Feeling depressed? Mahjong might be the answer

When it comes to boosting mental health among older Chinese, it might be as simple as a game of mahjong, according to a new study from the University of Georgia.

Regularly playing the popular tile-based strategy game was one of several types of social participation linked to reduced rates of depression among middle-aged and older adults in China in the study appearing in Social Science & Medicine.

“Global economic and epidemiologic trends have led to significant increases in the burden of mental health among older adults, especially in the low- and middle-income countries,” said Adam Chen, an associate professor of health policy and management at UGA’s College of Public Health and study co-author.

Full story at Science Daily

Apathy: The forgotten symptom of dementia

Apathy is the most common neuropsychiatric symptom of dementia, with a bigger impact on function than memory loss — yet it is under-researched and often forgotten in care. A new study has found that apathy is present nearly half of all people with dementia, with researchers finding it is often distinct from depression.

Although common, apathy is often ignored as it is less disruptive in settings such as care homes than symptoms like aggression. Defined by a loss of interest and emotions, it is extremely distressing for families and it is linked with more severe dementia and worse clinical symptoms.

Now, research led by the University of Exeter and presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in LA has analysed 4,320 people with Alzheimer’s disease from 20 cohort studies, to look at the prevalence of apathy over time.

Full story at Science Daily

What to know about amitriptyline

Amitriptyline is an antidepressant drug that doctors prescribe to treat depression. It also has off-label uses for other mental and physical health conditions.

Amitriptyline is a drug in the tricyclic antidepressant (TCA) family.

TCAs were introduced in the late 1950s as a treatment for depression. Since then, other less toxic drugs have become available. Among them are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, better known as SSRIs.

Doctors prescribe amitriptyline to people with depression who have not responded to other antidepressants. There are additional uses for amitriptyline that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have not approved.

Full story at Medical News Today

Facebook may actually benefit adult mental health

It is a common belief that using social media platforms can adversely affect people’s mental health, but new research has shown that using these networking sites can reduce an adult’s risk of experiencing depression or anxiety.

Facebook’s reputation has sunk in recent years for a variety of reasons, including its role in the 2016 elections and the recent data breach.

In addition, studies have suggested that social media can cause psychological distress, loneliness, and depression. For example, research from 2019 suggested that quitting Facebook may improve overall well-being.

Full story at Medical News Today

From Schizophrenia to Megalomania, Three New Books on Mental Illness

According to her mother, Sardy’s father was swept away in a tsunami in Hawaii in the mid-80s. He drowned and a stranger took his place. This man was very helpful and began taking care of the family, and after a while nobody noticed anymore that he wasn’t their real dad. Sardy’s mother knew the truth, though. He was a replacement. She called him Mr. Ree.

Mr. Ree is one of many altered realities created by Sardy’s mother — a product of the paranoia, hallucinations and delusions that characterize schizophrenia. Mental illness runs through four generations of Sardy’s family, and this memoir is a dizzying reflection on her unwanted inheritance. While the story initially focuses on her mother and her struggles with the disease, it quickly shifts to the author’s brother and the mental demons that transform their relationship.

Sardy often refers to her own struggles with depression, but occasionally hints at something more. “I kept having moments in which I would look around and feel that nothing I saw was actually there. Or conversely, that all was as usual and I myself did not exist,” she writes. It is unclear whether these are literal insights into her mind, vivid metaphors or merely an expression of fear that her own brain may, as a result of genes and shared environment, be showing signs of mental disruption.

Full story at the New York Times

What is learned helplessness?

Learned helplessness is a state that occurs after a person has experienced a stressful situation repeatedly. They come to believe that they are unable to control or change the situation, so they do not try — even when opportunities for change become available.

Psychologists first described learned helplessness in 1967 after a series of experiments in animals, and they suggested that their findings could apply to humans.

Learned helplessness leads to increased feelings of stress and depression. For some people, it is linked with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Full story at Medical News Today

Are allergies linked to anxiety and depression?

Researchers from Germany and Switzerland have recently investigated the possible associations between conditions relating to mental health, such as depression and anxiety, and the presence of different types of allergy. Their findings, they say, should prompt scientists to pay more attention to these links.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the [United States],” leading to healthcare costs in excess of $18 billion each year.

Moreover, the CDC note that more than 50 million people in the U.S. have an allergy. Across Europe, about 150 million people have an allergy, according to the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Full story at Medical News Today

Exercise: Psych patients’ new primary prescription

When it comes to inpatient treatment of a range of mental health and mood disorders — from anxiety and depression to schizophrenia, suicidality and acute psychotic episodes — a new study advocates for exercise, rather than psychotropic medications, as the primary prescription and method of intervention. Findings from the study reveal that physical exercise is so effective at alleviating patient symptoms that it could reduce patients’ time admitted to acute facilities and reliance on psychotropic medications.

“The general attitude of medicine is that you treat the primary problem first, and exercise was never considered to be a life or death treatment option. Now that we know it’s so effective, it can become as fundamental as pharmacological intervention,” explains David Tomasi, a lecturer at the University of Vermont, psychotherapist and inpatient psychiatry group therapist at the University of Vermont Medical Center and lead researcher of the study.

Practitioners at inpatient psychiatric facilities — often crowded, acute settings in which patients experience severe distress and discomfort — typically prescribe psychotropic medications first, rather than natural remedies like physical exercise, to alleviate patients’ symptoms such as anger, anxiety and depression. In fact, Tomasi estimates that only a handful of inpatient psychiatric hospitals in the U.S. provide psychotherapist-supported gym facilities exclusively for these patients. Instead, practitioners rely on classical psychotherapeutic and pharmacological frameworks to treat psychiatric symptoms, which they monitor to determine when a patient is ready to be discharged from the facility.

Full story at Science Daily

A moody gut often accompanies depression: New study helps explain why

For people with depression, gastrointestinal distress is a common additional burden, and a new study suggests that for some, the two conditions arise from the same glitch in neuron chemistry — low serotonin.

The study, conducted in mice, shows that a shortage of serotonin in the neurons of the gut can cause constipation, just as a serotonin shortage in the brain can lead to depression.

The study also found that a treatment that raises serotonin in the gut and the brain may alleviate both conditions.

Up to a third of people with depression have chronic constipation, and a few studies report that people with depression rate their accompanying bowel difficulties as one of the biggest factors reducing their quality of life.

Full story at Science Daily

How ketamine can change the brain to fight depression

New research in mice, which the National Institutes of Health supported, shows how ketamine can alter brain circuits, quickly redressing depression-like symptoms.

Previous studies have shown that ketamine — an anesthetic — can rapidly reduce severe symptoms of major depressive disorder, particularly the occurrence of suicidal thoughts.

However, researchers are still unsure how this substance acts in the brain to fight off depression or how to maintain its therapeutic effects in the long run.

Full story at Medical News Today