|News & Information for April 23, 2019
Antidepressants: is there a better way to quit them?
[Antidepressants] are not supposed to be long-term medication. But whether depression is now better diagnosed or we live in sad times, more and more people are taking the pills and the weeks extend into months and years. In some cases, the users find they can’t stop. “The withdrawal effects if I forget to take my pill,” another reported, “are severe shakes, suicidal thoughts, a feeling of too much caffeine in my brain, electric shocks, hallucinations, insane mood swings … Kinda stuck on them now cos I’m too scared to come off.” “While there is no doubt I am better on this medication,” said a third, “the adverse effects have been devastating when I have tried to withdraw – with ‘head zaps’, agitation, insomnia and mood changes. This means that I do not have the option of managing the depression any other way.”
No More Time on the Couch: The Rise of Digital Mental Health Therapeutics
“The online program took me through my thinking process and showed me how to negate my automatic negative thoughts,” recalled Wylie. “The homework really helped, but it was tough—no one wants to go into their most anxious places on purpose; it was truly worth it though, as my life is totally different now that I’ve completed the Learn to Live program.” Learn to Live is one company that that is bringing what is known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, to the masses via a digital platform. It’s one of the hottest sectors in all of health care, with over a billion dollars of investment capital flowing into the space over the past few years. In the world of psychology, CBT is known as the workhorse, an effective yeoman’s tool useful not only for anyone combatting stressful life situations, but also a proven anodyne for treating a wide range of mental health problems—from serious life-threatening conditions, such as clinical depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), to cumbersome social anxieties and dangerous behavioral afflictions, such as substance abuse and eating disorders.
Can virtual reality boost positive feelings in patients with depression?
The University of California, Los Angeles, psychiatry researcher and her colleagues are testing whether virtual reality can curb anhedonia, a symptom of depression and other serious mental health conditions that’s marked by a lack of interest or ability to feel pleasure. They’re putting patients into pleasant scenarios — like a stroll through a sun-soaked forest while piano music plays — and coaching them to pay close attention to the positive parts.The idea is to help patients learn to plan positive activities, take part in them, and soak up the good feelings in the process. It’s an unconventional strategy — not just for its use of virtual reality, but also for how it approaches a patient’s symptoms. Treatments for depression and other serious mental health conditions primarily target negative symptoms, like hopelessness, sadness, and anxiety — but they often don’t help with the lack of positive feelings that some patients experience. “Most treatments, up until now, have done an OK job at reducing negative [symptoms of depression], but a very poor job at helping patients become more positive,” said Craske.
How mindfulness, minus the hype, benefits your brain and mood
A study from Dr. Sara W. Lazar, et al., showed that meditation actually increases brain density in the prefrontal cortex. In essence, mindfulness — being about attention, awareness, relationality, and caring — is a universal human capacity akin to our capacity for language acquisition,” writes Brigid Delaney of The Guardian. Modern mindfulness is probably the easiest thing in the world, and the hardest thing for your brain, even if you do it for just five minutes a day. The simple idea of being mindful — being present, being more conscious of life as it happens, and being aware of your environment can help you enjoy life to the fullest. Even things you might think are boring, like tidying up, can be amazing if you are truly present.
In his TED Talk All It Takes Is 10 Mindful Minutes, mindfulness expert and Founder of Headspace, Andy Puddicombe, explains, “… Not being lost in thought, not being distracted, not being overwhelmed by difficult emotions but instead learning how to be in the here and now; how to be mindful, how to be present. I think the present moment is so underrated. It sounds so ordinary and yet we spend so little time in the present moment that it’s anything but ordinary.”