Depression and Holiday Stress: Are You Overwhelmed?

November 30, 2011 at 2:56 pm , by

Got the blues? You’re not the only one. Every month our friends at Yahoo! send us a snapshot of the top-spiking health searches, and this month the term “antidepressants” came in at number three (behind the more surprising “listeria” and “ear-wax removal”—go figure). In fact, in the past few months depression-related terms have been consistently at the top.

Then there’s this: a new report from Medco Health Solutions, Inc. found that 21 percent of American women took antidepressants in 2010, a 29 percent increase from 2001. When you look at drugs for mental health conditions on the whole, including anti-anxiety, antipsychotics and ADHD meds, roughly a quarter of adult women are taking them, compared with 15 percent of men.

We’re not surprised that depression is on women’s minds these days, considering the state of the world. Plus, the holiday season always adds stress along with the joys. Are you feeling more like Charlie Brown’s sad little tree this year? We asked Jennifer Yashari, M.D., a psychiatrist in Los Angeles and a member of the LHJ Medical Advisory Board, to shed some light on why depression seems to affect women more than men, and how to know if you need help.

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The Truth About Bipolar Disorder

April 27, 2011 at 4:52 pm , by

Drama and comedyIt’s been quite a week in Hollywood mental health news. Three months after her husband Michael Douglas was declared cancer-free, Catherine Zeta-Jones checked herself into treatment for bipolar disorder II. “This is a disorder that affects millions of people and I am one of them,” Zeta-Jones said in a statement to People magazine. Just days later, Disney star and musician Demi Lovato revealed she also suffers from the disorder, and tweeted her support for the actress.

While it may seem like bipolar is another one of those non-ailments that only happens to celebrities, like “a nervous breakdown” or “exhaustion,” the truth is that it’s a serious diagnosis affecting close to 6 million Americans.

There are two different types: bipolar disorder I is characterized by cycling between episodes of mania and depression. Catherine Zeta-Jones has bipolar disorder II, which is alternating between depression and hypomania, a less intense form of mania. What makes bipolar different from major depression are these manic or hypomanic episodes that make you feel on top of the world, says Jennifer Yashari, M.D., a psychiatrist in Los Angeles and a member of the LHJ Medical Advisory Board.

“That’s why bipolar can be complicated because many times people don’t want to be treated for mania—your mind races, and things come to you so quickly and easily,” she adds. For some patients, those manic episodes may feel creative, productive, even brilliant, while to others they may seem delusional.

So how do you know when you or a loved one needs help? “It’s tricky,” and there are a lot of misconceptions, Dr. Yashari says. Read on after the jump to learn the real story behind symptoms and treatment.

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Top 10 Health Searches for 2010

December 8, 2010 at 2:09 pm , by

I can’t remember what life was like before search engines—I turn to the Internet for answers about everything, even my health. Like most people with a computer, at the first sign of symptoms, I’m usually hunting down my own diagnosis before I’ve even thought about calling the doctor.
“People turn to the web for quick answers,” says Robert Glatter, M.D., a New York-based emergency room physician. “A lot of times when people come see me they already have an idea of what’s wrong with them.”

So what health woes were on our minds this year? As part of their Year in Review coverage, the folks at Yahoo! parsed data from billions of searches for the top 10 health-related terms for 2010, and the results might surprise you.

The list:

1. Pregnancy, 2. Diabetes, 3. Herpes, 4. Shingles, 5. Lupus, 6. Depression, 7. Breast cancer, 8. Gall bladder, 9. HIV, 10. Fibromyalgia

pregnancyPregnancy is consistently at the top, says Vera Chan, a Yahoo! web trend analyst, but it’s not just moms-to-be doing the digging. “Early symptoms of pregnancy” and “pregnancy tests” were among the top search phrases, which are likely from women concerned that they might be pregnant.

“Pregnancy also figures in reality shows these days—16 and Pregnant, I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant—and celebrity pregnancies spur their own round of queries,” Chan says.

While diabetes and pregnancy aren’t all that surprising, how did herpes get into the top three? According to the latest numbers from the CDC, prevalence of the herpes simplex virus remains high at about 16 percent. Plus, many people are uncomfortable discussing their sexual health with family, friends and even their doctors, so they turn to the web, Dr. Glatter says. The same goes for HIV coming in at number nine.

“I think there’s also an increased sense of the need for testing, so that may be why people are searching for it,” he adds.

According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, between 75% and 80% of all Internet users have looked online for health information.  But Chan says that women conduct health searches more often than men, which may be why diseases more common in women, like lupus and fibromyalgia, found their way into the top 10.

Dr. Glatter was stunned that autism didn’t make it onto the list this year. What do you think—anything else missing?

Photos by rcv3 and Mahalie

Vicious Cycle

March 5, 2010 at 4:30 pm , by

walking the dogAre you sad because you’re fat, or fat because you’re sad? It may be a little of both, says an analysis of previous studies in the Archives of General Psychiatry. Obesity increases your risk of depression by 55 percent, while depression increases your risk of obesity by 58 percent.

One way to break the cycle: exercise. A proven mood booster, physical activity can also lower feelings of anxiety by 20 percent, according to a study from the University of Georgia. You don’t have to spend hours at the gym to get these benefits—30 minutes of anything that gets you moving does the trick.

Photo by Michael Pettigrew,

Identifying Bipolar Depression

December 2, 2009 at 3:45 pm , by

sad faceCheck out this post by guest blogger and intern, Kristen Domonell.

Do you know someone who’s been depressed for months, maybe even years, and nothing has been able to pull her out of her slump? She may be suffering from bipolar depression.

Bipolar depression is the depressive phase of bipolar disorder and may affect up to 8 million Americans. Symptoms include prolonged feelings of sadness and emptiness, feelings of worthlessness, inability to concentrate and loss of interest in activities once enjoyed.  Unlike major depressive disorder—the type of depression we’re more familiar with—bipolar depression is accompanied by periods of extreme highs. Patients sometimes overlook their mania when consulting a physician, leading to misdiagnosis and improper care.

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