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Mental Health Archive
Treating obsessive-compulsive disorder
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which affects 2% to 3% of people worldwide, often causes suffering for years before it is treated correctly — both because of delays in diagnosis and because patients may be reluctant to seek help.
Although OCD tends to be a chronic condition, with symptoms that flare up and subside over a patient's lifetime, effective help is available. Only about 10% of patients recover completely, but 50% improve with treatment.
As the name implies, OCD is characterized by two hallmark symptoms. Obsessions are recurring and disturbing thoughts, impulses, or images that cause significant anxiety or distress. Compulsions are feelings of being driven to repeat behaviors, usually following rigid rules (such as washing hands multiple times after each meal). When these symptoms interfere with work, social activities, and personal relationships, it is time to consider treatment.
Marijuana use may be harmful to mental health—The Family HealthGuide
Marijuana use may be harmful to mental health
Think smoking marijuana is harmless? Think again. Chronic users of the drug often find themselves lacking motivation. Some even seem depressed or have other signs of mental illness. But does chronic marijuana use lead to psychiatric problems? Or do people suffering from mental illness use marijuana to self-medicate? While this drug was becoming increasingly popular with young people in the 1990s, researchers were busy trying to figure out if marijuana was a cause or an effect of psychiatric problems. And their work seems to have paid off. Research now indicates that marijuana use increases the risk of depression, as well as schizophrenia. But at the same time, depressed people do not use marijuana more often than their non-depressed counterparts.
In an Australian study, researchers interviewed 1,600 14- and 15-year-olds, then again seven years later. Participants filled out a questionnaire, reporting on their use of marijuana and symptoms of depression or anxiety. A surprising 60% of the participants had used marijuana by the time they were 20. The researchers found that the young women who had used marijuana weekly as teenagers were twice as likely to have depression as a young adult than women who did not use the drug. Daily use as a teenager was associated with four times the risk of depression for young women.
Childhood Depression and Postpartum Psychiatric Depressive
Mood and Anxiety Disorders
Childhood Depression and Postpartum Psychiatric Depressive
In the United States, more than 2 million adults suffer from bipolar manic depressive disorder, an illness of extreme moods. It is characterized by deep depression followed by periods of hyperactivity and elation, referred to as mania, with periods of normal mood in between. Bipolar disorder often leads to substance abuse and one in four people with the condition attempt suicide.
In a recent study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, researchers set out to determine how often major childhood depression turns into bipolar disorder. The researchers followed up on 72 subjects who, at an average age of 10.3 years, had been treated for major depressive disorder with the tricyclic antidepressant drug nortriptyline. They also studied 28 normal subjects.
At the time of follow-up, the average age of the subjects who had had prepubertal major depressive disorder was 20.7 years. Of these subjects, 33.3% now had bipolar disorder, compared to none of the normal comparison subjects.
These results may, in part, be due to heredity. A large portion of the prepubertal children who had been diagnosed with a major depressive disorder had family histories of bipolar disorder. Because bipolar disorder tends to run in families, these children may have been more vulnerable to developing the condition. Another possibility is that the children who were originally treated with nortriptyline already had bipolar disorder, but had not yet experienced their first manic episode.
Clinicians treating children with antidepressants should be aware of the risk that children with major depressive disorder may develop adult bipolar manic depressive disease.
Another study, published in Psychology and Medicine, sought to determine the long-term prognosis of women with postpartum psychiatric disorders. 50-80% of women experience some degree of postpartum depression within one month of delivering a child. Postpartum psychiatric disorders are more extreme.
The study authors used standardized questionnaires to determine the long-term outcome of 64 women who had been hospitalized with postpartum psychiatric disorders 23 years earlier, and who had been interviewed for a 1982 study of women with diagnoses of schizophrenia, schizo-affective, bipolar, or unipolar affective disorders.
The researchers found that 75% of the women had recurrent psychiatric illness, and 37% of the women had at least three subsequent episodes. However, only 29% of the 34 women who gave birth after the initial postpartum psychiatric disorder had additional episodes of maternal psychiatric illness. In addition, a majority of the 64 women were functioning well in society; 71-73% were employed and in stable relationships.
The women with the best outcomes were those who had an initial diagnosis of unipolar disorder, those who experienced psychiatric illness after a first pregnancy, and those whose psychiatric illness started within one month of delivery.
July 2001 Update
How your attitudes affect your health
A positive view of life and aging may help you live longer.
Giving life two thumbs up may help you stay healthier.
Do you look forward to the next week? Do you feel younger than your age? Do you have a sense of purpose? If so, you may already have done something to reduce your risk of degenerative diseases and may even be adding years to your life.
The lowdown on low-grade depression
It's called dysthymia, and it often goes unnoticed and thus undiagnosed and untreated.
Everyone feels down at some time. You may lack energy, have trouble sleeping, or just feel blah. The feeling often goes away, or it comes and goes, but does not seem like a cause for concern. Yet if these blue feelings persist, they could be a red flag for a type of depression called dysthymia, or low-grade depression.
"Even though dysthymia is regarded as a lesser form of depression, it should be taken seriously," explains Dr. David Mischoulon, psychiatrist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. "Its persistent hold can interfere with your health, family, and social life."
More than a happiness boost: How mood medications help when you’re depressed
Antidepressants can help reduce insomnia, loss of appetite, and fatigue associated with depression.
When your doctor recommends an antidepressant to fight depression—such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)—it’s about more than just boosting your mood. Depression has many potential physical effects. “Most people aren’t aware that depression can lead to other health problems,” says Dr. Amanda Hernandez, a geriatrician at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.
Yes, you can stick to an exercise regimen!
Put some oomph into your intentions with simple strategies to keep you on track.
The new year brings new resolve. But if this is the year you’re finally going to start exercising and keep exercising, you’ll need strategies to back up your good intentions. “Research indicates that people have limited reserves of willpower that are taxed by many different aspects of life, such as eating a healthy diet or doing household chores. If you exhaust your will-power in one area, you’ll have less to expend in the others,” says Rachel Wilson, a physical therapist with Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
If you are returning to exercise after a long break, or if you’ve never exercised, get your doctor’s okay first. Then use some of the following strategies to stay on the path to a healthier lifestyle.
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