History of Fireworks

Many historians believe that fireworks originally were developed in the second century B.C. in ancient Liuyang, China. It is believed that the first natural "firecrackers" were bamboo stalks that when thrown in a fire, would explode with a bang because of the overheating of the hollow air pockets in the bamboo. The Chinese believed these natural "firecrackers" would ward off evil spirits.

Sometime during the period 600-900 AD, legend has it that a Chinese alchemist mixed potassium nitrate, sulfur and charcoal to produce a black, flaky powder – the first “gunpowder”.  This powder was poured into hallowed out bamboo sticks (and later stiff paper tubes) forming the first man made fireworks. 

Fireworks made their way to Europe in the 13th century and by the 15thcentury they were widely used for religious festivals and public entertainment. The Italians were the first Europeans to manufacture fireworks and European rulers were especially fond of the use of fireworks to “enchant their subjects and illuminate their castles on important occasions.”    

 

Early U.S. settlers brought their love of fireworks with them to the New World and fireworks were part of the very first Independence Day – a tradition that continues every 4th of July when we celebrate as John Adams had hoped “with pomp, parade….bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other.” Americans' spirit of celebration continued to grow and in the late 18th century, politicians used displays to attract crowds to their speeches.

While July 4th is still the “big day”, Americans continue to use fireworks year-round to celebrate at festivals, special events, and sporting traditions such as the Olympics and Super Bowl.

Fireworks entertainment generates dollars as well as smiles. Thunder Over Louisville is one of the country’s largest fireworks displays and an economic study conducted by the Derby Festival determined that Thunder generates more than $56 million for the local economy.

But more than anything else, when you think of the fireworks, you think of the Fourth of July and the celebration of our country’s Independence.

Happy July 4th - Enjoy and Be Safe!

The Summer Solstice Is Coming: 9 things to know about the longest day of the year

Why do we have a summer solstice, anyway?

By Brian Resnick and Brad Plumer Updated Jun 19, 2019, 9:16am EDT

“Summmmeerrr!!!”

The summer solstice is almost upon us: Friday, June 21 will be the longest day of 2019 for anyone living north of the equator. If pagan rituals are your thing, this is probably a big moment for you. If not, the solstice is still pretty neat.

Technically speaking, the summer solstice occurs when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Cancer, or 23.5 degrees north latitude. This will occur at exactly 11:54 am Eastern on Friday the 21st.

Below is a short scientific guide to the longest day of the year. (Though not, as we’ll see, the longest day in Earth’s history — that happened back in 1912.)

1) Why do we have a summer solstice, anyway?

Okay, most people know this one. Earth orbits around the sun on a tilted axis. (Probably because our planet collided with some other massive object billions of years ago, back when it was still being formed.)

So between March and September, Earth’s Northern Hemisphere gets more exposure to direct sunlight over the course of a day. The rest of the year, the Southern Hemisphere gets more. It’s why we have seasons.

In the Northern Hemisphere, “peak” sunlight usually occurs on June 20, 21, or 22 of any given year. That’s the summer solstice. By contrast, the Southern Hemisphere reaches peak sunlight on December 21, 22, or 23 and the Northern hits peak darkness — that’s our winter solstice.

2) How many hours of sunlight will I get on the 21st?

That depends on where you live. The farther north you are, the more sunlight you’ll see during the solstice. Alaska-based climatologist Brian Brettschneider created this terrific guide:

On the chance you live near the Arctic Circle, the sun never really sets during the solstice.

Here’s another cool way to visualize the extreme of the summer solstice. In 2013, a resident of Alberta, Canada — several hundred miles south of Fairbanks but still in a high latitude — took this pinhole camera photograph of the sun’s path throughout the year and shared it with the astronomy website EarthSky. You can see the dramatic change in the arc of the sun from December to June. (You can easily make a similar image at home. All you need is a can, photo paper, some tape, and a pin. Instructions here.)

Note that the solstice also gives us the longest twilight of the year, usually about one to one and a half extra hours after sunset. (Brettschneider has more charts on that; his entire post is worth your time.)

3) Is the solstice the latest sunset of the year?

Not necessarily. Just because June 21 is the longest day of the year for the Northern Hemisphere doesn’t mean every location has its earliest sunrise or latest sunset on that day.

If you live in Washington, DC, the latest sunsets will start on the day after the solstice, the 22nd. If you like sleeping in, that’s arguably the most exciting day of the summer. TimeAndDate.com can tell you when the latest sunset will occur in your area.

4) What does all this have to do with Stonehenge?

No one really knows why Stonehenge was built some 5,000 years ago (at least we don’t, sorry). But one possibility is that it was used to mark solstices and equinoxes. That’s because during the summer solstice, the sun rises just over the structure’s Heel Stone and hits the Altar Stone dead center.

Nowadays, humans still gather to pay homage to the summer solstice at Stonehenge — they just use modern technology, like so:

People at Stonehenge on the solstices know how to throw a party. Here’s an image from a recent winter solstice at the site.

5) Is this the longest day in Earth’s entire history?

Probably not, although it’s close. And the reason why is quite interesting. Joseph Stromberg did a fantastic deep dive into this topic for Vox a few years back, but here’s the two-minute version.

Ever since the Earth has had liquid oceans and a moon, its rotation has been gradually slowing over time due to tidal friction. That means that over very, very long periods of time, the days have been getting steadily longer. About 4.5 billion years ago, it took Earth just six hours to complete one rotation. About 350 million years ago, it took 23 hours. Today, of course, it takes about 24 hours. And the days will gradually get longer still.

Given that, you’d think 2018 would be the longest day in all of history. But while it’s certainly up there, it doesn’t quite take top honors.

That’s because tidal friction isn’t the only thing affecting Earth’s rotation; there are a few countervailing factors. The melting of glacial ice, which has been occurring since the end of the last ice age 12,000 years ago (and is now ramping up because of global warming), is actually speeding up Earth’s rotation very slightly, shortening the days by a few fractions of a millisecond. Likewise, geologic activity in the planet’s core, earthquakes, ocean currents, and seasonal wind changes can also speed up or slow down Earth’s rotation.

When you put all these factors together, scientists have estimated that the longest day in Earth’s history (so far) likely occurred back in 1912. That year’s summer solstice was the longest period of daylight the Northern Hemisphere has ever seen (and, conversely, the 1912 winter solstice was the longest night we’ve ever seen).

Eventually, the effects of tidal friction should overcome all those other factors, and Earth’s days will get longer and longer as its rotation keeps slowing (forcing timekeepers to add leap seconds to the calendar periodically). Which means that in the future, there will be plenty of summer solstices that set new records as the “longest day in Earth’s history.”

6) Do I need to wear sunscreen?

Yes, you should, though, as Vox’s Julia Belluz has reported, the research on whether sunscreen actually helps prevent the more aggressive form of skin cancer is lacking. As she writes:

The US Preventive Services Task Force summed up the evidence on the health effects of sunscreen use ... [and] found that sunscreen reduced the incidence of squamous cell cancer, but that it had no effect on basal cell cancer. What’s more, “There are no direct data about the effect of sunscreen on melanoma incidence.”

Still, research is always evolving and newer studies are emerging that show sunscreen can curb melanoma risk, such as this long-term trial from Australia.

That said, it does, definitely help prevent sunburn, which is unpleasant. For more on the science of sunscreen, read Belluz’s explainer.

7) Are there solstices on other planets?

Yes! All the planets in our solar system rotate on a tilted axis and therefore have seasons, solstices, and equinoxes. Some of these tilts are minor (like Mercury, which is tilted at 2.11 degrees). But others are more like the Earth (23.5 degrees) or are even more extreme (Uranus is tilted 98 degrees!).

Below, see a beautiful composite image of Saturn on its equinox captured by the Cassini spacecraft (RIP) in 2009. The gas giant is tilted 27 degrees relative to the sun, and equinoxes on the planet are less frequent than on Earth. Saturn only sees an equinox about once every 15 years (because it takes Saturn 29 years to complete one orbit around the sun).

8) I heard there was a solar eclipse happening this summer

You heard correct! There will be a solar eclipse on July 2. And if you’re in Chile or Argentina, (or in the South Pacific), you’ll be able to see it.

Here’s the path that the totality (the area where you can see the sun completely covered up by the moon) will take across the globe:

9) I clicked this article accidentally and really just want a cool picture of the sun

We got you:

The sun blew out a coronal mass ejection along with part of a solar filament over a three-hour period (February 24, 2015). Some of the strands fell back into the sun.

Last year, NASA launched the Parker Solar Probe, a spacecraft that will come within 4 million miles of the surface of the sun (much closer than any spacecraft has been before). The goal is to study the sun’s atmosphere, weather, and magnetism and figure out the mystery of why the sun’s corona (its atmosphere) is much hotter than its surface. Still, even several million miles away, the probe will have to withstand temperatures of 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit.

It’s essential to understand the sun: It’s nothing to mess with. At Vox, Brad Plumer wrote about what happens when the sun erupts and sends space weather our way to wreak havoc on Earth.

Happy solstice!

Published by Vox.com on June 19, 2019

Birthday Traditions Around the World!

The Western idea of celebrating a birthday with cake and candles has certainly caught on in other parts of the world, but many cultures have long-standing traditional ways to celebrate that don’t involve a sugar rush.

Obviously, the practices found in the list below are not entirely representative of the preferences of every household or individual. We’re sure many of them are more traditional and hypothetical than a reality, but if you happen to be in Germany and see a group of men with a broom on the steps of city hall, you’ll at least know what they’re up to.

1. Canada: Nose Grease

On the Atlantic side of Canada, birthday boys and girls are sometimes “ambushed” and their noses are greased, usually with butter, to ward off bad luck. A friend who lives in Pictou told this writer that “The butter got worse as you got older.  It was good luck as much as torture as I remember it.” We would imagine so!

2. China: Long Noodles for Longevity

Chinese birthday tradition maintains that one should symbolize their longevity by eating a plate of long noodles, slurping them in as far as possible before biting.

3. Germany: Sweeping the Streets of City Hall

When single men in Germany turn 30, an old tradition is for them to sweep the steps of their local city hall as their friends toss rubble onto them. The ordeal, meant to embarrass, is supposed to carry on until the birthday boy is able to plant one on a passing woman. Also, as this author personally found out recently, you buy the drinks for your friends on your birthday, unlike in the States where it is the other way around.

4. Ireland: Hit the Deck

Think the Irish had a few when coming up with this one? Tradition maintains that a child is held upside down and is “bumped” on the floor, once for every year of their age plus one for good luck. We’re guessing lawyers would have something to say about this in the United States!

5. Jamaica: Modern Day Antiquing

Just like that one friend you had in college, Jamaicans think dousing their friends with flour is fun. Regardless of age, tradition calls for the birthday boy or girl to be “antiqued,” or coated with flour, by friends and family, either at an organized party or as part of an ambush. 

6. Mexico: The Birthday Piñata

Mexicans sure know how to have a good time, and it’s no surprise that they have what is in my opinion the most fun tradition for children: The birthday piñata filled with candy. Grab a blindfold and a broomstick, and let the celebration begin. I don’t know about you, but I certainly would trade my birthday cake for a piñata any day. 

7. Vietnam: Happy… New Year?

Everyone celebrates their birthday on New Year’s Day in Vietnam, a day they refer to as “tet.” Vietnamese tradition is that the actual day of birth is not to be acknowledged. Rather, people become a year older every year at tet.

Today Marks the 75th Anniversary of D-Day

hursday marks the 75th anniversary of the World War II invasion in Normandy, France, commonly known as D-Day.

On June 6, 1944, an estimated 150,000 Allied service members engaged in a land, sea and air assault on the French shore, marking a pivotal moment in the fight against the Axis powers. While the monumental, coordinated effort has been immortalized in multiple films and television shows—including Band of Brothers, The Longest Day and Saving Private Ryan—some may not know what D-Day stands for.

Is it Designated Day, Decision Day, Doomsday, Death Day? All are guesses people have made as to the meaning of D-Day, however, the Army pointed out none of them are correct. Although, it's not entirely clear exactly what D-Day meant.

D-Day, in military speak, simply meant the designated day an important invasion or military operation occurred. Military planners described the days before and after the invasion or operation with minuses and pluses, respectively.

A French flag and an U.S. flag sit on the grave of a soldier during commemorations marking the 73th anniversary of D-Day, the June 6,1944, landings of Allied forces in Normandy at the American cemetery on June 06, 2017, in Colleville-sur-Mer, France.CHESNOT/GETTY IMAGES

Another possibility, which was given by Brigadier General Robert Schultz in 1964, was that it was the shortened term for "departed date." Every amphibious assault, Schultz explained, had its own D-Day.

The Allied assault included 6,000 ships and landing craft, 50,000 vehicles and 11,000 planes. Code names for the beaches along the Normandy coast were Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. British forces largely took Sword and Gold, Canadians led Juno and American forces took charge of Utah and Omaha.

Omaha, located between Sainte-Honorine-des Pertes and Vierville-sur-Mer, saw the worst casualties of all five sections. An estimated 6,603 Americans were killed wounded or missing in action on D-Day.

From D-Day until August 21, when Paris, located about 118 miles away, was liberated, 72,911 Allied service members were killed or missing and 153,475 were wounded.

Less than a year later, on May 8, Germany surrendered.

In his message to Allied soldiers, then-General Dwight D. Eisenhower, informed them they were about to "embark upon the Great crusade" and noted "the eyes of the world are upon you." While it admittedly wouldn't be easy, Eisenhower said German suffered great defeats and expressed his confidence in the troops.

"The tide has turned! The freemen of the world are marching together to Victory!" Eisenhower said. "I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory!"

Among those who landed at Normandy were Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., son of former president Theodore Roosevelt, and his son, Captain Quentin Roosevelt II. At 56 years old, Theodore was the oldest and only general in the first wave to storm the beaches and the only father to serve with his son.

Please Stop Honoring Veterans on Memorial Day - a Request From My Veteran Husband (Reprint)

By Minda ZetlinCo-author, The Geek Gap@MindaZetlin

Monday is Memorial Day, a holiday celebrated throughout the United States with barbecues, music festivals, and children running through sprinklers. All those traditions are wonderful. But my husband, a veteran, has one request: Don't treat Memorial Day as a day to honor our troops currently serving in the military. It's not a day for them. As the word "Memorial" tells us, it's a day for remembering and honoring those who sacrificed their lives in battle and are no longer among us.

Why does it matter? I hadn't thought about this myself until I was watching TV with my husband, Bill, a Vietnam veteran. A message from the station told viewers to "Celebrate our troops on Memorial Day," and his reaction was loud and negative. "I hate it when people treat Memorial Day the same as Veteran's Day, as a day for supporting our troops," he said.

My Inc.com colleague Bill Murphy has provided a great guide to understanding the difference between Veteran's Day and Memorial Day. Consider the history of the respective holidays. Veteran's Day, formerly called Armistice Day, commemorates the signing of the armistice on November 11, 1918, that officially ended World War I. That war was optimistically called "the war to end all wars," a name that turned out to be sadly inaccurate. Veteran's Day is also a day to thank and honor those who have served in our military. If you see Bill on November 11, please feel free to thank him for his service, he says.

Decoration Day.

Memorial Day is a different matter. It dates back to the Civil War, in which an unimaginable 620,000 soldiers were killed. For perspective, that's about 19,000 more people than live in Baltimore today, a death toll huge enough to force the creation of national cemeteries. The holiday used to be called Decoration Day because many people would spend the day placing decorations and flags on the graves of fallen soldiers. The name was changed in 1971, perhaps because so many of the fallen in Bill's war, the Vietnam war, could not be brought home, and have no graves to decorate.

When I asked Bill why people honoring living soldiers and veterans on Memorial Day bothers him so much, his answer was: Because of the Wall, the Vietnam memorial in Washington, D.C., where the names of the 58,220 soldiers who died in that war are engraved in a long and heartbreaking list. 

"I knew so many of those people," he said. "Kids I went to high school with. Kids who just wanted to go to college. Kids who didn't make it to 20." He didn't say it, but he didn't have to: Bill's name could easily be on that wall, if he'd been unlucky instead of lucky.

All those men, and some women too, who died in Vietnam and every war before and since, didn't get the chance to bring up their children, or grow old with their spouses, or have careers. All they have is their names on the Wall, or another memorial like it, and a triangular folded flag for their families.

So go ahead and thank our veterans and support our troops on every other day. Save Memorial Day for remembering and honoring those who never had the chance to become veterans. This one day a year is all they and their loved ones have left.

PUBLISHED ON: MAY 24, 2018

Rewiring Your Brain

The conversations you have with yourself have a direct impact on how you feel and how you behave. If your self-talk is filled with self-doubt, harsh criticism, and catastrophic predictions, you'll struggle to reach your goals.

But you don't have to let a pessimistic outlook or foreboding inner monologue hold you back. You can train your brain to think differently.

In fact, training your brain to think differently physically changes your brain. That's why so many therapists use cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) to help people create long-lasting change.

What the Research Shows

CBT is a well-studied mental health treatment. Therapists who employ this method help people change the unhelpful thinking and behavior patterns that are keeping them stuck.

CBT isn't just a quick, feel-good treatment that temporarily masks underlying issues. Studies consistently show CBT creates measurable physical changes in the brain.

Neuroimaging shows CBT modifies neural circuits involved in the regulation of negative emotions. Studies consistently show CBT can change dysfunctions of the nervous system.

A study published in Translational Psychiatry used MRIs to examine brain changes in people with schizophrenia. After six months of treatment, there was more neural connectivity between the amygdala (which manages emotion in the brain) and the prefrontal cortex (which governs high order thinking). The changes were long-lasting.

Another study found that after just nine weeks of online CBT treatment, people with social anxiety disorder experienced decreased brain volume and activity in their amygdalae, which helped them keep their anxiety at bay.

Researchers have also found CBT rewires the brain in people with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder as well.

So what types of CBT skills do therapists teach? Here are three ways to train your brain to think differently:

1. Reframe your unhelpful thoughts.

Thinking things like "This will never work," or "I'm such an idiot. I just ruined everything" isn't helpful. Negative predictions tend to turn into self-fulfilling prophecies. And exaggeratedly negative thoughts prevent you from taking positive action.

But the good news is, you can reply to unhelpful thoughts with more realistic statements. When you think "No one is ever going to hire me," remind yourself, "If I keep working hard to look for jobs, I'll increase my chances of getting hired."

Or, when you are thinking "This is going to be a disaster," look for evidence that your efforts may be a success. Then, create a more balanced statement such as "There's a chance this won't work out, but there's also a chance I might succeed. All I can do is my best."

2. Prove yourself wrong.

Your brain lies to you sometimes. So when it tells you that you can't possibly get a promotion or that you'll never be able to lose 10 pounds, look at it as a challenge.

Force yourself to take one more step after you think you're too exhausted to keep going. Or challenge yourself to keep applying for promotions despite your brain's insistence you won't land a new position.

Each time you successfully prove your negative predictions wrong, you'll train your brain to see yourself in a different light. Over time, your brain will start to view your limitations, as well as your capabilities, in a more accurate light.

3. Create a personal mantra.

Take stock of your negative thought patterns. Do you call yourself names? Or do you talk yourself out of doing things where you might fail?

Then, develop a personal mantra that you can use to talk back to the negative messages. Repeating things like "Make it happen" or "Do your best" tunes out the negativity. And over time, you'll grow to believe those statements more than the unhealthy things you've been telling yourself.

Keep Building Mental Muscle

Just like any new skill, training your brain to think differently takes time. But the more you practice thinking realistically, the more mental muscle you'll build. In addition, your brain could undergo physical changes that will permanently help you think differently.

PUBLISHED ON: SEP 26, 2017 Inc.com

Why do antidepressants fail for some?

Research has revealed a biological explanation for why some people with depression do not respond to a class of antidepressants that doctors commonly prescribe. It has to do with fundamental differences in the nerve cells that produce and use serotonin.

New research may explain why antidepressants do not always work.

Serotonin is the chemical messenger that has a major impact on feelings of happiness and wellbeing.

Scientists have long suspected that disruption in serotonin brain circuits is a key factor in major depressive disorder. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a significant class of drug that seeks to remedy this disruption by increasing serotonin levels at nerve junctions.

However, for reasons that have been unclear, SSRIs do not work for around 30 percent of people with major depression. Now, researchers from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, CA, and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, may have solved the mystery.

Molecular Psychiatry paper describes how, by studying cells from hundreds of people with major depression, the team uncovered differences that could explain resistance to SSRIs.

"These results," says senior study author Fred H. Gage, who is president of the Salk Institute and also a professor in their Laboratory of Genetics, "contribute to a new way of examining, understanding, and addressing depression."

He and his colleagues believe that their findings also offer insights into other psychiatric illnesses that involve disruption of the brain's serotonin system, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Depression and nerve cell response to SSRIs

Depression is a leading cause of disability that affects all ages and contributes in a major way to the "global burden of disease," according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The United Nations agency estimate that there are around 300 million people worldwide living with this widespread psychiatric condition.

In the United States, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggest that in 2017 around 17.3 million adults, or 7.1 percent of all adults, reported having "at least one major depressive episode" in the previous 12

Published Wednesday 27 March 2019

By Catharine Paddock PhD

Fact checked by Carolyn Robertson

Bipolar vs. Schizophrenia

Overview

Bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are two different chronic mental health disorders. People can sometimes mistake the symptoms of bipolar disorder for schizophrenia symptoms. Read on to learn how these conditions are alike and how they differ.

Bipolar disorder vs. schizophrenia

Bipolar disorder and schizophrenia have some aspects in common, but here are two of the main differences:

Symptoms

Bipolar disorder causes strong shifts in energy, mood, and activity levels. A person with bipolar disorder will switch between extreme excitement, or mania, and depression. These shifts can affect your ability to perform daily activities. In some cases, a person with bipolar disorder may also experience hallucinations and delusions (see below).

Schizophrenia causes symptoms that are more severe than the symptoms of bipolar disorder. People with schizophrenia experience hallucinations and delusions. Hallucinations involve seeing or hearing things that aren’t there. Delusions are beliefs in things that aren’t true. People with schizophrenia may also experience disorganized thinking in which they are unable to care for themselves.

Frequency and ages affected

Bipolar disorder affects approximately 2.2 percent of people in the United States. Typically, it first appears between the late teen years and early adulthood. Children can also show signs of bipolar disorder.

Schizophrenia isn’t as common as bipolar disorder. It affects 1.1 percent of the U.S. population. People usually learn they have it between the ages of 16 and 30. Schizophrenia isn’t usually seen in children.

Symptoms of bipolar disorder

People with bipolar disorder experience episodes of intense emotions. These include three main types of episodes:

  • Manic episodes are times of increased activity and energy. A manic episode can make you feel extremely happy or elated.

  • Hypomanic episodes are similar to manic episodes, but they’re less intense.

  • Depressive episodes are similar to those of people with major depression. A person having a depressive episode will feel severely depressed and lose interest in activities that they used to enjoy.

To be diagnosed with bipolar disorder, you have to have at least one episode of depression that meets the criteria for a major depressive episode. You must also have at least one episode that meets the criteria for a manic or hypomanic episode.

Other behavioral changes that may be symptoms of bipolar disorder include:

  • restlessness

  • hyperactivity

  • tiredness

  • trouble staying focused

  • irritability

  • extreme self-confidence and impulsivity, in the case of a manic episode

  • suicidal thoughts, in the case of a depressive episode

People with bipolar disorder can also experience psychotic symptoms during a manic or depressive episode. These can include hallucinations or delusions. Because of this, people may mistake their bipolar symptoms for those of schizophrenia.

Symptoms of schizophrenia

The symptoms of schizophrenia are divided into two groups, generally referred to as “positive symptoms” and “negative symptoms.” This isn’t based on whether a symptom is good or bad, but on whether the symptoms involve what could be described as “adding” or “removing” a behavior. Positive symptoms involve adding a behavior, such as delusions or hallucinations. Negative symptoms involve removing behavior. For instance, the symptom of social withdrawal involves removing social interactions.

Some of the early warning signs of schizophrenia may include:

  • social isolation

  • a loss of interest in activities

  • moodiness

  • a lack of any feelings

  • making irrational statements

  • surprising or unusual behavior

  • an altered sleep schedule

  • getting either too much or too little sleep

  • an inability to express emotions

  • inappropriate laughter

  • violent outbursts

  • acts of violence toward yourself, such as cutting yourself

  • hypersensitivity to smells, touches, tastes, and sounds

  • hallucinations, which often appear as threatening or condemning voices that may tell you to act in violent ways

  • delusions

Risk factors for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia

No one knows what causes bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. However, genetics are probably a risk factor, as both conditions likely run in families. This doesn’t mean that you’ll definitely inherit the disorder if your parent or sibling has it. Your risk increases, however, if multiple family members have the disorder. But knowing there’s a risk increases the chance of early detection and treatment.

Environmental factors may also contribute to your risk, but this connection isn’t entirely understood yet.

Diagnosis of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia

There are no blood tests for diagnosing bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Instead, your doctor will do a physical and psychological exam. During the exam, they’ll ask you about any family history of mental disorders and your symptoms.

Your doctor may want to do a complete blood test to help rule out other conditions. They may also request an MRI or CT scan. Finally, they make ask you to agree to a drug and alcohol screening.

You may need to return for several visits before your doctor can make a diagnosis. These visits will help your doctor fully understand your symptoms. They may ask you to keep a daily record of your mood and sleep patterns. This can help your doctor see if any patterns emerge, such as manic and depressive episodes.

Treating bipolar disorder

Treatment for both bipolar disorder and schizophrenia involves therapy and medication.

For bipolar disorder, psychotherapy may include:

  • learning about mood swings and how to effectively manage them

  • educating family members about the disorder so they can be supportive and help with overcoming episodes

  • helping you improve your relationships with friends and coworkers

  • learning to manage your days to avoid possible triggers, such as a lack of sleep or stress

Your doctor may prescribe medications to control mood swings and related symptoms, such as:

  • mood stabilizers such as lithium

  • atypical antipsychotics

  • antidepressants (in some cases)

People with bipolar disorder often have trouble sleeping. Your doctor may also prescribe sleep medication.

Treating schizophrenia

Treatment for schizophrenia includes antipsychotics and psychotherapy. Some of the more common antipsychotics used to treat schizophrenia include:

  • risperidone (Risperdal)

  • aripiprazole (Abilify)

  • haloperidol (Haldol)

  • paliperidone (Invega)

  • ziprasidone (Geodon)

  • olanzapine (Zyprexa)

Psychotherapy approaches may include cognitive behavioral therapy.

It’s possible to have an initial schizophrenic episode and never experience another one. You may find a coordinated specialty care program called Recovery After an Initial Schizophrenia Episode (RAISE) to be helpful if you’ve experienced one episode only. This program includes:

  • psychotherapy

  • medication

  • family education and support

  • work or education support, depending on each situation

What you can do

People can often manage the symptoms of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia with medication and therapy. Having a support system in place will increase your chances of successfully managing your symptoms. A support system may include family, friends, and the people in your workplace.

If you have either bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, you have an increased risk of suicide. See your doctor if you have thoughts of suicide. They can provide treatment. Support groups can help to reduce the risk of suicide. You should also avoid alcohol and drugs to further reduce your risk.

If you have bipolar disorder, you should do the following:

  • Follow a relatively stable lifestyle.

  • Get an adequate amount of sleep.

  • Maintain a healthy diet.

  • Use techniques to manage stress.

  • Take medications as prescribed.

Identifying episode triggers may also help you to manage the condition.

If you have schizophrenia, you should follow your treatment plan. That includes taking medication as prescribed. This will help you to control symptoms and reduce your chances of a relapse.

Talk to your doctor if you think you may have either bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Early diagnosis is an important first step toward returning to a symptom-free life.

Reprint: Healthline Partner Solutions.

10 Ways to Feel Better About Yourself

Everyday, you have another chance to make things better.

Some days are better than others. On those days that go less well, we usually end up being hard on ourselves. Here are some tools to avoid doing so.

1. Keep going. Don't let life's changes throw you off track, but remember that most extenuating circumstances are temporary. Gain more clarity by staying the course and channeling your energy in a positive direction.

2. Trust yourself. Believe in your inner resources, no matter what, and you'll grow from the experience. I believe that the answers usually lie within and you are probably smart enough to figure out what you need to do. Give yourself a little time and have patience.

3. Be friends with life. Remember that the world is not out to get you and it does not punish you. You do that to yourself. Learning to focus on other opportunities or in another direction can give you some perspective.

4. Watch your thoughts. Your thinking will never be 100 percent positive. You must learn to dismiss the negative thoughts and stay open to other ideas that will help you move in a positive direction. Start recognizing negative thoughts and use your mind to quell them.

5. Summon the strength you have inside. Learn to access and direct your strengths to the highest good for all concerned. Believe that your strength and intelligence can help you deal with anything. Remember that you have survived worse.

6. Learn to love yourself. You do not have to be who you are today, and your life is not scripted. Changing how you feel about yourself means creating a strategy, gathering some new tools, and making yourself into the person you want to be. A good way to start is to stop doing things that hurt.

7. Don't want too much. Desire can be a powerful motivating tool, but wanting something too much can be very painful and very expensive, so don't live beyond your means or covet the unattainable. Seek your desire, but keep your integrity.

8. Don't get insulted. It is wise to be dispassionate about critical comments. Human's will always bump heads, but consider the source, and if it's the other person's issue, ignore it. Learn to respond instead of react, and don't show your ire.

9. Recognize that disappointment is part of life. Even the most successful people have to deal with disappointment, but they've learned how to use it to get to the next level of life. The trick is to process your feelings, then take some kind of action.

10. Deal with your fears. Overcoming fear makes you stronger, and being a little scared can make you better. You want to have butterflies; you just want them flying in formation. It helps to understand and admit your fears. Then you can kick them to the curb.

Feel good about yourself, no matter what life brings. Know that each time you wake up, you have another chance to make things better. Don't waste it.

Reprint: Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist, syndicated columnist, keynote speaker and most recently the co-author of 100 Ways to Overcome Shyness - Go From Self-Conscious to Self-Confident.

100 Ways to Boost Your Self-Confidence: Believe In Yourself and Others Will Too

What to make a change?

Are you ready to take action, in a way that will change your life, right now? That’s a powerful feeling. Let’s leverage that motivation and potential you’ve got right now, and make it really happen for you.

First of all, though you may have several areas of your life that you’d like to see change, you need to just pick one to start. I’ll tell you why in a moment.

Let’s get right to it:

1)    Pick your “Thing”

Choose something that:

  • you really want to change

  • you know that you’d really benefit from, if you changed it

  • you can realistically change, starting now

For example, I’ve decided to focus on exercising more. To really get serious about it. I’m a relatively active person (walk the dog every day, get to the gym 2-3 times a week), but the amount I’ve been exercising isn’t enough to be as fit and full of energy and strength as I want to be. I know, from reading study after study, that working out 4-5 times a week (and pushing myself more with both cardio and weights) will dramatically improve my mood, appearance, health and overall resilience.

I really want these results, so I’m motivated. I know that making this change would be life-changing. I can make the time in my schedule, and I already go to a nearby gym.

So, what “thing” are you going to do?

2)    Decide how, when and where you’re going to do it

Research shows that if you are intentional about how, when and where you are going to do a new behavior, you are more than twice as likely to actually do it.

I’m going to go to the gym on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday mornings, because those are the best days for me. I’m going to do a combination of cardio, weights, core work and stretching each time. This is a realistic commitment.

How, when and where are you going to implement your new habit? Be realistic.

Sometimes it’s a good idea to start small and build up over time. That may give you the best chance at making something stick, versus starting out overly ambitious and then flaming out.

I’m going to start with doing 30 minutes of cardio, but will plan to build it up to 45 minutes over time.

3)    Imagine your life in 10 years, with and without the habit

If you implement this new habit or change and it sticks, what will be the result, 10 years from now? How will it change your life?

If you don’t take your commitment seriously enough, and give up after a few weeks, what will that mean for your life, 10 years from now?

As an example, if I exercise this often and this intensely, I will likely look and feel great in 10 years. I’ll age much more slowly and have much more energy to do all the different things I want to keep doing as I get older. If I give into laziness and don’t make the effort… well, let’s just say that it won’t be pretty (I have personally written out a much more detailed, depressing description).

I encourage you, too, to write out a description of both of these options: Describe in great detail how it will change or impact your life in 10 years if you do this thing, and what your life would be like if you don’t.

Writing the two scenarios out will go a long way toward keeping you on track when you’re inevitably tempted to quit.

4)    Keep your goal in your mind every day

When you pick just one thing to change, you can laser focus on it. It will stay top of mind. You won’t get distracted by trying to do a bunch of things at once. Your excuses will be forced to disappear, because you said you’d do this. This one simple thing.

When you get up in the morning, think of your “thing.” When are you going to do it today? How? Where? Do this every day. Keep it on the top of your mind.

Try to get it done early in the day, if you can. I used to plan to work out at the end of my workday, but fitness would constantly get shoved aside by things that came up. I’d end up running out of time. That won’t happen if I do it first thing in the morning. Doing it first means that when I say that exercising a top priority, it really is.

5)    Once it’s locked in, move on to the next thing 

You might resist picking just one thing because you feel like you need to change multiple things in your life. Won’t it take too long for your life and results to change, if you just do one thing?

Not at all. Studies show that implementing one new habit at a time is the smarter way to go. It takes a couple of months for most people to lock in a habit to the point that it becomes automatic.

Once your “thing” has become woven into the fabric of your life, to the point that you don’t need to make yourself do it (or remind yourself to do it) anymore, pick a new thing.

One new habit at a time, you can change your life. You can live your way into lasting, powerful, positive change.

Can you feel how good this feels?

You make a promise to yourself, and keep it. Since it’s just one promise, it’s so much simpler.

This dramatically increases the odds that you’ll succeed.

Now go out there and do it!

(P.S. One of the most impactful “things” I’ve implemented in the last year is a better sleep routine. It has been life-changing. I sleep better and longer, and have so much more energy. To read about the simple strategy I used that dramatically improved my sleep, check out this article: S   

 

Reprint: Dr. Biali: 
"10 Essential Easy Changes - Boost Mood, Increase 
Energy & Reduce Stress By Tomorrow

Obsessive- Compulsive Disorder (OCD) - Basics

Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, is an anxiety disorder that generally causes extreme discomfort. Sufferers are often riddled with persistent and recurrent impulses, thoughts and images that are unwanted. According to the National Institute for Mental Health, OCD affects more than 2 million adults in the United States. Severe cases of OCD can cause an extreme amount of distress, and the disorder can dramatically interfere with a person’s daily life.

What Are the Types of OCD?

According to the Mayo Clinic, the categories of obsessive-compulsive disorder include:

  • Intrusive thoughts

  • Constant checking

  • Fear of contamination

  • Hoarding

Sufferers of OCD who have intrusive thoughts generally have reoccurring images in their minds that are disturbing or horrific. These thoughts may occur based on an event that happened in the person’s life, or they may occur for no particular reason. Sufferers of OCD who have the need to constantly check on people or items generally fear that something bad will happen if they stop checking. For example, someone with OCD may constantly walk throughout their home to make sure all the doors and windows are locked due to their fear that someone might try to break in.

Sufferers who have a fear of contamination may take baths and wash their hands many times throughout the course of one day, or they may be obsessed with cleaning every inch of their home to ensure it is spotless and free of germs. OCD sufferers who hoard items are obsessed with making sure they keep everything they’ve ever owned, even if the item is worn out or useless. A person who hoards becomes emotionally attached to items, and the very thought of throwing things away can cause great distress.

Obsessions

Obsessions are images, ideas, and thoughts that simply will not go away. While it is not uncommon for individuals to have disturbing thoughts from time to time, a person with OCD cannot escape their thoughts no matter how hard they try. These recurring thoughts are so severe that they can debilitate someone with OCD.

Compulsions

Compulsions are behaviors that individuals with obsessions display in order to relieve themselves of their anxiety. With OCD, the compulsive behavior is directly related to the excessive thought. For example, someone who counts their money every hour may have an obsessive fear someone will steal it or they will lose it.

Obsessions Without Compulsions

There is not always a physical behavior associated with an obsession. If you constantly worry about or have obsessive thoughts about something you cannot control, such as the safety of a long-lost relative, you may feel a great deal of distress, but your doctor is unlikely to diagnose you with obsessive-compulsive disorder. There is generally some type of compulsive behavior that accompanies the obsession in individuals who receive this diagnosis.

If you’ve noticed any of the above-mentioned symptoms in yourself or a loved one, we can help. Give us a call today at to speak to a professional who can tell you about the resources available to you or your loved one.

What Causes OCD?

OCD is a disorder that is not yet fully understood. However, medical professionals believe there is a genetic component to this disease, as there is some research that has shown that this disorder has the tendency to run in families. This behavior can also be learned based on habits you may have developed during childhood or over a long period of time.

What Are the Signs of OCD?

The symptoms of OCD include both obsessive and compulsive behaviors. Signs of obsession include:

  • Repeated unwanted ideas

  • Fear of contamination

  • Aggressive impulses

  • Persistent sexual thoughts

  • Images of hurting someone you love

  • Thoughts that you might cause others harm

  • Thoughts that you might be harmed

Signs of compulsion include:

  • Constant checking

  • Constant counting

  • The repeated cleaning of one or more items

  • Repeatedly washing your hands

  • Constantly checking the stove or door locks

  • Arranging items to face a certain way

Emotional Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Sufferers of OCD are generally very anxious and emotional. They display many non-OCD symptoms, such as signs of depression, excessive worry, extreme tension, and the constant feeling that nothing is ever right.

Physical Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Aside from the obvious compulsive behaviors a person with OCD displays, there are no physical signs of this disorder; however, a person with OCD can develop physical problems. For example, a person with a germ obsession may wash their hands so much that the skin on them becomes red, raw and painful.

Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of OCD

A person with OCD may experience multiple short-term effects, including the inability to function as a contributing member of society, difficulties at school or work, or trouble maintaining friendships or romantic relationships. The long-term effects of OCD generally develop due to the poor quality of life that most extreme sufferers have. Long-term effects include depression, constant anxiety and an increased risk of substance abuse.

It is best to get on the path to recovery as soon as possible to prevent the worsening of these effects. Give us a call on our hotline today at .

Is There a Test or Self-Assessment I Can Do?

If your loved ones have told you that you have obsessive thoughts or are compulsive in action, you have likely noticed that you do, in fact, have some compulsive behaviors. Most patients with OCD are aware of the behaviors they are displaying; they just cannot stop them.

There is no self-assessment exam for OCD sufferers, but you can self-assess by getting together with your loved ones and coming up with a list of behaviors you consistently display. You can then discuss this list with your healthcare provider.

After speaking to you about your thoughts and behaviors, your doctor may recommend a psychological evaluation. Your doctor may also want to speak to your loved ones and close friends.

OCD Medication: Anti-Anxiety Drug Options

The medications used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder are the same drugs used to treat most anxiety disorders. Psychotherapy is another important aspect of treatment and generally recommended in conjunction with medication use.

OCD Drugs: Possible Options

According to the Mayo Clinic, the medications used to treat OCD generally include Zoloft, Paxil, Prozac, Luvox and Anafranil. These psychiatric medicines can control compulsions and obsessive thoughts. They work by increasing the level of serotonin in your brain, which is generally low in sufferers of OCD.

Medication Side Effects

Most anxiety medications, including the ones listed above, have side effects. Vomiting, diarrhea, loss of coordination, shaking, abnormal urination, vision changes, extreme confusion, stiff muscles, appetite changes, loss of sex drive and more are all possible side effects of these medications. If you experience any of these symptoms, call your doctor right away.

Anti-OCD Drug Addiction, Dependence and Withdrawal

It is also possible to form a dependence on these drugs; therefore, it is important to strictly follow your doctor’s guidelines when taking them. These drugs may help to alleviate your OCD symptoms, but taking them too often can make it difficult for you to stop taking the drugs at your doctor’s recommendation.

Medication Overdose

Another reason why it is important to strictly adhere to your doctor’s recommendations is to prevent an overdose. Rapid heartbeat, breathing problems, vomiting, nausea, shakiness, seizure, extreme drowsiness, and low blood pressure can all occur if you’ve overdosed on an anti-anxiety medication. If you start to experience these symptoms, contact a medical provider or call 911 right away.

Depression and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Depression often occurs with OCD, which is why part of the treatment plan involves psychotherapy. Most of the anti-anxiety medications used to treat OCD are suitable for treating depression as well. Your doctor might also prescribe a separate set of antidepressants to take with your OCD medications depending on your particular situation.

Dual Diagnosis: Addiction and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Aside from depression, there are other conditions that a person with OCD can have. These conditions differ in every individual with OCD because the behavior each sufferer displays is different. For example, if you are obsessed with the thought of being thin, you may develop anorexia or bulimia, and your doctor may diagnose you with both OCD and one of these ailments. Treatment on OCD should focus on both issues in order to be successful.

Getting Help for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

No matter how severe your situation may seem, you can get help to treat your OCD. Getting help will allow you or your loved one to dramatically improve the quality of life you live.

Reprinted: Psychguides.com

ADHD in Adults

In the past, ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) was considered a condition that children had and then "grew out of" before they reached adulthood. However, we now know that ADHD is a condition that spans a lifetime, from childhood to old age.

Typically, ADHD symptoms change through a person’s life, at least in terms of what others can observe. For example, a young child’s hyperactivity is visible to someone else because the child is physically very active. In comparison, an adult might appear to be relatively relaxed and still. This is because adults develop coping strategies in order to fit with social expectations. The hyperactivity is still present, but it has become mostly internal.

Because attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is a neurological condition that affects a person’s ability to focus, pay attention, and manage behavior (including impulsiveness), ADHD can create problems in every area of adult life, including relationships, work, health, and finances. People are often surprised and relieved to realize that some of their behaviors, which they thought were due to being "lazy" or "stupid," are actually related to ADHD–a realization that, for some, comes far after childhood.

There are different types of ADHD, which can affect both children and adults. What ADHD looks like depends on the type you (or someone you love) is managing.

10 Signs of Inattentive ADHD in Adults

You Get Distracted: Your mind might wander off when you are in a work meeting or listening to instructions. Sometimes you daydream to relieve boredom, and sometimes you get distracted even when you are trying really hard to pay attention.

You Have Problems Paying Attention to Details: This can give the impression that you are careless, or that you do not try hard.

You Are Disorganized: You might find it hard to keep your physical environment tidy. Perhaps you arrive at a dentist appointment on the wrong day, or you have a "messy" look to your appearance.

You Have Time Management Issues: Time can travel differently when you have ADHD. This means you are often late for appointments, hand in work assignments at the last minute, and pull all-nighters to meet deadlines.

Your Memory Is Poor: It is a standing joke among your friends that you never remember their birthday. You always have an uneasy feeling that you have forgotten something, but you are not sure what it is. When you leave your house, you usually have to go back at least once for an item you forgot.

You Struggle to Complete Tasks: You are fairly good at starting a task, but keeping the motivation and momentum to see it all the way through to the end is challenging.

You Do Not Appear to Be Listening: People accuse you of not listening to them when they are talking to you. You might find it hard to look directly at them when they are talking, and this gives the impression you are not interested in what they are saying.

You Avoid Tasks: You procrastinate sitting down to work on a task that requires mental effort, especially if it does not have a deadline looming.

You Lose Concentration When Driving: You have had many minor collisions and tickets for not stopping at stop signs because you became distracted.

You Find Mundane Task Difficult: You find basic living tasks, such as grocery shopping, laundry, or unpacking a suitcase, very challenging. This can make you feel bad about yourself, because everyone ‘should’ be able to do these things.

10 Signs of Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD in Adults

You Always Seem to Be on the Go: You have a full schedule and lots of physical energy. People often think you are much younger than your biological age because of how much energy you have.

You Have a Hard Time Sitting: When you were a child, you probably jumped up many times when you were supposed to be sitting still. As an adult, you learned to sit, but you still find ways to move by bouncing your foot or tapping your fingers or fiddling with a pen.

You Interrupt When Others Are Speaking: Because your mind works quickly, you finish other people’s sentences or answer a question before it has been asked completely. Other times you interrupt and speak because you are worried you will forget what you wanted to say if you do not say it immediately.

You're Talkative: You are known among your family and friends to be very hyper talkative. You might also speak loudly and enjoy debating.

You Find Waiting Hard: Waiting is challenging for you. Whether you are waiting for a friend to arrive, at a traffic light, or in a line at the store, you feel very restless, impatient, and bored.

You Drive Very Fast: You enjoy speeding–and often get pulled over for it.

You Do Not like Slowness: You get impatient with ‘slow’ people. You also speed through tasks, even important ones, just to get them over with.

You Feel Internal Restlessness: You feel unsettled when you are required to be physically still (for example, at a restaurant or in a meeting). This can feel like agony at times.

You Make Decisions Quickly: Sometimes this is good; other times it leaves you with regret.

You Say Things Impulsively: You often offend people because you say things without thinking them through. You say ‘sorry’ a lot. Maybe you've quit a job without giving it a second thought.

How Is Adult ADHD Diagnosed?

Getting diagnosed with ADHD is not as simple as having a blood test or filling out an online questionnaire. A detailed evaluation is required. This is done by a health professional who has experience with ADHD in adults. This person’s job during the evaluation is to decide if you meet the criteria for ADHD as outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)–the official diagnostic guide used in the United States.

The testing is done using questionnaires, rating scales, intellectual screenings, and interviews, and by measuring sustained attention and distractibility. ADHD symptoms can look similar to other conditions like depression, bipolar disorder, learning disabilities, and sleep problems. Therefore, an important part of the evaluation process is to determine if you have ADHD, a different condition, or ADHD and a co-existing condition together.

The latest edition of the DSM (5th edition), published in 2013, takes into account how symptoms of ADHD look in adults. This is very helpful, as it was felt that adult ADHD was overlooked in previous DSMs.

ADHD and Adult Women

Women are more likely to have inattentive ADHD, which historically has meant that their ADHD symptoms were overlooked in childhood. Teachers and parents were aware that hyperactivity was a symptom of ADHD, but less was known about inattentive ADHD. If a child was daydreaming or disorganized, that was thought to be the child’s character rather than ADHD. Because of this, many women (and some men) are diagnosed with ADHD later in life.

Women can also have hyperactive-impulsive ADHD, though this is less common. Growing up, a girl might be described as a tomboy because of her physical energy, even when ADHD was the cause.

How Is Adult ADHD Treated?

Medication is the most common way of treating ADHD. However, it is not the only way. There is a saying: “Pills don’t teach skills.” This means that learning ADHD-friendly ways to do daily tasks is also helpful. Many treatment plans include a combination of approaches, as each method increases the other’s effectiveness. For example, taking medication can make it easier to implement new behaviors.

Medication

There are two groups of medications that your doctor might prescribe: stimulants and non-stimulants.

Sometimes people are wary of taking a stimulant; these medications get a lot of negative attention in the press. However, they are the most studied ADHD medications. Stimulants reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity, and increase attention. It is important to work closely with your doctor to find the right dosage for you and to report any side effects you experience.

A non-stimulant medication might be prescribed instead of a stimulant medication if you have a history of addictions or have too many side effects when taking stimulant medication. Sometimes a combination of stimulant and non-stimulant medications is prescribed.

Counseling

There are many types of counseling approaches. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been found to be effective for treating ADHD. With this type of therapy, you learn new ways to behave in the world. Low self-esteem and shame are common feelings for adults who have ADHD, and CBT is a helpful way to address these issues.

Additional Ways to Help Your ADHD

There are many other ways you can minimize the negative effects of ADHD on your life. For example, you might be eligible to get workplace accommodations. You could include exercise in your life and practice stress reduction techniques. Making lifestyle shifts, so that you focus on personal strengths, is also helpful.

Reprinted: Kessler, R. C., L. Adler, R. Barkley, J. Biederman, C. K. Conners, L.L Greenhill, and T. Spencer. 2011. The Prevalence and Correlates of Adult ADHD. In ADHD in Adults; Characterization, Diagnosis, and Treatment, edited by J.K. Buitelaar, C.C Kan, and P. Asherson. Cambridge, U.K: Cambridge University Press.


Alone New Year's Eve?? Maybe You Will..

Make Resolutions

New Year's Eve is a terrific time to craft your list of resolutions. These can be about anything from general life improvements to specific concerns related to social anxiety.

Some resolutions to help your social anxiety might include:

  • Develop healthy lifestyle habits like eating well, getting lots of sleep, and exercising regularly.

  • Work on improving your social skills: Start with how to be better at making small talk.

  • Face challenging situations rather than avoid them. Say yes instead of no.

  • Tell others how you are feeling. You might be surprised at the support that you receive.

  • Develop assertiveness. This will help to improve your confidence.

  • Be grateful for what you have. Appreciate the talents and skills you possess.

Accept an Invitation You Turned Down

Perhaps you received an invitation to a party that you turned down. Maybe you would have been a single among couples, or the thought of spending the evening with a group felt like too much.

It isn't too late to go back and say: "Yes!"

Consider it a chance to work on your social skills and usher in the new year with a resolution to attend more social functions.

Do Something Mundane

New Year's Eve really is just another night. Cope with being alone by doing mundane things and ignoring the hype surrounding the holiday. Clean your house, organize your office, or catch up on your sleep. Don't let tradition dictate your choices if you just don't feel up to celebrating.

Rent Movies and Watch the Ball Drop

If you are staying in, consider ordering pizza, renting a good movie, and watching the ball drop in Times Square. These are solitary activities that give you the flavor of the holiday and help you to feel like you are participating from afar.

Some movie picks about New Year's Eve:

  • 200 Cigarettes

  • Ocean's Eleven

  • When Harry Met Sally

Plan Some Phone Calls for Midnight

Have people call you or plan on calling others right before midnight so that you have someone with whom to share the countdown. You don't have to stay on the phone for long; just ring in the New Year and then get back to your solitary celebration.

Enjoy the time alone!!!!

Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Yes, Virginia ...

We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

Dear Editor—

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, "If you see it in The Sun, it's so." Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O'Hanlon
115 West Ninety Fifth Street

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.

We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! He lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

-----------------

"Is There a Santa Claus?" reprinted from the September 21, 1897, number of The New York Sun.


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.