Social scientists have warned Zuck all along that the Facebook theory of interaction would make people angry and miserable

Since the earliest days of Facebook, social scientists have sent up warnings saying that the ability to maintain separate "contexts" (where you reveal different aspects of yourself to different people) was key to creating and maintaining meaningful relationships, but Mark Zuckerberg ignored this advice, insisting that everyone be identified only by their real names and present a single identity to everyone in their lives, because anything else was "two-faced." Read the rest

Trials confirm the use of psilocybin for depression without the "dulling" effects of traditional antidepressants

The prohibition on psychedelics was memorably described as "the worst case of scientific censorship since the Catholic Church banned the works of Copernicus and Galileo" by former UK Drugs Czar David Nutt, and despite the ban, there has been a consistent, determined, very promising (sometimes surprising) drumbeat of scientific papers about the use of psilocybin ("magic mushrooms") and other psychedelics in treating a range of chronic illnesses, including mental illnesses. Read the rest

As more published reports tout ayahuasca benefits, researchers push back against criminalization

A newly-published overview of self-reported ayahuasca experiences indicates that the hallucinogen can help alleviate eating disorders and reduce alcohol consumption. Now, more scientists are pushing to make it easier to study the drug legally. Read the rest

Some thoughts on whether intelligence is linked to anxiety and depression

In High intelligence: A risk factor for psychological and physiological overexcitabilities, a group of academic and industry neuroscientists survey a self-selected group of 3,715 MENSA members about their mental health history and find a correlation between high IQ and clinical anxiety and depression disorders, an effect they attribute to "overexitabilities" -- "the same heightened awareness that inspires an intellectually gifted artist to create can also potentially drive that same individual to withdraw into a deep depression." Read the rest

Depression's werewolves, and their families

John Brownlee lost his father to a heart attack. But it was Bruce Brownlee's depression that slowly killed him: My Father The Werewolf.

"I think about my father’s generosity a lot. My father was generous, but he was also depressed, and the nature of depression is to be selfish: to starve those who love you of the best of you, in the relentless feeding of that which can never be nourished. In that, he—the most depressed person I ever met—was also the most selfish. For my entire life, he would give me anything I asked for, as long as it was a movie or a book. But when my mother and I begged him half a dozen times to go see a doctor if he loved us, he wouldn’t lift a finger. How do generosity and selfishness co-exist like that in a person without destroying him?

I don’t know. And, of course, it did eventually destroy him. But that was my father: a lycanthrope of contrasts. Whatever he was, he was also the opposite."

I met Bruce just once and it struck me that every path to him was gated with thorns, and I thought it grew from the reading. But I'm struck more by his son's effort to break through, to finish a story that couldn't be written until the last word was said.

My Father The Werewolf [Pillpack] Read the rest

Dissociative psychedelic Ketamine may help suicidal children

Ketamine is a short-acting dissociative anesthetic commonly used on animals and sometimes people. Of course it's also beloved by many psychonauts for its unusual dreamlike or "out of body" psychedelic effects. While Ketamine has been shown for years to help treat depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder in adults, researchers at Yale School of Medicine now report that it has great promise as a fast-acting intervention for children in crisis. From Scientific American:

It was less dramatic to watch than I expected, but the kids were definitely high. There was a lot of giggling involved, and they often said that they felt like time was changing and that their bodies felt ‘funny’ and sometimes numb. Nicole, (a suicidal 14-year-old,) admitted, “I’m not gonna lie. I like the feeling of it.”

Perhaps more dramatic than the trips themselves, which happened in a carefully controlled procedure room with a psychiatrist and anesthesiologist ready to intervene if needed, were the interviews that came after. I could see the weight of depression lifted from these patients within hours. Adolescents who were previously ready to end their own lives became bright and hopeful. Psychiatry has never seen a drug intervention so powerful and fast acting. While most anti-depressants take weeks to work and offer modest improvement, ketamine offers dramatic improvement in less than a day...

Dr. Michael Bloch, Yale child psychiatrist and principal investigator of several controlled trials for ketamine for adolescents, points out that the drug is only used for select patients who have severe mental health problems that have not responded to other medications.

Read the rest

Facebook use is a predictor of depression

A pair of social scientists from UCSD and Yale conducted an NIH study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology on the link between Facebook use and mental health, drawing on data from the Gallup Panel Social Network Study combined with "objective measures of Facebook use" and self-reported data for 5,208 subjects, and concluded that increased Facebook use is causally linked with depression. Read the rest

Video about using psychedelic drugs to treat anxiety, addiction, and OCD

In the last decade, researchers at Johns Hopkins University and elsewhere have launched new studies investigating whether psychedelic drugs, from shrooms to LSD to DMT, can treat mental disorders ranging from depression and PTSD to anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Vox reporters German Lopez and Javier Zarracina surveyed the state of medical research on hallucinogens:

In a recent study, British researchers used brain imaging techniques to gauge how the brain looks on LSD versus a placebo. They found big differences between LSD and the placebo, with the images of the brain on LSD showing much more connectivity between different sections of the mind.

This can help explain visual hallucinations, because it means various parts of the brain — not just the visual cortex at the back of the mind — are communicating during an LSD trip.

This, researchers argued, may show not just why psychedelic drugs trigger hallucinogenic experiences but also why they may be able to help people. "In many psychiatric disorders, the brain may be viewed as having become entrenched in pathology, such that core behaviors become automated and rigid," the researchers wrote. "Consistent with their ‘entropic’ effect on cortical activity, psychedelics may work to break down such disorders by dismantling the patterns of activity on which they rest."

"The fascinating, strange medical potential of psychedelic drugs, explained in 50+ studies" (Vox)

Read the rest

Human advice for exercising while depressed

Sarah Kurchak, a personal trainer who has experienced clinical depression, offers the most humane advice for using exercise you're likely to find. Read the rest

Magic-mushroom drug lifts depression in first human trial

Nature Magazine reports that researchers from Imperial College London gave psilocybin to 12 people with depression. All the patients showed "a marked improvement in their symptoms." From Nature:

Researchers from Imperial College London gave 12 people psilocybin, the active component in magic mushrooms. All had been clinically depressed for a significant amount of time — on average 17.8 years. None of the patients had responded to standard medications, such as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), or had electroconvulsive therapy.

One week after receiving an oral dose of psilocybin, all patients experienced a marked improvement in their symptoms. Three months on, five patients were in complete remission.

“That is pretty remarkable in the context of currently available treatments,” says Robin Carhart-Harris, a neuropsychopharmacologist at Imperial College London and first author of the latest study, which is published in The Lancet Psychiatry.

The equivalent remission rate for SSRIs is around 20%.

Read the rest

There's a new Hyperbole and a Half book coming!

In 2014, Allie Brosh's outstanding, hilarious, and gut-wrenching webcomic Hyperbole and a Half made the jump to print with an incredible book (review); now Simon and Schuster have announced a followup, Solutions and Other Problems, to be published next October -- I just pre-ordered my copy! (via Wil Wheaton) Read the rest

Powerful video campaign in Scotland against mental health stigma

“Are you okay?”

Read the rest

How ESPN writer Bill Barnwell lost 125 pounds last year

Bill Barnwell topped the scales at 334.7 pounds on January 1, 2105. This year, he's a little over 200. In this essay he writes about his depression, body image, compulsive eating, and what he did about it. Barnwell describes his compulsive eating as "the fear of missing out."

My compulsive eating had little to do with hunger and was almost never enjoyable. Instead, it was like trying to chase a vague, indefinable comfort, some satisfaction that never arrived — or even could arrive. It was the fear of missing out, but for food and constantly. I would struggle to pick between two fast food places and just stop at each of their drive-thrus, hiding the soda cup and the wrappers from the first one so the second cashier wouldn’t see, because being caught in my embarrassing act was somehow more shamefug than the actual behavior I was committing. The idea of just waiting for another day just wasn’t realistic to me; I absolutely, compulsively had to get that sandwich from Wendy’s. The act of ordering the food, of making the conscious choice to indulge, was far more important than eating the stupid thing.

Read the rest

Antidepressant use by moms during pregnancy linked to increased autism risk

Researchers examining a possible link between antidepressants and autism found that women who took the psychiatric medications while pregnant were far more likely to have autistic kids.

Women in the study who took antidepressants during the last six months of pregnancy were 87% more likely to have a child later diagnosed with autism. Researchers say the link was most prevalent with women on the class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs. Celexa, Lexapro, Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft are some of the more common SSRI drug brand names.

Does the new study prove antidepressants cause autism? No. Correlation is not causation, and science is complicated. But increasingly, autism research is focusing on factors that may contribute to the disorder before birth.

Read the rest

Suicide rates are highest in spring -- not around Christmas

No one's sure how the story of suicides increasing during holiday season got started (some researchers think it may have come from It's a Wonderful Life!), but it's not true. Read the rest

Mobile phone use may worsen depression

PUMP, or Problematic Use of Mobile Phone, happens when users turn to their phones instead of in-person contact to alleviate depression, according to a new study in Computers in Human Behavior. Read the rest

Wil Wheaton on depression

In a heartfelt and frank interview (conducted by our own Caroline Siede!), Wil Wheaton discusses the moment he realized he needed help with his clinical depression, and the moment he realized that the help was helping. Read the rest

More posts