The Road to Recovery: Psychotherapy or Medication—Which Is Right For Me?

Depression is often an ongoing struggle, which can make it difficult to know what approach is best for us to find lasting healing. New research, however, gives us a deeper look into understanding how to treat our depression in a way that does not just lessen our symptoms, but works with and through our depression symptoms to achieve sustainable healing. 

A new study out of Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health in Australia, shows that psychotherapy should be the first approach for depression treatment, with medication being a secondary option. 

This research, published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal, reveals that individuals ranging from 15-25 who received psychotherapy alone experienced equal improvement in their depression symptoms as their counterparts who received psychotherapy and medication treatment. 

These findings demonstrate the reality of the common misconception that medication treatment for depression should be a first approach. Often it is said or believed that medication should eliminate all of our symptoms of depression and that once we are on medication, ‘everything will be fine.’ This, however, is not the case. 

Medication helps to address or alleviate the physical symptoms of depression such as body aches, fatigue, and lethargy. What this really means is that medication is helpful in allowing us to feel ‘better’ enough to do the work towards directly addressing our depression and finding lasting solutions. 

Essentially, medication functions on the level of addressing our limbic system (our emotional reactions/the physical symptoms of depression), whereas therapy also focuses on our cortex (our thinking brain) to help us work through our thoughts and emotions in order to find and achieve health and healing. 

To think of it another way, if depression ran on a scale from 1-10, and without treatment we are constantly living at a ten—feeling excessively lethargic, achy, entirely disinterested—typically this means that we can’t get out of bed or do anything to effectively work towards healing. When this is the case, medication can be a helpful approach in lowering that scale—from, say, a ten to maybe a five or a six. Lowering our symptoms from a ten to a six is extremely helpful, but it doesn’t mean our depression is completely gone. What it does mean, however, is that we are now at a point that we can get out of bed, we can face our struggles, and we have the energy to do the work we need to do to lower or even eliminate our depression. 

This and other research suggests that psychotherapy should be the first approach for sustainable depression treatment, especially for younger individuals. Medication is best reserved as a secondary approach and has been found to be more effective for older adults. 

If you are struggling with depression or other mental health concerns, Catholic Counselors is here to help you find faith filled answers to life’s difficult questions. For more information or to schedule an appointment, give us a call at 740-266-6461 or visit us online at CatholicCounselors.com.

The Small Changes That Lead To Greater Happiness

Do you ever just feel “off,” but you don’t know why? Everything seems to be fine, daily life is running along relatively smoothly, but you just feel down, melancholy, or disconnected from life/others?

A new study out of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and Texas A&M reveals that making small changes—such as smiling more—can make an impact on our emotions and overall mood. It seems like a small change, but a meta-analysis of 138 studies demonstrates that smiling really can make us happier. 

“We don’t think that people can smile their way to happiness,” lead researcher, Nicholas Coles, said. “But these findings are exciting because they provide a clue about how the mind and the body interact to shape our conscious experience of emotion.”

If simply smiling more can make an impact on our emotions, what are some other ways for us to lift our mood and feel reconnected?

Acts of kindness—Buy coffee for the person behind you in line, pick up flowers for your significant other on your way home from work, volunteer at the local food pantry. Acts of kindness give us the opportunity to go outside of ourselves and do something to help and bring joy to others. In return, this helps us to feel more positive, purpose driven, and connected to others!

Set daily goals—Setting small, daily goals allows us to feel proactive, productive, and in control. These goals can be anything from doing one load of laundry, to spending five minutes outside, or even simply brushing your teeth on days where accomplishing a larger goal just doesn’t feel doable. Choose whatever small, attainable goal appeals to you each day. It’s not about the task itself, its about the feeling of accomplishment!

Pray—Take time to pray each day. Share with God what you are thinking and feeling. No emotion is too big or small for God to handle. Ask God to help you express your emotions in ways that glorify Him. Setting aside time to pray, or simply praying as we go about your daily activities helps us to feel reconnected to God, to our surroundings, and to our purpose. 

Listen to music—Listen to music that reflects the mood you want to be in, not the mood that you are in. Often when we are sad, angry, etc. we listen to music that reflects that mood. This typically causes us to remain in this mood, however, listening to music that reflects the mood you want to be in (i.e. listening to happy music when you are sad or listening to energetic music when you are tired) actually causes us to adjust to a mood that better matches the music we are listening to. Surprisingly, this can make a big difference in our emotions throughout the day. 

For more on increasing positive emotions, check out Unworried: A Life Without Anxiety and tune in to More2Life—weekdays at 10am E/9am C on EWTN, SiriusXM 130!

The Circle of…Stress?

Are you stressed? Having difficulty sleeping? Is your difficultly sleeping causing you stress? You’re not alone. 

A recent study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology discusses how stress can effect our ability to sleep or stay asleep and the negative ramifications this pattern can have on our health, particularly cardiovascular health. Although the greatest risk of increased blood pressure and other negative health effects come from a combination of stress and lack of sleep over the course of many years, experiencing this type of sleep disruption for even a few days, weeks, or months can be difficult and have a large impact on our mental health–further exacerbating our stress. 

So what are some techniques we can use to decrease stress and increase our ability to fall asleep and peacefully stay asleep? 

Take time to process stress earlier in the day—often we run around all day, attempting to get everything done, and then when it’s time for us to go to bed, we lay down and suddenly start thinking about all the stressful things we have going on, try to come up with solutions, worry about the following day, etc. It is important to process all of these thoughts, but it should not occur while we are laying in bed. Instead, set aside time earlier in the day—after the work day, after dinner with your family, after the kids go to bed—to process these thoughts and emotions. Journal in either a freeform format—writing down your thoughts as they come—or in a more structured format (i.e. write down the most stressful occurrence of the day, and write down at least three things you are grateful for). Take fifteen minutes to pray, talk to God about your worries, ask Him what the best solution would be, and thank Him for the blessings in your day. Whatever way you choose to process your stress, intentionally set aside a few minutes earlier in the day to work through your thoughts and feelings. This way, when it is time for bed, your mind won’t be racing because you have already processed emotions, identified possible solutions, and acknowledged the positive things that happened during the day. 

Light exercise—Although doing a more intense workout in the evening will wake us up and make it more difficult to fall asleep, doing light exercise such as stretching, squats, leg lifts, etc. will actually increase blood flow through our legs. Increasing circulation in this way can actually create a soothing effect to decrease stress and make it easier to fall asleep. 

Keep your sleep space tidy—It can be all too easy for our life stress to pile up—literally. Although it can be difficult to keep our homes neat and clean at all times, prioritize tidying the spaces in which you and your loved ones sleep. Keeping the piles of clothes put away—or at least hidden away, putting that paperwork in a drawer, making your bed, can provide the visual space needed to allow stress to slip away when it is time for bed. Not having the visual reminder of the things we have to do while we are attempting to get a good nights sleep can make all the difference in our ability to peacefully fall asleep and stay asleep. 

Make a plan—Ask yourself, “What is one thing I can do tomorrow that will bring me joy, help me feel productive, or get me closer to my goal?” Asking and answering this question for ourselves allows us to set intentionality for the coming day, gives us something to look forward to, and helps remind us that we are control of our reactions, actions, and decisions. 

For more on decreasing anxiety and increasing the peace in your life, check out Unworried: A Life Without Anxiety, and tune in to More2Life—weekdays at 10am E/9am C on EWTN, SiriusXM 130! 

You Can’t Judge Depression By Its Cover

“They seem/seemed so happy.” “They have everything together.” “I/They don’t have any reason to complain.”

Chances are you’ve said at least one of these things about someone, or maybe you’ve even said them about yourself. 

Researchers are discovering a surge in this topic that many are calling “smiling depression,” or the more technical term, “atypical depression.” These terms describe individuals who seem to “have it all together,” who appear happy—but under their external facade or appearance are struggling with depression. 

One article describes, “It can be very hard to spot people suffering from smiling depression. They may seem like they don’t have a reason to be sad – they have a job, an apartment and maybe even children or a partner. They smile when you greet them and can carry pleasant conversations. In short, they put on a mask to the outside world while leading seemingly normal and active lives.”

This type of depression can be difficult to identify, especially with the influence of social media and the norm to only share the highlights of our lives or only post what we want people to think about us. Furthermore, it can be difficult to know how to reach out for help when we are the ones experiencing this “atypical depression” because, “maybe others won’t understand,” or “I can’t let people know I’m struggling, everyone knows me as a happy and put-together person.”

So what do we do to overcome this struggle within ourselves and support those who may be dealing with atypical depression?

Make Prayer a Two-Way Communication—Often we feel as though we have to recite written prayers, or share with God our every need or dream in an eloquent, well thought out manner. While these prayers can be helpful—and all prayer is good—it is important to remember that our relationship with God should be, as with any other relationship, a two way street. While God loves to hear our prayers and our voices, God wants to communicate with us, He wants us to listen to Him. To do this, it is important that we try spending time each day sharing our prayers with God, but then spending time in silence, listening for His voice, for His direction, for His love. This is an incredible way to not only strengthen and deepen our relationship with God, but it also allows us to feel less alone and less as though it’s all up to us. God is there for us, we just have to provide the space and the silence for Him to speak to us and work through us. 

Honesty is The Best Policy—So often I hear, “my friends can always count on me to be there for them, but I can’t expect them to be there for me.” As described in the first point, relationships are—or at least are intended to be—two way streets. Allow yourself to expect from others what they can expect from you. With this mindset, be honest with those who you feel a connection with. Maybe it’s a family member, maybe it’s a close friend, or maybe it’s a co-worker or someone who you enjoy talking to but aren’t extremely close with. Sharing your feelings with the latter individual may allow for a new, beautiful friendship to blossom. No matter who you share your feelings with, be honest. Put down the appearance you so often carry, and be yourself—the put together parts, the struggling parts, and everything in between. 

Likewise, be that person for someone else. Be the person who your friends can be honest with. Ask questions about them. Remove the barriers of appearance. We will all be a lot happier when we can be our true selves with others. 

Random Acts of Kindness—Kindness and happiness can have a ripple effect. Hold the door for someone, smile at that stranger, say thank you, pay for the coffee of the person behind you in line. These seemingly tiny acts can make such a big impact. Not only do these acts touch others lives in beautiful ways, they make us feel good, positive, hopeful. These small acts bring light to the world. They allow others to feel seen, to feel cared about, they allow us to go outside of ourselves, be a positive influence on another person’s life, and do something good. Pay attention the next time you do this for someone. How do they react? Are they surprised? Do they smile a little more? Do their eyes light up?  How do you react when you practice an act of kindness, or when someone does this for you? This little moment of joy, of hope, of positivity can influence us and others in bigger ways that maybe we simply didn’t notice before. 

For more ways to overcome the daily challenges of life and bring more peace and joy to yourself and those around you, tune in to More2Life—weekdays at 10am E/9am C on EWTN, SiriusXM 130. And be sure to visit us online at CatholicCounselors.com! 

How To Get Your Feelings Heard And Your Needs Met

“Hi! How are you?”, “I’m fine…” End of conversation. This type of exchange is very common, but has become entirely ineffective when it comes to actually getting to know and understand how someone is feeling. The greeting, “How are you?” has essentially become a closed ended (yes or no) question and leaves it entirely up to the person asking the question to decide how positive or negative we are feeling. 

A new Yale study published in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology revealed that adults believe that males are in more pain than females. Although this study focused on physical pain, the same concepts can be applied to emotional experiences as well. 

So how do we teach our children—boys and girls—to express their feelings effectively, and how do we express our own feelings in a way that will allow us to be heard and understood by others?

1) Honesty is the best policy—Hiding our feelings and waiting for others to ask about what we are feeling or experiencing is not an effective strategy. Because of this, it is best to be open and honest about our feelings or experiences. If someone important to you asks, “How’s it going?” Instead of replying with the casual, “I’m fine,” be honest and specific by saying, “I’m really struggling today,” or “Today has been a really nice day.” Sharing our feelings shouldn’t be reserved for when we are really happy or really sad, we should be honest at all times—both about the good and the bad. 

2) Teach others what you need—Being honest about your feelings but not getting the desired response? People can’t read minds. Identify what type of response you need from someone and respectfully ask for that outcome. For example, “Hey, I’m feeling really stressed out, can you problem solve with me?” Or, “I just really need a listening ear and for you to tell me everything’s okay.” No matter what it is that we need, it is always best to express that openly to another person, that way we get the response that we need, and we don’t leave others feeling confused as to what type of response we are looking for.

3) Ask questions and teach others to do the same—Create a dynamic of open and honest communication by asking others more specific questions about their feelings and experiences. “What has been the best part of your day?”, “What have you been struggling with today?”, “What do you feel like you need (from me or others) to make today better?”. These and other questions are much more specific and effective than the general question of, “How are you?” or “How’s it going?” Similarly, asking these more specific questions allows us to have this type of dynamic in our relationships. At best, it teaches others to ask these types of questions to us in return, and at the least, it presents the opportunity for us to respond to other’s answers about the best or most difficult part of their day with our response to these questions. Either way, it’s a win-win and everyone gets their feelings heard. 

For more resources and information on how to get your feelings heard and how to live a healthier emotional life, visit us at CatholicCounselors.com and tune in to More2Life—weekdays at 10am E/9am C on EWTN, SiriusXM 130!

Stay-At-Home Moms and Depression: 4 Things You Need To Know

Being a stay-at-home parent is hard, but does it cause depression? A recent discussion at Peanut Butter and Grace raised this important issue. It turns out that there is more to this question than meets the eye.

Survey Says…

A 2012 Gallup poll found that 28% of stay-at-home moms (SAHMs) had been diagnosed with depression compared to 17% of employed moms (defined as mothers who have both a full or part time job and children under 18).

Of course, this alone doesn’t necessarily mean SAHMs are more depressed than employed moms.  For instance, it could be that working moms are just as depressed as SAHMs; but, between work and household responsibilities, they just don’t have time to seek professional help.  In fact, a 2015 Pew Research poll found that the majority of working moms continue to be frustrated by the uneven division of labor at home.   As sociologist, Arlie Hochschild observed, working moms often feel that, at the end of the work day, they have to go home to work their “second shift” as a homemaker.   Many working moms are not only depressed, they also don’t have time to do anything about it.

Bridging the Gap:
The Ideal vs. Reality

Regardless, few people would argue that being a SAHM is easy.  And it’s clear that some SAHMs are happier in their role than others.  Similarly, because research shows that kids do better overall when raised by a contented and attentive SAHM than kids raised by either working moms or unhappy SAHM’s, there are certain women would feel they should be home with their kids, but who genuinely struggle to make it work for them.

Is it possible to know which moms will be more likely to find real joy in being an SAHM?  Or, for that matter, if a mom has chosen to stay home, but is struggling with it, are there things she can do to feel better about her choice besides going back to work outside the home?

Here are a few things research can teach us about the circumstances that allow certain women to enjoy being a SAHM, along with some suggestions for those who value the role of being a SAHM but currently find little joy in it. (*See note below)

1. They Are Securely Attached

Research consistently shows that SAHM’s who were raised in affectionate, affirming homes that were stable, emotionally supportive, and employed consistent, gentle discipline are much more likely to enjoy being SAHM’s than less securely-attached women.  The term “attachment” refers to the degree a child has a gut-level sense that she can count on her parents to provide the temporal and emotional support and guidance she needs to thrive.

By contrast, women raised in less emotionally-affirming families-of-origin tend to exhibit either anxious or avoidant attachment.

Anxiously-attached women tend to be extremely scrupulous about their parenting, constantly worrying that every little misstep will ruin their children.  Their constant fear of failure and hypersensitivity to perceived (or actual) criticism makes it hard to truly enjoy anything about being home with their kids.  These SAHMs tend to experience both an extremely high commitment to being a SAHM with very low satisfaction in their role.  Depression can be a symptom of laboring under the constant weight of feeling that they are always wrong, always, failing, and never good-enough no matter how hard they try.

Likewise, avoidantly-attached women raised in unaffectionate, unemotionally supportive families-of-origin tend to struggle to enjoy relationships in general.  Things like giving affection and being nurturing tends not to come naturally to them—and may even grate on them.  They tend to focus on the tasks of motherhood rather than cultivating rewarding relationships with their children. Although every mom gets tired of cleaning a room just to have to clean it again, avoidantly attached moms tend to primarily and almost solely view motherhood as a never-ending mountain of tasks that can never be completed. They may experience depression as a result of never being able to feel that they have accomplished anything.

WHAT TO DO: If you struggle in this area, the good news is that there is such a thing as “earned secure” attachment.  Anxiously attached women can learn to stop beating up on themselves, and avoidantly attached women can learn to enjoy being human beings rather than human doings. Books like Dr. Tim Clinton’s Attachments: Why You Love Feel and Act the Way You Do or Dr. Amir Levine’s Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment are good places to start seeking healing. Professional counseling can also offer tremendous assistance in healing attachment wounds.

2. They Chose It

It is difficult to feel good about something that was forced on you.  Research shows that mothers who feel obliged to be SAHM’s primarily because of social pressure, or poor alternative child-care options, or other reasons, are more resentful of their role and more inclined to depression as a result.

 By contrast, mothers who choose to be SAHM’s primarily because they see, not just intellectual or practical value in the role, but also emotional value in nurturing a deep relational connection with their children, creating meaningful family experiences, and maintaining a cozy home are much more likely to experience real joy in their role.

WHAT TO DO:  In psychology, an external control fallacy is the mistaken belief that I am a helpless victim of my circumstances.  This unhealthy thinking pattern makes us passive-aggressively push back against our “fate,” causing us to “phone in” our effort which, in turn, leads to a sense that nothing matters, nothing is enjoyable, and I can do nothing to make my life more meaningful.  Anyone can fall into this trap, but avoidantly-attached moms are particular prone to this tendency.

There may well be compelling, practical reasons for being home with your children, but don’t ever let that stop you from bringing your creativity, your intelligence, and your whole self to the roles you choose to play—whatever they are!  Happy moms don’t always love every part of parenting, but they make sure to put their own stamp on what they do and the way they do it.  Even when they are struggling to find the energy to do it, they treat homemaking and child-rearing as worthwhile professions that they are committed to being accomplished at and taking joy in.    Research on burnout shows that when we feel uninspired by our work and roles, one key to recovery is making ourselves learn new ways to do what we feel are the “same old things.”  Each morning, ask yourself, “How will I create meaning, joy, and connection today?” Make these goals your priority, and resist the urge to simply coast through the day doing as little as possible, and doing it the same old way you always do. Books like Overcoming Passive-Aggression by Dr. Tim Murphy and The Corporal Works of Mommy (and Daddy Too!) by Lisa and Greg Popcak can be a huge help in these areas.  Counseling can also be a great help for reclaiming your sense of competence and creativity.

3.  They have supportive, involved husbands 

(and other supportive relationships).

A recent Today survey found that 46% of moms find their relationship with their husband more stressful than their relationship with their children.  These moms complained of critical, unhelpful, husbands who were poor helpmates around the house, disengaged fathers, and demanding spouses.

Happy SAHMs have husbands who are vocal about their support and praise for the work their SAHM wives do, are active helpers around the house, effective disciplinarians with the children, and engaged dads. Research by the Gottman Relationship Institute also shows that husbands of happy SAHM’s exhibit strong emotional intelligence; that is, they demonstrate both the ability to genuinely value and appreciate her perspective (even when they don’t agree) and an openness to respecting and learning from her expertise (as opposed to just going along to get along).

Happy SAHMs also do what they can to cultivate other supportive friendships, but it is important to note that having supportive friendships does not tend to make up for having an unsupportive spouse in terms of the risk of depression for SAHMs.

WHAT TO DO:  Know that you have a right to the support you need from your husband to be a great mom. If your husband is a greater source of stress than your kids, seek marriage help today.  Go to Retrouvaille.  Seek professional, marriage-friendly counseling.  If you were sick, you wouldn’t ask permission to go to the doctor.  Your husband doesn’t have to agree that you need counseling (in fact, he won’t if the current arrangement is “working” for him).  Talk to him about it, but whether he wants to or not, make the appointment.  Let him know you’re going with him or without him and you’d prefer he be part of the changes that are coming.  Get the help you need to have the husband you deserve and give your kids the father they need.

4. They Can Meet Their Needs.

Happy SAHMs  feel confident in their ability to meet their personal, financial and other needs—both on their own and with the support of the people in their life.  They are confident in their right to say to their husband, “Honey, I need your help with X.” whether that involves getting a shower in the morning, getting help with a discipline issue, getting assistance with household chores, or any other temporal, financial, emotional, relational, or spiritual need they have—and they are confident that such help will be forthcoming.

If their needs are not being met, they see it as a problem that must be solved, not as a trial that must be endured.  Silently.  With much sighing and hand-wringing because they dare to even have needs much less hope that one day they might be met. Depression can result from the accumulation of unmet needs and the hopelessness of ever being seen as anything but a vending machine.  Anyone can fall prey to this habit, but anxiously-attached moms are particularly prone to this tendency.

It is admittedly difficult to find the healthy balance that allows you to attend your children’s needs, your spouse’s needs and your own needs, but happy SAHMs see this as a challenge, not as an impossible dream.  They use their creativity, assertiveness, and intelligence to find ways to achieve balance, gather new tools, and get the support they need to get their needs met.  They work hard to avoid polarized thinking; acting like they have to constantly choose between meeting their needs or anyone else’s.  They recognize the challenges involved in maintaining good self-care, but see it as a task the requires ongoing collaboration and communication with their husband and children.

WHAT TO DO:  Stop assuming that you are supposed to be a super-hero who is not allowed to have or express your needs much less expect that they should be met.  On the days you spontaneously feel even slightly more connected to your “best self” write down the things that happened that made this possible.  Did you get more rest?  Exercise? Time to pray?  Did you do something enjoyable? Pace yourself differently?  Prioritize your relationships over certain tasks?  These are needs.  Prioritize them.  Talk with your husband and (to the degree that it is appropriate) your children, about how you can all work together to make these things happen on a regular basis.  If your spouse or family are either not receptive or hostile to this idea, seek professional help immediately.  This is an unhealthy dynamic that will undermine your mental health and the stability of your marriage and family if it is allowed to continue.

One book that can help you do a better job of identifying your needs and finding the balance that allows you to be a healthy, fulfilled SAHM is Then Comes Baby: The Catholic Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the First Three Years of Parenthood by Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcak.  And, as above, counseling can be a great help to developing these skills.

Bringing it Home

No doubt you can think of many other challenges that make the life of the SAHM a challenge, but chances are, most of these other things fit into one of the above categories.

The more you have the skills and resources associated with the above four categories, the more likely you will naturally be able to find real joy and meaning in your role as a SAHM.  By contrast, the more you oppressed (or depressed) you feel by your role as an SAHM, the more likely it is that you are missing some or all of the above.

No one can force you to be a SAHM.  If you genuinely don’t want to do it, you are certainly free to do something else.  There are many paths. But if there is any part of you that values the idea of being an SAHM, regardless of your personality or circumstances, you can find greater fulfillment if you commit to getting the resources you need to find meaning and joy in your role.  It might take time, and it might take a little more effort than you thought it might, but your happiness and wellbeing–and the happiness and wellbeing of your family—is absolutely worth it.

To discover more resources to help you be a happy, healthy, fulfilled mom, including professional, Catholic tele-counseling services, visit me at CatholicCounselors.com

*NOTE:  Presumably, all of the above information applies to stay-at-home-dads as well. My experience in counseling SAHDs over the years certainly suggests this to be the case. Unfortunately, there is currently not enough research on SAHD’s to be able to draw definitive conclusions.

“I’m Just Mad About Saffron. And Saffron’s Mad About…Treating Depression.” New Study Says.

saffronI’m just mad about saffron and saffron’s mad about me.  –Mellow Yellow by Donovan

A new review of 6 randomized, controlled trials found that the spice, saffron, was as effective for treating depression as Prozac and Tofranil.  The sample sizes of the studies are small but the results are tremendously promising insofar as study participants using  saffron as an anti-depressant do not appear to suffer from the side effects that are common to pharmaceuticals, such as sleepiness, constipation and sexual problems.  According to Dr. Adrian Lopresti, the lead author of the study, “Saffron has had a number of really well designed, robust studies investigating its antidepressant properties and pretty much all the studies have been positive.”

Why does saffron work?  According to Lopresti, “What’s been found in the literature over the last ten years is that people with depression have high levels of inflammation and free radical damage associated with oxidative stress. That led to interesting work looking into antioxidants and anti-inflammatories as antidepressants”  It turns, saffron has both strong anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties which enables it to have a potentially powerful impact on the physiological symptoms of depression; the aches, the lethargy, the feelings of sluggishness.

According to the study, the effective dose appears to be 15mg twice daily and results are usually apparent wishing 6-8 weeks.  There needs to be much more research done with much larger sample sizes before we can say whether saffron could be a consistently effective treatment for depression but early results are very encouraging.

 

Why So Down? Studies Show Humans Are Wired to Emphasize The Negative, UNLESS….

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Why is it that we can do 100 things right but obsess about the 1 thing that went wrong?  Or, why do we ignore the dozens of things the people around us do to be kind but then fuss about the 1 thing they miss?  It turns out that, except for one condition (which I’ll share below) human beings are actually wired to be negative.

In his book The Neurobiology of Human Relationships, Pepperdine psychologist, Louis Cozolino, reveals how research shows that the human brain is naturally wired to emphasize the negative more than the positive. Here’s a NYTimes article describing some of this research...

“The brain handles positive and negative information in different hemispheres,” said Professor Nass, who co-authored “The Man Who Lied to His Laptop: What Machines Teach Us About Human Relationships” (Penguin 2010). Negative emotions generally involve more thinking, and the information is processed more thoroughly than positive ones, he said. Thus, we tend to ruminate more about unpleasant events — and use stronger words to describe them — than happy ones.

Roy F. Baumeister, a professor of social psychology at Florida State University, captured the idea in the title of a journal article he co-authored in 2001, “Bad Is Stronger Than Good,” which appeared in The Review of General Psychology. “Research over and over again shows this is a basic and wide-ranging principle of psychology,” he said. “It’s in human nature, and there are even signs of it in animals,” in experiments with rats.

BUT, HERE’S THE CATCH

Cozolino notes, however, that there is one critical factor that mediates the brain’s tendency toward negative thinking; connection to other people.  Research shows that the degree to which we feel connected to others actually impact brain function.  Left alone, our brains are wired to emphasize the negative as a survival mechanism.  If I am on my own, I have to be prepared to face every threat.  I can’t relax.  My survival depends upon it.  But if I feel connected to the people around me, that sense of connection to others helps to balance out the brain’s natural tendency to go negative.  Connection actually stimulates the brain in a manner that allows me to feel safe. Because I am not alone and I am confident that others are here to help look out for me, I don’t have to pay as close attention to every negative thing.  In fact, I can even let some of the negativity go. I can be…(brace yourself) positive, happy, and even content, because I have people who are watching my back.  Attachment to others actually provides the nourishment our brains need to–as the old song puts it–accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.

CONNECTION.  NOT A CROWD

The thing is, it isn’t enough to just have people around me.  If my family is little more than a collection of individuals sharing a roof and a data plan, I will not be able to enjoy the benefits that relationship can give to my brain.  In fact, I might be more likely to feel negative since I am prone to see all the ways these people could take advantage of me or act in uncaring ways toward me.  In order to balance out our brain’s natural tendency to emphasize negative input, I have to actually feel connected to and cared for by the people around me.

CREATED FOR COMMUNION

Pope St John Paul the Great’s asserts that God’s design of the body teaches us important lessons about God’s plan for human happiness and fulfillment.  This research is a powerful example.  We were created to crave communion in order to have a more balanced, healthy, and positive outlook that enables us to experience life as the gift its meant to be.

It is tempting to think, some days, that we’d be better off if we could get away from everyone and go live on a mountain somewhere, free to do our own thing and think our own thoughts.  But, in fact, we are wired to need others to be healthy and fulfilled.  The more connected and attached we are to the people who share our lives, the more we feel whole and healthy.  It turns out that isn’t the benefits we gain by being connected to the people we love isn’t just a psychological or spiritual reality.  It is a neurological one as well.

New Study: Patient’s Environment May Determine Effectiveness of Antidepressants

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Image via Shutterstock

It is an open secret in the mental health profession that although antidepressant do have an impact on depression, a large number of depressed patients get little to no relief from antidepressants.  New research suggests a reason for that.   It turns out that the effectiveness of antidepressants may depend strongly on the patient’s environment.

The new study finds that antidepressants may not treat depression directly, but rather, makes the brain more amenable to change.  If a patient’s environment is positive, healthy, and affirming, SSRI’s like Prozac or Zoloft, etc. may “allow” the patient’s brain to more readily “recognize” and adapt to this healthy environment.  If, however, the patient’s environment is negative, unhealthy, or un-affirming, there is nothing for the brain to adapt to (except to reinforce the negative wiring that already exists) and the patient experiences little to no benefit.  Here is the how the study explains it.

simply… taking an SSRI, does not cause a recovery from depression, but puts the brain into a condition where change can take place. They believe the medication increases the plasticity of the brain, making it more open to being changed.

“In a certain way it seems that the SSRIs open the brain to being moved from a fixed state of unhappiness, to a condition where other circumstances can determine whether or not you recover,” said Poggini. According to the researchers, it is the environmental conditions you find yourselves in at the time of the treatment which determines whether you are likely to get better or worse.  READ MORE

This is why study after study asserts that despite the fact that most depressed patients are treated only with medication,  the best course of treatment for depression is a combined approach that involves BOTH medication AND ongoing psychotherapy.  If you, or someone you love, is depressed and only taking medication, there is a very good chance that they are not receiving the help they need to make a full recovery.  Psychotherapy can make all the difference. If you are looking for a faithful place to turn for professional help, I invite you to contact the Pastoral Solutions Institute (740-266-6461) to learn more about how our tele-counseling practice can help you find greater peace and joy in your life.  There is hope and healing after depression.  Getting the help you need is the key to a brighter future.

 

 

Antidepressants for a Bad Marriage Yield Depressing Results.

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Image Shutterstock

New research shows that doctors regularly diagnose patients as “depressed” when they complain about marital and relationship problems.  The problem is, being sad about a bad marriage isn’t depression, and anti-depressants can’t treat marital woes.

From PsychCentral

New research finds that psychiatrists nearly always respond with prescriptions for antidepressants when clients complain of bad marriages.

The medical definition of depression does not support the assumption that people struggling with their marriage or other domestic issues are depressed and require antidepressants, said Dr. Jonathan M. Metzl, professor of sociology and medicine, health, and society at Vanderbilt University and the study’s lead author. 

The study, conducted using a Midwestern medical center’s records from 1980 to 2000, appears in the current issue of the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine. READ THE REST

If you are struggling with marriage and family problems, be sure to get the right kind of help.  Medication can’t cure relationships problems. Marital Counseling can. But remember, not every therapist or psychiatrist is trained as a marriage or family therapist even if they say they do marriage and family therapy!  The success rate for therapists who “do marriage and family therapy” is about 30% while the success rate for therapists who have trained as marriage and family therapists (which includes completing internships in marriage and family therapy and receiving professional supervision) exceeds 90%!  To learn more about getting the help you need, check out When Divorce is NOT An Option: How to Heal Your Marriage and Nurture Lasting Love or contact the Pastoral Solutions Institute (740-266-6461) to learn how our Catholic Tele-Counseling Practice can give you the tools you need to live a more joyful, grace-filled, passionate marriage and family life.