Mental health professionals discuss the abnormality treatment

Panelists explain how to deal with depression, anxiety

By Sophia Gravatt
On April 30, 2019
Mental health professionals on April 18 hosted a panel presentation in the C.J. Davidson Conference Center on the myths surrounding mental health.
Dr. Drew Curtis, assistant professor in the department of psychology and sociology, spoke about abnormality. 
 
“My hope is that we can not think of abnormality as some straightjacketed individual who might be deranged, rather than someone you might know more personally,” Curtis said. 
 
He said abnormality is based on the “four Fs.” 
The first “F” stands for frequency. 
 
“A behavior like handwashing isn’t abnormal, but if the frequency of that behavior is increased for a certain amount of time, it’s going to be very different from most people,” he said. 
 
The next “F” is function, he said. If someone repeats a behavior so many times a day because they have obsessions, and they’re unable to show up for class or work, it impairs their function. 
 
Curtis said the last two “Fs” are feeling pain, which is when a behavior causes great distress, and fatality, when a behavior becomes harmful to others or to oneself. 
 
“The four Fs are the criteria,” Curtis said. “You start asking yourself, ‘What’s the frequency? Do most people do this? How is it affecting my functioning?’”
Curtis said abnormality is not how it is depicted in movies. 
 
“In closing, abnormality is a lot closer to home,” he said. “It might look like someone you interact with on a day-to-day basis.” 
Mark Rehm, director of counseling services, discussed pros and cons and unintended consequences of diagnosis. 
 
Rehm said according to the Center for Collegiate Mental Health’s annual report, 55 percent of college students have either attended counseling before entering college or attended counseling immediately upon entering. Thirty-five percent of college students have been on some kind of medication, he said.
“To me, the positive spin on that is that people are willing to get help,” Rehm said. 
 
One of the unintended consequences is that people are identifying with their disorder, he said. 
“It’s almost like, ‘My name’s Mark and I’m a depressed,’” he said. “Or, ‘My name’s Bob and I’m an anxious.’” 
Rehm also discussed coping mechanisms and ways to help combat symptoms of depression.
 
“Just being in nature for 30 minutes a week leads to a decrease in depressive symptoms,” he said. “Exercise is great; it improves psychological and physiological functioning. Any form of spirituality reduces anxiety,” he said.  
 
San Angelo psychiatrist John Snuggs discussed depression being treated with ketamine.
Snuggs said for the past 50 years, ketamine’s primary use was in anesthesia. 
 
“So, somewhere along the way, I don’t know how or why, somebody decided to try very low doses of ketamine and see what would happen when they gave it to people with depression,” Snuggs said. 
 
In 2000, the first study came out describing the antidepressant benefits of the doses of ketamine and found that people started feeling better within hours of taking ketamine, instead of weeks when taking antidepressants, he said.
 
As more studies took place, the results stayed the same, but they also showed that the benefits of ketamine went away extremely quickly if the patients did not continue taking it, he said.
 
Snuggs said in March of this year, the FDA approved a ketamine product called Spravato. 
 
He said the product is a nasal spray that is not intended to be the sole antidepressant. Spravato is intended to pull patients out of their depression and aid in their ability to respond to an antidepressant. 

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