The Winter Blues

For some of us winters are a sad time. Literally! Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD is a condition that surfaces when the chill sets in and the sun loses its sheen. It is more commonly known as winter depression, seasonal depression or whimsically the winter blues. The phase is actually a mood disorder for some people who enjoy absolutely normal mental health otherwise. But come winters and they begin to exhibit symptoms of depression.

This distinctive mood disorder recurs like clockwork in colder months for persons affected by the syndrome. They are usually in great condition for the rest of the year. Recognized as a specific disorder, this condition was earlier overlooked due to uncertainty and doubts. But now SAD is identified as a major depressive disorder. People suffering from it exhibit feelings of hopelessness, disinterest and withdrawal from social interaction. Sleep patterns and eating habits get affected making them feel lethargic and agitated.

It is normal for SAD people to over-sleep, over-eat or not eat at all. Waking up in the morning is difficult and they may experience a craving for carbohydrates. However every individual case may be different but insomnia and weight gain or conversely weight loss appears to add to their anxiety. Very often listlessness sweeps down making them averse to activity. The reduction of sunlight also adds to their difficulties to deal with themselves in the cold weather.

Some of us tend to feel low during the winter months but not all of us may be affected by SAD. It is believed that SAD is related to a lack of serotonin that plays its part in the disruptive malady. Serotonin in the brain regulates anxiety, happiness, and mood. Low levels of the chemical are associated with depression-like behavior. Another view is that lack of melatonin production in dim winter light affects the body’s control over the inherent circadian clock resulting in a slowdown or disturbed psyches.

People susceptible to SAD may therefore suffer from personality related afflictions. Correlations have been found between winter depression and personality traits like neuroticism, inability to cope and avoidance of normal living. Winter blues are now clearly associated with these four specific patterns:

  • Depressive episodes occurring at a particular time of year.
  • Remissions or mania/hypomania at the same characteristic time year.
  • Patterns last beyond couple of years with no non-seasonal depressive episodes.
  • Seasonal depressive episodes outnumber other depressive episodes in a lifetime.

Cloud cover contributes to negative effects of SAD. Seasonal mood variations related to light or rather lack of light are effectively rectified by using bright-light therapy. With clear evidence that SAD patients are affected by delay in their circadian rhythm, bright light treatment corrects such conditions. Also, winter blues may not have people feeling terribly depressed but perhaps simply experiencing lack of energy in performing everyday activities. Such blue feelings can be extinguished by exercise and increased outdoor activity.

People need to take advantage of sunny days to improve their mood and energy levels. When the sun is not out then indoor bright-light therapy can be made use of.   Light therapy can also consist of exposure to sunlight by spending more time outside when the sun is out. For more troubled patients antidepressants are effective. Depending on the patient’s condition light treatment or anti-depressants may be used alternately to improve the disorder.

In winters people also suffer from low vitamin D levels as they do not get enough ultraviolet-B on their skin. An alternative to using bright lights is to take vitamin D supplements. However, studies do not show a link between vitamin D levels and depressive symptoms. Physical exercise is effective for containing depression. Patients exposed to exercise along with bright light therapy whether natural or otherwise seem to make quick recovery. So chalk out your winter exercise schedule outdoors or indoors in brightly lit gyms and see your blues disappear.

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Bipolar Disorder is Not Just Another Manic Monday

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Commonly understood as depression, bipolar disorder is really a mental disorder that causes alternate periods of deep depression and then periods of elevated mood. But now here is new research that suggests the key role played by the PLCγ1 protein in the process leading to bipolar disorder. This then actually is a breakthrough in attempting to understand bipolar disorder.

With countless people all over the world suffering from the condition, bipolar disorder is a debilitating mental illness. People living with the disease experience drastic changes in mood and energy levels to a degree that interferes with their daily activities. With this new information we now know that a protein deficiency is responsible and could be a step forward in future treatment options.

The sad truth is that an overwhelming majority of cases of bipolar disease are rather severe. The causes of the malaise are unknown but again research says it is a genetic disposition and that background could be the cause of the illness. The gene encoding the cellular protein phospholipase Cγ1 is linked to bipolar disease although the exact mechanism that causes the disorder was not known until now.

This new research comes from Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology in Ulsan, South Korea. It has tested the role of phospholipase Cγ1 (PLCγ1) in mice and the findings are helping to explain the causative link between the protein and the disease. This study was published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

The studied undertook the premise about occurrences in synapses or the ends of neurons that facilitate electric signaling between two brain cells. Scientists noticed impairment in the inhibitory transmission and synaptic plasticity that is, the synapses’ ability to change their shape, function, or strength over time.

The brain-derived neurotrophic factor is a protein that regulates several synaptic functions, including the activity of PLCγ1. The crucial synapse formation in the brain deficits led to an imbalance between excitatory and inhibitory transmission between the brain cells’ synapses. PLCγ1-deprived mice displayed symptoms like hyperactivity, reduced anxiety-like behavior, abnormally high feelings of pleasure, excessive hunger and impaired learning and memory, as well as abnormally high startle responses. Researchers administered drug treatment for BD to these mice and this reduced their symptoms.

Thus it appears that a neurochemical chain reaction leads to the disease. The synapses that do not have enough PLCγ1 are unable to fulfill their inhibitory function properly in excitatory neurons, because the BDNF is not working properly either. This causes a disproportion between excitatory synapses and inhibitory ones, eventually leading to bipolar symptoms. Until now, although the PLCγ1 gene had been suggested to play a role, it was unclear exactly how PLCγ1 affected interneuronal signaling and how it caused mental illness.

After ten long years of research findings suggest evidence that PLCγ1 is critical for synaptic function and plasticity and that the loss of PLCγ1 from the forebrain results in manic-like behavior playing a major role in the onset of bipolar disorder. The breakthrough is likely to influence research into the treatment of the condition and its symptoms.

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On The Importance of Being Positive

be positive

“I truly believe that everything we do and everyone that we meet is put in our path for a purpose. There are no accidents; we’re all teachers – if we’re willing to pay attention to the lessons we learn, trust our positive instincts and not be afraid to take risks or wait for some miracle to come knocking at our door.”

Marla Gibbs

It’s that time of the year again when everyone’s all excited about the advent of a brand new year. However, of late everything has been going down a suck vortex. As if the tragedy of an aircraft disappearing in midflight only to resurface in an ocean with floating bodies and debris was not enough, here comes more awful news of people dying in a stampede while celebrating New Years. Really!!! The world is getting too much for us.

Whither goes’ sanity. How do we deal with such heartbreaking failure that in hindsight could well be due to man-made errors? It’s really time somebody put a handle on error-free lives. Which is why systems, processes, methodologies, procedures, operations, actions, activities, tasks, undertakings, proceedings follow set protocols, conventions, formalities, customs, rules of conduct, rituals, code of behaviour, accepted propriety, civilities should be followed to the tee.

Someone has to ensure the punctilio of imposing the-done-thing. The norm, if you will, has to be followed without question. It will save us all from tremendous backlash. But all too often the person in-charge for imposing rules is looked upon with exasperation. He could very well be the leader, boss, top-man, chief, principal, director, president, chief executive, manager, administrator, master, patron – call him what you will.

Often we tend to look upon this person as a controller – which he actually is. After all it is his job. Maybe, one should see his role in its entirety and as one that safeguards your own back. If only the chain of command would have been followed. If only propriety would have been observed. We would have seen one tragedy, less. One dark night of turmoil, less. Are we not tired of tragedies? Are we not in need of positively taking on the right stance?

Let us then all affirm on this first day of a brand new year. Be positive in doing just what needs to be done. Everything else can wait. Follow the steps. It is really important you follow instructions while paying attention to details. Follow instructions, listen carefully, and execute skillfully. These are important abilities you will need to get through life. One should always take rightful steps to know what you are supposed to do. The world would be in complete chaos if no one ever followed instructions. This is why rules and laws are made, so our world can run smoothly and become a better place. You need to reinforce this lesson only in a positive frame of mind.

On this note let us move on to a growing need to govern your lives with positive self-regulation. HERD FOUNDATION wishes everyone a very positive New Year. Good cheer for 2015!

“Positive anything is better than negative nothing.” — Elbert Hubbard

Be Positive

Be Positive

Stay Involved with Life and Living

Connect with Nature

Connect with Nature

The best among us are subject to depression. There are times you feel drained of all hope, drive and energy. Life appears difficult in the face of the storm you may be facing.  But while severe neurosis will have to be taken care of by experts, if you are simply feeling low or find yourself in the grips of fleeting melancholia then you can do things on your own to improve the situation. Some circumstances will of course take their time in resolving themselves but for bouts of depression that affect us all from time to time, you can work on snapping out of it.

With due diligence and persistence you can even wean yourself out of stubborn depression. Start by taking baby steps to feel better. And in no time you will be able to get yourself out of the woods. You can best do this by making positive changes around yourself, everyday. The road to recovery needs to be action oriented. It is but this fact of taking action is what you must be focused on. Set yourself in the frame of mind to do all the things you chalk out or yourself.

You should start by making small changes and adjustments for your psyche to regain its balance. If you like to schedule action points start with daily walks. Nothing is more invigorating than brisk walking. Besides the exercise doing you a world of good, it becomes the reason to step out of the confines of the indoors that seem to tie you down. Stay focused on your plan and do it with regularity. You should miss the activity if you happen to miss out any day. Getting out and enjoying the outdoors restores your sense of well being.

Next you could begin to look for likeminded people to befriend. Cultivate supportive relationships that will make a huge difference to your state of mind. Enjoy small exchanges and interactions – having tea, going for a movie or conversations. These will help you to maintain perspective over situations as well as keep you from being isolated. It is essential not to be lonely as being alone definitely increases depressive states. It is therefore extremely important to enjoy social relationships and activities that will keep you engaged.

Turn to loyal friends or trusted family members who want your betterment. You should share with them whatever is affecting you and help you to face up to things as they are. Sometimes all you need are people who will just listen to what you have to say. Having people you trust in your life keeps you from withdrawing into yourself. Also good company keeps you away from being down in the dumps. In extreme cases people have joined support groups, where often it is far easier to talk to relative strangers.

It helps to talk to people about your feelings. So never miss an opportunity to have coffee, lunch, movies, concerts, parties with friends. Seek out loved ones.  Be thankful they check on you with such regularity. Stay in touch, make calls, write letters, go back to old friends and meet new people too. Extend your social circle and make no bones about enjoying it all. Keep challenging all negativity around you. Negativity puts a spin on things so make sure you enhance positivity around yourself.

An important aspect of self help is taking good care of yourself. Do all the things that keep you happy. Have a healthy lifestyle. It is half the battle won. It automatically puts you on a get well mode and you manage stress better.  Eat well, sleep well and live well. Get good sleep. Stick to a tidy schedule. Enjoy your favorite show on television. Enjoy music. Enjoy sunshine daily. Sunlight offers a very positive impact. Enjoy eating out on the patio. All these small things will help you to feel better, naturally! Last but not the least – Pray. Enjoy your conversations with God – the most powerful therapist of all times.

Sunlight - Powerful Antidote

Sunlight – Powerful Antidote

Loss of Sense of Well Being

Masking Depression

Masking Depression

When feelings of extreme despondency overtake the psyche it marks the onset of depression. The state brings on low moods and possibly aversion to activity. Depression affects thoughts, feelings and behavior. A person with a depressed mood is sad, anxious, hopeless, helpless, irritable and restless in turns. There is loss of interest in everyday activities. Alternately one could be hyper active. Also a person may experience loss of appetite or conversely continually overeat.

Such a state of mind, if allowed to continue for long, leaves you in a shambles. You cannot concentrate, take decisions or think clearly. Excessive melancholia may even push someone to the brink of life. Other maladies could involve insomnia, excessive sleeping, fatigue, aches, pains, digestive problems and of course reduced energies. The persistence of sadness along with unexplained feelings of worthlessness may lead one towards drinking and pessimism making matters worse.

Often depression may not exhibit any external signs and be present in covert forms. Feelings of fatigue, constant worrying and feelings of doom or guilt are other attributes. Experiencing imagined or actual pains, aches and digestive troubles may also occur. Also there may not be really any specific disorder and one can suffer from physiological conditions – what are commonly now known as psychosomatic disorders. It leaves one feeling at a loss, unable to explain their condition.

Depression leads people to withdraw and hide behind their fears, imaginary or otherwise, but they do suffer from real mental trauma. This makes them shun personal contact, become reclusive till they might gradually shut out life. You may be sure to find depressive personalities hiding behind their surreal personas. The clinical condition may range from miserable mood swings to terribly debilitating mood disorders. So we must not be quick to dismiss people suffering from depression thinking it is an insignificant problem. All of us get depressed once in a while but the prolonged affair with melancholia requires due treatment. The thing is that such mental conditions are not taken as seriously as a physical disorder simply because you do not acknowledge the unseen pain.

The person hiding behind excessive internet usage could be a prime suspect for depressive disorders.  Content taking a backseat in his virtual world, his sleep patterns become disrupted making him more prone to depression. Check out the woman crying excessively for the most simplest of causes, creating a disconnect to remain aloof in a bid to numb her unmentionable pains. Watch out for people who stop grooming themselves. The unkempt youngster in shabby clothes may manifest a disordered personality.  Make note of eating habits of people around you – if they eat too little or a lot more – both are symptoms of appetite problems due to depression.

Depression is a psychiatric syndrome that hampers normal life. The fact is that some minds cannot cope with life events and changes that affect their psyches. From death of near and dear ones, disasters, isolation, relationships, emotional upheavals or catastrophic injury – anything might affect equanimity. If a person cannot bounce back to normalcy in two weeks time after an event and relapses into a state of chronic depressed mood, it may lead to severe clinical impairment. Such conditions include bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder and so on. India has a sizeable percentage of clinical patients who need doctors and specialists helping them to cope through.

Fixing Depression

Fixing Depression

 

September 10 – World Suicide Prevention Day – Stay Calm & Choose Life

Suicide Prevention

This Too Shall Pass

Today we address a very somber issue. We may not have worried overly on this topic. But when we hear of students confiding of failure in studies or inability to seek admissions and start thinking along lines of self-destruct – we get concerned. We need to say – hey buddy hang around. Wait and watch. Life changes incessantly. Change is the only constant. And life never ceases to offer amazing avenues. So keep the faith – primarily on yourself. Look around and seek alternatives. Read stories of inspiration. Watch your world turn around!

World Suicide Prevention Day is observed on 10 September each year. The day provides an opportunity for joint action to raise awareness about suicide and suicide prevention around the world. The WHO Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020 has Member States committed to working towards global target of reducing suicide rate by 10% by 2020. The World Health Organization informs nearly 800,000 people die by suicide every year! These are surprising and frightening statistics. We have a part to play here – we need to act as the gatekeepers.

Grievously 75% of suicides occur in low and middle-income countries. The NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) in India as also several other studies continue to reveal alarming projections for percentage of suicide in India. Of the 800,000 people committing suicide worldwide every year, of these 135,000 (17%) are residents of India! According to Dr Shekhar Saxena, Director – Department of Mental Health & Substance Abuse at WHO, “We know what works. Now is the time to act”.

The fact is people attempt to take their lives when they feel desperate and are unable to cope with problems. More suicides occur between 18 and 45, during productive age group years. The psychological and social impact of suicide on families is immeasurable. Studies suggest that each suicide leaves at least 6 people devastated and 6 lakh people become survivors every year in India. According to Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General the report on global suicide phenomenon “… is a call for action to address a large public health problem which has been shrouded in taboo for far too long”.

Suicides happen all over the world and actually take place at any age. Globally, suicide rates are highest in people aged 70 years and over. In some countries, however, the highest rates are found among the young. More men die by suicide than women. In developed countries three times as many men die by suicide than women. Men aged 50 years and above are particularly vulnerable. In low and middle-income countries young adults and elderly women evince higher rates of suicide than counterparts in high-income countries.

The good news is – Suicides are preventable. Effective measures include watchfulness, community support, care, compassion and extending hope. WHO recommends countries involve a range of government departments in developing a comprehensive coordinated response. High-level commitment is needed not just within the health sector, but also within education, employment and social welfare agencies. Extend help so that sufferers absorb set-backs and failures and look ahead with hope and fortitude. Human beings are naturally resilient. Teach them to lean on to their survival instincts. Never let them get to the point where they breakdown.

One needs to learn to live it up, despite it all. Stress and depression are part and parcel of life. Look at life through all its  vicissitudes. Cultivate hope and stay strong. Learn to laugh!! Laughing helps ease stress. Actually laughing is a great work out for the psyche. It refreshes and motivates you. Children laugh about 300 times a day while adults laugh only 15 to 100 times. Life needs to be dealt fair and square. Live each day one day at a time, when things go wrong, as they sometimes will. Accept. Resign. Move On. This ought to be the mantra for dispirited souls. The next best thing is to keep yourselves occupied – occupied in mind and body. Working hands are happy hands they say. Rejuvenate your psyches with laughter, music, nature and warmth of loving relationships. And keep chanting – This Too Shall Pass!

Live It Up

Stay Calm – Choose Life