The History Of Madness – Infographic

June 19, 2014 by  

“People are crazy and have always been. But the ways we’ve dealt with the off-kilter have changed drastically over time…”

Take a look over this infographic created by Best Counseling Degrees to see how!

The History of Madness

How Depression Affects The Heart

March 5, 2013 by  
Filed under DEPRESSION

Moment of silence

Depression hits us all from time to time and it can have a serious impact on our eating habits, our social life, and overall general well-being. Recent research has shown that depression can have negative effects on the biological functioning of your heart. Depression often roots from one’s inability to healthily manage unfortunate circumstances in their life. This inevitable overload is unmanaged stress which can lead high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, arterial damage, and even a weakened immune system. This in turn puts those who suffer from depression at a greater risk of having a heart attack.


The lack of exercise that depression tends to cause is ultimately the most harmful effect it has on the heart. An imbalance of serotonin levels in your brain brought on by a mentally (or emotionally) stressful event has been found to decrease your appetite and energy levels. In a lot of cases this leads to a serious decline in exercise. When we are depressed, some form of exercise can actually counteract the imbalance of serotonin by releasing chemicals known as endorphins which can actually counteract depression. Ultimately, serotonin imbalance has been found to make us depressed but it does not make us tired or lazy. It just makes us more susceptible to inactivity if we were not regularly active before thus proving that our mental health and the way we deal with depression is what affects our heart.


Depression is a lot like a drug in that it can infect us by intensifying pain, make us want to socially isolate ourselves, and worsen fatigue. Practicing healthy habits, not taking medications, is the best way to counteract depression and improve the health of your heart at the same time. Find an active hobby that allows you to relieve stress and gets your blood flowing. Don’t be around people who make you feel miserable but make it a point to be with those that make you happy. Depression is a bridge by which our mental stress can harm our heart. Make yourself happy and your heart will follow suit.


About the Author:

Sam Foster is a health writer with a passion for running, swimming, and cycling. When he’s not gearing up for his next Iron Man or triathlon he writes for St. Luke’s Hospital, one of the nation’s top hospitals in heart care.

Battling depression

March 10, 2012 by  

Top Six Depression Tips- Struck By Living

February 22, 2012 by  

Maude – Walter’s Crisis, Part 2 (Season 5, Episode 5) 2/2

January 13, 2012 by  

Chonda Pierce at Charles Stanley’s church

January 12, 2012 by  

How My Skin Condition Devastated Me (And Created Me A New Life)

April 13, 2011 by  
Filed under DEPRESSION, Featured

This is the first in a series of articles by Johnny Palmer of He talks about how his skin condition turned his life into bouts of depression, nothingness and how he has used this unfortunate illness to his advantage and how it has changed the way he lives for the better.

About ME

The ever increasing science of psychoneuroimmunology is finding out more and more about our brain and how it helps or hinders us in life.

We are also discovering how most dis-ease thought to be externally motivated is intrinsically internal.

There are numerous theories and case studies, but I have no interest in that – I want to know how it will effect ME.

In fact I have actually had the first hand experience of being able to look back and see how my own brain has helped guide me through depression, learn lessons, become a better person and then move on.

When I was born I was diagnosed with Eczema, or at least the doctors thought it was that. Ever since and up until just recently I have been plagued with chronic skin problems – which you might not define a “monster” illness, however the effects skin conditions can have are devestating.

Before you start thinking about how it is only a skin problem and I should be thankful I didn’t have cancer – yes I was very thankful it was only a skin condition, but I am a very proud person and being covered in an unsightly rash that appears on your face, arms, legs, chest and makes your skin look like sandpaper isn’t exactly enjoyable.

Especially not for an 18 year old guy who wants to go snowboarding with his friends, party, talk to pretty girls and enjoy life.

When you feel like you are ugly, you turn ugly.

When you feel like everyone is looking at you and talking about you, you hide.

This is exactly what I did.

I suspected I was allergic to something but no matter how many tests I had done no matter how many Doctor visits I racked up on my account, nobody had an answer.

They said it was Eczema and it will go away as you get older, but it might stay with you for life.


Am I supposed to walk around with head to toe clothes and then move to India so I can cover my face too without looking out of place until I die?

The night was the worst time though.

Before getting into bed at night I would already be worried about waking up in the morning covered in dry, red, oozing skin, sheets smelling awful and looking like Freddy Kruger.

I would have a chamomile tea before bed, listen to soothing music and try to relax as much as possible. Even my lovely girlfriend would rub my back or chest to help relax me – which it did.

Sometimes I would fade off to sleep, sometimes I wouldn’t, but no matter what, I would wake up in the morning looking like the Devil had scorned me.

Some days I would be so bad I couldn’t go to work, at the times when I actually had a job – often my skin was so bad I couldn’t even bear to leave my bedroom and lived at my mums house.

Some days it wouldn’t be so bad and I would get a burst of confidence and make plans for the week, only to wake up the next morning to have to cancel them because I didn’t want to have to see my friends when I looked like a monster, let alone go to a job interview, appointment or a fun event.

I had specific things I couldn’t do such as:

  • Couldn’t stay at anyone’s house
  • Couldn’t have anyone sleep in my bed or room
  • Could never sleep in a car or tent
  • Had to make plans on the day depending on if I had an outburst or not

You might think I am just being dramatic, but unless you have actually had eczema on your face so bad that you scratch it until it is red every single night, you won’t understand.

This was the start of my depression.

I realized that there are starving people in the world, people with AIDS, diabetes, cancer and physically disabled, but I felt like those people were lucky because they still looked normal.

What do you do when you are stuck in your own prison of a mind and you can’t escape?

What do you do when you fool yourself into thinking everyone is laughing at you and you can’t go out into the outside world?

Do you sit in your bedroom and get really good at math, build websites, learn a language, build models or try to invent a new product?

In hindsight I should have done at least a couple of those, but I – did – nothing.

My mom said that one day she asked me to hang out the washing and I stood at the washing line for 35 minutes looking out over the hill our house faced.

Nothing wrong with sight seeing, but I was truly stuck in my own prison, and I didn’t even realize it.

Life seemed worthless if I was going to look like a freak the whole time.

Did you ever feel like that?

To be continued … the next part of this series will be up soon!

About The Author

Johnny Palmer runs a website specially devoted to teaching you how to get abs and the best way to lose belly fat. Johnny has come from a wildly unhealthy lifestyle and out of shape to having a lean, ripped body and overcoming every obstacle that has been seemingly placed in his way as a test.

The teenage brain and how it works

February 16, 2011 by  

Just as nutrition in the early childhood years is crucial to a schoolchild’s IQ, the experiences of the adolescent brain can affect behavior as adult.

It was always assumed the brain is fully mature in adolescence. Recent research evidence however shows this is not so. According to Harvard neuroscientist Dr. Frances Jensen, “adolescent brains “are only about 80 percent of the way to maturity.” Full maturity is reached in the mid-20s or even later.

The adolescent brain (according to a report in Newsweek):

These properties of the adolescent brain explain risky behavior, insensitive remarks and other signs of thoughtlessness.

In the same period, the impressionable adolescent brain is high susceptible to environmental influences, especially peer pressure. It is during this period that strong relationships and social connections help navigates the so-called growing pains.

According to Dr. Mitch Prinstein, professor and director of clinical psychology, at the University of North Carolina in  Chapel Hill:

“The most potent predictors of why adolescents engage in all kinds of health-risk behaviors—substance use, sexual behavior, even recently, self-cutting—is very much related to how much they perceive that their close friends are doing the same thing, or someone that they consider very cool and popular is doing the same thing.”

Unfortunately, risk behavior in adolescence can have consequences in adult life. Those exposed early to high levels of alcohol will have the risk of having alcohol problems later in life.

A Harvard study found that kids who smoked pot before age 16 had more lifelong cognitive problems than those who started smoking after 16.

Other types of stressors, including bullying and abuse can reflect as posttraumatic stress in adult life and can even be passed on to the next generation. Peer rejection as teenager, for example, may translate into depressive symptoms.

Fortunately, strong relationships and coping skills can counterbalance the negative stressors: Examples of such coping skills are anticonformism and dabbling with delinquency without crossing the boundaries.

And the good news is that, despite our most susceptible brains at adolescence,  most of us – more than 90% in fact – turn out fine and outgrow the delinquency.

In pursuit of happiness: who’s happy and who’s not and why

February 7, 2011 by  
Filed under DEPRESSION

Okay, so now we know that years and wrinkles bring happiness. But there are other factors aside from age that contribute to our well-being, right?

Male vs. Female

Gender seems to play a role in happiness. Women in general are happier than men. But they are also more susceptible to depression than the other sex according the report.

“…a fifth to a quarter of women experience depression at some point in their lives, compared with around a tenth of men. Which suggests either that women are more likely to experience more extreme emotions, or that a few women are more miserable than men, while most are more cheerful.”

Personality types

Are you the outgoing extrovert type or are you the neurotic introvert type? Neuroticism and extroversion are the 2 personality types that strongly influence happiness:

“Neurotic people—those who are prone to guilt, anger and anxiety—tend to be unhappy. This is more than a tautological observation about people’s mood when asked about their feelings by pollsters or economists. Studies following people over many years have shown that neuroticism is a stable personality trait and a good predictor of levels of happiness. Neurotic people are not just prone to negative feelings: they also tend to have low emotional intelligence, which makes them bad at forming or managing relationships, and that in turn makes them unhappy.

Whereas neuroticism tends to make for gloomy types, extroversion does the opposite. Those who like working in teams and who relish parties tend to be happier than those who shut their office doors in the daytime and hole up at home in the evenings.”

Happiness and circumstance

Socioeconomic factors play a role in our pursuit of happiness. Circumstances in our lives such as relationships, education, income, and skin color can influence our life.

What makes people happy are (according to THE ECONOMIST report):

  • Being married
  • Being of certain ethnicity (being black used to be associated with less happiness; nowadays it’s linked to greater happiness).
  • Better education coupled with better income.

What makes people less happy are:

  • Unemployment
  • Having children in the house
  • Being of certain ethnicity
  • Low income (still debatable though)

Of these, being unemployed is the one factor that can really throw one in the pits.

Finally, check what you really know about happiness.

Take a quiz to test your emotional IQ.

When people are having a melancholic Christmas

December 15, 2010 by  

‘Tis the season to be jolly but not everybody is celebrating/has something to celebrate this Christmas. There are many reasons why people are melancholic rather than merry this Christmas. Let us look at the possible scenarios and see how we can help people in these situations.

Loss of a loved one. Loss of a loved person so close to the holiday season is hard. For a little child, the loss of a parent or sibling around Christmas is very sad situation. For a parent, losing a little child is a big blow. How we can help:

  • You can show sensitivity and understanding by downplaying your own Christmas cheerfulness when your bereaved friends are around.
  • You can provide distraction – a dog or a cat or a house pet to take care of, even if only temporarily.
  • You can let your bereaved friend take care of you – let them feel they are needed.

Health issues. There is nothing like health problems to dampen the holiday spirits. This is hard enough for adults, but much more for a child who is stuck in a hospital bed while his or her friends go Christmas caroling. How we can cheer them up:

  • Visit, call, visit. My husband’s grandma, who is 90 years old, broke her leg from a fall the other week and had to stay at the hospital. She lives in another country 260 km away, but we visited her on that first weekend after her admission, braving the snowy road conditions. Boy, was she happy to see us, chuckling at my husband’s joke that her ice hockey career for this season at least is over. We called almost every day afterwards even after she was transferred to a rehabilitation clinic, where she will stay till after New Year.
  • Donate. Donate time and money to cheer up the sick during the holiday season. I know somebody who runs a Toys for Tots fund drive every Christmas for a public hospital in Manila, Philippines. It is not only the kids but also other hospital patients who need cheering up during the holidays. The elderly, with no family to visit them, are especially lonely during this season of cheer.

Stress and responsibilities. It is not only the patients who need cheering up this season. Their caregivers need our help as well. Let us face it: taking care of the sick is a big burden both physically and emotionally. Here is what we can do to help them:

  • Time off. Giving caregivers time off even if only for a few hours is the best gift you can give them. A whole free day without responsibilities would be a special treat.
  • Moral support. Luckily, there are groups providing support for caregivers the whole year but more so during the holiday season. Some caregiver support programs can be found at:

the Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation and Leeza’s Place,

Stand Together for AD: Strength and Support for Alzheimer’s at

I’ll be bringing you some more tips on caregiving in the coming days.

Anxiety and depression in the elderly

November 10, 2010 by  

As we age, we sometimes experience anxiety, mood swings and depression. These symptoms affect our quality of life and can have some significant on physical and mental health. Women seem to be especially susceptible.

A joint study by the University of California in San Francisco, and the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center surveyed 2,575 participants age 55 and older. Their finding showed the following:

  • 5% of participants had a mood disorder, including major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder
  • 12% had anxiety disorders such as panic disorder, agoraphobia, other phobias, generalized anxiety disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder
  • 3% had co-occurring mood and anxiety disorders

In cases where anxiety and depression occur together, the impact on physical and mental health and well-being is much worse than when they occur separately. Such a co-occurrence increases the risk for suicide, death, disability, medication abuse and dementia.

Our society is getting old and it is estimated that by 2050, a fourth of the population would be elderly. The prevalence of depression and anxiety in this age group poses a major public health concern. What is also concerning is the fact that these mental problems are actually under-reported, underdiagnosed and undertreated because many people think that these down feelings are simply part of the aging process.

Below are some interventions that can help battle anxiety and depression in the elderly.

Behavioral interventions

The Ageing Wisely treatment program is run by the Macquarie University’s Centre for Emotional Health. It focuses on finding ways to ease feelings of fatigue, loneliness, sadness and anxiety among the elderly. One of the interventions used in the study is teaching participants cognitive and behavioral skills that will help them cope with these low feeling. Results of the Aging Wisely study were positive with long-lasting benefits

According to study leader Dr. Viviana Wuthrich:

“The success of this treatment trial is uplifting as we now know that older adults can benefit from psychological treatment, and that they no longer need to accept worry, low mood and loneliness as a normal part of ageing.”


Certain medication may be prescribed to treat anxiety in the elderly. The drug escitalopram, for example, has been shown to improve symptoms for older adults with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). However, elderly people seem to be not so keen on taking drugs and therefore tended to quit taking medications early on in the study. This is not surprising because medications also bring about certain undesirable side effects.

Alternative medicine

A large number of elderly adults seem to opt for complementary or alternative medicine (CAM) to battle anxiety and depression. Researchers at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine report the following figures:

  • 34.9% of people over 65 suffering from anxiety or depression use CAM.
  • Among those without mental health problems, rate of CAM use is 26.5%.
  • When praying was included as a form of CAM intervention, the rate of CAM was 81.7 and 64.6%, for those with and without mental symptoms, respectively.

Examples of CAM to treat anxiety and depression are yoga, meditation, hypnotherapy, aromatherapy, and phythotherapy.

The health benefits of hiking

If I tell you I did not do a single jogging run last week, you’d think I’m getting slack and lazy, right?

Well, not quite We (I and my family) just got back from a week of autumn holidays in the Swiss Alps where we did lots of walking and hiking. This time we did long (5 to 6 hours) and short hikes (2 to 3 hours), easy (100 to 200 m altitude difference on easy clear pathways) and tough ones (500 m or more altitude difference on difficult terrain). The family consists of middle-aged parents and two seven-year old twin boys. During the week, we did two of our toughest and longest hike yet and I learned a couple of things:

  • For my kids, the tough hikes consisting of rock climbing and cliff hugging and crawling on your hands and knees are much more fun and interesting than the easy slopes and incline. We heard nary a complaint during the tough climbs except “Mom, why are you so slow?” During the easy walks however, there are the frequent “Are we there yet?” and “How many more minutes/kilometers?”
  • My kids have overtaken me in skills when it comes to climbing mountains, at least when the going gets tough. You see, Mommy is so slow because her knees were trembling as she scrambles and crawls on the rocks. Mind you, I have no fear of heights nor do I suffer from vertigo. But as somebody who was born close to the seacoast of a tropical island, it took me more than 30 years to find my way to the Swiss Alps, much more hike around. But how I got here is another story. This post is about the health benefits of hiking.

According to the American Hiking Society:

Now, I hope my description of our hikes did not turn you off and made you come to the conclusion that hiking is too challenging or difficult for you. The trick is to start slow and small. I did. My family did. I had to train my body for years, then my kids. The important thing is to start. Now.

Here’s what the American Hiking Society advises:

Beneficial exercise does not need to involve a long, painful and boring workout. A good workout can be a brisk 30-minute hike with the dog, or a slower one-hour hike through a local park. According to the American Heart Association, it’s best to walk vigorously for 30 to 60 minutes three or four times per week.

Here are some tips from Nomad Journal Trips:

Here is what I’ll tell you next: preparing for a mountain hike and taking safety precautions. Stay tuned for my next hiking post. Meanwhile, I am back in the lowlands and have to go for a jogging run.

Autumn is stressful time for some, relaxation for others

October 11, 2010 by  

It is interesting how the season affects our moods. Scientists attribute this mainly to changes in the day length and weather conditions. But it seems there are other factors involved.

A recent study by Swiss researchers reports that autumn is a difficult time for young people, a time of stress and depression, which sometimes results in substance abuse, violence and suicide. For the young, autumn is the time to go back to school after several weeks of summer holidays. It means loss of freedom, the start of school work overload, the build-up of peer pressure, the recurrence of bullying. For those who just finished school, it is the start of the struggle to find a job, something that is not easy during hard economic times. Those who start with their first real jobs get to experience the cut throat rat race of the corporate world.

In other words, autumn is a time when young people are expected to deliver and perform before the start of the winter and the Christmas holidays.

Autumn, on the other hand, can have a different meaning for the older generation. Reports indicate that more and more senior citizens go on holidays in autumn after the summer peak season is over, when the kids are out of the house and off to college, and the southern sun is less intense. Many of them take up in daring and extreme sports such as sky diving and bungy jumping, trying to catch up with things they could not do before. Or many of them simply lean back and relax and enjoy the relatively mild weather.

Somebody once told me that the elderly of Europe behave like migrating birds. They go south in autumn to enjoy sunny Spain and Greece and come back to the north in springtime. Our population is rapidly aging, and a large segment of our population is senior citizens who are still healthy and fit and can afford to live a life of leisure.

Does this mean that the older generation has a much better life than the younger generation? It all depends from what perspective you are looking from. The elderly had their share of stressful autumns. Let them enjoy the late autumns of their lives as long as they do not overdo it with risky behavior.

On the other hand, having lots of time on their hands will most probably bore the young to death. Still, they need all the support to survive autumn and the other autumns to come till they can enjoy their retirement.

Cyber bullying is a major source of depression among children

September 22, 2010 by  
Filed under DEPRESSION

Bullying is a real part, if rather sad fact, of life. I always worry over my 2 second graders and what is going on in the school yard where the traditional bullying usually happens

And then there is the new form of bullying – cyber bullying – which is more sinister and destructive. Bullying leads to physical as well as psychological damage.  In the traditional bullying situation, depression is common among the victims but also the bully victims (“those who both dish it out and take it”) and even the bullies themselves. According to researchers, this type of bullying peaks at middle school.

Cyber bullying, on the other hand, is more “toxic”, according to Dr. Jorg Srabstein, medical director of the Clinic for Health Problems Related to Bullying at Children’s National Medical Center. This is because the burden of depression, which is rather high, falls largely on the victim alone. To illustrate the difference between traditional and cyber bullying, Srabstein gives us the following example:

Traditional bullying: “somebody writes an insult on the bathroom wall and it’s confined to the environment of the school.”

Cyber bullying: “in the majority of victimization, there is a wider resonance of abuse, to all corners of the world.”

Cyber bullying has been linked to cases of suicide and murder.

How common is cyber bullying?

The School-Aged Children 2005 Survey showed a more than 50% prevalence of verbal bullying (e.g. name-calling). Relational bullying, e.g. isolation from peers, are also common (about 50%). About 20% of school children have had been bullied physically and 14% experience cyber bullying.

In an anonymous, online survey of 1454 teens aged 12 to 17:

Online bullying was associated with increased distress, as well as with in-school bullying, with 85 percent of respondents who reported at least one online incident also reporting being bullied in school. Most of the bullied teens did not tell their parents about the online incidents. They felt the need to deal with the problem on their own and were fearful of parental restrictions on internet use.

Recent statistics showed that Americans spend 2.6 million minutes on Facebook each day. These so-called social medial platforms, led by Facebook, followed by My Space and Friendster are the most common media for cyber abuse. One site is especially is cause for concern. The relatively new allows anonymously virtually uncensored comments and remarks such as:

Go kill yourself and make the world a better place,” or “Is that you in your profile picture? It looks like a dead old man.”

A third of formspring users are under 17.

Government agencies are trying to keep up with technological developments in order to protect those who are online, especially the minors. In August of this year, Facebook, in cooperation with the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), launched a new safety feature in its site, basically a panic button called ClickCEOP. According to CEOP chief Jim Gamble:

“By adding this application, Facebook users will have direct access to all the services that sit behind our ClickCEOP button which should provide reassurance to every parent with teenagers on the site. We know from speaking to offenders that a visible deterrent could protect young people.”

The Internet is here to stay and cyber bullying will continue. It is up to us, parents, as well as policymakers, to check on what is going in our children’s cyber lives.

Lethal combination: depression and heart disease

September 16, 2010 by  

Heart disease is a serious physical disorder. Depression is a serious neurological disorder. The two together makes a dangerous combination that is more lethal that when these disorders exist alone. This is according to a recent report in the journal Heart.

It has been shown before that there is a strong link between depressions and poor heart health. Depressed people are very likely to develop coronary heart disease. The study was based on data from the British Whitehall II study which followed up more than 10,000 civil servants. The substudy tracked almost 6000 middle aged adults for an average of 5.5 years.

The incidence of depression was significantly higher in those with established heart disease (20%) than among those without heart problems (14%). During the follow-up period, 170 study participants died, and 47 of these deaths were due to a cardiovascular event such as stroke or heart attack.

What is interesting is that depression seems to increase overall mortality risk even more than heart disease.

“Those with coronary heart disease alone were 67% more likely to die of all causes, while those who were depressed, but otherwise healthy, were twice as likely to do so as those who had neither condition.”

When heart disease and depression co-occur, the likelihood of death increases 5 times. Even after correction for other confounding factors, the mortality risk of those with the heart disease-depression combo is still 3 to 4 times higher than those who are healthy.

The link between depression and heart disease is not clearly understood. The authors postulate:

The biological explanations for the impact of depression on the risk of death are still not clear… but may involve stimulating the inflammatory process and/or clot formation, or altering cellular responses and/or the metabolism of blood fats. Behavioural factors might also play a part.

Is it a case of mind over matter? Or mind over heart? In any case, health care professionals are advised to pay more attention and watch for depressive symptoms in their cardiac patients. And psychistriatrists should do the vice versa in their depressive patients.

Cells in your eyes that help your sleep

August 2, 2010 by  

Your eyes are very much involved in your sleep patterns – way beyond the physical involvement of opening and closing your eyelids. Rods are cells in our eyes basically detecting light. Our brain and our body respond to the light detected by our eyes. When we are active and when we sleep is our so-called circadian rhythm and this rhythm is influenced by the light/dark cycles of external lights from the sun and the artificial lights we use indoors. Our eyes’ response to the light can be observed during the dilation and constriction of our pupils.

The light to brain function is not performed by rods and cones alone. Researchers have identified a small subset of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) which are intrinsically photosensitive, thus are called ipRGCs and are responsible for maintaining our body clocks (circadian rhythms) as well as the pupil constriction and dilation. These cells produce a protein called melanopsin that allows them to sense light on their own and send information about light intensity to the brain.

Yet, the ipRGCs are rather slow compared to the light-detecting function of rods and cones. They capture very little light but, once captured, the light is very effective in producing a signal to the brain. The researchers found that the density of melanopsin in ipRGC membranes is almost 10,000-fold lower than that of rod and cone pigments. But once the threshold is reached, the signal is sent to the brain efficiently enough. So how can this rather slow signalling mechanism be useful? In fact, the slowness of the ipRGCs is what makes them useful.

Study author Dr. King-Wai Yau at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine explains:

“In terms of controlling the pupils and the body clock, it makes sense to have a sensor that responds slowly and only to large light changes. You wouldn’t want your body to think every cloud passing through the sky is nightfall.”

Those of you who have had experienced jetlag would know that the body takes time to recover as the ipRGCs in your eyes adapt to a new light and dark pattern.

This discovery of ipRGCs and how they work can help in unravelling some of the mechanisms not only of jetlag but also other sleeping disorders such as insomnia, and light-triggered neurological disorders such as seasonal affective disorder (winter blues).

Female sexual dysfunction and diabetes

July 29, 2010 by  

Diabetes comes with a lot of complications, including sexual dysfunction. There has been a lot of research on the relation between type 2 diabetes and erectile dysfunction (ED) in male patients with reported prevalence of up to 50%, but little is known about female sexual dysfunction (FSD). FSD is characterized by lack of libido and sexual satisfaction, even discomfort and pain during intercourse.

Italian researchers decided to address this knowledge gap and investigated the factors that are correlated to FSD in diabetic patients.  Their results indicated that FSD was not linked to hemoglobin A1C or time since diagnosis, hypertension or smoking. However, FSD was shown to be most prevalent in women who are married or depressed. Whereas physical activity positive influences FSD, age, metabolic syndrome and poor lipid profile seem have a negative impact. Much more, FSD is more prevalent in menopausal women compared to non-menopausal women. The authors concluded that:

“Further studies are needed to elucidate in full the mechanisms underlying the evident differences between male and female sexual function. In the meantime, evaluation of female sexuality should become a routine evaluation in women with type 2 diabetes, such as other diabetic complications.”

The results indicate sexual dysfunction occurs in both men and women especially among those with diabetes. However, the determining factors seem to differ between sexes. Whereas ED is closely linked to cardiovascular risk factors, FSD seems to be more linked to neurological and social factors. In fact, several studies have linked FSD to depression and marital status

There is something that diabetic women can do to help prevent FSD – improvement in diet and more physical activity. Experts believe it is not just diabetic diet that would help but sticking to the so-called Mediterranean diet, according to the same team of researchers.

Mediterranean diet has been shown to be beneficial for the heart and blood sugar levels. However, this is the first study to demonstrate the positive effect of such a diet in reducing FSD.

Like many chronic diseases, diabetes and its many complications, including sexual dysfunction benefits from lifestyle change that involves diet and physical exercise.

Coming soon: blood test for depression?

July 26, 2010 by  
Filed under DEPRESSION

The quest for biomarkers for certain disorders and diseased has kept biomedical scientists busy in recent years. Their efforts have borne fruit in the discovery of biomarkers in the blood that help in the screening and diagnosis of medical conditions such as cardiovascular diseases and cancer. However, when it comes to neurological and psychiatric disorders, the search of biomarkers has been very slow. Recent research results however, seem to show promise.

In general, the search for diagnostic markers can be approached in many different ways. The field of genomics is focusing on identifying variations in the genes (DNA) which can be detected in blood cells. In the field of proteomics, the measurement of the levels of specific proteins in the blood is being explored. Another field of research is the so-called gene expression profiling, “which measures the levels of RNA produced from DNA as an indication of the level of the “activity” of particular genes.”

With the third approach (gene expression profiling), Dutch researchers report promising results in screening patients for major depressive disorder, or MDD. The researchers were able to identify a set of 7 genes whose expression in the blood differs between patients with MDD and those without MDD.

According to study author Dr. Sabine Spijker:

“This is a first, but major step in providing a molecular diagnostic tool for depression. Although psychiatry already has specific criteria for diagnosing mental health disorders, this type of diagnosis would be unbiased and particularly valuable for those with whom it is more difficult to have a conversation. It may also eventually assist in reducing the stigma associated with mental health problems.”

Indeed, current methods of diagnosis of depression are still mainly based on patient-reported symptoms and evaluation by a mental health professional. The use of diagnostic markers, especially those detectable in the blood  

However, further research needs to be done to validate the sensitivity and specificity of the described blood test.

According to Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry.

“It is far too early to be confident that gene expression profiling will lead us to diagnostic or prognostic tests for depression. However, the objective of this line of research is extremely important. In the past, many types of tests have been explored as potential diagnostic markers, but they all have failed to have sufficient sensitivity and specificity to guide doctors in making psychiatric diagnoses or choosing between treatments. I look forward to seeing whether the patterns of gene expression profiling are replicable and diagnostically specific as multiple groups report their findings.”

Heart, Mind and Sex: how they are linked

July 19, 2010 by  

When we think of erectile dysfunction, we think of infertility and impotence. However, there this sexual disorder actually goes deeper than just plain sex. Depression, sexual dysfunction and heart disease have common pathological mechanisms. At least in men. This is according to a study by researchers at the University of Florence, Italy.

Sexual dysfunction in men, mainly manifesting as erectile dysfunction can cause depressive symptoms. However, as we all know, negative emotions put a strain on the heart and much more so in this patient population when depression can be severe. by a team led by Dr Elisa Bandini (University of Florence, Italy).

According to study leader Dr. Elisa Bandini (to heartwire):

“In a large sample of men with erectile dysfunction, after controlling for other risk factors, we found that those with severe depression had increased risk of cardiovascular events. We know that depression and erectile dysfunction are both risk factors for heart disease, but this study shows that these risk factors are independent of each other.”

But what about obesity, which is also a risk factor for cardiovascular events and erectile dysfunction? The author checked whether obesity is the common denominator. However, although obesity does play a role, factoring it out doesn’t take away the fact that depression can lead to heart disease.

The results indicate that a healthy sexual life may also be linked to a healthy heart and a happy life. But does depression cause erectile dysfunction or is it the sexual dysfunction that brings about depressive symptoms? This is still something to be addressed in further research.

Dr. Bandini explains:

“Our results show that when evaluating patients for sexual dysfunction, doctors should think about general health as well. Erectile dysfunction may be the first disease or depression may be first disease, but we should look beyond these initial conditions to look at secondary consequences such as increased cardiovascular risk. If we treat depression and sexual dysfunction, we may be able to improve cardiovascular outcomes, too.”

Previous studies have identified common mechanisms between cardiovascular disorders and erectile function. German researchers have reported that both disorders are linked to endothelial dysfunction, endothelium being the inner lining of the blood vessels. And now depression also joins in. For such a multidimensional problem, a multidisciplinary approach is needed and cardiologists, psychotherapists and urologists should work together to help patients to improve their health status and quality of life.

“The wellness of the body, of the couple, and of the mind independently affects the cardiovascular fate of men with erectile dysfunction… the need for a regular screening for cardiac morbidity in men with erectile dysfunction is even greater in those patients showing depressive symptoms.”

Depression in MS patients

July 7, 2010 by  

As if pain and impaired mobility are not enough, multiple sclerosis (MS) patients are also plagued by another comorbidity – depression. It is estimated that people with MS have up to 50% lifetime risk for developing depressive symptoms. However, very little is known about the causes and influencing factors of MS-related depression. In a way, this type of depression is quite puzzling. It can occur at any stage of the disease and is not related to the severity of the symptoms. Scientists think that depression in MS patients is not simply a normal reaction to the debilitating symptoms but has a neurological reason.

According to lead author Dr. Stefan Gold

“Depression is one of the most common symptoms in patients with multiple sclerosis. It impacts cognitive function, quality of life, work performance and treatment compliance. Worst of all, it’s also one of the strongest predictors of suicide.”

Thus, researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) decided to investigate the cause(s) of MS-linked depression. Their hypothesis is that it is not a simply psychological problem but rather due to structural changes in the brain, i.e. “atrophy of a specific region of the hippocampus, a critical part of the brain involved in mood and memory, among other functions.”

The researchers used high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to study the MS brain and found three key sub-regions of the hippocampus that were smaller in people with MS when compared to those without MS. This observed atrophy was also linked to the hyperactivity of three interacting glands of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. This axis plays a role in the regulation of reactions to stress other physiological processes. In depressed MS patients, the HPA axis released excessive amounts of the stress hormone cortisol.  The researchers believe that this hyperactivity results in dysregulation and atrophy of the hippocampus that leads to the development of depressive symptoms.

The researchers found similarities between MS-linked depression and depression in people without MS but these should be further investigated in future studies.

According to co-author Dr. Nancy Sicotte

“Interestingly, this idea of a link between excessive activity of the HPA axis and reduced brain volume in the hippocampus hasn’t received a lot of attention, despite the fact that the most consistently reproduced findings in psychiatric patients with depression (but without MS) include hyperactivity of the HPA axis and smaller volumes of the hippocampus….So the next step is to compare MS patients with depression to psychiatric patients with depression to see how the disease progresses in each.”

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.