Cognitive Behavioral Strategies

Lynne S. Gots, Ph.D.
Licensed Psychologist

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202-331-1566

2440 M Street, NW
Suite 710
Washington, DC 20037

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Social Media Use Linked to Depression

By Lynne Gots, posted on May 22nd, 2016.

Stuck inside the last couple of days due to the relentless rain and an enforced period of recovery from extensive oral surgery, I’ve whiled away the time on my iPad. I’m finally tired of solving on-line crossword puzzles, researching recipes for soup, binge-watching entire Netflix series, and looking on Facebook at the amazing trips my friends have been taking. Lying around  isn’t my strong suit, and it’s got me feeling a little down (plus, the dreary weather doesn’t help—how can anyone live cheerfully in Seattle?).

So I searched online for ideas I could use in a blog post, and I came upon a recently published study—certainly not the first, but perhaps the largest and most comprehensive—linking social-media use to depression in young adults. The University of Pittsburgh researchers found a correlation between the amount of time spent on a broad range of social media outlets and depression. Among the 1,787 US subjects ages 19 through 32 sampled, participants who checked social media most frequently throughout the week and those who spent the most total time on social media throughout the day had 2.7 times and 1.7 times the rate of depression, respectively.

My first thought, as any well-trained student of research methodology would wonder, was “Is the depression a cause or consequence of social media use?”

The researchers addressed this question. They speculated that “people who already are depressed” may be “turning to social media to fill a void.” But they also pointed out that exposure to social media might cause depression by contributing to envy towards others who appear to be happier and more successful. It also could increase the risk of so-called “Internet addiction” and cypher-bullying, both of which have been linked to depression. And there could be an interactive effect, with people prone to depression withdrawing and spending more time on social media and then feeling more depressed as a result.

One more possibility particularly hit home for me. Engaging in essentially meaningless activities on social media (and on the Internet, in general) can negatively affect mood by creating a sense of “time wasted.”

Four days of doing nothing have made me feel like a sloth. I’d hoped–unrealistically, l now realize–to clean out closets, plant my garden, and read two professional books I haven’t had time to crack open. Alas, the weather and my physical condition haven’t cooperated.

So I’m writing a blog post. Makes me feel less sluggish and a tad more productive. And tomorrow, if it ever stops raining, I think I’ll feel up to making a trip to the garden center. Anything to get me away from my electronic devices.

 

 

 

 

 




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Posted in Depression |

News You Can Use: Small Actions Can Boost Your Mood

By Lynne Gots, posted on January 10th, 2015.

If winter is getting you down, consider putting a spring in your step—literally—to feel more energetic and happier.

It’s not hard to recognize people who are sad or depressed from the way they carry themselves: slumped shoulders, lowered gaze, downturned mouth, and shuffling gait. Happy people, in contrast, stand up straighter, make eye contact, smile, swing their arms, and bounce along at a brisk pace.

Short days and post-holiday doldrums can take their emotional toll; temperatures in the single digits may worsen the seasonal blues by limiting our exposure to sunlight and causing us, when we do brave the elements and venture outside, to bow our heads, hunker down against the cold, and pull our arms in tightly against our chests.

Posture, it turns out, can affect mood. The results of some recent research point to a connection between how we walk and how we feel.

In one study, undergraduates (who, due to their ready availability and incentives to participate, are the most commonly tested subjects in psychology experiments) were told to attempt to move a gauge as they walked on a treadmill. For one group, the gauge moved when they bounced along at a fast, “happy” clip; for the other, the gauge responded to a slowed, “depressed” pace.”

After being given a list of 40 words—half negative, such as “ugly” and half positive, such as “happy”—the subjects in the depressed group recalled more of the negative words. Another study by the same research team, which used people actually suffering from depression rather than randomly selected undergraduates, produced similar results when half the participants were told to slump. Subjects instructed to sit upright recalled fewer negative words.

Although more research with larger samples (each of the above studies tested fewer than 40 subjects) would be required to draw any broad conclusions, the results make intuitive sense. They also lend support to the framework underlying cognitive-behavioral therapy: making even small changes in behavior can help alter moods.

If walking isn’t an option–say you’re sitting at your desk and feeling in a funk with a deadline looming–try smiling.  The act of putting on a happy face can activate neural pathways to boost serotonin and dopamine, two of the neurotransmitters targeted by most antidepressant medications.

To be clear, none of these microphysical adjustments will cure a serious case of depression. If you suffer from more severe, intractable mood problems, please seek professional intervention. But for the garden variety blahs so common this time of year, why not try walking happy? It just might help.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




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Posted in Cognitive-behavior Therapy, Depression, Techniques |

Robin Williams Reminds Us Depression is No Laughing Matter

By Lynne Gots, posted on August 13th, 2014.

The suicide of comedian Robin Williams this week has left us reeling. Whenever someone so successful takes his own life, we’re reminded that mental illness doesn’t discriminate. Even celebrities aren’t immune to its ravages. In fact, being rich and famous may even heighten a sense of despair for someone who seems to have it all.

On TV, in the newspapers, and online, commentators, journalists, and the general public are speculating about what led to Williams’ final expression of hopelessness. Almost certainly, they are wrong. Even those of us in the mental health profession can’t always say what pushes a person over the edge. And we definitely can’t draw any conclusions about the inner torment of someone we know only from his public persona.

Even so, ignorance hasn’t stopped many from weighing in with their opinions, as a Facebook post I saw this morning highlighted. It said,”Pharmaceutical companies are evil.”

I don’t even know where to begin. Is the poster suggesting Williams was taking psychotropic meds, which led to his death? Is she alluding to the Black Box warnings on some antidepressants about the potential side-effect of increased suicidal ideation (usually among teens and young adults)? The only thing we know for sure is that whatever treatment Williams was receiving, it failed.

I doubt similar accusations would be lobbed at Big Pharma if someone with uncontrolled hypertension were to die of a heart attack.

Misconceptions about medications used to treat depression unfortunately keep many people who could benefit from psychopharmacology from taking full advantage of the range of options available to them. I don’t know if Robin Williams was on antidepressants. But he was in and out of therapeutic programs over the years, both for depression and for alcohol and drug abuse. He suffered from a mental illness, and it ultimately killed him.

Let’s stop all the commentary by self-proclaimed experts and simply mourn the loss of a beloved entertainer who brought happiness to millions but couldn’t find it for himself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




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Posted in Depression, General, Mental Health and the Media |

This blog is intended solely for the purpose of entertainment and education. All remarks are meant as general information and should not be taken as personal diagnostic or therapeutic advice. If you choose to comment on a post, please do not include any information that could identify you as a patient or potential patient. Also, please refrain from making any testimonials about me or my practice, as my professional code of ethics does not permit me to publish such statements. Comments that I deem inappropriate for this forum will not be published.

Contact Dr. Gots

202-331-1566

2440 M Street, NW
Suite 710
Washington, DC 20037

Email >

If you don't receive a response to an email from Dr. Gots in 48 hours, please call the office and leave a voicemail message.

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