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Being a bit moody at times is not so bad

Next time you are feeling a bit grumpy don’t worry too much about it, according to an Australian psychologist, the odd bad mood is actually quite good for you. Apparently people who are not in the best of moods are better able to make decisions and are not as naive as those who are much cheerier.

Professor Joe Forgas from the University of New South Wales reckons that when people are happy they may be more creative but when people are miserable they are more attentive and have clearer thoughts. There’s more too.

Those who are in a negative mood have a better memory, can more easily detect when someone is trying to dupe them, are less likely to make errors of judgement and are more adept at putting their case forward in an argument.

According to professor Forgas there is a very good reason why being unhappy is good for us. He says that when we were evolving, a happy and positive mood basically told everyone else that all was well and there was nothing to worry about whereas an unhappy and negative mood gave out a signal that something wasn’t quite right and to be alert and vigilant.

“Therefore a negative outlook promoted a more attentive and externally focused, information processing style” says the professor.

However, before you go thinking that it’s ok to adopt a negative and miserable attitude as a permanent state, you only get the benefits when the bad moods are short lived and temporary.

The message is that all moods are important, even bad ones, and to strive to be happy on a permanent basis isn’t realistic or even healthy, the key is balance, as it always is. If the negative mood is sustained for too long then there are no benefits and according to Forgas the costs are much greater, depression can have a debilitating effect on an individual.

Professor Forgas’s research involved asking volunteers to watch a series of films and to reflect on positive and negative events in their lives. Then he asked them to carry out a number of tasks, one of which was to provide an eyewitness account, and another which was to judge which urban myths were true or false.

Those who were in a bad mood did better and made fewer mistakes than those who were feeling more light-hearted. Forgas says the weather has an impact on us too, dull and rainy days sharpen our memory and sunny and bright days make us more forgetful.

Interesting!

Those in their 20’s think they are special and are more at risk of depression

According to an academic report, youngsters belonging to generation Y, in other words those who were born between the 80’s and 90’s and who are now roughly aged between 20 and 30 have an exaggerated sense of entitlement but lack the work ethics they need to achieve their goals, can’t take criticism, and basically think they are special.

However, the result of this is that far from the self fulfilment they seek, they end up with unrealistic expectations, which inevitably leads to disappointment and depression says the researchers from the University of Hampshire.

Professor Paul Harvey carried out a number of studies on this group of youngsters known as Gen-Yers, also sometimes called the Millennium generation or the Boomerang Generation because they keep coming back to live at home.

Harvey found that they scored 25 percent higher on psychological tests measuring entitlement and narcissism than those aged 40 or over and 50 percent higher than those aged over 60.

As well as this, Gen-Yers were twice as likely to rank in the top 20 percent in their level of entitlement “highly entitled range” as someone between 40 and 60 and four times more likely than those over 60.

According to Professor Harvey, this “very inflated sense of self” gets ingrained in the youngsters when they are young which stems from the self esteem movement telling kids “you’re great, you’re special” and their subsequent failure leads to “chronic disappointment”.

Professor Harvey also maintains that this generation have an automatic “knee-jerk” response to being criticized and will just dismiss it.

“Even if they fail miserably at a job, they still think they’re great at it,” says professor Harvey, reported in the Telegraph.

However, the down side is that they are not happy, have higher levels of depression and an unjustified level of self esteem which masks the reality.

The Telegraph also reports a separate study conducted by researchers from Kennesaw State University in Georgia, which is soon to be published in the Journal of Management, which shows that this generation want high salaries but more leisure time, two goals which are obviously hard to come by.

“They want the time off. They want the big bucks. The findings really support the idea that they’re entitled” said an assistant professor of management at Kennesaw, Stacy Campbell.

Wonder if generation Z will fare better?

When do you stop taking your antidepressants?

If you suffer from major depression then the chances are you will have been prescribed some form of antidepressant drug. However, how do you know when it’s safe to stop taking them?

According to Harvard Medical School professor of psychiatry Maurizio Fava, “this is an area of great importance to patients, and given the very limited data available, there is a clear need for studies to inform clinicians and patients”.

Even though we understand more about depression and antidepressant drugs now than ever before, what we don’t know, is when it’s safe to stop taking the drugs as there hasn’t been enough studies into this particular aspect of anti depressant medication. We also have no way of knowing how long someone’s depression is likely to last. For some it may be a few weeks or months whereas for others it can last for years or even decades.

What the data suggests is that if you’ve had one major depressive episode then you have about a 50 percent chance of having another. If you’ve had two then of course the risk is much higher than that, and with each additional episode, the risk of another increases yet again.

What is known is that it is not a good idea to just suddenly stop taking your medication as this can cause some rather unpleasant side effects. So what do you do if you want to stop taking your antidepressant drugs?

The first thing would be to talk to your doctor or care provider; however, there are no set rules or guidelines for your doctor to follow as to when it’s ok for you to come off your drugs. What your doctor is likely to do is to gradually reduce your dosage over a period of weeks or perhaps a few months.

It’s also not a good idea to start to reduce your antidepressant dosage at a time when you are experiencing stress in your life as this might trigger depression symptoms again.

You also stand a better chance of coming off your antidepressants easily if your depression was mild. However, that doesn’t mean that those with major depression or who have had many episodes in their life cannot come off their medication, it just means that the dosage should be reduced much more slowly as the chance of a relapse after cutting back on the medication may be higher.

“Green Space” Exercise Can Boost Mental Health

We all know that getting out in the fresh air can ease tension and make us feel good but now according to research from the UK, spending just 5 minutes outdoors exercising in a “green space”, can improve your mental health by boosting your mood and your self esteem.

“For the first time in the scientific literature, we have been able to show dose-response relationships for the positive effects of nature on human mental health” said Professor Jules Pretty from the University of Essex and leader of the research study.

The study involved looking at information on 1,250 people from a combination of 10 different studies.

The type of exercise the researchers examined included gardening, walking, cycling, fishing, boating, farming and horse riding, which took place in a nature setting such as a garden, park or nature trail.

Ok so we already know that a spot of fresh air can blow away the cobwebs and help you feel good but there are some interesting aspects to this research.

What was particularly interesting is that this type of exercise carried out in a nature setting or “green space” appeared to have the biggest impact on younger people and those who were stressed, inactive, or suffering from a mental illness.

“Employers, for example, could encourage staff in stressful workplaces to take a short walk at lunchtime in the nearest park to improve mental health” said Jules Pretty.

Another researcher in the study, Dr Jo Barton, also from Essex, reckons that if people took a daily walk in the countryside it would save the health service money and help keep the doctor away.

“There is a large potential benefit to individuals, society and to the costs of the health service if all groups of people were to ‘self -medicate’ more with green exercise” said Barton.

Other interesting findings revealed by the research were that although a longer time spent in the outdoors had positive benefits, the greatest benefit was actually seen in the first five minutes of being in the outdoors, and the most effective nature setting was somewhere near water such as a lake or a river.

The researchers claim that the study “confirms that the environment provides an important health service”.
The research has been published in the Environmental Science and Technology journal.

Exercise Should Be Prescribed For Depression Says Researchers

If you suffer from depression and anxiety then probably the best thing you can do to ease your depression is exercise says a new study.

According to Jasper Smits, who is the director of Anxiety Research and Treatment Program at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, exercise can have tremendous benefits for mental health and the more therapists there are that are trained in exercise therapy the better off depressed patients would be.

Smits and psychology professor Michael Otto from Boston University analysed previous studies related to exercise and mental health and found that exercise could effectively reduce depression and anxiety.

If you suffer from mild to moderate depression and seek advice from your doctor then it is very likely that you will be offered some anti-depressants and perhaps some form of therapy, however, according to Smits, exercise can fill the gap for people who don’t have access to treatments, who are afraid of the stigma associated with mental health issues or who can’t afford treatment. Even for those who are already receiving treatment, exercise could help their recovery.

These were the main points:

  • People who exercise report fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Exercise lowers stress levels and reduces anger
  • Exercise can act a bit like an antidepressant and influence neurotransmitters in the brain
  • Exercise can reduce fear associated with anxiety such as pounding heart and rapid breathing
  • Exercise improves mood

Provided the individual is in good health otherwise, Smits recommends moderate exercise for around two and a half hours a week (for example walking) or an hour and a half of more intense exercise (running).

According to Smits the benefits are felt immediately. After only 25 minutes of exercise stress levels are reduced and mood improves and energy levels are increased. However, the one barrier to this would be motivation on the part of the individual.

“Therapists can help their patients take specific, achievable steps,” he says.

“This isn’t about working out five times a week for the next year. It’s about exercising for 20 or 30 minutes and feeling better today.”

Smits and Otto have written a guidebook for mental health professionals called “Exercise for Mood and Anxiety Disorders,” with an accompanying patient workbook (Oxford University Press, September 2009).

The researchers presented their findings in Baltimore at the annual conference of the Anxiety Disorder Association of America.

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Who Are The Community Mental Health Team?

If you have been diagnosed with a mental illness then there is the possibility that your doctor will refer you to a Community Mental Health Team (CMHT). The Community Mental Health Team is a group of professional individuals who are specialists in their line of work.

Together they are able to offer you the kind of treatment, advice and support you need to help you cope with difficulties you may be having and to give you the best chance of recovery.

So what kind of professionals might make up a CMHT and what can they do for you?

Psychiatrists

Psychiatrists have a degree in medicine and are fully qualified doctors with further training in mental illness. They are able to prescribe you any medication you might need and make decisions regarding what sort of treatment is appropriate in your case.

Psychologists

Psychologists have a degree in psychology and extensive training before they become qualified psychologists. They are not doctors so cannot prescribe medication but they have an excellent understanding of mind and behaviour and can therefore recommend and offer psychotherapy which can include cognitive and behavioural psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, or any other therapies.

Community Psychiatric Nurses (CPNs)

A CPN will make home visits to you at regular intervals in order to make sure you are coping with life in general and can help you with any practical problems or difficulties you may have including any issues about your medication. Different CPNs may have specialised training in specific areas of mental health so are able to offer you advice and liaise with other members of the CMHT about your treatment and progress.

Social Workers

Social Workers are qualified professionals who are able to help you with practical issues such as finances and benefits, housing, family and relationship problems etc.

Occupational Therapists (OTs)

Occupational therapists are also able to help you with practical things such as what you physically can and cannot do and how you can be more independent. They can help you regain confidence and advise you on what sort of help is available in your area.

Other information about the CMHT

There are many other members of the CMHT which will differ from area to area but can include various counsellors and therapists as well as receptionists and secretaries.

The CMHT will often operate out of a doctor’s surgery or a local hospital or health clinic but again, this varies from region to region.

All the professional members of the Community Mental Health Team work closely with each other and will have regular meetings to discuss specific cases and the best ways of dealing with them.

You are likely to be assigned a key worker who will be your main point of contact. This key worker could be a nurse or a social worker or anyone else in the team. They will be familiar with your case, will get to know you and gain an understanding of any particular difficulties you might have and will be able to talk to you about your treatment and what you can expect regarding your care.

Schizophrenia symptoms and how to recognise them

Unfortunately there isn’t a reliable single test that can diagnose schizophrenia as yet so a diagnosis is usually made by a psychiatrist if the individual concerned displays symptoms of schizophrenia and other possible conditions have been ruled out.

No two people with schizophrenia will display the same symptoms to the same degree; instead there will usually be a combination of positive and negative symptoms which can include hallucinations and delusions, poor social functioning, racing thoughts and disorganised thinking.

Positive symptoms

Positive symptoms can be described as those symptoms which are in addition to normal ways of functioning and behaviour and which people who do not suffer from schizophrenia are unlikely to experience such as hallucinations, illusions and delusions. Hallucinations can take place in any of the senses, for example in the form of sound, sight, touch, taste and smell. A common type of hallucination in schizophrenia is hearing voices that other people cannot hear and these voices are a very real experience. They can be talking to the person with schizophrenia or even tell them to carry out certain orders.

Illusions on the other hand are when certain things are real and do exist but are misinterpreted by the individual and perceived as something different.

Delusions can be described as beliefs which are simply not true and which are not based on any fact or real evidence. For example a common type of delusion in people with schizophrenia is a feeling of being persecuted, in other words paranoid schizophrenia. The individual may falsely believe that another person or persons sometimes close family members are conspiring against them. Another type of delusion often seen in schizophrenia is where the person believes they are extremely important or famous and this is known as delusions of grandeur. They may believe that voices on the radio or people on the television are speaking directly to them giving them personal messages.

Negative symptoms

Negative symptoms can be more difficult to evaluate and treat because they are less obvious than positive symptoms. They can be described as those symptoms that appear to show a loss of normal functioning and behaviour. For example, negative symptoms can include a withdrawal from social contact, showing no emotion, being slower to think and talk, and altered sleeping patterns.

Schizophrenia is more a collection of symptoms and signs so an evaluation of all the symptoms by a psychiatrist is essential for an accurate diagnosis.

Paranoid Schizophrenia, what does that mean?

Paranoid Schizophrenia is a type of Schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a serious and debilitating mental illness where the individual interprets reality in an abnormal way and as such can experience hallucinations and delusions.

Hallucinations are hearing or seeing things that aren’t really there and can affect any one of the senses. Delusions are where the individual believes in certain things which are not true and persists in believing them despite being presented with evidence to the contrary.

Someone suffering from delusions might believe they are of divine birth and on a special mission in life or that they are famous and extremely important or that the television and radio as well as other forms of media are sending out special messages directed specifically at them.

The behaviour of someone with schizophrenia can appear bizarre, irrational and indeed shocking to others at times and can cause much worry and anxiety for the sufferer, the family and close friends and co workers. In paranoid schizophrenia the individual may feel persecuted and may even mistakenly believe that a close friend or member of the family or anyone else for that matter is trying to poison them or is conspiring against them. This feeling that someone is out to get them or that they are being watched and plotted against can lead to violence and confrontation as they try to ‘defend’ themselves against their perceived threat.

Other symptoms of Paranoid Schizophrenia

•    Extreme jealousy
•    Hearing voices
•    Hallucinations involving any of the senses
•    Beliefs with no basis in reality
•    Anxiety
•    Aggression and confrontation
•    Withdrawing from social situations and contact
•    Anger
•    Thoughts of suicide

The symptoms of schizophrenia are generally categorised into positive and negative symptoms. Positive symptoms can be described as those which involve hallucinations and delusions. Negative symptoms on the other hand can include symptoms such as withdrawing from social situations, showing little or no emotion and being slow to think and talk.

If you feel that you or someone close to you may have symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia it’s vital that you seek help early. The difficulty with this is that many people with schizophrenia will not recognise that they have a problem or that they need help. However, with the right treatment and support from family and friends there is every chance that the individual with schizophrenia can go on to lead a full, productive and happy life.

Different Types Of Depression Treatments

There are many possible causes of depression and, as a result, there are many depression treatments.  Sometimes they are used in conjunction with each other, and sometimes they are used as the solitary method of treatment.  A few of the most common methods of treating depression are medication, psychotherapy, and electroconvulsive therapy.

Medications

Medications used to treat depression are known as antidepressants.  They affect various neurotransmitters in the brain that are thought to play a role in the disorder.

Depression is believed to have a clear chemical component and, in some cases, a chemical imbalance may be the root cause.  Even in cases where the main cause is not chemical, antidepressants can help the patient by providing relief as the other causes are explored and dealt with.

Psychotherapy

This is the one that you picture with a patient on a couch and a therapist with a notepad listening intently as the patient speaks.  There are many different schools of thought as to how to most effectively treat depression in a psychotherapy setting, but many agree that psychotherapy is the method that often produces the most lasting results.

If the causes of the depression are mental in nature then it is not hard to see why this form of therapy would work.  The therapeutic relationship attempts to explore a person’s thoughts and behaviour to discover what is causing the depression and why it is being maintained.  This understanding is used to promote growth and change.

Electroconvulsive Therapy

This form of therapy involves the administration of electricity to the scalp to induce a seizure in the patient.  The necessary course of treatment often involves the administration of these bursts of electricity during sessions that take place over the course of several weeks.

It may seem like the most extreme or even farfetched method of the treatments mentioned here, but it can be effective in cases where the patient has been resistant to treatment.  This resistance could be the ineffectiveness of medications in the patient’s case or a case wherein medications could do harm to the patient.  It may also be applied when the situation is severe and results are needed immediately.

The many treatments for depression all have their benefits.  When used singularly or when used in pairs, they may provide welcome relief to depression patients.  The multiplicity found in the causes of depression has necessitated a similar diversity in its treatments.  This diversity helps professionals approach the problem with the most appropriate of the treatments.