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Anxiety & Depression: What Sufferers & Those Who Love Them Should Know

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Anxiety and Depression can be caused primarily by biological and genetic factors, psychological and trauma issues, environmental issues, or a combination of these.

  • Reflect On:

    Consider that due to A&D’s popular stigma, a narrow-visioned belief system, and the severity of these conditions, it’s wise to keep an open mind and learn more in order to be more compassionate and helpful to those suffering.

Clinical anxiety and depression (“A&D”) are often terrifying experiences, especially when we don’t know what’s happening to us and don’t have support. An overview and relatively comprehensive information guide to self-treatment and professional support can be invaluable and what I will try to share with you here. When I was caught in the vortex of A&D, I searched long and hard for insider information to help me. I couldn’t find very much and the therapists I initially saw didn’t help much either, until I found the right kind of therapists with experience in A&D.

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This article shares some of what I learned on my successful journey through A&D out to the other side (which at one time I thought I’d never see). It contains much of what I wish I had known when I was in the midst of that storm. I also share some facts and commonly misunderstood aspects of these conditions. Part of the reason for much of the conflicting information out there is the many ideologies and limited understanding perpetuated by people who had mild events, who haven’t been through serious A&D themselves, and who have not been in close contact with others who have A&D.

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I have been through extreme anxiety and depression myself, had A&D sufferers as patients, and lived intimately with sufferers while I was in treatment. With this said, I am a Chinese medicine physician, not a psychotherapist, and this article is not intended to substitute for professional psychotherapy or psychiatry help, which I think are crucial for anyone in severe A&D.

So, I speak both personally and objectively about these extremely challenging conditions. My hope is that you will be saved some of the grief I suffered and this writing will help wisely inform your choices.

The Stigma

The most common mental illness in America is anxiety; this is followed by depression, the latter which affects more people worldwide than any other mental illness. I call A&D “evil twins” because they were nothing short of hell to get through, more so than any experience I’ve ever had, including massive grief and nearly becoming paralyzed as a teenager.

The stigma—a societally perpetuated fear, attack, and mischaracterization—on mental illness has developed because of a lack of understanding, fear, and perpetuating false perceptions that serve no one, especially not the sufferers. When your brain goes out on you, as your knee or hip might, it’s devastating because you no longer can guide your life in the way you once did. Except our brains affect every aspect of our lives, not just gait and movement. When we lose our inner world to A&D, we simultaneously lose our outer world because nothing makes much sense anymore and it can become impossible to navigate the simplest tasks.

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Most recover from mental illness, just as we do from other illnesses. In fact, between 70 and 90 percent of the individuals who are treated for their illness have a reduction in symptoms and improved quality of life. So, getting proper and prompt treatment is crucial.

We have a long way to go in our understanding, acceptance, and treatment of these disorders, all of which will undoubtedly help the victims of these hellish diseases receive more compassionate care and financial assistance.

Mental illness is not usually some scary monster that makes us “crazy.” And no, mental illness is not well-correlated with mass shootings; this false meme only increases the stigma on mental illness; insightful and revelatory articles on the subject are here and here.

It’s also helpful not to describe mental illness sufferers with pejorative, vague terms like “crazy” that offer little meaningful information and are more judgmental than anything else. Mental illness is a disease process, like the flu or diabetes. The latter affect the lungs and pancreas, respectively, and mental illness affects primarily the brain, endocrine and nervous system, also parts of the body.

While we can learn from A&D, and important “messages” and psychological growth can be gleaned from them, this may not be the best perspective to take when afflicted. Sometimes we just have to get through them, as we would the flu, and get our physiology balanced again, encompassing both psychological and physiological treatment (mind and body). Most often, some combination of both cognitive and emotional learning, as well as good old-fashioned biomedical help, are in order.

Because of the stigma, we might resist identifying, admitting, and therefore seeking help for mental illness for fear of being marginalized, embarrassed, or ridiculed. But, as with most other disease processes, the sooner we get treatment the better for recovery. So, if you or a loved one is suffering from mental illness, try to cut through the misinformation and fears that sabotage healing and get help. Usually those who have suffered mental illness are able to understand and empathize with other sufferers, as can an experienced therapist.

Yin & Yang ‘Evil’ Twins

There are different types of anxiety, just as there are different types of depression.

In this article, I refer to anxiety primarily as severe anxiety that is more than everyday worry or anxiousness that comes and goes. Clinical anxiety is persistent anxiety that is considered an “anxiety disorder.” It usually doesn’t go away on its own, can get worse without proper treatment, and can be accompanied by anxiety or panic attacks.

I discuss depression primarily in the context of severe depression which is known as clinical depression, or major depressive disorder (MDD). Depression is more than low mood and normal sadness. It’s more than being bummed out that it’s raining or  that you missed a movie date, or feeling “off.” In fact, depression causes us to perceive extreme negativity in things that would normally cause us only mild discomfort. This is consistent with the well-known adage among sufferers that “depression lies.” Well, anxiety also causes us to believe the worst, and it also lies. Both evil twins distort our beliefs about most of reality that we otherwise wouldn’t when we are regulated (“normal” and manageable) in mind and body.

Depression and anxiety are neurological partners and often co-occur, just like Yin and Yang. Anxiety is Yang (outward, activating) and depression is Yin (inward, quiescent). True to the interdependence of Yin and Yang, depression gives rise to anxiety. And anxiety can give rise to depression, especially when it begins to exhaust our resources. Both usually affect normal sleep patterns and cause insomnia. In atypical depression, one may actually sleep longer than usual. In either case, these evil twins are a menace and in my own battle with them some years ago I could hardly determine which was worse.

Depression and anxiety also often affect relationships, ability to make even the simplest decisions, ability to work and carry out once ordinary daily tasks, and otherwise live a normal life. Suicidal ideation and suicidal plans are also common symptoms. A&D can become utterly crippling and can totally consume us, especially without proper treatment. Again, the sooner they are treated, usually leads to quicker and better recovery. A more complete list of symptoms for depression can be found here and for anxiety here.

Not Necessarily A Reason

If you are anxious or depressed, you might think there is a reason for this beyond genetics and physiological imbalance, and that this reason can be identified. Like many, you might think there is a psychodynamic reason for this, which refers to some aspect of your psyche beyond its mere physiology. Examples include past trauma, lifestyle circumstances, childhood issues, unconscious forces, or other inter-relational events that affects your state of mind. This is not always the case, and it can be impossible to determine what caused your downfall.

In most cases, focusing on what is going on rather than why it’s happening is more helpful for recovery. In other words, first just try to get better by any means and leave any inquiry into why for later. An exception to this is if your A or D has actually been precipitated by a cause, which I address just below. With this said, recovering from depression often takes action, not a lot of thinking, except to trust what others in the know encourage you to “reframe” (think about from a different perspective). As one good therapist said to me, “Jack you won’t be able to think your way out of this.” Boy, did I learn the truth of that as time went on.

Anxiety and depression, like other mental illnesses, often have a genetic component, meaning you inherit the predisposition (called a “diathesis”). If any, or several, family members suffer, you might carry the genetics, making you more likely to sustain either. Often, a stressful life event can trigger genetic predispositions and even epigenetically activate (alter genetic expression of) these syndromes. Many stressful factors and physiological changes acting together and compounding one another can precipitate A&D episodes.

Once we are more regulated (balanced and homeostatic), we will likely have a clearer perspective on our condition. We may then understand more of the why. With this said, sometimes the primary reason we fall into anxiety or depression is due to an identifiable cause, and learning about and working through the issue(s) can help us recover. It’s best to talk to a good therapist with A&D experience to determine the best course of treatment.

If we are very anxious or depressed, it’s only logical to think that something is making us anxious or depressed. In other words, if I am depressed I might think that I must be depressed about something. After all, our emotions are signals of something, right? Well, sometimes yes and sometimes no, and often some of both. Feeling of anxiety or depression often have no meaning and value other than to make us suffer, so it’s helpful during either to not take our feelings or thoughts too much to heart.

Clinical depression and anxiety are disorders, and there is not necessarily a psychodynamic cause behind them. In fact, depression is thought to be some 50% attributable to genetics, according to studies at Stanford. This means that in many cases it’s truly not your fault (not that it is anyway), and depression is not easy to control or navigate on our own, any more than we would be able to heal from cancer or a heart attack on our own.

We need help, and in a fiercely independent culture where we think we are supposed to be able to manage everything on our own, we might try to go it on our own, which can compound our distress. It’s especially important to have support through mental illness, not only from professionals but from supportive family and friends. This necessity poses a bit of a catch-22 because depression and some forms of anxiety cause us to want to retreat and isolate ourselves. While this can feel good in the short-term it’s often not advisable, which is why in A&D we often have to act counter-intuitively…to go against what feels good in the moment in service of what is going to help us heal little by little for the long run.

Feeling understood, accepted, and genuinely supported are crucial for healing from A&D. It’s just as important that we treat ourselves with ultimate kindness, that we become our own best friend.

Recovery

Very often, and more commonly among some popular online psychology gurus, unconditional acceptance is offered as a way out of any troubling psychological dynamic. Some even promote shadow work as the proper psychological medicine for such ails. While I consider shadow work crucial for becoming a human being of integrity, it’s not necessarily the best way through clinical anxiety and depression, or at least not initially.

Some degree of unconditional acceptance is helpful in any therapeutic process, but it must also be carefully integrated with tough love when it comes to healing from mental illness. This is because healing from mental illness often requires what’s called opposite action: that we do the opposite of what seems intuitively right, that we do what we don’t feel like doing. Opposite action is usually what is counter-intuitive. Opposite action is doing what we don’t feel like doing, or don’t think will help, but which indeed is helpful. For example, unconditionally accepting that a depressed person doesn’t feel like exercising, and therefore won’t, may not help him get better. This is because exercise is considered important medicine for recovery from anxiety and depression and it’s usually best to get some, any, exercise even though a depressed person—and less frequently, an anxious one—doesn’t feel like it.

Weaving compassion and tough love together, we might respond this way, in a compassionate yet clear tone, to someone who is depressed: “I hear you don’t want to exercise and you feel that you can’t do it, but it’s important that you try to move around, even for a few minutes.” We can also speak to ourselves (self-talk) this way if we have depression. If anxiety is predominant, we might legitimately need to rest (possibly in addition to exercise), because anxiety taxes our resources and tires us out. So does depression. Please remember to speak gently and kindly, even when firm, to anyone with A&D; you just can’t imagine how horrendous it is if you haven’t suffered it yourself.

Curiously, and contrary to popular belief, stress hormones are usually raging inside someone who can’t seem to get off the couch. Because depression causes real biological fatigue, a person with severe depression may truly not be able to exercise at all. In this case, pure unconditional understanding is helpful.  Maybe the next day, encouragement to walk even a few steps is a good idea, and the next hour or day, a few more. When I was in recovery, I began with 3 minutes of walking, which I increased from there. Prior to falling ill, I was exercising every day and could hike for hours. When I feel into depression, 3 minutes seemed like a marathon. Often, a depressed person needs to override real or perceived inertia in order to feel better in the long run, while not overdoing it. Slow and steady usually wins this race.

While anxiety or depression might cause us to feel like we’re going to die, it’s not a good idea to freak out about this feeling, which is to become “anxious about being anxious.” Feeling as if you’re going to die is how the brain automatically interprets intense fear. Again, these diseases “lie,” making us believe a reality that is not real except in our temporary perception of it. And this is key: the perceptions and imaginations we have while ill are temporary, just like it can feel like we will never get better, or that we will be forever bedridden, if we have the flu. We can and do get better. Life can turn around on a dime, and we need others to hold this hope and reasonable reality for us if we are unable to, which is often the case because it’s very, very difficult to believe this when in the midst of severe anxiety or depression.

While empathy can be generated, only those who have been through the gauntlet of A&D truly know what it’s like. If you have not experienced them, trust me, it’s virtually impossible to fathom, and it’s worse than you can imagine. Prior to my bout, I worked in a medical clinic treating people with these disorders. While I sensed their distress, as I do with anyone suffering, in hindsight I see that I could never have truly understood their experience. After having passed through them, I am back at work in the clinic and my empathy and compassion are much deeper, and I can relate on all levels to the utter confusion and terror of these states. While I can never know precisely what another is feeling, suffering from the same disorder gives a new order of relatability.

When clinically depressed and anxious, I responded best to those who spoke slowly and gently and who actually heard what I was saying and were able to understand me. Even if you don’t understand what it’s like to have clinical anxiety or depression, you can still empathize to a degree by remembering times you have suffered greatly. Indeed, part of why I have written this article is to give an outside’s perspective if a loved one of yours is suffering.

Disclaimer: while I have written about the dangers of the happiness and positivity craze and not ignoring our difficult thoughts and feelings, this approach is usually not helpful during the distorted experience of A&D , anymore than it’s helpful to give too much weight and attention to our difficult thoughts and intense feelings when we are upset or melancholy due to a bad night’s sleep, an argument, feeling excessively stressed, being hungry and having low blood sugar, or being sick with the flu, as examples. Hint: Getting poor sleep, common during A&D, can make depression feel worse. So, when I didn’t sleep well, I would remind myself throughout the day, “Don’t take anything you think or feel today too seriously.” I was already not taking things too seriously, and when I wouldn’t sleep well, this was especially the case.

A&D are distorted states and a Catch-22: it’s virtually impossible to think clearly about anything in these states because the very brain we think with is imbalanced, and this imbalance affects the quality of our thinking. But it’s not black and white: there are usually some thoughts and moments of intuition or revelation that you can recognize as more sane than others, that more resemble “the old you.” Attach to these, trust these, even if they are short-lived; use them as anchors.

It’s crucial to leverage any positive experience, any foothold we have, to regain regulation and better functioning, so we spiral upward and not downward. This leverage might be the hope someone else holds for us, the part of our thinking that does realize we are distorted and can let go of these distortions more easily, the ability to exercise, to laugh, to quiet our mind, to do anything rewarding and fulfilling, a medication or supplement that helps us feel and/or think better. Whatever. We use any leverage we can to gain more of ourselves back. During A&D, we try to invest our attention in the things that help us recover in the same way we would invest money wisely in order to grow our profits. Sometimes we don’t have any leverage, which is just one more reason it’s valuable to have others who can hold us (up) and remind us when we can’t.

Meditation & Mindfulness

I have been a meditator for years. However, I found that sitting meditation with eyes closed (mindfulness style) was not helpful for me during A&D. My mind was so disturbed and distorted that I couldn’t help but get stuck ruminating on my negative automatic thoughts and perceptions. Such rumination made me feel worse and is actually contraindicated in depression and anxiety. What I needed was a break from these thoughts, and sorry, but while suffering anxiety and depression I did not have the regulation and mental resiliency to just “let the bad thoughts go.”

Indeed, the vaunted capacity and quality for “awareness” is not constant and immutable; it varies with physiological and neurochemical changes. I was not in a place to be any closer to my negative thinking and feeling; I needed a break from them, as far away as I could get from them actually, so that my psyche could begin to find its balance again by way of the “mind healing the mind,” as I discuss below. For me this meant letting my mind get a break from itself.

So, silent, eyes-closed, sitting meditation just wasn’t my medicine. But it might be yours, especially if you are suffering from mild depression, also known as “subthreshold depression,” and anxiety. Therefore, disregard what I say if it doesn’t fit for you for whatever reason. I just want those who suffer from meditating during A&D to know they are not alone and to feel empowered to ditch it if they want to and not suffer more than they have to.

In researching this topic I came across a bold and helpful article by Therese Borchard, echoing my sentiments about mindfulness meditation. She quotes the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn, the “Dalai Lama” of the mindfulness meditation world, who says in his book:

“It may be wise to not undertake the entire program while in the midst of an episode of clinical depression. Current evidence suggests that it may be prudent to wait until you have gotten the necessary help in climbing out of the depths and are able to approach this new work of working with your thoughts and feelings, with your mind and spirit unburdened by the crushing weight of acute depression.”

In response to this statement, and how her depression wasn’t really helped by mindfulness meditation, she reflects:

In hindsight, I wish there was more than one paragraph in Zinn’s book about when mindfulness isn’t the solution, about when it’s better to swim laps or ride your bike into town or call a friend you haven’t talked to in a while. I still would have taken the course — and I do feel like I benefited immensely from it — but I would have been more forgiving of myself that it didn’t “work” like everyone else’s magic.

And in response to her meditation teacher finally agreeing with her, she goes on to say:

He confirmed what I was thinking during that moment and what has been my experience: mindfulness is better at keeping a person from getting depressed than from pulling a person out of depression.”

Indeed, this is the result of a study that found this to be true: that MBCT (Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy), which “revolves around mindfulness meditation,” can help to prevent a depressive relapse. And anxiety too.

We now know that via neuroplasticity (re-wiring the brain) we can use our minds to heal our minds; this happens because the quality of our thoughts affects the biological functioning of our brains to, among other functions, produce a more balanced flow of neurochemicals. The trick in A&D, however, is to have enough good mind (mental leverage) to be mindful enough to affect our impoverished mind back into balance. This is one way that CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) therapy is crucially helpful in A&D. It’s this good thinking that helps us do the right things for ourselves (self care), such as distraction to give ourselves a break from the onslaught of negative thoughts and feelings that are both symptoms of A&D and causes for it worsening.

Thinking positive thoughts actually has a corresponding positive physiological effect. So does smiling, even if we don’t feel happy. In other words, merely by thinking positive thoughts (very tough during severe depression and/or anxiety) can make us feel and think better. Similarly, the mere act of smiling can make us feel happier by changing our neurophysiology.So, it’s generally a good idea to try to smile during depression, and to do so counter-inuitively and in opposite action to what we feel like doing—namely, not smiling.

Many meditation practitioners might tell you it’s fine to feel worse and this is part of the “meditation process.” When I was not ill (and presently), I agree, sitting with distressing thoughts and feelings is difficult yet still helpful. But not during A&D. I also remember feeling worse about myself because meditation would bring me intimately closer to my distorted thinking (including suicidal thoughts), which was tough to get away from even with eyes open and active. This was not okay, and when I finally gave up trying to meditate my way to health, I felt relieved and fared better.

What I did find helpful, however, was ordinary mindfulness: being mindful of my distorted negative and anxious thoughts. And, I didn’t need to sit with my eyes closed for this. As alluded to above, this is the basis of CBT therapy, which helped immensely. I found it easier to let go of distressing thoughts (“thought defusion“) and feelings (“emotional defusion“) while active. To do this, I practiced not spinning stories or buying into the apparent importance and truth of my thoughts and emotions, which are distorted during A&D. “Distraction,” which I mentioned also helped, is a DBT technique. As for Therese Borchard, walking with friends, exercising, writing, watching TV and listening to music, reading, playing games—anything that took me away from ruminating—was helpful. By giving my mind a break from itself, after some time my physiology and neurochemistry became more balanced and I could see my disturbing thoughts and feelings more accurately for what they were: distorted, unhelpful, and largely meaningless.

In sum, be as mindful as you can and let go of beating yourself up if you can’t or don’t want to sit and meditate—it’s okay. Ironically, this can help your mind heal your mind, which is supposed to be a benefit from mindfulness meditation.

Medicine

I am a holistic physician practicing Chinese medicine. I and many of my colleagues, even M.Ds, try to stay away from pharmaceuticals. When I was in the early days of A&D, I never imagined I would need to be on anti-depressants. I was mortified by the thought of it and resisted them for months, until it got so bad that I welcomed anything that would help. Lesson: just as Western medicine is helpful for many conditions that holistic therapy cannot tackle, such as surgery and life support, pharmaceuticals can be life-saving to those with A&D. And, yes, I tried just about every holistic treatment available. So did a wise and now level-headed elder friend of mine who said this to me during a recent discussion:

I tried all the alternative prescriptions for A&D recovery . . . like diet and herbs and acupuncture and supplements and exercise and massage etc., etc . . . and I tried them with enormous commitment and dedication, and yet I STILL had to end up taking antidepressants. Im sure the other stuff helped . . . but alone it was NOT enough to save my life . . . it was ‘Big Pharma’ and a couple of awesome Psychiatrists who saved my life.

In the end, I don’t know if the medication helped me, and I don’t regret taking the pills. Just like Western medicine generally, pharmaceutical companies gets a bad rap, and often for good reason. We therefore might conclude that all their medications are unnecessary and useless. This is not only unfair, but unwise. While many more people are on antidepressants than should be, for many sufferers these drugs offer relief from an illness as debilitating as any around. You can listen to what world-renowned professor and depression survivor Robert Sapolosky has to say about depression. Adding insult to injury, many who take antidepressants are further shamed or stigmatized in addition to the stigmatization they already endure. Alternative medicine’s propaganda and stigmatizing of pharma medications likely causes more damage and additional suffering than necessary.

With this said, I tried every means possible to relieve my symptoms by natural means and none worked well enough, not even close. I felt like a failure for this, which added (unnecessarily) to my distress. Finally—and too late in the game—I had to go to the big guns. So, by all means, give the natural remedies a try. In the case of severe A&D, this decision should be made with the aid of your health care professional/s. But if nothing works well enough, don’t be afraid to consult with a psychiatrist for meds. Antidepressant and other medications, even with their potential side-effects, can provide much-needed relief. Yes, it can get so bad that any relief is desired as soon as possible.

With this said, anti-depressant medications don’t always work the first time around. In fact, for moderate to severe depression, they are effective about 50% of the time. A period of trial and error is often needed to find medication that works best for any individual, and they usually take between 4 and 8 weeks to take effect. I encourage you to partner closely with your doctor and mental health professionals. You are the expert on your symptoms and you doctor needs to hear what you’re experiencing. This will help you work together to find the right medication, or combination of medications.

For some, and by no means all, anxiolytics (anti-anxiety meds) and antidepressants help resolve anxiety and depression, respectively. Remember, there isn’t always a psychodynamic reason why we get anxious or depressed. Medication can also be helpful to help us get a foothold and begin to dig ourselves out of the trenches. They can help regulate us so that our prefrontal cortex (the rational, self-reflective part of the brain that shuts down in depression) comes “back on line” enough that we can absorb, remember, and comprehend crucial information and gain necessary perspective on our illness to be able to navigate it in ways that support our recovery. In these cases, medication does not mask mental illness or act as a harmful crutch, but helps us recover from it. Once we make strides and are able to exercise and function more normally, we may not need the medication. The choice to come off or get on medication, however, should be made with the help of a doctor.

Even if a person’s depression or anxiety is due to psychodynamic issues, medication can help to regulate the mind so that any identifiable issues that precipitated the illness can be productively worked through. Again, in acute A&D it’s difficult, to say the least, to perceive anything clearly enough to make strides. But again, it can be helpful to do so, especially with the help of a good therapist. Indeed, medication in combination with psychotherapy has been shown to be more helpful than medication alone for recovery from major depression (which often presents with its evil twin sister, anxiety).

Again, antidepressants are not for everyone, and the research literature clearly states this. But for some, they are an invaluable component to recovery. Since suicidality is a symptom of depression, medication literally saves lives. With this said, and ironically, antidepressants have been shown to increase suicidal ideation and behaviors in a “small number of children and teens,” so specific precaution and monitoring is needed for this age group. These are specifics to discuss with a qualified health professional.And, if you’ve been severely clinically anxious or depressed, you likely know the desperation to do anything to get out from the dark shroud of severe depression and the relentless inferno of anxiety. From my own experience, witnessing others go through the gauntlet, as well as from researching the subject, I endorse whatever helps someone get through without creating a bigger problem.

Psychoterapy

Two of the most helpful therapies for depression and anxiety are CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and DBT (dialectical behavior therapy). Here’s the classic DBT handbook authored by its developer, though my experience is that the book is not a substitute for working with a therapist, even a DBT-trained therapist. Part of this reason, is that in severe A&D, it can be tough to read a single line, much less a chapter or a book, make any sense of them, identify the proper advice for you and then, after all that, put the suggestions into action.

As mentioned previously, acting counter-intuitively, or what is called “opposite action” in DBT terms, can make a big difference. This includes not listening to our warped feelings and cognitive distortions (faulty perceptions and bad ideas). This is also why “intuition” and “trusting our feelings” as guides for how to act during A&D can be counter-productive and outright disastrous. An ordinary example we can all relate to is not wanting to get outside or get out of bed to take a shower or go for a walk. But once we do we feel better. Same for depression, unless we truly can’t get up for physiological reasons not due to an apparent lack of motivation.

As mentioned, psychological depth work is not usually appropriate in severe depression unless a significant cause of the disorder is due to these psychodynamic causes and one is regulated (functional) enough to undergo the process of hashing through past hurts and the emotional upheaval this causes. In severe A&D, depth work is usually not a recipe for success because bringing up more dysregulation and intense emotion when balance and stability are needed can sabotage recovery. Again, it’s difficult to see any issue accurately during A&D. Getting counsel from a good therapist with experience treating these conditions is invaluable and usually best to help assess what is appropriate to guide treatment.

Lastly, I want to mention that when medication and talk therapy don’t help enough, other treatments for depression you can consider include: ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) and rTMS (repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation). Even psilocybin mushrooms seem to have helped some, but opinions vary and the evidence is yet scant.

Other Factors

Biochemistry shifts with age, stress, diet, hormonal changes, environmental factors, genetic/epigenetic expression, and anomalous brain wiring. All these can cause significant mood changes. So, if you are anxious or depressed, it might not be due to something you are doing or have control over—that you can put your finger on and fix. It might be largely genetic and triggered by a stressful life event. OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), for example, is an anxiety disorder that causes anxiety for no logical reason (other than anxiety!). OCD and other anxiety disorders amplify usually mild issues or events and make them seem multiple times worse than for a person with more common responses to everyday anxiety.

OCD, GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) and depression cause us to think that events themselves are causing our distress and they are responsible for our feelings and perceptions. It’s actually more our highly distorted response to events that causes our suffering. Anxiety and depression latch onto whatever we might think about. Our mind is “latches onto” and spins tornadoes from what would otherwise be mildly distressing events. This is why therapy in general, and specifically being able to witness and be aware of our reactions (a key tenet of CBT), is so helpful to recovery; it allows a more regulated and balanced version of us to guide our responses to disturbing thoughts and feelings, rather than being so caught up in our negatively-generated and alarming thoughts and feelings that they take over and own us.

Psychodynamic triggers can indeed trigger unpleasant emotional states but are not the cause of all, or even most, of anxiety, depression, and other mood changes. With this said, sometimes our anxiety and low moods are signals for real-life issues, past or present trauma, lifestyle, coping, and other unhelpful dynamics that need to be addressed. Often, it’s some combination of both real-life events and underlying anxious or dysthymic (low mood) tendencies to which we are genetically predisposed and/or triggered into that cause anxiety and depression.

In cases of mild and even moderate A&D that have their source in life issues, sorting out the impacts of such dynamics with a trained and sympathetic therapist and/or psychiatrist is a good way to learn more. When psychodynamic issues are at the root of depression or anxiety and go unaddressed, chances are that suffering will continue, even if temporarily masked by medication. Again, skillful timing and personalized treatment are key here. If the cause is more biological in nature, medication is a modern miracle that can help recovery.

Anxiety and depression are illnesses like any other biological illness, it’s just that they occur primarily in the brain. We are more familiar with less stigmatized diseases such as diabetes, migraines, or Alzheimer’s and cancer. These are diseases that largely happen to people, just like mental illness. But with mental illness, somehow we have the idea, in whole or in part, that someone with depression or anxiety can just snap out of it and that they have control over their condition. We wouldn’t say this to someone with diabetes or cancer; neither should we address an anxious or depressed person this way. An astute friend recently commented this in response to an on-line post I made about A&D:

“There is a mountain of stigma, judgement, opinionating and misinformation to be overcome by people who are trying to live with and manage their Anxiety and Depression (as though just being afflicted with these dreadful conditions it isn’t hard enough already.) No need to take on the shame or misinformed projections of people who ‘think they know’ what these illnesses are, and where they come from and what you should do to manage them. Beware of rejecting what modern medicine has to offer you, and double beware of people who think they know what is best for you. Take any lifeline that is offered to you, and relinquish your attachments to romantic notions of recovery entirely through excessive self examination and compulsive scab picking of deep emotional wounds (which can be extremely dangerous for people who are very unwell). The causes of your illness might be extremely complex, and your recovery is likely to require a multi-faceted and uniquely personal set of strategies, which may well include medication. Hugs to anyone out there wrestling with A&D.”

—Darielle Bydegrees

Time For Compassion

For all our similarities, we are complex biological organisms with many nuanced differences. Just like other animals have personality types, oddities, seeming imperfections, and unique gifts, so do we. Yet, we seem to think that just because we are conscious and self-reflective creatures that we should be able to fix our anomalies, or even that they are in our control, especially when it comes to the mind. This myth perpetuates suffering, violence, and abuse when we treat others with judgement, condemnation, and meanness according to this flawed perception. People with severe depression and anxiety can’t just snap out of it or get over it, at least not quickly, the way you or I (when well) would normally shift a low mood or worry. Clinical depression and anxiety are different animals and sometimes lifelong events.

If we are significantly anxious or depressed this does not necessarily mean that something is complexly wrong with us, or that we can fix our predicament by digging into our current or past issues or venting our emotions. It might mean we need medicine, just as we would for any other less stigmatized form of physiological illness towards which we are culturally less judgmental. Because mental illness happens in the brain, it effects our thoughts and emotions more than other biological illnesses. Usually it means that we need both medicine (pharma, herbal, and/or nutraceuticals) and the support of caring, informed, and understanding health professionals who aren’t pigeon-holed and attached to a one-size-fits-all approach.

Images and stories of “crazy” and “unpredictable” people with anxiety, or even depression, perpetuate our irrational fears and judgement of these debilitating conditions. Such people are usually not violent unto others. Those who carry unresolved pain and trauma are more likely candidates for this.

Most people with mental illness suffer in shame and silence and are some of the most vulnerable, tender, compassionate and empathic people I know. So, let’s break the mould together, lift the mythic curse of judging mental illness due to our usually innocent ignorance of these menacing and crippling invisible illnesses. We do this in part through opening our minds and humbly learning about them so that our beliefs about these conditions can match reality. This in turn informs how we help sufferers and those who love them.


Some resources for Depression & Anxiety:

Books:

The Upward Spiral by Alex Korb, CBT for healing through depression

The Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon, on depression

The Imp of the Mind: on OCD and intrusive, bad thoughts

Videos:

“The Refugees” by Andrew Solomon at The Moth

Depression, Too, Is a Thing with Feathers by Andrew Solomon
Depression Talk at Stanford by Robert Sapolsky
Sam Harris and Robert Sapolsky: from 48.00 minutes to the end

Disclaimer: The information in this article is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease, or substitute for professional help. It is based on the author’s personal and clinical experience, research, and direct observations. The author is not a psychotherapist.


Jack Adam Weber, L.Ac., MA, is Chinese medicine physician, having graduated valedictorian of his class in 2000. He has authored hundreds of articles, thousands of poems, and several books. Weber is an activist for embodied spirituality and writes extensively on the subjects of holistic medicine, emotional depth work, and mind-body integration, all the while challenging his readers to think and act outside the box. Weber’s latest creation is the Nourish Practice, a deeply restorative, embodied meditation practice as well as an educational guide for healing the wounds of childhood. His work can be found at jackadamweber.com, on Facebook, or Twitter, where he can also be contacted for life-coaching and medical consultations.

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1 Million + People Download Study Showing Heavy Aluminum Deposits In Autistic Brains

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A landmark paper published in 2018 showing high amounts of aluminum in autistic brains has not been dowloaded more than 1 million times.

  • Reflect On:

    Why are federal health regulatory agencies ignoring the emerging science showing concerns with regards to injected aluminum? Why don't they address the concerns and conduct safety studies?

What Happened: In 2018, Professor of Bioinorganic Chemistry at Keele University, who is considered one of the world’s leading experts in aluminum toxicology, published a paper in the Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine & Biology showing very high amounts of aluminum in the brain tissue of people with autism. Exley has examined more than 100 brains, and the aluminum content in these people is some of the highest he has ever seen and raises new questions about the role of aluminum in the etiology of autism. Five people were used in the study, comprising of four males and one female, all between the ages of 14-50. Each of their brains contained what the authors considered unsafe and high amounts of aluminum compared to brain tissues of patients with other diseases where high brain aluminum content is common, like Alzheimer’s disease, for example.

It’s now been downloaded by more than 1 million people. The photo below was posted recently via his Instagram account.

Here is a summary of the study’s main findings:

-All five individuals had at least one brain tissue with a “pathologically significant” level of aluminum, defined as greater than or equal to 3.00 micrograms per gram of dry brain weight (μg/g dry wt). (Dr. Exley and colleagues developed categories to classify aluminum-related pathology after conducting other brain studies, wherein older adults who died healthy had less than 1 μg/g dry wt of brain aluminum.)

-Roughly two-thirds (67%) of all the tissue samples displayed a pathologically significant aluminum content.

-Aluminum levels were particularly high in the male brains, including in a 15-year-old boy with ASD who had the study’s single highest brain aluminum measurement (22.11 μg/g dry wt)—many times higher than the pathologically significant threshold and far greater than levels that might be considered as acceptable even for an aged adult.

-Some of the elevated aluminum levels rivaled the very high levels historically reported in victims of dialysis encephalopathy syndrome (a serious iatrogenic disorder resulting from aluminum-containing dialysis solutions).

-In males, most aluminum deposits were inside cells (80/129), whereas aluminum deposits in females were primarily extracellular (15/21). The majority of intracellular aluminum was inside non-neuronal cells (microglia and astrocytes).

-Aluminum was present in both grey matter (88 deposits) and white matter (62 deposits). (The brain’s grey matter serves to process information, while the white matter provides connectivity.)

-The researchers also identified aluminum-loaded lymphocytes in the meninges (the layers of protective tissue that surround the brain and spinal cord) and in similar inflammatory cells in the vasculature, furnishing evidence of aluminum’s entry into the brain “via immune cells circulating in the blood and lymph” and perhaps explaining how youth with ASD came to acquire such shockingly high levels of brain aluminum.

Following up this paper, Exely recently published recently published a paper titled “The role of aluminum adjuvants in vaccines raises issues that deserve independent, rigorous and honest science.” In their publication, they provide evidence for their position that “the safety of aluminium-based vaccine adjuvants, like that of any environmental factor presenting a risk of neurotoxicity and to which the young child is exposed, must be seriously evaluated without further delay, particularly at a time when the CDC is announcing a still increasing prevalence of autism spectrum disorders, of 1 child in 54 in the USA.”

In the interview below, Exley answers a lot of questions, but the part that caught my attention was:

We have looked at what happens to the aluminum adjuvant when it’s injected and we have shown that certain types of cells come to the injection site and take up the aluminum inside them. You know, these same cells we also see in the brain tissue in autism. So, for the first time we have a link that honestly I had never expected to find between aluminum as an adjuvant in vaccines and that same aluminum potentially could be carried by those same cells across the blood brain barrier into the brain tissue where it could deposit the aluminum and produce a disease, Encephalopathy (brain damage), it could produce the more severe and disabling form of autism. This is a really shocking finding for us.

The interview is quite informative with regards to aluminum toxicology in general, but if you’re interested in the quote above, you can fast forward to the twelve minutes and thirty seconds mark.

Why This Is Important: There are many concerns being raised about aluminum in vaccines, and where that aluminum goes when it’s injected into the body. Multiple animal studies have now shown that when you inject aluminum, it doesn’t exit the body but travels to distant organs and eventually ends up in the brain where it’s detectable 1-10 years after injection. When we take in aluminum from our food or whatever however, the body does a great job of getting rid of it.

When you inject aluminum, it goes into a different compartment of your body. It doesn’t come into that same mechanism of excretion. So, and of course it can’t because that’s the whole idea of aluminum adjuvants, aluminum adjuvants are meant to stick around and allow that antigen to be presented over and over and over again persistently, otherwise you wouldn’t put an adjuvant in in the first place. It can’t be inert, because if it were inert it couldn’t do the things it does. It can’t be excreted because again it couldn’t provide that prolonged exposure of the antigen to your immune system. – Dr Christopher Shaw, University of British Columbia. (source)

Furthermore, federal health regulatory agencies have not appropriately studied the aluminum adjuvants mechanisms of action after injection, it’s simply been presumed safe after more than 90 years of use in various vaccines.

It’s also important to note that A group of scientists and physicians known as The Physicians For Informed Consent (PIC) have discovered a crucial math error in a FDA paper regarding the safety of aluminum in vaccines.

If you want to access the science and studies about injected aluminum not exiting the body, and more information about aluminum in vaccines in general, you can refer to THIS article, and THIS article I recently published on the subject that goes into more detail and provides more sources, science and exampels. 

The Takeaway: When it comes to vaccine safety, why does mainstream media constantly point fingers and call those who have concerns “anti-vax conspiracy theorists?” Why don’t they ever address the science and concerns being raised that paint vaccines in a light that they’ve never been painted in? What’s going on here? Would more rigorous safety testing of our vaccines not be in the best interests of everybody? Who would ever oppose that and why?

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CDC Virologist: OP Vaccine Has Created More Polio Outbreaks Than It Has Stopped

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    According to Mark Pallansch, a CDC virologist, the oral polio vaccine has created more disease outbreaks than they've stopped. The oral polio vaccine is now responsible for many outbreaks across multiple countries.

  • Reflect On:

    Can these outbreaks caused by the oral polio vaccine really be brought under control by another vaccine used to combat the oral polio vaccine outbreaks? Is that such a good idea or is more caution warranted here?

What Happened: In 2019 Mark Pallansch, a virologists with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, told sciencemag.org that by using mOPV2 (oral polio vaccine), “we have now created more new emergences of the virus than we have stopped.” This is known as “vaccine-derived poliovirus.” Yes, you read that correctly, and it’s one of multiple examples of vaccines causing disease outbreaks. For example, A study published in 2017 in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology found that “During the measles outbreak in California in 2015, a large number of suspected cases occurred in recent vaccinees. Of the 194 measles sequences obtained in the United States in 2015, 73 were identified as vaccine sequences…” This means 37 percent of the cases analyzed were a result of the vaccine. You can read more about the measles and the MMR vaccine specifically, here.

Why This Is Important: The spread of the virus due to the oral vaccine is plaguing Africa,

The global initiative to eradicate polio is badly stuck, battling the virus on two fronts. New figures show the wild polio virus remains entrenched in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, its other holdout, where cases are surging. In Africa, meanwhile, the vaccine itself is spawning virulent strains. The leaders of the world’s biggest public health program are now admitting that success is not just around the corner—and intensively debating how to break the impasse. (source)

Children’s Health Defense explains,

The oral polio vaccine (OPV) is in use around the world and constitutes the “workhorse” of global polio eradication efforts due to its low cost and ease of administration. The OPV contains live but weakened polioviruses that match up to wild polioviruses. Vaccine researchers have long known that these OPV-derived viruses can themselves cause polio, particularly when they get “loose in the environment.” In settings with poor sanitation and iffy hygiene, the vaccine viruses can easily “find their way into water sources, and onto contaminated hands or foods,” where they can then launch a self-perpetuating chain of transmission. Researchers concede that an OPV virus “can very rapidly regain its strength if it starts spreading on its own,” acquiring “mutations that make it basically indistinguishable from the wild-type virus.” In other words, there is no meaningful difference between a wild and OPV-derived poliovirus “in terms of virulence and in terms of how the virus spreads.”

The oral vaccine has been causing outbreaks in multiple countries for a long time, in fact,  it has been responsible for close to 90% of the vaccine-derived polioviruses circulating since the year 2000, but it was only recently when the World Health Organization (WHO) brought more attention to the issue via their website in September of this year.

In fact, between August 2019 and August 2020, there were 400 recorded cases of vaccine-derived polio in more than 20 countries worldwide

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), headed by the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation had scientists actually predict predict that some vaccine-virus-derived outbreaks would indeed occur, but they thought they could handle these outbreaks with another vaccine.

Now,

The frequency with which type 2 vaccine-derived outbreaks are occurring has far exceeded projections—and the rush to administer the new monovalent type 2 vaccine appears to be exacerbating rather than stemming the problem. In an astonishing admission, a CDC virologist has stated that due to the stop-gap use of the new type-2-only vaccine, “We have now created more new emergences of the virus than we have stopped.” Another vaccine expert has remarked, “if you just keep trickling in with a little bit of [monovalent] vaccine every time you think you have a problem all you’re doing is reseeding [more transmission chains].”

There had been no cases of wild poliovirus on the African continent since September 2016, but by July 2019, the WHO was cautioning that there was a high risk of ongoing type 2 vaccine virus spreading across Africa. Outbreak investigators have been documenting an uptick in circulating vaccine-derived  poliovirus type 2 in both human and environmental samples since mid-2017 (two years after the “switch”), generally obtaining human samples either from children presenting with acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) or from “healthy community contacts.” Although the WHO describes polio as just one of AFP’s possible causes, African labs have been isolating type 2 vaccine virus in case after case of AFP.

To date, surveillance reports have noted the presence of the vaccine-derived type 2 poliovirus in Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, and Somalia. In Nigeria, type 2 has spread from the north of the country to Lagos—Nigeria’s largest and most densely populated city. In Ghana, soon after investigators found type 2 vaccine viruses in sewage in the capital of Accra, a toddler 400 miles away was diagnosed with vaccine virus paralysis—representing Ghana’s “first ever” reported outbreak of type 2 vaccine-derived poliovirus.

And to think in Pakistan they were jailing parents who were refusing to give their children the oral polio vaccine, perhaps they still are?

The Takeaway: Why is so much credible information about the safety concerns regarding vaccines never addressed by the mainstream media? Why do they never address and counter the concerns, and why instead do they constantly use ridicule and terms like “anti-vax conspiracy theorists?”  Would more rigorous safety testing of our vaccines not be in the best interests of everybody? Who would ever oppose that and why?

Related CE Article: Scientists Call For Safety Testing of Aluminum Based Vaccine Adjuvants

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Multiple Studies Strongly Suggest Wireless Radiation Is Harming Our Bees

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Unnatural sources of electromagnetic seem to be harming not only us, but our bees, trees and other insects.

  • Reflect On:

    How is so much of this technology able to rollout without appropriate safety testing? Why do many countries already have bans and restrictions in places like schools and nursing homes?

Multiple studies have shown that unnatural sources of electromagnetic radiation “biological effects. period. This is no longer a subject for debate when you look at PubMed and the peer-reviewed literature. These effects are seen in all life forms; plants, animals, insects, microbes. In humans, we have clear evidence of cancer now, there is no question. We have evidence of DNA damage, cardiomyopathy, which is the precursor of congestive heart failure, neuropsychiatric effects…” – Dr. Sharon Goldberg, an internal medicine physician.

Here’s one out of thousands of studies that properly outline the health and environmental concerns of wireless radiation, including the novel 5G technology that’s been rolling out all over the world. Not long ago, The Environmental Health Trust  filed a case against the U.S. Federal Communications Commission regarding 5G and wireless radiation, citing health and environmental concerns.

Hundreds of scientists have been petitioning the United Nations about this issue but to no avail. Despite the concerns raising by more than 2000 studies, the topic is still ridiculed and sometimes even deemed a “conspiracy within the mainstream media.

If you want to find/read some more science on this subject, you can refer to this article for a few more examples, and be sure to visit the Environmental Health Trust for more.

What Happened: The Environmental Health TrustThe information below comes from and was put together by .

Electromagnetic fields from powerlines, cell phones, cell towers and wireless has been shown to negatively impact birds, bees, wildlife and our environment in numerous peer reviewed research studies. Specifically,  electromagnetic radiation has been found to alter bee behavior, produce biochemical changes and impact bee reproduction.

 publication by Daniel Favre describes the methodology for a study in which direct adverse were seen in the bees’ behavior following exposure to electromagnetic fields. Favre states, “The present data strongly suggest that honeybee colonies are affected and disturbed by electromagnetic waves (RF-EMF).” In his comprehensive review article, Ulrich Warnke  cites multiple studies which examine the effects of radiofrequency radiation exposure on bees and notes the vital importance of bees as pollinators. Research has found behavioral effects after electromagnetic radiation exposure including inducing artificial worker piping (Favre, 2011), disrupting navigation abilities (Goldsworthy, 2009Sainudeen, 2011Kimmel et al., 2007) decreasing rate egg laying rate (Sharma and Kumar, 2010) and reducing colony strength (Sharma and Kumar, 2010Harst et al., 2006). Furthermore, Neelima Kumar and colleagues found cell phone radiation  influences honey bees’ behavior and physiology.  (2011).

As Clarke et al. (2013) has reported, bees have a particular sensory modality which allows them to detect electric fields, and thus they are particularly susceptible to large amounts of electromagnetic radiation.

5G Millimeter Waves, Bees and Insects 

Exposure of Insects to Radio-Frequency Electromagnetic Fields from 2 to 120 GHz” published in Scientific Reports is the first study to investigate how insects (including the Western honeybee) absorb the higher frequencies (2 GHz to 120 GHz) to be used in the 4G/5G rollout. The scientific simulations showed increases in absorbed power between 3% to 370% when the insects were exposed to the frequencies. Researchers concluded, “This could lead to changes in insect behaviour, physiology, and morphology over time….” (Thielens 2018)

Clearly, more research is necessary to understand the full impact of RFR on bees and other insects. However, enough research has been performed to indicate an urgent need to reduce electromagnetic radiation exposures to protect the bee population and in turn, protect the environment.  As 5G will increase radiation exposures and use new higher frequencies shown to be highly absorbed into insects , scientists are calling for a moratorium on 5G.

Colony Collapse Disorder is thought to be caused by a combination of several factors including pesticides, chemicals and parasitic infection. Importantly, researchers have proposed that  the stress of ever increasing electromagnetic radiation exposure has weakened bee populations and added stress that then results in decreased ability to maintain their health when also exposed to increased pesticides, chemicals and infections. The bees resistance to environmental stressors is weakened by EMF exposure.

ARTICLES:

Herriman, Sasha. “Study links bee decline to cell phones.” CNN (30 June 2010).

Chokshi, Niraj. “If Cell Phones Are Behind the Bee Decline, What Are They Doing to Humans?” The Atalantic (30 June 2010).

  • “In a study at Panjab University in Chandigarh, northern India, researchers fitted cell phones to a hive and powered them up for two fifteen-minute periods each day. After three months, they found the bees stopped producing honey, egg production by the queen bee halved, and the size of the hive dramatically reduced.”
  • “Andrew Goldsworthy, a biologist from Imperial College, London, told CNN that the reason may have to do with radiation from cell phones and cell towers disturbing the molecules of the chemical cryptochrome, which bees and other animals use for navigation. The “other animals” part there is key: it includes humans.”

Derbyshire, David. “Why a mobile phone ring may make bees buzz off: Insects infuriated by handset signals.” Daily Mail (13 May 2011).

  • Dr Favre, a teacher who previously worked as a biologist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, said: ‘This study shows that the presence of an active mobile phone disturbs bees – and has a dramatic effect.’
  • He placed two mobile phones under a beehive and recorded the high pitched calls made by the bees when the handsets were switched off, placed on stand-by and activated.
  • Around 20 to 40 minutes after the phones were activated, the bees began to emit “piping” calls – a series of high pitched squeaks that announce the start of swarming.

“Cell Phones Caused Mysterious Worldwide Bee Deaths, Study Finds.” Fox News (13 May 2011).

RESEARCH STUDIES AND REPORTS

Shepherd et al., Increased aggression and reduced aversive learning in honey bees exposed to extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields. PLoS One. 2019 Oct 10

  • Exposure to ELF EMF reduced aversive learning performance and also increased aggression scores
  • “These results indicate that short-term exposure to ELF EMFs, at levels that could be encountered in bee hives placed under power lines, reduced aversive learning and increased aggression levels. These behavioural changes could have wider ecological implications in terms of the ability of bees to interact with, and respond appropriately to, threats and negative environmental stimuli.”

Shepherd et al., Extremely Low Frequency Electromagnetic Fields impair the Cognitive and Motor Abilities of Honey Bees, Scientific Reports volume 8, Article number: 7932 (2018)

  • Extremely low frequency electromagnetic field (ELF EMF) pollution from overhead powerlines is known to cause biological effects across many phyla, but these effects are poorly understood. Honey bees are important pollinators across the globe and due to their foraging flights are exposed to relatively high levels of ELF EMF in proximity to powerlines. Here we ask how acute exposure to 50 Hz ELF EMFs at levels ranging from 20–100 µT, found at ground level below powerline conductors, to 1000–7000 µT, found within 1 m of the conductors, affects honey bee olfactory learning, flight, foraging activity and feeding. ELF EMF exposure was found to reduce learning, alter flight dynamics, reduce the success of foraging flights towards food sources, and feeding.
  • The results suggest that 50 Hz ELF EMFs emitted from powerlines may represent a prominent environmental stressor for honey bees, with the potential to impact on their cognitive and motor abilities, which could in turn reduce their ability to pollinate crops.

Cammaerts, Marie-Claire. “Is electromagnetism one of the causes of the CCD? A work plan for testing this hypothesis.” Journal of Behavior 2.1 (2017): 1006.

  • The decline of domestic bees all over the world is an important problem still not well understood by scientists and beekeepers, and far from being solved. Its reasons are numerous: among others, the use of pesticides and insecticides, the decrease of plant diversity, and bee’s parasites. Besides these threats, there is a potential adverse factor little considered: manmade electromagnetism.
  • The present paper suggests two simple experimental protocols for bringing to the fore the potential adverse effect of electromagnetism on bees and to act consequently. The first one is the observation of bees’ avoidance of a wireless apparatus; the second one is the assessment of colonies’ strength and of the intensity of the electromagnetism field (EMF) surrounding them. If bees avoid a wireless apparatus, if hives in bad health are located in EMF of a rather high intensity, it can be presumed that bees are affected by manmade electromagnetism. This should enable searching for palliative measures.

Favre, Daniel. “Disturbing Honeybees’ Behavior with Electromagnetic Waves: a Methodology.” Journal of Behavior 2.2 (2017): 1010.

  • “Mobile phone companies and policy makers point to studies with contradictory results and usually claim that there is a lack of scientific proof of adverse effects of electromagnetic fields on animals. The present perspective article describes an experiment on bees, which clearly shows the adverse effects of electromagnetic fields on these insects’ behavior. The experiment should be reproduced by other researchers so that the danger of manmade electromagnetism (for bees, nature and thus humans) ultimately appears evident to anyone.”

Balmori, Alfonso. “Anthropogenic radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as an emerging threat to wildlife orientation.” Science of The Total Environment 518–519 (2015): 58–60.

  • Current evidence indicates that exposure at levels that are found in the environment (in urban areas and near base stations) may particularly alter the receptor organs to orient in the magnetic field of the earth.
  • These results could have important implications for migratory birds and insects, especially in urban areas, but could also apply to birds and insects in natural and protected areas where there are powerful base station emitters of radiofrequencies.

Redlarski, Grzegorz, et al. “The influence of electromagnetic pollution on living organisms: historical trends and forecasting changes.” BioMed Research International 2015.234098 (2015).

  • “Current technologies have become a source of omnipresent electromagnetic pollution from generated electromagnetic fields and resulting electromagnetic radiation. In many cases this pollution is much stronger than any natural sources of electromagnetic fields or radiation. The harm caused by this pollution is still open to question since there is no clear and definitive evidence of its negative influence on humans. This is despite the fact that extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields were classified as potentially carcinogenic.
  • For these reasons, in recent decades a significant growth can be observed in scientific research in order to understand the influence of electromagnetic radiation on living organisms. However, for this type of research the appropriate selection of relevant model organisms is of great importance. It should be noted here that the great majority of scientific research papers published in this field concerned various tests performed on mammals, practically neglecting lower organisms.
  • In that context the objective of this paper is to systematise our knowledge in this area, in which the influence of electromagnetic radiation on lower organisms was investigated, including bacteria, E. coli and B. subtilis, nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans, land snail, Helix pomatia, common fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, and clawed frog, Xenopus laevis.”

Richard Odemer, Franziska Odemer, Effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation (RF-EMF) on honey bee queen development and mating success

  • We have therefore exposed honey bee queen larvae to the radiation of a common mobile phone device (GSM) during all stages of their pre-adult development including pupation. After 14 days of exposure, hatching of adult queens was assessed and mating success after further 11 days, respectively. Moreover, full colonies were established of five of the untreated and four of the treated queens to contrast population dynamics. We found that mobile phone radiation had significantly reduced the hatching ratio but not the mating success.

Clarke, Dominic, et al. “Detection and Learning of Floral Electric Fields by Bumblebees.” Science 340.6128 (2013): 66-9.

  • “We report a formerly unappreciated sensory modality in bumblebees (Bombus terrestris), detection of floral electric fields. Because floral electric fields can change within seconds, this sensory modality may facilitate rapid and dynamic communication between flowers and their pollinators.”

Cucurachi, C., et al. “A review of the ecological effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF).” Environment International 51 (2013): 116–40.

  • RF-EMF had a significant effect on birds, insects, other vertebrates, other organisms and plants in 70% of the studies.
  • Development and reproduction of birds and insects are the most strongly affected endpoints.

Favre, Daniel. “Mobile phone induced honeybee worker piping.” Apidologie 42 (2011): 270-9.

  • Electromagnetic waves originating from mobile phones had a dramatic impact on the behavior of the bees, namely by inducing the worker piping signal. In natural conditions, worker piping either announces the swarming process of the bee colony or is a signal of a disturbed bee colony.

Goldsworthy, Andrew. “The Birds, the Bees and Electromagnetic Pollution: How electromagnetic fields can disrupt both solar and magnetic bee navigation and reduce immunity to disease all in one go.” (2009).

  • Many of our birds are disappearing mysteriously from the urban environment and our bees are now under serious threat. There is increasing evidence that at least some of this is due to electromagnetic pollution such as that from cell towers, cell phones, DECT cordless phones and Wifi. It appears capable of interfering with their navigation systems and also their circadian rhythms, which in turn reduces their resistance to disease. The most probable reason is that these animals use a group of magnetically-sensitive substances called cryptochromes for magnetic and solar navigation and also to control the activity of their immune systems.

Goldsworthy, Andrew. “The Biological Effects of Weak Electromagnetic Fields: Problems and Solutions.” (2012)

  • “Many of the reported biological effects of non-ionising electromagnetic fields occur at levels too low to cause significant heating; i.e. they are non thermal. Most of them can be accounted for by electrical effects on living cells and their membranes. The alternating fields generate alternating electric currents that flow through cells and tissues and remove structurally-important calcium ions from cell membranes, which then makes them leak.”

Thielens et al., “Exposure of Insects to Radio-Frequency Electromagnetic Fields from 2 to 120 GHz” Scientific Reports volume 8, Article number: 3924 (2018)

  • “Insects are continually exposed to Radio-Frequency (RF) electromagnetic fields at different frequencies. This paper is the first to report the absorbed RF electromagnetic power in four different types of insects as a function of frequency from 2 GHz to 120 GHz.   All insects showed a general increase in absorbed RF power at and above 6 GHz, in comparison to the absorbed RF power below 6 GHz. Our simulations showed that a shift of 10% of the incident power density to frequencies above 6 GHz would lead to an increase in absorbed power between 3–370%.”
  • “This could lead to changes in insect behaviour, physiology, and morphology over time due to an increase in body temperatures, from dielectric heating. The studied insects that are smaller than 1 cm show a peak in absorption at frequencies (above 6 GHz), which are currently not often used for telecommunication, but are planned to be used in the next generation of wireless telecommunication systems.”

Greggers, Uwe, et al. “Reception and learning of electric fields in bees.” Proceedings of the Royal Society B 280.1759 (2013).

  • Honeybees, like other insects, accumulate electric charge in flight, and when their body parts are moved or rubbed together. We report that bees emit constant and modulated electric fields when flying, landing, walking and during the waggle dance.
  • The electric fields emitted by dancing bees consist of low- and high-frequency components. Both components induce passive antennal movements in stationary bees according to Coulomb’s law. Bees learn both the constant and the modulated electric field components in the context of appetitive proboscis extension response conditioning.
  • Using this paradigm, we identify mechanoreceptors in both joints of the antennae as sensors. Other mechanoreceptors on the bee body are potentially involved but are less sensitive. Using laser vibrometry, we show that the electrically charged flagellum is moved by constant and modulated electric fields and more strongly so if sound and electric fields interact.
  • Recordings from axons of the Johnston organ document its sensitivity to electric field stimuli. Our analyses identify electric fields emanating from the surface charge of bees as stimuli for mechanoreceptors, and as biologically relevant stimuli, which may play a role in social communication.

Harst, Wolfgang, Jochen Kuhn and Hermann Stever. “Can Electromagnetic Exposure Cause a Change in Behaviour? Studying Possible Non-thermal Influences on Honey Bees – An Approach Within the Framework of Educational Informatics.” Acta Systemica-IIAS International Journal 6.1 (2006): 1-6.

  • A pilot study on honeybees testing the effects of non-thermal, high frequency electromagnetic radiation on beehive weight and flight return behavior.  In exposed hives, bees constructed 21% fewer cells in the hive frames after 9 days than those unexposed.

Odemer, Richard & Odemer, Franziska. (2019). Effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation (RF-EMF) on honey bee queen development and mating success. Science of The Total Environment. 661. 553-562. 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.01.154.

  • Chronic RF-EMF exposure significantly reduced hatching of honey bee queens. Mortalities occurred during pupation, not at the larval stages. Mating success was not adversely affected by the irradiation.mAfter the exposure, surviving queens were able to establish intact colonies.

Kimmel, Stefan, et al. “Electromagnetic radiation: influences on honeybees (Apis mellifera).” IIAS-InterSymp Conference (2007).

  • 39.7% of the non-irradiated bees had returned to their hives while only 7.3% of the irradiated bees had.

Kumar, Neelima R., Sonika Sangwan, and Pooja Badotra. “Exposure to cell phone radiations produces biochemical changes in worker honey bees.” Toxicology International 18.1 (2011): 70–2.

  • The present study was carried out to find the effect of cell phone radiations on various biomolecules in the adult workers of Apis mellifera L. The results of the treated adults were analyzed and compared with the control. Radiation from the cell phone influences honey bees’ behavior and physiology. There was reduced motor activity of the worker bees on the comb initially, followed by en masse migration and movement toward “talk mode” cell phone. The initial quiet period was characterized by rise in concentration of biomolecules including proteins, carbohydrates and lipids, perhaps due to stimulation of body mechanism to fight the stressful condition created by the radiations. At later stages of exposure, there was a slight decline in the concentration of biomolecules probably because the body had adapted to the stimulus.

Lambinet, Veronika, et al. “Honey bees possess a polarity-sensitive magnetoreceptor.” Journal of Comparative Physiology A(2017): 1-8

  • “Honey bees, Apis mellifera, exploit the geomagnetic field for orientation during foraging and for alignment of their combs within hives. We tested the hypothesis that honey bees sense the polarity of magnetic fields.”
  • We created an engineered magnetic anomaly in which the magnetic field generally either converged toward a sugar reward in a watch glass, or away from it. After bees in behavioral field studies had learned to associate this anomaly with a sugar water reward, we subjected them to two experiments performed in random order. In both experiments, we presented bees with two identical sugar water rewards, one of which was randomly marked by a magnetic field anomaly. During the control experiment, the polarity of the magnetic field anomaly was maintained the same as it was during the training session. During the treatment experiment, it was reversed.
  • We predicted that bees would not respond to the altered anomaly if they were sensitive to the polarity of the magnetic field. Our findings that bees continued to respond to the magnetic anomaly when its polarity was in its unaltered state, but did not respond to it when its polarity was reversed, support the hypothesis that honey bees possess a polarity-sensitive magnetoreceptor.

Oschman, James and Nora Oschman. “Electromagnetic communication and olfaction in insects.” Frontier Perspectives (2004).

Philips, Alasdair and Jean Philips. “Animals, Birds, Insects and Plants.” Radiofrequency EMFS and Health Risks (2017).

  • The current problem is thought to be a combination of different factors. Pesticides are weakening the bees without killing them, making them more susceptible to other environmental pollutants. The bees seem to leave the hive looking for nectar and fail to return.

EMFs from telecommunications infrastructures could interfere with bees’ biological clocks that enable them to compensate properly for the sun’s movements and may fly in the wrong direction when attempting to return to the hive. They could disappear mysteriously. This phenomenon has been widely reported in the past months.

“Report on Possible Impacts of Communication Towers on Wildlife Including Birds and Bees.”  Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India, 2010.

  • This report details the on impacts of communication towers on wildlife including birds and bees submitted to MoEF. It  warns of harmful radiation and recommends special laws to protect urban flora & fauna from threats radiation emerging from mobile towers.

Sainudeen, Sahib.S. “Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR) Clashes with Honey Bees.” International Journal of Environmental Sciences 1.5 (2011).

  • Recently a sharp decline in population of honey bees has been observed in Kerala. Although the bees are susceptible to diseases and attacked by natural enemies like wasps, ants and wax moth, constant vigilance on the part of the bee keepers can over come these adverse conditions. The present plunge in population (< 0.01) was not due to these reasons. It was caused by man due to unscientific proliferation of towers and mobile phones.”
  • Six colonies of honeybees ( Apis mellifera ) were selected. Three colonies were selected as test colonies (T1,T2&T3) and the rest were as control (C1,C2&C3). The test colonies were provided with mobile phones in working conditions with frequency of 900 MHz for 10 minutes for a short period of ten days. After ten days the worker bees never returned hives in the test colonies. The massive amount of radiation produced by mobile phones and towers is actually frying the navigational skills of the honey bees and preventing them from returning back to their hives.
  • The study concludes, “More must also be done to compensate individuals and communities put at risk. Insurance covering diseases related to towers, such as cancer, should be provided for free to people living in 1 km radius around the tower. Independent monitoring of radiation levels and overall health of the community and nature surrounding towers is necessary to identify hazards early. Communities need to be given the opportunity to reject cell towers and national governments need to consider ways of growing their cellular networks without constantly exposing people to radiation.”

Sharma, V.P. and N.K. Kumar. “Changes in honeybee behaviour and biology under the influence of cellphone radiations.” Current Science 98.10 (2010): 1376-8.

  • We have compared the performance of honeybees in cell phone radiation exposed and unexposed colonies. A significant (p < 0.05) decline in colony strength and in the egg laying rate of the queen was observed. The behaviour of exposed foragers was negatively influenced by the exposure, there was neither honey nor pollen in the colony at the end of the experiment.”

Sivani, S., and D. Sudarsanam. “Impacts of radio-frequency electromagnetic field (RF-EMF) from cell phone towers and wireless devices on biosystem and ecosystem – A Review.” Biology and Medicine, vol. 4, no. 4, 2012, pp. 202–16.

  • There is an urgent need for further research  and “of the 919 research papers collected on birds, bees, plants, other animals, and humans, 593 showed impacts, 180 showed no impacts, and 196 were inconclusive studies”.
  • “One can take the precautionary principle approach and reduce RF-EMF radiation effects of cell phone towers by relocating towers away from densely populated areas, increasing height of towers or changing the direction of the antenna.”

Warnke, Ulrich. “Birds, Bees and Mankind: Destroying Nature by ‘Electrosmog’.” Competence Initiative for the Protection of Humanity, Environment and Democracy 1 (2009).

  • Bees pollinate approximately 1/3 of all crops  and they are disappearing by the millions. Warnke raises the concern that the dense, energetic mesh of electromagnetic fields from wireless technologies may be the cause.

“Briefing Paper on the Need for Research into the Cumulative Impacts of Communication Towers on Migratory Birds and Other Wildlife in the United States.” Division of Migratory Bird Management (DMBM), U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 2009.

  • “Potential Radiation Effects on Other Pollinators Radiation has also been implicated in effects on domestic honeybees, pollinators whose numbers have recently been declining due to “colony collapse disorder” (CCD) by 60% at U.S. West Coast apiaries and 70% along the East Coast (Cane and Tepedino 2001).
  • CCD is being documented in Greece, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Spain, and Switzerland. One theory regarding bee declines proposes that radiation from mobile phone antennas is interfering with bee navigational systems. Studies performed in Europe have documented navigational disorientation, lower honey production, and decreased bee survivorship (Harst et al. 2006, Kimmel et al. 2006, Bowling 2007).
  • This research needs further replication and scientific review, including in North America. Because pollinators, including birds, bees, and bats, play a fundamental role in food security (33% of our fruits and vegetables would not exist without pollinators visiting flowers [Kevan and Phillips 2001]), as pollinator numbers decline, the price of groceries goes up.
  • Harst et al. (2006) performed a pilot study on honeybees testing the effects of non-thermal, high frequency electromagnetic radiation on beehive weight and flight return behavior. They found that of 28 unexposed bees released 800 m (2,616 ft) from each of 2 hives, 16 and 17 bees returned in 28 and 32 minutes, respectively, to hives. At the 1900 MHz continuously-exposed hives, 6 bees returned to 1 hive in 38 minutes while no bees returned to the other hive. In exposed hives, bees constructed 21% fewer cells in the hive frames after 9 days than those unexposed. Harst et al. selected honeybees for study since they are good bio-indicators of environmental health and possibly of “electrosmog.” Because of some concerns raised regarding the methods used to conduct the Harst et al.(2006) study, specifically the placement of the antenna where bees could contact it (i.e., potentially a bias), the experimental methods need to be redesigned and the studies retested to better elucidate and fine tune the impacts of radiation. The results, while preliminary however, are troubling. Kimmel et al. (2006) performed field experiments on honeybees under conditions nearly identical to the Harst et al. (2006) protocol except that bees were stunned with CO2 and released simultaneously 500 m (1,635 ft) from the hives. However, in one of their experimental groups, they shielded the radiation source and antenna in a reed and clay box to address potential biases raised in the Harst et al. study. Sixteen total hives were tested, 8 of which were irradiated. After 45 minutes when the observations were terminated, 39.7% of the non-irradiated bees had returned to their hives while only 7.3% of the irradiated bees had.”

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