Smoking alleviates psychiatric symptoms

Smoking cigarettes seems to have a positive effect on some of the cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia

Smoking alleviates psychiatric symptomsSome of you might be wondering exactly what smoking has to do with psychiatric illness or mental health at all. You’re not alone; this topic has not been widely discussed or considered in psychiatric circles until fairly recently. However, as new research emerges it becomes clear that the two subjects are more linked than we…

Coping with borderline personality disorder

For the two per cent of Canadians with this disorder, life is chaotic – often moving from one crisis to the next

Coping with borderline personality disorderAngry outbursts, unstable relationships and mood swings could describe symptoms of several psychiatric conditions. Bipolar disorder, discussed in last week’s column, is just one of them. Another particularly troublesome condition often associated with these traits is borderline personality disorder (BPD). For the two per cent of Canadians with this disorder, life is chaotic – often…

Are you suffering mood swings or bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder affects between one and two per cent of the adult population

Are you suffering mood swings or bipolar disorder?Many of us have a friend or family member we wonder about because they seem to shift unpredictably from one mood to another. We are often worried or in awe of them because they can be on a high one day and despondent the next. While it certainly isn’t always the case, people like this…

The power of the placebo effect

A patient sometimes perceives a positive result, even from a fake drug

The power of the placebo effectMedical knowledge and treatments have advanced more quickly in the last 50 years than ever before, but the powerful effects of placebo treatments are still reported and are not fully understood. Simply put, a placebo is a medicine or medical treatment that has no active pharmacological ingredient. The term often refers to the inactive treatments…

Child abuse linked to depression, anxiety in later life

Childhood abuse or neglect can permanently alter an individual’s physiology

Child abuse linked to depression, anxiety in later lifeIn a previous column, I pointed out that nature and nurture should not be regarded as enemies or polar opposites. Rather, they are two intertwined realities that work together to make up the human experience. Nature was designed for nurture. Many studies in recent years have documented the effects that early childhood experience can have…

Diabetes may double risk of developing depression

Two of the primary risk factors for the disease are obesity and lack of exercise

Diabetes may double risk of developing depressionDiabetes is one of the leading health problems affecting North America today and is rapidly on the rise. It is also well known that this disease can cause serious health complications such as vision loss and amputation as well as life-threatening problems like stroke, heart disease and kidney failure. Indeed, diabetes, which affects the body’s…

Genetics strongly influence our predisposition to mental illness

It is becoming increasingly clear that our genes influence everything from our personality traits to specific psychiatric disorders

Genetics strongly influence our predisposition to mental illnessNature has been pitted against nurture for centuries. People have always pondered the question of whether human behaviour is primarily dictated by genetic hard-wiring or by our experiences and environmental factors. The debate has lasted so long because we know comparatively little about the functioning of the human brain. As a result, disorders of the…

Clinical trials important to ensure patient safety

All new treatments used in Canada and the U.S. must go through a rigorous clinical trial process before approval

Clinical trials important to ensure patient safetyIn this age of fast advancing technology and almost-daily medical discoveries, researching new treatments with clinical trials is of critical importance in assuring their safety and effectiveness. It is important to learn how well new treatments work and also to compare them with established techniques and medications to learn where there are advantages and disadvantages…

How to spot the narcissists among us

Narcissists have an exaggerated sense of self-importance, and a preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty

How to spot the narcissists among us  Is narcissism actually a disorder or is it just a description of someone who happens to be more self-absorbed than most? We all know people who seem to focus almost solely on themselves with little interest in the feelings or contributions of others. But where does selfishness end and narcissistic personality disorder begin? Narcissistic…

The high cost of pathological gambling

Are the profits from government sponsored gambling worth the cost in human lives, broken relationships and misery?

The high cost of pathological gamblingSince the early 1990s permanent casinos have been springing up in communities all across Canada. Our government has relaxed its views on gambling and made it much more accessible to adults everywhere. In more recent years this has expanded to include government-run online gambling portals as well. With this increase in availability has come an…

De-institutionalization of mental illness a costly mistake

Governments reneged on their promise to implement new, community-based treatment programs for the mentally ill

De-institutionalization of mental illness a costly mistakeIt used to be that individuals with serious mental illnesses were sent to live in institutions for extended periods and often their entire lives. Since there were few effective treatments, most patients would be sedated or physically restrained to control disordered behaviour. This environment was the norm for mental health patients who were completely separated…

The stigma of mental illness

If you think you suffer from a mental illness, resist succumbing to stigma and ask your doctor about getting treatment

The stigma of mental illnessGetting treatment for a mental illness is often a lot more difficult than simply calling up your doctor and making an appointment. For many people it involves a painful process of accepting that they have a problem and being willing to expose themselves. Many people who come to be treated for the first time say…

Tips to unravelling the complicated language of disability insurance

Whether you are covered or not is really not up to your doctor

Tips to unravelling the complicated language of disability insuranceA lot of people come to me hoping I can help them in their attempt to leave an unsatisfying work situation and receive disability insurance because of the stress or depression their job is causing. Unfortunately, disability insurance is not as straight forward as is sometimes thought and is intended only for fairly specific reasons…

Brain stimulation used to treat depression, but without the side effects

New treatments show promise and further our understanding of the disease – without the nasty baggage of side effects

Brain stimulation used to treat depression, but without the side effectsIt's no secret that depression is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide. But medical science is making headway in treating this serious, chronic condition. Several effective treatments are available but they don’t work for everyone all the time. And the medications can cause troubling side effects. As well, many people remain chronically depressed in spite of…

The right psychiatric care depends on proper diagnosis

Identifying the disorder and acting appropriately can be difficult when symptoms overlap

The right psychiatric care depends on proper diagnosisWhen psychiatric symptoms overlap, making the right diagnosis and determining the best course of care can be difficult. But careful observation of the patient over time can help bring clarity to medical professionals. In medicine, many names for different conditions sound very similar and this can be confusing. One of the more confusing and even…
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