Mental Health

Could your lifestyle be getting you down? Part 2

It was the early 1990s. I was just starting as a trainee psychiatrist. She was one of the first patients with depression who I was responsible for. At the time I was a junior doctor on a six month rotation getting experience in a busy outpatient clinic. I had about 20 minutes to evaluate how she was doing, review her diagnosis and decide on treatment options. But this particular lady  just did not seem to be getting better in spite of all the different medications and therapies that were being
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Could your lifestyle be what is getting you down?

Stephen Ilardi is an Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Kansas. The 20 minute video below presents an interesting perspective on depression. The main emphasis is on how our modern sedentary lifestyle is incompatible with good mental health. For what might appear to be a negative subject it is actually very enlightening and even uplifting! Professor Illardi’s video presents a strong case for re-evaluating how we manage our lives. In particular I will highlight the following observations:
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What are the forms of Major Depressive Disorder?

Major Depressive Disorder is a crippling condition. In the severest form, as well as a greater intensity of the symptoms mentioned in the classification system called the DSM  (see Is The Rate of Depression Actually Increasing or Not?), there can also be what are called psychotic symptoms in the form of delusions and hallucinations. A delusion is a firmly held fixed belief that is out of keeping with the person’s social and cultural background. It is held with strong conviction despite evidence to the contrary. Types of delusions that are present can
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Rick Warren and the secret anguish of Major Depressive Disorder

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of one of the largest churches in the United States with an attendance of approximately 20,000 every week. He is also the author of The Purpose Driven Life book which has sold over 30 million copies. In 2005 Time magazine named him as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. In 2006 Newsweek called him “One of the 15 People who make America Great.” For someone with such outer success he has attracted both great appreciation and great antagonism. However, Rick and
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Why has there been a 400% increase in the prescribing of antidepressants?

We have been looking at making sense of how the word ‘Depression’ is used. This is particularly important as rates of depression appear to be rising dramatically around the world (see previous post). We have looked at how psychiatrists diagnose depression using the DSM and ICD classification systems. One of the unintended consequences of this has been that there has been the confusion of distinguishing general sadness from actual depressive illness. Depression is used as a synonym for sadness. However, there is also a clinical condition of Major Depressive Disorder
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Is the rate of depression actually increasing or not?

The word ‘depression’ is such a confusing term. It is used frequently in day-to-day conversation and it is also used in what is intended to be a more precise clinical way by doctors and psychiatrists. According to the psychologist Martin Seligman, people born since 1945 are 10 times more likely to suffer from depression than those born before. Depression has been described as the number 1 psychological disorder in the western world. It is said to be growing in all age groups, in virtually every community, and the growth is
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I had a black dog

The following 4 minute video was produced by the World Health Organisation in collaboration with the writer and illustrator Matthew Johnstone. It simply and powerfully depicts the struggles of depression along with the importance of getting outside help: It was Churchill who first referred to his depression as his ‘black dog’. It is a useful metaphor as it helps the individual to separate themselves from the negative feelings they are going through. The author C.S. Lewis’ description from his children’s book The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe describes Narnia
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Failure and Depression: The other side of Lincoln’s life

Abraham Lincoln was a truly remarkable individual. In 1909 this is what Leo Tolstoy (who was certainly no intellectual light weight) wrote about him in his book ‘The World’: “The greatness of Napoleon, Caesar or Washington is only moonlight by the sun of Lincoln. His example is universal and will last thousands of years…. He was bigger than his country – bigger than all the Presidents together…. and as a great character he will live as long as the world lives.” (For a glimpse into why Tolstoy used such hyperbole
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Lincoln: How depression moulded a great leader

I am almost ashamed and embarrassed to admit it – especially to my American readers. I’ve loved history, but one historical figure who over the years I’ve known very little about is Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865).  I never studied him at school and he seemed distant and aloof from a different time and culture. Yet his accomplishments would easily make him one of the all time world’s greatest leaders. Raised in poverty, he only had one year of formal schooling. He taught himself law, before eventually becoming the 16th President of
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Who would you choose: Chamberlain or Churchill?

Churchill or Chamberlain. Who was the better leader? On one level it might seem obvious. Neville Chamberlain was the one who gave in to Hitler’s never ending demands, while Churchill was the one who could see the Nazi threat from afar and realised that appeasement was dangerously flawed. It was Churchill’s determination and passion that led a nation and the world during the dark days of World War 2. (see previous post). In his book,  “A First Rate Madness -Uncovering the Link between Leadership and Mental Illness,” the psychiatrist Nassir
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Did Churchill’s depression make him a great war-time leader?

Winston Churchill has been described as one of the greatest war-time leaders of the world. His leadership of Britain during the dark days of 1939-45 was pivotal in the outcome of World War 2. (For more on this see The Importance of Right Attitude Part 2). He was a fiery orator, recognised as the man who refused to submit to tyranny and through whom first a nation and then the world found strength to resist and ultimately prevail. But behind this great persona and larger than life character was a
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Lessons on happiness from a 108 year old!

Alice Herz Sommer is a remarkable woman. She is a Jewish holocaust survivor who in spite of her experiences has an incredibly positive view on life. This 13 minute video was filmed in London 3 weeks before her 108th birthday! The narrator makes a powerful claim that “Alice experiences more joy in an average day than most people experience in a lifetime!” She was apparently swimming everyday until she was 97 and even now practices the piano  3 hours a day. As I watched the video it struck me how
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What is the single most important thing I can do to improve my physical health?

What is the single most important thing you can do for your physical health?  Apparently, this intervention can dramatically reduce disability and pain from knee arthritis (47%), progression of Alzheimer’s dementia (50%), development of diabetes (58%), hip fracture in postmenopausal women (41%), anxiety (47%), depression (30-47%), lower the risk of death (23%), is the first line treatment for fatigue and can dramatically improve quality of life. The entertaining 9 minute video below (that has been seen approaching 4 million times on the Internet) explains what it is and the answer
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How do I cope with stress in my life? Part 5

 As we continue this series on ways to cope with stress in our lives, we have emphasised the importance of appropriate thinking about everything that is going on around us (see video in part 4). We have shown how our perception of what is happening to us is at least as important as what is actually going on (part 1). We have also looked at some ways we can handle stress in our lives (part 2) and challenged some of the myths that surround our thinking around stress (part 3). But the
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How do I cope with stress in my life? Part 4

As we continue with our series on stress, we can boil it down to a single question: What is the single most important thing I can do to manage stress in my life? This 11 minute video from Dr Mike Evans, who is a professor of family medicine and public health in Toronto, Canada very helpfully and entertainingly builds on what we have been saying in our previous posts (part 1, part 2 and part 3): Dr Evans helpfully points out that there is both a negative and a positive side
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    This information is for educational purposes only, and is in no way intended to be personal medical advice. Please ask your physician about any health guidelines seen in this blog, as everyone is different in his or her medical needs.