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After, completing a very successful run at university and acquiring the necessary degrees and accolades to be part of the academic community, I left the confines of the Ivory Tower and started my private practice. In university, I was fortunate to study with some great mentors and have a very solid scientific background. Although science has its place, psychology is also an art. An art that requires a very strong link to one's own intuition. Even though I may be proud of my scientific and academic accomplishments, I am equally proud to have studied several types of meditation, yoga, Pilates, martial arts, Zen, Buddhism, Japanese calligraphy, comparative religious studies, and a variety of great therapies that are part of my consciousness.  Apart from being a psychologist, I have certification in fitness training and behavioral nutrition.  Although, psychotherapy is about problems, it is also about empowerment, growth, and grace. We should feel good about psychotherapy as a tool to get us where we really should be in life, with no judgment and with peace of mind.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

New Form Of Ketamine Treats Depression "Like Magic"

"It's like a magic drug", said the lead researcher of a team from Yale University in the US whose latest study suggests that ketamine, a drug normally used as an anasthetic, could be reformulated as an anti-depressant that takes effect in hours rather than the usual weeks and months of most available medications.

You can read how the researchers discovered this effect in a study they performed on rats which was published online on 20 August in the journal Science.

Senior author Dr Ronald Duman, professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at Yale, told the media that just one dose of the drug can work rapidly and lasts for seven to ten days.

This is the same ketamine that is used as a recreational drug, called "Special K", or "K".

He and his team found that the drug not only improved the rats' depression-like behaviors, it also restored connections between neurons or brain cells that had been damaged by chronic stress. They called this "synaptogenesis".

They hope their findings will help to speed up the development of a safe and easy to administer version of ketamine, which has already proved to be effective in severely depressed patients, they said.

About ten years ago, scientists at Connecticut Mental Health Center found that in lower doses, ketamine, normally used as a general anasthetic for children, appeared to relieve patients with depression.

Since then, other studies have shown that over two thirds of patients who don't respond to all other types of anti-depressants improved hours after receiving ketamine, said Duman.

The problem with using ketamine more widely to treat depression has been the fact it has to be given intravenously under medical supervision, and it can also cause short-term psychotic symptoms.

So Duman and colleagues decided to investigate the effect of ketamine on the brain to see if it might reveal suitable targets for other safer and easier to adminster drugs.

" ... the mechanisms underlying this action of ketamine [a glutamate N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) receptor antagonist] have not been identified," they wrote.

They found that ketamine acts on a pathway that controls the formation of new synaptic links between neurons, encouraging synaptogenesis; they wrote that they observed:

" ... increased synaptic signaling proteins and increased number and function of new spine synapses in the prefrontal cortex of rats."

Moreover, they found that a critical point on the pathway, involving the enzyme mTOR, controls production of proteins needed to form the new synapses.

The researchers concluded that:

"Our results demonstrate that these effects of ketamine are opposite to the synaptic deficits that result from exposure to stress and could contribute to the fast antidepressant actions of ketamine."

Duman and colleagues told the press that they can already see ways to sustain the rapid effect of ketamin by intervening at other points downstream of this critical one. These could be additional targets for new drugs.

This discovery not only brings new hope to the 40 per cent or so of patients with depression who don't respond to medication, but to many others who only experience relief after months and sometimes years of treatment.

The researchers also noted that ketamine has already shown to be effective as a rapid way to treat people with suicidal thoughts, many such patients usually only respond weeks later with traditional drugs.

The National Institute of Mental Health, the Connecticut Mental Health Center and Yale University School of Medicine paid for the study.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Depressed Canadians slow to seek help: survey

Last Updated: September 28, 2010

OTTAWA — Canadians suffering from depression are often slow to get help — often because they fear stigma and negative reaction from friends, family and co-workers.

Two national Leger Marketing surveys — one specifically targeting those diagnosed with depression and another polling the general population — found that a perceived lack of understanding from peers prevents many depressed Canadians from getting timely treatment, even though most Canadians are actually empathetic and understanding of the condition.

Only 15% of Canadians with depression think the public views it as a serious but treatable illness, though the other poll reveals 72% actually do.

Phil Upshall, national executive director of the Mood Disorders Society of Canada, said the surveys reveal a significant shift in public attitude and understanding of mental illness.

"I'm very glad the people of Canada are starting to recognize mental illness as a health issue and not an issue of weakness or personality problems," he told QMI Agency. "That moves us a long way — now our legislators have got to get on side."

Upshall said the focus on mental illness in the military and federal bureaucracy has also helped raise awareness and lift the stigma.

The survey found nearly half of people who sensed something was wrong took more than six months to see a health-care professional. Almost 20% were hesitant to take action because they feared the reaction from family and friends.

While depression can strike at any age, onset usually occurs between 24 and 44 years old. Impact on work productivity can be significant; 67% of respondents said their depression affects their relationship with co-workers, half reported avoiding contact altogether and nearly 40% spend their non-work, workday hours in areas where no one else is around.

The other survey found most Canadians are empathetic to those returning to work from disability as a result of their depression. Canadians living with depression report they were most commonly greeted with positive reactions from co-workers, saying they either carried on as usual (42%), were understanding and supportive (36%), or offered to assist them with their work (11%).

Using anti-depressants is the most common approach to managing depression (92%), followed by talk therapy or counselling (71%) and through diet, exercising and/or light therapy (45%).

Pfizer Canada, Mood Disorders Society of Canada and Shepell.fgi sponsored the surveys. One was conducted in May, using a national random sample of 810 respondents from a medical web panel who have been diagnosed with depression, yielding a maximum margin of error of 3.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The survey of general population adult Canadians was also conducted in May, using a national random sample of 1,587 respondents from Leger Marketing’s web panel, giving a maximum margin of error of 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.


Salvation Army report shows decline in donations but rise in demand

Salvation Army report shows decline in donations but rise in demand

Monday, October 04, 2010

Stress: Can We Cope?

This article appeared in Time Magazine in 1983. In a few years, stress might be only second to heart disease as the major cause of work days lost.

Stress: Can We Cope?