Study links head injury, depression
By Lindsey Tanner
The News & Observer: 15 January 2002
Chicago- Concussions and other head injuries in early adulthood may significantly raise the risk of depression decades later, a study of World War II veterans found. The study has disturbing implications for football and hockey players,motorcyclists and others who have taken blows to the head. Other research has shown that head trauma patients may be prone to depression shortly after suffering their injuries. But the new findings suggest that the risk persists even 50 years later. The study involved 1,718 veterans hospitalized for various ailments during the war and questioned 50 years later. About 11 percent who had had head injuries said they currently had major depression, compared with 8.5 percent of those hospitalized during the war for other reasons. Overall, the lifetime prevalence of major depression was 18.5 percent in the head-injury group and 13.4 percent among the veterans, Drs. Tracey Holsinger and Brenda Plassman of Duke University and colleagues reported in January's Archives of General Psychiatry. The researchers found similar depression rates in veterand who had recieved their head injuries in combat and in those whose injuries occurred elsewhere. Thus it is unlikely that post-traumatic stress syndrome, which can include symptoms of depression, would explain the findings, the researchers said. A sizeable portion of the veterans who suffered head injuries did so in noncombat situations such as motor vehicle accidents and sports, she said. The findings underscore the importance of recognizing the potential long-term risks of head injuries so that patients can get early treatment, according to an accompanying editorial. Although it is unclear how head injury is related to depression, Holsinger and colleagues offer some theories. Depression has been linked with dysfunction in the brain's frontal region, and research has suggested a strong link between depression and head trauma resulting in lesions in the frontal region, the researchers said.
Zoloft Ad: Coping with Anxiety, Depression and Pain
By Steven M. Mirin, MD
Since the terrorist attacks of September 11 and the ensuing terrorist threats, millions of Americans understand what it is like to be anxious or depressed. Indeed, many have felt sad, afraid, withdrawn, hopeless, irritable, anxious, suspicious of others, and numb since that terrible day. Some have had trouble sleeping or concentrating. In fact, a post-attack poll, conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, found that more than half of all Americans adults say they've experienced one or more of these problems. For most, the problems will subside. But symptoms of depression and anxiety will plersist for some and profoundly affect their day-to-day lives. These individuals will join the millions of Americans who were suffering from severe anxiety and/or overwhelming depression long before the events of September 11. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that 9.5 percent of adults- nearly 19 million people- will suffer from a diagnosable depresive disorder this year. Anxiety disorders- the most common form of mental disorder- affect 26 million adults. The Surgeon General's Report on Mental Health, issued in 1999, points out that, as a group, mental illnesses rank second worldwide in the burden they inflict on society; heart disease and cancer rank first and third, respectively. Unfortunately, in any given year fewer than one-third of adults with a diagnosable mental disorder recievve the treatment they need. Many go undiagnosed and untreated for years, suffering needlessly. Some victims will blame themselves for being "weak"; others will end their lives prematurely though suicide. Brain Mysteries Unlocked. Over the past two decades, scientists have learned a great deal about the brain mechanisms that regulate the way we think and feel- and how they shape our responses to our social and physical environment. This knowledge has led to a greater understanding of the causes of mental disorders and the development of increasingly effective treatments. Specifically, we now know that the human brain responds to our social, psychological and physical environment through complex processes involving genes and the production, release and reabsorption of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Genetically mediated responses of brain circuits to traumatic events can also disrupt this complex system. For most people, this delicate balance is restored once the traumatic event has passed. But some vulnerable individuals require psychiatric treatment. We also know that an individual's vulnerability may result from the complex interaction of psychosocial, developmental and environmental factors with one's biological and genetic makeup. Yet many people exposed to the high levels of trauma and stress seem to cope effectively and never develop these problems. We need to learn more about how such people are "protected." Is it brain chemistry, the timely support of others, a learned ability to cope with adversity or some combination of these or other factors? What is Depression? Clinical depression is more than normal sadness or feeling "down in the dumps." It is a serious mental disorder that disrupts lives and relationships and puts sufferers at increased risk of accidents, homicide or suicide. Depression is not always easy to recognize, but if you experience five or more of the basic symptoms (Persistent sad, anxious or empty feelings, A loss of interest in activities that normally are pleasurable, appetite and weight changes~ loss or gain, sleep problems~ too much, too little or interrupted, irritability, loss of energy and sense of fatigue; being "slowed down," feelings of guilt, worthlessness and helplessness, feelings of hopelessness and pessimism, difficulty concentrating, remembering and making decisions, ongoing body aches and pains or problems with digestion that are not caused by other illnesses, thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts),Ê for at least two weeks, and they impair your usual activities and relationships, you should seek help from your family psyician, a psychiatrist or other mental health professional. A comprehensive medical evaluation is critical, since depression can also be caused by medical illnesses such as high blood pressure, thyroid disease and even some forms of cancer. Depression is Treatable. Over half of adults with a diagnosable depressive disorder go untreated- a tragedy, considering that about 80 percent of those who get appropriate treatment will improve substantially. Medications now in use for the treatment of depression alter the balance among various brain neurotransmitters in a way that helps restore normal brain function. The newer medications are generally safer and have fewer side effects. When antidepressant medication and various forms of psychotherapy are combined into a comprehensive treatment program, treatment outcome is enhanced. For individuals who do not respond to medication or who can't tolerate it because of other health concerns, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is also an effective treatment.Ê
Just for kicks: You know when you can't get over something traumatic from your past. You're unable to feel. You get overly startled... and may have trouble sleeping. You may even feel like it's happening again. You get so upset... your daily activities and relationships suffer. You know you just can't put it behind you. ZOLOFT: When you know more about what's wrong, you can help make it right.