Archive for the ‘General Mental Health’ category

I’m Back!

March 24, 2015

Wow, I was looking at this blog the other day and read a few of the posts…I was thinking back to why I stopped and I think it was when I got a life! I started dating and then married my-now-husband. I was promoted at work. My husband and I purchased and moved into a real house. I forgot about this blog.

But I think you can have a life and a blog! I enjoyed writing here and I still have a list of topic ideas I would like to revive. So consider me (and the blog) officially revived!

One major thing I have gone through…that is extremely personal, yet so huge that I need to mention it right from the get-go: I was pregnant for most of last year, and everything was going great…we got the nursery ready for our incoming baby girl…but 3 weeks before my due date, I went in for my normal weekly check up, and my doctor couldn’t find a heart beat. I was devastated and still am, but now I am finally at a point where I can talk about it (and write about it) without breaking down in tears. I will tell my story, in a different post, but wanted to at least mention it here. When something like that happens, it changes you, your outlook on life, and for me, I always like to make those changes for the better.

So here I am–for anyone reading this, know that minus this very sad thing that has happened, I generally try to keep things light and I am excited to get back to sharing my thoughts on well, everything.

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Psychiatrists Aren’t Psychics

April 5, 2012

I know the two words sound very similar, but they are most certainly not the same. I recently received a request to see a patient to determine if he could get through a procedure without having a panic attack.

If I could predict the future, I would have won the lottery last week! Sadly, I didn’t.

I suppose I understand that other physicians would like to have psychiatric issues under control so that they can get their work done. That’s why I do what I do. However, psychiatric issues, just like medical issues, can be quite unpredictable. No one gets frustrated when a person has an unexpected bout of asthma, but if someone has a panic attack, the reaction to that is that the person isn’t in control of their behavior. The thing is, although some psychiatric issues certainly stem from voluntary behavioral actions, some presentations are involuntary. Like a panic attack, which is a result of the sympathetic nervous system gone haywire.

Anyway I try not to be rude to those asking for help, but needed to vent a little today. Thanks for reading and hopefully you learned something too!

Jackpot Fever

March 30, 2012

I feel like recently I’ve been bombarded with the news of the $540M jackpot that has risen to record levels. It’s on billboards, the news, my morning radio talk show, and all over the internet. Initially, maybe a week or so ago, I was thinking, who cares, there’s always an ongoing jackpot…but then it started growing larger and larger. My morning talk show hosts were asking callers what they would do if they won the jackpot.

And suddenly, I found myself fantasizing about what I would do if I won. Would I tell anyone at first or have the sense to consult with a financial expert first? Would I quit my job? Would I give large chunks of it to family members? Would I go on a shopping spree? Would I upgrade everything (including car, condo, and most importantly shoes)?

I also, of course, began to wonder what it is that is making everyone so excited about this jackpot, which individuals presumably have extremely teeny-tiny odds of winning? The psychiatrist in me began to think about gambling as an addiction or impulse control disorder, which is easier. It is easy to write off gambling addicts who can’t leave the casino after hours and hours of sitting at the slot machines. But what about the average person, who is getting caught up in lotto fever?

I think there are probably a couple of things that drive people to buy lottery tickets despite the ridiculous odds. This article defines the current odds at 1 in 175,000,000! There’s probably better odds of getting into a plane crash, being attacked by a terrorist, and getting eaten by a shark. So despite the odds, what is turning rational people into thinking they actually have a chance?

Well, the first is probably the fantasy–just like me the other day, buying a ticket allows one to escape reality for a short period. And who doesn’t want to escape reality once in a while? My days are not extremely thrilling as a general rule. I think the other is entertainment. When I watched the Superbowl in February, I was bored to tears until my friend and I made a $10 bet (which I won, thank you very much). All of a sudden I was invested in the winner of a game I normally could care less about. The time passed more quickly, and I was perhaps able to enjoy the social gathering in a different way than usual. Same principle can be applied to the lottery; buying a ticket it makes life a little more entertaining and now there’s something to look forward to when it’s time for the drawing. A little excitement has been created, a small risk has been taken, and there is a sense of anticipation about the possibilities.

Finally, I would say the last factor that comes into play is one that I’ve brought up before–that of cognitive dissonance. Even though logically we know that the odds of winning are very low, we convince ourselves that “it’s only $1, so why not?” For some, however, that daily $1 adds up to a lifetime of disappointment and loss. For others, like me, there’s a momentary flash in my mind of those Jimmy Choo’s I’ve been eyeing. And that’s enough–I plan to purchase a ticket tonight. Wish me luck.

Keeping It Off

December 30, 2011

I found this NYT article yesterday about the difficulty of successful weight loss, and finally finished reading it today. I have been interested in this topic recently–the science behind weight loss. Partially I’m interested in this because there is increasing evidence that obesity has underlying biological factors that contribute to its epidemic; i.e. obesity is more like a disease, not a choice. The article is fairly long, but some of the more interesting points I found were the following:

1. There are hormonal changes after weight loss (lower peptide YY and leptin, higher ghrelin) that make it hard to keep the weight off (i.e. someone who used to weigh 150 pounds and now weighs 120 pounds, is different than someone who naturally weighs 120 pounds)

2. Some people have specific genes that make them more predisposed to eat higher calorie foods, and make it harder to lose and keep weight off

3. People who successfully keep weight off are the minority of those who try to lose weight, but they all have specific consistent habits, including tracking their food and exercise, weighing themselves daily, exercising daily, eating breakfast everyday, watching less TV, and not “cheating” on holidays and weekends

4. After weight loss, you are more susceptible to cravings than before (and this is shown on brain MRIs in research, and is some of the evidence behind obesity having similarities to addictions)

5. Knowing some of these things can help to improve ways of losing weight

Now after read this article I feel a bit more informed. It is easy to tell those who are obese to eat less and exercise more. While these tenets are still the core of achieving weight loss, we are starting to learn that not everyone has the ability or the genetics to do this things as effectively or efficiently. That being said, it’s not a reason to give. It may just be that we need to start approaching weight loss for people in a different light, for example slowing it down rather than speeding it up. Another reason to avoid those infomercials late at night!

Good luck and as always feel free to leave comments or feedback!

Really Destigmatizing Mental (and Medical) Illness

October 1, 2011

Recently I was asked to speak with a large group of resident physicians after one of their colleagues committed suicide the week prior. It was a hard discussion to have for a couple of reasons, including the fact that I had never done such a thing before. I had, however, gone through the same experience when I was in residency training–a colleague committed suicide when I was in residency as well. It was an event that impacted those that knew him, as well as those that did not. This is sadly a topic that is not discussed much–depression and suicide in physicians. Part of the difficulty in confronting this issue, is of course that doctors have a hard time asking for help for their own mental health. However, doctor’s rates of depression and suicide are higher than the general population–but on the other hand they have lower rates of cardiovascular disease.

One of the things I have personally struggled with during my training in medical school and residency, was dealing with depression. Unfortunately, although I was in a psychiatry residency, talking openly about being depressed was still a no-no. What it will take to destigmatize depression is being able to discuss it openly. So although it is hard, I will start in this forum. I have been depressed in the past. Finally after some time, at the encouragement of a friend years ago, I sought really good help for myself, and now I am a completely different person than I was back then.

I was also diagnosed with multiple sclerosis six months ago. This is another issue I have been struggling with, but in the past couple of months I feel I have been able to get a good handle on it, in particular by managing the things I still have control over. One of the things that I have learned though, is that I have an easier time talking to friends about having MS; I never talked that openly about depression. I was worried what others would think of me, that I would appear weak, and so on. I felt that way despite knowing so much about depression and why it happens, how it’s treated, and how it affects people. It has been a struggle dealing with all my health issues, but I’m so glad I’ve had the determination to do it. That being said, I’ve needed a lot of help along the way, and for that I’m grateful too.

If you think you might be depressed, tell someone. Ask for help. If the situation were reversed, wouldn’t you help the person asking? It’s hard to manage these things alone. Happy mental health everyone!

Taking Time For Yourself

September 26, 2011

Another common phrase that’s easier said than done, right? Well, I think sometimes these sayings are out there because they have some truth to them. Today I took a random vacation day off. I’ve been working for months now with a couple days off for travel, but was realizing that it was starting to feel a little Groundhog Day for me. So here I am. This morning I went to the gym (which ironically is at work!), picked up some things at the grocery store, and took Harrison for a nice walk in my neighborhood. Yes, if you click on his name, you’ll find he takes after his owner–he has his own blog as well!

Anyway, not only do I get a shortened workweek, but I feel a little bit relaxed to be able to miss the Monday madness that inevitably happens each week. I plan to do a little cooking, and of course watch some of the judge shows (yes I know they’re all probably fake but I love them!), and catch up on a couple of bills.

If you have the luxury of being able to use a vacation day here and there just for yourself, not traveling, then I would highly recommend it. Just the idea of prioritizing yourself can make you feel better. Although it doesn’t seem like it would make a big difference, the benefits are great! Happy mental health.

Everyone Needs Help Sometimes

September 21, 2011

The title of this post is something that’s often said to people who are having a hard time accepting help. Of course this statement is easier said than done. It is difficult for people, in particular independent people, to even acknowledge that they need help with something, let alone ask for it. I see this in the hospital at work with sick patients all the time, but it also happens in our day to day lives. Personal example: I recently hired a personal trainer. For me to outsource a task that in the past I have managed myself, was very difficult. I wondered why I wasn’t strong enough to address my health on my own. Well, whatever the answer to that question is, the more important issue at hand is that I get healthy one way or another. Hence, the trainer.

In any case, asking for help doesn’t make someone weak; truly I think it makes them strong. For someone to humble themselves enough to say “I need help–will you help me?” means that person is able to put aside their pride in order to meet a need. I don’t feel that I am incompetent because I need an expert’s help. I am good at what I do, and others are good at their job. And in cases of asking for a friend or family member’s help, I think it’s always important to remember that if the situation were reversed, you would be happy to do the same.

Just some food for thought–happy mental health!