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Depression, Anxiety, and Other Health News

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Here is what I have learned about depression and the workings of the human mind.  Feel free to disagree.

Dogs are supposed to be very calming...
but i still don't want to clean up poo

What is depression?
Depression is a serious medical condition. Everyone experiences "ups" and "downs" in their life. But for some people the "downs" can outweigh the "ups." This can cause problems with everyday activities such as eating, sleeping, working, and getting along with friends. If this happens for more than a few weeks, depression may be the reason.

Depression affects a person's physical health, as well as how he or she feels, thinks, and acts toward others. It brings about a mixture of feelings and thoughts that can cause someone to depart from his or her usual behavior.

Depression is very common — it affects an estimated 19 million American adults every year. Nearly twice as many women (6.5%) as men (3.3%) suffer from depression each year. The good news is that it is possible to manage the symptoms of depression.

What causes depression?
Although the exact causes of depression are unknown, it may be due to a chemical imbalance in the brain. Serotonin and norepinephrine are 2 chemicals used by some nerve cells to communicate. These chemicals, called neurotransmitters, are thought to be linked to depression. Therefore, medications that affect these neurotransmitters may play a role in treating depression.

A person may experience symptoms of depression suddenly, for no apparent reason, or after a life-changing event or medical illness. Some types of depression run in families, suggesting that a biological vulnerability can be inherited.

What is social anxiety disorder?
Most people occasionally feel the familiar signs of nervousness when meeting new people or speaking in front of a group. But for people with social anxiety disorder, or social phobia, these signs of nervousness are much worse. Their fear of everyday social situations makes it very difficult for them to function on a daily basis.

Social anxiety disorder affects about 10.5 million Americans in any given year. Social anxiety disorder occurs more often in women than in men.

How does social anxiety disorder affect someone?
Social anxiety disorder affects people in different ways. Sometimes a person with this condition may be afraid only of specific types of situations, such as speaking in public or eating and drinking in front of others. A person with social anxiety disorder may experience symptoms any time he or she is around other people. In fact, a person may have such severe symptoms that he or she may avoid going to work or school or have difficulty making or keeping friends.

What are the symptoms of social anxiety disorder?
People with social anxiety disorder have an extreme, constant fear of one or more social or public situations. This fear severely disrupts day-to-day functioning. Other symptoms of social anxiety disorder may include:

  • Avoiding social situations
  • Intense self-consciousness in social settings
  • Physical symptoms such as blushing, sweating, trembling, fast heartbeat, and nausea
  • Unreasonable fear of embarrassment

People with social anxiety disorder often have more self-consciousness and anxiety than usual before and during social events. In stressful situations, people with social anxiety disorder often have increased physical symptoms, which in turn can raise their level of anxiety and self-consciousness even more.

Studies have shown that people with social anxiety disorder often experience other types of emotional health problems as well:

  • They often suffer from depression
  • They may abuse alcohol or drugs to reduce fear in social settings
  • They may have other anxiety disorders as well

What causes social anxiety disorder?
The causes of social anxiety disorder are unknown, but it may be due to a chemical imbalance in the brain. Serotonin and norepinephrine are 2 chemicals used by some nerve cells to communicate. These chemicals, along with other neurotransmitters, are thought to be linked to social anxiety disorder. Therefore, medications that affect these neurotransmitters may play a role in treating social anxiety disorder.

OK Now my stuff...
Pretty much every person I have ever met, or heard about, that is diagnosed with depression or that is suspected of suffering from depression, has the same four basic symptoms in some form or another.  Everyone is of course different, but nevertheless, pretty much every characteristic that depressed people seem to exibit fits ever so neetly into one of the following categories. 
I have broken them down into the following acronym.
This acronym stands for the following symptoms.
Running - Depression causes people to run away from their problems.  Usually towards other's problems (as in the case of psychologists) or just towards anything that allows them to feel like they are evoking some sort of change in their lives.  This makes them feel better because they can't change their own lives, and at least this way they are changing something and feel like they are growing somehow even if they are really just running away.  No one can make a depressed person feel better, and most people suffering from depression can't make themselves feel better either.  Medication is far from a cure and most depressed people hate taking it because it makes them feel worse to admit to being mentally ill (and out of control) than the effects of taking the medication.  This lack of control often manifests itself in the form of what seems like long term indecissions or constant changes of mind.  It also accounts for why most depressed people are also massive control freaks.  They cannot control their own lives so they feel better controlling and manipulating those around them.  They are also fantastic actors.  They are constantly fooling themselves and trying to get themselves to believe that they are better than they are and don't actually need medication or help.  Because of this they also do a fantastic job at fooling others. 
Selfishness - If you had a migrane headache you would not be too apt to be sensative of the needs of others.  This seems to be the best way to describe depression to those that don't suffer from it.  Imagine suffering from a giant headache all the time.  Some days it is not as bad, but you are always aware of it.  How much would you be able to think about everyone else?  Your family?  Your lover?  Your kids?  Depressed people seem to constantly just be thinking of themselves not because they are bad people, but because they are just trying so hard to make it through the day. 
Projecting - Depression sufferers constantly project their feelings onto others and can't understand how those around them can possibly feel differently than they do, or can't understand why others don't behave in the same way.  "I can't possibly by happy just sitting around doing nothing.  How could anybody else be happy that way?"  This is another reason for their controlling nature because they think that everyone should think the way that they do.  Another form of projection is when depressed people accuse others of doing what they are in fact doing.  If they are accusing you of being selfish and controlling (and you really are not) they are probably the one that is actually selfish and controlling and are not really aware, or willing to admit, that they are the ones that are actually behaving this way.   
Fear - Usually a fear of impending doom.  Things are going great so something bad must be coming.  This is not normal or natural.  This also seems to account for the anxiety often associated with depression.  If their is a negative and a possitive way to take a statement, depressed people will always take something the worst way possible.  This is often why they are so easily offended and have volatile personalities.  Depressed people often over-react and fear that what you meant was actually worse then what you intended.  They often break off relationships with people that they don't really have to, and have very few friends to begin with. 
Is it ironic that RSP is also a special education classification?  I don't know, but it makes it easier to remember.  
Not to be disperaging to those suffering.  Or to agree with Tom Cruise that it is all just a load of crap, but i really feel like it might be easier for some depressed people to accept that Depression has more to do with coping than a medical conditiion.  If you contend that it is caused by a synaptic imbalance or malfunction that causes too few happy hormones to be released, then you must also accept that this is in fact a medical condition and therefore probably requires medecine to correct the problem.  While it is well documented that the human brain is capable of all sorts of things, it is a bit of a stretch to expect the average depressed person to believe it is possible to coax their own brain into suddenly secreating more of the mood enhancing hormones that will keep them from being depressed once you have told them that this is the cause. 
What seems to be more believeable and easier to deal with is that those suffering from depression are more socially retarted than others.  What if you never were taught how to deal with the normal crap of life?  What if you went through so much junk as a kid that you learned the wrong ways to deal with others, or just never learned at all?  It seems to me that if you accept that most of your problems are caused by an inability to cope and know what to do in social situations to keep your anxiety under control, then it is easy to accept that these are things that can be learned. 
Let's look at those that are not depressed.  As a non-depressed person I deal with things everyday that I don't want to.  I faced my fears successfully on a daily basis as I grew up.  Because of this certain things no longer bug me, and I am more apt to continue to try things that I find difficult or uncomfortable.   I struggle with getting out of bed all the time, but if it is a real problem I immediately question why.  What am I feeling anxious about that makes me ffel as though I don't want to get out of bed today.  I never think, "perhaps a chemical imballance in my head is making it more difficult for me to get out of bed."  Because I have gotton out of bed and kept moving when I didn't want to, I know that I can.  The difference seems to be the severety to which depressed people have to over come these personal roadblocks, but theirin lies the problem.  No one can tell you if you are really suffering or if you are just being a wuss. 
Poeple who say "oh I could never do that" have never tried it and have certainly never done it successfully, otherwise they would not be able to say it.  Living in your own confort zone assures two things.  You will never grow and you will never change.  Insanity is doing the exact same thing all the time and expecting a different result.  You have to do something different.  Not to be confused with the random, external, life changes that depressed people seem to engage in.  I am talking about interior personal change.  How you think.  You have to change what inner voices you listen to. 
What kind of people are never depressed.  People with ADD for one.  They can't focus long enough on their own depression to dwell on it and have it affect them for several days.  Depressed people often have incredible focus.  Think about all the people you know that are depressed.  They are often veracious readers.  Not to say that reading makes you depressed.  It does not work both ways.  People who have learned at an early age to be both in and out of control without letting it affect who they are, do not suffer from depression or anxiety.  Knowing yourself is tough, but the more you do the harder it is for someone else to affect you.  You can't change how people react to you, you can only change how you react to the world.  You have to know that you are in control, or be Ok with what you cannot change.  My point is that if you realize that others have learned how to cope with life and that you have not, then you too can learn.      
Now before you go nuts, remember, these are just ideas.
That being said.  Here is an article that deals with Cognative Behavioral Therapy.  A newer concept than medication that boasts to being able to teach you how to deal with life better.   

I thought this was really well written and really seemed to mirror a lot of my own feelings about the subject.

How to Fight Depression and Anxiety

Most people with major depression also suffer an anxiety disorder.

By Hara Estroff Marano for MSN Health & Fitness

Q: What is the best way to deal with depression and anxiety?

A: Quickly and definitively. Whatever kicks them off, depression and anxiety both are maintained by styles of thinking that magnify the initial insult and alter the workings of the brain in such a way that the longer an episode exists, the less it takes to set off future episodes.

Anxiety and depression are probably two faces of the same coin. Surveys have long shown that 60 percent to 70 percent of people with major depression also have an anxiety disorder, and half of those suffering anxiety also exhibit clinical depression symptoms.

The stress response system is overactive in both disorders. Excess activity of the stress response system sends emotional centers of the brain into overdrive so that negative events make a disproportionate impact and hijack rational response systems. You literally can’t think straight. You ruminate over and over about the difficulties and disappointments you encounter until that’s all you can focus on.

Researchers believe that some people react with anxiety to stressful life events, seeing danger lurking ahead everywhere—in applying for a job, asking for a favor, asking for a date. And some go beyond anxiety to become depressed, a kind of shutdown in response to anticipated danger.

People who have either condition typically overestimate the risk in a situation and underestimate their own resources for coping. Rather than developing the skills to handle situations that make them uncomfortable, sufferers merely avoid what they fear. Often enough, a lack of social skills is at the root. Some types of anxiety—panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and social phobia—are particularly associated with depression.

The fact that anxiety usually precedes the development of depression presents a huge opportunity for the prevention of depression. Young people especially are not likely to outgrow anxiety on their own; they need to be taught specific mental skills.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) gets at response patterns central to both conditions. And the drugs most commonly used against depression have also been proven effective against an array of anxiety disorders.

Although medication and CBT are equally effective in reducing anxiety/depression, CBT is better at preventing return of the disorder. Patients like it better, too, because it allows them to feel responsible for their own success. What’s more, the active coping that CBT encourages creates new brain circuits that circumvent the dysfunctional response pathways.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy teaches people to monitor the environment for the troubling emotional land mines that seem to set them off. That actually changes metabolic activity in the cortex, the thinking brain, to modulate mood states. It works from the top down. Drugs, by contrast, work from the bottom up, modulating neurotransmitters in the brainstem, which drive basic emotional behaviors.

Treatment with CBT averages 12 to 15 weeks, and patients can expect to see significant improvement by six weeks. Drug therapy is typically recommended for months, if not years.

Exercise is an important adjunct to any therapy. Exercise directly alters levels of neurohormones involved in circuits of emotion. It calms the hyperactivity of the nervous system and improves function of the brain's emotion-sensing network. It also improves the ability of the body to tolerate stress. What’s more, it reduces negative thinking and changes people’s perception of themselves, providing a sense of personal mastery and positive self-regard.

However, just telling a distressed person to exercise is futile, as depression destroys initiative. The best thing a loved one can do is to simply announce: “Let’s go for a walk.” Then accompany the person out the door.

The following article is interesting but says nothing about the affects of being married and not having kids. Probably because it happens so seldom.

Single, Free, But Not So Healthy?

Married life often means longer life, especially for men, studies find

By Kathleen Doheny, HealthDay Reporter
Married life often means longer life, especially for men, studies find.

THURSDAY, June 14 (HealthDay News) -- Single life has its charms and freedoms, but adults who never marry may not live as long as their wedded peers, new research suggests.

While the protective effect of marriage on health and longevity has been pointed out before, newer research is zeroing in on the never-married folks. Staying single all your life may not be good for your health or your lifespan, University of California, Los Angeles researchers have found.

The team looked at the 1997 U.S. National Death Index and the 1989 National Health Interview Survey. In 1989, almost half of the people surveyed were married; about 10 percent were widowed; 12 percent divorced; 3 percent separated; 5 percent living with someone; and 20 percent had never married.

Compared with married people, those who had never been married were 58 percent more likely to have died at the end of the study's eight-year follow up period.

By comparison, those who were widowed were nearly 40 percent more likely to die during the follow-up than were married participants, while those who had been divorced or separated were 27 percent more likely to die.

Still, the UCLA researchers, who published the study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, said the findings can't prove cause and effect.

And other researchers say it could be a chicken-and-egg question. Does single status lead to lack of health, or "are they single because they are unhealthy?" asked Patrick Markey, an assistant professor of psychology at Villanova University in Pennsylvania. He and his wife, Charlotte Markey, a researcher at Rutgers University in New Jersey, have studied the topic of marriage's effects on health.

"Marriage, at least for males, has a huge benefit" on health, said Patrick Markey. He and his wife looked at more than 2,200 adults, all participants in the New Jersey Family Health Survey, and found that being married was associated with men being more "health proactive" -- practicing good health habits, such as seeing the doctor regularly for check-ups.

"Marriage helps men out more than women," Markey said, citing more results from the study, which was published in the journal Sex Roles in 2005. Married women and single women both tend to be "health proactive" compared with their single peers, they found.

"I guess the (married) women may be reminding the men" about good health practices, said Markey.

As for why single women may stay healthy despite their lack of marriage? "Single women tend to have good social networks," Markey said. They have people to turn to when they need help, typically more so than single men, he added.

But another researcher, Howard S. Friedman, a psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside, said that singles shouldn't necessarily expect a lack of wedding vows to shorten their lives.

"We did not find that singles are at greater risk for premature mortality," he said, citing his long-running research on predictors of health and longevity.

"We found, confirming most other research, that married men live longer -- that is, are at less risk of premature mortality -- than divorced men, but this was not primarily due to any protective effects of the marriage itself," he said.

"Rather, it seems both that some men are at greater risk for poor marriages and poor health, and that poor marriages, breakups and divorces are stressful," Friedman said.

Friedman's research also links childhood personality, especially conscientiousness and not experiencing a parental divorce in childhood, as predictive of longevity.

Deliriously Happy Singles? I Don't Think So...

Last Sunday, the Boston Sunday Globe magazine cover story was Single and Loving It, about single people buying houses, having babies, and vacationing alone - "and they couldn't be happier."  The article bothered me on two levels: 1) it makes being single sound like a great adventure, when it's a lonely place for most people and 2) it diminishes the institution of marriage in many ways. First, we'll deal with part 1.  I'll save part 2 for another day.

As a woman who was single for most of my adult life (I married late), proclaiming the singles "couldn't be happier" is a crock and we all know it. They certainly could be happier, and I bet that each and every one of those allegedly deliriously happy single people would rather NOT be single.  But due to a number of societal trends, there are fewer people interested in marrying, which is a shame for these individual people, and it's unfortunate for the society at large (and for the children they adopt). 

What are the trends?  The advent of birth control and the sexual revolution is one, which disassociated sex from marriage and procreation (just like the Vatican said it would back then).  There simply isn't the value placed on marriage that existed 40 years ago, there's less pressure to get married.  Many men are reluctant to commit to marriage, and they can be sexually active without it.  Many women are fearful of losing their "independence" in a marriage.  Young women are still told to postpone getting married and having kids until they're established in their career.  (Pretty bad advice for women who do want kids, start young while you're fertile and energetic). Our culture is vastly more self-absorbed and selfish nowadays. People are more interested in their own individual "self-actualization" than in learning to share their lives with another person.  A single woman who wants babies is more concerned with her personal fulfilment than with the child's fulfillment, or the child's right to have a father. 

Many of the couples in the article said things like "I'm not willing to settle..." and "It's going to take one hell of  girl." The other person has to meet high standards, the other person has to be exceptional. We're talking soul-mate material only!  But no one said anything like, "I'm willing to share and compromise, I know there's give-and-take in any relationship.  My relationship with another person might come ahead of my personal desires sometimes, there will be some self-sacrifice."  Blasphemy in these irreligious times!  Nothing is more important than the individual, it's all about me! 

It's well documented that married people are happier, they do live longer, their finances are better, they're more altruistic, and their kids are happier, more secure, and also financially better off.  Society is better off having stable families taking care of children. There's a good reason your parents and friends are still trying to set you up, they love you and want you to be loved and cared for.  Most human beings are happier with someone to share the joys and burdens of life with, including such mundane things as grocery shopping, snuggling on the couch, shovelling the driveway, paying bills, and walking the dog.  For me (and my husband), the coupled life beats the single life by a million miles. 

I don't buy it that these folks who are dying their hair blue or buying fancy appliances are all that happy about their situation.  I'm not saying single people are miserable, I was able to entertain myself quite well in my singleton years. But it's malarkey to say they're happier.  A society with more and more single people living alone in their individual houses doesn't sound like it's going in the right direction. Not much of a future there. Who will take care of them in their old age?  What will they pass on and to whom?   

Advice: Singles should stop pretending they're happy and OK with being single, admit that your life would be richer with a mate.  Tell yourself that you want a wife or husband, and make that a priority.  Drop the New Age "soul mate" obsession (it's wishful thinking and as baseless as the crushes you had in junior high school.)  Develop your personality and strengths so that you are an exceptional person and companion.  Relearn how to share and give and compromise.  Don't sleep around, you're wasting your energies and spirit. Remember where you came from: a married mother and father (for most of us anyway).  That institution is the underpinning of our very society, and dispensing with it isn't likely to be an improvement. 

WOW, palindromes are cool!

Wicked Cool Man!