Tag Archives: Dr. Larry F. Waldman

Better Living Through Chemistry? (Dr. Larry F. Waldman)

Our children are watching us, always. With little effort or fanfare, they typically adopt our characteristics, mannerisms, behaviors and beliefs. This can be a good thing, or, as psychologist Dr. Larry Waldman cautions, it can be a path to trouble. A collective desire to always “feel good” seriously can harm us and our most precious relationships. We present, “Better Living Through Chemistry?” –JDS

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Better Living Through Chemistry?, Dr. Larry WaldmanAll living things, human and animal, strive for homeostasis, the ability to keep things in balance. For instance, when they are hungry, they eat; when thirsty, they drink; when sleepy, they nap. Humans, though, take this one step further. Not only do we want our biological processes balanced, we want to feel good. (We feel good when the pleasure center in our brain is stimulated.) Things like alcohol, drugs, fatty and greasy foods, jewelry, fancy cars, expensive clothes, sex and intense video gaming have little to do with balance but everything to do with seeking pleasure. It’s a feeling good movement of epidemic proportion.

To a very large degree, our health care system operates in similar fashion. If the patient doesn’t feel well, a pill is prescribed with the hope they will feel better in the morning.

Dangerous lifestyles

Unquestionably, the number one killer of adults in the United States is lifestyle: bad diet, overeating, lack of exercise, drinking and drugging, and smoking. All these habits are aimed at, that’s right, “feeling good.” Approximately 50% of US adults today are overweight, and, accordingly, there is an epidemic of diabetes and hypertension. How much will the next generation of adult men weigh when most of them spent their entire adolescence seated staring at a video screen? Interestingly, the recreational use of marijuana for purposes of inducing pleasure, has been legalized in several states; it stimulates binge eating.

The response to this situation has been bariatric procedures and, yes, more pills. I distinctly remember a fertilizer/chemical company in the 60s named Monsanto. Their business motto was, “Better Living Through Chemistry.”

We had no idea how true that would become.

The Primary Treatment

The primary treatment today for depression and anxiety, the two most common mental health issues, is, again, medication. Antidepressants certainly have a role in the treatment of these major maladies, but pills should not be the only intervention, but that’s often the case. Changing behavior and thoughts have been shown to be quite helpful in managing depression and anxiety, but they rarely are used.

Recently a friend of mine noted he was depressed and his doctor (a general practitioner) had prescribed him Zoloft, a common antidepressant, several weeks ago. He was not yet feeling well.

I asked him, “What is the number one thing you would like to have happen that would might make you feel better?” He answered he would like to be in a relationship. When I next asked him, “What have you done to find a relationship?” he admitted he had done nothing. (I was unaware that Zoloft can bring you a girlfriend.)

Who's Raising Whom, Dr. Larry WaldmanWe discussed ways to increase his odds of finding a partner. A few weeks later, he reported he was feeling better. He had met a woman and they were about to have their third date.

Was it the Zoloft or the behavior? I don’t know for a fact, but my vote is for the changed behavior.

As a long-term behavioral psychologist, I am fond of the statement, “It is easier to behave your way into a new feeling than to feel your way into a new behavior.” I submit lots of people today are taking pills and/or drugs simply hoping to feel better.

A Better Way

Suggestion: The next time you wish to feel better, don’t pop a pill, down a beer, or smoke a joint. Instead, tell your significant other you love them; read a story, take a walk, have a bike ride with your child; stroke your pet; call your parent and tell them you were thinking of them; go to the gym; write a letter of gratitude to someone who has been kind or helpful to you; meditate; do a yoga practice; do some rhythmic breathing. All of these examples, and there are many more, are healthy, natural behaviors that can effectively change our feeling state.

“Better Living Through Chemistry” has led us down a dark and dangerous path. It is time to take a new direction.###

 

Larry F. Waldman, Ph.D., ABPP is a licensed psychologist who has practiced in the Paradise Valley area of Phoenix for 38 years. He has worked with children, adolescents, parents, adults, and couples. He also provides forensic consultations. He speaks professionally to laypersons, educators, corporations, and fellow mental health professionals. He teaches graduate courses for Northern Arizona University. He is the author of five books (currently) involving parenting, marriage, personal wellness, and private practice. His contact information is: 602-418-8161; LarryWaldmanPhD@cox.net; TopPhoenixPsychologist.com.

 

Has “Depression” Lost Its Meaning? (Dr. Larry F. Waldman)

Special Report, Has "Depression" Lost Its Meaning?Dr. Waldman addresses a significant issue regarding how the word “depression” is often used; his insights and explanations here are absolutely on-target. It is important to note that children generally manifest depression differently than adults. (As one of my college professors once lectured, “Depressed adults VEGETATE; depressed children AGITATE.”) A depressed child is often seen as a behavior problem. Too often, while the behavior is being addressed, intervention for depression is either delayed or not addressed at all. So, whether we’re considering depression as it affects youngsters or adults, it’s a topic needing a LOT more understanding. With our thanks to Dr. Waldman, we present, “Has ‘Depression’ Lost Its Meaning?”  –JDS

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Dr. Larry F. Waldman, Has "Depression" Lost Its Meaning?Recently, I overheard an adolescent tell her friend, “I was so depressed yesterday but I’m fine today.” Her friend replied, “Yeah, I understand; I get depressed sometimes, too.”

This conversation reflects the very common misuse of the term “depression.” Most individuals mistakenly refer to depression when, in fact, they are simply sad or unhappy. We all occasionally “get down,” get “bummed out,” or have “the blues,” but these feelings usually last a few hours or a day or two, and the individual can manage their life—eat, sleep, work, socialize, etc.

True Depression is Serious

True depression, sometimes called clinical depression, is far more severe than a few hours or day or so “down in the dumps.” An average episode of clinical depression lasts approximately six to nine months; in some cases it can last a year or more. It is a deep, prevailing sense of sadness and darkness, often accompanied with the thought that, “I will never feel better.”

Truly depressed persons cannot carry on with their lives because they are unable to focus or concentrate, have no energy, cannot sleep or sleep excessively, cannot eat or overeat, and strictly avoid socialization. Depressed persons typically develop low self-esteem and anxiety. It is also common that physical symptoms accompany depression, like head- and/or backaches or GI distress. The term depression has clearly lost its meaning.

Depression at times is brought on by some negative environmental event but just as frequently depression begins with no apparent cause. Individuals with family members whom have struggled with depression, and thus may be genetically predisposed, are more susceptible to this kind of depression with no obvious precipitant. (Psychiatrists refer to this as “endogenous” depression.)

Depression is Dangerous

Depression is dangerous: People with clinical depression lose their ambition, confidence, and their jobs–even their careers. They have great difficulty fulfilling their role as parent and/or spouse and thus those relationships become tenuous. Depressed people may abuse drugs and/or alcohol in an attempt to ameliorate their symptoms. Finally, the prospect of suicide becomes more likely as the depressed patient becomes convinced they are defective and “will never feel normal again.”

Dr. Larry Waldman, Who's Raising Whom?To suggest that one can be depressed yesterday but be fine today, like the two teens referenced above, is ludicrous. This failure to appreciate the true gravity of the word depression is significant, also. Persons with clinical depression don’t get the family or social support they deserve because others think we all “get down” now and then.

Employers will be most considerate if an employee breaks their ankle but will provide relatively little understanding to the employee who requests time off for depression. Until recently, insurance companies covered physical problems much better than mental ones.

Finally, the depressed person may not fully understand their condition, feeling shame and refusing help.

Treatment of Depression

Treatment of depression requires a multi-faceted approach: consider medication; receive psychotherapy; eat right; sleep right; exercise; and socialize. Lying in bed in a dark room, waiting to feel better, will only prolong the depressive episode.

It is important that we cease misusing the word depression and recognize the serious medical/psychological condition it is. ###

 

Speakers Group MemberLarry F. Waldman, Ph.D., ABPP is a licensed psychologist who has practiced in the Paradise Valley area of Phoenix for 38 years. He has worked with children, adolescents, parents, adults, and couples. He also provides forensic consultations. He speaks professionally to laypersons, educators, corporations, and fellow mental health professionals. He teaches graduate courses for Northern Arizona University. He is the author of five books (currently) involving parenting, marriage, personal wellness, and private practice. His contact information is: 602-418-8161; LarryWaldmanPhD@cox.net; TopPhoenixPsychologist.com.