100 things about me: Part 10 (final)

100 things about me: Part 9

100 things about me: Part 8

100 things about me: Part 7

100 things about me: Part 6

100 things about me: Part 5

100 things about me: Part 4

Minimal posting once again

My job has blocked access to “social networking and personal sites.” (I’m updating this through my mobile e-mail settings.) I can access the main page of my blog (for now) and the main page of other Typepad sites, but that’s about it.

I will also be unable to read other blogs. Blogspot, which the majority of you use, is completely blocked. I have access to wordpress blogs for now, but I don’t expect it to last long.

Ever since I started this blog, I’ve found it to be a great way to escape the day and to write about my life and subjects that affect others. It’s been quite easy at work to do research during downtime (i.e. nothing to do) and write about it. If all blogs are blocked, I’m not sure what I’d do. (Yes, I admit, it’s pretty sad that I need to blog during the day to deal with the craziness of my life, namely at work.) You could say this is my form of therapy. And you know how it is, even if you don’t use something very much, the very fact that you’re restricted makes you want to rebel.

I’ve also made a promise to myself early on – especially around the time when I was hospitalized – that I would find another job once they began blocking blogs. Part of me knew it would happen eventually (they’ve always blocked me from making comments on a friend’s site), but I hoped it would never happen while I was here. Now that it has, my job search will get intensely serious. (Even though basically nothing exists in my desired field in the Philadelphia metro area.) I’ll probably still be here through September. Although it won’t surprise me if I’m still here through January. (Sigh.)

Part of me also wishes that they’d give a reason behind what they do so I could understand why certain sites are blocked. (I had access to personal e-mail here last summer until September.) I can understand blocking e-mail; I can understand blocking MySpace, Facebook, and YouTube – but really, blogs? Maybe I’m missing something here. If so, please feel free to tell me. I have the funny feeling the only thing I’ll have access to in the end is Google and medically related sites. I’m not holding out much hope for even Wikipedia. We’ll see.

Stay tuned.

100 things about me: Part 3

100 things about me: Part 2

100 things about me: Part 1

Following Gianna’s lead on Bipolar Blast, I’m going to tackle the daunting task of revealing 100 things about me. Not that anyone cares, but I’ll do it anyway. I’ll probably unravel 10 things over the course of 10 days.

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ECT: Pros vs. Cons

I haven’t had any experience with ECT (Electroconvulsive therapy), but unfortunately, many others have – and not voluntarily. One reader of Furious Seasons, SS, details her traumatic experience with the treatment. Another reader, Crazy Tracy, explains how ECT saved her sanity.

For those who don’t know ECT – informally dubbed "electroshock" therapy – "involves the application of electrical stimulation to the brain using two electrodes attached to the scalp, resulting in a seizure." (ect.org) While there are many people who have benefited from ECT, there are just as many who haven’t. ECT’s reported side effects include memory loss (the biggest complaint) and the loss of some physical and cognitive functioning. Juli Lawrence, owner of ect.org, describes the controversy surrounding ECT:

"Since that time, the ECT industry has repudiated the complaints of ECT patients. Instead of trying to listen to the patients and find a solution to the problems, the industry has been on the attack, attempting to discredit those who speak out. They have taken a wide range of people and categorized them into one group of people: antipsychiatry and Scientologists. If that doesn’t deflect the attention away from those speaking out, they tell the public and media that they are too mentally ill to understand what’s going on.

Cancer patients are very aware – and told upfront – what the results may be with chemotherapy. ECT patients are not.

Instead, the industry bristles at any criticism, and points to a badly-designed study that concluded the majority of patients were happy with their ECT treatment. They do not mention that nearly half of the original participants either dropped out after treatment, or refused to participate."

The main issue about ECT is not so much whether it should be used or not (I’m not a fan of it), but rather letting patients make informed decisions about using that form of therapy. There are instances of forced ECT, which all patients seem to be against. Unfortunately, mental health professionals don’t seem to see it the same way, which is a shame. Furious Seasons linked to MindFreedom.org that has a campaign running to prevent NY State from forcing ECT on a patient who repeatedly refuses it. Perhaps VNS (Vagus Nerve Stimulator) would be a better option. I haven’t heard as many side effect complaints from that – if any at all.

Lies, damned lies, and statistics

A recent article in the New York Times reported on the link between suicide and depression. Two studies were released in The American Journal of Psychiatry (AJP) that question the findings that show an increased risk for suicide on antidepressants for all age groups. In the first study, psychiatrist Dr. Gregory Simon of Seattle’s Center for Health Studies analyzed the health records of just over 109,000 people who were being treated for depression. Simon found that “suicide attempts were most common in the month before treatment began, declined sharply in the month after it began, and tapered off in the following six months.” Medication therapy, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two continued to support data that “treating depression reduced suicide risk regardless of technique.” However, the issue is whether the medication really DID do an effective job of curbing suicide attempts. Obviously, this study would contradict many of the data presented to the FDA that have found an increased risk for suicide on an antidepressant. Furious Seasons reported on similar findings from different studies early last year.

The second study, led by Dr. Robert Gibbons of the Center for Health Statistics at UIC, gathered data from the Veterans Health Administration of nearly 227,000 veterans suffering from depression. Gibbons discovered that veterans who began antidepressant therapy had a suicide attempt rate one-third that of those who did not receive antid therapy. Researchers also found that “this was true for men 18 to 25 as well as for older adults.”

Given that veterans/those who serve in the armed forces are primarily men, it wouldn’t surprise me if the suicide rate was low to begin with.Women, on the whole, are known for more suicidal attempts. Guys are usually a “one and done” attempt – they use a violent means of suicide, e.g., firearms.

If I haven’t said it in the past, I’ll say it again: I’m not a whiz when it comes to statistics. Feel free to skip all my assumptions and theories and read a knowledgeable editorial by Dr. David Brent on these studies. But I’ll do my best to interpret the data from the first study from my perspective.

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Government fails yet again

I’m on the verge of turning this into a partially political blog, but I just came across this blog post and had to post it here. Dr. Scott, a pediatric doctor who practiced on the Mississippi Gulf Coast has an honest and heartfelt post about leaving the area post-Katrina due to failed government promises.

Blogs around the way

I’ve had the opportunity to read a few more blogs recently. Here are some highlights:

Stephany at souful sepulcher linked to Dr. John Grohol’s post at Psych Central about the restrictions on patients’ basic rights, i.e. the right to fresh air if you don’t smoke.

Gianna at Bipolar Blast discusses her problems with withdrawal from her psych drugs. She especially seems to be having trouble with Lamictal. I can only hope that once she’s off of the drugs, things will move smoothly and she can regain her life back.

Question Authority with Peter Rost linked to an interesting blog called Drug Rep Toys. Feel free to scrounge around for Rozarem linen spray. Maybe it’ll help you sleep.

PharmaGossip linked to a secret memo written by Barclay Fitzpatrick at Blue Cross, who was sent to watch and review Michael Moore’s latest movie, Sicko. Fitzpatrick essentially launches into damage control mode. Here’s a sampling from michaelmoore.com:

"You would have to be dead to unaffected by Moore’s movie, he is an effective storyteller. In Sicko Moore presents a collage of injustices by selecting stories, no matter how exceptional to the norm, that present the health insurance industry as a set of organizations and people dedicated to denying claims in the name of profit. Denial for treatments that are considered "experimental" is a common story, along with denial for previous conditions, and denial for application errors or omissions. Individual employees from Humana and other insurers are interviewed who claim to have actively pursued claim denial as an insitutionalized goal in the name of profit.

In the second half of the movie, Moore walks us through individual stories of the Canadian, British, French, and Cuban health care systems where everything is free and – he reminds us repeatedly – no one is ever denied service because they can’t pay. In addition to health care, the government provides free day care, college, and someone to do your laundry. Everybody gets along and takes care of each other and life is beautiful because there is universal health care. As a viewer, you are made to feel ashamed to be an American, a capitalist, and part of a ‘me’ society instead of a ‘we’ society – and the lack of universal health care is held up in support of that condemnation."

As a result, I’m intrigued to see Sicko. I’m sure the documentary is incredibly one-sided, but at the same time, I think Fitzpatrick’s memo is partial bull. What are healthcare companies if not to make a profit? I’ve run into numerous issues with them myself – including the notorious "we won’t cover this because it’s a prior condition" – so many of Fitzpatrick’s assertions fall deaf on my ears. I’m currently under Blue Cross insurance and have dealt with them in the past. From my experience, coverage – even within the same healthcare company – differs from state to state. New York’s Blue Cross insurance was the worst insurer that I’d ever dealt with under my mother’s coverage; Cigna in New York (under my father’s coverage) was a godsend, covering many of my constant psych and doctor visits as a teen. I currently am covered by Independence Blue Cross (Ibx) in Philadelphia and it’s the best insurance I have ever had. Because I work in a medical organization, my fees are incredibly cheap and they cover most everything including my maintenance psychiatric visits. Anyone covered under Ibx has generic copays waived for the entire year. I know the worst healthcare insurers are capable of, but I’ve also experienced the best. I could go on, but it’d end up getting political for me so I’ll stop here. (I’m passionate about this topic.)

On the subject of Michael Moore, Kevin, M.D. has a post on Moore’s pissy attitude during an interview on CNN. Kevin quotes:

"Filmmaker Michael Moore went off on CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer during an interview Monday to promote his latest documentary ‘Sicko’. Moore blasted the anchor and the network for not doing enough to stop the Iraq war and for doing a ‘crap’ report on his new film. Moore also mocked the pronunciation of chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta."

Poor Dr. Gupta. Why hate on the man?

In a related matter, Kevin M.D. linked to a blog post by Movin’ Meat, which details the ridiculous $3600 bill a patient, who sustained injuries in a car accident, received. Shadowfax, Movin’ Meat’s blogger, breaks it down quite simply:

So, for the health policy types:
The system is fundamentally and irredeemably broken. Fix it now.

Read a ton more about Michael Moore and health care from Kevin’s blog:
Michael Moore an obstacle to single-payer?
Reasons against universal health care?
Deregulating health insurance
Do Americans go to Canada for health care?

I’ve recently fallen in love with the Bipolar Wellness Writer blog. I enjoy reading her insightful posts on bipolar disorder, depression, and her mother’s struggle with dementia.

On We Worry: A Blog for the Anxious, they link to an article about how depressed people are more intuitive to other people’s feelings than non-depressed people. I can only imagine it’s because depressed people care too much about what other people think even if depressed people think they don’t care what other people think at all. (A paradox, I know.)

Check out many of the other blogs on my Blogroll. I’m sure you’ll find something that you’ll like.

UPDATE: Some of the links aren’t working because a few of the links have spaces. I’ve tried to fix all of them, but if a link doesn’t work, check the URL and remove any "%20" signs that you see in the URL bar. Thanks.

Live Earth goes green a.k.a. $$$

I have rare political rants, but the whole Live Earth thing has bugged me enough that I’ve decided to write about it. No mental health-related issues here. Unless you think Al Gore is crazy like I do. I apologize for misspellings in advance; I didn’t have a chance to edit it before posting.

Live EarthLive Earth was staged to bring awareness to global warming. The tagline: The Concerts For A Climate In Crisis. The motto: “Answer the Call.” The logo: An “O” with corresponding SOS morse code dashes.

The Environment News Service briefly detailed the issue of global warming and climate change:

“Most scientists now agree that the Earth’s atmosphere is warming at the fastest rate in recorded history, a trend that is projected to cause extensive damage to forests, marine ecosystems, and agriculture.

Human communities are threatened by climate change as seas rise, storms become more intense, and episodes of drought and flooding increase. The polar ice caps are melting and ice-dependent species such as polar bears are struggling to survive.”

Yusef Robb, an organizer of the event, said the point was to “bring together a massive audience around the world to take action against the climate crisis.”  So why are several concerts around the world necessary to “raise awareness” about the climate? Hold up, I’m getting ahead of myself.

The event spanned all 7 continents (07.07.07!) – including a special performance by scientists in Antartica – was concentrated in eight populated cities: Hamburg, New York (really New Jersey), London, Rio de Janiero, Tokyo, Shanghai, Sydney, and Johannesburg. Friends of Live Earth concerts – not officially part of the Live Earth event – occurred in Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal in Canada.

A surprise and (less publicized) last-minute event sprung up in Washington D.C. in conjunction with a Native American festival. Event organizers estimated that 2 billion people viewed the event in-person, on TV, through the radio, or via Internet (or any other media form I can’t think of right now). Headliners included Madonna, Bon Jovi, The Police, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lenny Kravitz, Joss Stone, Foo Fighters, Alicia Keys, Melissa Etheridge, John Mayer, etc. etc. etc. You can watch the concerts here.

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Damaged goods

I came upon the Bipolar Wellness Writer blog (on my Blogroll, actually) and read a quote that really stuck out to me. I often feel this way:

I once wrote an essay called The Throwaway People about me and my mother. I tore it up years ago but my point was that in our society, old people and people who are labeled mentally ill are throwaways. People feel they can dismiss us because we are damaged.

I can’t say much more than that.

To Shrink or not to Shrink? That's the question.

I came across this article from Psychology Today a while ago and found it interesting and applicable to my life. I’d like to break some of this down because I do have some issues with it.

Ten simple steps to recognizing your problems–and solving them own your own

A look at TV talk shows and newspaper advice columns reveals that a lot of people out there have serious psychological problems. They suffer from intense depression, suicidal thoughts, paralyzing anxiety or uncontrollable urges, and they need immediate professional help. Chances are, though, that you’re not one of them.

Let’s face it: You may be insecure, lonely, stressed or anxious. You may have trouble meeting people or keeping your marriage together. But these garden-variety problems are not life-threatening, nor are they defects whose roots require a therapist’s weeding.

I agree. Of the millions of people who perhaps suffer from depression or anxiety, I’d venture to say a good portion do NOT suffer from a serious mental illness, but suffer from a lack of the appropriate coping skills to deal with life.

As two award-winning clinical psychologists, we see mental health quite differently. We believe that many emotional problems are learned, mainly from parents, teachers, peers and the media, and that people can unlearn these patterns on their own. In many cases, professional help can become redundant or even counterproductive. Once people realize that they play a crucial role in overcoming their problems, self-help becomes a highly effective option.

I’m glad these clinical psychologists are award-winning. I don’t fully advocate their advice the self-help advice for most people dealing with emotional and mental issues. I agree that while emotional problems are learned or developed over time, working with a professional – whom you trust – can be beneficial. Going from therapist to therapist can be redundant. (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to tell my sob story to different therapists and psychologists.) From some of the blogs I’ve read recently, it seems that some therapists can do more harm than good. I advocate self-help for those with mild and perhaps moderate issues. Anything more than that requires professional help in some fashion.

Most people with mental aliments are making one of 10 common errors that result in needless emotional distress. Recognizing these mistakes makes it easier for these people to solve their own problems. Learn to avoid them, and you’re well on your way to becoming your own shrink!

You are too demanding and perfectionistic.

1 The problem: Sheila L., 30, was extremely insecure because she focused far too much on her flaws. During the holidays, for example, she pressured herself to spend lots of money on the perfect presents for people, despite her’ modest teacher’s salary. She also berated family and friends for their shortcomings. Eventually, people started avoiding her, leading her to feel isolated and depressed.

The solution: Sheila had fallen prey to what famed psychiatrist Karen Horney, M.D., termed "the tyranny of the ‘should.’" Focusing too much on what you and others "should" do causes guilt on your part, and anger and frustration on the part of your victims. There are many valid ways to act in any given situation. You’re only human, so it is imperative to avoid having superhuman expectations! Try replacing "should" and "must" with "wish" or "prefer"–for example, trade "You shouldn’t smoke in the house" with "I’d prefer that you smoke outside." If you become less demanding, life can be much more fulfilling and relaxing.

Ommm. I have now decided to no longer be perfectionistic. *snaps fingers* That solves my problem!

You don’t say what you mean or mean what you say.

2 The problem: Tony R., 39, dreaded his family s yearly Thanksgiving dinner. Each November, the same scene played out: Tony would get irritated with his family’s nagging, but would bottle up his retorts until he exploded with rage. His sister, Mildred R., 30, took the opposite approach: She agreed with everyone, afraid to speak her own mind. Both, however, felt tense, awkward, resentful and unappreciated. Tony seemed immature to his family. Mildred came across as distant and infantile.

The solution: Tony, Mildred and others like them need to remember several key instructions: Say what you feel as soon as you feel it. Do not wait for pressure to build, and do not recoil from speaking up. Speak calmly, respectfully and directly. When people know you’re giving them your honest opinion, they’re more likely to treat you with respect than if you kowtow to them. By being assertive–but not aggressive-people are more likely to listen to you. The style you adopt when dealing with others is crucial. It determines who loves you, hates you, seeks you out or avoids you more than your beliefs, ideas or opinions.

"Say what you feel as soon as you feel it." This is great advice. Especially if one is given to foot-in-mouth syndrome. I, on the other hand, suffer from "That was random" syndrome. I agree with expressing what you feel, but the authors fail to mention that there is a time and a place for everything. Exercise judgment before speaking your mind. "Think before you act" and all that.

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The Zoloft-rage/violence connection

[This post is quite lengthy so I suggest you grab a cup of coffee or tea and sit down and read it. The following is not for the faint of heart (or those with a lack of time).]

It’s been amazing to me that I’ve received numerous comments on Zoloft inducing rage. I’m humbled by having a Pittman supporter visit my site and post some comments from the ChristopherPittman.org forums. Read the following:

In my senior year in high school I was diagnosed as being severely depressed and put on medication. The first medication that I was on I took for 5 months and it made me really aggressive. My friends and family noticed the change and I told my doctor about it and she changed my meds. After that I was fine. I am normally a very passive person and will let just about anything fly. But the medication made me really aggravated and aggressive toward my friends and family and it seemed that I wasn’t overcoming my depression. I just got done watching the 48 hours investigation on the Discovery Times Channel and felt a connection with Chris. I felt that I had to write this to let you know that Chris is not the only one out there that had these side effects. I think there should be a study done to see how many people that take antidepressants have increased aggression. The problem is that the pharmaceutical industry has deep pockets and many lobbyists. I hope this helps in some way.

And another:

I remember the case when it happened.

At the time I thought, “Zoloft right”.

Let me tell you my physician put me on Zoloft and it took about three weeks for my to become psychotic and I’m a 50 year old woman.

I have three children and I don’t make a lot of money but please let me know if I can do anything for the Pittman boy.

The jury should have been placed on Zoloft before they made they decision. Unless you’ve experience it you simply cannot believe its’ effect.

Brynn and Phil HartmanI did a bit of quick reading/research into Zoloft triggering violence in people who otherwise would have never been violent and it seems that are a few stories out there to support the assertion. I found a few comments on depressionblog.com that mentioned a link between Zoloft and rage fits. A Salon.com article published a story antidepressants inducing rage in 1999. Apparently, Brynn Hartman, the wife of famous comedian Phil Hartman, killed herself and her husband while taking Zoloft. While close friends attribute the sudden behavior on the antidepressant, others attribute it to a combination of the medication with cocaine and alcohol in her system. (Zoloft does have a warning against alcohol use in conjunction with the drug.)

One interesting thing I learned from the article is that this kind of behavior is often labeled under the name akathisia on patient safety guides. Most – if not all – of the major antidepressants list akathisia as a side effect. Here’s the initial description of this condition from Wikipedia:

Akathisia, or acathisia, is an unpleasant subjective sensation of “inner” restlessness that manifests itself with an inability to sit still or remain motionless… Its most common cause is as a side effect of medications, mainly neuroleptic antipsychotics especially the phenothiazines (such as perphenazine and chlorpromazine), thioxanthenes (such as flupenthixol and zuclopenthixol) and butyrophenones (such as haloperidol (Haldol)), and rarely, antidepressants.

Akathisia may range in intensity from a mild sense of disquiet or anxiety (which may be easily overlooked) to a total inability to sit still, accompanied by overwhelming anxiety, malaise, and severe dysphoria (manifesting as an almost indescribable sense of terror and doom).

No real mention of extreme anger or irritability mentioned there. But if you read on…

The 2006 U.K. study by Healy, Herxheimer, and Menkes observed that akathisia is often miscoded in antidepressant clinical trials as “agitation, emotional lability, and hyperkinesis (overactivity)”. The study further points out that misdiagnosis of akathisia as simple motor restlessness occurs, but that this is more properly classed as dyskinesia. Healy, et. al., further show links between antidepressant-induced akathisia and violence, including suicide, as akathisia can “exacerbate psychopathology.” The study goes on to state that there is extensive clinical evidence correlating akathisia with SSRI use, showing that approximately ten times as many patients on SSRIs as those on placebos showed symptoms severe enough to drop out of a trial (5.0% compared to 0.5%).

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Inmates and mental illness

From the Treatment Advocacy Center:

As reports continue to call for increased mental health staff and services for the criminal justice system, there is little doubt jails and prisions are acting as our country’s de facto mental health system. Is it really prudent to wait until someone has committed a crime to provide treatment, and is prison really the best place to be getting it?

Is it really prudent to commit someone to a hospital if he or she does not pose a criminal risk? It seems that about 16 percent of inmates suffer from a mental illness of some sort. According to the American Psychiatric Association, less than one percent of defendants plead insanity in court. Of that one percent, only 26 percent of the cases resulted in an "insanity" verdict. In 80 percent of the cases where a person is acquitted on charges because of the insanity plea, apparently, the defense and the prosecution had already worked out a deal. If less than one percent of those on trial enter an insanity plea, why is the figure for those with mental illness so high? Is it possible that inmates go crazy in jail? (I’m sure jail is enough to make ANYONE crazy.) Something just seems amiss here.

I'm posting this on the 5th

Hope everyone had a safe and happy 4th of July.

Can Zoloft induce rage?

Furious Seasons has a post on WWE wrestler Chris Benoit, who possibly may have taken Zoloft shortly before he committed the murder of his wife and child. The article on pwtorch.com that FS linked to refers to the possibility that Benoit's friend and doctor, Phillippe Astin III, may have prescribed the drug to Benoit on Friday, the day before he killed his wife.

There are definitely some funky mental issues behind Benoit's motives for killing his family, but it wouldn't surprise me if the Zoloft played a part in influencing him to do so. I recently mentioned Christopher Pittman who killed his grandparents in 2001 then proceeded to set their house on fire when he was on an adult dosage of 200 mg of Zoloft. He was 12. Stephany of soulful sepulcher commented that her daughter suffered from a similar problem while on 150 mg Zoloft:

Pittman was about the same age my daughter was then, and she was on 150mg of Zoloft a day, and that med changed her personality into a full blown all day raging person. She had to go inpatient to get off of it, and once off of it, she's never raged like that again. The Pittman story is very sad, as are all of the others associated with antidepressant use and teen violence. Columbine had Luvox, there's Accutane–it's beyond me how this can be overlooked in connection.

I wonder if there are other stories floating out there now about how Zoloft – an antidepressant – has caused similar behaviors. It'd be interesting to observe whether Zoloft causes hallucinations, delusions, and psychosis.

Younger generation of psychiatrists skeptical of pharma companies

From intueri:

>> Psychiatrists Top List in Drug Maker Gifts. This kind of thing makes me embarrassed to be a psychiatrist. I’m glad that the Times is publishing this information—transparency is good and should be encouraged—and it’s painful to read. Many of us in the younger crew view Big Pharma with a disdain that borders on disgust, but how are other people supposed to know this? Average newspaper readers may now believe that I’m a skanky whore for Big Pharma upon learning my profession. I could prattle on, but I won’t.

It's good to know that the new breed of psychiatrists aren't as loyal to Big Pharma as the old ones are.

Are you suffering from Too Much Gaming Disorder?

Liz Spikol of The Trouble With Spikol, posted a reader’s comments on the worst things to say to someone with depression ("Just get over it"). Here’s the excerpt that I really liked:

So please:
Don’t take pity on me. Help me love me, be my friend, my spouse, my child.
Don’t send false promises. Be real, be honest, be open.
Don’t be angry with me. I am trying my best.
Don’t ignore me. Ignoring doesn’t gaurantee immunity.
Don’t talk down to me. I’m fighting the fight of my life.
But worst of all, don’t tell me, "just get over it," "this too shall pass," "there are some worse off," or my personal favorite: "jump back on that horse!" Because by doing that you invalidate me and you lie to yourself.
All I need — all I really need — is time, your love, a shoulder, a hug, a concerned ear to listen, and a soft place to fall.

Gianna at Bipolar Blast posted on an article on how a doctors’ council will be pushing video game addiction as a mental illness at an AMA meeting. What. The. Heck. Must everything be considered a mental illness now?

CHICAGO – The telltale signs are ominous: teens holing up in their rooms, ignoring friends, family, even food and a shower, while grades plummet and belligerence soars.

The culprit isn’t alcohol or drugs. It’s video games, which for certain kids can be as powerfully addictive as heroin, some doctors contend.

A leading council of the nation’s largest doctors’ group wants to have this behavior officially classified as a psychiatric disorder, to raise awareness and enable sufferers to get insurance coverage for treatment.

In a report prepared for the American Medical Association’s annual policy meeting starting Saturday in Chicago, the council asks the group to lobby for the disorder to be included in a widely used mental illness manual created and published by the American Psychiatric Association. AMA delegates could vote on the proposal as early as Monday.

This is one of the most retarded things that I have ever heard of. I think the real issue here is addiction. I could be wrong, but is alcoholism or drug addition considered a psychiatric disorder? Wait, I’m addicted to sweets – How about the Sweet or Baked Goods Disorder? Oooh, and the sugar rush can be the Hyper Disorder. Paris Hilton needs to be the spokesperson for Attention Necessary Disorder.

Now, I understand that video games have brought about some unusual behaviors in gamers and the serious addiction has even led to death. But I think the real issue here is self-control. If you want to slap a label on the behavior, make it Impulse Control Disorder or something. Perhaps Withdrawal-Isolation Syndrome? In any event, playing video games is not the problem; the behavior that leads up to the addiction is.

Joyce Protopapas of Frisco, Texas, said her 17-year-old son, Michael, was a video addict. Over nearly two years, video and Internet games transformed him from an outgoing, academically gifted teen into a reclusive manipulator who flunked two 10th grade classes and spent several hours day and night playing a popular online video game called World of Warcraft.

"We went to therapists, we tried taking the game away," [Protopapas said]. "He would threaten us physically. He would curse and call us every name imaginable," she said. "It was as if he was possessed."

A support group called On-Line Gamers Anonymous has numerous postings on its Web site from gamers seeking help. Liz Woolley, of Harrisburg, Pa., created the site after her 21-year-old son fatally shot himself in 2001 while playing an online game she says destroyed his life.

Postings also come from adults, mostly men, who say video game addiction cost them jobs, family lives and self-esteem.

Everything in moderation, folks.

Loose Screws Mental Health News

"Can an antipsychotic drug from the 1950s be paired with a 1980s antibiotic to shrink 21st-century tumors?"

That's the first line from the NYT's recent article on biotech companies mixing two unrelated generic drugs to treat medical problems. Alexis Borisy, the executive of CombinatoRx, is spearheading the movement to mix and match two different generic drugs in the hopes that the combo will cure or effectively treat a disease that may be unrelated to the drugs' initial purposes.

"Orexigen, in creating its obesity drug Contrave, took a treatment used for drug and alcohol addiction and combined it with an antidepressant sometimes used to help people quit smoking." (My guess is that the antid was Zyban.)

It's a nice concept, but I'd hate to see risk of side effects doubled. One med can be a doozy; coupled with another could turn out to be problematic.

More from the NYT: Pharmaceutical companies pay psychiatrists (to push their products) more than doctors in any other specialty.

"For instance, the more psychiatrists have earned from drug makers, the more they have prescribed a new class of powerful medicines known as atypical antipsychotics to children, for whom the drugs are especially risky and mostly unapproved."

The bipolar child paradigm.

Vermont officials disclosed Tuesday that drug company payments to psychiatrists in the state more than doubled last year, to an average of $45,692 each from $20,835 in 2005. Antipsychotic medicines are among the largest expenses for the state’s Medicaid program.

Over all last year, drug makers spent $2.25 million on marketing payments, fees and travel expenses to Vermont doctors, hospitals and universities, a 2.3 percent increase over the prior year, the state said.

The number most likely represents a small fraction of drug makers’ total marketing expenditures to doctors since it does not include the costs of free drug samples or the salaries of sales representatives and their staff members. According to their income statements, drug makers generally spend twice as much to market drugs as they do to research them.

Doesn't the last sentence make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? It's great to know that getting people to use drugs are more important to these companies than making sure these drugs are safe to use. Yeah, yeah, I know, it's a company and companies are only out to make profits. Whatever kind of optimist is in me wants to believe that maybe there's one doctor out there who is more motivated by helping others than by pharma-backing money. But I'm only a slight optimist.

Take two pills and call me if there's a birth defect

A recent article in the NYT reported that two studies released in The New England Journal of Medicine claim that an antidepressant could potentially increase the risk of a baby being born with a birth defect, but, uh,  it's unlikely and "confined to a few rare defects."

Benedict Carey, author of the article, points out that the studies didn't have a good sampling to really prove that assertion:

"In both studies, researchers interviewed mothers of more than 9,500 infants with birth defects, including cleft palate and heart valve problems. They found that mothers who remember being on antidepressants like Zoloft, Paxil, or Prozac while pregnant were at no higher risk for most defects than a control group of women who said they had not taken antidepressants."

So what's it's sounding like for me is that researchers got a group of expecting moms together, basically said, "Hey, have you taken an antidepressant?" and the ones who said yes were placed in one control group and the ones who said no were placed in another. How reliable.

Having been part of a clinical trial for bipolar disorder, I know it's likely these women got paid for their participation in this study. (Most people do, from what I understand.) So some could essentially have lied in the hopes they could snag $100. It doesn't sound like these women agreed to have their past medical history released to researchers that could prove they've been on antidepressant medication, they could have just been like:

"Uh, yeah. I took the antidepressant with the happy little egg sad face thingy."

Doctor: "Zoloft?"

"Yeah, yeah! That one. It maketed me alllll better."

Remember – it's mothers who "remembered" being on antidepressants while pregnant, not medical histories that proved that they've at least been prescribed the medication.

One doctor, not involved in the research, had reservations about the so-called findings:

"These are important papers, but they don't close the questions of whether there are major effects" of these drugs on developing babies, said Dr. Timothy Oberlander, a developmental pediatrician at the University of British Columbia, who was not involved in the studies.

Despite the seemingly positive outcomes that "support doctors' assurances that antidepressants are not a major cause of serious physical problems in newborns," both studies uncovered some pretty serious – but considered rare – conditions.

"One of the studies, led by Carol Louik of Boston University and financed in part by the drug makers GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi-Aventis, found that use of Paxil was associated with an increased risk of a rare heart defect, which the company had previously reported.

The other study, led by Sura Alwan of the University of British Columbia, found that use of antidepressants increased the risk of craniosynostosis, a condition in which the bones in the skull fuse prematurely. Rare gastric and neural tube defects may also be more common in babies exposed to the medication, the studies suggested."

But don't worry, pregnant moms – the risks are low, "appear remote, and confined to a few rare defects." So, hey, even if your baby DID develop a rare defect, at least it's rare! [sarcasm]

I'd take the chance of depression if it meant my baby had a better chance of being born healthy. I'm lucky – I couldn't take Lamictal if I got pregnant. I wish antidepressants would have the same instruction.