For some folks, I'm sure this will be anxiety-inducing news. According to a recently published analysis by the University of Oxford, it could be at least 10 years or more before any new generation of antidepressant medications comes to market.
"I'd be very surprised if we were to see any new drugs for depression in the next decade," noted Guy Goodwin, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Oxford. "The pharmaceutical industry is simply not investing in the research because it can't make money from these drugs," he adds.
Major pharmaceutical firms have been pulling investments out of research and development in the neuroscience field in general, the report said, because the cost of development versus an uncertain potential for generating a result that will make money. According to a recent study of more than 50,000 people in 21 countries conducted by King's College London, Harvard Medical School, and the World Health Organization, 350 million people worldwide are affected by depression. The vast majority of them receive no treatment for their condition.
Studies also show that approximately one in 14 people around the world are currently affected by anxiety disorders at any given time. Even among those treated with existing medication options, just under half fail to get better with first-line antidepressants, according to the Oxford University report. As many as a third of patients are found to be resistant to antidepressant medications.
To this point, I was reminded of a 2010 study by Harvard University on "the placebo effect." The study verified that for at least some patients, taking a harmless pill and believing in its effectiveness somehow unlocked a mind-body connection that triggers the body to heal itself; the simple act of believing you're going to get better, for some, can actually make them better.
I don't mention this as an endorsement of placebos over pharmaceuticals, or to jump into what continues to be widespread disagreement among mental health professionals over antidepressants, but to suggest the importance of the power of the mind in healing. Studies also show the combination of antidepressants and talk therapy, for example, is generally more effective at treating depression than with medication alone.
Though professionals disagree on whether powerful antidepressants are the answer, they uniformly agree that people suffering from mental health problems shouldn't avoid seeking professional help. If a person's thoughts are making them feel greatly distressed and interfering with their ability to work and relax, they should consider seeing a mental health professional.
An area of research that is lagging behind that of other common mental health problems research is anxiety. Normal anxiety is something we all experience. Yet when the anxiety becomes excessive, impairing and debilitating, an anxiety disorder can develop. Part of the problem is that many with anxiety disorder don't suspect that they have the condition. Many people may think that "anxiousness" is just part of their personality.
Though studies link acute anxiety to inflammatory processes in the body and suppression of the immune system, people tend to wait a long time between symptom development and contacting medical professionals. When help is finally sought, the anxiety may have already progressed to an advanced stage, making it more difficult to treat.
The hope is that as we become more aware of how the mind and body are connected, of how one influences the other, we will become more motivated to take early steps that might preempt pharmacological and psychotherapeutic interventions. A class in yoga, for example, practicing controlled breathing, might prove effective in lowering the stress response and calming anxious thoughts for some. The best kind of medicine, many experts believe, is that which elicits the maximum response with minimum direct impact on the physical body; healing with no potential toxic side effects.
"We were built to over learn from negative experiences, but under learn from positive ones," says Rick Hanson, a psychologist and senior fellow at the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley. This, he notes, is a common problem.
Constant negativity can get in the way of happiness, add to our stress and worry level and ultimately damage our health, he adds. A study conducted at Ohio State University has shown that a method known as Socratic questioning was found to be a simple way to reduce depressive symptoms in adults brought on by negative thinking and in taming the negative cycle.
"The more you dwell on the negative, the more accustomed your brain becomes to dwelling on the negative," Hanson concludes.
Write to Chuck Norris ([email protected]) with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook's "Official Chuck Norris Page." He blogs at http://chucknorrisnews.blogspot.com. To find out more about Chuck Norris and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.