This News In Mentalists – Oops I’m Late Edition

Hi, sanabituranima here, with a somewhat belated edition of This News In Mentalists, which I forgot I had volunteered to do. Sorry, guys!

First off, The Independent has one of those perennial stories about anti-depressants:

One in three women has taken anti-depressants during their lifetime while nearly half of those currently prescribed the medication have done so for at least five years, with a quarter doing so for a decade, according to a survey.

The study by women’s campaign group Platform 51, formerly the YWCA, claimed that the use of drugs such as Prozac and Cipramil had reached “crisis” proportions, and accused GPs of flouting National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) guidelines when it came to routinely represcribing the drugs.

The charity’s research found that of 2,000 women polled, 57% of those who had taken anti-depressants were not offered any alternatives to drugs. It urged greater use of psychological therapies – so-called “talking cures” – such as cognitive behavioural therapy or counselling. It said one in four women questioned had waited a year or more for their treatment to be reviewed.

Seasoned mentalists have heard this all before. I strongly suspect we’ll hear it all again, and again, and again before any of us make it to the top of the therapy waiting list. :P

Also in The Independent, Ilona Catherine Burton writes a personal account of bulimia (trigger warning):

It becomes normal, this cycle. As disgusting, shocking and unbelievable as it sounds, it becomes impossible to get through a day without going through that anxiety and relief, anxiety and relief. At first it is exciting. You try new foods, all the time knowing that it doesn’t matter, that it can’t hurt you. But after months, years, you do it all automatically. Little thought goes into what you buy or how much you pack away. You’re a zombie. An insatiable zombie.

It is too easy to feel apathetic about this situation you seem to have fallen into. Yes, you look a mess and your skin is getting bad and you feel like you have a thousand needles stuck in your throat and you’re bloated and tired and dizzy and your teeth crumble and yes, you are aware that you could go into cardiac arrest – but that won’t happen to me – you tell yourself.

I am not going to allow myself to be apathetic today. It is too easy, to pretend to fight, to tell your family and your boyfriend that you’re really trying this time and then go and carry on with your secretive binging.

The hardest part is, the more you try to resist the urge, the more it grows and snowballs in your mind. You visualise the food in your shopping basket, then in the oven, then on your plate as you watch Murray win in straight sets, shove ice cream down your neck whilst Kate Middleton glows in the sun at Wimbledon. You can almost smell it, feel it, taste it. You wrestle with your own thoughts and you are lost. You try to distract yourself but the more you do so, the more space it takes up in your mind. No matter how desperate you are, it is more so.

But today, I refuse to let it win.

The Telegraph has an article on depression and pollution:

The tests on mice showed that in the long term dirty air could cause actual physical changes to the brain which in turn had negative effects.

While other studies have looked at the impact polluted air has on the heart and lungs this is one of the first to look at the effect on the brain, lead author Laura Fonken noted.

She said: “The results suggest prolonged exposure to polluted air can have visible, negative effects on the brain, which can lead to a variety of health problems.

“This could have important and troubling implications for people who live and work in polluted urban areas around the world.”

Ms Fonken, a doctoral student, and her colleagues at Ohio State University exposed mice to either filtered air of polluted air six hours a day, five days a week for almost half their lifespan which was 10 months.

The polluted air was the same as that created by cars, factories and natural dust and contained fine particulates about a thirtieth the size of a human hair, 2.5 micrometers, which can reach deep areas of the body’s organs.

Of course, depression is a complex illness, mice’s brains are different to human brains and studies need to be replicated, but even so, this is both interesting and somewhat disturbing.

The Telegraph also reports about computer screening for early signs of Alzheimer’s:

Advances in the understanding of diseases like Alzheimer’s, depression and schizophrenia mean experts can spot signs that a person may be at risk years before the conditions take hold.

A ten-minute computer test developed this year, which tests patients’ memory and learning ability to identify more accurately than ever those most at risk from dementia, should be used to screen for the disease as early as 60, researchers said.


A spokesperson for the Alzheimer’s society said: “Current diagnostic tests are not accurate enough to identify early signs by screening people as young as 60. Alzheimer’s Society would, however, welcome a debate on the value of screening for dementia in people over 75.

“Any screening needs to be followed by more robust tests before an accurate diagnosis can be given. Additionally, cognitive tests should never be used as a substitute for seeking expert advice.”

Meanwhile, The Guardian has a piece on a new book about schizophrenia:

Schizophrenia is perhaps the most widely misunderstood and misrepresented of all serious mental illnesses in popular culture and media. So, when first-person accounts offering insights into the experience of someone who has lived with schizophrenia come along, they tend to be welcomed by mental health campaigners as an antidote to misinformation. Such has been the case with David’s Box, a new book documenting the journals and letters of a young man diagnosed with the illness in 1964 who took his own life seven years later.

Compiled and edited by clinical psychologists Richard Hallam and Michael Bender, the book pulls together letters, diaries and scribbled observations by David (not his real name) about his life inside and outside institutions as well as the harsh treatment he sometimes received. The papers were given to Hallam and Bender by David’s brother who, the book says, hoped “lessons could be learnt from them”.

The Guardian also has an article on workplace discrimination:

One in five people who admit to their employer that they have a mental health problem has been fired or pushed out of their job, according to recent research from mental health charity Mind. Almost 80% of workplaces have no formal mental health policy, says the Shaw Trust, a disability charity.

Yet, a quarter of all people will experience mental ill health each year, and one out of six in the workplace is experiencing the problem at any one time, be it depression, anxiety or conditions such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

“All employees are constantly moving up and down the mental health spectrum,” says Emma Mamo, Mind’s policy and campaigns manager. “We launched our Taking Care of Business campaign last year to talk about the elephant in the room – mental health. The impetus must be put on employers to create mentally healthy workplaces where people can speak out if they are having a problem.”

Across the pond, The Huffington Post has an article on Capgras Syndrome:

As a psychiatrist I treat many bizarre conditions, but this case was one of the strangest. The movie “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” in which people correctly accuse their loved ones of being impostors, illustrates Capgras’ syndrome. In the movie, the townspeople’s loved ones were actually replaced by extraterrestrials who want to destroy humanity. In Capgras’ syndrome, people falsely believe their loved ones are replaced by duplicates.

Ever true to form, the Daily Fail has been blaming mental illness on doughnuts:


As much as they might cheer us up at the time, comfort foods such as doughnuts can be bad for the waistline and for mental well-being.

‘We tend to crave sugary and fatty foods for a quick mood fix, but the sugar crash that follows could make you feel worse,’ explains Helen Bond, of the British Dietetic Association.

‘Our mood is determined by a steady supply of energy from blood glucose to the brains.’

Information is carried between the cells by chemicals such as dopamine. Rising levels of dopamine can boost mood; falling levels are linked to sadness.

While it’s best to eat foods that release their energy slowly, such as wholegrain bread, ‘if you fancy something sweet, chocolate might do the job,’ adds Helen Bond.

‘A neurotransmitter called phenylethylamine is thought to be released from eating it, leading to feelings of alertness. Choose chocolate with more than 85 per cent cocoa to avoid the sugar crash.’

Mind has posted a rebuttal:

Depression is a much more complex condition than the article implies.  While some of the possible causes suggested by the article may be factors in triggering or worsening depression we don’t know why some people are likey to experience depression and not others. Simplifying and focusing on a small selection of possibilities is unhelpful.

Depression is different to feeling temporarily feeling ‘low’, or sad and miserable about life.  While eating sugary foods such as doughnuts can lead to a ‘sugar crash’ that will lower someone’s mood after the initial energy boost, this will not lead to developing depression. Changes in mood are natural.

Eating sugary products, drinking caffeine or alcohol, smoking and other factors can affect mood but most people do not get depressed because of them. The Mail’s article takes a seemingly random selection of possible causes and equates them all, regardless of how common they are or how much effect they are likely to have.

And with that, I think this round-up is already late enough.

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About sanabituranima

I have sharp edges, but a soft centre. Catholic, female, white, middle-class, mildly socially conservative and economically lefty, nerdy, Classics student, 23, differently-brained.

One Response to “This News In Mentalists – Oops I’m Late Edition”

  1. Thanks for this, san – great round-up! I’m always thrilled when Capgras comes up – when I was young I had what I might now consider a mild version of it, and it’s quite fascinating intellectually speaking. Anyhow, very interesting links tonight – thank you!


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