Is ADHD A Real Psychiatric Disorder: This Will Blow Your Mind 

Introduction 

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in the adult population is a topic of great debate. There are many psychiatrists who say ADHD symptoms do not suddenly disappear as a person continues into adulthood. On the other hand, there are some psychiatrists who do not think ADHD is a real diagnosis. 

The term ADHD might be better thought of as attention deficit disorder (ADD). The concept of hyperactivity is more common in the child/adolescent patient population. It’s unclear if the hyperactivity is related to executive dysfunction which is the hallmark of ADHD. It may be that the hyperactivity is within the range of normal (agitation or activation) for a child, or signs of another mood disorder such as mania in bipolar illness (especially true in the adult population as bipolar diagnosis is commonly reserved for adult patients). 

We can make an argument that placing children in a traditional school setting where they are asked to sit and pay attention to uninteresting material for 7 hours is unnatural and directly against the way humans evolved to function. The human body and mind evolved to move and be active not to sit in classrooms. As a result, agitation, hyperactivity, and acting out can be the result of this unnatural state. 

The hallmark of ADHD is attentional impairment and executive dysfunction. Hyperactivity is not seen in adult populations with ADD. 

Attention As a Trait 

Attention can be thought of in the same manner as blood pressure. There is a mean blood pressure in the population but there will be individuals that fall outside the standard curve. Most people in the population will fall in the middle having a reasonable amount of attention and those with low attention levels do not necessarily have a disease although they may have consequences associated with reduced attentional activity. When someone is overly attentive it can be a symptom of disorders like obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or psychosis. Like blood pressure, having readings that are too high or too low can cause problems. It’s normal to have a certain amount of inattention, and we can think of attention as a spectrum with a range of normal levels. 

What are the Causes of Inattention 

-It could be a perfectly normal trait, as we explained some people have lower attention spans naturally as a personality trait 

-Mood disorders like depression and bipolar disorder have in inattention as a possible consequence of the change in mood 

-Psychotic disorders also have cognitive changes that may cause inattention (internal preoccupation) 

-Anxiety disorders 

-Neurocognitive disorders 

-We should avoid diagnosing ADD in the setting of one of these other conditions. 

Would you diagnosis ADD during a manic episode?

Prevalence of ADHD in the U.S. 

-The prevalence of ADHD in the U.S. ranges from 5.6% to 15.9% and there is great variability depending on the geographic region 

-For most biological diseases we should see similar prevalence rates across populations and geographic regions. For example, schizophrenia has a prevalence of about 1% worldwide. So why do we see significant differences across the U.S.? 

-We do not know much about the role socioeconomic factors, diet, exercise, and other social factors play in the development of ADHD. It’s possible that these are significant contributing factors resulting in the symptoms associated with ADHD. 

Is ADHD a neurodevelopmental issue? 

-One way of thinking about ADHD is as a neurodevelopmental problem that eventually improves over time. 

-In children with ADHD they seem to achieve peak cortical thickness later than children without ADHD, this has been confirmed on imaging studies. 

-The important part is eventually these children catch up with the normal controls. It’s more a delay in brain development and not a permanent state. 

-The ADHD children are about 2 years behind the normal controls and the area of greatest delay is the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for executive function. 

How Common is ADHD and Does it Last into Adulthood? 

Over the past decade ADHD in adult populations has gotten more attention. Some would say the prevalence in adults is 4% to 5% with equal rates being seen in men and women. 

The national comorbidity survey estimated 46% of children with ADHD have symptoms that persist into adulthood. Many of these individuals had comorbid anxiety disorders and we know anxiety can be a major cause of inattention and executive dysfunction. 

In other studies, similar findings were reported. What stands out to me in all these studies is the high rates of comorbid mood disorders including depression and bipolar disorder. It’s hard to make a diagnosis of adult ADHD in the presence of other conditions considering the significant overlap of symptoms and cognitive dysfunction associated with mood disorders. 

It’s possible that mood and anxiety disorder can account for most adult ADHD cases and a variation of a normal trait could explain the rest (individuals with low attention) 

Looking at medication response doesn’t help us much as amphetamines are helpful in everyone even those who do not have a psychiatric disorder (think college kids taking them for midterms) 

When you correct for comorbidities in Adult ADHD, only about half of the young adults meeting criteria for ADHD had ADHD only. Estimates from this showed that most children diagnosed with ADHD were no longer meeting criteria in adulthood (83% no longer had symptoms). Many of the newly diagnosed cases of ADHD were in individuals who did not have ADHD as children (87% did not have ADHD as children).  

This indicates that about 20% of children diagnosed with ADHD will have symptoms persist into adulthood, the other 80% will not 

In animal models, amphetamines have been shown to have some dangerous effects 

-Decrease response to reward stimuli 

-increased anxiety 

-decreased dopamine activity 

-decreased long-term survival of neuronal cell in the hippocampus (excitotoxicity) 

Risk of Substance Use With Stimulant Prescriptions

Most psychiatrists will tell you the risk of substance use disorder does not increase with stimulant medication treatment; in fact it’s reduced when ADHD is treated. However, a well-designed randomized controlled trial of delinquent behavior and emerging substance use in medication treated children found significantly higher rates of substance use in the stimulant treated individuals. The conclusion by Molina et al. was we need to re-evaluate the risk of substance use disorder as children age when they are prescribed stimulants. Now correlation does not equal causation, but this should give us some pause when blinding stating there is no risk for addiction with stimulant use (this claim is mostly based off observational data and not randomized controlled trial data). 

Gabapentin/Neurontin The Most Common off-Label Prescription in Psychiatry 

Introduction 

Gabapentin is approved by the FDA for three specific indications to prevent and control partial seizures, relieve nerve pain following shingles (post herpetic neuralgia), and to treat moderate to severe restless leg syndrome. Unfortunately, less than 1% of the prescriptions written for gabapentin are for the above listed FDA approvals. In fact, much of the off-label prescribing of gabapentin is done for the treatment of psychiatric and substance use disorders. 

We were first alerted to the misleading marketing practices when Pfizer paid a $2.3 billion dollar fine for misleading clinicians through their marketing campaigns. Gabapentin is often thought of as a benign medication that can address symptoms in several common disorders including migraine, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, opioid use disorder, anxiety, and mood disorders. There is now mounting evidence that this medication is not as safe as people once assumed yet many of these prescribing practices continue despite a lack of quality data. Today we will review the safety and efficacy of gabapentin in psychiatric disorders. 

How Does Gabapentin Work?

Gabapentin functions by binding to the alpha-2-delta subunit of voltage gated calcium channels theoretically offering antipain, anticonvulsant, and anxiolytic properties. Although it’s structurally related to the GABA neurotransmitter, there is no direct interaction at GABA A or B receptors. 

Why is there such an increase in Gabapentin prescribing?

In the United States the opioid epidemic drove much of the 64% increase in gabapentin prescriptions 2012 to 2016 as policy makers searched for safer alternatives for pain management. Although lacking any data for the treatment of chronic pain, gabapentin was elevated into this role because of several factors cost, non-controlled status at the federal level, evidence in neuropathic pain, and benign side effect profile. 

However, the risk for gabapentin abuse became apparent as more prescriptions were written. The risk of adverse effects was prevalent when combined with other CNS depressants such as opioids, the exact thing gabapentin set out replace. Approximately 15%-22% of people with an existing substance use disorder abuse gabapentin. Those who overused gabapentin were found to be at increased risk of all-cause or drug-related hospital stay and emergency visits for altered mental status and respiratory depression. 

The off-label prescribing of gabapentin comes with risk. 

Evidence For Use in Anxiety Disorders

The evidence for gabapentin’s use in anxiety disorders comes from only two industry sponsored studies with a total of 172 participants. These are relatively small but well-designed studies that provide limited evidence for the use of gabapentin in anxiety disorders. The first study was in 1999 and looked at the use of gabapentin in social anxiety disorder. 69 participants were randomized to placebo or gabapentin 900-3600 mg/day for 14 weeks. A significant reduction in social anxiety was observed over the 14 weeks and the conclusion was more studies were needed to confirm the results. The other study looked at panic disorder with the same study design and doses of gabapentin, only this time the study lasted 8 weeks. The results indicated gabapentin was effective for severe panic disorder. One thing we notice is neither of these studies focused on generalized anxiety disorder. These results have not been replicated in other studies. 

There is far more evidence for the use of pregabalin in anxiety disorders. In Europe it does have regulatory approval for generalized anxiety disorder. 

Evidence For Use in Bipolar Disorder 

I’m going to burst this bubble and maybe a few other bubbles up front. While some believe all anticonvulsants are “mood stabilizers” they are wrong. Gabapentin has never proven in RCTs to treat mania or any other aspect of bipolar disorder. Likewise, Topiramate and oxcarbazepine have performed poorly in studies assessing their efficacy in bipolar disorder. Simply put, if you are on any of the three medications as primary mood stabilizers it’s best to consider other options such as lithium. 

Evidence For Use In Alcohol and Cannabis Use Disorder  

While addiction treatment is part of the reason we are in this mess with gabapentin, it does have a role in alcohol use disorder (AUD) and cannabis use disorder. The APA added gabapentin as a second line option for AUD because patients who take it for this indication report fewer heavy drinking days with an effect size in the moderate range. There is also some indication that sleep quality improves with gabapentin when patients are cutting back or stopping alcohol use. Alcohol is known to worsen sleep with more frequent nighttime awakenings. The dose range is 300-3600 mg/day in divided doses with many using an average of 900 mg/day. 

Gabapentin is sometimes used for alcohol withdrawal in place of benzodiazepines or phenobarbital. There were a few seizures in the gabapentin groups raising some questions about its use in severe alcohol withdrawal. It’s probably best left for those with less severe dependence. 

Typical Taper for Alcohol Withdrawal

-Start with 1200-2400 mg/day in three divided doses 

-Taper to 600 mg/day over the course or 4-7 days watching for objective signs of alcohol withdrawal and have Ativan available should a seizure develop. 

-Taper by 300 mg/day over the next 2-3 days until the medication is completely off. 

In cannabis use disorder there is limitted data. A single study showed improvement in withdrawal symptoms, reduced cannabis use, and improved executive function but this is not enough to recommend gabapentin on a regular basis in clinical practice. 

It’s important to note gabapentin failed in controlled trials for cocaine, methamphetamine, benzodiazepine, and opioid use disorder. It’s dangerous to combine gabapentin and opioids as discussed earlier in the video. 

A Quick Note on Gabapentin for Chronic back pain 

There are 8 total studies including a systematic review and meta-analysis to assess pain relief in patients with chronic lower back pain a reason many patients tell me they are taking gabapentin for. When you pool this data together, gabapentin demonstrated minimal improvement in pain compared to placebo and had an increase in adverse effects including dizziness, fatigue, and visual disturbances.

Adverse Effects 

The most common side effects include sedation, fatigue, dizziness, imbalance, tremor, and visual changes. 

Dosing

Gabapentin has a short half-life of 6 hours and will need to be dosed three times per day. The kinetics of gabapentin are not linear which means levels in the blood do not rise consistently. For a 900 mg dose, only 540 mg is absorbed. This has to do with the transporters responsible for gabapentin absorption becoming over saturated limiting the amount of medication absorbed. 

Conclusion

While there are very good reasons to consider the use of gabapentin many of the common reasons cited in clinical practice lack the appropriate evidence to support using the medication. It’s best to stick with FDA approved indications and if you are prescribing it off-label consider only using it for the disorders with the most evidence in my opinion that is alcohol use disorder when other treatments have failed. 

Can MDMA Cure Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Introduction

The entactogen MDMA overlaps with the chemical structure of methamphetamine and mescaline and has biological effects similar to epinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin. 

It increases the release of monoamines through the reversal of transporter proteins and reuptake inhibition specifically serotonin and norepinephrine. Not only does it block reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine it enhances the release as well and inhibits VMAT preventing the packaging of monoamines into vesicles making more available for release. It also modulates glucocorticoids through the HPA axis, decreases amygdala and hippocampal activity, increases oxytocin, and increase prefrontal cortex activity. 

Medical Use

MDMA started out as a therapeutic agent to enhance blood clotting for surgical procedures and trauma. Turns out it does not work very well for that indication, who would have thought. It’s currently listed as a schedule I substance (defined as having no accepted medical use, high abuse potential, and lack of accepted safety). 

It was later discovered to have “empathogenic effects” helping individuals who use the medication to feel more connected to their fellow human beings. After all isn’t that what we are all after? A deep connection to others and people who truly understand us. The original name for the drug was empathy, but that has changed over the years to molly and escstcy. Personally, I like names that describe what a drug does, and empathy or empath is just so much more marketable don’t you think?

Why PTSD is a Big Problem

With several recent wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, America has a PTSD problem with many combat veterans returning home and requiring treatment. If you ever treated patients with PTSD than you know it’s difficult and the therapy can be intense. Many patients are unable to sit with the discomfort required to reconsolidate these memories. Having worked at the VA for one year I was surprised by the number of vets with non-combat related PTSD. Honestly, they the vast majority of my cases were people who had accidents while working or in training and subsequently developed PTSD. 

The idea is we need methods to enhance the efficacy and speed of trauma focused psychotherapies. What better way to do that than with empathy a medication that enhances feelings of connection. The basic idea being the patient would be given MDMA and then undergo psychotherapy and by using the medication it can influence fear extinction and memory reconsolidation. There are many mechanisms at play including effects on dopamine, serotonin, BDNF, cortisol, and oxytocin. 

The concept of using a psychedelic drug to enhance the effects of psychotherapy is not a new concept, and was done for years using LSD and other compounds. What is different now, is we are trying to put the scientific rigor behind the studies to prove that it works better than placebo, and to learn more about the mechanism of action. 

I want to point out that the main benefit of all these psychedelic medications seems to be enhanced neuroplasticity and the ability to form new connections in critical neurocircuits much easier than would otherwise be possible. 

Benefits of MDMA Assisted Psychotherapy

-Increase blood flow to the vmPFC decreasing activation of the amygdala largely responsible for the fear response 

-Enhance the production of BDNF which improves the long-term potentiation and memory consolidation 

-Elevate the stress hormone cortisol which interacts with glucocorticoid receptors in the hippocampus to improve memory 

-Elevates the prosocial neuropeptide oxytocin which decreases activation of the amygdala and enhances connection with the therapist

-Increased levels of dopamine which can destabilize the old memories and help with reconsolidation of new ones 

-Increased serotonin levels resulting in prosocial and positive affective states. 

The goal of PTSD treatment is to prevent the patient from being held hostage by these memories. We want to destabilize the old memories, modify them, and reconsolidate the new memories. The trauma still occurred, but the patient no longer has the same fear reaction to the traumatic memories. 

MDMA-Assisted Therapy proved to be highly effective in individuals with severe PTSD. 

-In this study investigators gave patients with PTSD 120-180 mg of MDMA along with a trauma focused psychotherapy. There were significant rates of both response and remission compared to placebo. 

-MDMA was well tolerated 

-It was granted breakthrough status by the FDA 

-This was a big deal in the news and media outlets 

-It needs to be replicated to confirm the results 

Potential Adverse Effects of MDMA 

-Potential for abuse and diversion (probably no take homes) 

-Possible hyperthermia or hyponatremia (more common in the recreational use environment than clinical) 

-People often engage in prolonged physical activity in hot environments and do not consume enough water this results in dehydration and possible hyperthermia (think large dance party)

-In the opposite case the person overcompensates and overconsumes water diluting their blood and causing hyponatremia. Excess of anything can cause problems and water is no exception. 

Blue Monday and Black Tuesday 

-Use of MDMA can cause low mood, irritability, and fatigue. It can occur for days after recreational use. 

-In the clinical setting, fatigue, anxiety, low mood, headaches, and nausea can occur in the week after treatment 

How to Change Your Mind: The Current State of Psychiatry and Psychedelics

There is no hotter topic in the world of psychiatry than the reemergence of psychedelics as therapeutic tools for the treatment of mental illness. When esketamine was approved by the FDA in March of 2019 it opened the doors for medications like MDMA, psilocybin, and mescaline as possible therapeutic agents. 

I’m excited about these new options for therapy but I also want to make sure the science backs up the personal experiences of individuals who use these medicines in uncontrolled settings. 

Introduction:

The psychedelic era was a time of social, musical, and artistic change influenced by the use of psychedelic drugs that occurred between the mid-1960s and mid-1970s. Although this era lasted for some time it largely fell out of favor for legal reasons and wasn’t a topic in modern psychiatric training until just recently. It seems like overnight there are New York times articles, Netflix documentaries, and evening news coverage about psychedelics.

What’s the story are we ready to prescribe everyone psilocybin and MDMA as a form of mental health treatment? 

History of Hallucinogens in Medicine

For over 5 millennia humans have been attempting to alter their state of consciousness. Some have argued it goes even further back to primate ancestors who consumed large quantities of ripe fermented fruit to alter their state of consciousness (drunken monkey hypothesis). I’m not sure how correct this theory is but it’s safe to say psychedelics have been around for a long time. 

In 1943 Albert Hofmann a chemist by training, invented LSD by accident. He started the research in 1938 and announced that he sampled the chemical in 1943. Not only did he synthesize it, but he was getting high on his own supply. In 1957 this same chemist isolated psilocybin from the hallucinogenic mushrooms.

In the 1940’s LSD was marketed as a drug to assist psychotherapy, the so-called drug assisted psychotherapy which is making a comeback today. Unfortunately, of the 1000 studies published looking at psychedelics as a model for psychosis and as therapy were small and uncontrolled. 

In the 1970’s most of these medicines were placed into schedule I status making it exceedingly difficult to study the medicines further for therapeutic effects in a controlled setting. A Randomized controlled trial is considered by many to be the highest standard of scientific evidence. 

Classes of Hallucinogens 

For years people thought of psychedelics as LSD or psilocybin, the term now includes other medicines. The term psychedelic is derived from two Greek words meaning mind manifesting. Essentially psychedelic and hallucinogen are being used interchangeably these days but do have separate meanings.

Classic Hallucinogens 

-Tryptamines: psilocybin, LSD, and DMT 

-Phenethylamines: Mescaline 

Non-Classic Hallucinogens 

-3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)

-Dissociative Anesthetics: Ketamine, PCP, Dextromethorphan 

Therapeutic Targets for Psychedelic Use

Disorders Under Investigation: 

-Depression 

-Anxiety

-PTSD

-OCD

-Cancer related stress and psychological issues 

-Addiction 

-Smoking cessation 

-Sexual dysfunction 

-headaches 

-inflammatory disorders 

Maybe the best studied area is in end of life and palliative care settings. 

Mechanism of Action

-The primary mechanism of action is 5-HT2A receptor stimulation 

-5-HT2A is the most abundant serotonin receptor in the central nervous system and cortex of the brain. 

-Stimulating the 5-HT2A receptors will increase the release of glutamate in the cortex 

-Stimulation of 5-HT2A receptors in the visual cortex can lead to visual hallucinations. Stimulation in the ventral tegmental area can produce a situation like that of schizophrenia with delusions and hallucinations. 

-Most atypical antipsychotics bind to and block 5-HT2A receptors and would mitigate the effects of psychedelics 

Neurobiology

People often make comments like we don’t know how much serotonin is enough, then conclude that medications do work or the therapies we are using are invalid. That’s because they are thinking about mental illness and these medications too simply. Most psychiatrists do not believe in or talk about the chemical imbalance theory of treating mental illness. We think about mental illness and problems with neural circuits, nodes, and networks. What medications including the psychedelics achieve is an alteration in the connectivity of these networks and the ability to form new connections. 

We have a default mode network which is famously active when a person is not focused on the outside world and the brain is just daydreaming. What psychedelics do is decrease brain connectivity in this default mode network followed by the establishment of new connections. 

Hypothetically this rewiring of the brain allows for the replacement of faulty connections resulting in mental illness and the formation of new healthy connections through psychotherapy provided during treatment. This may be why the antidepressant effects last far beyond other interventions with less frequent dosing. 

There are identifiable changes in network connectivity that coincide with subjective improvement. 

The Mystical Experience: Is Tripping Required for a Therapeutic Effect

-There is a mystical experience questionnaire that has been validated and used in these studies. It seems that the more profound the mystical experience the better the treatment effect subjectively 

-While the spiritual experience many individuals have while taking these medicines is profound and meaningful to the individual, we are not sure that having a “trip” is required to produce a therapeutic effect. 

Side Effects of Psychedelic Use 

While some may claim there are no adverse effects from plant-based medicine that is not true. 

Things like increased blood pressure, berating rate, and body temperature have been reported. 

-Loss of appetite, dry mouth, sleep disturbance, uncoordinated movements, panic, paranoia, psychosis, and bizarre behaviors 

Long-Term Effects: 

Persistent Psychosis: A series of continuing mental problems including 

-visual disturbances

-disorganized thinking

-paranoia

-mood changes 

Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD) 

-Recurrences of certain drug experiences such as hallucinations or visual disturbances 

-These experiences often happen without warning and may occur within days of last use or even years after taking the drug 

-These experiences can be mistaken for neurological disorders such as strokes or brain tumors. 

Conclusion

At this time what we can say about the current state of psychedelics in psychiatry is they are under investigation. We do not know yet if they are safe and effective for treatment of mental illness on a mass scale. We have some encouraging evidence but there is an absence of large randomized controlled trials proving efficacy and safety. Psychedelics are not ready for clinical practice and should not be recommended as a treatment for mental illness until the proper studies have been conducted. 

When Serotonin Goes Bad

Many medications that work as so-called antidepressants will increase serotonin by blocking the reuptake pump. In general, we think of increased serotonin in a patient with depression as a good thing, but what happens when increased serotonin goes bad? 

That is what we are here to talk about today, what happen when there is too much serotonin in the central nervous system?

Being prescribed too many serotonergic medications can result in Serotonin Syndrome which can range from mild to severe and is potentially fatal. It can present with muscle rigidity, hyperthermia, and altered mental status. 

When someone has increased muscle tone, and elevated temperature with no other explanation, it’s time to look at their medication list. Medications can increase serotonin release, block reuptake, or directly activate serotonin receptors. Common examples include linezolid, Fentanyl, and dextromethorphan.

Watching from drug interactions like CYP 450 inhibitors can increase medication levels resulting in serotonin syndrome. Whenever a new medication is prescribed consider doing a drug interaction check to make sure the new medication doesn’t inhibit a critical cytochrome. 

Mild forms of serotonin syndrome may cause diarrhea or tremor where the more severe cases are more likely to result from a drug overdose. 

Key Features of Serotonin Syndrome: 

  • Patient is on one or more serotonergic drugs 
  • The onset of symptoms is abrupt usually within 24 hours and symptoms peak rapidly 
  • There is increased tone in the legs more than the arms, tremor and hyperreflexia are present 
  • Vital signs show hypertension, hyperthermia, tachycardia, and tachypnea 
  • Labs can show increased creatinine kinase 

What is Clonus: 

  • Involuntary, rhythmic muscle contractions. 
  • It occurs more in the lower extremities 
  • To induce clonus, you flex the patient’s foot upward until there is rhythmic beating of the foot and ankle. If the beating continues beyond a couple of beats, it’s abnormal 

Treatment: 

  • For mild cases discontinue serotonergic medications and check for drug interactions. Use external cooling measures and start benzodiazepines. 
  • For moderate cases where the vital signs are worse and there is spontaneous clonus or agitation: use the same measures as above, increase the frequency and dose of the benzodiazepine, and start cyproheptadine 12 mg followed by 2 mg every 2 hours until improvement is seen followed by 8 mg every 6 hours for maintenance. Cyproheptadine is an anticholinergic, antihistamine, and anti-serotonergic medication 
  • In severe cases, where delirium develops and there is a failure to respond to other measures, admission to the ICU and the use of paralytics with intubation and ventilation are required 

Hey Doc, What’s Psychogenic Polydipsia?

This is one of the interesting occurrences that can present on the medical floors, emergency rooms, or inpatient units. 

A patient comes in with an established diagnosis of schizophrenia and is currently taking ziprasidone. The person is constantly asking for glasses of water and drinking water excessively throughout the day. 

You might be thinking what is the harm in drinking water, isn’t staying hydrated a healthy behavior? 

…But you order a basic metabolic panel and find the persons sodium is 125 mEq/L. 

Now the panic sets in, it’s time to worry and the patient continues to complain of feeling thirsty and is noted to be urinating frequently. 

There are a few possibilities for the persons behavior, but we need to consider psychogenic polydipsia or primary polydipsia. This was first described in the 1930s in patients with schizophrenia who drank water excessively resulting in low serum sodium levels. 

The cause is unknown, but these patients may have an acquired defect in the hypothalamic thirst regulation. Medications have also been associated with worsening of psychogenic polydipsia. It’s thought to be related to the anticholinergic effects of many of these medications. Examples include carbamazepine, chlorpromazine, oxcarbazepine, haloperidol, and valproate. 

Psychogenic polydipsia (PP) is common, and it’s usually associated with schizophrenia but can occur in other psychotic, mood, and anxiety disorders. Some users of MDMA also develop PP. 

PP is a primary problem where the patient is drinking too much water. This results in a dilution of the blood and thus a low sodium level (defined as < 135 mEq/L) and low serum osmolality. The urine will also be dilute < 100 mOsmol/kg with low urine sodium. 

Two other potential places where we can see polyuria are in cases of hyperglycemia from uncontrolled diabetes and nephrogenic diabetes insipidus. The key distinction in the first case is hyperglycemia. The water is drawn out by osmotic diuresis secondary to excess glucose in the urine. The key labs here are a fasting glucose and a urine analysis which should show hyperglycemia and glucose in the urine. In nephrogenic diabetes insipidus the brain secretes ADH just fine, but the kidney does not respond to it. The urine will be dilute, but the serum sodium level will be high not low separating it from psychogenic polydipsia.

Treatment includes fluid restriction to 1000-1500 mL/day, this can be difficult to enforce even on an inpatient unit. The person may need to be watched because sources like the bathroom sink or even toilet may be used to consume more water. This is usually enough of a treatment, but should the sodium remain low you can add sodium chloride tablets 1-3 grams daily. 

In severe cases where the sodium drops below 120 the person can have a seizure. In these cases, it’s best to handle the fluid replenishment on the medical floor with 3% saline. 

You must be careful not to correct the sodium too rapidly as it can result in the dreaded central pontine myelinolysis which can result in quadriparesis. That’s why we correct the sodium at a rate of no more than 10 mmol/L/24 h or 0.5 mEQ/L/h 

 

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) With Psychotic Features

This is a diagnosis that I often receive questions about. It can be confusing, how do we know if the person has schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, or bipolar disorder with psychotic features? 

They all have psychotic symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations.

In this video I’m going to explain how we navigate this diagnostic dilemma. 

For one to be diagnosed with MDD with psychotic features they must meet criteria for major depressive disorder based on the DSM-5TR. 

As a reminder, to meet criteria the person must have 5 out of 9 symptoms within a two-week period and at least one symptom must be either depressed mood or loss of interest

In medical school they teach you the mnemonic SIGECAPS, an interesting fact is this is written the way you would fill out a paper prescription for depression. SIG Energy Capsules which you would give to a person with major depression because of the low energy and loss of interest commonly seen in major depression. 

Anyway…

The other criteria include 

-Weight loss or weight gain 

-Insomnia or hypersomnia 

-Psychomotor agitation or retardation 

-Fatigue or loss of energy 

-Feelings of worthlessness or guilt 

-Poor concentration 

-Recurrent thoughts of death or suicidal ideation 

So, we have a person who meets criteria for MDD, they have 5 out of 9 symptoms for a two-week period. 

We should keep in mind it’s important that the person has also suffered some loss of function in their personal or professional life because of the symptoms. This is what makes it a disorder. 

Now, what if the person also has a loss of reality-based thinking in conjunction with the major depressive episode?

This will include things like delusions and hallucinations. The delusions can be persecutory in nature or paranoid, but other types may occur too. The persecutory delusions are ones where the person feels attacked or victimized by others. They may even believe people are coming into their home to harm them. This usually presents with the patient reporting things being moved in the home or things being out of place. A common paranoid delusion is one where the person believes they are being followed. This usually presents as a car or person the patient keeps seeing, and they cannot believe that it may just be a coincidence, or someone who travels the same route to work every day.

Delusions are fixed false beliefs, and although there may be rational explanations for the things going on around them, this is the patient’s reality, and you must be careful when challenging it. The belief is fixed, and That is why presenting evidence contrary to the belief is not effective.  

The important point here is the psychotic symptoms are only present during the major depressive episode. Treat the depression and the psychotic symptoms resolve. If the psychotic symptoms remain after the major depressive episode is successfully treated, you need to reevaluate the diagnosis.

This is what separates MDD with psychotic features from schizophrenia. 

In bipolar disorder with psychotic features, the psychosis often occurs in the manic phase of the illness and has a grandiose theme associated with it. The patient my for example believe they are a prominent religious figure, or the government is plotting against them. 

We often call the delusions in depressive episodes mood congruent, meaning they are consistent with how the person is feeling. It’s not a far stretch for a person who is severally depressed to feel like people want to harm them. 

Treatment

Treatment is well established and consists of an SSRI or other antidepressant medication in combination with a dopamine blocking medication. The other option is electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) when the person is severally depressed not eating, attending to ADLs, or at risk for suicide. 

Patients should remain on medication for at least 6 months after complete resolution of symptoms. This is very important as relapse has been proven to occur when medication is stopped prior to that time. People can taper off the dopamine blocking medication after 6 months as these tend to have worse side effect profiles. The SSRI should be continued for 1 year at which time you can attempt to taper off or reach a lowest effective dose if symptoms begin to reappear. An index phase of ECT should be completed if that is the treatment of choice which consists of 12 total sessions done either 2 or 3 times per week. 

Malingering In Psychiatry

  • Let’s first define malingering, this is the production of false or grossly exaggerated physical or psychological symptoms motivated by external incentives. 
  • Not all lying involves secondary gain, but ALL malingering does involve secondary gain 
  • Common secondary gains include avoiding military service, avoiding work, financial incentives, avoiding legal actions, and obtaining controlled substances 
  • Feigning mental illness is not the same as malingering because the reason behind the false production of symptoms is not assumed with feigning symptoms. 
  • Factitious disorder is the voluntary production of symptoms, but this is with the goal of assuming the sick role or role of a patient, it’s not done for secondary gain. 

Consider malingering when….

-Rare symptoms are present 

-Improbable symptoms are being reported

-Rare combination of symptoms are present

-Reported Vs observed symptoms are not congruent

Malingered Depression:

-25-30% of patients who claimed major depression in civil litigation were probably malingering

-Pay careful attention to facial expressions 

-Pay careful attention to motor function, psychomotor retardation is an important observable sign

-If appetite changes are reported look for actual objective weight change 

-symptoms opposite of depression 

-blaming others for everything is not the way guilt typically presents in depression, this is externalizing and not taking personal responsibnility

Malingered Psychosis: 

-Often in true psychosis people can describe the voice/s, is it loud, soft, male, female, you have some experience of what you heard. When you ask a malingering patient about a voice, they should have some ability to describe what they are hearing, if not consider malingering.

-If you are suspicious, begin with open ended questions, ask them to describe things in their own words. 

-Genuine AH are in words or sentences, drug Hallucinations usually occur as unformed noises.

-The location of the voice inside the head or outside is no longer a good predictor of malingering 

-Many times the content of voices are derogatory in nature

-Other signs of malingered psychosis include Vague or inaudible auditory hallucinations, AH not associated with delusions (86% of AH have an associated delusion), no strategies to diminish voices 76% of patients have some coping strategy to diminish the voices. They claim that all instructions are obeyed, the hallucinations are visual alone, seeing little people or giant people for example.

Guide To Viewing My Content

If you are new to the blog and my social media content, we should start with a brief introduction. 

My name is Dr. Garrett Rossi, I’m a medical doctor who specializes in adult psychiatry. I’m board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. I’ve practiced in multiple settings including inpatient, outpatient, partial care, assertive community treatment teams, and I provide ECT services.

I make mental health content on multiple social media platforms and each one has a specific style and type of content. 

Shrinks In Sneakers YouTube Click Here

This is where you can find the deep dives on mental health topics including medication reviews, psychiatric diagnosis, and various other topics. Videos can range anywhere from 5-20 minutes and time stamps are available in the descriptions for longer content. 

Shrinks In Sneakers Instagram Click Here:

This is where you can find shorter videos and posts on mental health topics. The focus on Instagram is more on mental health advocacy, and myths about psychiatry and mental illness. The content here is shorter but still has a lot of educational value. 

Shrinks In Sneakers LinkedIn:

This is where you can find more information about my professional activities. I have information about my advocacy work, professional memberships, publications, and is another good place to follow my work. I make frequent posts here as well. 

Shrinks In Sneakers Twitter

Here I’m not very active and haven’t spent much time but I do update blog posts and other relevant information here as well. 

If you have a question or want to get in touch with me, I am most active on YouTube, LinkedIn, and Instagram. 

We are building a community where empathy is a central part of the content. The goal is to make psychiatry more accessible, provide education, and reduce stigma associated with mental health treatment. 

Shrinks In Sneakers Reunite: Bound by Love for Psychiatry

I think everyone needs a person in their medical training that they bond with and lean on during this difficult period. 

Medical training has its ups and downs, the process is filled with highest highs and the lowest lows. There were moments that I loved training and there were moments where I hated training. 

I was lucky enough to find a great person to share these experiences with.  

We spent many hours discussing psychiatry, what excited us about the field and what worried us about the future. We discussed difficult cases and the drama of residency training. If I ever needed help or someone to cover a call shift last minute, I knew who I could count on.

I could trust this person to have my back and I would do the same no matter what. 

 I would encourage anyone who is going through this process to find someone who can help them grow as both a physician and a person. 

It’s always comforting knowing we can all get by with a little help from our friends. 

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