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May 3rd, 2011
07:21 PM ET

How can I make my mom understand my bipolar disorder?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Tuesdays, it's Dr. Charles Raison, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University, and an expert in the mind-body connection for health.

Question asked by May from  California

I have bipolar disorder type 2. My mood is almost always influenced by the season and this winter I went through one of the worst depressive episodes I have ever experienced. When I mustered up the courage to tell my mom that I felt trapped and that I was desperate for help, she dismissed my symptoms as "something every teenager goes through" and that things will get better.

She keeps telling me that everyone is depressed once in a while and that's just how life is. I'm better now, but I'm constantly scared about the next depressive episode I'll have to go through. It's been about three years since my diagnosis, and I think my mom has been in denial ever since. I've tried my best to convince her that this isn't normal but she refuses to see the truth. Even when I attempted suicide about a year ago, she lectured me about how selfish I was being and refused to even consider hospitalization or medication.

How do you convince an unsympathetic parent that you need help?


The healing power of the doctor-patient bond
May 3rd, 2011
11:47 AM ET

The healing power of the doctor-patient bond

Dr. Charles Raison, CNNHealth's Mental Health expert and an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University, writes regularly on the mind-body connection for better health.

Hot-off-the-press studies that have exciting new treatment implications always cause a media stir, as well they should. But I find it equally exciting to discover older studies with huge treatment implications that were overlooked when they first came out, either because they went against the scientific grain of the time, or because no one stood to gain financially from their findings.

To complete the little triptych of hope that started with my blog on optimism and heart disease and continued with the power of placebo to enhance health, this week I want to talk about what a number of older, and little known, studies show is probably the most powerful tool in our arsenal against depression, which must certainly be the world’s No. 1  killer of people’s ability to access the types of hope that promote health and well-being. Any guesses as to what this tool might be?

Let’s go back in time almost 30 years, when psychiatry was still in the first heady flush of excitement over the power of antidepressants, and a hot topic of the day was how well the much older mode of treatment -  psychotherapy -  might stack up against medications.

FULL POST


April 27th, 2011
08:45 AM ET

Is electroconvulsive therapy safe?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Tuesdays, it's Dr. Charles Raison, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University, and an expert in the mind-body connection for health.

Question asked by Ky-Nisha of Florida:

Is electroconvulsive therapy safe to use on children?

FULL POST


April 19th, 2011
05:13 PM ET

Is my antidepressant use risky to my future kids?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Tuesdays, it's Dr. Charles Raison, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University, and an expert in the mind-body connection for health.

I am a 21-year-old female set to graduate from college in May. I have been taking antidepressants since roughly my senior year of high school, so approximately four or five years. I have been on Xanax, Cymbalta, Effexor, Paxil and Wellbutrin. I am currently taking only the Paxil and Wellbutrin together (in conjunction with birth control pills, which I have been on since my freshman year of college). I just read your answer about the effectiveness and safety of taking antidepressants long term, and my question is this: Since I am fairly young, and may be taking antidepressants for several years, how do I transition when I marry and decide to have children? I know that Paxil can result in serious birth defects, but it is working very well for me. What would I do instead?

Asked by a college student, New York FULL POST


April 5th, 2011
12:09 PM ET

How can I reveal painful things in therapy?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Tuesdays, it's Dr. Charles Raison, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University, and an expert in the mind-body connection for health.

Question asked by Thomas of Birmingham, Alabama

I have been seeing a therapist for several weeks, and I am having trouble disclosing several issues. These issues are extremely personal and embarrassing. Do you have any suggestions to help me talk about these extremely personal, painful things?

FULL POST


Mind-body: The surprising power of the placebo
April 4th, 2011
02:28 PM ET

Mind-body: The surprising power of the placebo

Dr. Charles Raison, CNNHealth's Mental Health expert and an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University, writes regularly on the mind-body connection for better health.

The Germans are happier than we are. The average German also enjoys better health and lives longer than the average American, all of which raise the possibility that their medical system is better than ours. One has to keep this in mind when evaluating a recent move by the German Medical Association that will sound insane—or worse—to many Americans. Based on study published in early March, this venerable body advised German doctors to prescribe more placebos to their patients.

If this doesn’t sound earth shattering to you, would it be more compelling if I said, “German doctors are being told to give their patients fake medications that do not contain any active ingredients.” And to make matters worse, they are being advised not to tell their patients that they are receiving a fake treatment (most placebos are made of sugar, flour or dust), only that they are receiving a “unique” remedy. The fact that the German Medical Association recommends placebo treatments only for conditions with a psychological, or subjective, component, such as chronic pain asthma, inflammatory diseases and depression, softens the blow a little (the group suggests avoiding placebos for things like broken bones), but only a little.

FULL POST


March 29th, 2011
06:51 PM ET

Could my memory loss really be depression?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Tuesdays, it's Dr. Charles Raison, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University, and an expert in the mind-body connection for health.

Asked by RN, Central Washington

I am having significant memory problems that my M.D. thinks are due to depression, but I wonder if such severe problems can be accounted for by depression. I have had dysthymia my whole life. I admit I have a lot of stress in my life and may even be more depressed than I have been in the past, but I have never had these problems before. Here are some examples of things I forget on a daily basis (multiple times a day, actually) : not knowing why I'm in the car driving, not able to remember longtime friends' names, my dog's name, can't remember the names of common objects, putting keys, laundry, etc. in the refrigerator. This is affecting my professional and personal life. Could this really be just depression?

FULL POST


March 22nd, 2011
04:15 PM ET

What meds work for depression caused by physical pain?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Tuesdays, it's Dr. Charles Raison, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University, and an expert in the mind-body connection for health.

Asked by Greg Urban, London, Ohio

I have a stainless steel shoulder joint that causes me constant chronic pain. I've also had a small stroke, prostate and skin cancer that required three surgeries and I have two stents in my heart. All of this caused me to have depression and anxiety attacks. One doctor had me on Cymbalta and Xanax, but they didn't help. A different doctor put me on Wellbutrin 150 mg. and Zoloft a month later. For the next six months I felt better than I had for about eight years, but now the depression and anxiety issues are coming back. I most likely need a change in my medication or an adjustment in dosage. What is your advice? I am a 65-year-old retired man who rarely leaves my house and has trouble sleeping.

FULL POST


How hope works with modern medicine
March 16th, 2011
05:51 PM ET

How hope works with modern medicine

Dr. Charles Raison, CNNHealth's Mental Health expert and an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University, writes regularly on the mind-body connection for better health.

My mom, whom I’ve mentioned before, is 82 and struggles to walk. But she goes to great lengths each week to attend a church in which she finds comfort, one that teaches that reality can be changed to reflect our desires if our hopeful expectations are strong enough. This idea has been popularized in a widely read book called “The Secret,”which espouses a “law of attraction” such that the universe must respond to the way you think. Thus, positive and negative thinking must always bring about positive and negative physical results in the real world.

My professional life is rooted in scientific endeavors, so you won’t be surprised to learn that I think that idea is wrong. What amazes me, though, is that it is so nearly right. Although the universe does not appear to be obligated to deliver 100% of our fondest hopes and dreams, it turns out that thinking positively really can lead to positive medical outcomes.

FULL POST


March 15th, 2011
02:22 PM ET

Are psychiatric advance directives worthwhile?

Question asked by Claire of Rhode Island:

Do you think it is worthwhile to have a psychiatric advance directive?

For several years I have experienced bouts of depression. I've worked with my primary care doctor; psychiatrist and psychotherapist to treat it with varying degrees of success. So far, I have not needed to be hospitalized. However, as much as I hate to think about it, that may happen. I've had a medical advance directive for years and decided to add a psychiatric advance directive to it. To my surprise, my primary care doctor, psychotherapist, or psychiatrist had never heard of a PAD. They are accepted in my state. The main reason I have one is to state in writing that I am willing to have electroconvulsive therapy - my family is horrified at the thought of it. My primary care doctor and psychotherapist do think it is a good idea to have one. What is your experience with PADs - do you think they are worthwhile?

FULL POST


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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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