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Emotional Health and Your Heart

Emotional Health

Tears may be dried up— But the heart, never.
—Marguerite de Valois

What makes a healthy heart? Certainly a healthful diet that includes Omega 3 fatty acids, regular exercise, adequate sleep, very moderate alcohol consumption, and no smoking. But did you realize that your emotional health is actually a better predictor of heart health than your other healthful habits?

Scientist William Harvey (1578-1657) noticed a connection between heart and emotional health as early as 1625. Early physician William Osler said that the typical heart disease patient is “a keen and ambitious man, the indicator of whose engine is always ‘full speed ahead’.” Of course, to any woman reading Osler’s observation, it is clear that things have changed for our gender; today, heart disease is the leading cause of death for today’s woman, who seems always on the go and buffeted by conflicting demands.

Even so, the connection between emotions and heart disease is somewhat poorly understood. Anger, depression, anxiety, loneliness, and constant stress are the feelings that researchers have identified as putting women—and men—at risk for heart disease. Researchers and cardiologists Dr. Meyer S. Friedman and Dr. Ray Rosenman are credited with coining the term “Type A Personality” in the 1950’s as basically an angry person who possesses three traits: free-floating hostility, impatience, and insecurity. “Trait anger” has also been associated with sudden cardiac death. People who score high on hostility scales more rapidly develop atherosclerosis. Perhaps most frightening of all, a Harvard study shows that 1 in 40 heart attack survivors experienced an “episode of anger” two hours before their heart attack.

For women, perhaps the most pertinent emotional experience associated with heart problems is depression, because depression is much more common for women than for men. A recent study demonstrated that patients who were depressed were three times more likely to die in the year following a heart attack. Also, women were twice as likely as men to develop depression after a heart attack.
Many people think of a depressed person as someone who is so deeply sad, hopeless, and lethargic that they are unable to function, but this is not so. There is also minor depression, in which a person has only a few symptoms, and dysthymia, a low-grade level of depression that continues for two years or longer. Depression can also occur after a major life-changing event such as a move. Finally, depression can be caused by a medical condition, such as multiple sclerosis or diabetes.

The problem with depression is that a woman who is depressed is less likely to notice her physical symptoms, or to do anything about them. It is well known that people who are depressed have trouble complying with their doctor’s orders, including taking medication. A depressed woman is less likely to exercise or eat a healthful diet. All of these factors can lead to ill health, including heart disease.

Anxiety and chronic stress can also precipitate heart disease. Anxiety may be generalized—in other words, a person may worry and feel keyed up—much of the time, no matter what is happening, or it may be specific, as in a phobia of some kind. Obsessive-compulsive disorder, as well as its associated personality disorder, is also a manifestation of anxiety. Intense anxiety can trigger cardiac arrest as the heartbeat abruptly turns fast and uncoordinated. Fortunately, anxiety is one of the easiest problems to treat, and for most people it can be managed without medication.

Chronic stress—work woes, financial problems, troubled marriage, caregiving, and even environmental stresses such as natural disasters—have also been linked with the development of heart disease. In my practice as a psychologist who teaches people ways to manage stress, I can say that the problem for most women is “must disease,” as in “I must do everything—today!—and I must do it well, and I must please everyone.” The only “must” in my mind is that women must learn to relax!

Further proof that anger, depression, anxiety, and stress lead to heart disease comes from the improvements that occur when these states are treated. The well-known Recurrent Coronary Prevention Project studied over 1,000 men and women who received routine medical care and group counseling about risk factors, or care plus group therapy to modify Type A traits. Those who attended group therapy had a whopping 44% reduction in second heart attacks. A similar longitudinal study demonstrated that not only do people who receive stress management have a significant reduction in second cardiac events, they also save an average of $1,228 in medical costs per year.

A whole-person approach to cardiac disease prevention is critical. When anyone recommends that you see a behavioral health specialist—a mental health practitioner who specializes in mind/body approaches—to help in your quest for better health and a longer life, take heed. Don’t make that well-meaning person wheedle, cajole, and beg you to do something good for yourself. Remember “must syndrome”? That seems to include putting everyone else’s needs first. Women must learn to recognize the signs that they need help managing stress or anger, or ending depression or anxiety.

Here are some concrete tips that you can implement today to help strengthen your emotional health:

  • Understand what triggers a stress response for you. Either eliminate the trigger or find new ways to cope.
  • Develop a daily relaxation practice: yoga, meditation, journal writing, biofeedback, guided imagery, walking, etc.
  • Limit exposure to negative people and events.
  • Develop an optimistic outlook. You don’t need to be a Pollyanna, but when the odds are with you, you have every right—and deserve—to feel positive.
  • Increase positive social support. Join a club, volunteer, get active in church, etc.
  • Talk to a psychotherapist if you have stress, anxiety, depression, or excessive anger that doesn’t resolve within a few weeks after your efforts to change.
Your physical health doesn’t end at the invisible line that you’ve drawn between on your neck between your body and your brain. Your physical health largely depends on your emotional well-being. If you have cardiac disease or wish to prevent it, all the fish oil and 30 minute walks you can possibly do may not be enough if you are unhappy. As a woman, you deserve a better quality of life. Change is always possible, and if you cannot do it alone, help from your physician or a health psychologist is always available.

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Seroquel – Treating Schizophrenia, Bipolar

Seroquel is used to treat the symptoms of several different psychotic conditions. Schizophrenia, manic depression, and bipolar disorder can be treated with this medication in adults and in children who are at least 10 years old.

Warning Before Taking Seroquel

Seroquel is not to be used in psychotic conditions that are related to dementia. Sudden death, pneumonia, or heart failure can occur in older adults with dementia-related conditions, if they take this medication.

Other conditions to discuss with a physician before taking Seroquel include liver or kidney disease, a history of heart attack or stroke, seizures or epilepsy, liver or kidney disease, thyroid disorders, a history of low white blood cell counts, high cholesterol or triglycerides, trouble swallowing, or a personal or family history of diabetes.

Administration of Seroquel

Always take this medicine exactly as it is prescribed. A patient's doctor will increase or decrease the dosage to ensure that the patient sees the best results from Seroquel.

It's recommended that Seroquel be taken with a full glass of water. For patients who are prescribed the extended-release tablet, it's important to avoid chewing, crushing, or breaking the tablet.

Side Effects of Seroquel

Seek emergency treatment if any signs of an allergic reaction are observed after taking Seroquel. For a patient who experiences an allergic reaction, symptoms can include difficulty breathing, hives, or swelling of the face, lips, throat, or tongue.

Common side effects associated with Seroquel can include dry mouth, runny nose, sore throat, dizziness, drowsiness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, constipation, blurred vision, headache, anxiety, agitation, breast swelling or discharge, weight gain, or missed menstrual periods.

Patients should inform a physician immediately if one experiences worsening or new symptoms such as a panic attacks, trouble sleeping, mood or behavior changes, or anxiety. Patients should notify a doctor if they start to feel impulsive, hostile, aggressive, restless, irritable, agitated, hyperactive, more depressed, or if patients have any thoughts regarding suicide or of hurting themselves.

Considerations About Seroquel

During the first 12 weeks of treatment, the patient's family or caregivers should be alert to any mood changes in the individual who is taking Seroquel.

When first taking an antidepressant, suicidal thoughts can occur, especially in patients who are younger than 24 years old. Patients should tell a doctor immediately if these thoughts are experienced or if depression gets worse instead of better.

Seroquel is classified as a FDA category C medication for pregnant patients. It is unknown if it is harmful to an unborn baby. Patients should talk to a physician if they are pregnant or planning to become pregnant during the course of treatment. Breastfeeding mothers should also consult a doctor before taking Seroquel.

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Redefining Depression and Medicalizing Sadness

depression and medicalizing sadness

“And if ever, by some unlucky chance, anything unpleasant should somehow happen, why, there's always soma to give you a holiday from the facts. And there's always soma to calm your anger, to reconcile you to your enemies, to make you patient and long-suffering. In the past you could only accomplish these things by making a great effort and after years of hard moral training. Now, you swallow two or three half-gramme tablets, and there you are. Anybody can be virtuous now. You can carry at least half your mortality about in a bottle. Christianity without tears -- that's what soma is.”
-- Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

Sadness is an inevitable occurrence in the span of our transient lives. However, many cultures throughout history have recognized that some people are inexplicably stricken with a persistent despair that has no particular cause or that is not proportional to the loss suffered. This condition is what we know today as depression.

However, as Horwitz and Wakefield argue in their 2007 book The Loss of Sadness, the current DSM definition of depression also includes many people who are actually suffering normal sadness proportional to life events, rather than a mental disorder.

This overly broad definition risks medicalizing normal sadness, because currently many people who have reasonable cause for their sadness fit the diagnostic requirements for the medical condition of depression.

Distinguishing Sadness Proportional to a Cause from Depression

Horwitz and Wakefield distinguish between sadness proportional to a cause, which they posit is a normal human reaction, and persistent sadness without cause, which qualifies as depression.

They criticize the DSM definition for only exempting sadness from bereavement, and that only for two months; they compellingly argue that many other life events (breakups, divorce, losing one’s job, a diagnosis of a serious illness, etc.) can also cause symptoms of depression without being a true mental disorder.

When these problems are overcome, many people recover emotionally; this suggests their sadness was not a disorder, but a proportional reaction to distressing life events.

Moreover, many symptoms – such as tiredness or trouble sleeping – are common to much of the population, and may not indicate anything.

The Overdiagnosis of Depression

Depression diagnoses have skyrocketed, especially with the advent of symptom-based questionnaires with broad questions intended to detect all possible victims of depression. Questionnaires are much cheaper to use than actual physician consultations, and arguably more objective, but their inclusiveness inevitably results in a very high number of false positive diagnoses.

Ideally these initial diagnoses would all be reconsidered by a physician, but due to financial constraints, many are not. This overdiagnosis of depression can create many problems, such as unnecessary expense, stigma, change in one’s perception of self, side effects of drugs, and the increase of medical surveillance, even for people who may not be truly sick.
Moreover, diagnoses in people who are not sick may reduce the medical care available to those who truly need it (156).

The Increase of Medical Surveillance

The perception that depression is increasing and exists undiagnosed in many people has increased medical surveillance; for example, screening has become common in schools.

However, as Horwitz and Wakefield point out, screening has not proven accurate; the loss of a romantic attachment is the strongest predictor for depression, but teens usually soon recovered from these emotions (159).

Screening is often supported as a strategy to prevent teenage suicide, suggesting that depression is a social danger, but this too has not proven accurate. Some anti-depressants may even increase the risk of suicide or violence, potentially making depression an iatrogenic condition.

The Function of Sadness

Sadness is inevitable, but not necessarily desirable. Although many hypotheses exist for why humans have evolved to feel sadness, the question also remains as to whether there is any useful function of sadness in today’s world.

Normal sadness is not a medical disorder, but this does not necessary preclude it from medicalization. Many other natural life occurrences, such as death, birth, aging, and menopause, have also been medicalized because people prefer to reject them or wish to experience them in a different way.

Anti-Sadness Medicine: The Future?

The argument for clarifying the definition in the DSM is compelling, but even if depression is reconceived in narrower, more accurate terms, the specter of medicalized sadness under a different name still remains.

It is easy to imagine the marketing of anti-sadness medicine, and easy to understand its temptation. Like mental enhancement drugs, drugs to treat normal sadness may offer the choice to improve oneself through medicine. But this improvement may come with costs.

Brave New World: The Dystopia of a World Without Sadness

Aldous Huxley’s 1932 dystopian novel Brave New World, set in London in 2540, provides a portrayal of a world without sadness. Its society is highly medicalized, with complete state control of reproduction, and the ubiquitous use of soma, a “perfect drug.”

Soma is an antidepressant and hallucogenic drug with no harmful side effects – “All the advantages of Christianity and alcohol; none of their defects.” There is no sadness in this society, but no love, no intellectual or creative pursuits.
Sadness is considered deviant, and characters urge each other to take soma when they seem even a little glum. When a character accidentally forgets her soma during a stressful visit to a reservation (where people live as they do today), she can barely function without it.

The Meaning of Sadness as Part of Human Experience

Huxley’s novel implies that sadness is a necessary part of the human condition, and that life is meaningless without it. Soma is an escape, not only in the most literal sense that it provides a hallucinatory break from life, but it also is an escape from life’s problems, from life’s difficulties, which give our lives meaning.

In his 1958 nonfiction Brave New World Revisited, Huxley concludes that our world is moving towards that of his dystopian novel faster than he had anticipated.

The Consequences of Medicalizing Sadness

Horwitz and Wakefield conclude that “if they find that their lives seem brighter when they are medicated, a belief in autonomy and free choice dictates that people should not be prevented from seeking that relief from a responsible physician” (192).

But the consequences of making treatments for normal sadness available could be widespread. If it becomes common to treat sadness with drugs, then normal coping networks of friends, family, religion, spirituality, and so on, might disappear.
Deviancy and normality could be redefined so that one might not have a choice about how to cope with one’s sadness. It could become socially unacceptable to be sad, taboo to grieve.

Autonomy and free choice are worthy goals, but medicalization is often a process invisible to the public, which then results in a structure that seems so natural that few question it. And once in place, the medicalization of a condition may be supported by the authority of the medical profession, societal norms, and even the government.

Horwitz and Wakefield present a compelling argument to tighten the definition of depression to exclude those with normal sadness. However, the issue of medicalizing normal sadness as something different from depression still remains.

The medicalization of normal sadness has the potential to not only make another option available to people, but also risks causing a fundamental shift in the way sadness is understood, which would affect everyone in society.

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Depression with a Degree

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) estimated in a 2007 report that about 1,100 suicides each year were college related. the 2005 National College Health Assessment found that 25 percent of 17,000 surveyed students admitted to feeling “so depressed it was difficult to function” three to eight times during that surveyed year.

Where did the college atmosphere of “Animal House” and “Van Wilder” and “Old School” disappear to? When did it funnel down like copious amounts of alcohol into the deep, dark belly of depression?

depression degree

The Right to the Pursuit of Perfection

In the movies, a college student's biggest worry is whether he'll have to ruin his bedsheet for a toga and sleep on the bare mattress all semester. In real life, the world is severely altered.

Bedsheets are superfluous when a final project due in December looms heavily even in August.

“Many students find college more academically demanding than they anticipated and feel stressed or anxious about not performing well,” reads an article on concerning collegiate depression.

Timothy Peterson, PhD, a clinical and research psychologist with the Rhode Island Hospital's Mood Disorders Program expounded on the worry in the same article.

“Type A personalities, or perfectionists, are prone to these types of worries. They are often more likely to experience significant depressive symptoms because of negative self talk as a result of perceived failures.”

In Marissa Miller's October 2009 article for the Diamondback, the University of Maryland's campus newspaper, Richard Winter, PhD, author of “Perfecting Ourselves to Death,” blames mainstream America for the pressure of perfection.

“American culture bombards students with images and solutions for becoming 'perfect,' which leads them to believe that they also need to be perfect,” he is paraphrased as saying.

This incessant strive for the unattainable leads to tremendous stress on college students, and in turn, affects their school work. In a fall 2008 health assessment by the American College Health Association, 11.2 percent of 26,000 surveyed students said that depression affected their academic performance.

Freedom from Oppression: The Taboos of Alcohol and Drugs lends an air of escapism to alcohol and drug use among depressed collegiates. They're a Band-Aid fix. For the night they can take away everything, but in the morning all the problems will be back, beating an uncontrollable tattoo against the imbiber's skull and slugging him with papers.

Balance My What? The Checkbook Will Check Out

There's a reason a sports bar near the University of Louisiana at Lafayette runs a Wednesday special of dollar burgers and hot dogs. College students are always notoriously broke.

An article on sheds a laser pointer on why students stress out about such a real-world problem when they haven't even hit the “real world.”

Some students work full time to support themselves and sometimes families. Tuition just keeps rising, so paying for school becomes a worry. Dollar burgers are only on Wednesdays, not Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, as well.

The financial burdens on students, added to the academic stress, lead to a swamping of epic proportions on the psyche.

Reaching Out for The Life Preserver During the Epic Swamping

Most colleges offer counseling. Not just course advising, but real counseling to aid students through particularly rough semesters. Campus organizations also step up, allowing members a chance to vent to friends and find help in a familiar setting.

The AFSP's College Screening Project's findings support the services offered by the university community.

The study discovered that students who spoke with counselors, even online, experienced a therapeutic effect.

So, where did Van Wilder run off to in the years since his partying peak? Did the Animal House-esque fantasy burn down?

No, they were both possessed by an oppressive university yes-man with a penchant for neurosis. It's time to sit back, pop some popcorn with a roommate and let John Belushi teach today's students what college is all about.

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Mood-Boosting Foods (Part 2)

Brazil nuts are the number one source of the mineral selenium, which helps preserve your mood and prevent depression. It seems that selenium is essential for maintaining a happy mood. Only six Brazil nuts give you your advisable daily intake. If you don't like Brazil nuts, you can get smaller amounts from meat or fish. But you would need to eat nearly a kilogram of cow to get the necessary amount. .
Mood-Boosting Food

Curly kale. Green leafy vegetables like kale are high in folic acid and since low levels of folic acid have been linked to depression, it stands to reason that if you keep your folic acid levels up, you're less likely to fell into depression
Mood-Boosting Food

Chocolate is a source of anadamide, a neurotransmitter that targets the same parts of the brain as THC, the active element in cannabis. But chocolate contains such tiny levels of anadamide, you would need to eat kilos of it in order to make any action on the amount that's circulating in the brain naturally. The sweet stuff also boosts our levels of endorphins, the brain's natural happy hormones..
Mood-Boosting Food

Mackerel. Oily fish like mackerel are the best source of omega-3 essential fatty acids, which help prevent the depression. They boost serotonin levels and also enhance your brain's receptivity to the neurotransmitter. High-dose omega-3 supplements can even help patients suffering from clinical depression. Vegetarians can get smaller amounts of Omega-3s from seeds, especially flaxseeds and their oil.
Mood-Boosting Food

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Mood-Boosting Food

Milk. Your brain needs an amino acid called tryptophan in order to make serotonin, a neurotransmitter that has happy-making and calming action. It works by conserving the brain's serotonin. Dairy foods are a great low-fat source of tryptophan, but you can also find it from poultry and nuts, especially peanuts.
Mood-Boosting Food

Turkey. Turkey is high in phenylalanine, an amino acid which the brain converts to dopamine. Dopamine elevates mood and motivation and prevents depression. A recent study demonstrated that phenylalanine was as effective as an antidepressant drug. As well as turkey, phenylalanine is found in majority of protein foods.
Mood-Boosting Food

Liver. It is one of the richest sources of vitamin B6, which you need to convert the phenylalanine from the protein you eat to mood-enhancing dopamine and adrenaline. If you don't get enough vitamin B6, you'll probably feel down and your stress levels will increase. You can also get the amount of vitamin B6 from brown rice or other whole grains.
Mood-Boosting Food

Coffee. Caffeine is the world's most popular psychoactive drug. It increase metabolism and energy levels, making you feel more alert by interfering with the action of drowse-inducing adenosine in the brain. It also manipulates the same channels in the brain as amphetamines by activating the brain's pleasure centers.
Mood-Boosting Food

Muesli. Eating carbohydrates boosts serotonin levels, and complex carbohydrates like oat and rye flakes keep you sustained, making you stay mellow. Protein in nuts and milk further lower the glycaemic index and your blood sugar levels don't spike preventing the “sugar slump” and associated crabbiness you would get after eating a high glycaemic index sugary snack.
Mood-Boosting Food
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Let the Sun Shine!


The sun blesses our planet with life. In addition to washing the world with light, power, and warmth, its effect is felt right down to the molecules within our body chemistry which effort is to enhance the health of body, mind, and spirit.

The sun provides 98% of all the energy on earth. The other two percent is geothermal, originating in the earth’s hot liquid core. Light is in fact a relatively small portion of the massive energy the sun produces. There list is extracted from work done by Doctors Agatha and Calvin Thrash at their Uchee Pines Health Institute in Alabama.

  • Vitamin D is often referred to as the sunshine vitamin because it results from a sun-induced chemical reaction which converts cholesterol and ergosterol in the skin to vitamin D. Since this reaction uses cholesterol it reduces the stores of cholesterol in our body. Vitamin D plays a vital role in the absorption of calcium and utilization of phosphorus which are essential for strong bones and teeth. It is also essential in the thinking process.
  • Sunlight works to increase circulation, the number and efficiency of blood vessels in the skin, and cardiac output. It also increases the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood and enables oxygen to reach tissues and joints by direct action and reflex action of the blood vessels. Thus it works in several ways to improve the circulatory system.
  • Sunlight contributes to a number of ways in which body functions are regulated. It has been found to decrease blood pressure, although other factors contribute to blood pressure levels as well. It also plays a role in regulating blood sugar levels, and by means of its action on the eye, it affects the pituitary gland which controls hormone production of the other endocrine glands in a beneficial way.
  • Sunlight increases the number of white blood cells and their capacity for fighting infection, and increases gamma globulin, which is part of the immune mechanism of the body. It promotes the healing of wounds and kills streptococci and other germs on exposure. Hanging your laundry outdoors in the sun to dry not only leaves clothes smelling fresh, but sanitizes them at the same time.
  • Sunlight increases liver function and stimulates the liver to produce a drug metabolizing enzyme which increases our ability to withstand pollutants in our environment.
  • Sunlight increases muscle tone and endurance. It has been found that people who exercise in sunlight build muscle faster than those who exercise indoors.

We are all familiar with the positive effect of sunlight on our mental outlook and sense of well-being. It fights depression, and lessens stress by working both through sensory receptors in the skin and well as by means of its psychological influence. As is the case with all good things, sunlight can become harmful by means of excessive exposure. One does not need to lie in the sun for hours to obtain its benefits. Outdoor exercise, gardening, or other activities will provide the necessary sun exposure to reap these benefits.
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