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Brain and Behavior

7 Ways to Beat Depression If You’re Unemployed

The unemployment rate today has skyrocketed to approximately 10 percent and is forecast to stay above 9.5 percent for the rest of 2010. For the first time in American history, more women are working than men because close to 80 percent of the people laid off in the recent recession were men.

According to a recent study published in the "International Journal of Epidemiology," unemployment is a major risk factor for depression, even in people without previous vulnerability. Because my husband is an architect -- the housing market is dead, remember -- whose work has slowed down substantially, I have an invested interest in this topic and wanted to know what I could do to help him stay physically and emotionally healthy, since, theoretically, one of us should be. Here, then, are 12 steps to bust your depression when you're unemployed.

1. Take a breather

Whether you like it or not, you've just been given a breather. And chances are that you desperately needed it. One exercise to make you feel better immediately is to think about everything you hated about your job. In fact, make a list! Doesn't that feel good? You will rejoin the rat race soon enough, so allow yourself some rest right now ... a chance to actually eat a meal at home and not watch the minute hand of your watch so much. Try to appreciate the moment in present time, without constantly rushing. This hiatus from the pressure of corporate America will teach you more lessons and make you more resilient than you know.
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Best of Our Blogs: April 30, 2010

Call me biased, but I think those with mental health "problems" are actually the healthiest of the bunch. It's what's hidden in Alice Miller's book title The Drama of the Gifted Child. It's also how I perceive these lyrics from Natalie Merchant's song Wonder: "Know this child will be gifted. With love, with patience and with faith. She'll make her way." That with therapy and other types of treatment those among us who work on their stuff will end up on the other side, healthier and stronger than the rest of the lot. With that being said, I hope you'll take wisdom and hope from our top posts this week and keep carrying on your own personal journeys towards greater peace, health and happiness.

Sneak Preview: New Film about Schizophrenia to Air on PBS Part I

(Therapy Soup) - A moving look behind the new documentary entitled When Medicine Got It Wrong. In part I of the two part series, Therapy Soup talks with its producer Katie Cadigan about the story behind the film and about the historical and haunting stigma of schizophrenia.

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General

Mental Health Care at Harvard

The Harvard Crimson published a remarkable article last week detailing the obstacles students increasingly face when they want to take a break from Harvard University, especially for mental health reasons. It describes the stories of a number of Harvard students who have taken a leave of absence from the university and their labyrinth journey in rejoining the school.

One would think that at one of the leading academic institutions in the world, Harvard would take an open-minded, flexible and personalized approach to helping their young charges navigate the new world set out before them. Especially those most vulnerable.

One would be wrong, of course. Harvard seemingly takes a bureaucratic, miserly approach to helping their students, forcing them to "voluntarily" take a leave of absence and then navigating a rigid set of rules to be let back in once they've undergone mental health treatment away from the university.
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General

Introducing Mental Health Humor

I'm pleased to introduce the new blog, Mental Health Humor -- humor from the creative and always-interesting mind of Chato B. Stewart. We're pleased to welcome Chato to Psych Central, as he's been blogging elsewhere online for years, sharing his unique and funny perspective on all things mental health and human behavior.

Humor is an individual thing, though, and we recognize that. So you may not find everything Chato does "funny," and that's okay. That just reminds...
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Comment Announcement

AstraZeneca Settles Case for $520 Million

AstraZeneca agreed to a $520 million dollar settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice and a consortium of state Medicaid agencies without admitting any wrongdoing in its marketing of the atypical antipsychotic drug, Seroquel.
“AstraZeneca paid kickbacks to doctors as part of an illegal scheme to market drugs for unapproved uses,” Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of health and human services, said at the event in Washington. She said the company promoted drugs for unapproved uses by children, the elderly, veterans and prisoners.

Glenn Engelmann, AstraZeneca’s U.S. general counsel, released a statement saying the company denies the allegations but settled the investigation with the payment.
The government said the company also paid for ghostwritten journal articles, and marketed the drug to primary care and nursing home doctors targeting off-label, unapproved uses for Seroquel, including Alzheimer's disease and anger management. A drug must gain U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for additional uses if the company wants to market those uses to doctors. Otherwise, doctors are free to prescribe a drug for any use they want.
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Brain and Behavior

Buying the Counterfeit May Cost You More Than You Thought

We want to look good but can't always afford designer-name sunglasses. So what do some of us do? We buy a cheap knockoff or "gray market" item that looks just like the designer brand name, without the designer price. It signals to others -- we hope -- that we're as cool and "with it" as anyone else (even when we can't afford to be).

But we may be getting more than we thought.

We are all aware of the potential consequences of buying fake, counterfeit items on the street -- you might get a shabby knockoff or pay too much for it. But outside of questionable quality of such goods, there may be others costs you're not even aware of. Buying counterfeit goods may actually make us feel less authentic -- just like the cheap, knockoff sunglasses.

Worse yet, buying such goods may also increase our likelihood of behaving dishonestly and judging others as unethical.

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Brain and Behavior

Loneliness is Not a DSM-5 Disorder, But it Still Hurts

The recent controversy over the still-developing DSM-5 -- that compendium of mental disorders the media love to call, inappropriately, "The Bible of Psychiatry" -- has gotten me thinking about loneliness.

Now, thankfully, nobody has seriously proposed including loneliness in the DSM-5. Indeed, loneliness is usually thought of as simply an unpleasant part of life -- one of the “slings and arrows” that pierce almost all of us from time to time. Loneliness, in some ways, remains enmeshed in a web of literary and cultural clichés, born of such works as Nathaniel West’s darkly comic novel, Miss Lonelyhearts, and the Beatles’ whimsical anthem, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

But loneliness turns out to be a serious matter. And as psychiatry debates the diagnostic minutiae of DSM-5, all of us may need to remind ourselves that millions in this country struggle against the downward tug of loneliness. Yet even among health care professionals, few seem aware that loneliness is closely linked with numerous emotional and physical ills, particular among the elderly and infirm.

It’s easy to assume that loneliness is simply a matter of mind and mood. Yet recent evidence suggests that loneliness may injure the body in surprising ways. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine studied the risk of coronary heart disease over a 19-year period, in a community sample of men and women. The study found that among women, high degrees of loneliness were associated with increased risk of heart disease, even after controlling for age, race, marital status, depression and several other confounding variables.
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Brain and Behavior

Army Transition Units: “A Dark Place”

Over the weekend, the New York Times published an article about the Army's "Warrior Transition Units," which are meant to help transition soldiers coming out of combat zones like Iraq back into peacetime service. There are apparently some bumps in the implementation of these units.

The units were created in the wake of the 2007 scandal emanating from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where it was shown that returning soldiers from Afghanistan and Iraq war zones were not receiving adequate mental health care and treatment. The Warrior Transition Units were meant to be intensive treatment units, focusing on providing the best care possible to address the mental health needs of these soldiers.

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Best of Our Blogs: April 27, 2010

You know what I love most about this crazy roller coaster ride we call life? I appreciate the opportunity it gives us each and every day to do better and be better. And through challenges, heartbreaks and rock bottom moments, we pick ourselves up, keep growing and learn more in this ongoing classroom of life. We just need to be fully conscious and open our eyes and hearts to take advantage of it.

Take this week's round-up of top posts, for example. Scroll down and you'll discover new movements and programs changing our world, ways to become a better person, how to get clear on your fears and take control of your own destiny. Not a bad list for the beginning of the week.

Puppies Behind Bars: Helping Inmates and Veterans Alike

(Forensic Focus) - Dogs provide a wealth of physical and emotional health benefits to their owners. It's no surprise then that they are not only helping war vets to reduce symptoms of PTSD, but also transforming the lives of the inmates who train them. This is a remarkable story about an inspiring program that identifies the powerful relationship between man and dog.

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Depression

Gratitude, Grace and Granola


"He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has." -- Epictetus

When I began my academic career and clinical practice, I would wake up every morning with a feeling of dread. The heaviness and ache on my chest and in my mind, the struggle to attack the day, was oppressive and demoralizing. This crush of morning depression weakened me so much, I was worn out even before the tsunami of “to do” engulfed me.

Then one of my 12-step patients came back from a retreat marveling at how she was able to break this lifelong struggle she had in the morning, this heaviness and burdensome dread she’d wrestled with throughout her adult life. She was visibly more energized and jubilant. She had my attention.

“Tell me more,” I asked, as interested in her relief as I was in my own.

“Gratitude,” was all she said.

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General

Top 25 Psychiatric Drugs in 2009


A few years back, we published the Top 20 Psychiatric Prescriptions for 2005. Four years later and we thought it's about high time we updated that list with the help of the healthcare intelligence firm IMS Health, which tracks prescription data in the U.S. We published the new list this morning, Top 25 Psychiatric Prescriptions for 2009.

There's a few interesting observations we can make based upon this data and the intervening four year span between the two lists.

First, anti-anxiety medications like Xanax, Valium and Ativan remain some of the most commonly prescribed psychiatric medications. And it's no wonder -- they are fast-acting and have a short half-life, meaning their effects typically wear off in a few hours. Xanax remains the most commonly prescribed psychiatric medication.

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Antidepressant

UltraWellness or Ultra-Hype? Antidepressant as Demagogue

Mark Hyman, MD, is a "practicing physician and pioneer in functional medicine," according to his bio on the Huffington Post where he recently penned the nonsensical, "Why Antidepressants Don't Work for Treating Depression." I say "nonsensical" because this article is based upon a study that came out 3 years ago, so writing this article to educate the public seems not to be its primary purpose.

Exhibiting sound reasoning and logic also doesn't seem apparent in this article, since generally a scientist or doctor would not dismiss an entire class of medications -- antidepressants -- based upon a single study. Or when there are many different types of antidepressants and sub-classes -- SSRIs, tricyclics, MAOIs, SRNIs, etc. The study questioned by Dr. Hyman only looked at the more modern and commonly prescribed antidepressants, but it had nothing to say about the older, cheaper antidepressants still prescribed widely in other parts of the world.

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