* If you are experiencing severe depression and feel that you no longer want to live, please call 911 immediately. This tool is not a replacement for depression treatment or psychotherapy. If want to schedule an appointment with Ron Huxley for therapy, please click here!
Depression Screening Tool:
(The following criteria may be noticed by you or observed by others within the same two week period)
Do you feel sad or empty most of the day? Yes – 1 point/ NO –0 points
Have you been lacking interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day? Yes – 1 point/ NO –0 points
Have you noticed a significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain or major change in appetite nearly every day? Yes – 1 point/ NO –0 points
Do you have trouble going to sleep or sleeping too much nearly every day? Yes – 1 point/ NO –0 points
Are you feeling agitated or sluggish nearly every day? Yes – 1 point/ NO –0 points
Do you experience fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day? Yes – 1 point/ NO –0 points
Have you been feeling worthless or experiencing an excessive amount of guilt nearly every day? Yes – 1 point/ NO –0 points
Are you having trouble thinking, concentrating, or being indecisive, nearly every day? Yes – 1 point/ NO –0 points
*Need five points minimum to qualify as Major Depressive Disorder. This screen should not be confused with an actual diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder. If you feel you are having a problem in this area, please consult with a professional, such as your physician.
As we enter the holiday season, in the midst of an ongoing pandemic, we could all use a little boost in our mood. For some, this is not a time of good cheer. It is a time for increased depression and anxiety.
How To Actively Improve Your Mood
There are many ways to actively improve your mood. The most obvious is to feel good about yourself.
Other reasons are probably not as obvious to you. Although, they’re pretty obvious to your mental and physical health.
Let’s talk about some of these reasons and how they can influence everything that goes on in our lives.
Improve Your Mental Health
Your mental wellness affects your thoughts, feelings, and behavior. It helps reduce stress, as well as help you cope with challenges and setbacks.
Having strong mental health doesn’t mean the absence of anxiety, fears, and worries. Going through difficult times is a natural part of living.
Yet, when you’re in good shape mentally and emotionally, you bounce back faster. You have the tools needed to face all these things head-on with confidence and resilience.
Being resilient means you stay flexible and focused when life throws you a curveball. You have confidence in your abilities to deal with whatever the future has in store.
Here are some extra perks that come when you boost your mental wellbeing and improve your mood.
You have a sense of contentment with life in general
You maintain a hearty dose of confidence and self-esteem
You see opportunities where others see none
You enjoy living and can laugh at yourself
You balance work and play
You build healthy relationships
Polish Up on Your Social Skills
We’re social creatures. We thrive when we feel connected to others.
This doesn’t mean we have to be surrounded by people all the time every day. It just means that our brains crave companionship in varying degrees.
Yes, you can always call or text. They certainly have their place and time in our busy, hectic lives.
Still, nothing beats the mood-boosting power of sitting down with family or friends. That quality face-to-face time is priceless.
You sit, you talk, and you listen — pretty basic right? But for your brain, it’s revolutionary!
Here’s why: studies show that our brains are wired for connectivity. Certain areas of our brains light up when we do volunteer work or spend some time with a friend.
Not only that, but the brain rewards us for being socially outgoing. It does so by signaling the release of two happy hormones, oxytocin, and serotonin. So, by being out with your partner, friends, or even colleagues, you’re actively seeking ways to improve your mood.
You should also make the most of those fleeting encounters you have with strangers each day. Make a point of looking your neighbor in the eye as you wish them a good day.
Look up from what you’re doing and take a couple of seconds to thank the barista or the cashier. You can even add a smile to go with it.
Despite taking mere seconds out of your day, those little acts of kindness are terrific mood boosters. They’ll do wonders for your day and theirs!
The link between the mind and body is complementary. When you take care of your physical health, you’re nourishing your mental well-being.
Anytime you exercise for at least 20 minutes, your brain releases endorphins. These are one of the four happy chemicals that help stabilize your mood and boost energy levels.
Regular physical activity also has a big impact on your memory and concentration. Plus, it relieves stress and promotes better sleep.
The trick is to find an activity you like and do it several times a week. Take a walk, cycle, throw a Frisbee with your dog—the point is to enjoy what you’re doing.
Better still, find a group of friends and beactivein a group. This will hold you accountable, boost your motivation, and improve your mood.
Regulate Stress Levels
Almost everyone on the planet knows by now that stress is a major problem. It affects our mental, emotional, and physical well-being.
We also know that stress can’t be avoided, especially in this busy day and age. However, certain stress management strategies can help regulate stress in your life.
These tactics allow you to cope with life’s ups and downs. They allow you to improve your mood and feel good about yourself.
Here are some things you can do to reduce your stress:
Enhance the quality of your sleep
Eat mood-enhancing foods, such as fresh fruits, fatty fish, nuts, avocados, and beans
Practice relaxationtechniques, like mindful meditation, yoga, and deep breathing
Make time for yourself and do something you enjoy
Find somewhere to sit at a local park and soak in some sunshine
If you need more help with your mood, contact Ron Huxley today to schedule a session!
FACT: Anxiety and depression are the biggest causes of disability in the developed world. One in five Americans suffers from some type of diagnosable anxiety disorder, such as generalized anxiety, panic, agoraphobia, post-traumatic stress, and obsessive-compulsive disorders. Eighty-five percent of sufferers never get any help!
FACT: Between 50 and 75% of all visits to primary-care doctors in the United State are related to stress or unresolved emotional upsets.
FACT: Anxiety is 2x more likely in women than in men.
FACT: Another 60 to 100 million people struggle with addictions and toxic lifestyles and mental health disorders!
FACT: Almost everyone else is nervous or worried about something every single day of their life!
FACT: Anxiety can destroy relationships, sabotage job opportunities, and ruin your physical and mental health.
This doesn’t have to be you! You can walk confidently in social situations at school and at work; live without fear of a panic attack; find that intimate relationship you desire; sleep peacefully knowing you have a positive future waiting for you.
Great writers and painters have known this fact for decades: The body acts like a brain…
Walt Whitman understood that the flesh was the source of meaning; Auguste Escoffier discovered that taste is actually a smell; Paul Cézanne realized that the brain can decipher an image from minimal brushstrokes.
In my own trauma-informed trainings I discuss how our central nervous system, specifically the nerves surrounding our “guts”, acts as a second brain.
Did you know that there are 43 different pairs of nerves which connect the nervous system to every part of our body. Twelve of these nerve pairs are connected to the brain, while the remaining 31 are connected to the spinal cord.
Did you know that the gut has 100 million nerve cells that make up it’s own nervous system separate from the brain!
Did you know that one of the major nerve pathways from the gut to the brain is called the Vagus Nerve. The brain interprets signals from the Vagus Nerve as actual emotional information. It really doesn’t know the difference.
Did you know that there is more and more research on how the gut and gastrointestinal conditions are linked to depression, anxiety, autism, and ADHD. What we are talking about here is nutrition and not just medication can change our mental health.
And did you know that there is a reason we call certain kinds of food “comfort food”? Comfort foods affect our moods. Can someone say chocolate please?
Understanding the brain/body connection can help us overcome trauma in ways that traditional talk therapy cannot. This is because a lot of times there are no words to express what trauma is doing in our lives or the trauma is so far back in infancy and during pregnancy that there was no ability to form words.
This will require a new approach to doing therapy that involves movement, sensory processing, art therapy and my own NeuroResilience Play Therapy Approach. Click here for more info.
What is your body telling you? Perhaps its time to follow your “gut” instincts today and find the help you need. Hey, writers and artists have been telling us for years this truth about our body acting like a brain. Let’s listen to what it is saying!
I read an article yesterday that has me extremely excited about the implications. The article is called “Hacking the Nervous System” by Gaia Vince (http://mosaicscience.com/story/hacking-nervous-system). In the article, the author describes the experience of a woman who suffered from severe, debilitating rheumatoid arthritis and her eventual treatment with a device which minimized inflammation by simply stimulating the vagus nerve. What this means, is that by activating the vagus nerve which works through the parasympathetic nervous system, we can greatly influence inflammation and the immune system. The role of the brain on body inflammation can be profound. If you suffer from digestive complaints, high blood pressure, depression or any inflammatory condition, please read on. Let me explain the possible implications step by step.
What is the vagus nerve?
Ways to Instantly Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve to Relieve Inflammation, Depression, Migraines And More 6 Ways to Instantly Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve to Relieve Inflammation, Depression, Migraines And More vagus nerveFirst of all, the vagus nerve is the longest nerve in the body which originates in the brain as cranial nerve ten, travels down the from go the neck and then passes around the digestive system, liver, spleen, pancreas, heart and lungs. This nerve is a major player in the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the ‘rest and digest’ part (opposite to the sympathetic nervous system which is ‘fight of flight’).
The tone of the vagus nerve is key to activating the parasympathetic nervous system. Vagal tone is measured by tracking your heart-rate alongside your breathing rate. Your heart-rate speeds up a little when your breathe in, and slows down a little when you breathe out. The bigger the difference between your inhalation heart-rate and your exhalation heart-rate, the higher your vagal tone. Higher vagal tone means that your body can relax faster after stress.
What is high vagal tone associated with?
High vagal tone improves the function of many body systems, causing better blood sugar regulation, reduced risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease, lower blood pressure, improved digestion via better production of stomach basic and digestive enzymes, and reduced migraines. Higher vagal tone is also associated with better mood, less anxiety and more stress resilience. One of the most interesting roles of the vagus nerve is that it essentially reads the gut microbiome and initiates a response to modulate inflammation based on whether or not it detects pathogenic versus non-pathogenic organisms. In this way, the gut microbiome can have an affect on your mood, stress levels and overall inflammation.
What is low vagal tone associated with?
Low vagal tone is associated with cardiovascular conditions and strokes, depression, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, cognitive impairment, and much higher rates of inflammatory conditions. Inflammatory conditions include all autoimmune diseases (rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, endometriosis, autoimmune thyroid conditions, lupus and more).
How do we increase vagal tone?
In the article above, vagal tone was increased through a device that stimulated the vagus nerve. The good news is that you have access to this on your own, but it does require regular practice. To some degree, you are genetically predisposed to varying levels of vagal tone, but this still doesn’t mean that you can’t change it. Here are some ways to tone the vagus nerve:
Slow, rhythmic, diaphragmatic breathing. Breathing from your diaphragm, rather than shallowly from the top of the lungs stimulates and tones the vagus nerve.
Humming. Since the vagus nerve is connected to the vocal cords, humming mechanically stimulates it. You can hum a song, or even better repeat the sound ‘OM’.
Speaking. Similarly speaking is helpful for vagal tone, due to the connection to the vocal cords.
Washing your face with cold water. The mechanism her is not known, but cold water on your face stimulates the vagus nerve.
Meditation, especially loving kindness meditation which promotes feelings of goodwill towards yourself and others. A 2010 study by Barbara Fredrickson and Bethany Kik found that increasing positive emotions led to increased social closeness, and an improvement in vagal tone.
Balancing the gut microbiome. The presence of healthy bacteria in the gut creates a positive feedback loop through the vagus nerve, increasing its tone.
The implications of such simple and basic practices on your overall health, and in particular on inflammation are far-reaching. If you suffer from an inflammatory condition, digestive upset, high blood pressure or depression, a closer look at vagal tone is highly recommended. We’ve known for years that breathing exercises and meditation are helpful for our health, but it is so fascinating to learn the mechanism by which they work. I hope this short article has inspired you to begin a meditation practice, as it has for me, and also to look for other means to manage the body’s inflammatory response.
Forsythe P, Bienenstock J, Kunze WA.Vagal pathways for microbiome-brain-gut axis communication. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2014;817:115-33.
Kok, B, Fredrickson, B, Coffey, K, et al. How Positive Emotions Build Physical Health: Perceived Positive Social Connections Account for the Upward Spiral Between Positive Emotions and Vagal Tone. Psychological Science 2013 24: 1123
Don’t Let Depression Destroy Your Life: A Special Report on Treatment
Edited by Ron Huxley, LMFT
Since the end of the Second World War, the rates of depression around the world have soared. Depression is an illness that can destroy lives ad families. Many people try various forms of treatment before any improvement is realized. Many are not so lucky and end up paying the ultimate price. Drugs and medication are one way to treat depression. However there has been a lot of criticism in recent years over the amount of medication we are taking. Depression can be treated naturally and the natural approach should be attempted first if possible.
Getting good nights sleep is essential. Sleep and mood are closely linked. When we are tired we react to things differently than we do when we have had adequate rest. Remember to sleep well and regularly.
Caffeine and other stimulants should be avoided. They do give you temporary energy but have been known to deplete your serotonin levels. Low serotonin levels are a prime cause of depression.
Take a multi vitamin everyday. This is especially important if your lifestyle causes you to skip meals. Low vitamin deficiency has been linked to depression.
You may want to try getting in touch with your spiritual side. This can be done in a variety of ways. If you enjoy going to church, this is a good opportunity. You may want to look at prayer and meditation as well. You do not have to be overly religious to be spiritual. There are many ways to get there.
Finally, you may want to try getting more exercise. This doesn’t mean marathon training. Start out slow and build up if you feel the need. Exercise helps release endorphins which make you feel more empowered. There is also the health benefits attached to more activity.
The natural approach may be effective. It can also have other positive influences on your overall health.
The natural approach isn’t always the best or most effective. However, if the depression isn’t severe and the person isn’t suicidal or incapacitated, then it is recommended to at least give the natural way a chance.
There are many natural remedies that can be tried before trying drugs and medication. Some have tried that natural remedy known as St. John’s wort. This has been known to improve the mood of some depression sufferers without any side effects.
Those that suffer from depression should avoid excessive alcohol intake. Alcohol is a depressant so it will slow your body down. It could react with your body’s chemistry and make your condition worse. Alcohol is also a toxin that they body does not need.
Try to eat a well balances diet. Loss of vitamins and minerals are directly linked with depression. Make time to eat despite the type of lifestyle you have.
You may want to consider cognitive behavior therapy. This will help you refocus your thought and generate a more positive feeling. Your thoughts have a direct bearing on your mood. The more negative they are the more likely you are to become depressed.
If you lead a stressful lifestyle, then some stress management training could be for you. Stress can be the cause of all kinds of ailments, not only depression. Keeping your stress levels low and learning to deal with highly stressful situations can go a long way in helping your depression.
You may want to try helping others. Sometimes doing volunteer work and helping those less fortunate will help. It can be quite rewarding and can negate some of those negative thoughts about yourself.
If the natural approach does not work, you should not feel bad. It is fine to take medications if this is what will help. You can at least be pleased for giving the natural approach a try.
Family Members With Depression:
If someone you love is suffering from depression, it is only natural to want to help. Family members can provide an incredible amount of support for someone suffering from this illness. However, you must know how to be effective. If not the family member could end up doing more harm than good.
The first thing you should do is read everything you can about depression and its treatments. Being forewarned is being forearmed. By making yourself knowledgeable, you can help make decisions when perhaps the loved one isn’t in a fit state to do so. You should also read up on how your loved one will feel. Getting as much insight as possible as to what depression will do to this person will help you cope with the worst days.
You have to keep in mind that caring for a depressed person is very braining both physically and emotionally. You need to set aside time for yourself. You won’t be any use to your loved one if you are tired and stressed out. In fact you may make things worse. Talk about what you are going through with someone who understand or even join a support group. Take some time to enjoy yourself as well. Don’t let your loved ones depression takes over your life as well.
Depressed people do need lots of love and support. You don’t want to smother them but you need to be there when they need it most. Knowing they can rely on you will help them get through some of the darkest moments.
Don’t deny your own feelings. There will be times when you’re feeling angry and frustrated. You need a support network to help vent these feelings out. A good friend or a support group again can be a great source of comfort. Keeping your feelings bottled up can lead to your own illness.
Dealing with depression is difficult and draining. It puts stress and strain on the life of the depressed person as well as those close to him or her. Many types of therapies may have to be tried and tested before any improvement is seen. One such possibility is talk therapy.
Talking therapies can be of a great help when it comes to treating depression. It involved various types of counseling with a psychologist, Psychiatrist or therapist. Talking therapies allow the depressed person to get their feelings out. They also allow for the two people to work together to try to find the root cause for their depression.
Talking therapies do vary but most involve the same key elements. First there is the listening session. The therapist listens to the person’s problems. Over time the person develops a relationship with the therapist where they feel they are understood. Next there is the emotional release. This is helpful but cannot be done to often. Letting the emotions out too often can have the opposite effect and lead to further depression. Next comes the advice and guidance. The patient may be able to seek the answers on their own through session and homework. Finally, there is information provided. They are giving information in small bits but as progress is made it can be increased. Depressed people can sometimes have poor concentration and memories so information is given carefully.
Talking therapies can be very effective in treating depression but they do take time. Several sessions may be required and the patient’s family may have to be involved. Talking therapies can help mild to moderate depression greatly; however severe cases of depression will usually need a combination of talk and medication.
Inner healing is a faith-based approach to dealing with depression. Traumatic events in our lives can interpret our reality and cause us to believe falsehoods about ourselves, our relationships, and our faith in God. Replacing the lies with truth will set us free but it is a battle to renew our minds. It can be done and life can be lived in abundance and not with victim or poverty mindsets.
Need help with Depression? Let Marriage and Family Therapist Ron Huxley assist you and your family members.
Call today at 805-709-2023 or email at email@example.com for an appointment in Ron’s Shell Beach, California office.
Depression Screening Tool
Depression is a serious illness that can be 100% treatable. It is a common problem for parents and can have a big impact on your ability to interact positively with your family. If you are experience severe symptoms, please seek help immediately. Remember, this is completely treatable and you can turn your life around but you must seek help…
Symptoms: Are you concerned you may be suffering from the burden of a depressive disorder? Find out by completing our simple but accurate Depression Screening Tool.
Treatment: Most depressive disorders are readily improved through counseling and coaching while more extreme situations may require a combination of medication and psychotherapy.
You Are Not Alone: Of all of the emotional experiences a person will ever suffer during their lifetime is the pain of depression. The fact that more than 20% of Americans will experience some form of depression in their lifetime is no consolation for your discomfort. Each year more than 5% of the American population suffers from a depressive disorder. Depression is one of the most common and most serious mental health problems facing people today.
You Are Not to Blame: Depression is a serious mood disorder which affects a person’s ability to function in every day activities. It affects your work, your studies, your family, and your relationships.
It is a misconception to believe that depression is a problem of weakness, nor is it just a “blue” feeling. Depression is a serious mental health problem that can be alleviated. Today, much is understood about the causes and treatment of this mental health problem. We know that there are biological and psychological components to every depression. Most especially, depression is not your fault.
So What Does Cause It?: Depression in some forms and at some times is a perfectly natural and “healthy” response to an event such as the feelings of grief after the loss of a loved one. Depression experienced after certain medical procedures (such as postpartum depression) is however clinically recognized. Your family history and your genetics can also play a part in the greater likelihood of someone becoming depressed in their lifetime. Increased stress and inadequate coping mechanisms to deal with that stress may also contribute to depression. Depression has as many potential causes as there are people who suffer it.
Depression caused by medications or substance or alcohol abuse is not typically recognized as a depressive episode.
If I Feel That I Am Depressed What Can I Do Now?: Take a few moments and complete our online depression screening tool.Review the results and if suggested get the help that you need.
CHICAGO — A surprisingly high number of women have postpartum depressive symptoms, according to a new, large-scale study by a Northwestern Medicine® researcher.
This is the largest scale depression screening of postpartum women and the first time a full psychiatric assessment has been done in a study of postpartum women who screened positive for depression.
The study, which included a depression screening of 10,000 women who had recently delivered infants at single obstetrical hospital, revealed a large percentage of women who suffered recurrent episodes of major depression.
The study underscored the importance of prenatal as well as postpartum screening. Mothers’ and infants’ health and lives hang in the balance. The lives of several women who were suicidal when staff members called them for the screening were saved likely as a result of the study’s screening and immediate intervention.
“In the U.S., the vast majority of postpartum women with depression are not identified or treated even though they are at higher risk for psychiatric disorders,” said Northwestern Medicine lead study author Katherine L. Wisner, M.D. “It’s a huge public health problem. A woman’s mental health has a profound effect on fetal development as well as her child’s physical and emotional development.”
Wisner is director of Northwestern’s Asher Center for the Study and Treatment of Depressive Disorders and the Norman and Helen Asher Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. She’s also a physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
“A lot of women do not understand what is happening to them,” Wisner said. “They think they’re just stressed or they believe it is how having a baby is supposed to feel.”
The paper was be published in JAMA Psychiatry March 13. Wisner conducted the research when she was at the University of Pittsburgh.
In the study, 14 percent of the women screened positive for depression. Of that group, 826 received full psychiatric assessments during at-home visits. Some of the key findings from those assessments:
– In women who screened positive for depression, 19.3 percent thought of harming themselves.
“Most of these women would not have been screened and therefore would not have been identified as seriously at risk,” Wisner said. “We believe screening will save lives.”
Suicide accounts for about 20 percent of postpartum deaths and is the second most common cause of mortality in postpartum women.
– Many women who screened positive for major depression postpartum had already experienced at least one episode of depression previously and, in addition, had an anxiety disorder. The study found 30 percent of women had depression onset prior to pregnancy, 40 percent postpartum and 30 percent during pregnancy. More than two-thirds of these women also had an anxiety disorder.
“Clinicians need to know that the most common clinical presentation in the post-birth period is more complex than a single episode of depression,” Wisner said. “The depression is recurrent and superimposed on an anxiety disorder.“
– Of the women who screened positive for major depression, 22 percent had bipolar disorder, the majority of whom had not been diagnosed by their physicians. There is often a delay in correctly diagnosing bipolar disorder, which depends on identifying not only the depressed phase but the manic or hypomanic phase as well. But postpartum is the highest risk period for new episodes of mania in a woman’s life.
“That’s a very high rate of bipolar disorder that has never been reported in a population screened for postpartum depression before,” said Wisner. “It is significant because antidepressant drug treatment alone can worsen the course of bipolar disorder.”
In addition, women who have been pregnant in the past year are less likely to seek treatment for depression than women who have not been pregnant, previous research has shown.
Maximizing a woman’s overall mental and physical health in pregnancy and after childbirth is critically important.
“Depression during pregnancy increases the risk to a woman and her fetus,” Wisner said. “Depression is a physiological dysregulation disorder of the entire body.”
Maternal prenatal stress and depression is linked to preterm birth and low infant birth weight, which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Depression also affects a woman’s appetite, nutrition and prenatal care and is associated with increased alcohol and drug use. Women with untreated depression have a higher body mass index preconception, which carries additional risks.
When a new mother is depressed, her emotional state can interfere with child development and increases the rate of insecure attachment and poor cognitive performance of her child, Wisner said.
Screening prenatal and postpartum are essential (Illinois requires mandatory screening for perinatal mental health disorders), but the health care field must develop cost effective and accessible treatment, Wisner emphasized.
“If we identify patients we must have treatment to offer them,” Wisner said.
The study was funded by grant RO1 MH 071825 from the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health.
ScienceDaily (Aug. 15, 2011) — Researchers think that brains are sensitive to the quality of child care, according to a study that was directed by Dr. Sonia Lupien and her colleagues from the University of Montreal published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The scientists worked with ten year old children whose mothers exhibited symptoms of depression throughout their lives, and discovered that the children’s amygdala, a part of the brain linked to emotional responses, was enlarged.
Similar changes, but of greater magnitude, have been found in the brains of adoptees initially raised in orphanages. Personalized attention to children’s needs may be the key factor. “Other studies have shown that mothers feeling depressed were less sensitive to their children’s needs and were more withdrawn and disengaged,” explained Drs. Sophie Parent and Jean Séguin of the University of Montreal’s, who followed the children over the years.
Scientists have established that the amygdala is involved in assigning emotional significance to information and events, and it contributes to the way we behave in response to potential risks. The need to learn about the safety or danger of new experiences may be greater in early life, when we know little about the world around us. Indeed, studies on other mammals, such as primates, show that the amygdala develops most rapidly shortly after birth. “We do not know if the enlargement that we have observed is the result of long-term exposure to lower quality care. But we show that growing up with a depressed mother is associated with enlarged amygdala.”
“Having enlarged amygdala could be protective and increase the probability of survival,” Lupien said. The amygdala may be protective through a mechanism that produces stress hormones known as glucocorticoids. The researchers noted that the glucocorticoids levels of the children of depressed mothers who participated in this study increased significantly when they were presented with unfamiliar situations, indicating increased reactivity to stress in those children. Adults who grew up in similar circumstances as these children show higher levels of glucocorticoids and a greater glucocorticoid reaction when participating in laboratory stress tests. “What would be the long term consequences of this increased reactivity to stress is unknown at this point.”
Although this study cannot clarify the causes of enlarged amygdala, the researchers note that the adoption studies have also shown that children who were adopted earlier in life and into more affluent families than others did not have enlarged amygdala. “This strongly suggests that the brain may be highly responsive to the environment during early development and confirms the importance of early intervention to help children facing adversity,” Lupien said. “Initiatives such as prenatal and infancy nurse home visits and enriched day care environments could mitigate the effects of parental care on the developing brain.” Séguin adds, “Future studies testing the effects of these preventive programs and observational studies involving children exposed to maternal depressive symptoms at different ages, and consequently for different lengths of time, should provide more insight into how this occurs, its long term consequences, and how it can be prevented.”
This study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on August 15, 2011, and was financed in part by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, and Fonds de recherche en santé du Québec. The University of Montreal is officially known as Université de Montréal.
The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by University of Montreal, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.
Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.
As a therapist working with adopted children, I can see how this adaptation plays out in a child’s everyday life. An enlarged Amygdala allows the child to protect themselves and seek emotional “nurturance” from their environment. Unfortunately, this result in an over reaction to events and misinterpretations of hostile behavior on the part of other people in their lives. Too many children, due to severe abuse and neglect, in their early moments of life, have an inability to modulate sensory input and become labeled as “disruptive”, “reactionary”, and “attachment disordered”. While these labels are true, they brand the child into negative roles of “defiant”, “oppositional”, “manipulative”, and “damaged”.
When I am presented with these labels I simply agree with the surface description but make a point to ask why are they manipulative, etc. The goal is to dig to the root of the problem and focus on it, in collaboration with the child to work on changing this pattern of behavior. Too many labels identify the child with the problem and leave the situation feeling hopeless, even permanent. It is not permanent but lots of therapeutic effort is needed to make changes. The alternative is to place the individual into institutions where we know hope is limited and opportunities for repair, namely bonding with a healthy caregiver, is not possible.
Research articles often have a “duh” factor when it comes to outcomes in various studies. After you read them you think “I could have told you that!” The up side of academic studies is that they point a laser light of attention on areas of life that need attention. Society seems more willing to spend money and time on correcting problems when we draw a big circle around a social problem in the lab.
This was true, for me, of a study on the level of parental insightfulness and maternal depression (see clip below). The findings of the study was that mom’s (why do we always study moms!) who were depressed are less likely to be able to see life from the vantage point of their children. This results in less emotional attachment and parenting effectiveness. The obviousness of this research is that mom’s or dad’s that are depressed are less likely to see much of anything outside of their own internal pain. This isn’t a slam on depressed parents. I have experienced it and it isn’t purposeful. Depression is usually due to a chemical imbalance and requires professional interventions that may or may not involve medications.
I mention this study on the blog because I want draw a big circle around this issue and say that the long-term effects of a poor attachment between parent and child can have some serious effects on self-esteem and future relationships. I guess this is a call to action for anyone who feels they are depressed, even occasionally. Help yourself and your child by getting some help. There is plenty of help available, from changing diets to clinical therapy. I have found that playing with my child lifts my mood even when I was tired and emotionally down.
“Insightfulness is seen as the mental capacity that provides the context for a secure child–parent attachment. It involves the ability to see things from the child’s perspective and is based on insight into the child’s motives, a complex view of the child and openness to new information about the child. To test our hypothesis that maternal insightfulness is related to maternal depression, we utilized the Insightfulness Assessment (IA) developed by Oppenheim and Koren-Karie to conduct and analyse interviews in which mothers discussed their perceptions of video segments of their interactions with their children. We compared the results of a control group of 30 mothers without a diagnosis of depression with a sample of 23 mothers diagnosed with depression (International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision). As expected, depression was negatively related to maternal insightfulness.”
Source: onlinelibrary.wiley.comShare what you have done to increase your mood and deal with depression by leaving a comment below or posting on our Facebook ParentingToolbox Page.