Entries in Depression (59)


Researchers Link Childhood Stomachaches with Mental Health Issues

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Could a simple tummy ache be a warning sign of future mental health problems? A new study says it might.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University studied nearly 500 children with and without "chronic abdominal pain," and found that more than half of those who reported pains went on to experience an anxiety disorder. Just 20 percent of the children who did not report abdominal pain suffered from anxiety disorder. Kids with chronic stomach pain were also more than twice as likely to deal with depression.

Doctors hope that this study may help them understand the link between psychiatric problems and how the body processes pain.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Depression May Increase Stroke Risk in Middle-Aged Women

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Many people suffer from depression as a complication after suffering a stroke, however, a new study shows that depression may be a risk factor for future strokes.

Researchers studied women born between 1946 and 1961, surveying the participants every three years between 1988 and 2010. Women were asked to self-report their depression, medication use and diagnosis or treatment. They also self-reported any stroke they may have suffered. Additionally, stroke deaths were identified using a national database.

Over 10,000 women participated in the survey, the results of which were published in the journal Stroke.

The data determined that women who were depressed were more than twice as likely to suffer a stroke than those who were not depressed.

The researchers believe that improvement in the diagnosis and treatment of depression could play a role in limiting stroke risk later in life.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Vanessa Lachey Struggled with ‘Baby Blues’

Steve Granitz/WireImage(LOS ANGELES) -- New mom Vanessa Lachey couldn’t wait to hold her newborn boy in her arms after giving birth, but says her feelings of pure joy and happiness morphed into debilitating “baby blues.”

Lachey, the host of ABC’s Wipeout and wife to singer Nick Lachey, revealed her overwhelming feeling she calls “baby blues” set in two weeks after giving birth in September to son, Camden John.

“I noticed a swing in my emotions. At this point I was sick of feeling like a milk machine,” she wrote in a blog on her website. “I felt lost, unloved, alone and at my wits end. It’s weird, too, because I have an amazing and supportive husband, his loving family and wonderful friends. But at that moment… I felt like NO ONE understood me.”

Though Lachey says she feels guilty raising the issue when she feels blessed to have a healthy child, Lachey wrote that there was no other way besides “baby blues” to describe what she felt as her world came crashing down.

“I was feeding Camden and crying my eyes out. I felt like I had officially come undone,” she wrote. “I imagined blissful days, tired nights, but quiet loving moments. I imagined family dinners with the 12 casseroles I prepared ahead of time, and a beautiful post-pregnancy glow that embodied me 24-7. But this was none of that.”

Lachey said she felt like the “super woman” she thought she could be was no more as fears of not being a good mother overtook her.

“I think it’s just fear…The fear of not knowing what I’m doing. The fear of ‘messing up’ this little boy. The fear of being responsible for a human being and not knowing any ‘life’ experiences to compare moments with him to. No matter how many books you read, NOTHING prepares you better than the real thing,” she wrote.

Lachey explains in the blog that she left the baby with husband, Nick Lachey, and took a drive to collect herself: “I … put my sunroof down and blared the radio. …I went to Starbucks, came home, took a shower, put myself together and came upstairs to give my husband a kiss and tell him I was sorry…I was sorry for the weeks of losing myself.”

Lachey is not the first celebrity mom to open up about falling victim to post-partum “baby blues.” Alanis Morrissette revealed she struggled with intense post-partum “baby blues,” after having her son, Ever.

“It was just a really intense time,” Morissette said in the Aug. 2012 interview.  “If I could share anything with anyone who’s going through it, it would be to encourage them to seek help and reach out a little earlier than I did.”

Senior Medical Contributor Dr. Jennifer Ashton said Friday on GMA that baby blues and postpartum depression lie on a spectrum and both are extremely common.

“If you’re saying to yourself, ‘Something does not feel right,’ there is no shame in this game. Say, ‘Look, I need some help here.’ It does not make you less of a mother,” Ashton said, telling new moms to consult with their OB-GYNs.

Lachey said she decided to open up about her struggle since it’s “a reality for so many more women than I ever knew.” She writes that she hopes other moms realize as she did that there’s a light at the end of tunnel as long as you take time to get back to “you.”

“It’s okay if we can’t do it ALL because…we have already done so much! I needed to remember that hormones have a mind of their own, and I couldn’t allow that to anchor in my thoughts,” she explained.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Could Scalp Electrodes Switch Off Depression?

Keith Brofsky/Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Tiny, current-emitting scalp electrodes may offer promise in the treatment of depression, a new study suggests.

In the study, which was released Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers in Brazil tested a technique known as transcranial direct current stimulation, or tDCS for short.  

They tested the approach on 120 patients with moderate to severe depression who were divided into four groups.  Some received the scalp-shocking treatments along with the depression drug sertraline.  Others received tDCS and a fake version of the drug.  The remaining two groups received a fake placebo version of the head-zapping technique with or without the drug.

After six weeks, the group that got both tDCS and sertraline had a greater and more rapid improvement in their depression compared to the other groups.

For most people, the thought of applying electricity to the brain conjures up images of Frankenstein or Jack Nicholson in that final scene of One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest.

This technique, however, simply sends small currents to change the way that neurons in the brain send their signals.  

Specifically, two pads containing electrodes soaked in salt water are placed directly onto the scalp, where they deliver a low, constant electrical current.  The position of the electrodes can vary depending on the area in the brain that is targeted. The electrical current alters the circuitry of brain neurons, either activating or suppressing them.  After about 20 to 30 minutes, the current is turned off.

The approach is far from unprecedented; tDCS has been used by the military to improve training efficiency of snipers and drone pilots.  More recently, it has generated noticeable buzz in the science world as potential treatment for a variety of disorders.

"This is the type of study that shows there may be something clinically meaningful in this treatment," says Dr. Pascual-Leone, director of the Berenson-Allen Center for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation and professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, who had previously worked with one of the researchers on the current study.

Pascual-Leone says that tDCS has actually been tested for depression for several decades.  More recently, the technique has benefited from technological advances, and researchers like Pascual-Leone are saying that it could be a more favorable, better-tolerated technique for treatment of depression than drugs or electroconvulsive therapy.

Late stage clinical trials are currently in the works for use of tDCS for depression.

In fact, the technique is also being explored for treatment of other neuropsychiatric disorders like stroke, Parkinson's disease, seizure disorders and schizophrenia.

However, experts caution that more questions need to be answered before tDCS can be used clinically -- and especially at home, as some advocates have suggested.

"The study supports need for a multicenter study to look at duration of benefits and frequency of treatment," Pascuale-Leone said.  "Even though side effects are benign, we still don't know about the long-term side effects that can happen after years of treatment with tDCS."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Consumption of Sugary Drinks May Be Linked to Depression, Study Finds

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BETHESDA, Md.) -- Drinking a lot of soda may cost you more than calories and cavities. A new study shows heavy consumption over the long term could be linked to higher depression risk.
Researchers at the National Institutes of Health looked at the beverage consumption of nearly 264,000 people ages 50 to 71 over the course of a year.
Checking back about 10 years later, they found that those who drank more than four cans or cups of soda per day were 30 percent more likely to have been diagnosed with depression than those who drank no soda. Additionally, those who drank four cans of fruit punch per day were about 38 percent more likely to have been diagnosed with depression than those who drank no sweetened drinks.
The risk of depression appeared to be greater for those who drank diet versions of the beverages.  
By contrast, those who drank four cups of coffee a day were about 10 percent less likely to have had a diagnosis of depression than those who drank no coffee.

The study's researchers note that more study is needed to confirm their findings.

“While our findings are preliminary, and the underlying biological mechanisms are not known, they are intriguing and consistent with a small but growing body of evidence suggesting that artificially sweetened beverages may be associated with poor health outcomes,” researcher Honglei Chen, MD, PhD, of the National Institutes of Health in Research Triangle Park, N.C., says, according to WebMD.

Though the study doesn't necessarily prove causality between sugary drinks and depression, the researchers suggest from these findings that switching your soda out for coffee may cut your risk of depression. Even better, replacing all sweetened beverages with unsweetened would cut your risks more.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Americans, Swedes Fight Christmas Blues with Light

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Every October as the clocks are turned back, Jose Balido notices that his mood changes, almost as if his body were going into hibernation.

His limbs are heavy and he has trouble moving around.  Simple household chores like loading the dishwasher seem "insurmountable," he said.  But when spring arrives, the lethargy lifts.

"It took me a while to realize what it was," said Balido, owner of a travel social network site, Tripatini.  "I was cranky, short-tempered, depressed, feeling hopeless and having difficulty concentrating."

Balido, 51, was diagnosed a decade ago with seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.  The condition affects 62 million Americans, according to Michael Terman, director of the Center for Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms at Columbia University and a leader in the field.

About five percent of the population experiences the most severe symptoms of SAD -- depression and hopelessness -- while another 15 percent have the so-called "winter blues" or "winter doldrums."

The vast majority never fall into full depression, according to Terman, but "plod through winters with slowness and gloominess that takes effort to hide from others."

Two decades ago, SAD was identified as a legitimate disorder by the National Institute of Mental Health.  Since then, the treatment of choice has been light therapy.

Balido, who lives in Miami, sought help from Terman and now undergoes light therapy.  He sits in front of a daylight simulator for a half an hour each morning before 10 a.m.

"Within two or three days, the difference was mind-blowing," Balido said.

The standard treatment for SAD is 30 minutes of 10,000-lux, diffused, white fluorescent light, used early in the morning.  About half the patients are helped quickly -- and when treatment is tailored to a person's individual wake-sleep cycle, remission can climb to 80 percent, according to Terman.

This year, a utility company in the northern Swedish town of Umea installed ultraviolet lights at 30 bus stops to combat the effects of SAD.

"We wanted to celebrate the fact that all our electricity comes from green sources and we wanted to do this in a way that contributed to the citizens in one way or another," said Umea Energi marketing chief Anna Norrgard in an email to ABC News.

"As it is very dark where we live this time of year, a lot of us are longing for the daylight," she said.  "A lot of us are also a bit more tired this time of year and I would also say we sleep a little bit more. ...We wanted to give the citizens of Umea a little energy boost, to be more alert."

The town is located about 400 miles north of Stockholm.  In December, the sun rises at about 10 a.m. and sets around 2:30 p.m.  Some towns north of the Arctic Circle have no daylight for several weeks in the winter.

Geography has a strong influence on the prevalence of SAD symptoms, according to Terman.

"The common wisdom is that it's worse the farther north you live, because winter days are so much shorter," he said.  "Not so simple."

Columbia research shows that in North America, the incidence of SAD rises from the southern to the middle states, but levels off and stays bad from about 38 degrees north latitude -- near such cities as San Francisco, St. Louis and Washington, D.C. -- up through the northernmost states and Canada, according to Terman.

But the problem becomes "more severe" at the western edges of the northern states and provinces.

"This important finding reveals the underlying trigger for relapses into winter depression, since the sun rises an hour more later at the western edge of a zone," said Terman, whose book, Chronotherapy, examines the phenomenon.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Mother's Depression Linked to Child's Shorter Height

iStockphoto/Thinsktock(BALTIMORE) -- Mothers who report having symptoms of depression in the first year after giving birth may be likely to have shorter children, according to a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore, Md., looked at height data for more than 6,500 children during pre-school and kindergarten. They found that kids around age four with mothers who reported having mild or moderate depression during their child's infancy were more than 40 percent more likely to have children with short stature compared to mothers who did not report depressive symptoms.

The study suggests that a link between the mother's depression and the child's height persists several years after the mother's reported depression, according to Pamela Surkan, an assistant professor of public health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and lead author of the study.

However, for some kids the stunted growth didn't last. The short stature only persisted through age 5 in those with moderate depression, according to the study.

While the study does not indicate when the symptoms of depression began for the women or for how long the symptoms persisted, it's likely that in order for the depression to have affected the child, the mother may have been depressed for months, according to Dr. Kenneth Robbins, clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine, who was not associated with the study.

While the study did not mention what may have caused the link between postpartum depression and stunted growth, Robbins listed a few theories. One reason may be that some children may also be depressed, which can affect the endocrine system and could disrupt the growth hormone, he said.

The study did not confirm that the women were clinically diagnosed with postpartum depression. However, Surkan said it's likely that the numbers may be similar for children whose mothers had a clinical diagnosis.

"There's already very good reasons that mothers who are depressed should seek treatment," said Surkan. "This is one more additional piece of evidence confirming that this is important."

The study also did not track whether the children of even moderately depressed mothers eventually catch up in height after age five.

Nearly 1 out of every 5 mothers in the U.S. has postpartum depression, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Previous studies suggest that postpartum depression is associated with poor fetal growth, language and cognitive delays, and behavioral problems in children, as well as difficulty in mother-child bonding.

"These children already start with a great disadvantage," said Robbins. "What we're seeing is that there's not simply a psychological effect, there's also a physical effect involved here."

Prevention, early detection, and treatment of a mother's depressive symptoms during the first year after giving birth may also prevent delayed growth as well as other developmental and behavioral problems in children, according to Dr. Deanna Robb, director of the parenting program at Beaumont Hospitals in Royal Oak, Mich.

"Because of research, we've learned so much more and we know the value of early identification to make sure we can identify as soon as possible," said Robb.

In some cases, mothers cannot identify symptoms of depression within themselves, so it is up to physicians to make sure women are properly screened. Even after depression is identified, the diagnosis itself makes it difficult for women to seek help, some experts said. But timely care is essential in protecting the family's health, according to experts.

"The hopelessness of depression often leads people not to seek the care that they need," said Robbins. "If [mothers] can make the connection that this is not just affecting them but also affecting their family, it may become motivation to get the proper treatment."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Heart Attacks Lead to Depression, Anxiety for Partner

Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Spouses of those who experience a sudden heart attack -- what doctors call an acute myocardial infarction, or AMI -- have an increased risk of depression, anxiety and suicide afterward, even if their partner survives, a new European Heart Journal report suggests.  And they tend to suffer more psychologically than the partners of people who have other serious medical conditions.

In an investigation of more than 200,000 people, American and Danish researchers found that more than three times the number of people whose significant other died from a sudden cardiac attack were using antidepressants in the year afterward, compared to the year before.  Additionally, nearly 50 times as many of the spouses were taking a benzodiazepine, a class of drug used to treat anxiety.

Men were more susceptible to depression and suicide than women, and partners experienced the same level of mental anguish, whether or not they were married.

"Those whose spouse survived an AMI had a 17 percent higher use of antidepressants after the event, whereas spouses of patients surviving some other non-AMI related condition had an unchanged use of antidepressants compared to before," says Dr. Emil Fosbøl, the study's lead author.

Dr. Neica Goldberg, a national spokeswoman for the American Heart Association notes that her experience treating patients mirrors what the study has found.

"For a long time, we've known that there are issues with the psychological health of both the patient who suffers a heart attack and their spouse," she says.  "I've noticed it and patients report it."

Goldberg says it's common for doctors to overlook how a caregiver is holding up because the caregiver is focused on prolonging the life of the patient.

"We don't always take the time to focus on quality of life or what the family is going through," she points out.

Caregivers are often reluctant to talk about their own feelings because it's their partner who is sick and in need of immediate attention.  Personal problems tend to come up in the context of their spouse's illness.  For example, Goldberg says, a partner will take her aside to ask whether the patient can climb stairs, walk up hills or return to sexual activity.

"That gives me the opportunity to ask about how they're doing and whether or not they need anything," she says.

Goldberg also makes sure that close family members are present when she speaks to patients about their condition to ensure everyone has an opportunity to ask questions and talk about all the issues, including their own.

Even if they are aware the significant other of a patient is depressed or anxious, cardiologists can't prescribe medication for them.  But, Goldberg says, the doctor can and should recommend therapy.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


NFL Retirees Suffer Brain Damage, Study Finds 

JACQUES DEMARTHON/AFP/GettyImages(NEW YORK) -- A recent study showed that over 40 percent of retired NFL players suffered from problems such as dementia and depression, adding to a heaping mound of evidence that recurring sports-related head traumas can result in long-term neurological problems, Health Day reports.

Researchers from the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas at Dallas analyzed 34 ex-professional football players, with an average age of 62, on such things as memory, problem-solving, reasoning and behavior. They found that 20 of the men tested normal while the remaining retirees suffered from memory and thinking deficits, depression or a combination of both.

Dr. John Hart, the author of the study, said they found that many men were depressed but weren't aware of it. He said the cognitive impairments were more than what is expected for their ages, and noted that many of the men had damage to their brain's white matter, which is a marker to look for, says Health Day.

Hart's study included ex-NFL athletes from North Texas. Researchers also analyzed the brains of 26 people from the general population with no signs of mental deficits, and matched in age, education and IQ.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Depression Therapy: Phone Sessions Sometimes as Good as In Person

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- Telephone therapy may be just as good as in-person therapy for treating depression symptoms, at least for the short term, according to a study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In the study, 325 participants with depression received 18 weekly sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy, a form of psychotherapy commonly used to treat depression, either in person or by phone.

The study found that more patients were likely to stick with telephone sessions compared to in-person therapy.

Both forms of therapy significantly reduced depression symptoms in the patients after the 18 sessions. However, a follow-up of the patients after six months found those who received face-to-face therapy were less depressed than those who received therapy over the phone.

Depression has been on the rise in the U.S., now affecting an estimated 1 in 10 adults, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

An integral part of cognitive behavioral therapy is assessing the actions of the patient during the session. Therapy done over the phone is often less effective because patient and therapist cannot pick up each other's visual cues, according to David Mohr, director of the Center of Behavioral Technology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, who was the author of the study.

"You can't smile at people, can't make eye contact, you can't watch behavioral changes in your patient," said Jenna Duffecy, a research assistant in preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, who served as a therapist in the trial.

But administering telephone therapy, she said, taught her to look for different cues like changes in tone and hesitancy in the voice.

"I was surprised at how well I connected with the patients," said Duffecy. "It's certainly not an inferior treatment but does require the therapist to change their style."

A majority of patients with depression find barriers that keep them from coming to in-person therapy sessions, said Mohr.

"Depression is a disease where the cardinal symptom is loss of motivation, so that accentuates the barrier," said Mohr.

Transportation, time constraints, or even lack of access to care may keep many patients away from in-person therapy, said Duffecy.

But Mohr said for some, talking about problems over the telephone may be more comfortable than in person.

"For a growing number of patients this is becoming acceptable and even desirable," said Mohr, adding that therapists should also see telephone-based therapy as a legitimate form of treatment.

Eighty-five percent of psychologists offer some form of care by phone, according to the American Psychological Association.

Although the study found that the in-person therapy group seemed to have fared better after three months, the findings may not necessarily mean that in-person therapy is better, Mohr said. According to Mohr, the telephone therapy group may have had more severe depression to begin with, and "had difficulty organizing and motivating themselves."

"The phone helped them with [the symptoms], but once treatment is done, it may lead to more stress and more difficulties," said Mohr. "[The findings] highlight the importance of following up with people after treatment."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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