Bipolar Disorder Hits the Headlines

Catherine Zeta-Jones is the latest celebrity to hit the headlines as a sufferer of Bipolar Disorder. Earlier this month, her publicist announced that the Oscar winning actress made the decision to check in to a mental health facility for a brief stay to treat Ms Zeta-Jones’ Bipolar II Disorder after dealing with the stress of the past year.

Catherine Zeta-Jones has been praised by mental health charities for the bravery of her openness about suffering from Bipolar Disorder – especially as there is unfortunately still stigma and misunderstanding about the condition and mental illness in general. One only needs to look at the derogatory comments on Twitter and Facebook in reaction to this news for an example of the way mental illness is treated by some members of the public.

Mental health professionals have a much better understanding of Bipolar Disorder these days than 20 years ago. This is reflected by the fact that Manic Depression, the old name for Bipolar Disorder, is no longer used by psychiatrists because every sufferer of this condition does not necessarily experience manic AND depressive episodes. Catherine Zeta-Jones for example has a diagnosis which means she would mainly suffer from periods of depression and may only have rare or occasional mild manic episodes. In fact, there is now discussion about a Bipolar Spectrum which covers every variation of this condition from its mildest forms to the most extreme cases. You can find out more information about Bipolar Disorder, its symptoms and treatment on the NHS Choices website.

Approximately 1 in every 100 people will suffer from symptoms of Bipolar Disorder at some point in their life. The condition has been around for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. In recent times, more and more people in the public eye have talked about their diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder and there are also historical figures who are believed to have been affected by the condition. Below are the names of some famous Bipolar sufferers from the past and present:

  • Adam Ant – singer
  • Russell Brand – comedian & actor
  • Frank Bruno – boxer
  • Stephen Fry – actor, comedian & writer
  • Mel Gibson – actor & director
  • Macy Gray – singer
  • Ernest Hemingway – writer
  • Nina Simone – singer
  • Vincent Van Gogh – artist
  • Virginia Woolf – writer

As you can see from the list of names, many Bipolar sufferers are creative individuals who have had successful careers or been blessed by incredible talent. As these famous names demonstrate, although Bipolar Disorder can make individuals vunerable and fragile, it is not always the case that someone who is affected by the condition cannot achieve their ambitions and dreams.

There are a number of charities out there that raise awareness about Bipolar Disorder and support those affected by the condition. Most notable are MDF, Equilibrium and Rethink. Other mental health charities include Mind and SANE. Check out their websites for more information and how to make a donation, if you so wish.

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Homeopathy & Depression


Depression is an emotion, we can all identify with. Disappointment, loss, stress or frustration can put anyone in a temporary tailspin. And these are parts of our lives.

However, one is clinically depressed if four of the following are present for at least 2 weeks: sadness, decreased appetite, sleep disturbances, loss of interest or sex drive, fatigue, low self-esteem, excessive guilt, decreased ability to concentrate, indecision and thoughts of death.

This type of pervasive depression is now said to affect between 10 and 20% of the British population, with no proven relations to socioeconomic factors. Women may suffer 2-3 times more than man, and depression in young people have tripled since the 50s.

How can homeopathy and an integrated approach help?

While anti-depressants or herbal therapies such as St John’s Wort can have their place at the start of a depression, especially if there are risks to life or of self-harming, they do not address the deep underlying causes or biological abnormalities that trigger depressive states. Only a deep integrated approach can help someone fully cure its depression. Most of our clients require work in these 3 areas:

Work at a physical level
About two-thirds of people suffering from depression also suffer from a chronic physical conditions, such as arthritis, hypertension, diabetes, chronic pain or lung disease. Improving these issues and re-nourishing the body will be a necessary part of the therapy. One can’t have a well-functioning nervous system if the body struggles.

Thousands of chemicals, pollutants, heavy metals and pharmaceutical drugs are known toxins to the nervous system. Even common food are known to impact some people. Improving your diet, and removing the damage of these toxins is a key part of the therapy.

Addressing the trauma and deep causes of the depression
Many sufferers can link their depression to a sudden trauma, such as a broken love affair, a violent assault, a separation or a diagnosis. These can be addressed amazingly well with homeopathy. However, as common are subtle insidious traumas, such as being brought up in a dysfunctional family, constant bullying or working in an unfit environment will also create unconscious lasting damages that may need to be addressed. Consultations, which allow the client to speak freely and understand and integrate his or her own life drama will then be an essential part of the treatment.

To know more on our approach on helping our clients with depression or in emotional crisis, please find an interview, I gave about approaches to depression.

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The Insider’s Guide to Living with Depression

I am a young woman who has suffered from clinical depression intermittently throughout my life. I have had counselling, psychotherapy, anti-depressants and cognitive behavioural therapy; whilst these treatments work and should always be carefully considered in a case of mental illness, I have learned to manage this condition in my own little ways. I can tell you this: it gets easier every time and fighting is the only way you’re going to get out of it. You deserve to get better and be well. You deserve to do all the things you want to do. And let nobody tell you that you are a failure or a weaker person because you have depression. No-one would say that if you had diabetes! It’s a disease, nothing more, treatable and manageable and much more common than you think. There are many things you can do to help yourself. Just give it a try. You have nothing to lose, right?

1. Attitude:

Your attitude to your illness is one of the main things that defines how you deal with it and how quickly you can recover. I used to think of myself as a ‘depressed person’ who would always have a tendency towards the condition and never get out of it. Why should I try to get better? It’s who I am, right? Wrong. That is simply not true. A quarter of UK adults suffer with some form of depression at some point in their lives, so you are not different or less strong than everyone else. You are not a ‘depressed person’. You are a person with depression. Do you see the difference? It is only a chemical imbalance in your brain, an illness just like diabetes or flu or anything else, and of course it doesn’t change who you are to begin with. You can manage it just as other conditions are managed and you can be sure that it does not define you. Think about all the other things that you are! For example, I am also a writer, a friend, a daughter and a sister. I am a student, a wine enthusiast and a French speaker. What are you? What have you achieved in your life? Depression is something inside your head that shouldn’t even be there. It’s not your fault, it’s not your personality and it’s not here to stay. Remember that no-one has a right to judge you for the way you feel. You didn’t ask to be depressed and you have every right to work through it in your own way. There is hope, there are treatments and you aren’t alone. If you see this as a battle against an outside enemy rather than yourself, you have no need to beat yourself up. You aren’t the problem, even if it feels that way. Depression is not who you are.


2. Exercise:

Believe me, I know the feeling. It’s 3pm and you’re on the sofa, in your dressing gown, watching your 10th episode of Friends that day and feeling so tired and unhappy you just can’t move. I know that in this situation, the last thing you want to do is get on a treadmill. But consider this: 10 minutes of exercise in the morning raises your endorphins, gives you energy and ultimately makes you happier. I can’t understate the power of an energetic dance session around your room to your favourite song. It’s actually fun. Swimming is another good one too: No sweat, no pressure, you can go at a quiet time of day and you can easily build up laps each time. It’s scientifically proven that cardiovascular exercise raises your mood. You won’t regret it.

3. Food:

I am not going to bang on about fruit and vegetables here, don’t worry! I watched an interesting programme recently on Channel 4 called ‘The Food Hospital’ ( which sought to prove that medical conditions could be cured with food. There was a case of a woman named Debbie with severe depression who didn’t change her medication or treatment, just her diet, and in 10 weeks she was happier, more confident and scored very low on the PHQ9 questionnaire (a measure of depression used by doctors). Did she have to cut out carbs? Go vegetarian? Eat goji berries and nettle soup? Guess again. To boost her serotonin, Debbie ate more protein, which contains tryptophan, an important amino acid which the body uses to boost serotonin. That’s the same thing SSRI antidepressants do: boost serotonin to make us happier. Some good proteins are eggs and cheese. The other important feature of this diet was wholegrain carbohydrates (good news for me, as I love pasta). She also ate foods rich in zinc and omega-3 fatty acids, which include nuts, chicken and oily fish such as salmon and mackerel. Of course, fruit and vegetables are important too.

Since watching the programme, I have taken to eating a lot more chicken, fish, nuts, eggs and green leafy vegetables. I’ve switched my rice, pasta and bread to wholegrain but still eat a lot of it! Not only have I lost weight but, along with a few other factors, it’s really helping kick my depression. I call these foods my ‘happy food’ and the beautiful thing is, it doesn’t even feel like a diet! I also recommend taking an Omega-3 supplement, this has been proven to be effective and many people, including myself, swear by it as a supplement to diet and anti-depressants. I also take B-vitamins for energy. (I strongly advise you to talk to your doctor before taking any new medicine).

4. Keeping Busy: 

Sitting and doing nothing, though you may feel like it’s what you want, is the worst possible thing to do. It gets you feeling more and more trapped and irritated and you then find it harder to get out of it. At first, just try to plan to do one useful thing a day: help with the washing up, take the dog for a walk, go and visit a friend, bake a cake, sort out a messy drawer, or go shopping. If you achieve something, you will feel better at the end of the day, just by knowing that you didn’t give in to depression completely that day. When you become more confident at doing things, you could then start making yourself a rough schedule, divided into morning and evening, for what you will do on particular days of the week. Try to get into a routine, just so that you know that your day will not be empty. It’s a daunting prospect getting up in the morning and not being sure what to do with your day; often if this is the case you will just stay in bed or switch the telly on. After you’ve done what you said you were going to do, treat yourself: listen to your favourite CD, watch a film, eat some cake or have a bath, whatever makes you feel happy. I know that it’s hard to find something that you do want to do, but it helps to self-motivate and make the effort worthwhile. For example, I’ve spent the morning cleaning the house, so I’m going to have a cup of tea and watch my favourite programme. It’s as simple as that. The sense of achievement is reward enough: If you feel useful, you are fulfilling your own needs and you will feel better about yourself. Prove that you can win over self-loathing thoughts and lethargy. Get up and do something!

These four factors are the things that have helped me the most in dealing with my depression and I have seen that with a positive attitude and a little bit of effort, every bout of depression is easier to cope with. I have also seen a very good psychotherapist and would always recommend this, as a lot of issues can trigger depression and talking about them can help. I have also been on anti-depressants, so I have taken every possible avenue of treatment and sincerely believe that, though I have been hugely aided by medical help, some of my depression was due to my own lack of effort and my utter surrender to the way I was feeling. It was when I started fighting for my own mental health that things began to look up. I’m now talking to my doctor about reducing my medication and I believe that the end is definitely in sight. If depression comes back to plague my mind again, I will be ready for it. I hope that you will be too.

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Depression in Sport: The Unknown Heartache

1992 - Derek Redmond favourite for gold in the 400m Barcelona Olympics snaps his hamstring during the semi final ending his Olympic dreams. 1996 – Gareth Southgate misses the penalty in the European championships to deny England a place in the final. 2012 – Andy Murray loses the Wimbledon final to Roger Federer after winning the first set. The closest a British male has coming to winning Wimbledon since 1938. A few days after each event these stories will be forgotten about in our minds, but to the athlete the pain will last a lifetime.

Many of us see sports stars as heroes; they become our children’s role models. Paid hundreds of thousands of pounds a year, living a celebrity lifestyle and of which some of us live in envy compared our own lives, but are they really as invincible as we think or make them out to be? With London 2012 upon us we have a host of stars expected to bring home a gold medal in their respective sports, but what if they don’t? The country will be celebrating in jubilation if Jessica Ennis wins gold in the heptathlon or Mark Cavendish wins gold in the road race event. Yet if they don’t win, their performances will be dissected and reviewed over and over with just their failure broadcast in the spotlight. Four years of preparation, hard work and sweat could all come down to heartbreak and tears in the matter of hours. Dreams shattered and just that one question, what did I do wrong?

Depression and sport do not go hand in hand but if you examine the symptoms of depression it is easy to see such a strong correlation between the two. Worthless, guilty, failure and insomnia are to name just a few feelings of what a sports star will face during their career, and yet we do not associate our stars with these feelings and depression as we never see them as vulnerable. Of course it is not just failing at an event or losing a medal or cup that can lead sports men of woman to feel the emotion of depression. To ours stars sport is a drug, the roar of the crowd at kickoff on a Saturday afternoon. Driving at 190mph in a formula one car and feeling the force of 5g as they corner Silverstone. Standing at the wicket waiting for the first ball of a test match, but as well all know their careers will not last forever. Weather it is due to a severe injury or those lines that every sports star does not want to hear “you’re just not as good as you were” or “you’re getting to old to continue”

So as their career is over and they are no longer doing the job they lived strived and showed for. Not having the sensation of being worshipped by their adoring fans. Maybe coming to the realisation that they may never have reached their full potential and having the apprehension of what do they do now in life? Of course they can move into coaching or the media side of their respective sports but does it really give them the rush they were once used to.

Only recently we have started to see a small insight into sports men and woman showing their elusive emotions through an interview or their autobiographies. Some high profile examples of this are former England cricket captain Freddie Flintoff. After humiliating defeats on the field of play, sacked as vice captain and struggling with alcohol. This led Freddie to re-evaluate his life and pull himself out of the darkness, but to some the numbness can be much worse. Dean Windass found the transition of football to retirement all too much and in January 2012 twice tried to take his own life by way of overdose and then attempting to hang himself. Could this admission be the way forward for sports governing bodies to offer support to their athletes? After the death of Wales’s international manager Gary speed 50.000 handbooks were sent out to pro and former pro footballers about mental health, but is this enough? Should clubs be offering counselling to players coming to the ending of their career? We all know a football club will go on without the player, but can the player go on without the club?

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Three Ways to Beat the Blues

London Life Coach & Clinical Hypnotherapist Sloan Sheridan-Williams talks about depression. Follow Sloan on Twitter @SloanSW_London and check out Sloan’s website

Tennessee Williams once said, “when so many are lonely as seem to be lonely, it would be inexcusably selfish to be lonely alone”, likewise it is important to note that in the UK approximately 1 in 5 people suffer with depression so there is no need to deal with your feelings on your own.

It is very common with individuals suffering from depression to dissociate themselves from their friends and family. Even though they are desperate for contact with others, they feel overwhelmed at the thought of reaching out and/or explaining their feelings. These feelings can include irritability, loss of appetite, reduced sex drive, anger, tearfulness, insomnia, exhaustion, negative thinking, lack of motivation, hopelessness and a loss of purpose.

Depression is a broad term which can be internal (genetic, biological and physical) or external (environmental and/or psychological). Different types of depression are seen in a wide range of mood disorders ranging from Seasonal Affective Disorder to Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome to Bipolar Disorder. Depression, be it internal or external, can affect all aspects of the individual’s life and often lasts at least a few weeks if not months. The shift in the person’s perception and internal thought processes can be alarming for the individual because they recognise that their mood has lessened but more often than not they do not know why.

There are many treatments out there for depression with the medical profession focusing on anti-depressants which come in all shapes and sizes from tricyclics to SSRIs to MAOs. This can be quite daunting to someone who is already depressed so below we talk about some less conventional ways to help beat the blues.

Equine Therapy

There is an equine facilitated learning retreat based in Colchester called “Feel Authentic”. Both Claire Cracknell and Janice Donovan run this retreat and use controlled interaction and specific exercises in conjunction with horses to highlight how our outer false self conflicts with our true self and can play an important role in our depression. Such internal discord results in a set of negative self beliefs and it is these such beliefs that Claire and Janice expose to their clients with the aid of their equine friends.

The session involves using the horse’s behaviour as metaphors for circumstances in the client’s life and through exercises (backed by research and psychology) to allow the client to understand and perceive their circumstances with a greater clarity, enabling them to find the courage and understanding to begin the journey towards a life they both desire and deserve. Anyone trying equine therapy will be invited to be at one with the horse and learn to react to feelings.

There is a lot to learn from these animals as they process information in a different way from humans and view emotions as signals that require action and adaptation. For example, if a horse is in a situation where the appropriate emotion signal is that of fear, they will process such information as a danger signal, reposition themselves away from the danger and continue on doing whatever they were doing before unphased by what a human would have called an emotive circumstance. It is this very objectivity displayed by the horse that we as humans can learn from, i.e. to not dwell in negative feelings caused by an emotional trigger which would send us spiralling into a vicious loop of uncertainty and low self-esteem.

If you are interested in a session at Feel Authentic, please call 01787 223 237 to make a booking.

Nutritional Therapy

If there is not an obvious external cause for depression, nutritional therapists advocate that our emotions and mental state are heavily influenced by the types of foods we eat. It is commonly known that the brain requires food (fuel) to function but more often than not we supply our brain with a quick fix of glucose in the form of high sugar foods like pizza, cakes, chocolate and fizzy drinks, yet these only cause a temporary but fast rise in sugar levels followed by a crash of the same. Outwardly a person who fuels their body in this manner will appear to have mood swings. Add to this internal chemical imbalance even the smallest of anxiety-inducing situations such as a deadline at work or a fight with your partner and you are not far from the slippery slope towards depression.

If you believe this may be the trigger of your depression, an easy fix which doesn’t require anti-depressants can be a change in diet. This can be as easy as increasing your low GI foods such as oats, brown rice, green vegetables, pulses and nuts. In addition, for those who still have a sweet tooth and want the occasional treat, this can be combated with an increase in chromium containing foods as chromium will help the production of insulin and this will maintain your blood sugar levels. Chromium containing foods include garlic, cinnamon and even broccoli to name but a few. Another important food type associated with mood often referred to as the “happiness hormone” is serotonin pre-cursor tryptophan which can be found turkey and yoghurt. If these foods do not appeal to you, eggs (which cointain phenylalanine) and avocados and almonds (which contain tyrosine) are great sources of the amnio acids which facilitate dopamine production which like serotonin will also give our brain a quick pick-me-up.

A final good all-rounder would be to take a multi-vitamin with particular emphasis on your B and D vitamins. For more natural approach to these vitamins, increase intake of dark green vegetables such as spinach and kale and/or grains such as millet and quinoa for your B vitamin intake and for non-vegetarians a good source of vitamin D includes mackerel, sardines and eggs.

Bach Flower Remedies

Bach Flower Remedies are now easily available at local health food shops. They have been thought to help improve negative states of mind and emotional imbalances resulting in positive outcomes and attitudes. The aim of this remedy is to treat the person not the disease, resolving illnesses at their root cause. These remedies can be given in tinctures or an easy to use spray and in some cases have been incorporated into chewing gum.

Although common consensus is to think the Bach Remedies are for light depression, research has shown that they can be effective in the more severe cases and they are able to be used alongside more conventional medicine.

Bach Rescue Remedy is suggested as a good all-rounder, gorse for feelings of hopelessness, mustard for a quick onset of depression out of the blue, and olive for when a person feels exhausted and needing to regain strength.

For further information visit

The above three therapies are not the only alternative remedies. If none of these appeal to you, do look into exercising, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, clinical hypnosis, medical herbalism and cognitive behaviour therapy. As humans, we are complex individuals. There is no one fix to cure all but no doubt one of the alternative therapies out there can be used in conjunction or instead of conventional medications so long as approved by your doctor.

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Can Music Save Your Life? – Part 2

Jennifer Campbell continues her exploration of music and the powerful effect it can have on our lives. To read part 1 of Can Music Save Your Life, click here.

Music is featured almost everywhere, we can even go as far as saying that we each have our individual soundtracks to our lives. And as each year passes and we go through a little more we add to it and even when you’re dead, those songs that once helped you are playing as you make your exit from this world. We all remember the songs we listened to from our first to our last loves, the songs we listened to during our school years and of course those songs that remind you of a loved one who may still be with us or not. Music is like a fingerprint, each of us is different and unique in our particular styles and what gets our hearts pounding with an array of emotions.

In a recent online survey, one of the women who answered the question “what does music do for you?”, said:  “It gives me a rush and can completely change my mood. It also gives me confidence in life”. Another respondent said “Songs can hold strong memories, so even if the music seems to be in the background it makes a huge difference to the setting and mood of a situation or memory”.

It is evident to see from the above comments that music is helpful to many people in a variety of situations. It doesn’t just stop with helping people through emotional times in life but music can also be used as therapy to those who are disadvantaged in life. The work of one charity in particular is phenomenal, Nordoff Robbins. They work as a music therapy based charity who works with a wide range of people from all ages, disabilities and illnesses. They particularly work with people who are very isolated or cannot communicate verbally. As with everyone music therapy needs to be adapted to suit each individual, there isn’t just a one trick wonder that will cure everyone instantly. The charity begins by working with the individual and making music with them until they recognise what they respond to then build from that. Often they help people who used to be able and very independent but due to a sudden and unfortunate life event have suffered from isolation.

Speaking with the Director of Music she shared this story in confidence, so he is anonymous. One man in particular lost his receptive and expressive language abilities following a stroke. He felt isolated, cut off and extremely depressed. He began taking music therapy on his own then his wife started joining him in the sessions, there was something magical about what she was witnessing. It went from his wife taking care of him, to them becoming partners again through the power of music.

Another organisation you may be familiar with is Samaritans, the work with people in confidence who are in extremely low places emotionally. Just recently there was a CD release called ‘Songs to Save a Life’ in aid of Samaritans. It featured many artists including James Morrison, KT Tunstall, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and The Overtones who donated their time to a cause they feel strongly about and they each chose a song of significant meaning.

KT Tunstall, multi-platinum singer and songwriter, on recording the album: “I’ve always had huge admiration for Samaritans; their existence is so vital to aid those in desperate need of someone to talk to. And music too can be a route out of places too dark to stay.”

Catherine Johnstone, Samaritans Chief Executive, on the album itself: “All the profits from the album will fund our essential 24-hour helpline service to support anyone feeling suicidal or with nowhere else to turn. We’re extremely grateful to all the artists and to the Songs to Save a Life production team for helping to make it happen. By buying this album, you could help us to save lives.”

The Songs to Save a Life album was named after the production company behind the project. Two music-industry experts, Richard Cardwell, musician/producer and musical director and Phil Armorgie, who has 20 years’ experience in the music industry, approached the Samaritans out of a desire to ‘put something back’ from an industry that had served them both well over the years and their mutual respect for such an incredible organisation.

Every year, Samaritans receives 5 million calls for help – that’s one every 5 seconds and every 60 seconds, the charity answers a call from someone feeling suicidal. The Songs to Save a Life is an album that can help Samaritans help others.

It just goes to show us, that no matter what situation we are in, whether it is a break up or a life altering event such as a stroke, music can do wonders for us. It can save us and bring us back to the life we love.

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