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.

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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

Ketamine reverses neural changes underlying depression-related behaviors in mice

Researchers have identified ketamine-induced brain-related changes that are responsible for maintaining the remission of behaviors related to depression in mice — findings that may help researchers develop interventions that promote lasting remission of depression in humans. The study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), part of the National Institutes of Health, appears in the journal Science.

Major depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States, with approximately 17.3 million adults experienced a major depressive episode in 2017. However, many of the neural changes underlying the transitions between active depression, remission, and depression re-occurrence remain unknown. Ketamine, a fast-acting antidepressant which relieves depressive symptoms in hours instead of weeks or longer, provides an opportunity for researchers to investigate the short- and long-term biological changes underlying these transitions.

“Ketamine is a potentially transformative treatment for depression, but one of the major challenges associated with this drug is sustaining recovery after the initial treatment,” said study author Conor Liston, M.D., Ph.D., of Weill Cornell Medicine, New York City.

Full story at Science Daily

Critical receptor involved in response to antidepressants like ketamine

Effective treatment of clinical depression remains a major mental health issue, with roughly 30 percent of patients who do not respond to any of the available treatments. Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) have discovered a crucial receptor called mGlu2 that is critical to the mechanism of fast-acting antidepressants such as ketamine when used to treat depression.

This discovery into how this type of receptor in the brain works with fast-acting antidepressants is a critical discovery in treating depression, because existing treatments can take weeks before they are effective. A single dose of ketamine that is lower than the amount required to cause anesthesia within 24 hours can alleviates depression in some treatment-resistant patients.

Todd Gould, MD., Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, together with researchers from the National Institutes of Health Intramural Research Program, discovered that this special type of glutamate receptor interacts with ketamine’s mechanism.

Full story at Science Daily

Psychedelic microdosing in rats shows beneficial effects

The growing popularity of microdosing — taking tiny amounts of psychedelic drugs to boost mood and mental acuity — is based on anecdotal reports of its benefits. Now, a study in rats by researchers at the University of California, Davis suggests microdosing can provide relief for symptoms of depression and anxiety, but also found potential negative effects. The work is published March 4 in the journal ACS Chemical Neuroscience.

“Prior to our study, essentially nothing was known about the effects of psychedelic microdosing on animal behaviors,” said David Olson, assistant professor in the UC Davis departments of Chemistry and of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, who leads the research team. “This is the first time anyone has demonstrated in animals that psychedelic microdosing might actually have some beneficial effects, particularly for depression or anxiety. It’s exciting, but the potentially adverse changes in neuronal structure and metabolism that we observe emphasize the need for additional studies.”

Full story at Science Daily

Depression increases risk of early death in older adults

A research team designed a study to investigate the role depression symptoms play in an increased risk of death over time. The team also examined the role heart disease and stroke play in the link between depression symptoms and increased risk of death.

As we age, we become more likely to experience symptoms of depression. Research shows that depression’s symptoms can be linked to a higher risk for death. Yet often, older adults’ symptoms of depression may be missed by healthcare professionals.

What’s more, symptoms of depression have been linked to heart disease and stroke in middle-aged and older adults. Researchers suggest that the depression-heart disease link could play a role in the increased risk of death among older adults who have symptoms of depression. There’s also a known link between depression and deaths from cancer and falls in older adults. These connections might contribute to an increased risk of death for older adults, researchers suggest.

Full story at Science Daily

Women twice as likely to suffer from severe depression after a stroke

New research today published in the European Journal of Neurology has found that women are twice as likely to suffer from severe depression following a stroke than men.

The team of researchers from King’s College London followed the progress of symptoms over five years after stroke onset in 2,313 people (1,275 men and 1,038 women).

They found that 20% of women suffered from severe depression compared to 10% of men. They also found varying patterns of symptom progression; that long-term increased symptoms of depression are associated with higher mortality rates; and that initially moderate symptoms in men tend to become worse over time.

Full story at Science Daily