Ever wonder what it feels like to have a mental disorder?

Here are some incredibly powerful depictions of common mental disorders that may help promote understanding and reduce stigma about mental disorders:

What NOT to say to someone with struggling with a mental disorder…

Want to know what NOT to say to someone struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental disorder? This brave young lady’s recent Facebook post may help:

She is absolutely correct in her stats: More than a third (estimates range from 28-44%) of all people will suffer from mental health issues at some point in their lifetime (1). If you are blessed to not have had to struggle with mental health issues, please do your best to be understanding, supportive, or at the very least be non-judgmental of the many many people around you who may be silently suffering from depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues.

1) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2174588/

Popular YouTuber Anna Akana fights stigma about antidepressants

Much respect for this YouTube celebrity. Antidepressants are the number two most-prescribed medication class, second only to cholesterol medication (1). 6.7% of American adults suffered a major depressive episode in 2014 – a whopping 15.7 million people (2). A staggering 16.7% of all Americans have suffered at least one major depressive episode in their lifetime (3). Lets heed this brave young woman’s call to fight stigma about depression and antidepressants – if you suffer from depression, know that you are not alone, and that treatment (talk therapy +/- medications) can be incredibly helpful. If you don’t suffer from depression, know that 1-2 people out of every 10 people you know fights this illness – please be understanding, supportive, or at the very least non-judgmental; for tips on what NOT to say to someone who is fighting depression see this young lady’s Facebook post.


2) http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/major-depression-among-adults.shtml
3) http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=196765

Twitter Digest

Twitter Digest

  • Slides from my Depression and Medications Workshop at the Menlo Park Community Mental Health Conference available at http://bit.ly/9GWTgd #

Depression and Medications Workshop

Thank you to Menlo Park Presbyterian Church for inviting me to be a workshop speaker for their annual Community Mental Health Conference yesterday May 8th, 2010.  I hope to be getting an audio recording of the workshop that I will post on my website when I receive it.   The slides from my presentation, as well as a handout that has the answers to Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors Frequently Asked Questions (SSRI FAQ) are now available on my Resources page under “Depression”.

Thank you again to all the volunteers that made the event a success, and hopefully a useful resource for education and encouragement to the community.

Twitter Digest

Twitter Digest

  • Being a victim of airborne terrorism is less likely than being struck by lightning, but remains scary nonetheless: http://bit.ly/7iD8Cl #

Twitter Digest

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD / ADD)

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a disorder that is both common and controversial.  Its controversy likely stems from the fact that it is one of the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders in children, and treatment often involves prescribing stimulants, which are controlled substances.  This article will be focused on ADHD in adults.


It is estimated that in any given year, ADHD affects 4.1 percent of adults, ages 18-44.  Although everyone has occasional lapses in attention and concentration, people with ADHD have symptoms that significantly affects their ability to function in school, work, home, and social settings.


ADHD in adults can be conceptualize as a disorder of our brain’s “executive functions”.  The executive functions include planning, initiating and inhibiting actions, selecting relevant sensory information to focus on, etc.  Impairment of the executive functions can result in many of the following symptoms:

Inattentiveness as displayed in:

-Difficulty paying attention to details, or careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities.

-Difficulty keeping attention on tasks or activities

-Difficulty following instructions on tasks despite understanding instructions

-Difficulty focusing on the current conversation because of distracting background noises or conversations

-Difficulty organizing activities

-Difficulty focusing on tasks for a long period of time

-Often misplacing or losing belongings

-Often easily distracted

-Often forgetful in daily activities

Hyperactivity as displayed in:

-Often feeling fidgety during meetings, resulting in fidgeting with hands or feet, shifting positions in seat, or standing up from seat when remaining in the seat is expected.

-Often feeling restless, feeling “driven by a motor”, or always “on the go”

-Often talking excessively

Impulsivity as displayed in:

-Often blurting out answers before questions have been finished, interrupting others as they are speaking, or intruding on others’ conversations

-Difficulty waiting one’s turn


Diagnosis of ADHD in an adult is dependent on a history of ADHD symptoms in childhood before age 7.  If ADHD-like symptoms suddenly emerge in adulthood without a childhood history, it is likely that a different disorder with overlapping symptoms is responsible.  Major depression and bipolar disorder, among others, can mimic different aspects of ADHD.

There must also be clear evidence of significant impairment of functioning from ADHD symptoms in more than one realm (e.g. home, school, work and social settings).

There are three major types of ADHD:

1.ADHD Predominantly Inattentive Type: formerly known as “Attention Deficit Disorder”, or ADD.
2.ADHD, Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type
3.ADHD, Combined Type: ADHD combined type is a combination of the symptoms of inattentive type and hyperactive-impulsive type.

Of note, many still use the term “Attention Deficit Disorder” or “ADD” to refer to ADHD – Inattentive Type.  This is because the term “ADD” was used until 1987 when it was changed to ADHD – Inattentive Type with the DSM-III-R.

ADHD is diagnosed clinically, based on history.  Oftentimes, information from parents or teachers is helpful.  Psychological testing is sometimes used to help diagnose unclear cases of ADHD.  There is no blood test or imaging test that is diagnostic for ADHD.  However, if there are clinical signs that suggest a medical problem may be contributing to ADHD symptoms, your doctor may order blood tests or brain imaging tests to see if there are any other factors contributing to the ADHD symptoms.


Treatment can involve therapy, medications, or combined treatment, depending on patient preference and severity of symptoms.

  • Therapy: Behavior therapy has been shown to be effective in children with ADHD.  In adults, elements of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and cognitive rehabilitation including compensatory strategies can be helpful to cope more effectively with the disorder.
  • Medications: The most commonly used medications for treating ADHD are stimulants.  These medications are controlled substances and are generally prescribed by a psychiatrist or neurologist.  There are two major classes of stimulants: amphetamine class stimulants and methylphenidate class stimulants.  There are also other types of ADHD medications that do not fall into the amphetamine or methylphenidate classes.  Click the links below for more information on the different types of ADHD medications:
  • Treatment with stimulants needs to be carefully monitored.  Your physician will need to know about any personal or family history of cardiac problems including heart attacks, high blood pressure, arrthymias, etc.  You may need to undergo an electrocardiogram (EKG) or further testing prior to initiating treatment if there is the possibility of cardiac problems.   Your physician will want to monitor your blood pressure and heart rate periodically, as those can be increased by stimulants.  Common side effects that will also need to be monitored is possible weight loss because of appetite suppression, and slowed growth in children.

  • Combined Treatment: The combination of therapy and medications can be the most effective form of treatment for some patients.

For Further Information

See the Wikipedia entry on ADHD, or contact a qualified mental health professional.

Article written 12/19/09 by Minyang Mao, M.D.

Disclaimer: This article is intended as an educational resource only, and is not intended to be a replacement for treatment. For evaluation and treatment, please contact a qualified mental health professional.

Content © 2009 Minyang Mao, M.D.  Image © 2009 Bob Lin.  All rights reserved.