Depression and Inflammation

Recently there has been increasing interest in the relationship between depression and chronic overactivity of the body’s biological defense system – inflammation. When we have an infection, or an injury, or almost any other kind of illness, the body activates a series of processes designed to respond to the threat. Unfortunately, the inflammation system, especially if it is turned on …

Child Abuse Update

Twenty years ago the National Research Council (NRC) issued a comprehensive report on child abuse. That report noted that child abuse was much more common than previously thought and called for urgent action. This past week the NRC and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released an update: New Directions in Child Abuse Research. The good news – physical and sexual …

Hormones and Food

In an earlier post we talked about some of the research on appetite. We reviewed some of the peptide hormones that regulate appetite and how the entire system that controls appetite is really designed to cope better with a time of scarcity than a time of plenty. Here I want to talk more specifically about the interplay between other hormone …

Childhood Trauma – Brain Effects

Experiencing trauma in childhood is associated with changes in the brain during teenage years, according to a study of 117 adolescents using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The researchers compared MRI’s from age 12 with MRI’s from age 16. They asked the teenagers about childhood trauma and also did psychiatric diagnostic interviews. There were significant differences in how the brains of teenagers …

Hunger Regulation

Recently several folks have asked us questions about diet, hunger, weight gain, and nutrition. Certainly for many people with depression, gaining weight is an important issue, both as a cause and consequence of depression. Let’s begin by trying to make some sense of hunger. In other posts we will be talking about how stress and the hormone system relates to …

Ginseng

If you are a ginseng believer, then ginseng is the one supplement that all of us should be taking. Russian scientist Israel Brekhman coined the term “adoptegens” to refer to agents that helped individuals deal with stress. The prime example of this, in his view, was ginseng. [If you are interested in an example of the controversy that surrounds many …

Memory, Stress and Aging

Many older people are concerned about impaired memory, and the relationship between memory, stress, and aging can be difficult to untangle. Obviously worry about memory problems can be a source of anxiety and stress. But can stress and anxiety be a cause of memory problems? And if so what can be done about it? Elsewhere we will be talking about …

Proactivity

Proactive behavior refers to actions taken that are forward thinking, that anticipate future problems, and are aimed at avoiding those problems. They are focused on changing the environment for the better. Proactivity contrasts with reactivity as an approach to challenges. Reactive behavior is about dealing with the crisis that is present right now. Reactivity also often is associated with a wish …

Leaving War Behind

I spent many sessions working with a successful entrepreneur to try to help him cope better with stress and depression. His problems seem to be neatly encapsulated in Joseph Campbell’s notion of the Hero. Like all of the heroes in the past, he set out as a young man to make fame and fortune and to change the world for …

Stress Free and Happy

It can be extremely difficult to lead a balanced lifestyle. When we are driven to reach a goal, it is easy to become stressed and obsessed with reaching a particular outcome.  At what point does all the stress start to have a negative impact on our personal happiness? It is great to have ambitions and to work hard to reach …

Sleep Strategies

One of the most frequent causes of insomnia is anxiety. Insomnia of this kind is caused by increased activation of the sympathetic nervous system at night. The body releases norepinephrine (the flight or fight hormone) at night when that system should be inactive. You wake up and you feel “wide awake.” A current patient of Dr. Forster’s is having difficulty sleeping …

Stress, Resilience and the Neurobiology of Depression

Dr. Eric Nestler, M.D. believes that when it comes to treating depression, we should be doing better.  Less than half of those with depression get better after receiving maximum treatment. Dr. Nestler describes depression as a broad syndrome hat involves many different diseases. Because the specific causes of depression cannot be identified, this disorder is difficult to treat. In order …

Stress and Your Brain

Stress has a major affect on our bodies and our brain. The release of catecholamines (adrenaline and related chemicals) and cortisol causes significant changes throughout our body that are designed to prepare us for “fight or flight.” By shutting down all non-essential functions the stress response system prepares us for a life and death struggle Nowadays there are no life …

Awareness and Acceptance

The New York Times has had a series of well written articles on the topic of mindfulness. The most recent article notes that brain scans show that mindfulness can change the way our brains function, and help us improve attention, reduce stress hormones and even bounce back faster from negative information. The increased ability to bounce back from negative information that comes from …

Kindling

What do small sticks used to start a fire have to do with bipolar moods? Not much… Kindling in the context of this post refers to a phenomenon that is well documented in some people with seizure disorders and which may have relevance to some people with bipolar moods. Bob Post, who was for many years Chief of the Biological …

On the Borderline

I am writing a presentation for the UCSF Bipolar Program on the topic of the relationship between Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar Disorder and I thought I would jot down some of my thoughts in a quick post. Borderline personality disorder involves a “pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image, and affects, and marked impulsivity” which begins by early adulthood …

Needing to be Perfect

The need to be perfect is one of the “dangerous ideas” that can destroy a life. It often comes from the fear of abandonment that all of us have, and which can be easily activated in childhood by a mismatch in personality with one’s parent. A wonderful, smart, attractive, funny, energetic woman talked with us about her experience of this. …