Robbin Williams’ suicide

one picture where he seems genuinely happy

I’m incredibly sad and shocked to hear that Robbin Williams appeared to have committed suicide. I don’t usually get all that upset about the passing of celebrities. I think the difference this time was that I felt like I had more in common with him them other ones. Robbin Williams had suffered with depression along with substance abuse problems for most of his life. His manic-like behavior often seemed to over shadow his depressed side. Additionally he seemed like a genuinely caring person which is rare now these days.

One wonders why he couldn’t reach out to someone about his pain. Perhaps like many he found it difficult to convey his pain to others due perhaps to pride or hopelessness. In my experience people tend to dismiss people with major depression since many people have only experienced a milder version and think the severely depressed individual must be experiencing the same degree of depression.

One celebrity tweeted that he was selfish to commit suicide. This makes me quite angry because it denies that the person was in unbearable pain. If someone was in pain from cancer I don’t think people would dismiss their suffering as readily.

Now looking back at many of his pictures, his eyes appear quite sad and his smile forced. I think the lesson from this is not to automatically dismiss others who appear depressed. Depression is too often seen as a normal condition and not an abnormal one.

edit: I just learned that he was suffering from Parkinson’s disease. That could explain the depression since it can be a symptom of Parkinson’s.


Presence of ‘activation syndrome’ suggests bipolarity

KraepelinWavesWhen younger(in my twenties) I noticed that SSRIs initially gave me panic attacks and akathisia. I always had a suspicion that my depression had a degree of bipolarity about it and this study confirms it a little. Activation syndrome is more common among bipolar patients and it consists of the following symptoms:

The components of activation syndrome, as stated by the US Food and Drug Administration, are anxiety, agitation, panic attack, insomnia, irritability, hostility, aggressiveness, impulsivity, akathisia, and mania/hypomania. The syndrome is believed to flag suicidality risk in patients taking antidepressants.

If an individual has these symptoms it increases the chance of being bipolar by 3.27 fold.

On multivariate analysis, a bipolar diagnosis was one of only two variables independently associated with activation syndrome, increasing the likelihood 3.27-fold.

The other variable was experiencing a mixed depressed state which like a bipolar diagnosis, increases suicidality. In the past another mood researcher Benazzi, a proponent of ‘mixed depression’, believed that individuals with a few hypomanic traits such as irritability, insomnia and agitation while depressed were more likely to have bipolar disorder.

The other significant variable was being in a depressive mixed state, which raised the likelihood for activation syndrome 4.13-fold. The researchers note that a depressive mixed state is reportedly almost as common in patients with MDD who attempt suicide while on antidepressive treatment as it is in patients with bipolar disorder.

Given the small size of the study and the naturalistic/retrospective nature, further studies are needed to confirm the connection between activation syndrome and bipolarity.