Are you shopping for someone this year who is going through a hard time with depression? While you may have the urge to buy them something that will cheer them up it may be better to concentrate on what will provide them with stress relief and physical comfort. For example, are they dealing with financial problems because their illness makes it difficult for them to work? In this case, a gift of cash would provide welcome relief from the high stress levels that maybe exacerbating their depression. And, a good book and a warm pair of pajamas might be just the ticket for the physical comfort that they are craving.
To get further ideas, I polled our members to see what they thought would make a thoughtful and comforting gift for someone who wasn't feeling well during the holiday season. Here are some of the answers they gave. If you have ideas that you'd like to share, please leave them below in the comments section.
While the holidays are commonly thought of as a time of joy and celebration, they may be a time of a time of sadness and isolation for the elderly, especially if they have lost loved ones or are experiencing health or financial difficulties.
According to the American Geriatrics Society, there are some things that seniors can do combat holiday depression.
- Get out and about. Ask friends and relatives for help in getting to parties and events or invite them to your home.
- Volunteer. Volunteer work can lift your mood by taking your mind off your own troubles. Contact local schools, religious organizations or charities to learn about opportunities.
- Don't drink too much alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant and can make you feel even worse.
- Accept and express your feelings. There's nothing wrong with feeling blue. Talking about it can help you understand why you feel like you do.
- Recognize the signs of depression. Symptoms of depression include sadness that doesn't pass; loss of interest or pleasure; changes in appetite or weight; sleeping more than normal; frequent crying; feeling restless or tired all the time; feeling worthless, helpless or guilty; slowed thinking and thoughts of death or suicide.
- See your healthcare provider. If you are depressed, see your physician. Depression is very treatable and you do not have to suffer.
Many older people do not realize that they are depressed, however, and it may be up to friends and family to recognized the signs and encourage them to seek assistance. If you suspect that someone you know is depressed, there are some things you can do to help.
- Invite them to do things with you. Invite them to go places with you and to holiday gatherings. Be aware that they may need help with transportation or special needs such as diet.
- Help with holiday tasks. Offer to help them with holiday shopping and preparation for get-togethers in their own home.
- Be a good listener. Encourage them to talk about how they are feeling and acknowledge that they may be going through a difficult time.
- Encourage them to talk with their healthcare provider. Let them know that you are concerned about their well-being and that depression is a medical illness and nothing to be ashamed of. Offer to make an appointment for them and take them there.
You can learn more about depression in the elderly by visiting the Web site of the American Geriatrics Society's Foundation for Health in Aging.
According to Mark DeSilva, MD, medical director, Emergency Department, Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, even though suicide rates go down around the holidays this does not mean that holiday depression is any less. In fact, emergency room visits often go up during this time of the year because those with depression feel lonely and left out of the festivities, exacerbating their depressed mood.
For those with no friends, family or support system the holidays can bring out deadly behavior such as alcohol and drug abuse as the individual attempts to cope with his feelings of alienation and sadness, DaSilva noted.
DaSilva offered the following 5 signs as opportunities to recognize holiday depression and intervene:
- Repeatedly avoiding social interaction
- Anger and pessimism about the holiday season
- Excessive alcohol and drug use
- Missing or being very late for work and social events
- Excessive sleeping
If you see these behaviors take action immediately, said DaSilva. Talk with them and offer to help. Make them aware of the programs and services in their community that can help.
"By recognizing when a person is in trouble, and speaking out, you may not only save them a trip to the ED, but also save a life," he said.
According to a newly revealed study, scientists have located new areas of the brain which appear to be linked to depression and anxiety as well as new mechanisms involved in these conditions. These findings suggest possible new targets for understanding and treating mental illness, the researchers say.
Over 350 million people around the world suffer from depression and between 5 to 25 percent of adults deal with generalized anxiety, according to World Health Organization statistics. In many cases, antidepressants either do not give complete relief from symptoms or they come with severe side effects. Finding newer and better ways to treat depression would be of tremendous benefit to patients and their families.
The study, which was presented at Neuroscience 2013, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, revealed the following findings:
- A potential biomarker for depression, a molecule found in the immune system which may contribute to the illness, has been found
- When a chemical signal in the amygdala, an area of the brain connected with emotional processing, is decreased it appears to reduce depression symptoms in mice
- MicroRNAs, which are very small molecules which can change gene expression, appears to be linked to how mice respond to socially stressful situations with behavior similar to depression
- A pathway between the amygdala and the hippocampus appear to play a part in anxiety. When this connection is shut down, anxious behavior in mice becomes less pronounced
- When humans with anxiety disorders go through unpleasant experiences, especially severe ones, they tend to over-generalize and respond to future similar situation with stronger emotions
According Dr. Lisa Monteggia of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, who moderated a press conference associated with the event, "These exciting discoveries represent the potential for significant changes in how we diagnose and treat these illnesses that touch millions." Whether these new targets for treating mental illness pan out remains to be seen, but it does shine a ray of hope for those who are currently struggling with depression and anxiety disorders.
The problem with all of this that no one talks about or even admits is that, at least in this country, someone perceived to be depressed or suicidal is forcibly tossed into a psych ward that is the physical manifestation of what drove them to that state of mind to begin with. They are further stripped of their dignity and treated to staff who are abusive, nasty, dictatorial and just-plain mean to them, ignoring their personal or medical needs just enough to bring one to the very edges of their despair. No wonder so many make sure they succeed. These places hire goons to "control" (more likely terrorize) people ("patients") and intimidate them into proscribed "acceptable" behaviors considered "normal," with little or no consideration for their REAL needs. The most abusive people I have encountered are those working these "hotlines."
The very worst are those who capitulate after forced shock therapy, which, from my observation, cows the victim into subjugation to this MOST vile and routinely abusive environment. It's a wonder there aren't more suicides in these places. But how many make damn sure they succeed once they get out? My best friend was one who did and I can't say I blame her, given what she was forced to endure. To me, this is akin to political torture, sanctioned in a supposedly Democratic country. Why are we at all surprised? People need REAL practical help, not info and referral (the royal buck-pass) or abusive so-called "interventions."
Again from my observations and thinking, these sadistic bastards, masquerading as "caring individuals" just want to "save" them so they can have the pleasure of killing them off slowly themselves; genocide with a twist. Seems psych has invalidated itself. People need active and practical love and comfort, not the nonsense too-long passed off as "therapeutic" crap that has become commoditized to support this fallacious philosophy called "psychology." It is treated as a hard science when, in fact, it is an art that is, unfortunately, practiced as a marital art, when what is really needed by those most wounded is supportive, practical, action and not the adversarial and notoriously abusive business it has been allowed, even encouraged, to become.
I'd like to see this addressed.
According to a study published in PLOS Medicine on November 5, 2013, depression is estimated to be the second leading cause of disability in the world.
In order to reach this conclusion, Alize Ferrari from the University of Queensland and the Queensland Centre for Mental Health worked with a team to pull together data from all published studies dealing with major depression and dysthmia.
They then analyzed the data in order to estimate what is called "disability-adjusted life years" (DALYs). DALYs provide a standardized estimate of disease burden and are calculated by adding together "years lived with a disability" (YLDs) and "years lost because of disease-specific premature death" (YLLs). For countries with very little available data, the authors used "reasonable" estimates rather than actual numbers.
When they compared major depression to other diseases and injuries, they found that it ranked as the number two cause of disability worldwide (YLDs). It was also the eleventh leading cause of global burden (DALYs).
The researchers say that major depression also contributes to deaths due to several other causes - such as suicide and coronary artery disease - so they wanted to take these factors into account as well. When they factored in these, major depression became the eighth leading cause of global burden.
Individual countries varied in how much they were affected by depression, however. Rates of disability were highest in Afghanistan, but lowest in Japan. Depression also ranked as the first leading cause of disability in Central and Southeast Asia, as well as in Central America.
People in their working years were most affected by disability resulting from depression, the study authors said. And, women were affected more often than men.
The researchers note that not only does their study show how important the burden of depression is worldwide, it also points out variations in burden based upon location, age, gender and year.
The results of the study are available to the public on the PLOS Medicine website.
- Is Depression a Legitimate Disability?
- Depressed Workers Less Productive, Even With Antidepressant Treatment
Do you think you may be depressed? Although a screening test cannot be used to diagnosed you with clinical depression, it can help you learn whether you have depression symptoms and should seek further evaluation from a doctor. Our test is free, simple to use and can be taken right now in the privacy of your own home.
It all starts with a small piece of chocolate (just one won't hurt, right?) and pretty soon you've polished off all of your kids' Halloween candy. Then come the feelings of shame and guilt. Why are we so powerless against those sweet little bits of sugary comfort? If you find yourself binging on candy and sweets, there could be a very good reason for it. Experts say it could be a way of self-medicating depression.
Dropping your habit of drinking sugary, caffeinated beverages like Coke and Pepsi could make you feel better, research suggests.
Cross-national epidemiologic studies have identified a possible link between sugar intake and rates of major depressive disorders. In addition, when researchers took a look at the diets of people with depression, they found that their sugar consumption was much higher than the general population.
It wasn't just sugar that seemed to be a culprit, however. One small cohort trial found that when people eliminated sugar and caffeine from their diet those with unexplained depression experienced improved moods within a week. When caffeine and sugar were reintroduced into their diet, their symptoms returned; but, placebo did not produce the same effect. Giving further credence to the caffeine-depression link, another study found that regular consumption of high levels of caffeine (>750 mg daily) appears to be associated with depression.
While it's not for certain that your depression will improve if you stop drinking soda, it certainly can't hurt and there are myriad other reasons why it's better for your health to avoid them, so why not give it a try?
Just can't live without your fizzy fix? Try mixing sparkling water with a little fruit juice. It's delicious and good for you too!
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While St. John's wort has been shown to be quite helpful in mild to moderate depression, the average person in Canada may have a difficult time benefiting from it. Why? Because herbal manufacturers may be skimping on ingredients. According to a study out of the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, the majority of the herbal products on the market there either contain cheaper substitutes for the herbs listed on the label or they use fillers.
The study, which was published on October 11, 2013 in the journal BMC Medicine, used DNA barcoding technology to test whether the plant species contained in products sold by 12 different companies were indeed the herbs that they were claimed to be.
Rather shockingly, only 2 out of the 12 companies' products contained exactly what was listed on their labels, rather than making substitutions or adding contaminants or fillers.
Sixty percent of the products tested contained plant species which were not listed on the label and different herbs were substituted for the main ingredient in 32 percent of the samples tested.
Of special concern for anyone with allergies, the researchers also found that 20 percent of the products tested contained rice, soy or wheat fillers which were not listed on the label.
These findings represent a great health risk for people who use herbs, said study author Steven Newmaster, a biology professor and botanical director of the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario. Some of the plant species which were found in the products are either toxic, have side effects or may interact negatively with other herbs or medications.
One troubling finding for those who use the popular herb St. John's wort for depression was the fact that one particular product which was tested contained the herbal laxative Senna alexandrina. Long-term use of this herb can cause chronic diarrhea, liver damage and problems with the immune cells in the colon.
According to Newmaster, there is a great need to protect herbal consumers from product fraud because these abuses can do significant damage to unsuspecting consumers. His research team has been developing standard methods to use DNA barcoding technology to analyze herbal products for purity.
The medicinal herb market is rapidly growing, with more than 1,000 companies around the world selling $60 billion dollars worth of products annually.
Although Canada has regulated their herbal products since 2004, the process is backed up and many products on the market do not have a full product license.