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Dealing with the Blues


Editor's note: If you or someone you know is suffering from a mental-health issue, please contact your health-care provider immediately. The information listed here is meant to inspire and offer hope but should not be interpreted as advice or recommendations.

By Beth Donovan (~INDYGIRL)

Among my health issues is a diagnosis of clinical major depression. It can be rather difficult to deal with depression and other mental health issues, especially on your own, so I wanted to share how Iíve dealt with my depression and anxiety, along with the help of my doctor and other health-care professionals. (If you think you're suffering from a mental health issue, talk to your health-care provider immediately.)

First, I want to talk about my anxiety. I have experienced full-on panic attacks that have stopped me in the middle of a store and made me abandon my cart and leave. I felt dizzy, like the world was crashing in on me. I couldnít breathe, and most of all I just had to escape. I was nauseated, sweaty, disoriented, and needed to lie down after such an experience.

A therapist once told me the best advice Iíve ever heard that helped me with my panic attacks, and I find that it applies to binge eating, too: First there is an event that triggers the panic or the desire to binge, and then there is an emotion. We can either deal with that emotion or stuff it down with food or brute strength. Left undealt with, the emotion becomes another, even stronger event. Eventually one will give in and run or eat.

The answer to the problem is to deal with the emotion as it comes. Ask yourself what you are feeling and why you are feeling that way. Then discern what could resolve those feelings: In other words, what action can you take? So the ideal model would be event-emotion-action. Without the action, you risk heading into complete downward spiral of emotion, panic, and bad choices (such as binging).

Iím a strong believer in getting help when help is needed.
Posted 4/7/2011  6:01:13 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 35 comments   9,627 views
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Can People Really Be Addicted to Food and Eating?


Do you ever feel like you just can't stop yourself from overeating? Are there some foods that are extremely hard for you to resist even when you aren't hungry? Is it very hard to stop eating once you've started, even though your intention is to have just a small amount?

If so, you're definitely not alone. But what's going on here? Is it possible you might be addicted to food?

Not long ago, most experts would have said "no." The prevailing wisdom was that people with the right biological susceptibility might get addicted to drugs or alcohol, but food was just not an addictive substance in the same league with, say, alcohol, crack cocaine or meth. After all, people don’t get addicted to broccoli, oatmeal, or chicken breasts. Even though eating certain foods (usually refined sugars and/or fatty, salty foods) is known to increase appetite in some people and/or turn off the satiety signals that normally would tell them when to stop eating, and even though certain psychological problems can lead some people to become compulsive eaters, these problems were not seen as the same kind of thing as a true substance addiction.

More recently, though, the evidence has been painting a different picture…
Posted 1/19/2011  6:00:00 AM By: Dean Anderson : 321 comments   98,859 views
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The (Positive) Power of NO


By Beth Donovan aka ~Indygirl

There is one phrase that I think we may not use enough.

ďNo, thank you.Ē

There is nothing wrong with politely refusing.

Too many times I have stuffed my own feelings down and said ďYesĒ to things I didnít want to do, staying in a bad situation or one that made me feel uncomfortable, or allowing someone elseís negative mood become my own. Maybe I didnít set out to do those things, but I didnít refuse them either. Iíve learned to draw a better line in the sand when it comes to such things and choose my battles with the power of ďNo.Ē

How do you do it?

Posted 1/13/2011  5:31:32 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 135 comments   14,635 views
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Want to Be Happier? Stay Focused--and Try Yoga


Once upon a time I knew a guy from New Zealand who was teaching English in Korea to save money to move to Australia and study energy healing. He was vegetarian. He had a peaceful soul. He seemed to radiate an almost tangible calmness.

I was battling anxiety, enjoying my youth, and indulging my every whim. I was miserable. I was constantly on edge. I had panic attacks regularly, drank too much alcohol and caffeine, and though I was losing weight and working out, I wasnít the picture of health that I am today.

How the two of us ever crossed paths, Iíll never know.

One day, he held me. (Forgive me for venturing into the personal side, dear readers, but I promise it's germane to the story.) I was exhausted. I was defeated. For the first time in a very long time, a feeling of calm washed over me. I fought it at first, but I gave in. I stood still, my head against his chest, listening to the steady beat of his heart and the rhythm of his breath. My own pulse and breath slowed. I felt every muscle relax.

The last time I saw Gareth, it was across a crowded room the night that I left Korea for good. Iím told that, much later that night, he stopped by my going-away party, only to find that Iíd already left for the airport. I never got to say goodbye, or thank you.

In January 2008, I wrote him:

"Öyou had an effect on me, and I wanted you to know that. I was terribly lost in Korea, in the middle of a quarterlife crisis and a serious depression. With you, for brief moments, I felt peace and calm. I've emerged, stronger and healthier than ever. I start yoga teacher training in March, I'm now a fitness and nutrition writer for a health website, and I went vegetarian two years ago. I'm living in Cincinnati, Ohio, where I'm currently staring out at about six inches of snow and ice, though my mind keeps drifting farther east, to the land of the morning calm."


He never wrote back, though I later heard he did head back to Australia to study the healing arts.

People enter your life for reasons unbeknownst to you. I believe he entered mine to encourage me to seek a solution to my anxiety. Before then, I felt powerless against my anxiety. When crossing Seoul, I had to get off crowded trains and flee to the restroom to catch my breath and let the panic subside. I found myself paralyzed by fear and indecision, and I wished away precious moments. I needed prescription anti-anxiety medication.

How did my life change? I wish I had a simple answer to share with you. I can say for sure that three things profoundly changed my life:
    1. Practicing yoga
    2. Eliminating and reducing stress by living in the moment
    3. Committing myself to a regimen of regular exercise and healthy eating.
These days, I live in the moment. I teach yoga, and my students tell me that I instill in them a sense of peace, which is a precious gift. I am healed, and life feels like a gift.

Last Friday, Coach Nicole and Coach Jen each shared a link with me that bolstered my confidence in that list.
Posted 11/23/2010  5:16:00 AM By: Stepfanie Romine : 49 comments   10,943 views
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Celery Could Help Retain Your Memory


Celery is often wrongly touted as an example of a negative calorie food. People like to believe low calorie foods like celery take more calories to digest them than they contain so they have no influence on weight. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a negative calorie food. Although, celery does have a high water content, which makes it a great choice for juicing while also being low calorie and high in fiber, it is not calorie free. Although it may not be a negative calorie food, new research suggests it could be a memory super food.

Posted 10/21/2010  10:40:32 AM By: Tanya Jolliffe : 110 comments   16,826 views
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Folate Levels Influence Depression Symptoms


Previous studies have found an inverse relationship between B vitamins and homocysteine levels. Likewise, higher homocysteine levels have been linked to atherosclerosis and higher risks of fatal coronary heart disease (CHD) and strokes. CHD studies have found a reduction in the average level of homocysteine since folic acid fortification was instituted in the U.S. A new study ties low serum folate levels with increased risk of depression symptoms as well. The cross-sectional population-based study is one of the first conducted among U.S. adults since the mandatory fortification of folic acid. The study also looked at vitamin B12 and total homocysteine (tHcy) levels as well.

Folate is a water-soluble B vitamin naturally occurring in food. Folic acid is the synthetic form added to foods for fortification or in supplements. Diets rich in whole foods typically are rich in folate since leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits and dried beans and peas all provide natural sources. Since the 1996 FDA requirement of folic acid fortification, enriched breads, cereals, flours, pastas, rice, and other grain products, provide other popular sources to the American diet. Since depression is a common medical condition, surrounded by myths and misconceptions about its causes, symptoms and seriousness, learning more about its relationship with folate levels could be beneficial for those that are trying to cope.

Researchers for the study, published online last month in Psychosomatic Medicine, used cross-sectional information from NHANES data collected from 2005-2006. Data from more than 2,500 adults between 20-85 years of age were included. In addition to folate, vitamin B12, and total homocysteine levels, researchers also looked at data related to demographics, diet, physical activity, smoking habits, blood pressure, and depressive symptoms. The study indentified a significant association between folate levels and elevated depressive symptoms as well as elevated homocysteine levels especially in people over the age of 50.

So what do these results mean for those dealing with depression issues?

Posted 10/11/2010  6:08:15 AM By: Tanya Jolliffe : 21 comments   15,432 views
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New Study Uncovers a Surprising Health Risk for Pear-Shaped Women


You're probably familiar with the terms "apple" and "pear" when they apply to body shapes. People who are apple shaped tend to carry their extra weight in the abdomen region, but usually have relatively slim arms and legs. Men tend to be apple shaped, but many women are, too. Pear shaped individuals, by contrast, tend to carry fat in their lower body: hips, butt, and thighs.

Besides making our fat stores seem cuter by naming them after fruit (hehe), it's important to know which shape you are because it can help you determine your disease risk. It's has long been established that apple shapes are less health because excess fat storage around the abdomen is associated with a higher risk of heart disease. Pear shapes are often touted as less riskyóhealthy, evenóespecially when compared to abdominal fat storage.

I'm a pear shape and always figured that I wasn't at risk for health problems as a result. Even if I gained weight in the future, it would likely be in my hips and thighs. "No biggie," I thought. "Pear shapes are healthier, even when they're overweight." So I thought. I was really surprised when I read about a new study published in the July 14 issue of Journal of the American Geriatric Society that associated fat storage in the lower body with its own set of health risks.
Posted 9/3/2010  3:21:04 PM By: Nicole Nichols : 95 comments   23,902 views
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One Healthy Decision Usually Begets Another


Confession: Last week, I was in a funk. I could blame the heat, some personal stress, a busy schedule, or a general sense of ennui, but truth be told, sometimes there is no concrete reason for a case of the blues or the mean reds.

Sometimes we just don't wanna eat our vegetables, put away the laundry, go for a run, eat a sensible dinner, mow the lawn, or roll out of bed on time. And then--boom--we suddenly do again.

When we're heading down a slippery slope, eating one too many macaroons after dinner, skipping a workout, or ordering a second glass of wine instead of the club soda you know you should, it doesn't take much to reverse your path.

I'm a Type A personality, a perfectionist, an overachiever. When I am less than my best, I tend to see that as failure, at least for a fleeting moment. I'm hard on myself.

This weekend was not the best for me. I spent most of Saturday on the couch after an allergic reaction to something containing cashews. (Actually, it was due to the Benedryl I took to combat the reaction that rendered me a dizzy, woozy, incomprehensible blob.) Sunday I felt hungover from the reaction, which left me feeling sort of blah.

Monday when I awoke, I decided I needed to make the most of my Monday to rebound and re-energize myself. And so, I made one healthy decision. Then I made another.
Posted 8/18/2010  5:07:07 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 87 comments   15,703 views
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A Grand Opportunity for Alzheimer's Disease


Ronald Reagan, Charlton Heston, Rita Hayworth, and Mary Ellen Westerman are all people that had one thing in common. The first three names are people that were important to the world in one way or another but the last was someone that was important to me. Mary Ellen Westerman was my grandmother and although she was physically healthy when she turned eighty, like millions of other people she battled a degenerative disease of the brain.

This degenerative brain disease is known as Alzheimer's and it causes a gradual loss of memory, judgment, and ultimately the total ability to function. As was the case with my grandmother, dementia typically appears in older people as subtle forgetfulness that worsens and limits their ability to function normally in many aspects of daily life. Familiar settings become confusing, memories focus on places and experiences from many years before, and routine tasks turn into a challenge. The decline of my grandmother stood in stark contrast to my then newborn son. As he was learning to walk, talk, and feed himself, she was losing her ability to do the same. Eventually like most others, she required total care during her advanced stages of the disease before losing the battle due to general body wasting. It is estimated that about 5.3 million people in the United States have Alzheimer's disease. Unfortunately for my family, not only does the risk of contracting the disease go up as we get older, it is also higher if a family member has had the disease. Since my husband also lost his grandmother to the same disease, I suppose the race is on to see which of us forgets the other first.

I previously told you about a participation opportunity for the VITAL study, a research study designed to see if taking omega 3 fatty acids or vitamin D supplements could reduce the development of cancer, heart disease and strokes in healthy people. Now there is another opportunity I wanted to bring to your attention.

Posted 6/14/2010  5:28:43 AM By: Tanya Jolliffe : 87 comments   14,775 views
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Spring Cleaning Your Life


Just a few short days ago we ushered in one of my favorite seasons of the year. Spring to me is like a rebirth of sorts. For many, me included, this is the one time of year I rummage through the rooms, closets and garage to find items no longer needed and freshen up those still in use. I take the blankets off the bed, flip the mattresses and do a thorough cleaning of each room from top to bottom. It's a cathartic ritual to clear myself of the material clutter that keeps me from appreciating the simplicity in my life.

It is also a time I like to take inventory of where I am in my life's journey. How am I managing with my eating, exercise, stress management, sleep, etc. It is a journey in letting go of things that are no longer necessary-guilt and perfection being two big ones I can think of off-hand, while working to clean up those they have been tucked away for a while--self-esteem and positivity.

Posted 3/27/2010  12:37:39 PM By: Nancy Howard : 132 comments   18,794 views
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Do Vacations Really Make You Happier?


I remember the first time we went on vacation as a family with my (then) 9-month old daughter. As a tired new mom, I was looking forward to a relaxing week at the beach with my family. But the week didn't go exactly as I'd planned. We had great weather, good food and lively conversation, but it was stressful. For some reason I thought "vacation" meant that my daughter would require less work and I could relax. But she still needed to be fed, changed, played with, etc. And that was even more challenging in a new place when she wasn't sleeping in her own bed and I had to constantly watch her in a condo that was far from baby-proofed. I ended up coming back from the trip more tired than when we left. Ever since then, I've revised my expectations about vacations. Now new research is measuring how vacations affect overall happiness and how long it lasts.
Posted 3/26/2010  7:21:49 AM By: Jen Mueller : 206 comments   16,235 views
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Binge Eating to Become an Official Mental Disorder


The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has just released a preliminary draft of the revisions planned for itís Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This is the manual that medical and mental health professionals use to determine when individuals are suffering from a mental illness, rather than a temporary emotional or situational problem. Itís also used by insurance companies to determine which illnesses and treatments they will cover.

The new Manual (DSM 5) will include binge eating as a distinct eating disorder, alongside anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, which have been included in previous editions of the DSM.

Does this mean that, if you sometimes have trouble stopping after two or three cookies or a few slices of pizza, youíve got a clinical eating disorder? Probably not. Binge Eating Disorder has some very specific characteristics, and involves a persistent, frequent, and very upsetting pattern of overeating that goes well beyond the occasional ďI canít believe I ate the whole thingĒ situation that weíre all familiar with.

Posted 2/17/2010  5:13:29 PM By: Dean Anderson : 150 comments   20,058 views
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Laughing in the Face of Adversity: How Our Emotions Impact Those around Us


Two weeks ago a friend sent me a link to a YouTube video from a short French movie in which a gentleman boards a subway where everyone is silently absorbed in their own world. Suddenly the gentleman begins laughing uncontrollably. This causes the lady next to him to begin laughing and within a few short minutes the whole train is filled with people laughing. Not one word was uttered--all you hear are the sounds of people laughing. I even found myself giggling and grinning from ear to ear as I viewed the video. At end of the movie, the gentleman departs the train and once silence fills the air as the passengers return to their pre-laughter state. At this point I realized how contagious our emotions are on others.

Growing up I never wanted attention drawn to me. I did everything I could to avoid situations that would make me feel silly or embarrassed or worse make me look like I had no clue what in the world I was doing. I'm not too sure if this was caused by my type A personality, but I know it was far easier for me to sit on the side-lines than to put myself out there for others to see the imperfections--imperfections that many times I focused on all too frequently.However, thankfully with age and a tad of wisdom, I am learning to let go of what others think of me. That still doesn't mean I don't get embarrassed or as we say in the south, flustered when I can't quite master a new activity.
Posted 8/29/2009  6:30:27 AM By: Nancy Howard : 152 comments   18,850 views
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From Depression to Progression: Guidance from the Mystery Tramp & Napoleon in Rags


When you got nothing,
you got nothing to lose.
Youíre invisible now, you
got no secrets to conceal.
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?


Bob Dylan
Like a Rolling Stone



If youíre wondering what a couple of characters in a Bob Dylan song (Like a Rolling Stone) have to do with coping with depression (the subject of this series of blogs), so am I. But it made a lot of sense to me last night when I was listening to the song (a nightly ritual), so I thought Iíd see if it still makes sense when I try to write about it.
Posted 7/17/2009  6:53:35 PM By: Dean Anderson : 112 comments   13,975 views
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A Shocking Development!


By the time you read this, I will probably be about halfway through my first week of a two- or three-week course of ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) treatment to see if this helps relieve my depression.

In two previous blogs, I had indicated both that I felt pretty uncomfortable with the idea of electric shock treatment (I was a BIG fan of One Flew Over the Cuckooís Nest), and that I was going to try a non-medical approach to dealing with my depression before resorting to additional biological treatments. But here I am in the hospital, getting hooked up to the ECT machine.

What has changed in the past week is the urgency of reducing the effects of this depressive episode on other things. For whatever reason, Iíve been somewhat overwhelmed the last few days with a bunch of new memories and flashbacks related to the childhood abuse I experienced for the first 13 years of my life. I donít know if the depression is reducing my capacity to keep those memories away, or whether the memories have been mucking around in my subconscious for a while and generating the depression. Maybe both. Or neither. All I really do know is whatís happening right now, which is that I canít handle all of this at once and still function in my daily lifeósomething has to give. I havenít been able to sleep for 3 days, and my anxiety level is a steady 14 on a scale of 1-10.

Trying to let the past be the past before itís too late.

Given that Iím 60 now, and that Iíve been dealing with this old childhood baggage in one way or another for my whole life, I figure Iím not going to have many more chances of getting to the bottom of it. So, my desire is to actively and directly deal with this stuff right now while itís coming up on its own, instead of trying to put the lid back on again. That means I need to get myself to the point that Iím strong enough to do thatóand that means getting through the worst of this depression as quickly and easily as possible. They tell me that ECT is the best treatment when a quick response is the goal, so Iíve decided to give it a try. And, honestly, I could do with a week in the hospital right now, with nothing much to do except cope with getting my brain zapped a few times.

Some Background Info
I used to believe that oneís psyche never gives you more than youíre ready to handle at that time, and therefore, that the appearance of new memories and feelings from the past meant that I was ready to handle whatever it was that wanted to make itself known.
Posted 7/8/2009  10:33:30 AM By: Dean Anderson : 320 comments   18,600 views
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