Anxiety and Depression

Brain science suggests “mind wandering” can help manage anxiety

Srini Pillay, MD
Srini Pillay, MD, Contributor

The wandering mind can get stuck on negative thoughts and start to “react” to a perceived threat that feels very real–and makes you feel anxious. Naming the negative feeling associated with that thought and then helping your mind wander in a more positive direction can help.

Talk to the animals: Animal-assisted therapy offers emotional support

Matthew Solan
Matthew Solan, Executive Editor, Harvard Men's Health Watch

Interacting with animals can be helpful to people dealing with issues like anxiety and depression. Animal-assisted therapy is used in settings such as retirement communities and hospitals, and can be helpful for those affected by traumatic events.

Can hormonal birth control trigger depression?

Monique Tello, MD, MPH
Monique Tello, MD, MPH, Contributor

Research from Denmark found an association between the use of hormonal birth control and an increased likelihood of depression. While the risk of depression among women using hormonal forms of birth control was clearly increased, the overall number of women affected was small and was found to be highest in women under 20.

Health benefits of hiking: Raise your heart rate and your mood

Julie Corliss
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

Hiking is good for you both physically and mentally. It provides a great cardiovascular workout, improves balance, and is a natural stress reliever. Hikes can range from gentle strolls to uphill terrain, so there’s always a way to challenge yourself. Look for trails near you by checking out local, state, and national parks.

An approach to therapy that may make depression treatment more accessible

James Cartreine, PhD
James Cartreine, PhD, Contributing Editor

A recent study showed that behavioral activation can be an effective alternative to cognitive behavioral therapy for treating depression. This type of therapy emphasizes engaging in activities that can improve mental health, for example, connecting with people. Its advantage is that it takes less time and is less expensive to train people in behavioral activation so it may mean more therapists available at lower cost.

Can exercise help relieve teen depression?

Nandini Mani, MD
Nandini Mani, MD, Contributing Editor

Depression isn’t confined to adulthood. One recent survey showed that nearly 11% of adolescents ages 12-17 were depressed. But one treatment commonly used to combat depression in adults may also be beneficial for adolescents who suffer from depression. According to a recent meta-analysis collected from rigorously evaluated studies, adolescents may experience improvement in their depression symptoms if they incorporate exercise into their treatment.

The (not-so-hidden) costs of caregiving

Leo Newhouse, LICSW
Leo Newhouse, LICSW, Contributor

Americans provide nearly $650 billion worth of unpaid caregiving for their ill or aging loved ones every year. But the less tangible costs are important, too. A new study has revealed that caregivers of critically ill family members are at high risk for depression — and that this risk remains high long after the initial health crisis is over. Fortunately, there are several strategies caregivers can use to keep their bodies — and minds — healthy.

What men can gain from therapy

Matthew Solan
Matthew Solan, Executive Editor, Harvard Men's Health Watch

Men are often reluctant to seek therapy. After all, it involves asking for help and talking candidly about one’s emotions, two things that many men are eager to avoid. But men should know that there’s no need to “tough out” whatever they’re going through. There are plenty of professionals out there who are ready and willing to lend an ear.

Antidepressants and pregnancy: More research needed

Monique Tello, MD, MPH
Monique Tello, MD, MPH, Contributor

A significant number of pregnant women suffer from depression. However, there are still many unanswered questions about how best to treat depression during pregnancy, especially regarding the use of a class of antidepressants called SSRIs. We’ve taken a look at some of the most salient research on the topic and listed tips for what to do if you’re pregnant (or planning a pregnancy) and think you may be depressed.

More than sad: Depression affects your ability to think

James Cartreine, PhD
James Cartreine, PhD, Contributing Editor

We often think of depression as making someone feel “down,” but it can sometimes show up as cognitive symptoms — for example, trouble with adapting to new information or thinking through a solution to a problem. Researchers recently determined that several common depression medications are not effective at relieving cognitive symptoms. But there are several things people with depression can try to help return themselves to their usual level of cognitive functioning.