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Elemental
Your life, sourced by science. A publication from Medium about health and wellness.

Depression

In Elemental. More on Medium.

So-called mood food has a moral dilemma

Assortment of green veg, a kiwi, water bottle, apple and banana on a green background
Assortment of green veg, a kiwi, water bottle, apple and banana on a green background
Photo: Vitalii Pavlyshynets/Unsplash

They started turning up in late summer 2020, in the midst of a global pandemic, and they haven’t gone away: article upon article about “mood food.” The basic claim goes like this: Your stressful feelings and moods are the result of your eating habits, and you can fix them yourself.

“Food is Mood,” say Kim A. Gorgens, PhD, ABPP, and Mia Baumgartner for the Rheumatology Network. Over at Delish, recipes are on offer for “Mood Boosting Food to Put a Spring In Your Step.” …


Age Wise

More than a quarter of America suffers, but millions don’t (or can’t) get help

Photo: Ranadeep Bania/Unsplash

This is the last in a four-part series on preventing depression, a serious and growing mental disorder that can strike at any age and, if untreated, persist and worsen.

Mental health stigmas, antiquated beliefs that psychotherapies are hokum, and social and financial barriers to treatment combine to keep millions of Americans young and old from getting much-needed help with depression, a common and increasingly pervasive mental health disorder that can affect anyone at any age.

“Only about half of all people who need treatment actually get it,” says Tracy Gladstone, PhD, a senior research scientist at the Wellesley Centers for…


Prescriptions are rising, but often the drugs don’t work, and other effective treatments are dismissed

Photo: Julia Zolotova/Unsplash

This is the third in a four-part series on preventing depression, a serious and growing mental disorder that can strike at any age and, if untreated, persist and worsen.

Antidepressant drugs can be an effective treatment for many people diagnosed with depression, particularly in the most severe cases. But these medications, which can have troubling side effects, are far from the only option, and for many people they simply don’t work. …


Age Wise

Several strategies can help prevent a downward spiral — they all start with reaching out

Photo: Leon Liu/Unsplash

This is the second in a four-part series on preventing depression, a serious and growing mental disorder that can strike at any age and, if untreated, persist and worsen.

Rainy days often get me down. Even a little overcast can put me into a funk. Sometimes I just get moody for no good reason. That’s all normal. But when feelings of sadness persist day after day, any of us — me, you, a family member, or a friend — runs the risk of plunging into debilitating depression. There is no immunity. There are, however, effective prevention strategies.

“There is ample…


Age Wise

Self-care strategies to use before depression gets the best of you

Photo: Sasha Freemind/Unsplash

This is the first in a four-part series on preventing depression, a serious and growing mental disorder that can strike at any age and, if untreated, persist and worsen.

Naomi Osaka’s withdrawal from the French Open — precipitated by “huge waves of anxiety” the 23-year-old feels over obligatory press events and the “long bouts of depression” she says she has dealt with since 2018 — highlights the reality of the shadowy world of depression, an increasingly common condition that can sneak up on any of us, at any age, for reasons obvious or mysterious.

Osaka’s decision to “exercise self-care,” as…


New research shows the ‘tapping’ technique reduces anxiety, depression, and PTSD

Photo: Luis Quintero/Unsplash

For years people thought the practice of “tapping,” aka Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), was, well, crazy, to put it kindly. But after 100+ clinical trials have shown its efficacy, even the hard-won U.S. Veterans Administration (VA) got hip to the idea.

EFT/Tapping is a brief intervention that combines elements of somatic stimulation, exposure, and cognitive therapy — and you use your own fingertips to do it. In short, it involves quick, repeated light-touch on specific acupressure points — or energy “hot spots” — to restore balance to the body’s system. …


Author P.E. Moskowitz on March 11, 2021, in Brooklyn, New York. Photos by Yael Malka for Elemental

Why ketamine is just right for these dissociative times

For legal reasons, I’ll just say the last time I did ketamine was not that long ago, at a house, with two friends, as we played gin rummy and chatted (about what, I do not remember). We each insufflated little bumps off my house key. Soon, the gin rummy stopped. …


An evolutionary explanation of mental illness

Credit: Image by cuppyuppycake / Getty Images

This is a modified excerpt from Inside Your Head 🧠, a weekly newsletter exploring why your brain makes you think, feel, and act the way you do, written by me, Elemental’s senior writer and a former brain scientist. Subscribe here so you won’t miss the next one.

I’m fascinated by the field of evolutionary psychology, which you can think of as the eventual landing site of virtually every line of questioning about human behavior that starts with “why.”

Why do we give gifts for holidays and birthdays? Because we’re a social species that is hardwired to express altruism in order…


Some experts view ketamine as a tool to unravel the biological causes of depression and, perhaps someday, cure it

Illustration: Simone Noronha

If you or someone you know need help, consider calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1–800–273-TALK (8255) for English, 1–888–628–9454 for Spanish.

“Some people say ketamine makes them feel like a marshmallow.”

That’s how the ketamine clinic’s therapist explained it to me through my computer screen during our initial meeting. I’d already asked several people what ketamine would feel like, and each time I got a slightly different answer. But the overall consensus was that I’d feel floaty, that I might see things, and that I might feel relaxed or unnerved. My greatest fear was having a panic attack…


Researchers suggest anything over two hours per day may be too much

Photo: Warren Wong/Unsplash

It’s a classic chicken-or-egg conundrum.

Research has linked heavy social media use with an elevated risk for depression. But experts have disagreed — and occasionally called one another out — over whether a heavy social media habit contributes to depression or if people who are depressed simply gravitate toward heavy social media use.

The findings of a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine will provide ammo for the “social media is harmful” camp.

The study team recruited more than 1,300 people between the ages of 18 and 30 and screened them for depression. The researchers also collected…

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