Anxiety, Depression and Resilience

Posted on Wed, May 28, 2008 @ 03:05 PM
Is there a family relationship?

If we bring up depression fairly regularly on this blog, it's only because it is a pervasive problem that can occur even in the most average of families. Further, depression both affects and can be affected by relationships.

Discussions about this subject often approach it from the back end. How can depression be treated once it has been diagnosed?

Obviously this important question can't be ignored. Depression is a global problem that can have lasting consequences within families, and causes are often nuanced and multi-layered. Researchers are learning that biological, social and psychological factors often interact, not only to produce depression but also to ameliorate it. In fact, the most successful treatments for severe forms of depression often include a combination of psychotherapy and pharmacology: treatment of the biological factors along with sociopsychological factors.

But as the adage says, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Considering the fact that the average age for onset of childhood depression is significantly lower today than it was 50 years ago, it makes sense that researchers are actively working to come up with that precious ounce. If families could somehow learn how to prevent stressors from triggering depression, what would that mean for future generations?

Soleaving aside bipolar disorder, which is currently considered treatable but incurablewhat are the emotional or psychological states that most often lead to the more common forms of depression? 

Severe and persistent stress, anxiety and grief are three major transit systems that can potentially speed individuals and families down that road. Anxiety disorders in particular are known to co-exist with depression in as many as 58 percent of cases. But researchers believe there are actions families can take to increase resilience under these circumstances, and to prevent depression from taking hold.

Resilience, in psychological terms, describes the capacity for humans to withstand the stressors that can otherwise lead to depression. We will have more to say about family resilience studies in future posts, but in the meantime a wealth of information on the topic can be found on the Web site for the American Psychological Association (APA).

Tags: resilience, depression, childhood anxiety

Incense: The New Anti-Depressant?

Posted on Fri, May 23, 2008 @ 03:07 PM
New study suggests a component of incense may ameliorate anxiety and depression
Frankincense Tears

From ancient times frankincense has been highly valued for what was believed to be its distinctive calming properties. Essentially a resin tapped from trees of the Boswellia species, frankincense bleeds from cuts in the bark and dries in the form of small pellets called "tears."

Ironically, scientists now have reason to believe that the tears of Boswellia may be a balm for the tears of humans.

In a May 20 article published by The FASEB Journal, researchers reported their finding that the major component of frankincense (incensole acetate) could represent a new family of antidepressive and anti-anxiety drugs originating from an ancient remedy that has been hiding "right under their noses" all along.

"In spite of information stemming from ancient texts, constituents of Boswellia had not been investigated for psychoactivity," said one of the study's co-authors, Raphael Mechoulam of Hebrew University. "We found that incensole acetate, when tested in mice lowers anxiety and causes anti-depressive-like behavior."

Anxiety and depression frequently co-exist and are among the most common forms of psychiatric disorders. Both are risk factors for a variety of other diseases as well, and are often clinically treated with drugs. Unfortunately, many currently available treatments carry adverse side effects, so scientists are eager to find new psychoactive substances that might be preferable substitutes.

According to the FASEB report, incensole acetate (IA) showed a significant behavioral effect on each of the different strains of mice in the study and promoted changes in neuronal activity in the areas of the brain involved in anxiety and depression. Instead of binding to the usual related receptors, however, the researchers found IA was a potent activator of a specific ion channel previously unknown to be involved in emotional and behavioral processes.

The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) is comprised of 21 nonprofit organizations and the federation's journal is ranked among the world's top biology publications. Scientists from several universities and medical centers in the United States and Israel participated in the incense study, which concluded that IA may be able to provide new natural sources of therapeutic agents for the treatment of anxiety and depression.

Tags: depression, anti-depressants, anxiety