depression

College students experiencing depression, anxiety, loneliness at peak levels

depression and anxiety in young people continues to increase, now reaching its highest levels, a sign of the mounting stress factors due to the coronavirus pandemic, political unrest, and systemic racism and inequality

A survey by a Boston University researcher of nearly 33,000 college students across the country reveals the prevalence of depression and anxiety in young people continues to increase, now reaching its highest levels, a sign of the mounting stress factors due to the coronavirus pandemic, political unrest, and systemic racism and inequality.

“Half of students screened positive for depression and/or anxiety,” says Sarah Ketchen Lipson, a Boston University mental health researcher and a co-principal investigator of the nationwide survey published on Februray 11, 2021, which was administered online during the fall 2020 semester through the Healthy Minds Network. The survey further reveals that 83 percent of students said their mental health had negatively impacted their academic performance within the past month, and that two-thirds of college students are struggling with loneliness and feeling isolated — an all-time high prevalence that reflects the toll of the pandemic and the social distancing necessary to control it.

Lipson, a BU School of Public Health assistant professor of health law, policy, and management, says the survey’s findings underscore the need for university teaching staff and faculty to put mechanisms in place that can accommodate students’ mental health needs.

“Faculty need to be flexible with deadlines and remind students that their talent is not solely demonstrated by their ability to get a top grade during one challenging semester,” Lipson says.

She adds that instructors can protect students’ mental health by having class assignments due at 5 pm, rather than midnight or 9 am, times that Lipson says can encourage students to go to bed later and lose valuable sleep to meet those deadlines.

Especially in smaller classroom settings, where a student’s absence may be more noticeable than in larger lectures, instructors who notice someone missing classes should reach out to that student directly to ask how they are doing.

“Even in larger classes, where 1:1 outreach is more difficult, instructors can send classwide emails reinforcing the idea that they care about their students not just as learners but as people, and circulating information about campus resources for mental health and wellness,” Lipson says.

And, crucially, she says, instructors must bear in mind that the burden of mental health is not the same across all student demographics. “Students of color and low-income students are more likely to be grieving the loss of a loved one due to COVID,” Lipson says. They are also “more likely to be facing financial stress.” All of these factors can negatively impact mental health and academic performance in “profound ways,” she says.

At a higher level within colleges and universities, Lipson says, administrators should focus on providing students with mental health services that emphasize prevention, coping, and resilience. The fall 2020 survey data revealed a significant “treatment gap,” meaning that many students who screen positive for depression or anxiety are not receiving mental health services.

“Often students will only seek help when they find themselves in a mental health crisis, requiring more urgent resources,” Lipson says. “But how can we create systems to foster wellness before they reach that point?” She has a suggestion: “All students should receive mental health education, ideally as part of the required curriculum.”

It’s also important to note, she says, that rising mental health challenges are not unique to the college setting — instead, the survey findings are consistent with a broader trend of declining mental health in adolescents and young adults. “I think mental health is getting worse [across the US population], and on top of that we are now gathering more data on these trends than ever before,” Lipson says. “We know mental health stigma is going down, and that’s one of the biggest reasons we are able to collect better data. People are being more open, having more dialogue about it, and we’re able to better identify that people are struggling.”

The worsening mental health of Americans, more broadly, Lipson says, could be due to a confluence of factors: the pandemic, the impact of social media, and shifting societal values that are becoming more extrinsically motivated (a successful career, making more money, getting more followers and likes), rather than intrinsically motivated (being a good member of the community).

The crushing weight of historic financial pressures is an added burden. “Student debt is so stressful,” Lipson says. “You’re more predisposed to experiencing anxiety the more debt you have. And research indicates that suicidality is directly connected to financial well-being.”

With more than 22 million young people enrolled in US colleges and universities, “and with the traditional college years of life coinciding with the age of onset for lifetime mental illnesses,” Lipson stresses that higher education is a crucial setting where prevention and treatment can make a difference.

One potential bright spot from the survey was that the stigma around mental health continues to fade. The results reveal that 94 percent of students say that they wouldn’t judge someone for seeking out help for mental health, which Lipson says is an indicator that also correlates with those students being likely to seek out help themselves during a personal crisis (although, paradoxically, almost half of students say they perceive that others may think more poorly of them if they did seek help).

“We’re harsher on ourselves and more critical of ourselves than we are with other people — we call that perceived versus personal stigma,” Lipson says. “Students need to realize, your peers are not judging you.”

Read this article on ScienceDaily:Boston University. “Depression, anxiety, loneliness are peaking in college students.” www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/02/210219190939.htm


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Poor management practices leave employees at increased risk of depression

Poor management practices leave employees at increased risk of depression

A year-long study has found that full time workers employed by organizations that fail to priorities their employees’ mental health have a threefold increased risk of being diagnosed with depression. And while working long hours is a risk factor for dying from cardiovascular disease or having a stroke, poor management practices pose a greater risk for depression, the researchers found.

Lead author, Dr Amy Zadow, says that poor workplace mental health can be traced back to poor management practices, priorities and values, which then flows through to high job demands and low resources. “Evidence shows that companies who fail to reward or acknowledge their employees for hard work, impose unreasonable demands on workers, and do not give them autonomy, are placing their staff at a much greater risk of depression,” says Dr Zadow.

Internationally renowned expert on workplace mental health, ARC Laureate Professor Maureen Dollard, says the study found that while enthusiastic and committed workers are valued, working long hours can lead to depression. Men are also more likely to become depressed if their workplace pays scant attention to their psychological health.

Due to the global burden of depression, which affects an estimated 300 million people worldwide and shows no sign of abating despite available treatments, more attention is now being paid to poorly functioning work environments which could contribute to the problem. High levels of burnout and workplace bullying are also linked to corporations’ failure to support workers’ mental health.

“We also found that bullying in a work unit can not only negatively affect the victim, but also the perpetrator and team members who witness that behavior. It is not uncommon for everyone in the same unit to experience burnout as a result. In this study we investigated bullying in a group context and why it occurs. Sometimes stress is a trigger for bullying and in the worst cases it can set an ‘acceptable’ level of behavior for other members of the team. But above all bullying can be predicted from a company’s commitment to mental health, so it can be prevented,” Prof Dollard says.

The global costs of workplace bullying and worker burnout are significant, manifested in absenteeism, poor work engagement, stress leave and low productivity. The extent of the problem was recognized in 2019 with the International Labour Organization (ILO) implementing a Global Commission on the Future of Work and calling for “a human-centered approach, putting people and the work they do at the center of economic and social policy and business practice.”

“The practical implications of this research are far reaching. High levels of worker burnout are extremely costly to organizations and it’s clear that top-level organizational change is needed to address the issue,” Prof Dollard says.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE on Science Daily: “Companies who pay scant attention to workers’ psychological health leave employees at higher risk of depression, research finds.” www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/06/210623100300.htm.


Dr. Holland offers Therapy for Burnout and Job Stress and she is a psychotherapist providing cutting edge, integrative and evidence-based mental health care.

Dr. Holland understands that successful people are not immune to symptoms like depression, anxiety, and addiction. Yet, many successful people are often hesitant to seek treatment because of their high-profile statuses and stressful career responsibilities. For this reason, Dr. Holland takes great pride in offering a private environment that caters to the needs of these individuals, providing them with a therapeutic atmosphere that offers a sanctuary where they can step away from the stresses of their everyday lives.

Working with Dr. Holland clients can expect to receive unparalleled professional help to uncover, address and heal from the underlying causes of their depression and anxiety, and continued substance abuse. Dr. Holland specializes in providing therapy for substance abuse, depression, anxiety and trauma, and unresolved grief and loss.

Dr. Holland is available for Teletherapy – Online Video Counseling Services — Short-term sessions, single sessions or ongoing support as well as in-person appointment for fully vaccinated clients. Contact Dr. Holland to schedule an appointment at 707-479-2946.

Pets improve mental health and reduce loneliness amid COVID stressors

Owning a Pet Shown to Relieve Stresses Caused by COVID Restrictions

Sharing a home with a pet appeared to act as a buffer against psychological stress during lock-down, a new survey shows. Most people who took part in the research perceived their pets to be a source of considerable support during the lock down period. The study (UK) -- found that having a pet was linked to maintaining better mental health and reducing loneliness. Around 90 per cent of the 6,000 participants had at least one pet. The strength of the human-animal bond did not differ significantly between species with the most common pets being cats and dogs followed by small mammals and fish.

More than 90 per cent of respondents said their pet helped them cope emotionally with the lockdown and 96 per cent said their pet helped keep them fit and active. However, 68 per cent of pet owners reported having been worried about their animals during lock-down, for example due to restrictions on access to veterinary care and exercise or because they wouldn't know who would look after their pet if they fell ill.

Lead researcher, Dr Elena Ratschen from the Department of Health Sciences University of York said: "Findings from this study also demonstrated potential links between people's mental health and the emotional bonds they form with their pets: measures of the strength of the human-animal bond were higher among people who reported lower scores for mental health-related outcomes at baseline. We also discovered that in this study, the strength of the emotional bond with pets did not statistically differ by animal species, meaning that people in our sample felt on average as emotionally close to, for example, their guinea pig as they felt to their dog. It will be important to ensure that pet owners are appropriately supported in caring for their pet during the pandemic."

Co-author, Professor Daniel Mills said: "This work is particularly important at the current time as it indicates how having a companion animal in your home can buffer against some of the psychological stress associated with lock-down. However, it is important that everyone appreciates their pet's needs too, as our other work shows failing to meet these can have a detrimental effect for both people and their pets."

Dr Ratschen added: "While our study showed that having a pet may mitigate some of the detrimental psychological effects of the Covid-19 lock-down, it is important to understand that this finding is unlikely to be of clinical significance and does not warrant any suggestion that people should acquire pets to protect their mental health during the pandemic."

More than 85 million households are estimated to own at least one pet in the U.S.

The study also showed that the most popular interaction with animals that were not pets was bird watching. Almost 55 per cent of people surveyed reported watching and feeding birds in their garden.

READ this article on Science Daily: "Pets linked to maintaining better mental health and reducing loneliness during lock down, new research shows." ScienceDaily, 26 September 2020. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/09/200926145210.htm.


Dr. Holland & Olive

"Pets, especially dogs and cats, have been proven in studies to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression and ease loneliness. Pets naturally encourage exercise and renew a sense of playfulness in pet owners. Some studies clearly show that owing a pet can improve your cardiovascular health. Psychological studies show that caring for an animal can help children grow up feeling more secure while increasing their likelihood of staying active. As I well know, pets also provide valuable companionship for adults of all ages. For me, interacting with my new canine companion Olive brings a real sense of joy and unconditional love that goes both ways."

While we individually and collectively continue to navigate social restrictions imposed by COVID , it is important for everyone’s mental health and emotional well-being to find new, healthy ways to maintain social connections. Virtual communication including phones and video chats with friends and family can help alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation. And when people find it too difficult to maintain a positive sense of well-being, reaching out to a mental health professional can help. Dr. Holland offers Teletherapy to fit individual needs including; short-term sessions, single sessions or ongoing support. Contact Dr. Holland for more information and to help get you on the path to feeling better. Or call 707-479-2946 to schedule a telehealth video therapy session.

Physical activity found to be protective for people at risk for depression

Physical activity can influence depression in a positive way

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Increased levels of physical activity can significantly reduce the odds of depression, even among people who are genetically predisposed to the condition, according to a new study from researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). In a paper published in the journal Depression and Anxiety, the team reported that individuals who engaged in at least several hours of exercise each week were less likely to be diagnosed with a new episode of depression, even in the face of high genetic risk for the disorder.

Drawing on genomic and electronic health record data from nearly 8,000 participants in the Partners Healthcare Biobank, the new study is the first to show how physical activity can influence depression despite genetic risk. Researchers followed patients who filled out a survey about their lifestyle habits (including physical activity) when they enrolled in the Biobank. They then mined millions of electronic health record data points over the next two years and identified people who received diagnoses related to depression. They also calculated genetic risk scores for each participant, combining information across the entire genome into a single score that reflects a person's inherited risk for depression.

What they found was that people with higher genetic risk were more likely to be diagnosed with depression over the next two years. Significantly, though, people who were more physically active at baseline were less likely to develop depression, even after accounting for genetic risk. In addition, higher levels of physical activity were protective for people even with the highest genetic risk scores for depression.

"Our findings strongly suggest that, when it comes to depression, genes are not destiny and that being physically active has the potential to neutralize the added risk of future episodes in individuals who are genetically vulnerable," says Karmel Choi, PhD, of MGH and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and lead author of the study. "On average, about 35 additional minutes of physical activity each day may help people to reduce their risk and protect against future depression episodes."

The researchers found that both high-intensity forms of activity, such as aerobic exercise, dance and exercise machines, and lower-intensity forms, including yoga and stretching, were linked to decreased odds of depression. Overall, individuals could see a 17 percent reduction in odds of a new episode of depression for each added four-hour block of activity per week.

Depression represents the leading cause of disability worldwide. Despite its massive health burden, strategies to combat depression remain limited and the public's understanding of robust and modifiable protective factors is incomplete. "We provide promising evidence that primary care and mental health providers can use to counsel and make recommendations to patients that here is something meaningful they can do to lower their risk even if they have a family history of depression," says Choi.

Senior author Jordan Smoller MD, added, "In general our field has been lacking actionable ways of preventing depression and other mental health conditions. I think this research shows the value of real-world healthcare data and genomics to provide answers that can help us to reduce the burden of these diseases."

Beyond physical activity, the MGH team continues to leverage the Partners Biobank and other large-scale studies to explore modifiable ways that individuals might reduce their risk of depression. "We believe there may be many factors could be part of an overall strategy for improving resilience and preventing depression," emphasizes Choi. "The magnitude of depression around the world underscores the need for effective strategies that can impact as many people as possible."

Materials provided by Massachusetts General Hospital. Note: Read this article on Science Daily ---> Massachusetts General Hospital. "Physical activity may protect against new episodes of depression." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 November 2019. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/11/191105113510.htm.


Dr. Holland's Perspective

"Studies have repeatedly shown that the most effective treatment for depression is cognitive behavioral therapy. This type of therapy addresses problematic thought patterns by effectively disengaging attention from the repetitive negative thoughts that often set in motion the downward spiral of mood. Certainly, physical activity combined with cognitive therapy is a positive way to approach depression. In addition to the positive effects of exercise mentioned in this study, evidence also shows that regular mindfulness meditation, on its own or combined with cognitive therapy, can also help stop depression before it starts."

Therapy for Depression

  • Do you find yourself feeling sad, empty tired, guilty or hopeless. Are you to the point where nothing makes you happy?
  • Have you become more isolated or lonely than usual, and feel like you can’t reach out to people?
  • Does life seem like more trouble than it’s worth?

Everyone experiences the blues sometimes. But clinical depression is more than just feeling down, unhappy or a sad feeling. Major depression is not a simple emotion. It is a medical disorder that affects more than 10 percent of adults annually. Women are twice as likely to get depression as men. The earlier treatment can begin, the more effective it is and the greater the likelihood that recurrence can be prevented.

With depression, you may feel sad and hopeless and you may not understand why you feel this way. Unlike sadness or the blues, depression is actually a biochemical disorder that can affect just about every area of a person's life. Some people with depression may even have had self-destructive or suicidal thoughts. If this is your experience, it is crucial that you seek help.

Contact Dr. Holland for more information and to get help with depression.

Dark chocolate may positively affect mood and relieve depression

Eating dark chocolate may positively affect mood and relieve depressive symptoms, finds a new UCL-led study looking at whether different types of chocolate are associated with mood disorders.

Dark chocolate associated with reduction of depressive symptoms

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Eating dark chocolate may positively affect mood and relieve depressive symptoms, finds a new UCL-led study looking at whether different types of chocolate are associated with mood disorders. The study, published in Depression and Anxiety, is the first to examine the association with depression according to the type of chocolate consumed. Researchers from UCL worked in collaboration with scientists from the University of Calgary and Alberta Health Services Canada and assessed data from 13,626 adults from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Participants' chocolate consumption was assessed against their scores on the Patient Health Questionnaire, which assesses depressive symptoms.

Dark chocolate positively affects mood

In the cross-sectional study, a range of other factors including height, weight, marital status, ethnicity, education, household income, physical activity, smoking and chronic health problems were also taken into account to ensure the study only measured chocolate's effect on depressive symptoms. After adjusting for these factors, it was found that individuals who reported eating any dark chocolate in two 24-hour periods had 70 per cent lower odds of reporting clinically relevant depressive symptoms than those who reported not eating chocolate at all. The 25 per cent of chocolate consumers who ate the most chocolate (of any kind, not just dark) were also less likely to report depressive symptoms than those who didn't eat chocolate at all. However researchers found no significant link between any non‐dark chocolate consumption and clinically relevant depressive symptoms. Depression affects more than 300 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation, and is the leading global cause of disability.

Lead author Dr Sarah Jackson (UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care) said: "This study provides some evidence that consumption of chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, may be associated with reduced odds of clinically relevant depressive symptoms. "However further research is required to clarify the direction of causation -- it could be the case that depression causes people to lose their interest in eating chocolate, or there could be other factors that make people both less likely to eat dark chocolate and to be depressed. "Should a causal relationship demonstrating a protective effect of chocolate consumption on depressive symptoms be established, the biological mechanism needs to be understood to determine the type and amount of chocolate consumption for optimal depression prevention and management."

Chocolate is widely reported to have mood‐enhancing properties and several mechanisms for a relationship between chocolate and mood have been proposed. Principally, chocolate contains a number of psychoactive ingredients which produce a feeling of euphoria similar to that of cannabinoid, found in cannabis. It also contains phenylethylamine, a neuromodulator which is believed to be important for regulating people's moods. Experimental evidence also suggests that mood improvements only take place if the chocolate is palatable and pleasant to eat, which suggests that the experience of enjoying chocolate is an important factor, not just the ingredients present.

While the above is true of all types of chocolate, dark chocolate has a higher concentration of flavonoids, antioxidant chemicals which have been shown to improve inflammatory profiles, which have been shown to play a role in the onset of depression.


Story Source:

Materials provided by University College London. Read this article on Science Daily -University College London. "People who eat dark chocolate less likely to be depressed." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 August 2019. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/08/190802145458.htm.


Dr. Holland's Perspective

"Researchers point out in a 2007 study that the mood changes associated with chocolate last only about 3 minutes. Cocoa, the main ingredient in chocolate, causes the brain to release these ”feel good” chemicals (endorphins). While chocolate may give your mood a small boost, its short term effects emphasize why - for chronically depressed people in particular, it is important to find other ways to work with depression as well."

Therapy for Depression

  • Do you find yourself feeling sad, empty tired, guilty or hopeless. Are you to the point where nothing makes you happy?
  • Have you become more isolated or lonely than usual, and feel like you can’t reach out to people?
  • Does life seem like more trouble than it’s worth?

Everyone experiences the blues sometimes. But clinical depression is more than just feeling down, unhappy or a sad feeling. Major depression is not a simple emotion. It is a medical disorder that affects more than 10 percent of adults annually. Women are twice as likely to get depression as men.

With depression, you may feel sad and hopeless and you may not understand why you feel this way. Unlike sadness or the blues, depression is actually a biochemical disorder that can affect just about every area of a person's life. Some people with depression may even have had self-destructive or suicidal thoughts. If this is your experience, it is crucial that you seek help.

Contact Dr. Holland for more information and to get help with depression.

Low serotonin levels thought to influence gut health and spark depression

New study suggests that depression and GI trouble sometimes spring from the same source

For people with depression, gastrointestinal distress is a common additional burden, and a new study suggests that for some, the two conditions arise from the same glitch in neuron chemistry -- low serotonin.The study, conducted in mice, shows that a shortage of serotonin in the neurons of the gut can cause constipation, just as a serotonin shortage in the brain can lead to depression. The study also found that a treatment that raises serotonin in the gut and the brain may alleviate both conditions.

Up to a third of people with depression have chronic constipation, and a few studies report that people with depression rate their accompanying bowel difficulties as one of the biggest factors reducing their quality of life. Severe constipation can obstruct the GI tract and cause serious pain. The condition leads to 2.5 million physician visits and 100,000 hospitalizations each year. Though some antidepressants are known to cause constipation, medication side effects do not explain all cases.

"Ultimately, many patients with depression are faced with limited treatment options and have to suffer with prominent GI dysfunction," says study leader Kara Gross Margolis, MD, associate professor of pediatrics at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeon.

Similarities between the gut and the brain suggest the two conditions may also share a common cause. "The gut is often called the body's 'second brain,'" says Margolis. "It contains more neurons than the spinal cord and uses many of the same neurotransmitters as the brain. So it shouldn't be surprising that the two conditions could be caused by the same process."

Because low levels of serotonin in the brain have been linked to depression and serotonin is also used by neurons in the gut, the researchers studied mice to determine if a serotonin shortage also plays a role in constipation. The serotonin shortage in the gut, the researchers found, reduced the number of neurons in the gut, led to a deterioration of the gut's lining, and slowed the movement of contents through the GI tract.

"Basically, the mice were constipated," Margolis says, "and they showed the same kind of GI changes we see in people with constipation." (In previous studies, these same mice also showed depressive symptoms).

The treatment -- slow-release drug-delivery of 5-HTP, a precursor of serotonin -- works in part by increasing the number of GI neurons in study subjects. The discovery of this connection between a brain and a gastrointestinal disorder suggests that new 5-HTP slow-release therapies could treat related brain-gut conditions simultaneously. The study is also one of the first to show that neurogenesis in the gut is possible and can correct abnormalities in the gut. "Though it's been known for many years that neurogenesis occurs in certain parts of the brain, the idea that it occurs in the gut nervous system is relatively new," Margolis says.

Neurogenesis may help treat other types of constipation. "We see a reduction of neurons in the GI tract with age, and that loss is thought to be a cause of constipation in the elderly," Margolis says. "The idea that we may be able to use slow-release 5-HTP to treat conditions that require the development of new neurons in the gut may open a whole new avenue of treatment."

An immediate-release version of 5-HTP is available as a supplement, but it has not been proved scientifically to work and physiologically it should not, as it is too short-acting, Margolis says. 5-HTP is the immediate precursor to serotonin. Once ingested, 5-HTP is converted to serotonin, but the serotonin is rapidly inactivated before it can work effectively. The slow-release version of 5-HTP used in the current study produces constant administration of 5-HTP which has been demonstrated to remedy the limitations of currently available immediate-release 5-HTP. Clinical studies are already planned for testing a slow-release 5-HTP drug in people with treatment-resistant depression. Planning for testing a slow-release 5-HTP drug in constipation is in progress.

Story Source -- Read the full article on Science Daily: Materials provided by Columbia University Irving Medical Center. Note: Content may be edited for style and length. Columbia University Irving Medical Center. "A moody gut often accompanies depression: New study helps explain why." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 May 2019. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/05/190507080148.htm.


Dr. Jenny Holland provides cutting edge, integrative and evidence-based care, proven effective with depression and anxiety, life transitions; pregnancy, parenting, ageing, loss and caring for a parent or loved one during a health crisis or decline. To schedule an appointment call 707-479-2946.

Sticking to life goals can fend off depression, anxiety, panic disorders

Looking on the bright side also acts as a safeguard, according to 18-year study

People who don't give up on their goals (or who get better over time at not giving up on their goals) and who have a positive outlook appear to have less anxiety and depression and fewer panic attacks, according to a study of thousands of Americans over the course of 18 years. Surprisingly, a sense of control did not have an effect on the mental health of participants across time.

The study was published by the American Psychological Association in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

"Perseverance cultivates a sense of purposefulness that can create resilience against or decrease current levels of major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder," said Nur Hani Zainal, MS, from The Pennsylvania State University and lead author of the study. "Looking on the bright side of unfortunate events has the same effect because people feel that life is meaningful, understandable and manageable."

Depression, anxiety and panic disorders are common mental health disorders that can be chronic and debilitating and put a person's physical health and livelihood at risk, according to Zainal and her co-author, Michelle G. Newman, PhD, also of The Pennsylvania State University.

"Often, people with these disorders are stuck in a cycle of negative thought patterns and behaviors that can make them feel worse," said Newman. "We wanted to understand what specific coping strategies would be helpful in reducing rates of depression, anxiety and panic attacks."

Zainal and Newman used data from 3,294 adults who were studied over 18 years. The average age of participants was 45, nearly all were white and slightly fewer than half were college-educated. Data were collected three times, in 1995 to 1996, 2004 to 2005 and 2012 to 2013. At each interval, participants were asked to rate their goal persistence (e.g., "When I encounter problems, I don't give up until I solve them"), self-mastery (e.g., "I can do just anything I really set my mind to") and positive reappraisal (e.g., "I can find something positive, even in the worst situations"). Diagnoses for major depressive, anxiety and panic disorders were also collected at each interval.

People who showed more goal persistence and optimism during the first assessment in the mid-1990s had greater reductions in depression, anxiety and panic disorders across the 18 years, according to the authors.

And throughout those years, people who began with fewer mental health problems showed more increased perseverance toward life goals and were better at focusing on the positive side of unfortunate events, said Zainal.

"Our findings suggest that people can improve their mental health by raising or maintaining high levels of tenacity, resilience and optimism," she said. "Aspiring toward personal and career goals can make people feel like their lives have meaning. On the other hand, disengaging from striving toward those aims or having a cynical attitude can have high mental health costs."

Unlike in previous research, Zainal and Newman did not find that self-mastery, or feeling in control of one's fate, had an effect on the mental health of participants across the 18-year period.

"This could have been because the participants, on average, did not show any changes in their use of self-mastery over time," said Newman. "It is possible that self-mastery is a relatively stable part of a person's character that does not easily change."

The authors believe their findings will be beneficial for psychotherapists working with clients dealing with depression, anxiety and panic disorders.

"Clinicians can help their clients understand the vicious cycle caused by giving up on professional and personal aspirations. Giving up may offer temporary emotional relief but can increase the risk of setbacks as regret and disappointment set in," said Zainal. "Boosting a patient's optimism and resilience by committing to specific courses of actions to make dreams come to full fruition despite obstacles can generate more positive moods and a sense of purpose."

Story Source -- Read this article on Science Daily: American Psychological Association. "Perseverance toward life goals can fend off depression, anxiety, panic disorders: Looking on the bright side also acts as a safeguard, according to 18-year study." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 May 2019. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/05/190502100852.htm.


Dr. Jenny Holland provides cutting edge, integrative and evidence-based care, proven effective with depression and anxiety, life transitions; pregnancy, parenting, ageing, loss and caring for a parent or loved one during a health crisis or decline. To schedule an appointment call 707-479-2946.