Dual-Diagnosis

Why the religion of the Chattanooga shooter trumps his depression

Now we learn that Muhammad Abdulazeez, the gunman who fatally shot four Marines and a sailor at a recruiting office and naval reserve center in Chattanooga  last week, had depression and self-medicated with drugs an alcohol.

Normally, this would spark the usual debate on whether depression can make someone homicidal. The media would tell us that yes, in very, very rare cases depression could cause homicidal thoughts but much more common are suicidal thughts.

And the media would tell us that some anti-depressants can make depression worse and that Abdulazeez had taken anti-depressants.

However, in this case the media is more focused on whether Abdulazeez was a Muslim terrorist whose alleged fanaticism was sparked by a lengthy trip to the Middle East last year. The media is throwing the word Isis into their coverage and voila! They've got a gazillion hits on social media.
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Coping with Depression

Depression relief: Why standing-up matters

Sometimes, getting vertical is the hardest thing to do when we you are depressed. Just getting up - off the couch or out of bed - is a major accomplishment. Getting up and out the door is monumental.

In my last depression, I forced myself to do this. I knew that shutting myself in would only make the depression worse. Of course, I had the fear that if someone saw me out and about they would accuse me...
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General

Disney’s Inside Out: Learning to feel your feelings at the movies

I went to see Disney new movie, Inside Out, on Friday and it blew...my...mind.

It's the story of an 11-year-old girl, Riley. She's an only child and lives with her parents in Minnesota. Her father get a job in San Francisco and the family moves. As Riley struggles with her feelings during the move and starting a new school, we get a glimpse into the emotions driving her feelings.

There are five emotions and each is represented by a little cartoon character. The fivesome works together as Riley's emotion committee and - lucky for Riley - Joy is the leader. Other members include Anger, Fear, Disgust and Sadness.

The five of them gather around a Starship Enterprise-ish console with lots of buttons and take turns - or sometimes just butt-in and take control. Throughout Riley's day, the emotions generated by a specific event is transformed into a little orb - colored accordingly: Red for anger; green for disgust; blue for sadness; purple for fear' and yellow for joy.

The little orbs are stored in Riley's long-term memory - a massive labyrinth in Riley's brain. Riley also has five core memories. These are very, very special and joyful memories and you don't want to lose these. But, the committee does and Joy and Sadness go after them.
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Coping with Depression

The importance of passion

If we want people to take us and our mental illnesses seriously, then we have to take them seriously. Unfortunately, it's a little more involved than just taking some pills in the morning.

For me, this has meant figuring out the things I do that turn on and off certain chemicals in brain. I did years of therapy to deal with my emotions - especially anger. I learned part of my depression is anger turned inward.

I had to learn how to eat and sleep well - watching carbs, especially sugar consumption, which can spike my blood sugar levels causing quick highs and lows. I had to learn how to exercise in moderation because I tend to be a teeny bit extreme when it comes to working out.

I do not drink alcohol. I do not do dairy or gluten - which cause inflammation and make me feel old -something I DO NOT LIKE AT ALL! And sleep - ahhhh sleep. Eight hours, minimum with 20-minute power naps when needed. One day a week I sleep until my body wakes me up - usually after 10-12 hours.
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Coping with Depression

Should I let a lovely day at the beach ruin my mental health?

I have a rash and it is messing with my head.

I have had this rash for three weeks now. Two trips to the dermatologist and a biopsy and still, its cause is unknown. It is definitely an allergic reaction but to what, no one knows. My diet, soaps, lotions, animals in my life have not changed.

Obviously, this rash is frustrating. Constant itching, little bumps and more itching. I have tried every anti-itch cream on the market and everyone's home remedies.

But here is the real problem with this rash - it has forced me to take and perhaps take away the medication I need to protect my mental health.
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Coping with Depression

Crying to prevent my depression

My life improved when I accepted crying as a body function - like blowing your nose or peeing. I never worried that someone might think I was a wuss because I blew my nose. So, why is water coming from my eyes considered a weakness and peeing is not?

I got to pondering this enigma after a major depression that followed the death of my parents - 16 months apart - and then the death of my dog 8 months later. It took a couple years after these losses for the depression to really kick in. But when it did, it kicked in hard.

What I learned in my recovery was that I hadn't grieved properly. When sorrow smothered me, I stuffed it. When sadness came on me at work, I flung myself at a project to stop the tears. I was not going to cry - at least not in public. Of course, it's okay to cry right after someone dies or at the funeral. But not two months or two years later.

Get a grip. Suck it up. Enough already.
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Alcoholism

Can codependency kill?

I have a friend who says her codependency will kill her before her alcoholism. I am so codependent that when I do, I'm afraid someone else's life will flash before my eyes.

I am completely consumed by a dear friend's terminal illness. I don't like the way his caregiver is handling his care. I desperately want to jump in and tell his caregiver how to do things because in my spare time - when I'm not leaping  tall buildings in a single bound - I am an oncologist, a child psychologist, pain-management specialist and super-model.

That's how sick I am. I have the best intentions but my execution is a little off. It is obsessive caretaking. We form one-sided relationships with people who need care - such as my friend, who has cancer. The caretaking becomes compulsive and pathological.
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Alcoholism

Government scrubs substance-abuse data but doesn’t tell researchers

What if the government decided to withhold the data it gathers on an insidious mental illness that affects nearly one in ten Americans and did not bother to tell researchers it had done so?

It happened. The data are collected by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The mental illness - substance abuse.

The New England Journal of Medicine exposed these shenanigans and explained the consequences in an article published in April: Protection or Harm? Suppressing Substance-Use Data, by Austin B. Frakt and Nicholas Bagley. According to the authors, the CMS began to withhold from its data sets, called the Research Identifiable Files, any Medicare or Medicaid claim with a substance abuse diagnosis.

Why? Patient privacy concerns. Why didn't the CMS tell researchers? Good question.
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Alcoholism

Medical malpractice in treating dual-diagnosis

In September 2013 I had the unpleasant assignment of covering the memorial service of 10-year-old Alexandra Brooks. The service was held in the gymnasium of her school, where my daughter had also been a student. It was the same gymnasium where I sat through many  Christmas pageants and spring concerts.

The little girl's father, Bradley Brooks - who found his daughter's lifeless body - sat sobbing in the front row of the bleachers. The girl's mother, Pamela, who stabbed her daughter and then killed herself with the same knife, was not mentioned - although everyone quietly wondered...why?
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