Category Archives: Depression

Heath’s Death

A friend of mine suggested I should write about Heath Ledger’s unexpected death.

In fact he suggested I should do some media publicity about the material I have about taking sleeping pills safely since Heath was found with sleeping pills and anti-anxiety pills in the room.

Well I wasn’t up for a media campaign, and I wasn’t even going to write about this subject on this blog. A little too raw, the story is still a little unclear, and it’s always awkward for readers of this blog who might find death a personal topic of interest. This is where the disclaimer comes in.

However there was one post I found to be worth a read from a self help perspective:

Also, if you are taking sleeping pills, or considering doing so, then I urge you to check these videos out for your own safety:

-Dr Martin Russell

The Other Forgiveness

In my therapy work I have pretty much given up using the word forgiveness.

Not because it is a bad idea – heck no. Forgiveness is a key self help skill for being an effective human being.

It’s just that the people who most need to use forgiveness in their lives, have also been the ones who have the most terrible and dangerously twisted misconceptions about what the term means.

It does NOT mean to continue to accept harm or damage to yourself.

It does NOT have anything to do with losing face, “weakening”, or giving in to someone.

I don’t suggest you have anything to do with that sort of corruption of “forgiveness”.

I am speaking to you direct.

If your first reaction to the idea of forgiveness is that is unsuitable or dangerous in your particular situation, then let me give you my firm opinion based on all my years of counseling…

  • You are EXACTLY the person who needs to understand what real forgiveness is, and you are wasting your life and knee-capping your chances of helping yourself, if you don’t get started on doing it correctly ASAP.

Here’s all the instruction manual you need to get started and done…

-Dr Martin Russell

The Gambler’s Delusion And Anti-Depressants

The first time I ever remember hearing about gambling was when I was given a Christmas present bought from a year’s worth of horse race winnings.

Later my parents explained to me that they were going along with the gift to please the person who gave it, but that the “winnings” weren’t actually that.

Basically there was a bank account specifically for the winnings, but any loses were not taken out, and neither were the original stakes.

So every Christmas it seemed like there had been a successful year.

Even “professional” gamblers don’t like to answer the question of how much money (or time and effort) it took to get the winnings they talk about.

However this bias doesn’t just apply to gambling.

It applies in scientific research as well.

The most recent publication from the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine (NJEM) includes a paper titled: “Selective Publication of Antidepressant Trials and Its Influence on Apparent Efficacy”

The idea is that pharmaceutical companies are finding ways to hide or ignore research that doesn’t show their drugs are great.

This is nothing new.

Promote the good studies, downplay the bad ones.

Tobacco companies have been repeatedly accused of this type of publication bias. If they don’t like the results of a study, then it can be simpler to just never publish it.

The public is none the wiser.

However researchers have been honing in on this problem over the past few years.

This particular piece of research from the NEJM is very nice.

The researchers found that 37 out of 38 positive studies were published, but pf another 36 negative studies, 22 were not published, and at least 11 of the remaining 14 presented a negative study as a positive one.

All of the 12 different anti-depressants drugs from 7 different drug companies were helped by this positive bias.

Some of the drugs seem to be over 200% better than they would be if the negative studies had been included. This is not a trivial error.

The evidence suggests massive and systematic bias, but is it self-delusion like a gambler, or cynical manipulation?

Either way I don’t suggest anyone rely on anti-depressants to create their happiness.

This research paper even triggered a well-written article in The Wall Street Journal so I’m sure there will be much more to come on this issue.

-Dr Martin Russell

Tim Ferriss On Weaknesses

In many ways this self help site is about bridging the divide between psychiatry and personal growth/self improvement.

So I watch the extremes of medical psychiatry, but I also watch the extremes of self improvement too. Tim Ferris is an example of the latter.

Tim Ferriss, author of the “4-Hour Work Week” is a really interesting guy, with a really interesting blog. The title of the blog is “Experiments in Lifestyle Design”. He literally means it.

Wacky, sometimes even wacko, and ruthlessly determined to take personal life to it’s limits.

The result?

Many things that will not suit most people, but here’s one I heartily endorse.

I use a variation of this technique when I work with people who are “stuck” in their lives.

To set the scene for this 3-step process, Tim is talking about the issue of starting up a company from scratch.

Perhaps that isn’t an issue in your life, but the steps are the same for anything that seems overwhelming or unachievable, and where pumping up the positives ain’t working for you.

How to re-evaluate your “weaknesses”?

1. Write down the positives of whatever you’ve been viewing as a negative. Don’t know anyone? You’ll be a fresh face and won’t have any strikes against you. No funding? It will force you to find the neglected options and set trends instead of following them.

…Hunger and desperation can be good things.

2. Consider the negatives of the opposites. What if you had too much funding? It would create a false sense of security and breed complacency, both of which are more fatal to a start-up than bootstrapping. It could also overexpose you before your product or service is ready. It could give investors too much influence over big decisions. Don’t assume more of something is 100% positive. It never is.

3. Look for dark horse role models.
“I can’t start a company — I’m too old.” Coronel Sanders started KFC after 40. The excuse doesn’t hold up. Can’t compete in sports because of a bum leg? Sprinter Oscar Pistorius has no lower legs and is aiming for the Olympics. You? For each reason for inaction you come up with, ask: has anyone overcome these or worse circumstances to do what I want to do? The answer is: of course.

Embrace your lack of resources, your weaknesses.

Far from a handicap, these are often the pressure points that will take you the furthest… if you’re able to use them instead of excuse them.

I know many of you will be cynical about doing such an obviously distorted exercise.

In fact I suggest you read Tim’s whole post to flesh out these ideas a bit more:

In some forms of therapy they would try and explain to you the distortion was really in your original thinking, not in these new perspectives.

When I work with people who have become “stuck” in some aspect of their lives, whether or not they have psychiatric labels such as depression or anxiety, I want you to know that I have not found this technique alone to be enough.

So if you are cynical, it’s probably because a part of you has recognized that this is not a complete piece of change-work.

Well spotted.

BUT… it is the best way I know of to loosen a “stuck” situation so that any and all other changes happen so much more easily.

So pick something you are “stuck” about, stick the cynicism in the back pocket for a moment… it will still be there for you when you’re done… and go back up and write out your responses to the steps above.

-Dr Martin Russell

Claiming The Title

There are so many people claiming the titles of Depression, or Bi-Polar these days.

There are certainly companies who spend a lot of time and money telling us that every possible emotion, other than a sort of flat-lined acceptance of inevitability is an illicit symptom of a pathology.

If your life seems dull and pointless, and you can’t think of anything to get excited about, you are depressed, it could be Depression and need to get yourself dosed with some new, but legal, drug.  If you are particularly happy, and your mind is clicking away coming up with amazing idea after amazing idea, you are just in a “Manic phase,” and in addition, though it feels good, it will soon be over.

These medical “titles” have escaped from the narrow confines of the psychiatric world into public and commercial use, and they are running havoc.

This is a trend and at least partly a marketing-driven trend at that.

Nobody makes any medication sales if you are not self-diagnosing as “ill” to get you to go see a “medical professional” in the first place.

Once you are in their office it is easy for most medical professionals to fit your situation into the idea that they have something on the shelf that can bring your emotional state back to being more appropriate.

Once you are taking something, it can often lead to you taking more, whether by increasing the original dose, or adding something to treat side-effects of the original pill, or because you are seeing a health professional who is helpful enough to find a title for something else you have.

Then what happens if you want to stop the pills?

Anarchy will ensue, of course.

Or will it?

The only way you can find out is to stop the pills “under medical supervision”.

Isn’t that an interesting Catch-22.

-Dr Martin Russell

Self Help Options For Depression

There are so many different options out there, self help and otherwise, for depression.

I was given a rule of thumb when assessing treatments for any particular condition.

If there are lots of treatments of all different types, then NONE of them work.

If one really did work, it would remove the need for all the others.

That’s a great starting point to increase your skepticism, and keep you wary of even the latest and greatest idea, but if you have the particular itch, you need to choose something to help you scratch it.

The method above doesn’t help you to decide WHAT to choose, and with the self help options for depression there is a very, very, very long list to choose from.

Fortunately someone has done a review for you.

Unfortunately this review is from back in 2002 (actually the data was taken from journals published up to August 2001, so that means the actual research was done last century, such is the natural time-lag of this type of information.)

Not surprisingly their most common finding is that the majority of self help options for depression don’t have enough decent evidence, and even the most studied ones don’t have as much support as…

“…antidepressants or face-to-face cognitive behaviour therapy, both of which are standard treatments recommended in clinical practice guidelines.”

But for what it’s worth here is their list of the depression self help options that are most likely to be beneficial:

“The [self help] treatments with the best evidence of effectiveness are St John’s Wort, exercise, bibliotherapy involving cognitive behaviour therapy and light therapy (for winter depression). There is some limited evidence to support the effectiveness of acupuncture, light therapy (for non-seasonal depression), massage therapy, negative air ionisation (for winter depression), relaxation therapy, S-adenosylmethionine, folate and yoga breathing exercises.”

They didn’t even get to Hypnosis, EFT, most other psychological therapies, and 1001 different options that have even less evidence in the medical and psychological literature.

However you can find out more on the 30+ ones they did cover, including the ones that didn’t make the grade, from their research paper:

Keep the skepticism pumping hard.

-Dr Martin Russell

15 Actions To Help Yourself

Forget New Year’s Resolutions. Forget goal setting.

Start taking self help action. It can be massive action, small steps, or incremental change to a new direction.

Almost everything you read on this site includes something immediately actionable. But here are the top 15 actions so far…

1. If you are having a horrible time this holiday season then give yourself a break by following this post here before the end of New Year’s Day January 1st. (Interestingly this one has so far been taken up only by women. This is definitely one for men to do too, and may be even more important for them.)

2. If you are having trouble sleeping, or are taking something to help you sleep, take back control of your sleep and your sleeping pills tonight.

3. If you have a warped sense of humor about medicine, self help and the helping professions, then you can add your own ideas to this growing list.

4. If you need Will Power, go here.

5. If you want to learn internet marketing and how to run an internet business, and you have the time, but not the money, then you can learn as an intern.

6. If something you come across on this site interests you, or irks you, or inspires you, add a comment at the bottom. It’s simple to do.

7. If you only have 5 minutes a day to improve your life, do this.

8. If you would like articles for your ezine or online newsletter, then go to my Contact Page and let me know your name, website, ezine name, and email address, and I will include you in my distribution list when I send out the articles I write for this site.

9. If you want to rock the foundations of what you believe is true about life, spirituality, and the importance of human beings then reading this book here could do it for you.

10. If you are wanting a new way to act in the world, take the mindset from this dying man’s life lesson.

11. If you have a particular issue you are wanting help for, then check if I cover it in one of the online self help ‘sessions’ I have available as products on the left-hand side of my blog. If you’re not sure where to start then Self Help Meeting is the one, and if you are looking for something I don’t have yet, then leave a comment on this post to recommend one I should make.

12. If you want to do something about our society being over medicated with pills, you can help out on a campaign to reduce the use of sleeping pills here.

13. If you take yourself too seriously (as if anyone in this category would believe this of themselves) then here is the cure.

14. If you are interested in what you are reading, then join the blog notification list:


15. If you think someone else might be interested in something you have come across here, you can click on the Share This icon at the bottom of each post and pick one of the options, including email, to quickly and easily spread the word to others.

-Dr Martin Russell

Self Help Exercise For Depression

On this blog I advocate taking action.

There are many reasons for this.

However if you have been given the label “Depression” there is one type of action that has been fairly well proven to be helpful for you.

Physical exercise.

Let me give you a recent study as an example.

A study reported in Psychosomatic Medicine in September 2007 assessed 202 people who were diagnosed with mild to moderate depression. They were randomly split into different treatment groups.

After 4 months the group that were given an inactive sugar pill to take (ie a placebo) had a 31% recovery rate.

The group that had been given an antidepressant, in this case sertraline (Zoloft), had a 47% recovery rate.

However the group that had been walking or jogging on a treadmill for 30 minutes, followed by 5 minutes of stretching each day, had an almost identical recovery rate as if they had taken an antidepressant.

The group that exercised on their own had a 40% recovery rate, and if they had exercised in a group, they had a 45% recovery.

Don’t want to take an antidepressant?

For mild or moderate depression at least, the self help option of physical exercise will do just as well.

Even more importantly I recommend this “treatment” even if you don’t have a medical label.

This is one instance where a treatment for a mental illness is worthwhile even when you are not “ill”.

-Dr Martin Russell

There Is No Success Only Feedback

You’ve probably heard the saying “There is no failure, only feedback”, but what about success?

Failure and success are really flip sides of the same coin.

It’s a bit like love and hate. With either love or hate you have to care deeply about something, so on that basis they are the same core emotion.

Failure and success are similarly alike.

Both depend on you having a preconceived idea of the outcome you want.

Both also depend on you stopping at some particular point and making the comparison with your preconceived idea so that you can assess, did you fail or succeed?

So what happens if you treat success, like failure, as simply feedback?

Success is then no longer a stop point. Instead it is a benchmark for what to repeat, and for the outcomes you get in future.

Success then becomes more along the lines of “continuous improvement”.

If you are aiming for “success” in your life then here are two suggestions with this feedback model in mind.

1. ALWAYS have a goal beyond the goal.

If you don’t have this in place you risk reaching a goal… and then asking yourself, “Now what?”, or even worse, “So what? Who cares. What was all that for.”

Someone having a mid-life crisis is simply realizing they have no goal beyond the one they are current working on, and that current one doesn’t seem so important any more.

2. Set at least some goals in your life that are never going to be achieved.

This may strike you as counterintuitive.

After all we are taught that we are meant to reach our goals.

However I think it’s worth having never-ending aims like “world peace”, ending poverty, protecting the environment, contributing and helping others, and spreading the word about something that is important to you.

These are natural examples where final success is unachievable, and therefore feedback is a more accurate description anyway.

Unlike the first suggestion I’m not convinced this one is actually necessary for mental health and happiness. It might be. I just am not sure.

Here’s the more fundamental life issue however.

Can you really have a mindset of feedback instead of failure, if you are still holding on to the concept of “success”?

Do you have to give up on “success”?

-Dr Martin Russell