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Mental Health in the News: September 22, 2022

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Mental Health in the News

Welcome to Madison Avenue TMS & Psychiatry’s Mental Health in the News weekly update. Below are some current news events relating to mental health and mental health treatments.

While Most Known for Occurring in the Winter Months, It’s Possible to Experience Seasonal Affective Disorder in the Summer

Approximately 5% of US adults experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that comes and goes and is related to changes in the seasons. SAD is defined as a period of depression that occurs every year during the same time, for a minimum of two years. 

SAD typically occurs during the fall and winter months (referred to as winter-pattern SAD or wpSAD), when the weather changes and the days get shorter. However, some people experience SAD in the summer months, known as summer-pattern SAD (spSAD).

The difference between wpSAD and spSAD is that wpSAD is usually characterized by fatigue and/or apathy, whereas spSAD tends to bring out feelings of agitation and doesn’t tend to last as long as wpSAD.

Summer SAD may also include changes in a person’s:

  • Anxiety and nervousness levels
  • Sleep patterns and appetite
  • Behavior, that becomes more violent

Who’s at Risk for Summer SAD?

The causes of spSAD—and who is at risk—are not clearly known; however,  some mental health professionals, including Dr. Norman Rosenthal, Professor of Psychology at Georgetown University, believe it may have to do with abnormal function of the thyroid.

Other possible risk factors associated with SAD may include:

  • Family history of SAD
  • Being female (women are more likely to develop summer SAD than men)
  • Living near the equator
  • History of clinical depression

Possible causes of summer-pattern SAD may include:

  • Summertime changes in routine
  • Increased heat, humidity, and sunlight
  • Social pressures, such as an increased number of events to attend, wearing a swimsuit, or having kids home from school

Is It Possible to Prevent Summer SAD?

While it may not be possible to prevent summer SAD, there are steps you can take to try and prevent it. Some recommendations include:

  • Taking cold water baths, cold showers, and swimming
  • Using dark sunglasses
  • Taking on a new daily habit, like looking at the sun right after waking up
  • Staying in air-conditioned rooms

If you start to feel symptoms of depression in the summertime, consider taking steps to treat your symptoms, such as:

  • Getting a good night’s sleep
  • Eating a nutritious and well-balanced diet, nutrition
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Seeing a therapist or doctor

For those experiencing summer SAD symptoms or struggling with sleep, work, or personal relationships, consider seeking help from a mental health professional. Getting help early on increases the likelihood that treatment will be effective.

To read the original news article, click here

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Researchers Pinpoint New Potential Causes of Depression in Women

For reasons that have historically remained unclear, depression affects women more often than men. 

A new study–a collaboration from the University of California, Davis, Mt. Sinai Hospital; Princeton University; and Laval University, Quebec–aimed its focus at understanding the effects of depression on the nucleus accumbens (NA). The NA is a region of the brain responsible for processing rewards, motivation, and social interaction–functions that are directly affected by depression.

Former studies on the NA have observed that, during depression, specific genes can be turned on or off in women but not in men. It has also been theorized that the variation of these gene expressions may either cause or be caused by the symptoms of depression. In order to find out, the current study observed mice after negative social interactions and subsequent depressive behaviors that have been known to display more prominently in females.

In the study, researchers manipulated a gene in the NA of mice known as a regulator of g protein signaling-2 (Rgs2). Similarly to a gene in humans, the Rgs2 gene in mice regulates a protein responsible for managing the same kind of neurotransmitter receptors that antidepressant medications target. These researchers hypothesized that if they increased Rgs2 levels, they might see a reduction in depressive behavior. In fact, they observed social approach and food preferences increase, suggesting a significant reduction in stress levels of the female mice.

Alexia Williams, a doctoral researcher from UC Davis, said that these results point to specific molecular dysfunction that may be responsible for depressive symptoms in humans and that we may therefore be able to help depressed patients by improving the function of proteins like Rgs2.

To read the original news article, click here.

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Ex-Football Player Speaks Out About Personal Mental Health Struggles

Mark O’Brien retired in 2020 as a defender for the Newport County, Ireland football team in the English Football League. The end of O’Brien’s career came at age 27, prompted by a heart issue that he says resulted in debilitating mental health issues.

Suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), O’Brien recounts not wanting to get out of bed or leave his apartment. It was his physicians who informed him that he was actually experiencing significant mental health problems. Until then, he hadn’t been aware of what things like depression, PTSD, and health anxiety were.

O’Brien’s first cardiac surgery was a valvular transplant at age 16, during which doctors inserted a pigskin valve instead of a mechanical valve, allowing him to be able to train professionally.

It was another surgery in 2020, right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, that marked the end of his professional career, just before which he experienced his first panic attacks.

Following that procedure, he spent four weeks in the hospital without seeing friends or family. He says that time destroyed his confidence and physical strength.

For a long time, he continued to have severe panic attacks that would keep him up sick at night, afraid that if he slept, he might not wake up again. This whole time, he had no idea what was happening to him.

He learned to talk about his struggles by seeking professional help from a therapist. He also leaned on former teammates and coaches for support. He says it was asking for help in these ways that enabled him to rehabilitate himself enough to now be working for Newport again in a player care role.

O’Brien says he still has hard days, but after going through what he has, he has learned to tell people about his struggles and he doesn’t feel alone.

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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