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 Thursday, April 4, 2002

Is Depression a Disease?
What many take for a fact (that depression is a disease) is actually a matter of some serious academic disagreement. In this outstanding debate on the issue, some of the leading thinkers in depression converge to discuss both sides. Includes luminaries such as Thomas S. Szasz, M.D., Frederick K. Goodwin, M.D., Donald F. Klein, M.D., and Peter Kramer, M.D. An outstanding transcription of what looked like a very interesting debate!

My personal opinion is that whether depression qualifies as a bona fide disease or not remains to be seen. Based upon our current understanding and theories of depression, I'd have to say no, it's not a medical disease. It is rather a disorder, a cluster of behavioral symptoms we use to describe common problems.

(Posted at 02:37:55 PM EST.) Discuss this...

 Wednesday, April 3, 2002

Death of a game addict
This article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel describes how a mother is suing an online game manufacturer to require warning labels on the game, after her claim that the game contributed to her son's death. Despite the logical nonsequitor of her claim (Could I sue ABC if I watch so much "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" that it leads to my suicide?), the article highlights the "addictive" nature of certain games.

Although, I suspect, games have always been "addictive," in the sense that people enjoy playing them to interact socially with others. Whether it's done in-person or online, what difference does it make? The social interaction is still occurring in both modalities. I write more about "addiction" online here.

(Posted at 12:59:17 PM EST.) Discuss this...

Laughter? It's a funny business
We laugh more frequently than we eat, sing or have sex. So why do we know so little about it? This article from the UK Telegraph explores what we know about the science of laughter.

(Posted at 12:46:28 PM EST.) Discuss this...

 Tuesday, April 2, 2002

Mouse Studies Shed Light on How Prozac Works
Nobel laureate Paul Greengard, Ph.D., and other Rockefeller University scientists have illuminated, in laboratory mice, new details of the complex chemical interaction in the brain that is generated by Prozac, the widely prescribed drug for depression. Their findings are reported in a pair of papers in the March 5 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"We now can explain that Prozac works on depression in part by increasing signaling through the glutamate pathway, but we don't know why an increase in glutamate signaling alleviates depression in people," says Greengard, Vincent Astor Professor and head of the Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience. [...] "The brain is such an incredible instrument to say that you know how it works would be nothing short of arrogance."

Hmm, too bad it still doesn't stop drug companies saying that they know what causes depression.

(Posted at 01:07:58 PM EST.) Discuss this...

Psychologists Gain Prescription Privileges in New Mexico
While many psychologists will see this as the first step to gaining similar privileges in every state, it is my belief that most states will not adopt this change. Psychologists will need 450 hours of coursework, 100 direct patient hours, plus 2 years of supervised prescribing in order to gain the new privilege.

It would also not surprise me if this started a chain reaction of other mental health professions to start working on gaining privileges that have traditionally been reserved for psychologists, such as psychological and neuropsychological testing.

(Posted at 11:37:52 AM EST.) Discuss this...

Time has taught us to build better Web bonds
A survey that previously painted the Internet as the great isolator now finds an opposite effect: These days, the Internet more often connects people than separates them, new results suggest. Read the rest of this article.

While I don't find this result all that surprising (and in fact, predicted as much when the original study was published), I disagree with the authors' hypothesis to explain this change. The Internet has not changed significantly since 1995, contrary to their assertions. The article states, for instance, "Back in 1995, when the HomeNet study started, services such as e-mail had yet to catch on [...]" Umm, that would be a big no, but thanks for playing! In 1995, email was the primary means of communicating on the Internet, next to newsgroups, as the Web was just starting to catch on in 1995.

I have my theories that may better explain this change -- people's introduction and subsequent acceptance of the Internet into their lives follows a phasic, predictable behavior pattern.

(Posted at 11:33:55 AM EST.) Discuss this...

 Thursday, March 28, 2002

When Hospitals Cut Costs...
In this disturbing abstract from the Archives of Internal Medicine journal, the authors detail how cutbacks at the Kansas City VA Hospital led to serious medical consequences for some of its patients. Hospital administrators should take note -- cut back hospital services (in this case, housekeeping) at your own -- and the patients you are charged to care for -- risk. Perhaps the saddest part of this report is that it took place at a VA hospital, a place which should be the epitome of medical care.

(Posted at 01:16:51 PM EST.) Discuss this...

Tuesday, March 26, 2002

Scientists find Prozac 'link' to brain tumors
Uh oh. Researchers have found a link between Prozac and brain tumors in a test tube. "The study, to be published in the journal Blood next week, examined the effects of Prozac and other antidepressants on a group of tumour cells growing in a test tube. The researchers found that the drug prevented the cancer cells from committing "suicide", thereby leading to a more vigorous growth of the tumours."

Keep in mind, this type of correlation does not mean causation -- there's still no evidence that Prozac is causing a higher incidence of brain tumors in actual people. Nonetheless, it is something to be aware of.

(Posted at 03:37:14 PM EST.) Discuss this...

Life is Sweet
"But don't cry
You know the tears will do no good
So dry your eyes
They told you life is hard
Misery from the start, it's dull
It's slow, it's painful
But I tell you life is sweet
In spite of the misery
There's so much more, be grateful
Well, who do you believe
Who will you listen to, who will it be
Because it's high time that you decide In your own mind."

- Natalie Merchant, Life is Sweet

(Posted at 03:33:19 PM EST.) Discuss this...

Monday, March 11, 2002

A young woman comes to grips with 'cutting'
This article on CNN helps publicize the behavior of self-mutilation. It describe the story of Elizabeth Franas, who has come forward to help shed light on this problem that is increasingly affecting more and more people.

(Posted at 02:16:28 PM EST.) Discuss this...

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Apr 2016
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