I thought I would make a small contribution to the discussion about how coverage of the recent airline tragedy focuses so much on the supposed ‘mental illness’ of the pilot and not so much on the possible role of antidepressants. Of course we will never know the answer to these questions but it is important, I think, to combat the simplistic nonsense wheeled out after most such tragedies, the nonsense that says the person had an illness that made them do awful things. So, just to confirm what many recipients of antidepressants, clinicians and researchers have been saying for a long time, here are some findings from our recent New Zealand survey of over 1,800 people taking anti-depressants, which we think is the largest survey to date.
In Forbes, David Kroll asks whether antidepressants are more dangerous for commercial pilots to have than depression. And in Mail Online, Peter Hitchens similarly argues that the public discussion about the Germanwings crash has to start distinguishing between the questions of whether depressed people should be flying commercial planes and whether people taking antidepressants should be. More →
People who are depressed experience time simultaneously in two different ways, according to a review of studies in the Journal of Affective Disorders. They often subjectively experience time as passing much more slowly than people who aren't depressed, but also experience and measure the actual passage of seconds, minutes and hours as accurately as anyone else. More →
Common scientific beliefs about serotonin levels in depression and how antidepressants act on the brain appear to be completely backwards, according to a paper from Canadian and American researchers in Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews. More →
When I was researching Anatomy of an Epidemic and sought to track the number of people receiving a disability payment between 1987 and 2007 due to “mental illness,” I was frustrated by the lack of diagnostic clarity in the data. The Social Security Administration would list, in its annual reports on the Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) programs, the number of people receiving payment for “mental disorders,” which in turn was broken down into just two subcategories: “retardation,” and “other mental disorders.” Unfortunately, the “other mental disorders,” which was the category for those with psychiatric disorders, was not broken down into its diagnostic parts.
We live in a culture bombarded by media and sped up by rapid-fire social interactions. It’s definitely useful to grab hold of a simple, short, sound-bite term, to quickly describe what we are feeling or suffering. “Depression” is such a word – it evokes and encapsulates, conjures the images of that ugly pit of despair that can drive so many to madness and suicide. Yet at the same time the words we use, strangely, become like those pens deposited in medical offices and waiting rooms around the world: ready at hand, easily found, familiar — and tied to associations, marketing and meanings we were only dimly aware were shaping how we think.
In Psychology Salon, Randy Paterson compares life in the present to life in the past, to try to see if there are any clues there as to why the incidence of depression seems to have been increasing so dramatically. More →
Depressed elderly people are more likely to suffer heart disease not because of their depression, but apparently due to antidepressant medications, according to a study published in Psychological Medicine. More →
It is generally recognized in antipsychiatry circles that antidepressant drugs induce manic or hypomanic episodes in some of the individuals who take them. Psychiatry’s usual response to this is to assert that the individual must have had an underlying latent bipolar disorder that has “emerged” in response to the improvement in mood. The problem with such a notion is that it is fundamentally unverifiable.
The ingestion of prebiotics that feed good bacteria in the human gut shows promise as a way to help alleviate anxiety and depression, according to a University of Oxford study in Psychopharmacology. The study adds to previous research showing that probiotics, which add good bacteria to the gut, can also have beneficial psychological effects, the researchers said. More →
In his blog Psychology Salon, psychologist Randy Paterson explores what the balance of evidence is showing us after 60 years of increasing medical treatments for depression. Are drug treatments ineffective, or worse than ineffective? More →
In the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, Yale University School of Medicine's Gerard Sanacora and Stanford University School of Medicine's Alan Schatzberg examine the scientific literature on ketamine, and discuss some of the promises and dangers surrounding the recent resurgence of interest in the drug as a potential treatment for depression. More →
What if I told you that, in 6 decades of research, the serotonin (or norepinephrine, or dopamine) theory of depression and anxiety – the claim that “Depression is a serious medical condition that may be due to a chemical imbalance, and Zoloft works to correct this imbalance” – has not achieved scientific credibility? You’d want some supporting arguments for this shocking claim. So, here you go:
The November/December issue of the Psychotherapy Networker is called "Depression Unmasked: Exposing a Hidden Epidemic." It includes articles such as, "Can Mood Science Save Us?", "The CBT Path Out of Depression: Two Perspectives on How It Works" and "The Power of How: Helping Depressed Clients Make Better Choices." More →
The article “Special K, a Hallucinogen, Raises Hopes and Concerns as a Treatment for Depression,” by Andrew Pollack in the New York Times, December 9, 2014, tells how far afield my field, psychiatry, has really gone – that it is even a consideration to use an hallucinogen for the treatment of depression.
A strong placebo response is apparently more often caused by people's expectations coming into a randomized, blinded clinical trial, than it is caused by the supportive care that surrounds all the trial participants, according to a study in the British Journal of Psychiatry. More →
In the New York Times, Anna North discusses research looking into infectious causes of depression, and theories that depression may be an important evolutionary adaptive trait. In Biology of Mood & Anxiety Disorders, psychologist and neuroscientist Turhan Canli elaborates on these arguments that infectious diseases may cause inflammation and lead to depression, and examines a variety of possible causes such as parasitic, bacterial, or viral infections. Canli also presents "examples that illustrate possible pathways by which these microorganisms could contribute to the etiology of major depression." More →
Does depression make us lethargic, or does lack of exercise make us depressed? The Mental Elf tries to answer this question, and reviews a recent study of the relationship between exercise and depression and whether or not exercise can be an effective "therapy." More →
The Washington Post explores some of the history of research into the therapeutic potentials of even just one session with a psychedelic drug, and discusses some of the newer understandings about the drugs' effects on the brain emerging from contemporary neuroscientific research as trials begin to occur again. In addition, the new book "Acid Test: LSD, Ecstasy, and the Power to Heal" is reviewed on Reason.com and in The Lancet Psychiatry. More →
The November 13th issue of the journal Nature is titled "The Great Depression," and includes various feature stories and commentaries about research into depression, including arguments for more genetics studies, and evaluations of the global impacts of depression. More →
Exposure to pesticides is linked to significant increases in suicidal depression in farmers, according to a study by US National Institute of Health researchers discussed in Munchies. "These dangerous chemicals, researchers found, alter farmers’ brain chemistry, increasing their risk of depression by up to 90 percent." More →
In the New England Journal of Medicine, Richard Friedman and Marc Stone present very different arguments about the reliability of the body of research into antidepressants, suicidality, and FDA black box warnings, and what that body of research is truly telling us. More →
In my last two posts, Back in the Dark House Again: The Recurrent Nature of Clinical Depression and Am I Having a Breakdown or Breakthrough? Further Reflections on a Depressive Relapse, I have shared my recent relapse into depression. Although it has been tough, when I wake up each morning I am grateful for one thing — I am not suicidal. Others are not as fortunate.
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