Posted by: jedwardswright | August 24, 2015

Am I Going Insane?

If you are depressed, odds are that you have asked yourself, “Am I going crazy?” This post seeks to answer that question.

A Darker Shade of Blue

The first thing to understand is that insanity is a legal term.

According to the Law.Com dictionary, insanity is “mental illness of such a severe nature that a person cannot distinguish fantasy from reality, cannot conduct her/his affairs due to psychosis, or is subject to uncontrollable impulsive behavior.”[i] It is related to the issue of capacity, or the ability of an accused to formulate the intention to commit the crime of which he or she stands accused.[ii]

In other words, insanity is not a psychiatric diagnosis. There is no “Insanity” heading in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) under which certain mental health conditions are grouped. Unless you have been charged with a crime, the term “insanity” is not relevant to your mental health.

The next thing you are liable to ask then is, “Am I crazy?”

Basically, crazy is treated as a synonym to…

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Posted by: jedwardswright | August 24, 2015

Are Mentally Ill People Violent?

Recently, I have seen comments on Facebook and elsewhere claiming that individuals responsible for mass murders or other horrible crimes must be mentally ill, so this post seems to me to be quite relevant again.

A Darker Shade of Blue

Whenever a particularly horrendous crime occurs, you inevitably hear some variation on the comment, “A person would have to be sick in the head to do such a thing!”

There are two reasons to be concerned about this thinking.

  1. People become afraid of people with mental health conditions.
  2. People with mental health conditions and their families may become afraid that they have the potential to become violent.

Are people with mental health conditions like depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and schizophrenia prone to be violent? Should the general public, family members and even people who have these conditions be afraid that someone who is mentally ill may suddenly snap and go on a rampage?

The Article

Yesterday I read an opinion column in the Toronto Globe and Mail in which author Bill Wilkerson addresses these issues in the context of the Arizona shooting tragedy. Wilkerson has more than a bit of…

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Posted by: jedwardswright | August 24, 2015

99 Words about Depression

This post seems to have struck a chord with a number of people, so I thought that I would put it out there again.

A Darker Shade of Blue

 Why write a post entirely of descriptive words about depression?

First, I want you to know that you are not alone in these feelings. There are millions of people who are depressed who relate to these words. It is not just you!

Secondly, this is an opportunity for those of you who are wondering if you or a loved one has depression, these words may give you a better idea. This is not a scientific test. These are my words for how I have felt while suffering from depression, and if you relate to them, it might mean that you too are depressed. If you think that checking off those that apply would be useful to you, go for it.

What this is not meant to do is to make you feel worse, so if reading these words increases your feelings of depression, simply skip to the bottom for…

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Posted by: jedwardswright | April 10, 2012

Sleep Disorders and Depression

Most people with depression will not be surprised to hear that there is a relationship between sleep disorders and depression. Insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive daytime sleepiness) are often listed as symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD).

Generally the inference is that depression causes sleep problems. While this is true, because the connection between the two is complicated, it is also possible that sleep disorders contribute to depression. In fact, evidence suggests that people with insomnia are ten times more likely to suffer from depression.[i]

Other sleep disorders associated with depression are Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS), narcolepsy and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).[ii] A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found an association between OSA and major depression, regardless of weight, sex, age or race.[iii]

‘”Snorting, gasping or stopping breathing while asleep was associated with nearly all depressive symptoms,”’ according to Anne G. Wheaton, lead author on the study.

Proper medication has a good track record of treating Restless Legs Syndrome. OSA can usually be successfully treated. While sedating medications are only recommended for short-term use in the treatment of insomnia, tricyclic antidepressants may be helpful in relieving sleeplessness for some patients. In the case of OSA, however, sedating antidepressants could worsen the condition, so it is important to have an accurate diagnosis of the particular sleep disorder involved.[iv] Instead a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) which uses a steady mild airflow through a facemask is usually recommended for OSA.

If you suspect that a sleep disorder could be contributing to your depression, speak to your family physician about the possibility of having a sleep study done. It is a simple, non-invasive test that only requires one night out of your schedule, and it could benefit your health immensely.

[i] “Depression and Sleep,” National Sleep Foundation.

[ii] “Depression and Sleep,” National Sleep Foundation.

[iii] American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “Survey Finds Association Between Symptoms Of Obstructive Sleep Apnea And Depression.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 1 Apr. 2012. Web.

10 Apr. 2012.

[iv] “Depression and Sleep,” National Sleep Foundation.


Posted by: jedwardswright | March 27, 2012

Decision-Making and Depression

In a study published by PLos Computational Biology, by researchers at University College London, participants (all without clinical depression) were asked to make a series of decisions involving a maze and money. Choosing certain pathways penalized the players at the beginning of the game, but led to greater rewards later on.

It was found that the players who avoided the initially negative pathways despite the possibility of future gain reported a greater number of depressive symptoms than the players who took the risks and got the bigger pay-off.

The researchers called this decision-making process “pruning.” When faced with hundreds of options, one method of determining which choice to make is to rule out the possibilities that involve initial discomfort.

For instance, a person might choose to buy a car because it is cheaper initially, even though the vehicle has a reputation for needing more repairs over time. Even though this is a poorer choice in the long term, a person who is pruning based on the avoidance of short-term loss to may at first think that it was the better decision.

There are two obvious conclusions that could be reached from this study. One is to conclude that the tendency of depressed people to make bad choices contributes to depression. Another is that when people are depressed they are so conditioned to avoid pain that they automatically rule out difficult choices despite any long-term benefit.

I originally favored the second interpretation, knowing how sensitive those of us with Major Depressive Disorder are to enduring further pain, but on considering the matter further I now think that this is a “chicken and egg” situation.

I believe that depressed people get into a cycle of avoiding difficult choices with immediate pain but long-term gain because their burden of pain is already so heavy to bear. Eventually, when they realize that they have made bad decisions and missed opportunities their regret adds to their misery.

Our avoidance of uncomfortable situations or painful effort is costing us – big time. The major question then is how do we get ourselves past our initial difficulties to reap greater rewards?

Whether it is going through the rigors of exercise in order to reap the benefits of a healthier body or getting past a fear of flying to reunite with family members, what difficult decision is keeping you from experiencing long-term rewards?


Grace Rattue. “Depression And Bad Choices Linked To Bias In Decision-Making.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 8 Mar. 2012. Web.

27 Mar. 2012.

Public Library of Science. “Decision-Making, Poor Choices And Depression.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 11 Mar. 2012. Web.

27 Mar. 2012.


Posted by: jedwardswright | March 21, 2012

Social Anxiety Disorder

Everyone experiences anxiety to some degree, but some people avoid certain social situations to the extent that it interferes with their daily lives. People with Social Anxiety Disorder live in such fear of everyday activities like speaking in public, starting conversations with strangers, or using a public restroom that panic sets in at the thought of carrying out those activities.

This distress is expressed by symptoms like trembling, blushing, crying, even nausea or diarrhea. Once these reactions begin the individual’s horror at the likelihood that they are being judged escalates even further, and a full-blown panic attack may set in, embarrassing the person even further.

A person with Social Anxiety Disorder realizes that this extreme fear is irrational, but that knowledge does not help. The terror becomes obsessive, and thoughts like “They are all looking at me,” “I am going to make a fool out of myself,” or “What if I fail?” spiral endlessly through that person’s mind.

While it may be possible to escape anxiety-producing circumstances for a while, and thus avoid the onset of symptoms, inevitably an unexpected situation will arise and then the fear reaction will be worse than ever. For this reason it is best to seek treatment for Social Anxiety Disorder rather than continue to dodge uncomfortable situations endlessly.

Treatments for Social Anxiety Disorder fall into two categories: psychotherapy and medication. Most experts recommend both. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) focuses on changing your pattern of thinking about stressful circumstances. The medication most often suggested is some type of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These drugs are non-addictive and very effective in the treatment of social phobia.

Please check the following resources for more information.

Resources on Social Anxiety Disorder

Mayo Clinic Social Anxiety Disorder: Symptoms What is social anxiety? by Gregory Pacana

WebMD Just Shy or Social Anxiety Disorder? by Gina Shaw

WebMD What is Social Anxiety Disorder?

SP/SAA Social Phobia/Social Anxiety Association

Posted by: jedwardswright | March 14, 2012

Inflammation, Immunity and Depression

Our brains interact with every function of our bodies, which is why it is often difficult to isolate particular relationships. Recently, however, some researchers and physicians are noticing a relationship between one of our bodies’ defense mechanisms and depression.

According to several studies, hormones released by the immune system and markers related to inflammation “were positively correlated with depression.”  Simply put, the more depression we experience, the more inflammation will accompany it.[i]

Most of us with depression are well aware that aches and pains accompany our brain illness, and so will easily see the link between inflammation and depression, but but we may not be aware that depression often co-exists (or is “co-morbid”) with many other inflammation/immune disorders such as heart disease, diabetes, Chrone’s disease, autoimmune diseases, cancers, HIV, and Multiple Sclerosis.[ii]

A proposal published online in the journal Molecular Psychiatry even suggests that depression is a by-product of an evolutionary development intended to fight off infection, since inflammation is like an over-reaction by the immune system. Even when people with depression aren’t fighting an infection, their levels of inflammation are higher than normal.[iii]

Since stress can activate the immune system, it makes sense that depression is linked to the immune system response called inflammation. Some research actually suggests that by decreasing inflammation, depression can be reduced.[iv]

This evidence that depression and the immune system may be linked could lead to new approaches in the fight against depression.

Posted by: jedwardswright | February 28, 2012

Fathers with Depression

Women have sudden and serious hormonal changes after childbirth, so it makes sense that many suffer from post-partum depression. Throw in the major life-changing circumstances that new mothers experience—being on maternity leave, loss of sleep, isolation—and it becomes clear that both physical and circumstantial factors would create a very stressful time in the first few years of motherhood.

Do new fathers experience a form of post-partum depression too?

Obviously we can rule out the hormonal issues that women face, but new dads also face new challenges and fairly drastic lifestyle changes as well. Their partners are suddenly absorbed in taking care of a newborn, and fathers traditionally consider the financial well-being of the family to be primarily their responsibility. Fathers may also face sleep disruption, and increasingly modern dads are more involved in the day-to-day care of their children.

In fact, research has shown that depression is more likely in fathers (as well as mothers) during their child’s first year of life,[i]  and particularly during the three month to six month stage.[ii]

In an article published in February in the online edition of Maternal and Child Health Journal, a team led by Micheal Weitzman, M.D, professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine found that of the factors they studied, paternal unemployment was the greatest predictor of depression in new fathers, followed by maternal depression.[iii]

It is predictable then that new dads without jobs or trying to cope with their partners’ post-partum depression will be prone to depression. (I would suggest that under-employment would be a likely risk factor as well.) This is valuable information for family doctors or pediatricians to keep in mind when interacting with new parents.

While the previous study was primarily concerned with the predictably negative impact of fathers’ depression on children, it seems to me that we should be concerned about paternal depression anyway, not only for its impact on the family but also because depressed fathers deserve to have their mental health considered as important too.

[iii] Grace Rattue. “Fathers With Depression – Who Might Benefit From Screening?.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 28 Feb. 2012. Web.

28 Feb. 2012. <;

Posted by: jedwardswright | February 22, 2012

What If There Was a Blood Test for Depression?

If you have depression, then it is likely somewhere along the way you have met someone in the medical profession who cast doubt on that diagnosis. You almost certainly have been told by friends, family or even acquaintances that if you would look on the bright side or try harder you would be just fine.

What if there was a reliable, scientific test that could indicate the presence of depression, not unlike getting your blood sugar checked?

Recently, the journal Molecular Psychiatry published an article that indicates such a test may become available before too long. A team of researchers concluded “that a test analyzing levels of nine biomarkers accurately distinguished patients diagnosed with depression from control participants without significant false-positive results.”[i]

How accurate were their results? Researchers were able to identify the blood samples of depressed patients from those of control groups with a sensitivity of 90 percent.

So far only a small study has been done, so larger clinical trials are still required to further assess the practicality of using the test in a larger population, but the results are very encouraging.

This test is different because it uses a formula to take nine separate biomarkers, including some associated with stress and inflammation, to calculate a score measuring from one to ten, whereas previously tests had tried to measure only one biomarker at a time. It is the combination of these factors that makes the test more accurate.

Imagine being able to go to your doctor or medical lab, having blood withdrawn and a short while later having measurable proof that there was something wrong with you!  Patients with depression would be diagnosed sooner, the doubters could be proven wrong and we would have the satisfaction of having tangible scientific data to support our claims that we feel terrible.

It may still take a while for the test to reach a doctor’s office near you, but isn’t it nice to know that a test for depression is more than a theoretical possibility? The next generation may never know the added stress of being grilled over whether or not their symptoms are real, and the stigma surrounding depression would hopefully be decreased.

I look forward to that day.

[i] Massachusetts General Hospital. “Depressed Patients Accurately Distinguished From Healthy Controls By Blood Test.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 3 Feb. 2012. Web.

21 Feb. 2012. <;

Posted by: jedwardswright | February 15, 2012

Bullying and Depression

Every so often a study comes along that seems to prove what I knew all along. I’m betting that you knew it from experience too.

A recent study published in Child Development[i] found that adolescents with depression are more likely to be bullied by their peers because they have trouble establishing friendships. This study’s relevance comes from their conclusion that maybe after all kids aren’t depressed because they are bullied, but bullied because they are depressed

This conclusion was reached after no less than 20 years of data obtained by surveying 4th to 6th graders, their parents and teachers. Children who were depressed in 4th grade were being ostracized by fellow students as early as Grade 5 and had a hard time “fitting in” in Grade 6. This was even truer of girls than boys.

You and I can probably fill the researchers in on what happens in subsequent grades, if they don’t already know. Depressed children entering the teen years become loners, pushed more and more into the outer circle of high school society. The more depressed a teen is the more likely that he or she will become an outcast or scapegoat.

I have observed as a teacher that, particularly in the 7th to 10th grade, students reminded me of a wolf pack as they turned against the weak and defenseless among them, even sometimes literally circling or cornering a trapped victim, then verbally, or even physically, delivering blow after blow.

Adult society has enough difficulty accommodating people with differences. With the overwhelming pressure to conform that exists in teen culture, is it really that surprising that nonconformity is punished even more severely in middle and high school?

Depressed children and teens are the walking wounded, so not only are they likely to attract bullying, they also suffer intensely when insulted or browbeaten. What I would like to tell the authors of this study is this isn’t an either/or question that they are posing.

Yes, initially children attract bullies when they are depressed, but they also become more depressed because they are being bullied. This is not just a cause and effect situation; this is a cycle which develops into a downward spiral.

[i] Christine Kearney. “Depression Linked To Adolescent Bullying.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 11 Feb. 2012. Web.

15 Feb. 2012. <;

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