Bipolar blog

Is There a Cure for Bipolar Disorder, Mental Illness?

→ November 2, 2011 - 15 Comments

Is There a Cure for Bipolar Disorder, Mental Illness?

In the world of mental illness we talk about “response” and “remission” and not cure for mental illness. The reason is very simple – we don’t know of a cure for mental illness. One may exist, but we don’t know of any such cure for bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia and other mental illness.

What are Treatment, Response, Remission and Relapse?

The words we use most often are treatment, as in I’m in treatment for bipolar disorder; response, as in I’m responding to treatment for schizophrenia; and remission, as in I’m in remission from depression.

  • Treatment – treatment is whatever is applied to make an illness better such as therapy, medication, mindfulness and so on.
  • Response – response is generally positive or negative and indicates whether a treatment is working. A positive response means you have shown improvement on a given course of treatment, it does not necessarily mean that all your symptoms have disappeared, only that there has been positive movement in some way.
  • Remissionremission is the state in which all or most of your symptoms have “remitted” or gone away. People have remissions from cancer, and many other illnesses as well as mental illness.
  • Relapse – relapse is a state in which the symptoms reassert themselves after a period of successful treatment or remission.

Is There  a Cure for Bipolar Disorder?What is a Cure for Mental Illness?

A cure for bipolar, depression, schizophrenia or other mental illness would be a state of recovery where no more symptoms were present and you were returned to health permanently. This is the one that is contentious in mental illness. Most doctors believe that even once a mental illness goes into remission, relapse is possible, and in some cases, even likely. It is thought that the mental illness – the fundamental neurobiological causes – never go away, but they may be successfully treated for a period of time. This amount of time could be forever, but it most often is not.

So if a disease goes into remission forever, isn’t that a cure?

I guess that depends on who you ask. If you have to be treated for the rest of your life, even if you’re in remission I’d say it’s hard to argue that you’re “cured.” On the other hand, if you get better, taper off treatment, and remain better, then maybe you would consider that a cure. I’d be hesitant to use the word “cure,” personally, but that’s me.

Who Goes Into Long-Term Remission? Who’s Cured of Mental Illness?

That’s a toughie. I’d start out by saying that it’s impossible to know who will go into long-term remission or get “cured” of mental illness, but that isn’t exactly true. We know that people with milder forms of the disease have a much better chance of full remission. We know that you have a better chance at a mental illness “cure” if:

  • You don’t have a family history of mental illness
  • You have a more mild form of mental illness
  • You have a good support system
  • You have access to quality medical (including mental health) care
  • You have had fewer episodes of mental illness in the past

Unfortunately, most of us reading this right now do not fit into this category. It doesn’t mean that you won’t find long-term remission; it just means that you’re not in the most likely group.

Is a Cure for Mental Illness Possible?

Mental illness is not one thing and all mental illnesses are not created equal. Depression isn’t the same as bipolar disorder which isn’t the same as schizophrenia. And with different severity levels, these diseases become, yet again, different.

But in the case of severe mental illness, is there a cure?

No.

Not if you ask me.

[push]I think suggesting there is a cure for mental illness overall just isn’t true. We don’t yet have a cure for mental illness. [/push]

I have no doubt that some people with a mental illness can experience long-term remission and some may even consider themselves “cured.” But I have yet to see a person with schizophrenia make that claim. I have yet to see anyone who suffers from psychosis make that claim. I have yet to see anyone with severe, long-standing symptoms make that claim. So it is possible? Maybe. In some cases. But maybe in those cases the disease just isn’t like the other cases. Maybe they are in a category by themselves. Maybe (undoubtedly) we just can’t recognize who is in that category.

So I wouldn’t want anyone to think that a cure absolutely is or absolutely is not possible for any given person, because I don’t know. But I think suggesting there is a cure for mental illness overall just isn’t true. We don’t yet have a cure for mental illness. We’re just going to have to live with that fact. But that’s OK. It puts us in good company with epileptics, Parkinsonians, diabetics and many, many others.

A Sidenote

As an aside, the closest thing we currently have to a cure seems to be deep brain stimulation. For those who get it, and for whom it works, it seems to “cure” depression. But this treatment is still in its very early research stages.

Disallowing Depression Misconceptions

→ October 31, 2011 - 26 Comments

Depression MythsI despise bad reporting and I don’t care if you write for a newspaper with a circulation of 3 people or the New York Times – there is no excuse to report badly on mental illness, there is quality information available everywhere.

Point in case is Depression can be treated through lifestyle changes by Danielle Faipler in West Virginia University’s student paper, The Daily Athenaeum.

Comments on Depression can be treated through lifestyle changes

This article contains some of the most widely-spread mistruths about depression and mental illness and is inexcusable. It doesn’t even pass a sanity check (even by an insane person).

Antidepressants are good for short-term treatment, but they do not facilitate with the long-term changes needed to treat the illness, and they add to the growing prescription drug abuse problem in the U.S.

That is absolutely false and I would enjoy seeing any research that indicates otherwise. As I have shown, depressed people who take antidepressants do better long-term and antidepressants are not addictive. Stating otherwise is ignorant or untruthful.

A side effect of antidepressants is hallucinations, and most of the time, different medication is prescribed to the patient.

If the number of people who experienced hallucinations from taking antidepressants alone were to get together for a party, they could fit in my freaking apartment. Yes, it can happen with some antidepressants, but it’s far from common. (And what was the second half of the sentence? What different medication?)

Further Stigmatizing Depression and Mental Illness

A walk in the park may be all it takes for someone with depression to get out of their funk.

If that isn’t one of the most stigmatizing statements, I don’t know what is. Depression is a medical illness and not a bad mood that can be cured by a stroll.

This type of reporting, even if by a student, is unacceptable. It spread lies and does so without scientific backing of any kind. This particular writer and editor should be ashamed of themselves and write a public apology for such nonsense.

It is not acceptable for a newspaper to spread mistruths and further stigma of depression and mental illness. Period.

Please view The Daily Athenaeum’s shameful response to this criticism.

Sleep and Bipolar Disorder – How I Cured My Insomnia – Guest Post

→ October 27, 2011 - 15 Comments

The Bipolar Burble welcomes Leslie Smile for today’s piece on how she recognized that sleep was affecting her bipolar disorder and how she worked to cure her insomnia.

  
I’ve lost many hours holding the wall up with my glazed stare. Unable to calm my mind yet unable to focus my thoughts clearly, I’ve been sleepless for days on end. I would go on through my days like a zombie. “Just keep going,” I’d tell myself. Some days I would come home from work and collapse on my bed until the next morning. I would wake grouchy, confused and still tired. Insomnia doesn’t keep you awake permanently… just until you crash.

Insomnia’s Effects on My Life

[push]I’ve always envied people who sleep easily. Their brains must be cleaner, the floorboards of the skull well swept, all the little monsters closed up in a steamer trunk at the foot of the bed. ~ David Benioff[/push]

The tired feeling morphed into a bone deep lethargy; an energy sucking, crippling fatigue drained me. I began to feel like I could barely survive. I had begun the dip into major depression and bipolar behaviors. I don’t blame my mental illness on my poor sleep nor do I blame my sleeplessness entirely on my mental illness but as I’ve come to learn bipolar disorder and insomnia affect each other in such a way both deserve the attention and respect of proper self-care and good sleep hygiene.

What Didn’t Help My Insomnia and Bipolar Disorder

I had no concept of proper sleep hygiene. First I tried over-the-counter sleep aids, then doctor prescribed sleep aids. Some worked briefly but didn’t give me any sense of being in control of my mental health as their reliability was sketchy at best. Band-Aid solutions were not enough. What could I do?

How I Changed to Help Cure My Insomnia

I rarely gave myself the time for all the things my morning contained. This meant I constantly woke feeling rushed (a very anxiety inducing way to start the day). Focused on getting past insomnia, I started by taking my medications at the same time every day. I made my mornings peaceful waking experiences without coffee. (No coffee?! This was initially a cruel form of torture advised by my doctor, naturopath, and various sleep information rich websites alike.)

Mental Health and Sleeping ProblemsI Had to Want to Cure My Insomnia

At bed time, calming a worrying mind takes practice and effort. Quieting a busy, synapse-firing brain is tricky and left me feeling hopeless at times. Staring at the wall, numb and dissociated from wakefulness and sleep alike is dangerous. I had to want to change before my sleep habits started to improve. Maybe out of desperation or out of new found knowledge I wanted to change.

Training my brain to shut down and wake up at the same time every day is hard. Setting an unwind time alarm and a bedtime alarm felt a little silly at first. I didn’t want to go to bed at 10:30 pm when House was only half over. But I do want to be able to sleep well most nights. My health is more important than House.

More Ways I Cured My Insomnia

I added more artillery to my sleep war chest over time building a stronger defense against insomnia:

  • I removed the clock and any direct light from my sleep area. So many gadgets to hide with their tempestuous glow. No more looking at the clock and being exasperated at the hour I find myself *still* awake.
  • I take my relaxation techniques to bed. Deep breathing, and deep muscle relaxation exercises help put me in the sleep zone.
  • I eat breakfast. It helps keep me from going back to bed and helps my mood too.
  • I start my day with a big glass of cool water instead of fake fuelling myself with sugar and caffeine (did I mention that really sucked at first?).
  • I get out of bed after nine hours. Many people operate fine on seven hours of sleep. Good for those people. If I get up before the ninth hour I’ll take a cursed nap. These are terrible things that I love.
  • I don’t nap. Or I try not to. If I’m tired I try to be aware of that as I continue through my day/evening but it’s good to finish the day tired. That’s an almost guaranteed good night’s sleep. I skip the nap when I can.

Insomnia, Sleep and Me Now

I fall asleep a little easier these days. With the addition of the help of a new medication I’m on for my other mental health issues, I find myself drowsy near the same time nightly.

I still have to force myself many days to get to the kitchen and drink that glass of water. It takes time to make habitual changes. For me, insomnia really is a result of the culmination of habits surrounding my sleep (known as sleep hygiene). I’m sleeping more often than not these past couple weeks and that is an accomplishment. I’m finding the will to start doing the things I love again. I’m learning to follow my bliss in life. It’s the simple things that make the difference, like a good night’s sleep.

Leslie is a mental health patient in Atlantic Canada. She voices her experience getting healthy on Twitter, @SaltySmile. She is passionate about social justice issues, reading, writing, learning and sharing. Contact her at mysaltysmile@gmail.com.

 

More Personal Experiences and Stories of Mental Health

→ October 24, 2011 - 4 Comments

Some of you may recall I did a reader survey a while back on the Bipolar Burble. The vast majority of the feedback was incredibly generous and positive. I appreciate all the feedback.

However, one of the things that came up multiple times was the desire to have more personal mental health stories represented here. People valued the in-depth information but wanted it balanced with life stories of real people with mental illness.

OK. I can do that.

Calling Guest Authors

To that end I’ve been soliciting guest authors and we’ll be seeing subjects like:

Writers Wanted for the Bipolar BlogPersonal Experiences of Mental Illness

I think it’s important people hear from others with mental illness because it puts a real face on the disease. And as much as people can relate to what I write, more people can relate to more kinds of stories.  After all, not everyone is me. And that’s a good thing.

Do You Have a Personal Mental Health Story You’d Like to Share?

Would you like to guest post here? Do you have a personal story of mental illness involving yourself or a loved one? I’d love to hear from friends, family members and significant others as well. They too have invaluable stories to share.

If you’d like to get in touch, leave a comment or find me on Facebook, Google+, Twitter or contact me here.

Your piece can be anonymous if you choose. This is about what you want to talk about and in the way you want to talk about it.

Dealing with Grief with Mental Illness

The first personal experience story is about dealing with the grief of death while dealing with a mental illness coming up later this week.

Stop Trying To Stigmatize Me – Behavioral Health vs. Mental Health

→ October 23, 2011 - 47 Comments

Stop Trying To Stigmatize Me – Behavioral Health vs. Mental Health

It seems it’s more politically correct these days to say “behavioral health” rather than “mental health.” Hospitals and governments are changing their programs from mental health programs to behavioral health problems. And somehow this is progress. Somehow this is less stigmatizing.

How’s that again?

Did my behavior suddenly become a problem while I wasn’t watching? Because, quite frankly, I found the notion there was something wrong with my mind to be insulting enough, to find out that now, my behavior is the problem has pushed me over the insultant edge.

Read more

Beating Insomnia – How to Sleep Better – Part 2

→ October 19, 2011 - 1 Comment

Last time we discussed the routines involved around sleep, part of sleep hygiene, and how to train your brain to get a better night’s sleep. This time I’ll be sharing additional tips and information on how to beat insomnia and sleep better every night.

Daytime Lifestyle and Sleeping Well

What you do in the day can make a big difference to how to sleep at night. As some of the commenters pointed out after the last sleep better post, sunlight is key in getting your body’s rhythm set. If you can get up in the morning and stick your head into the sunshine for half-an-hour that would be ideal. That would trigger the signal in your brain that it was “time to be awake.”

[push]If you can get up in the morning and stick your head into the sunshine for a half-an-hour that would be ideal.[/push]

This though, isn’t the most practical thing for most people. While I dream of a time in life when I can wake up, get a coffee and croissant and enjoy them in the sun on my balcony, that time has not yet arrived. An alternative would be using a light box in the morning (more on light boxes in part 3).

You can also change the light bulbs in your house to full-spectrum lights (like a light box) so that when you turn on the lights, it’s like getting a little bit of sun. That way you can flood your apartment in light even on the darkest winter days.

Other daytime habits to help beat insomnia include:

  • Don’t drink coffee after noon
  • Exercise
  • Don’t eat or drink two hours before bed
  • Don’t nap (yes, I know I said it, but it’s particularly true)

Alcohol and Sleep Don’t Mix

Many people think alcohol will help them sleep. This is not true. Alcohol will make your sleep worse, not better.

How to Beat Insomnia

What alcohol does is induce sleep, which people think is a good thing, but in actual fact, alcohol will decrease the quality of the sleep to the point where getting to sleep sooner will be the least of your worries. Alcohol affects the brain in ways that prevent it from going into stage 3 sleep (or deep sleep) which means you never feel fully rested. This will also negatively effect your mood.

People who drink alcohol also tend to toss and turn all night as they drift in and out of sleep, but they may not remember this in the morning. If alcohol alone disrupts sleep, imagine what mixing alcohol and other drugs could do to your sleeping patterns.

Alcohol and quality sleep don’t mix. Really.

Other Bits of Good Sleep Hygiene

Make sure it’s dark at night. No, not just where you’re sleeping, but for the hour before that as well. Turn off lights and try to signal to your brain that it’s “sleepy time.” Ideally, do something quiet before bed like reading a book using a book light.

This includes not using electronics (yes, the TV and computer) at night. Electronics emit the type of light that makes your brain think it’s time to wake up, not go to sleep, so by staring at them right before bed, you are doing yourself (and your brain) a disservice.

Other tips on sleeping better:

  • Cover the time on the alarm clock – clock-watching leads to anxiety and stress which hampers sleep
  • Keep a worry book by your bed to write down your anxieties should they arise when you’re trying to go to sleep. This way it’s easier to let them go.
  • Sleep on a firm mattress
  • Stop doing mental work one hour before bed
  • Learn relaxation or meditation techniques

More on Beating Insomnia, Getting Better Sleep and Improving Mood

In part 3, I’ll discuss how important light and darkness is to your brain and how it might just help your mood. (Link to part one of the sleeping better series.)

(Yes, that’s my cat Oliver. Yes, he’s adorable.)

Coffee Good for Depression. Sybil Revealed. Bipolar Questions Answered. – 3 New Things

→ October 16, 2011 - 4 Comments

Keep up with mental health news. Three new things in mental health to learn this week:

  • The more coffee (caffeine) your drink, the less likely you’ll be depressed
  • Clinical records of real-life Sybil (part of the basis of “multiple personality disorder”) show likely falsehoods and unethical treatment
  • Get your bipolar questions answered by a clinical psychologist

More Caffeine Decreases the Risk of Depression

This is one of the most marvellous pieces of mental illness information I have heard in a long time – caffeine (coffee) consumption is inversely related to depression. (More on effects of caffeine on mental illness.) In other words, the more coffee you drink the less likely you are to be depressed! Crazy, no?

Well, I guess no. According to a 10-year study of 50,739 women, the women who drank more caffeine were less likely to be depressed. Compared to depressed women who drink one or less cups of coffee per week:

  • The relative risk of depression was 0.85 for women consuming 2-3 cups of coffee per day
  • The relative risk of depression was 0.8 for women consuming 5 or more cups of coffee per day
  • (No increase or decrease in risk was seen in those who drank decaffeinated coffee.)

Increased Caffeine Decreases Depression RiskThat means that women who drank more than 5 cups of coffee per day had even less risk of being depressed than those who drank 2-3 cups of coffee per day. It’s astounding, really.

Now, I’m not suggesting you buy a Starbucks or anything, but the data is quite incredible. I know one thing, I’m not skipping my morning coffee.

(According to their data, 2,607 cases of depression were identified. That number seems really low so they may have set their bar quite high for what qualifies as “depression” and thus this relationship may really exist between caffeine and severe depression, I’m not sure.)

Real Story Behind Sybil and Multiple Personality Disorder

One the more popular pieces on the Bipolar Burble written by a guest author was Everything You Know About Dissociative Identity Disorder is Wrong by Holly Gray. In this article, Holly exposes some of the myths about dissociative identity disorder – previously known as multiple personality disorder. And, of course, multiple personality disorder was made famous by the book (and movie) Sybil.

Dissociative Identity Disorder and Symbil

Provided by Wikipedia

As Holly points out, there aren’t really “multiple personalities” or multiple people, inside one person with dissociative identity disorder, so the name was a misnomer and based on some very bad information – much of it from Sybil’s very public case. And A Girl Not Named Sybil in the New York Times aims to explore some of the problems with the story of Sybil, now known to actually be a woman named Shirley Mason.

Among other things, Mason’s therapist prescribes drugs in an unhealthy (addiction promoting) way and repeatedly administers sodium pentothal (truth serum as it has been commonly known). The article seems to suggest that Mason may have been making some things up and her therapist may not have been acting ethically, possibly making Mason actually worse. Do read the article. It goes to show you how one very loud, possibly untrue, case can overshadow reality.

Bipolar Question and Answer Session

Now, really, I’m your question and answer girl. You have questions, I have answers. But perhaps you’d prefer someone with a Phd to talk to. Well then you might try Dr. Rob (yes, I know). He’s hosting a live bipolar question and answer session on October 24th. You can submit confidential questions now or do so during the live session. If I can find the time I might just take a gander myself.

How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep – Part 1 – Brain Training

→ October 13, 2011 - 9 Comments

How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep – Part 1 – Brain Training

I get asked fairly regularly for insomnia tips or ideas on how to get a good night’s sleep. I actually have quite a bit of knowledge in this area as I’ve written many articles on sleep disorders for other sites. I know many tips and even rules for getting a good night’s sleep.

Read more

Mental Illness Stigma Affects Psychiatrists Too – Who Wants to be a Psychiatrist?

→ October 9, 2011 - 39 Comments

Recently I read Invisible Tattoos: The stigma of psychiatry by Dr. Henry A. Nasrallah in Current Psychiatry. Invisible Tattoos is an editorial piece on how the stigma of mental illness affects psychiatrists just like it affects the mentally ill. And my reaction?

Oh cry me a freaking river.

I thought the piece was a little whiny and navel-gazing. I mean seriously, these people are respected professionals making lots of money – they don’t have an illness threatening to kill them every day.

But then I got a comment from a medical student and I reconsidered my position. Maybe antipsychiatry poster-boy Tom Cruise doesn’t just fuck around with the way people look at me, maybe he fucks around with the way people look at psychiatrists too. And maybe stigma is difficult for psychiatrists too.

Antipsychiatry vs. Psychiatry

People, mostly antipsychiatrists, tell me I’m evil because I’m a pharma-shill as evidenced by this site. And perhaps more insidiously, others insist I’m really just caught up in a giant web of pharmacology conspiracy and I’m just too stupid and naive to know any better – thus writing me and my opinions off nicely.

This is all falderal, naturally, but the antipsychiatry folks have to have some hatred to hurl at me, I suppose.

But consider for the moment, if I am evil for what I do, how despicable a doctor – someone who prescribes the evil for others – must be.

Psychiatry and Stigma

According to Invisible Tattoos psychiatrists face stigma from their family and friends, just like the mentally ill.

  • Stigma: Psychiatrists aren’t “real” doctors.
  • Reality: Psychiatrists are not only medical doctors who attended the same medical schools but they attended additional schooling to become a psychiatrist as psychiatry is a further specialty.
  • Stigma: Psychiatrists are only money-driven.
  • Reality: Psychiatrists make less money than many other specialties and in the US, health insurance companies reimburse at lower rates for psychiatric services than other medical specialties.
  • Stigma: Psychiatry treatment is considered a failure.
  • Reality: The success rates in psychiatry are virtually the same, and in some cases higher, than other specialties.

Medical Students and Antipsychiatry

And not only do all these ridiculous antipsychiatry statements affect practicing doctors but they also affect medical students considering going into the field of psychiatry as this medical students expresses:

. . . in medical school and in society I keep picking up a negative perception towards mental illness. My family members keep trying to persuade me to pick internal medicine and do cardiology or GI . . . They feel that the good pay is worth it and at least I get respect from society. Even within medicine, other students tell me not to pick Psychiatry as I won’t be paid nearly as much as the more lucrative specialties such as Gastroenterology. And I won’t have to put up with society’s bullshit and demonization.

This makes becoming a psychiatrist a very difficult proposition. Do you willingly become a pariah among your family, friends and colleagues or do you go with a branch of medicine that pays more and people respect?

It’s a wonder anyone becomes a psychiatrist at all.

Why Do People Become Psychiatrists?

Well, as I’m not a psychiatrist, I can’t say for sure, but I believe, hold onto your hats, they do it to help people. That’s right, the evil-pill-pushing monsters are really trying to help people with very severe, possibly lethal, illnesses. Imagine that.

Again, this medical student expresses his reasons,

I came into medical school wanting to do Psychiatry because I particularly enjoyed working closely with patients and people, and personally feel that Mental Illness can be far more devastating than other types of illness . . . some patients may also have heart disease and diabetes, but the schizophrenia when uncontrolled leads to them not taking their pills and a downward spiral culminating in disaster. Then when I see how most patients with mental illness get ripped on by family members and society in general I feel like helping them all the more.

Ah. Evil.

Psychiatrists and AntipsychiatryPlease Become a Psychiatrist

I don’t know the person who left these comments here, but what I do know is we need more people like that in psychiatry. What I know is it’s hard to stand up against antipsychiatry, intolerance and hatred. What I know is there are more sick people than doctors can handle and one more with a good heart can save lives.

And while I have my problems with doctors, medicine, psychiatry and psychiatrists, I will stand behind their work and always say they are doing the best they can to help people that the rest of society would happily write off.

I will never stand behind those who are not good psychiatrists, those who would abuse their power or who don’t care about their patients. But these are not the average psychiatrist. The average psychiatrist is a caring person who sees psychotic patients not because it’s lucrative or fun, but because they honestly want to help better the lives of others.

So please become a psychiatrist and I will stand with you against the hate. You deserve to be respected every bit as much as I do.

Bipolar Terminology: The Difference Between Bipolar I and Bipolar II

→ October 5, 2011 - 53 Comments

Bipolar Terminology: The Difference Between Bipolar I and Bipolar II

Sometimes I get so wrapped up in research, I forget some people are looking for some introductory information like the different between the types of bipolar disorder. Thanks to commenter on my GooglePlus feed, I was reminded of this fact and I decided to answer her question here so I could give her more detail.

Bipolar Terminology

Unfortunately, within bipolar terminology resides more bipolar terminology. But don’t be scared, I have information on most terms on my site and I shall try to walk gently into that good encyclopedia.

But let’s try to get rid of the terminology confusion: What is the difference between bipolar type I and bipolar type II?

Read more

Bipolar’s Not Bad Enough – We Beat Ourselves Up – Advice

→ October 3, 2011 - 16 Comments

Part of having a mental illness like bipolar disorder is having a brain that hates you. A brain that overreacts to the slightest perceived imperfection. All it takes is believing that we have done something wrong for our brain to see it as a capital offense and spend hours or days beating ourselves up about it.

This is pretty de rigueur for someone with a mental illness (especially depression or anxiety).

Bipolar Making You Beat Yourself UpBeating Yourself Up Over a Perceived Error

And this morning I got an email from someone in just this situation. This person had spent some time with friends and felt they were overly-anxietious, overly-talkative, overly-hyper and so on. And unfortunately, this person was using this perception to beat themselves up.

This is wrong. Please read my response to this person. I hope it will help anyone in this situation (which includes me, from time to time).

To those who would beat themselves up over a perceived mistake:

First of all, be gentle with yourself. This is a Buddhist concept. You deserve to be treated as well as you treat others. You’re being far too harsh.

You have to understand that your perception of what happened might be skewed. You may not have been nearly as anxious, hyper, talkative, and so on, as you think. And even if you were, others may not have found that a negative.

You’re basically beating yourself up for something that might not have even happened!

Additionally, try to remember that you’re not perfect, none of us are. Even if you weren’t perfect yesterday, that’s OK, because none of us meet that standard. These people care for you and aren’t going to judge you nearly as harshly as you’re judging yourself because they’re not perfect either.

You try your best, every day, which we all do, and that is good enough. Your flaws are OK. Your imperfections are OK. You didn’t do anything wrong or bad it’s just your brain trying to make you think you did. Brains tend to lie. You were just like everyone else. Which is what we all are.

Try to remember to be gentle. It’s rough out there. You deserve to be your own best friend.

Free rTMS, Brain Changes in Depressed Females, Why Anti-Benzodiazepine? – 3 New Things

→ September 29, 2011 - 4 Comments

Last week I didn’t post three new things but don’t take that to mean I wasn’t learning because I certain was, and always am. For this week I have these three new pieces of information to share:

  • Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) treatment for depression to be free for (some) Canadians
  • Brain changes are noted in depressed females
  • Why are some doctors anti-benzodiazepine?

1. Free rTMS in Manitoba (Canada)

RTMS stands for repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation and is a treatment for treatment-resistant depression. RTMS is considered a neurostimulation therapy, like electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), but is non-invasive. RTMS has its pros and its cons.

  • Pros – rTMS is drug-free, has few side-effects and can produce remission from depression in some people
  • Cons – rTMS is expensive, intensive and its therapeutic effects are generally temporary

Cost of RTMS

Most people don’t get rTMS due to the cost. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation requires 2 sessions per day for 10 days (weekends off) plus and additional possible 5-10 sessions depending on the reaction to treatment. Needless to say, this is one expensive therapy. In Canada that works out to $5000 – $7500 and in the States lord only knows how much.

Differences in Brains of Depressed WomenFree RTMS

And Manitoba is taking the very civilized step forward of offering rTMS as part of the public health care system, which is how it should be. The only reason why it isn’t is cost. You can get rTMS in Canada, but this is the first time I’ve heard of it being free.

Congratulations to Manitoba for taking a step forward in helping people with a mental illness. I hope this is the sign of things to come across the country.

2. Brain Changes Noted in Depressed Females

Women are twice as likely to develop depression as men but no one knows why. This study takes a look at female brains to look for biological identifying markers between depressed brains and well brains.

. . . depressed women had a pattern of reduced expression of certain genes, including the one for brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and of genes that are typically present in particular subtypes of brain cells, or neurons, that express the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA.) These findings were observed in the amygdala, which is a brain region that is involved in sensing and expressing emotion.

BDNF and GABA in Depressed Brains of Women

BDNF is something I’ve mentioned before as to a biological cause of depression. Yes, just another fact to chalk up for all the people saying depression is just “in your head.”

And work toward identifying the gene that contributes to depression:

. . . researchers tested mice engineered to carry different mutations in the BDNF gene to see its impact on the GABA cells. They found two mutations that led to the same deficit in the GABA subtype and that also mirrored other changes seen in the human depressed brain.

I keep telling people: We’re getting closer to effective treatments and understanding every day.

3. The Religion of Benzodiazepines – Why Some Doctors Don’t Prescribe Benzos

I’ve taken benzodiazepines (benzos) of one type or another for a decade and never once had a problem with them, but many people do develop tolerance, dependence and drug-seeking behavior around this type of medication.

My opinion is that benzodiazepine medications can be used quite safely when properly handled, but that some people have the tendency to get addicted to medications, and for them, these medications may be contraindicated. In other words, it’s down to the individual and prescription of benzos cannot be characterized as “bad” or “good” in a blanket statement.

I plan on writing a whole article about this, but if you’d like a sneak peek about why some doctors are anti-benzodiazepine, check out this article in Psychiatric Times.

Until next week all, when I shall learn more and do better.

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