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MUSC Health Blog

Keyword: depression

Today, experts from MUSC joined together for a Twitter chat focusing on holiday stress and tips to make it a happier, healthier holiday.

Dr. Joshua Brown, Director of Clinical Services, MUSC Weight Management Center (WMC), Dr. Constance Guille from the MUSC Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and MUSC nutritionist Tonya Turner offered advice to help you prepare for the weeks ahead and provided some great resources for you to use after the Twitter Chat. 

We hope you were able to participate in our inaugural Twitter chat November 18 at noon.  If so, here are the links we promised you.  If not, we hope you will join us next time.  Our hashtag will be #MUSCchat.  If you missed the chat and want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out these resources provided by our MUSC experts.

Be sure to follow:@MUSC_COM, @MUSCHealth, @MUSCPR and @MUSCPsychiatry to stay up-to-date on all the MUSC happenings.

This week, the country is mourning the loss of Robin Williams, a truly inspirational actor and comedian who in so many ways brought laughter and self-reflection into our lives. While most people will remember his extraordinary wit, I’ve always been impressed by the thoughtful, caring, and sobering side of his creative works.

Through his intelligent humor and improvisation, Mr. Williams was able to stimulate serious discussions about controversial social issues. Part of his creative genius was his ability to make each of us confronts our own personal biases and prejudices in a non-threatening manner.

For me, Mr. Williams often elicited “Why am I laughing” questions. His humor did not denigrate other people in a hurtful manner, as can sometimes be the case in comedy; but rather his work often challenged us to scrutinize our own beliefs, life struggles, and insecurities. Perhaps more effective than many psychotherapeutic modalities, Mr. Williams was able through his characterizations to promote self-exploration and encourage us to consider other possibilities without our even knowing that this was taking place. And, he accomplished this for so many of us for only the price of a movie ticket or a cable subscription, which is considerably less expensive than psychotherapy.

Mr. Williams’ death elicits sadness and anger. I get the sadness! But why does his death from depression elicit anger? Maybe because:

  • Our society fails to recognize that depression is a serious, disabling, potentially life- threatening medical illness;
  • There is a public perception that depression is a personal weakness, rather than the 8th leading medical cause of death in the United States;
  • Only a minority of people suffering from major depression, including those with a past history of suicide attempts, are able to obtain and/or receive evidence-informed treatments;
  • Insurance providers fail to abide by the true intent of the federally mandated Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, which, if appropriately enforced, would “really” provide improved access to mental health care;
  • Highly creative people have an increased prevalence of mood disorders (including, and perhaps, especially, Bipolar Disorder), and we as a society fail to provide appropriate mental health care;
  • There remains, even among health care providers, a stigmatization about mental illness as well as mental health providers themselves, which leads to a failure in seeking and providing satisfactory mental health care; and
  • There has been a decrease in research funding to study and to develop more effective treatments of medical mental illnesses.

In Robin Williams, we have lost a creative genius who was killed by a medical disorder, depression. If he had remained with us, he perhaps one day would again (Good Will Hunting) have been able to employ his creativity, humor, and intelligent wit to uncover and reduce our society’s widespread harmful and largely oblivious prejudice against those suffering from major depression, addictions, and other mental illnesses.

Thomas W. Uhde, M.D.
Professor and Chairman
Department of Psychiatry and Behavior Sciences
Medical University of South Carolina

Does cold weather get you down? For some people, the shorter days and long dark nights of winter can lead to certain symptoms like weight gain, daytime sleepiness, increased irritability or anxiety, and social withdraw from loved ones. If you or a loved one has experienced any of the above during certain winter months, it may be time to seek treatment for Seasonal Affective Depression (SAD).  Whether you may know this feeling as the “winter blues” or even “cabin fever,” SAD is a clinical diagnosis accepted in the medical community and can be treated.

Usually, onset occurs during adulthood. It is four times more likely to affect women than men. Symptoms may differ between individuals, but the following are the most common symptoms of SAD:

  • Increased sleep and daytime drowsiness
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue, or low energy level
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Diminished concentration
  • Difficulty thinking clearly
  • Increased appetite, especially for sweets and carbohydrates causing weight gain

These symptoms also may resemble other psychiatric conditions. Always see your health care provider for a diagnosis.

At MUSC, treatments may differ from patient to patient, but may include any of the following:

  • Light therapy
  • Antidepressant medications
  • Psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or interpersonal therapy

To schedule an appointment with your doctor to talk about SAD, call 843-792-1414.


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