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Mental Health in the News: February 23, 2023

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Mental Health in the News

Depression and Weight Changes: What’s the Connection and How to Deal

There is a close connection between depression and weight changes. Losing or gaining a lot of weight can lead to physical changes in the body, changes in mood, and even symptoms of depression. Similarly, people living with depression often experience changes in their appetite, physical activity, and metabolic factors that may lead to changes in weight.

Types of Depression and Weight Changes

Depending on the person, depression can cause weight gain or weight loss. Psychologists now differentiate between two types of depression:

  • Type 1: Symptoms include insomnia, suicidal ideation, loss of appetite, and weight loss
  • Type 2: Symptoms include sleeping during the day, a heaviness in the arms and legs, an increase in appetite, and weight gain

Why Might Depression Affect Weight?

Changes in eating habits and weight are common symptoms of depression. This may be a result of several factors:

  • Changes in the physical body, such as metabolic or hormonal changes
  • Taking antidepressants with side effects of weight gain or loss
  • A different relationship with food and eating than before
  • Changes in levels of physical activity 
  • Changes in the stress and pleasure responses of the body

Ways to Deal With Weight Changes

The best ways to deal with weight changes are improving quality of sleep and increasing physical exercise. Sleeping better and exercising more may help people regulate their consumption of unhealthy foods and have better control over their weight. 

For those who find it hard to motivate themselves to exercise, doctors suggest starting small with doing moderate activities like walking. People may also consider making a few dietary changes or switching their antidepressant medication. A healthcare provider can suggest a new medication or create a personalized diet and exercise program. 
To read the original news article, click here.

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How Does Testosterone Affect Male and Female Depression?

Researchers are trying to understand why females are twice as likely to experience major depressive disorder (MDD) than men. One factor may be the role that testosterone plays in brain circuitry.

Since 2016, A.J. Robinson, an associate professor and director of Michigan State University’s Neuroscience Program, and his team have been researching how stress impacts the brain. They have found that biological sex and testosterone play a key part in how males and females experience depression. 

“Through earlier research, we found there is a specific brain circuit in the hippocampus that is more excitable in female mice than in males. That circuit is regulated by testosterone,” said Robinson. According to the team’s research, testosterone lowers the excitability in the brain. 

Some may think that the answer is simply to give shots of testosterone to patients with depression. But it is not that easy. Testosterone plays a fundamental part in many functions of the body, so Robinson and his team want to understand exactly how it changes the brain. 

“If we can figure that out, maybe one of those things is something we can use to create a female- or male-specific pharmacological treatment for depression,” he said. 

Robinson’s studies have given rise to similar research in related fields. Andew Eagle, a research associate in the Department of Physiology at Michigan State University, is analyzing the same brain circuit in connection with cocaine use. He hopes to uncover new ways of treating substance abuse disorder. 

To read the original news article, click here.

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Living With OCD for 27 Years

Liz Norton, Director of Business Analysis at National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), reflects on what it has been like to live with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) for the past 27 years. OCD is a chronic illness that manifests as obsessive thoughts and compulsive actions. 

Early Signs 

Norton started showing symptoms of OCD in middle and high school; neither she nor her family recognized them at the time. She washed her hands so often that they started to crack and bleed. Every night, she had to check that all the doors and windows in the house were locked and all the electrical appliances were plugged in correctly. She believed that if she did not do this “checking ritual,” the house would catch fire or someone might break and hurt her or her family. According to Norton, this hypervigilance and compulsive behavior was exhausting. 

Getting Help

In college, Norton finally realized that she needed professional help. Her fears, anxieties, and compulsions started to prevent her from studying or sleeping. With the help and support of a roommate, she went to the school’s counseling center. They were able to get her exams deferred so she could go home to begin her healing journey. 

Self-Care and Community

A big part of Norton’s journey to mental wellness was learning self-care and finding a supportive community. She began to improve her daily routines, like getting to bed on time and drinking water, to support her mental health. In 2011, Norton attended her first NAMI program where she found her community and developed into a leader in the organization. NAMI people, she says, are her people. 

Although Norton says having OCD isn’t fun, it has made her into the person she is today, and for that she is grateful. 

To read the original news article, click here.

Dr. Woo has been seeing patients in private practice since 2002, always with the goals of combining evidence-based medicine with psychodynamic psychotherapy and collaborating with other mental health professionals to ensure the best possible outcomes for his patients. He has been certified to administer TMS at his practice since 2017. His greatest clinical interests include helping patients suffering from depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder.

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