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Looking at Anxiety and Depression from a Different Angle

November 02, 2010

Free Seminar Focuses on Improving Understanding of Common Disorders

There are so many conditions and illnesses these days that seem easily remedied by medications. And it’s hard to ignore the glut of advertisements for countless medicines—for anything from cholesterol to erectile dysfunction—flooding television, radio and the Internet.

But the body is more complex than an isolated chemical reaction, and medications cannot offer an easy solution for every ill that people face.

This is certainly true of the mind and mental health. Though they are often stigmatized, mental disorders are common in the United States with an estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older—about one in four adults—suffering from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year, according to statistics published by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). A smaller population—about 6 percent, or 1 in 17—suffers from a serious mental illness.

Strikingly, mental disorders are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and Canada, according to a 2004 update by the World Health Organization with many people suffering from more than one disorder at a time, such as anxiety and depression.

On Monday, Nov. 22*, from 1 to 2:30 p.m., John A. Engers, M.D., a psychiatrist on the Washington Hospital medical staff, will present a free Health & Wellness seminar focusing on anxiety and depression, from a perspective he says is unique.

"I have been practicing psychiatry for the past 30 years, so I’ve actually heard quite a few stories from quite a few people, and I’ve come to some conclusions about anxiety and depression that are not particularly orthodox medical-model, disease-oriented ideas," he says.

Dr. Engers will cover all the basic treatment options for both anxiety and depression, including pharmacological approaches to treatment, while also taking time to explain how neurotransmitters, chemicals that transfer messages throughout structures of the brain’s nervous cells, are impacted by levels of hormones like serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine.

"But I think the basic lesson I will try to share is something how all people — no exceptions — suffer from anxiety and depression at one time or another," he points out. "It is part of the human condition. How people handle these emotional troubles is quite varied, and I will attempt to get people to understand when they actually might benefit from treatment, and when they won’t."

Dr. Engers says there has been a trend with general practitioners to give patients medicines even in some cases when it may not help. Often this happens, he says, because a person’s family doctor wants to help solve a pressing problem, and patients have become conditioned to expect some kind of prescription when they visit the doctor with a problem.

"A prescription isn’t necessarily what the patient really needs," according to Dr. Engers. "Unfortunately, the ability to know when to treat and when to refer to a psychiatrist is not too well honed in this country."

In the end, patients’ and physicians’ desire for a quick fix to common, but often misdiagnosed and mistreated, mental ailments can do more harm than good, which is why it’s a good idea to get another outlook before banking on a pill to erase the problem.

"I think the seminar will be interesting enough to the general public, and I think I can inform people about a lot of the relevant information," Dr. Engers says.

Seminar date has changed!

*The "Do You Suffer from Anxiety or Depression?" originally scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 9, has been rescheduled for Monday, Nov. 22.

The seminar will be held from 1 to 2:30 p.m., in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium, located at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont, across the street from the main hospital.

To register for the seminar, visit www.whhs.com and click on "Register Online for Upcoming Seminars" at the bottom of the page, or call (800) 963-7070.

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