carry the risk increasing gene variant at all.

 

Source:  PLOS One

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness Meditation has a couple of different components. Mindfulness brings awareness and clarity to feelings and emotions in the present moment, which helps to realize your needs, wants, and triggers for stress. Mindfulness also helps you to focus on the present moment which can create peace and happiness in your life instead of depression (focusing on the past) and anxiety (worrying about the future). Mindfulness meditation also allows you to clear your mind of everything. Working to clear your mind for a couple minutes a day can greatly reduce stress and “unclog” the negative thoughts that can impact your mental and physical health. Mindfulness mediation allows for self-acceptance, appreciation, and gratitude. You will feel both mental and physical, benefits of mindfulness meditation. You will also learn about yourself and experience personal growth. Here’s how to start your mindfulness meditation practice:

  • Find a quiet space where you feel comfortable
  • Sit or lay down and close your eyes
  • Take three deep breaths in through the nose, feel your tummy expand outward. Then exhale through the nose, feeling your tummy push back in toward the spine
  • Work to clear your mind. Bring awareness to your immediate thoughts and work to block them out. Silencing the mind is the difficult part. We are not used to turning off our mind chatter. Where is it that your mind wanders toward? You can learn about yourself through this practice. Ultimately you want to be calm and have a clear mindset. A cue word often helps. I use the word “settle” and this helps to focus on quieting my thoughts.
  • Focus on your breath, deep inhales and exhales, find your body relaxing
  • Settle your shoulders, feel where the tension leaves your body (I find most of my tension releases through my face and shoulders)
  • Do this for 3-5 minutes every morning or before bed

You can feel the benefits of mindfulness anywhere! Here is how you can find mindfulness wherever you are:

  • Wherever you find yourself during the day, take at least 2 minutes to really soak in your surroundings
  • Block unwanted or negative thoughts (Your list of things to do, what is for dinner, your weight gain, a fight)
  • Use a cue word to help block your thoughts
  • Dive into your surroundings using your senses (what are you seeing, touching, feeling, hearing)
  • Find beauty and appreciation for what it is you are doing in the present moment

Source:   The Daily Positive - Guest Post