On “electronic fasting” as a way to treat depression in young people…

A Curious Case of Depression
The face of depression in today’s screen-bound world is changing.

By Victoria L. Dunckley, M.D., the author of Reset Your Child’s Brain

Dan was a twenty-year-old young man with mild social anxiety and attention deficit disorder who — despite a genius-level IQ — was failing out of college. His social life had gone from being fairly active to nonexistent, his sleep-wake pattern was almost completely reversed, and he rarely left his room. Although not actively suicidal, Dan reported he often felt he ’d be “better off dead” and didn’t “see much point to life.” What was happening?

Upon graduating from high school, Dan had continued living at home with parents. But without the eight-hour school days and no job to go to, he suddenly found himself with a lot of extra time on his hands. His electronics’ use skyrocketed.

When he began college classes that fall, Dan continued to spend anywhere from six to twelve hours a day on the computer, playing games, chatting, or reading articles. Dan barely scraped by the first two semesters. By the end of his third, he had dropped one class and was getting Fs in the other two. Despite Dan’s high IQ, he was struggling to keep up.

He’d also lost a lot of weight, even though he was thin to begin with. Dan’s mother reported that Dan had stopped going to the kitchen to get food or water, and that he was dependent on her to nag him into eating and drinking. By the time Dan came to see me, he was gaunt and pale, and his muscles had literally atrophied from sitting andlying down so much.

To see this in a young male was shocking. Dan complained of fatigue, joint pain, back pain, shortness of breath, depressed mood, trouble sleeping, and feeling “flat.” His mother had made the rounds to numerous medical specialists and therapists — for both physical and psychiatric complaints — but to no avail. By the time I consulted with him, Dan was taking three psychotropic medications plus a pain medication, and had been tried on numerous other “psych meds” but found them all ineffective.  Dan and his mother had even started looking into electroconvusive therapy (ECT), where the brain is “shocked” with electricity to produce a therapeutic seizure; it’s thought that ECT may work by resetting brain chemistry. Not one person ever suggested he remove the computer and other devices from his bedroom, despite this being a standard-of-care intervention for sleep disturbance.

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