Antidepressant

What One Clinician Learned about Coping with Loss

Clinical psychologist Christina G. Hibbert, PsyD, has experienced many losses in her life. When she was 10, her grandfather died. When she was 18, her 8-year-old sister died of cancer.

She experienced the hardest loss when her closest sister and brother-in-law died just two months apart. He died of skin cancer. She died after drinking and taking too many Tylenol.

Around that time Hibbert also lost her aunt to a rare brain disease. Her husband lost his grandmother, both grandfathers and his dad in the span of two years.

“[I]t has been a lot of death for my family. But loss is about so much more than death.”

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Antidepressant

Are You Struggling with Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) -- sometimes known as the "winter blues" -- is an “equal-opportunity oppressor,” according to Norman Rosenthal, M.D., in his comprehensive book Winter Blues Survival Guide: A Workbook for Overcoming SAD. This form of clinical depression affects people of all ages -- even kids -- races and ethnic groups.

Fortunately, SAD is highly treatable. One of the keys to managing the disorder is knowing your personal pattern of symptoms. This plays a big role in how you’ll treat your disorder.

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Antidepressant

The Biggest Lesson I’ve Learned in Managing My Depression

“Everybody's depression is different,” said David Blistein, a writer in southern Vermont and author of David's Inferno: My Journey through the Dark Wood of Depression.

It is a complex disorder, and healing may come from different sources, he said. But when you’re struggling with an illness, it can help to hear how others have survived and thrived.

That’s why we wanted to know the greatest lessons others have learned about managing their illnesses. Below, individuals share everything from the importance of accepting their depression to understanding its powerful influence to discovering one’s inner strength.

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Antidepressant

The Mysteries of Sleep Explained

We know we need it. If we don’t get it, we’re cranky, have trouble concentrating, tend to overeat and are more likely to make mistakes.  Yet, with the crush of demanding schedules, bad habits, or sleep disturbances, we don’t always get enough.

So what is happening during those precious hours when we’re asleep?  Is it really a time of restoration for our brains?  And is it possible that it’s more than that?

What happens in our brains while we're asleep is a question neuroscientist Penelope Lewis is trying to answer.

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Antidepressant

Nuvigil: Not Better Than Placebo for Depression Symptoms in Bipolar

Millions of people around the world rely on antidepressants in the treatment of clinical depression and, to a lesser extent, bipolar disorder. Over a dozen such medications exist, and many are also available in generic form.

But for reasons that scientists can't yet adequately explain, some people don't respond to many antidepressant drugs. And the drugs they do respond to may carry unwanted side effects that make taking the drug for any length of time downright challenging.

So drug companies are constantly looking for new drugs, new uses for old drugs, and new formulations of old drugs to help improve their batting average. Sadly for this effort, though, we can cross off another potential drug -- Nuvigil (armodafinil).

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Antidepressant

Is a Glut of Antidepressants Really So Bad?

The other week I read in the New York Times about a "glut of antidepressants." The story was about the loose (and perhaps over-diagnosis) of depression in a community sample of over 5,600 patients.

Most of those patients examined who supposedly had clinical depression turned out to, in fact, not have it -- only just over 38 percent met the official criteria after 12 months.

Somehow this got convoluted with the increase in antidepressants over the past two decades. "One in 10 Americans now takes an antidepressant medication; among women in their 40s and 50s, the figure is one in four."

While we can lament this increase all we want, I also can't help but say, "So what?"

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Antidepressant

What are Some of the Physiological Manifestations of PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a result of severe trauma. The trauma experienced is usually one that has threatened a person's safety. PTSD is seen in people returning from fighting in a war, or people who have been victims of violence or a natural disaster.

It’s normal to feel traumatized by significant life events such as surviving a severe car accident. It becomes pathological when the feelings of trauma, anxiety, panic, or sadness don’t fade with time. People who experience PTSD may feel like they are forever changed and suffer constant panic attacks, loss of sleep and social isolation.

Trauma and prolonged stress inevitably has a negative impact on overall health. PTSD has been linked to more physician visits in veteran populations.

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Antidepressant

You Will Gain Weight on these 6 Psychiatric Medications

I had been on the drug Zyprexa (olanzapine) for four weeks and had already gained 15 pounds which, you know, didn’t help my depression.

After going to a wedding and catching a side view of myself, I called my doctor and told him that my name was now Violet Beauregarde, you know, the gum chewer in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” who becomes a blueberry balloon. Except that when I rose to the top of the room I was crying.

“The two most common questions that patients ask me are, ‘Will I become dependent on the medications?’ and ‘Will I gain weight?’” says Sanjay Gupta, M.D.

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Antidepressant

What If a Sugar Pill Was Just as Effective As Psychotherapy?

Yum, sugar pills! We talk about them all the time in science, where they have a much more formal and less appetizing name -- placebos.

A placebo is simply something used in research to act as a treatment equivalent, so as to not bias either the research subjects or the researchers themselves in how they perceive and react to the experimental treatment. In research on drugs, this often means giving one group of patients pills that look just like the medicine being studied, but lacking any active ingredient.

In recent years, new research has emerged looking solely at the studies that were used to gain FDA approval of antidepressant medications (some of which were never published). When taken together, the studies found that antidepressant medications may not be as effective as previously thought (but what any patient who's ever tried them could've told us decades ago). This recent research found effect sizes of just 0.31.

Which got some researchers to wonder... If antidepressant drug treatment effect sizes might be lower than we had thought, could the same be true for psychotherapy effect sizes too?

Could, in fact, a sugar pill offer as much change in one's depression as months or years of intensive psychotherapy?

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Antidepressant

How the DSM-5 Got Grief, Bereavement Right

One of the charges leveled against psychiatry’s diagnostic categories is that they are often “politically motivated.” If that were true, the framers of the DSM-5 probably would have retained the so-called “bereavement exclusion” -- a DSM-IV rule that instructed clinicians not to diagnose major depressive disorder (MDD) after the recent death of a loved one (bereavement) -- even when the patient met the usual MDD criteria. An exception could be made only in certain cases; for example, if the patient were psychotic, suicidal, or severely impaired.

And yet, in the face of fierce criticism from many groups and organizations, the DSM-5 mood disorder experts stuck to the best available science and eliminated this exclusion rule.

The main reason is straightforward: most studies in the past 30 years have shown that depressive syndromes in the context of bereavement aren’t fundamentally different from depressive syndromes after other major losses -- or from depression appearing “out of the blue.” (see Zisook et al, 2012, below). At the same time, the DSM-5 takes pains to parse the substantial differences between ordinary grief and major depressive disorder.

Unfortunately, the DSM-5’s decision continues to be misrepresented in the popular media.

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Antidepressant

Taking an Antidepressant: Sanity and Vanity

At first the weight gain from my new antidepressant didn't bother me. All I cared about was that this medicine was working. I felt myself coming into my body again; I could experience emotions and enjoy the present; I wanted to do things again.

One of those things was eat ice cream. A lot. So I gained a few pounds. It was time to buy new pants anyway. The only important thing was that my medicine was working and I was feeling good. I felt like participating in my life again. Feeling good and eating ice cream were natural.

But then I broke the couch.

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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Depression

In this age of advanced modern medicine, it is a depressing fact that not all people suffering with a depressive illness respond to antidepressants.

The mental health charity Mind UK recently highlighted their concern that there is a serious need for a range of therapies to be made available to depression sufferers.

According to the best psychological working practices, medication is now considered to be only one option for effectively treating the illness.

Talk therapies -- otherwise known as psychotherapy -- such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) have proven effective at alleviating melancholic symptoms in hundreds of research studies conducted around the world. In Australia, the Australian Psychological Society has identified a serious need for psychotherapeutic interventions in the lives of people with depression.

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