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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…

The false hope that the negative events of this year will get better in 2021 is an example of what psychologists call ‘magical thinking’

Illustration: Olivia Fields

Fuck 2020. We’ve all thought it or said it aloud at least once or 100 times this year. Between the Covid-19 pandemic, the disastrous global effects of climate change, a swell of deep-seated racial injustice, and ongoing political tumult, this year has been marred by an endless barrage of negative news.

It’s difficult to absorb so much in such a short period of time. …

A psychiatrist notes the life moments that hurt most

Photo: Chayanuphol Poona / EyeEm / Getty Images

In my out-patient psychiatric practice, I recently treated a young man who had, among other problems, severe acne. He told me that his dermatologist had begun a new treatment. My patient asked the doctor how long before there might be results. The dermatologist replied, “It depends on your emotional state.” Something inside the young man leapt with excitement to hear this, as he thought he might finally have the chance to talk about his chronic anxiety. But the dermatologist simply concluded the appointment and told him to return in a month.

This patient did well in treatment with me. In…

Medical comorbidities include mental health disorders

Photo: Fernando @cferdo/Unsplash

As of today, there have been 40 million cases of and 1 million deaths from Covid-19 worldwide. The combination of a growing aging population, a highly contagious virus, international travel, indoor crowding, socioeconomic inequities, and increasing prevalence of comorbidities like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease has proved to be deadly.

A less obvious comorbidity

Comorbidities are medical conditions that co-occur. They are often chronic (or long term) and associated with unfavorable health outcomes. For instance, people with obesity and/or diabetes are at higher risk of greater Covid-19 severity than otherwise disease-free people. …

These times are unprecedented, and so is this mental health crisis

Photo: Bundit Binsuk/EyeEm/Getty Images

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.

Covid-19 cases aren’t the only stats that have climbed since March. As the pandemic has progressed, so have rates of depression — and it’s not just a tiny jump. A new study estimates that depression rates have likely tripled due to the pandemic. Tripled.

The study, conducted by Boston University School of Public Health and published in JAMA Network Open, found that 27.8% of people were experiencing depression symptoms mid-pandemic, versus 8.5% before the pandemic. …

Survivors carry guilt, anxiety, and shame

Photo: triocean/Getty Images

In early July, Dr. Inbar Cohen was diagnosed with Covid-19 in a small city in the southern part of Israel. Her first thought was her patients. Dr. Cohen, a psychologist working in a private clinic, met with dozens of patients in the days before her test. All appointments were held according to regulations, meaning strict social distancing and wearing masks at all times. She was, at that time, pre-symptomatic. Her symptoms appeared days after she was tested. To keep confidentiality, Dr. Cohen didn’t give the Health Ministry the names of her patients. …

A supervising psychiatrist examines a problematic trend

Photo: Fernando/Unsplash

Casual references to bipolar disorder are tossed around these days with alarming frequency.

We’ve all heard someone say “that’s my OCD” when double checking plans or details, or perhaps “he’s schizophrenic about that” to describe an ambivalent person. And of course “they’re so ADD” as a disdainful commentary of anyone showing lack of attention. Now we’ve added “she’s so bipolar” to the list of casual accusations, meaning someone’s moods change rapidly — without apparent reason.

As a psychiatrist, I am sensitive to each of these incorrect usages and consider them offensive — as they grossly minimize the struggles of actual…

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