Depression with diabetes may speed mental decline

By Veronica Hackethal, MD

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – In a study of middle-aged and older people with type 2 diabetes, declines in thinking and memory that are often linked to later dementia happened faster in those who were depressed compared to those who were not.

Over less than four years, U.S. and Canadian researchers saw significant differences between depressed and non-depressed diabetes patients in the erosion of a wide range of cognitive abilities.

“Depression appears to be an important risk factor for dementia and cognitive decline among patients with diabetes,” Dr. Mark Sullivan, professor of psychiatry at the University of Washington and lead author of the study, told Reuters Health in an email.

Both diabetes and depression have been found to raise the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia later in life. But whether depression is a cause or an effect of cognitive decline remains unclear.

Diabetes can damage organs, especially the kidneys, eyes, nervous system and brain. The disease also raises a person’s risk for having a cardiovascular “event” such as a heart attack or stroke.

More than one-quarter of Americans older than age 65 have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An estimated 6.5 million Americans in this age group suffer from depression, according to the National Alliance for Mental Illness.

To assess the role of depression in cognitive decline among older diabetes patients, Sullivan’s team looked at data on nearly 3,000 people over age 55 with type 2 diabetes and risk factors for cardiovascular events. On average, participants had had diabetes for about 9 years.

Tests of cognitive abilities were given to all participants at the study’s beginning, and again at 20 months and 40 months. One test measured psychomotor speed, or how long it takes the brain to register a stimulus, process it and respond. Another looked at the ability to remember words over time. A third test measured executive functioning, or how the brain uses memories to plan actions, pay attention and inhibit inappropriate behavior.

Researchers determined whether an individual was depressed using a 9-question form patients filled out themselves.

More than 2,600 people completed the tests at all three time points. Sixty-two percent of these never had scores indicating depression. Eighteen percent were depressed at the start of the study, 16 to 17 percent were depressed at 20 and 40 months and five percent had scores indicating depression at all three time points.

Researchers found that people with symptoms of depression at any point were more likely to be women, younger, non-Hispanic whites, overweight or obese, and to have higher blood sugar, total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol, than others.

Yet, the researchers report in JAMA Psychiatry, depression was linked to greater cognitive decline regardless of other risk factors. These included age, gender, race, obesity, smoking, alcohol use, previous cardiovascular events, as well the types of diabetes and heart disease medications the participants were taking.

“This study demonstrates that depression accelerates cognitive decline in patients with diabetes, over a short time frame, in all patient subgroups, and in all cognitive domains assessed,” Sullivan said.

“Whether depression treatment will reverse this effect remains to be tested in a separate randomized trial,” he said.

“The broad range of cognitive tests used indicates widespread cognitive problems in performance, memory and speed of task completion,” said Dr. Mark Nathanson, director of the geriatric psychiatry fellowship at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York, who was not involved in the study.

He and Sullivan both cautioned, however, that the role of depression in cognitive decline may be complex.

Depression itself is associated with increases in stress hormones, inflammation and other processes that could directly contribute to cognitive decline, Sullivan said. But the array of other diseases that often go along with diabetes may also harm cognition and promote depression.

People with diabetes are at higher risk for vascular dementia, for example, which develops when blood supply to parts of the brain is cut off, often during a series of unnoticed “mini-strokes” that cause brain cells to die. Depression might be an early symptom of vascular disease in the brain, which later develops into dementia.

“My clinical experience is that dementing illness like Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia commonly present to the primary care clinician and mental health professional with depressive symptoms,” Nathanson, who is also a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry, wrote in an email.

Vascular dementia is different from Alzheimer’s disease, which causes the majority of dementia cases in the U.S. and forms characteristic plaques in the brain.

One implication of this study, Nathanson said, is that primary care physicians would do well to pay attention to and treat depression in people with chronic illnesses like diabetes.

SOURCE: JAMA Psychiatry, online August 14, 2013.

Mom's Depression Tied to Childhood Obesity | Psych Central News

Mom's Depression Tied to Childhood ObesityIn low-income urban families, a mother’s depression is linked to childhood obesity and disengaged parenting.

“We know many mothers experience feelings of sadness and depression. Despite this awareness, many mothers really suffer in silence and don’t feel comfortable [talking to someone about their feelings],” said Dr. Rachel S. Gross, lead author of the study.

While most research shows a link between a mother’s feelings of depression and a child’s development and social health, “This was one of the first [studies] to look at younger children [and how depression] can impact the physical health of children,” she said.

Gross has spent most of her career working with low-income families in the Bronx in New York. There she has witnessed patients struggling with feelings of depression as well as children who are gaining weight more quickly than expected.

For the study, moms self-reported depressive symptoms — such as loss of interest, fatigue, low energy and poor concentration — along with their children’s body mass index (BMI) at age 5.

The researchers controlled for such factors as decreased access to parks and fresh produce and still found the link.

According to the study, mothers who are depressed, have less than a high school education and are unemployed often display “… permissive parenting, where they place fewer demands on their children.”

“They are less responsive to their child’s needs, choosing parenting strategies for coping that require less cognitive effort and often neglect to set limits on the child’s behavior,” the study reports.

“They were more likely to have children who consumed more sweetened drinks, infrequently had family meals, more commonly ate at restaurants and had fewer regular breakfasts than children with mothers without depressive symptoms. Depressed moms also were less likely to model healthy eating than non-depressed mothers.”

Feeding practices, such as preparing daily breakfast, modeling healthy eating and setting limits on the child’s diet, all require active maternal involvement, Gross said, possibly explaining why these practices were less common among depressed mothers.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has updated its guidelines that emphasize the importance of maternal mental health, said Gross.

“My advice is to encourage mothers to seek out help from their doctors but also to consider talking to their pediatrician,” said Gross. “Mothers with young children take them to the doctor more frequently than they take themselves, so it’s an opportunity to help mothers in a pediatric setting.”

Source:  Academic Pediatrics

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Children and Teens, Depression, General, Health-related, Mental Health and Wellness, Obesity and Weight Loss, Parenting, Psychology, Research


Obesity, Genetics, Depression and Weight Loss | Psych Central

There are a lot of different opinions and strong emotions when it comes to the topic of obesity and weight loss. This article is simply another opinion about obesity in America. By writing this article, I am not trying to convince anyone of anything; I’m just trying to give you something to think about — perhaps a new idea.

The statistics regarding obesity in America are alarming. Currently, 35 percent of American adults are obese (CDC, 2012), and that number is projected to rise to over 50 percent in most states by 2030 (Henry, 2011). We’ve been fighting the so-called “war against obesity” since the 1980s, and yet despite all of our efforts, the problem has only gotten worse. Clearly, what we’ve been doing to try to solve this problem isn’t working and is possibly making it even worse. In my opinion, the reason for this is that the psychological piece hasn’t been addressed yet and until it is, we will have an increasing problem on our hands.

Years ago I was seeing a client who we’ll call Sarah. Sarah was very obese and desperate to lose weight. Her doctor had recently told her that if she didn’t lose a significant amount of weight she would lose her mobility as well as have a host of other medical consequences. Sarah tried numerous diets and exercise programs but nothing worked. She even enrolled in a weight loss clinic but had no success. She actually ended up gaining even more weight during this time. Not knowing what else to do, Sarah’s doctor told her that she needed to talk to a therapist.

When I met Sarah she was quite desperate to lose the weight and very depressed. Much to her surprise, I told her that I didn’t want us to work on her losing weight, but rather I wanted to work on her depression and teach her to accept and love herself unconditionally. This seemed the opposite of what she needed in order to lose weight, but Sarah decided to trust me anyway. You see, like a lot of people, Sarah thought that if she could just hate herself enough, that would motivate her to do whatever it took to lose the weight. As a therapist, I know that that is simply not going to work. We therapists follow something called the “Rogerian hypothesis,” which states that people tend to move in a positive direction only when given unconditional love and acceptance. Well, I’m happy to say that after we had alleviated Sarah’s depression and she had learned to love and accept herself, the weight came right off.

The current methods for helping people lose weight seem to be the opposite of love and acceptance. Much of the efforts seem to involve trying to shame and scare people into losing weight. This simply doesn’t work. The worst thing you can do is give someone more anxiety and depression regarding their weight, and I’m going to explain why that is later on. Also, the ways we go about teaching people to lose weight are much more complicated than they need to be. One should not have to read a book, go to a clinic, or take a class to learn how to lose weight. There is a very successful diet that has been around for thousands of years and all of the big celebrities do it. Can you guess what it is? It’s called “Moving more and eating less.” How you go about accomplishing this is up to you. I believe that losing weight is not complicated and that people intuitively know how best to do it when it comes to themselves. They simply need to stop feeling so anxious and depressed about it.

Obesity and Genetics

Before I talk more about how obesity is linked to depression and anxiety, I first want to briefly address the popular belief that obesity is purely a problem of bad genes. This is the popular belief and I can see why it is so popular. In a society where people are constantly trying to shame you about your weight, it can feel good to be able to say “Hey, you have no right to shame me about my weight! It’s not something I can control! It’s because of these bad genes I have!” But in order for this to be true, it means that our genes would have had to somehow change since the 1960s. Scientists agree that genetics is not responsible for the obesity epidemic, although they do agree it is a factor. Depending on which study you look at, genes only account for between 1 percent and 5 percent of a person’s body mass index (Li et al., 2010). I think that most people would agree that 5 percent of bad genes doesn’t excuse the 95 percent of it that scientists claim is due to bad habits.

When confronted with these facts, people often cite that most of the people in their family are also obese, so it must be genetics. However, the more likely possibility is that families tend to eat the same foods and have similar habits. Genetics also doesn’t explain why obese people also tend to have obese pets (Bounds, 2011). Obviously the dog doesn’t share the same genes as the owner, but they do share the same environment. Of course, we can’t mention genetics without looking at twin studies. Since identical twins have identical genes, researchers often compare twins to examine the effects of genetics and the environment on a person.

Obesity and Depression

Researchers aren’t quite sure if obesity causes depression or if depression causes obesity, but the two are definitely linked. In fact, the two conditions are so intertwined that some are calling obesity and depression a double epidemic. Studies have found that 66 percent of those seeking bariatric, (weight loss) surgery have had a history of at least one mental health disorder. And of course, it doesn’t help that the medications people take for depression and other mental health issues can cause dramatic weight gain.

Consider this: According to the CDC, half of Americans will suffer from some sort of mental illness, and most of them will not receive any treatment for it. 63 percent of Americans are also overweight or obese. There are almost as many Americans taking diet pills as there are taking antidepressants (8 percent and 10 percent). People with mental health issues are twice as likely as those without them to be obese, and that’s even before they start taking psychiatric medication (McElroy, 2009).

So why are people with mental health issues so much more likely than those without them to be obese? We know that depression and bipolar depression slows down your metabolism (Lutter Elmquist, 2009). Depression also depletes our willpower, making us less likely to avoid eating unhealthy foods. Depression also causes us to crave high-fat foods and sugar. This is where emotional eating comes in. When we’re feeling down, fatty and sugary foods make us feel better, at least temporarily. Of course, you don’t need to have depression or a mental illness in order to engage in emotional eating. It’s something we learn at a very young age. Eating something unhealthy is much easier than fixing the problem or dealing with what’s causing us to feel unhappy. Teaching people how to deal with unpleasant moods other than by eating would certainly cut down on emotional eating and would certainly lead to significant weight loss.

So if depression causes weight gain and antidepressants cause weight gain, then what is the solution? Well, research has shown that talk therapy is just as effective at relieving depression as antidepressant medication (Doheny, 2010), and talk therapy doesn’t have the negative side effects that medication does. Another option is exercise. In a 2005 study on the effects of exercise vs. Zoloft (anti-depressant medication) on the treatment of depression, participants were randomly placed into two groups. On group received 150 mg of Zoloft while the other group engaged in 20 minutes of cardiovascular exercise three to four times a week. After eight weeks, they found that the exercise was just as effective at reducing depression as the Zoloft! Another thing to consider is that Zoloft has negative side effects such as weight gain, sleep problems, and sexual dysfunction. As you can imagine, the side effects of exercising are the opposite of that.


Scientifically Reviewed
    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 27 Mar 2013
    Published on All rights reserved.


Larry King says talking about depression is a good cure

Larry King

Larry King is a household name in America and has cast his influence across the Pacific and Atlantic oceans reaching shores across the world. The lively TV personality has anchored the entertainment industry for years and has notched an impressive amount of interviews down the years – more than 40,000 to date.

He has soldiered on dogmatically since 1987 when he suffered a heart attack and had to undergo quintuple bypass surgery.

Larry looks back at his life prior to the heart attack and pins the blame squarely on his three-packs-a-day smoking habit. The heart problems subsequently triggered depression and led him down the path to the darkest period of his life. Despite the crippling depression he remained open about his illness ad spoke honestly about it on his shows ‘Larry King Live’ and ‘Larry King Weekend’.

The famous Larry King mugshot

His family background is littered with stories of depression, his brother being the worst affected.

Larry’s first encounter with his own behavioural change disturbed him deeply: “What was most puzzling to me, I would be crying and not know why I was crying.”

After diagnosis of post heart-attack depression, King was put on antidepressants for a period of six months and while undergoing the treatment he said, The tough part is distinguishing between depression and bad news.”

Larry King confronts his demons


But Larry found a way out of the situation and soon got work on raising awareness of mental health conditions. Although he interviewed numerous celebrities in his career it was his special show on depression got really drew all the plaudits.

Celebrities including Drew Barrymore, Carrie Fisher, Mariel Hemingway and Brooke Shields poured their hearts out on the show and he sympathetically listened to their stories of depression and their remedies, solutions and recoveries, all the while understanding their situations.

King, with his undying spirit to fight depression insisted on creating awareness and is of the belief that the more knowledge you have, the better… This is not having a bad day. [These people] need comfort and understanding… The one thing you can’t do with a person with depression… is you can’t say ‘Feel good. Get out of bed. This is silly.’ That won’t work.”

Jemma Kidd opens up about Anxiety Disorder

Jemma Kidd

Jemma Kidd is a successful career woman, mother of twins and somehow manages to be both model and girl-next-door with consummate ease. Behind the often smiley demeanor portrayed in the media, Kidd hides a torrid struggle with anxiety and panic disorder; an overwhelming illness that can literally paralyse sufferers.

Panic disorder and anxiety attacks are the most common anxiety disorders and affect at least 20% of adult Americans. In an interview with Fiona Shield for Celebrity Angels, Jemma described how the crippling disorder adversely affected her life on a daily basis.

The attacks are so random and debilitating that you become fearful of the fear that they bring. You start to anticipate them and find yourself doing anything to avoid them. I stopped driving on my own; I manipulated my life so that when I had to go somewhere, I had someone with me. I couldn’t go into the supermarket or anywhere crowded. If I was going to stay at someone’s house for the weekend, I would be anxious for about ten days before and would insist on knowing how close they lived to a hospital. The symptoms were so real that I believed I could have a heart attack at any time.”

Jemma Kidd's make up brand is a huge success

A panic attack is an exaggeration of the body’s normal response to fear or stress. According to the Anxiety and Panic Disorder Center of Los Angeles, when we experience a threatening situation, the fight or flight response takes over and the body prepares itself for danger by releasing adrenalin. The physical symptoms that accompany this include rapid heart rate, palpitations and an increase in blood pressure and hyperventilation.

For most of us these symptoms taper off and the body is restored to it’s normal state but when the body produces too much adrenalin, the sufferer can be left experiencing absolute terror that can linger on for hours. In the worst case scenarios a person might pass out but according to records nobody has ever died as a result of a panic attack.

Jemma Kidd in her make-up studio

Jodie suffered from the disorder throughout her twenties and she credits Charles Linden ( who developed the Linden Method) with helping her find mechanisms to deal with panic. Experiencing up to 20 panic attacks a day, Linden came up with a routine to treat his own symptoms and break the habitual nature of anxiety.

Although there is no “quick fix”, Linden suggests practising the following techniques to help divert a panic attack:

  • The dive reflexWhen you feel a panic attack building up, take a towel, soak it with cold water then place it on the back of your neck. You can also splash your face with cold water.
  • DiversionDo anything to divert your mind. Put on headphones and listen to music, practical chores, count trees or lampposts, immerse yourself in whatever is present and practical at the time.
  • Eat a cold appleWhen you feel an attack is imminent take an apple from the fridge and eat it very slowly. This will help to slow your breathing and the coldness of the apple helps to create positive, non-anxious sensations.

To learn more about his anxiety elimination techniques visit

Emma Thompson: English Rose Discusses Thorny Depression

Emma Thompson

Emma Thompson has known the highs of stardom as an iconic British actress and screenwriter but she has also tasted bitter, emotional lows because of her long running battle with depression.

The English rose says her depression led her to such lows that at one stage in her life she didn’t wash or dress.

I’ve certainly been there, in various depressions, when you never wash, and wear the same things all the time,” she told her interviewerfromEasy Living magazine.

It’s the sort of depression that doesn’t necessarily make you want to kill yourself – you just don’t want to be, you want to switch it off and stop. That’s not the same as saying ‘I’m going to kill myself’. But it’s a feeling I know well.”

emma thomnpson - english rose

Thompson looks back to the 1980s when she first had clinical depression at a time when she was performing in a stage version of Me and My Girl.

I really didn’t change my clothes or answer the phone, but went into the theatre every night and was cheerful and sang the Lambeth Walk. That’s what actors do,” she told the Telegraph.

But the blight of depression returned when she divorced Kenneth Branagh in 1995. The double Oscar winner branded divorce as a “ghastly, painful business”, adding: “But also fame, in some ways a ghastly, painful business as well. You become slightly more public property in a way that’s not necessarily always comfortable.”

emma thonspon and emma watson

But for Emma the perfect tonic was work and it served as her income and saviour in those dark times. She points to her writing work on Sense and Sensibility for which she wrote the screenplay and starred her husband Greg Wise and fellow British actress, Kate Winslet.

The only thing I could do was write,” she said. “I used to crawl from the bedroom to the computer and just sit and write, and then I was alright, because I was not present. Sense and Sensibility really saved me from going under, I think, in a very nasty way.”

Writing still provides and escape for her and when asked what from, she pointed at the inner demons: “Oh, you know, the voices in my head. The constant “must do better”, “must try harder” plus “you’re too fat and not really a very good mother.”

Indeed the stress of trying for a second child after the birth of her first, Gala, was another factor that fuelled her illness: “It was hellish after Gala was born, trying to have another baby through IVF. That was terrible – I blamed myself, and no-one could persuade me that it wasn’t my fault – and that led to another depression.”

Emma Thompson

She unofficially adopted a 16-year-old Rwandan orphan, which she says made it possible for her to “balance” herself, rather than constantly trying to escape into a “fantasy world”.

As with so many cases, the illness is never far away, but through help, therapy and meditation, a lot of people manage to keep it at bay.

Sufjan Stevens suffers with depression

Sufjan Stevens with angel wings

Poor Idiosyncratic contemporary folkster Sufjan Stevens has revealed that watching Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr Fox led to him suffering a nervous breakdown.

During an interview with UK newspaper The Observer, the quirky singer/songwriter acknowledged that he’d been afflicted by mental health issues which affected him so heavily that doctors proscribed avoiding crowded rooms and noise.

Sufjan has always had a propensity towards depression although that’s fairly run of the mill for a sensitive musician type of his ilk, but things came to a head during the recording of his last album when he considered retiring from music completely.

In the interview he recounts how he tried to deal with his problems whilst recording the album, explaining that he’d woken up one morning and experienced adrenaline like rushes in his chest.

After three months of no stimulus such as films Sufjan sat down to watch Fantastic Mr Foxbut found the experience intolerable; a harsh review some might say.

Once recovery was underway and the album, The Age of Adz, completed, he was able to watch the film again but with a greater level of enjoyment. He described it as “beautiful”.

I went through a period of questioning motive and function and now I no longer have the privilege of questioning. I just have the privilege of celebrating my music and sharing it,” Sufjan said about his songwriting.

I don’t really want to get caught up in that self-doubt any more. I’ve always been really insecure about what I do, but those existential conundrums are really circuitous and – what’s the word? – unproductive. You know, I don’t think my music is important, I don’t think it’s changing the world, I don’t think it’s art. I just think it’s music. It is what it is.”

Creativity and mental illness often seem to go hand in hand and scientists have been studying the common links between the two for centuries. In fact, since the time of Aristotle, links have been noted between creativity and melancholia.

Other musicians who’ve experienced depression and mental illness include Brian Wilson of Beach Boys fame, Syd Barrett, Joy Division’s Ian Curtis, and Nick Drake. The final two taking their lives due to depression.

Kirsten Dunst thinks people who don't get depressed are weird

I was going to write another interesting article about Beyonce’s latest amazing revelation – that pregnancy is a gift – but then thought that even the most persevering of CWD readers would become bored of the spoilt, small-minded woman’s inane babble. SO, for a change, we get Kirsten Dunst instead!

According to an interview published in Flare magazine, the 29-year-old think people who don’t suffer from periods of depression at some point in their lives are pretty strange.

Dunst, who has admitted to struggling with the disorder in the past, says, like many others, that it still a lot of stigma surrounding the issue.

Lars von Trier's own depression inspired the film Melancholia

“People are embarrassed to talk about it…I would never put anyone down [who] was in that kind of space.”

In fact, she reckons experiencing the depression at some point or another in one’s life is completely normal:

“I think most human beings go through some sort of depression in their life,” she says. “And if they don’t, I think that‘s weird.”

Thanks for the insight, Kirst. Actually, I don’t really have anything negative to say about Kirsten Dunst. It is possible that privately she, like Beyonce, is an irritating and boring little brat, but she’s been in some cool films. And I’d say to have been picked for a leading role by Lars von Trier is a good indication of one’s coolness.

Lars von Trier’s latest film, Melancholia is due out in the next month. The director himself describes it as “a beautiful film about the end of the world”. And if you watch the trailer, I think you’ll agree that it certainly looks pretty visually stunning.

Anyway, Kirsten Dunst plays the role of Justine alongside Charlotte Gainsbourg, her on-screen sister, Claire. Justine has just got married, but all the while the earth is being approached by a rogue planet, signaling the end of the world.

[adsense]The idea for the film originated during a therapy session Lars von Trier attended because he suffers from depression. The therapist told Trier that depressive people tend to act more calmly than others under heavy pressure, because they already expect bad things to happen. Trier then developed the story not primarily as a disaster film, and without any ambition to portray astrophysics realistically, but as a way to examine the human psyche during a disaster.

The movie premiered in May this year at the 64th Cannes Film Festival. Dunst received the festival’s Best Actress Award for her performance.

Click here to find out more about Melancholia.

Emma Thompson saved from depression by her work

Emma Thompson has known the highs of stardom as an iconic British actress and screenwriter. But she has also known the lowest lows due to her battle with depression.

The 51-year-old says her depression was once so bad she was unable to wash or even dress herself.

“I’ve certainly been there, in various depressions, when you never wash, and wear the same things all the time,” she said in an interview with Easy Living magazine.

Emma Thompson has clinical depression

“It’s the sort of depression that doesn’t necessarily make you want to kill yourself – you just don’t want to be, you want to switch it off and stop. That’s not the same as saying ‘I’m going to kill myself’. But it’s a feeling I know well.”

Thompson thinks her first bout of clinical depression occurred in the 1980s, when she was doing on-stage performances of Me and My Girl.

“I really didn’t change my clothes or answer the phone, but went into the theatre every night and was cheerful and sang the Lambeth Walk. That’s what actors do,” she told the Telegraph.

She suffered another severe bout when she divorced her husband Kenneth Branagh in 1995. The double Oscar winner branded divorce as a “ghastly, painful business”, adding: “But also fame, in some ways a ghastly, painful business as well. You become slightly more public property in a way that’s not necessarily always comfortable.”

Thompson says work was the saviour. She refers to her work on Sense and Sensibility, starring Kate Winslet and her now husband Greg Wise, for which she wrote the screenplay.

She says her work saves her from depressive bouts

“The only thing I could do was write,” she says. “I used to crawl from the bedroom to the computer and just sit and write, and then I was alright, because I was not present. Sense and Sensibility really saved me from going under, I think, in a very nasty way.”

Writing provides and escape for Thompson, and when asked what from, she answered: “Oh, you know, the voices in my head. The constant “must do better”, “must try harder” plus “you’re too fat and not really a very good mother.”

Trying to have a second child after the birth of her first one, Gala, was another factor fuelling her illness: “It was hellish after Gala was born, trying to have another baby through IVF. That was terrible – I blamed myself, and no-one could persuade me that it wasn’t my fault – and that led to another depression.”

Nine years ago, the actress unofficially adopted a 16-year-old Rwandan orphan, which she says made it possible for her to “balance” herself, rather than constantly escaping into a “fantasy world”.

Read about other celebrities who suffered with depression such as Hugh Laurie; Owen Wilson; Mel Gibson; Alanis Morrissette and Halle Berry.

Images: Wikipedia

I get SAD when it’s cold outside

Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD, is a type of depression that has a seasonal pattern. It is characterised by episodes of depression that recur at the same time each year – most commonly during the winter, when it’s cold and miserable outdoors, or maybe that’s just me. In fact, it isn’t just me, because sometimes it’s called ‘winter depression’ too. Some people, often with masochistic tendencies, do get it in the summer, but that’s quite rare.

The symptoms of SAD often start as the days begin to get shorter in the autumn. They are worst during December, January, and February. For most people with SAD, the symptoms start to improve by spring time, then disappear.

It's not nice when it's cold and grey outside

What causes it?

Basically, no one knows. What we do know, however, is that the sun tends to make us happy and in winter there is less sun and more cold and rain, which tends to make us unhappy. Although in some parts of the world when they have winter it’s really sunny, plus they have lovely snow. Do they get SAD? Don’t know, I guess it’s still cold, which can be quite unpleasant if you’re not wearing the right clothes.

Here’s some interesting info on hypothalamus: The amount of sunlight that you receive affects some of the chemicals and hormones in your brain. However, it is not clear exactly what the effect is. One theory is that light stimulates a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, which controls mood, appetite and sleep. These things can affect how you feel.

But summer will be here soon!

Or could the answer lie in our melatonin levels? Melatonin is a hormone (a chemical that is produced by the body) that affects the way we sleep. It is produced by the pineal gland (a small gland inside your brain). When it is dark, the pineal gland produces melatonin to make you feel sleepy. Because it gets darker earlier and is generally darker during the winter, we feel like hibernating and that makes us sad.

What are the symptoms?

Aside from the classic depression symptoms, there may be added ones during the winter:

  • being less active
  • feeling tired and sleeping more (hypersomnia)
  • not having as much energy
  • not being able to concentrate
  • putting on weight
  • an increased appetite and eating more than usual (hyperphagia)
  • craving carbohydrates (starchy foods, such as bread and pasta)

I want to go to Turkey for my summer holidays

How do I treat it?

Well, if I were you, I wouldn’t be reaching for the anti-depressants, although of course that is an option. Light therapy can be pretty good apparently as can psychological therapies such as CBT. But even better – do some exercise, do stuff which makes you happy and ride out the crappy weather. It’ll be summer again soon!

Images: Wikipedia