Category Archives: Depression

From the Global Financial Crisis Down To You

This movie is so good I watched it twice.

It just has a funny title – I Am <FishHead( – yes, really.

It’s partly good because it has Philip Zimbardo in it. I remember before the age of the internet, watching Phillip on his PBS Discovering Psychology series, and was delighted to discover useful psychology training available for free!

But more than that this movie is good because it hits on the core issues of the financial crisis we live in, and yet still comes down to daily realities and practical steps we can take.

All starting with the core concept of the “corporate psychopath”.

Coming from the Chinese proverb that says “a fish rots from the head”, let me invite you to watch – I am <FishHead(


The Power Of Negative Thinking

This a quote from a subheading in one of my favorite books of all time, “The Peter Principle“.

But in fact this approach has a long and rich history.

I am just about to head overseas on a 2 month trip with my wife and 3 small kids – and leave my counselling practice unattended for all that time.

For many reasons, this was something I assumed I would NEVER be able to do.

With the Power of Negative thinking (done more informally than Tim suggests in his video below) I managed to do it.

Think of this as a farewell from me – til November anyway – and, an invitation to you to apply negative thinking in your life for your success.

-Dr Martin Russell

What Can We Learn From Computer Nerds?

“Would you like me to give you a formula for… success? It’s quite simply, really. Double your rate of failure… You’re thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all… You can be discouraged by failure — or you can learn from it. So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because, remember that’s where you’ll find success. On the far side of failure.”

-Thomas J. Watson
Founder of IBM

“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”

-Bill Gates
Founder of Microsoft

-Dr Martin Russell

Antidepressant Ups And Downs

“There have now been six meta analyses in the last decade showing little difference between antidepressants and placebos, yet this is not commonly recognised in clinical practice.” – Medical Observer April 4 2008 pg 31

So says Professor Gordon Parker of the Black Dog Institute in Australia, who has long been a critic of “depression” as being too broad a label for what is going on in particular individuals. He is particular keen that treatment, including antidepressants, must be tailored much more specifically.

Professor Parker points out that the popularity of antidepressants was full of ups and downs even before the culture-shifting release of the antidepressant Prozac…

“The first antidepressant drug (the tricyclic drug Imipramine) was ‘discovered’ a little more than fifty years ago.

The manufacturers, Ciba-Geigy, did not wish to take that drug to market as their analyses indicated that there were insufficient depressed people in the world for the drug to return a profit, and it was only after strong protest advocacy in the United States (by consumers) that it was released [my emphasis].

When we consider the sales of antidepressants over the last decade, that judgment by Ciba-Geigy may seem inexplicable. But “depression” in the middle of the twentieth century essentially comprised severe expressions of “biological depression” (psychotic or melancholic depression) that resulted in a percentage of people being hospitalised, generally in asylums as few general hospital psychiatry units existed.”

The last 50 years of psychiatric thinking has been an enormous rollercoaster ride through society and the ride isn’t looking like ending any time soon.

All I can say is, hang on!

-Dr Martin Russell

The Strange Behavior Of Anorexia – Part 2

I ended Part 1 of this series by asking when someone might WANT to have anorexia.

When might you actually want to be repulsed by the thought of eating food?

Put another way, could anorexia ever be “useful”?

Well it is a standard question that I have asked of every so-called problem that I have been told about or come across over the years.

In what way might the presenting problem or symptom or complaint actually be “useful” to the person?

How might depression be useful, or phobias, grief, alcoholism, self-sabotage, low self-esteem, narcissism, or whatever?

This is where you get the idea of “secondary gain”.

Secondary gain is when there is a second or hidden motive for an action. For example being sick can also be a way of avoiding dealing with an issue, as in a child not wanting to go to school or a worker not wanting to face their boss.

This is often implied as a bad way to deal with things.

We’re meant to be upfront, have no secrets, face our fears, not keep hidden agendas.

However the reality is that humans are complex, and being indirect in going after an outcome is an important choice to have.

Some things are quite well dealt with in a secondary way.

Could there be some useful but secondary gain in having anorexia perhaps as a way of attracting sympathy, gaining attention, getting control of emotions of fear or anger, etc etc?

I suppose yes.

Every problem can have secondary gains.

Personally however I don’t think these questions generally lead to useful therapy. When I have explored secondary gains they have often opened up really fascinating stories with many twists and turns, but in the end the problem is no better for having done so.

Secondary gain inevitably happens, but it almost always remains secondary.

Let’s go back to the question with a different emphasis.

WHEN or WHERE might a particular problem be useful?

In the case of anorexia I have only one suggestion for a context.

If I was drifting on a small life raft in the middle of the ocean for days or weeks, and all I had to eat was food that I knew to be contaminated and fatally poisonous, then in this extremely limited situation I could imagine being much happier to have anorexia.

Instead of wishing I had food or being tempted to eat the poisonous stuff around me, I would be happy that I finally had no one pressuring me to eat. Bliss!

But most people with anorexia are not stranded at sea with poisonous food, so in Part 3 I will move on to what else might be going on.

-Dr Martin Russell

Self Help For Your Financial Future

This website is about taking what I do in my counseling practice and bringing it out to a wider audience.

It also gives me a chance to cover topics that I only rarely get to mention for people who come to see me.

One such topic is self help for your financial future.

If you are going to help yourself in your psychological outlook, your physical health, and your ability to contribute to the world, you need to take care of your own financial future.

I’m no expert in the financial area, but many people who have come to me with the diagnosis of “Depression” have one of their biggest depressing worries as finances.

Almost always I find that their finances are in fact depressing. They aren’t making it up, their finances are actually bad. They are in fact going backwards and/or bankrupt, or they have no ability to create safety and stability into the future.

My take is that with the aging of Western populations, and the extensive systems of welfare and healthcare support, and with the spending of successive governments on largely short-term outcomes rather than thinking over many generations, the world’s financial future is very bleak.

You can be seeming to do very well for yourself, but the world can still swamp you.

See my post about the cost of health care turning into the entire government budget by 2026-2032.

Be Darwinian, or Richard Dawkinsian, about it.

But if you are serious about self help, don’t bury your head in the sand.

If you want a wake up call then take the time to watch the 2008 Predictions videos, in particular the last one with Mike Maloney, at…

This information is for more than just 2008. They are the next 5-15 years predictions.

-Dr Martin

Depression Solutions… Can You Help?

With the recent studies showing antidepressants to be far less effective than previously reported, this leaves a big gap in the field.

What can take the place of antidepressants?

What solutions are already out there for depression?

What books, courses, websites, resources of any type are there for “curing” people who have been given the label “Depression”?

I’d like to know of ones you think work, and any you don’t think work as well, with enough details for me to find the resource, and what thoughts you have about it.

Yes. Self promotion is allowed. If you’ve got something good enough then great!

It will be interesting to know whether there is anything that might fill the therapeutic vacuum.

You can put your thoughts as a comment below.

Much appreciated.

-Dr Martin Russell

Shake-up Or Wake-Up

The commotion over the study that said anti-depressants are a waste of time for all but the most severely depressed people, has continued to escalate.

It hit the middle editorial pages of my local city’s newspaper, and that means the story is big!

Much of the criticism that I have read of this study has been badly unscientific. A number of medical authorities seem to have come out with rather rash and half-baked defenses of their position.

Meanwhile there is a small debate building around the actual study itself which was published online in a format that allows comments.

For reference you can find the original study here:

Initial Severity and Antidepressant Benefits: A Meta-Analysis of Data Submitted to the Food and Drug Administration

This is an excerpt from my comments on the site:

It is interesting to see the commotion this study has caused, and rightly so.

Even more interesting has been the media reporting. They have been talking about the biological description of depression (eg biochemical imbalance in the brain) even as they are reporting that the drugs don’t work to anywhere near the level previously promoted.

The media is brainwashed to parrot what it has been told, even when there is a gaping hole in the theory.

Brain chemistry is not like insulin for diabetics.

It is also interesting to hear people who have received anti-depressants, and clinicians who prescribed them, somehow thinking they could not be responding to a placebo.

“All this evidence I have seen with my own eyes can’t be wrong” had been the catch-cry of quacks and the quasi-scientific, but it seems it is just the same here. Too many doctors, and patients, are not going about this scientifically.

If this paper is right then it says these drugs should not have gotten onto the market in the first place…

… We can’t offer talk therapy to all of the 5-15% of the western world that is supposedly “depressed”, but it’s no value overstating the benefits of medication either.

Far from being a step backwards I would like to see medicine, and psychiatry in particular, take this as a giant wake-up call for the 21st Century.

Hey, well I’m a wishful thinker 🙂

You can find all the direct comments on this landmark study here.

-Dr Martin Russell

The End Of The Anti-Depressant Era?

Good to see the recent spate of publicity for a study that hacks the legs out from under the antidepressant medication industry.

Currently the most viewed health article from the Washington Post website is about this study: “Only Severely Depressed Benefit From Antidepressants: Study“, and if you search Google News for the study’s author, Irving Kirsch, you find dozens of stories in the last 48 hours. It’s gone hot, and rightly so.

The whole 50 years of the Serotonin hypothesis that justifies these medications is a minefield of dressed-up science and warped philosophy.

It’s just over 20 years since the wonder drug Prozac came onto the market, and the field has just kept expanding with new variations on the theme.

All this was meant to be backed up by highly rigorous and validated science.

Well it was only last month that a study into the reporting of those research findings showed that the benefits of antidepressants was universally less than claimed. In some cases more than half of the reported benefit of a particular anti-depressant was shown to be due to selective reporting of the available research.

The current study goes even further and questions whether there is any benefit at all in anti-depressant except in severe cases of depression, and even in these cases there was very little effect.

As disheartening as this is for people who are depressed, I hope this study really starts to clear the air on this topic.

But a note…

What if you are currently taking ‘anti-depressants’? – or whatever these drugs should now be named instead.

Keep taking them for the moment at least.

Discuss with the person who prescribed them for you, and make sure you have alternative plans for managing your mood, and that you understand the process for weaning off the medication.

If you think there is nothing else that can help your depression, you might find new choices with this:

-Dr Martin Russell