Longevity and Having a Purpose in Life

Studies in older adults have suggested that having a sense of purpose in life can add years to longevity. Now researchers have taken a look at the question of whether these beneficial effects occur in younger people. The study looked at a group of 6163 people aged 20 to 75 and followed them for 14 years. They found that having …

Mood Swings – What Causes Them?

What causes mood swings? What do we think about when someone says their mood has been “up and down?”Among the most common causes of mood shifts are the following: A mood disorder such as bipolar, or an atypical depression. Bipolar as a cause is obvious, but an atypical depression can also be associated with mood swings. In the case of bipolar …

Why Do We Procrastinate?

Procrastination may be related to impulsive decision making. This somewhat surprising finding is based on a large study of twins. Most modern explanations of procrastination have focused on avoidance and aversion. You put off things because you are afraid of some negative consequence (doing badly, not meeting your standards, etcetera), in other words, you are avoiding a bad outcome. More recent studies have suggested that …

Evolutionary Psychology and Understanding Depression

We are glad to finally have a summary of a fascinating conversation with Dr. Julio Ozores up on this site in our “Conversations” series. Dr. Ozores challenges us to think about depression in a new way. Although many of us struggle with the negative effects of depression in our lives, are (or were) there benefits to depression that have led …

Social Media Makes Moods Go Viral

Previously we reviewed evidence that the people we live with (family, neighbors, even the larger community of people in a metropolitan area) have an effect on our mood, so it is not surprising to learn of a recent study conducted by researchers from the University of California, Yale, and Facebook that found that moods can go viral, just like ideas and …

When the Grown-ups Disappear: On Self-Destructive Behavior

A brilliant young man I know has been stuck in a pattern of self-destructive behavior and constant and terrifying self-criticism. Nothing seems to be helping him get out of this cycle. We have thoughtful conversations about the problem and come up with various solutions but then, the next time we get together, the behavior remains unchanged. I often feel as …

My Motivation Is Gone

Several of the people that I saw this week have been struggling with a loss of motivation. A lack of motivation can be one of the most prominent symptoms of a major depression, but there were other aspects of their loss of motivation that I found fascinating. I asked one of these patients, a man in his 40s who is …

Reduce Your Social Stress

Regular readers of this blog know that I really like the writings of Rick Hanson (he has a wonderful email list called “Just One Thing” and a new book that is an excellent resource for personal transformation called Hardwiring Happiness). For the last couple of months, however, his posts have seemed a bit repetitive. Just in time for the New …

Reinvigorate Your New Year’s Resolutions: Connect Change with Your Values

The celebration of a new year is frequently accompanied by hopes, wishes, and goals for the coming year, which take shape in the form of New Year’s resolutions. I will start exercising. I will spend more time with family or friends. I will get a hold of my finances. I will start volunteering. New Year’s resolutions are wonderful for providing …

The Trap of Stress Disability

The other day I was asked to evaluate a fellow physician by his disability insurance company.  When I do disability assessments I take particular care, because what I say has big implications for the person I am evaluating, and I try very hard to do an extremely careful and thorough job of assessing the person’s situation. Three quarters of the …

Evaluating Emotions and Experiences: Could I Be Bipolar?

People often wonder whether the notion of bipolar moods really applies to their experiences. They compare what they have heard about bipolar (crazy person running berserk) and their life which is never that intense and wonder whether the doctor (or whoever else raised the idea) is just making a wild suggestion about the problem that they have. After all, it …

Distress Tolerance

I have been doing some blog – surfing and happened upon a wonderful series, on the “disorderly chickadee” site that I have referred to in the past, about the skill of “Distress Tolerance.” In working with patients with depression, we often find ourselves encouraging them to learn about Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). And of the many parts of DBT that …

I’m In An Abusive Relationship… with Myself

Many people I see with chronic depression carry around with them a tormentor who says the most terrible things imaginable about them, their abilities, their worth, their very right to live. That tormentor is their own inner critic (hardly a strong enough term for the cruelty that can be unleashed by these inner voices). Often it is clear where this …

Bipolar Treatment: The “Quick Fix”

A young woman came in to see me today. She was in a hurry. She wanted to make a change in her medication, and she wanted to make that change now. She told me that medication she was taking for bipolar was making her sedated and sluggish. She said she thought the medication was a “trap.” The medication was why …

Winter Leads to Spring

Someone shared with us a wonderful video about John O’Donohue, a Celtic poet, philosopher and writer. In it we found this quote that resonated very much with our experience. It is about winter. And depression. And how life blossoms from the seeming dreariness of a period of fallowness. We think you might appreciate it. If you like this clip we …