How Depression Differs In Men and Women

Men and women experience depression symptoms differently and gaining a better understanding of those differences can help those with depression, researchers say. Jill Goldstein, director of research at the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, says, “We have known about sex differences for years when it comes to depression, and they are absolutely essential to understanding the illness.”

Due to biological factors–such as hormones and genes that get disrupted–and emotional feelings, women are twice as likely to develop depression, Goldstein said. Here are an additional 7 ways that depression may look different in women and men.

Women are more likely to ruminate when feeling depressed: While men tend to distract themselves while feeling down, women tend to ruminate, or dwell on the negative feelings. This does not help them feel any better, in fact it makes it worse, Goldstein said.

Men with depression are more likely to abuse alcohol and other substances: Before the onset of depression, men turn to alcohol or illegal drugs to medicate themselves, which is particularly true of teenage boys. Conversely, substance use in women tends to appear after the onset of depression, or an anxiety levels increase. Goldstein adds that in teenage boys and girls, depression often looks like anger or irritability.

Women may respond differently to stressful life events: Women tend to develop depression as a response to a stressful event, like the loss of a loved one. Goldstein suggests this could be because of interactions among stress hormones, female reproductive hormones and mood-regulating neurotransmitters.

Men’s symptoms of depression may be harder for others to recognize: Men may end up with severe depression before it is even noticed, Goldstein says.

Women are more likely than men to have depression and a co-existing eating disorder: In addition to eating disorder, depression is also likely to occur at the same time as an anxiety disorder.

Men and women might respond differently to antidepressants: This is fairly new research, Goldstein said, but there is research that suggests there are differences in the way men and women metabolize antidepressants.

Men are more likely to commit suicide: Since depression is likely to go undetected in men, they are more likely to commit a successful suicide.


Pregnant Moms Addicted to Painkillers Could be Sent to Jail

A Tennessee bill, awaiting a governor’s signature, could send pregnant women addicted to illegal narcotics or prescription pain pills to jail. This bill has bipartisan support but also has objections from doctors. With the number of drug dependent babies increasing, State Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver notes that she initially wanted to charge women with homicide if their drug-dependent newborn died. Recognizing that this was a drastic approach, she now gives women the option to get treatment. “We can’t make her get help herself,” says Weaver, “but, by golly, we can give her an option and a choice.”

When a drug dependent baby is born, it may suffer from withdrawal symptoms a day after birth, which is called “neonatal abstinence syndrome.” At its worst, the baby will suffer from seizures, but it is unclear if there are long-term effects.

Farah Diaz-Tello of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, says, “What Tennessee is doing is creating a law that would permit this kind of prosecution — not for murder, but it would allow for reckless endangerment, which is a misdemeanor, all the way up to aggravated assault.” An assault charge could mean up to 15 years behind bars.

However, medical professionals and people in the medical community are seeing it a different way, saying that the punitive approach, even with its treatment option, will drive away women or encourage more abortions. Jessica Young, an obstetrician at Vanderbilt University Medical Center who specializes in drug treatment during pregnancy, says that lawmakers don’t realize that drug addiction is a sickness.

“Being a poorly controlled diabetic is terrible for pregnancy — probably equally as bad as drug addiction — and we don’t legislate those choices,” says Young. “I just think this is an easy group to pick on because addiction has such a stigma.”


The Internet may Ward off Depression in the Elderly

A study followed the lives of thousands of retired Americans for six years and found that Internet use among the elderly can reduce the chances of depression by more than 30 percent. Leader of the project, Shelia Cotten, a Michigan State University Professor of Telecommunication, Information Studies and Media, said, “That’s a very strong effect. And it all has to do with older persons being able to communicate, to stay in contact with their social networks, and just not feel lonely.”

This survey was one of the largest and most comprehensive surveys of its kind, Cotten said, collecting information from 22,000 older Americans for two years. The particular study used a sample of 3,000 respondents.

Previous smaller studies have not be able to identify the role Internet plays in overcoming depression. However, this study proved to be different in that it took into consideration depression levels before they started using the Internet since researchers wanted to know if past depression affected current depression.

Researchers found that people did remain depressed regardless of Internet use, although it wasn’t substantial. “Internet use continues to reduce depression, even when controlling for that prior depressive state,” Cotten said. What has been found in previous studies was also confirmed, that for older people who live alone, the Internet had a greater impact on levels of depression.

“This study makes significant contributions to the study of Internet use and depression in the older, retired population,” Cotten said. She noted that it all comes down to how you chose to use technology in your life. “If you sit in front of a computer all day, ignoring the roles you have in life and the things you need to accomplish as part of your daily life, then it’s going to have a negative impact on you,” Cotten said. “But if you’re using it in moderation and you’re doing things that enhance your life, then the impacts are likely to be positive in terms of health and well-being.”


Duel Nerve Stimulation Provides Migraine Relief

For migraine relief, stimulating both the occipital and supraorbital nerves provides greater relief, instead of only stimulating the occipital nerve, a new study shows. Shannon Wang Hann, MD, a neurosurgeon at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, said that 14 of 20 patients report greater than 50 percent relief of their pain.

“I believe that the dual stimulation of the occipital and supraorbital nerve has good results for treating chronic primary headache,” said Dr. Hann. “We need to improve our surgical techniques to reduce the complication rate.”

In previous studies, only about a third of patients reported a 50 percent reduction of pain, so Wang and colleagues decided to stimulate the supraorbital nerve as well. At baseline, the 20 participants had an average pain score of 6.3, rising to 8.7 during acute attacks and symptoms lasting for an average of 6.3 years.

An average of 34 months later, at follow up 14 of the patients reported better than 50% improvement, including 9 patients who reported greater than 80% improvement. Pain scores decreased to 3.4 and 5.2 during acute attacks. Of the 20, six patients reported less than 50% improvement. “Patients with facial pain did not respond,” said Dr. Hann. “In fact, they developed allodynia at the insertion point and had to have the stimulator removed.”

The researchers were gradually developing their technique with the hopes to decrease these complications.


The Link Between Depression and Memory Loss

Past research suggests that there is a relationship between depression and memory loss, but it has been unclear how the two are related and whether or not there is potential to slow memory loss by fighting depression. A preliminary study done at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry and the School of Nursing looked deeper into the connection and how it may depend on levels of insulin-like growth factor, or IGF-1.

The study found that people with lower cognitive ability and low levels of IGF-1 were more likely to have depressive symptoms and those with high levels of IGF-1 had no link between depressive symptoms and memory. The study’s lead author, Feng (Vankee) Lin, Ph.D, R.N., assistant professor at the School of Nursing, said that this discovery between memory loss, depression and IGF-1 means that IGF-1 could be a very promising factor in protecting memory.

“IGF-1 is currently a hot topic in terms of how it can promote neuroplasticity and slow cognitive decline,” Lin said. “Depression, memory and the IGF-1 receptor are all located in a brain region which regulates a lot of complicated cognitive ability. As circulating IGF-1 can pass through the blood-brain barrier, it may work to influence the brain in a protective way.”

Lin said that further research is needed on depression and people with Alzheimer’s, but this research opens that door. “If this could be a way to simultaneously tackle depression while preventing cognitive decline it could be a simple intervention to implement.”


Battery-Powered Headband Promises Relief for Migraine Sufferers

Big news for migraine sufferers. A new battery-powered headband shown to reduce migraine headaches will begin shipping to patients in the United States. “People who really suffer with migraine are frequently in the emergency room, because they don’t have something that sort of consistently helps,” says Dr. Andrea Synowiec of the AGH Neurology Department. She adds that migraine patients should be excited by the news.

The FDA approved battery operated headband delivers “small pulses of electro-magnetic waves to stimulate the trigeminal nerve, which senses pain in the face and parts of the head.” In a clinical trial of 67 migraine patients, researchers found that patients who used the headband for 20 minutes a day had fewer migraines and needed less medication.

“It’s a novel way of looking at treatment, something that is non-pharmacologic,” said Synowiec, noting that when most people feel sick from migraines, they take pills.

Since it was just approved and doctors are still learning more about it, this headband is $300, however, it is not covered by insurance. If patients want to give it a try, they do need a doctor’s prescription. It was reported that some patients did not like the feel of the electrodes and others had an allergic reaction to the adhesive.

“As larger groups of people are exposed to the treatment, it will become more apparent what is a big game changer and what really doesn’t have much of an impact,” Synowiec said.


Why Depression is Bad for your Heart

New research has found that depression is linked to an increase in the risk of heart failure. For the study, researchers looked at over 63,000 people in Norway who underwent physical and mental health assessments. Over the course of 11 years, 1,500 of the participants developed heart failure.

The researchers found that participants with mild symptoms of depression had a 5 percent increased chance of developing heart failure, and those with moderate to severe symptoms had a 40 percent increased chance, compared to participants with no depression symptoms.

Study author, Lise Tuset Gustad, an intensive care nurse at Levanger Hospital in Norway, said in a society news release, “Depressive symptoms increase the chance of developing heart failure and the more severe the symptoms are, the greater the risk.”

“Depressed people have less healthy lifestyles, so our analysis adjusted for factors such as obesity and smoking that could cause both depression and heart failure,” she added. “This means we can be confident that these factors did not cause the association.”

While the study does not prove causation, it does show an association between the two. Gustad explained, “Depression triggers stress hormones. If you’re stressed you feel your pulse going up and your breath speeding up, which is the result of hormones being released. Those stress hormones also induce inflammation and [plaque buildup in arteries], which may accelerate heart diseases.”

It was also noted that depressed people have a harder time taking advice on medications and improving their lifestyle, which could play a role in the association between the two.


Self-Help for Bipolar Patients

Playing an active role in treatment of bipolar is an everyday process. While medications and psychotherapy are recommended for treatment, there are steps you can take to improve your condition.

Learn More

Learning more about bipolar disorder is the best thing a person can do to help themselves. With a wealth of information online and many self-help books, there are many places to turn to improve your daily life.

Get Support and Understanding

If you give others around you information about bipolar disorder, it will alleviate the feeling of guilt after a manic episode, where you may be quite unaware that your actions are distressing or damaging to other people. In addition, after a manic episode, you may find it difficult to trust others and just want to cut them off, but it is far more helpful to express those feelings with family, friends, or a counselor. There are many support groups available both online and in person.

Mange your Own Condition

Part of self-management involves developing the skills to recognize and control mood swings early, before they become worse. There are various tactics to use, such as “checklists and exercises to help you recognize and control mood swings, like mood diaries, tips on self-medication, and practical tips for dealing with depression and mania.” Self-management takes time, but as you develop the skills, you’ll find yourself relying less on professionals, which may lead to greater self-confidence and lessen relapse. The easiest way to begin is to keep a daily journal of your moods in the morning, afternoon, and evening.

Get Routine

Keeping a daily routine can keep your body active, which in turn helps you feel better emotionally. Along with routine, good diet, enough sleep, exercise and enough vitamins, minerals and fatty acids are equally important.

Keep Work Life at Bay

When we are emotionally out of balance, it effects our work performance. If you already have a job, consider going to part-time work and if you are a student, most colleges will give the advice and support you need. “Give yourself time and space to get back into the full world of job stresses and such.”


At-Home Heroin Antidote Approved by FDA

The FDA has approved the first at-home device that automatically injects the right dose of overdose antidote for heroin or powerful painkillers called opioids. Now friends and family can take the first step in saving a loved one from an overdose before the ambulance arrives.

This device contains the same antidote typically injected by syringe in ambulances or emergency rooms. With a rising number of cases of drug overdose deaths, there has been a push for easier access to the antidote. Currently, 17 states allow for the antidote to be distributed to the public, with some of these states allowing a family member or friend of an intravenous drug user to be prescribed it. In addition, New York just announced that every state and local law enforcement officer will carry the antidote.

The FDA says the device was made for easy use for everyone and is the size of a credit card or small cell phone. Similar to defibrillators, once the device is turned on, it provides step-by-step verbal instructions. However, the FDA notes that this is not a substitute for treatment and that people will need additional medical help.

While it is unknown how much it will cost, the manufacturer is working with health insurers to get broad coverage.

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said in a statement that 16,000 people die every year from opioid-related overdoses and have become the leading cause of injury death in the United States, surpassing motor vehicle crashes. She noted that the majority of overdoses are has largely been driven by prescription drug overdoses.

“While the larger goal is to reduce the need for products like these by preventing opioid addiction and abuse, they are extremely important innovations that will help to save lives,” Hamburg said.

While some are opposed to this idea, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that as part of a comprehensive government strategy to reduce opioid addictions, the antidote should be more available. Attorney General Eric Holder added the government has a small window to prevent the heroin problem from getting “even more out of control than it already is.”


Depressed Males Turn into Couch Potatoes

For young men who experience depression later in life, there is an increased risk of becoming sedentary and choosing to spend long hours each day on the internet or watching TV instead of engaging in physical activity.

The study tracked data from 761 adults in Montreal who, at the age of 20, were identified as suffering from the symptoms of depression. Participants were asked to keep track of how much leisure time they spent in front of a TV or a computer screen for four years, until the age of 24.

Results showed that young men spend, on average, four more hours online than young women do. Over 21 hours a week, or 3 hours a day, were spent in front of a screen, whether it was the computer or the TV. This is more than twice the level of screen time recommended by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology for children and adolescents.

Nancy Low, of McGill University’s department of psychiatry and one of the authors of the study, said, “We started out with the idea that early depression might later turn everyone into couch potatoes, just sitting around glued to the TV or a computer screen. But what we didn’t expect was to see such a clear difference between what men and women were doing.”

This information is disturbing because sedentary behavior in young adults influences behavior later in life, as well as the fact that participants were not asked to include time spent using cell/smartphones and tablets or the time that they spent reading, which means sedentary time should be more than the numbers show.

“This study signals that young men who have been depressed are more likely than young women to become trapped in a vicious cycle where depression later leads to more sedentary behavior which in turn may contribute to later health problems that also include depression,” Low says. “What we need to do is figure out how best to intervene early in the process. And one of the things we’re looking into now is how that online time, and things like mobile apps, can best be used to help young people deal with their depression and become more physically active.”