Do We Have Depression All Wrong?

Is the latest science at odds with current popular understandings of depression, the world’s largest source of disability? That’s the question Center for Healthy Minds Professor Charles Raison and fellow Co-Author Vladimir Maletic have posed in a new book The New Mind-Body Science of Depression for clinicians and mental health professionals. Raison, the Mary Sue and Mike Shannon Chair for Healthy Minds, Families & Children at the UW–Madison School of Human Ecology, sat down to share insights from decades working with patients and researching new ways to treat depression. 

In your new book, you suggest a shift in our current thinking regarding depression. Why?

Depression is not as discrete as we currently think, and there are several lines of evidence arising to support this. First, it’s unbelievably common. The diagnostic tools we have are useful and important, and I personally don’t think we’ll come up with anything better in the very near future, but they’re increasingly out of line with what we know. We don’t know exactly what depression is, but we’re increasingly recognizing that it’s not a single “disease.” Why does one person develop depression while someone else develops generalized anxiety while somebody else becomes manic and has a break – that’s what we don’t understand very well. One thing we write about in this book is that in the literature and studies, depression seems to be less of a discrete disease and more of an evolved response to adversity.

Read the rest of the interview

Dog Kisses Are Dangerous? The answers of science

In Italian

In seguito allo studio che mette in relazione i baci del cane con malattie gravi e fatali per l’uomo, arrivano polemiche e smentite. La domanda che ci stiamo ponendo tutti è: davvero i gesti affettuosi che l’essere umano si scambia con il più fedele amico possono essere così pericolosi da portarci alla morte? Ecco cosa ne pensano alcuni scienziati.

C’è chi dice che fa bene alla salute
Il paradosso è che ci sono persino scienziati che ritengono il bacio di fido benefico per la salute umana. E da ciò si evidenzia l’incredibile confusione che aleggia tra i vari ricercatori di tutto il mondo. A promuovere una bella leccata sul viso da parte del nostro amico a quattro zampe sarebbero i ricercatori dell’Università dell’Arizona: questa pratica potrebbe avere effetti benefici sul sistema immunitario.

Read more

What can go through a person's mind to decide on suicide

In Spanish

En estos días en los que se han quitado la vida varios personajes conocidos, a nivel nacional e internacional, parece prudente explicar qué dicen los expertos al respecto.

Nota del Editor de Expansión: El 10 de septiembre se conmemora el Día Mundial para la Prevención del Suicidio. Segun la Organización Mundial de la Salud, casi 3,000 personas ponen fin a su vida cada día. Esta nota fue publicada originalmente el 22 de agosto de 2012. El médico Charles Raison es experto en salud mental y profesor de Psiquiatría en la Universidad de Arizona, según recoge Charles Raison en Expansión.--Las tres razones que llevan a una persona a pensar en el suicidio--.

Read more

Destigmatizing The Deadly Silent Disease of Mental Illness: You Are Not Your Brain - Decode It With Quantum Living & Neuroplasticity

A couple of weeks ago my friend and yoga teacher committed suicide. She was suffering from depression and bi polar disorder which is a chronic mental illness. She was burned out from working too much because she never permitted giving herself a break. In additional to all of this she was suffering from insomnia which is a core symptom of bipolar disorder.

The stigma and the excruciating intolerance along with the prejudice that I witnessed was atrocious and heartbreaking. This came from people who knew her and from people who didn’t know her. The judgment was appalling and non stop.

It’s so important to destigmatize mental health issues. It’s time. I am so done with it being swept under the carpet and people turning their backs on depression and mental illness. I’m seeing a lot people posting suicide prevention hotline numbers, which is great and how else can we help people that need care and are too embarrassed to ask for help?

Dr. Charles Raison from the School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Wisconsin-Madison, states, “Depression is different. Because it is at its essence a perceptual disorder, it causes one to see the entire world as pain. It feels painful inside, but it also feels painful outside. When a person is depressed, the entire world is disturbed and distressed, so there is nowhere to escape. And it is this fact that makes suicide so seductive, because it seems to offer the one available escape option.”

Read more

Researchers Believe Depression Once Offered Humans an Evolutionary Advantage

Around 15 million US adults suffer from depression. 6.9 million American adolescents have been diagnosed. The condition is common. 10% of the population may suffer from significant depression sometime in their life. While 30-50% of folks are bound to feel some sort of depressive symptoms at some point. This isn’t relegated to the West.

Depressive symptoms have been found in every culture on Earth and throughout history, though at one time it was called melancholia. Unlike other psychiatric disorders, which are rare, depression is fairly common. According to a San Diego University study, depression across the US has increased significantly over the last couple of decades or so, and people are experiencing more symptoms today too, such as difficulty sleeping or concentrating. Suicide is also at a 30 year high. This matches worldwide statistics.

More people in the world today die from their own hand than in wars and car accidents combined. In the US every age group, other than older adults, has been affected. But women and the middle-aged are particularly prone to suicide. Studies have shown that in most cases, depression or some other disorder was the motivating factor. Researchers blame economic anxiety such as financial trouble and job instability and the inability to save for retirement, or even an emergency.

Another reason may be increased social isolation, as the middle-aged have a high rate of divorce. One study even called it a byproduct of modernity. Here the author wrote, “Modern populations are increasingly overfed, malnourished, sedentary, sunlight-deficient, sleep-deprived, and socially-isolated.” Chronic diseases are on the rise too, and this may influence the depression rate.

Read more

Can a stint in the 'fever machine' treat depression?

Madison, Wis. — The obsession was born over Chinese food with a Tibetan monk.

Dr. Charles Raison was working as an emergency room psychiatrist in Los Angeles, where he’d fallen in with a monk-turned-psychologist. Every Monday, they would have dinner at Panda Inn and talk Tibet.

One night, Raison’s companion told him about a meditation practice called “tummo,” a kind of fast track to enlightenment. Using only breathing and visualization techniques, he said, monks raised their body temperatures to feverish levels — so high that their body heat could steam dry sheets dipped in an icy Himalayan lake.

Raison was entranced. At that moment, he decided he would study how body temperature connected to feelings of bliss. That conversation would lead to decades of research — and a controversial idea for treating depression by putting patients inside a machine that induces fever. In May, his team published results of their first small clinical trial, which found that the machine eased some patients’ symptoms, at least by certain metrics.

Outside scientists aren’t convinced. But Raison believes the fever machine could help patients with intractable depression. He credits the monks for that first moment of inspiration.

“This was the craziest thing I ever did,” Raison said. “I had no funding. I had no research career. I just wanted to do this.”

Continue reading

New Study to Investigate Whether Dog Saliva Can Help With Allergies

It turns out that man's best friend might could also hold a key to lessening those pesky allergic reactions.

Researchers from the University of Arizona are launching a new study to see if bacteria found on dogs (and their saliva) can help lessen the sneezing, itching, hives of an allergic reaction and other immune responses. The 12-week study plans to see if a dog’s microbiome, or normal bacteria ecosystem, can help its human owner's immune system.

The upcoming study will put match people between the ages of 50 and 60 with dogs and then measure to see if their immune response are affected by the presence of the dog over 12 weeks, the researchers told ABC News today.

In theory the dog’s microbiome would beneficially influence the human’s microbiome, which would affect the human’s immune system response.

Dr. Charles Raison, a professor of psychiatry at University of Arizona’s College of Medicine and lead researcher, said the dog could potentially work almost as a “probiotic” and help build healthy bacteria colonies in the human owner.

“We’re not really individuals, we’re sort of like communities [with bacteria]," Raison told ABC News. “These bacteria can powerfully impact brains and [immune health.]”

Raison said allergy and immunologist researchers have been searching for why certain immune diseases, including allergies and asthma, have increased in the Western world. One theory has been that human microbiomes have been depleted by less exposure to certain harmless bacteria. A dog could in theory help restore that balance.

“If the dogs and human owners look similar microbiota-wise ... then it means dogs are basically having probiotic-enhancing microbiota of human owners,” Raison said.

The study is just the first step to investigating how dogs and their bacteria can affect immune health, he said, noting that he next wants to do another study with children.

Read more

When Mental Illness Affects Families

woman.jpg

(CNN) -- When we lose a beloved superstar like Robin Williams to an apparent suicide and learn he had been battling severe depression before his death, it's natural to think about our own loved ones.

We might look around at our adult family members and friends who are suffering and try to get them the help they need, but what we might not see is children and adolescents can get depressed and anxious, too.

And it's more common than we probably realize.

On any given day, according to studies, it is estimated that about 2% of elementary-school-age children and about 8% of adolescents suffer from a major depression, and 1 in 5 teens has had a history of depression at some time, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

But how does a parent differentiate between what might be considered normal irritability and moodiness, especially during those teenage years, and signs that something more serious is afoot?

"I think you should start worrying ... anytime there's enough of a change when you go, 'Oh my God they don't seem like themselves,'" said Dr. Charles Raison, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona College of Medicine.

Raison says the timeline is key; parents should perk up if for two to three weeks their children are "unremittingly down," feeling hopeless and negative, if they start to withdraw from friends and activities, and if they experience dramatic changes in sleep...

 

Continue reading