Lack of Meat Causing Mental Illness? - VeggieBoards
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#1 Old 01-06-2005, 07:23 AM
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I know this sounds ridiculous, but my bf suggested it. I've been getting more & more mentally ill (depression, anxiety) since I became vegetarian in my early 20's. I eat as healthy a diet as I can afford, so maybe it's just the fact that I have to live on chips & ramen noodles sometimes that is doing this? Or could it be lack of meat? Someone on here, zoebird I think, was saying she needs to eat eggs for her mood.

I'm pretty much vegan but I feel really depressed & anxious. My doctor (psychiatrist) has said my physical health is perfect, but she has also encouraged me to eat meat to feel better.

Does meat actually provide the brain w/ something vegan foods don't? Could susceptible people need meat?

I haven't touched meat in 13 years. I don't want to eat it, but I can't stand feeling so mentally ill.
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#2 Old 01-06-2005, 07:27 AM
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You're not a cat.



I have heard this argument before and have to say I have not seen it to be founded in Science...if anyone can shed some light on this, I'm open to considering it...
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#3 Old 01-06-2005, 07:30 AM
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So it is coincidence that my vegetarian transition coincided w/ my mental illness?

There do seem to be a fair number of depressed people on here....
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#4 Old 01-06-2005, 07:30 AM
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Are you getting enough Omega 3? Deficiencies have been linked to depression. Try adding 2 Tb. of flax meal every day. Walnuts are a good source too. Also, diets high in refined foods can contribute to depression. I know it is hard to eat well on a budget but maybe you could do most of your shopping from the bulk bin? Get a bunch of whole grains and dried lentils and beans. Complex carbs help keep seritonin levels steady.
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#5 Old 01-06-2005, 07:45 AM
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Also, make sure you are getting your B vitamins, which contribute to mental functioning. It's pretty hard to get B vitamins, especially B-12 without a supplement, so I take one, which I got at WholeFoods (365) cheaply.
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#6 Old 01-06-2005, 07:46 AM
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Originally Posted by organica View Post

So it is coincidence that my vegetarian transition coincided w/ my mental illness?

There do seem to be a fair number of depressed people on here....



I would say that the depression rate is higher because vegetarians/vegans as a group tend to be more aware of the suffering in the world, social issues etc., things that can trigger depression if not cause it. We're a socially-conscious group as a whole.
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#7 Old 01-06-2005, 07:47 AM
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I get a B-complex vitamin at trader joe's for cheap. It helps my anxiety a lot. I hope you feel better soon!
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#8 Old 01-06-2005, 07:54 AM
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Organica - You could be starting perimenopause Symptoms can start to appear 8-10 years before menopause sets in. I know when my estrogene levels started decreasing I noticed I would become depressed and sad more often and for longer periods. Soy is wonderful in counteracting symptoms. It would help if you had healthier eating habits as well. Or at least take a multivitamin.



When did your mom go through menopause? Did she start seeing symptoms early?



Just brainstorming here. Because I doubt that it's lack of meat that's causing your depression.



Do you live in a winter climate? Some folks get depressed more because of decreased UV rays (seasonal depression). There's actually a scientific thing that happens with your body and the sun that creates a chemical in your brain (seratonin) <-(spelling isn't right I don't believe). Decressed levels of this will cause depression.
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#9 Old 01-06-2005, 08:26 AM
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I eat as healthy a diet as I can afford, so maybe it's just the fact that I have to live on chips & ramen noodles sometimes that is doing this?



Depressed people are everywhere. Or so the media would have us believe.



Any number of vitamin deficiencies can cause anxiety or depression. I understand you are broke, but eating poorly will always affect your health in some way. Is there someway you could get hold of some vegan vitamins? That way at least you would be counteracting some of your poor eating.
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#10 Old 01-06-2005, 08:50 AM
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Lack of Vitamin B12 can make you crazy. I guy I went to college with found out he had some congenital problem that made him unable to properly absorb/use B12 and had to get regular B12 shots otherwise he would be absolutely non functioning. Physically, he was fine, but mentally, he had SERIOUS issues when he didn't get his B12. (He wasn't a vegetarian either...)

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#11 Old 01-06-2005, 08:56 AM
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Also, make sure you are getting your B vitamins, which contribute to mental functioning. It's pretty hard to get B vitamins, especially B-12 without a supplement, so I take one, which I got at WholeFoods (365) cheaply.



B vitamins were my first thought when I read this thread, too. I'd take a multi, plus sublingual B12, which I got at the HFS for not too much money.



Try to avoid "white" processed foods as much as possible, too, though I realize that can be hard on a budget. White rice, pasta, flour just aren't healthy and I notice if I eat lots of "junk" foods like these for a few days in a row, I feel anxious for no reason.



Good luck.
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#12 Old 01-06-2005, 09:06 AM
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there is some information out there about a possible link between the lack of cholesterol and depression and anxiety--and other mood disorders and mental illness. low fat diets may be part of the cause of the rise in these disorders. Again, this is all preliminary stuff coming out, but the information is interesting.



when i became mentally cloudy (and struggled with keeping my positive mental attitude which is natural for me), i began to question if there was an underlying health problem that i needed to address. I knew that in my family, even among the omnivores, that we have very low cholesterol. I mean, *very* low. as in, below normal is our "normal." and for the most part, our doctors throughout the years have told us to eat more fat in our meat, dairy, and eggs, as well as in vegetable sources.



because of this, and some research that i found related to cloudy-ness, depression or mood problems, etc, i decided to get a work up and see where my cholesterol was. it was *dangerously low* and this then lead me to find ways to increase my cholesterol levels. I chose eggs and full-fat, raw (non-pasturized) dairy--particularly cheese and home-made ice cream (dairy has only been in the last two or three months). When i did, the cloudy-ness went away almost immediately and my mood started to change for the positive over time.



another thing that i learned during this process and working with my docs is that each person really is different. As kreeli says about weight charts, the thing about cholesterol charts is the same. what constitutes normal and high cholesterol now are very different than 25 years ago, and what constitutes low is also different. So, when a person's charts may come back in the "normal" range, it still may not be enough cholesterol "for them" even though it may be enough cholesterol for someone else. Someone could concievably have 'high' cholesterol according to the chart, but still go up a few more points and be considerably healthier in a variety of ways. another person charting with 'low' cholesterol could be a person who doesn't suffer with depression at all (like i was/am, until i got cloudy from very low, dangerously low, cholesterol).



a couple of links--not necessarily my specific research--that gives information about the possible connection between low cholesterol and depression. similarly, you may want to look into b12 and other b vitamins, as they also have a strong influence on neurobiology and hormonal systems. a simple google search of "cholesterol and depression" brought out this information, which could lead to other sources if you follow up, if you want to follow up.



Commenting on Dutch Research: http://www.mercola.com/2000/mar/26/c...depression.htm



Report of Duke University Research: http://www.pslgroup.com/dg/fff8a.htm



if you want to know what i tried first to get things rolling for me, feel free to ask.
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#13 Old 01-06-2005, 09:17 AM
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Also, make sure you eat enough protein. I know protein isn't usually a problem as a vegan, but if you don't have the money and are eating lots of food pantry crap, you may not be getting enough. (I've seen what's available for vegans in the food pantry at our church and I'm sure others are much the same. ) Raman noodles and chips definitely don't provide much protein.
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#14 Old 01-06-2005, 09:27 AM
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organica:



i also wanted to add that you may have to go back to meat, but you also may not have to. it entirely depends upon the person.



if you do have to go back, it's ok--because it's for your health and well being, and the only way that you can make a positive impact, to be a positive force for change in the world is if you are alive and well. if you need meat in order to be alive and well, then there's nothing unethical or wrong about it. at that point, you'll have to find sources of meat that fit your values, that are more humanely acquired than in factory farmed situations.



but, before you go that far, there are steps that you can take--and many of them have already been mentioned here. What do you eat? what is your daily caloric intake? and then, you can try different things as i did.



I went through this whole process. I know that it would be very difficult for me to go back to meat if i had to. It would be very hard. It was hard enough to go back to eggs, and particularly difficult to go back to dairy products. So, i completely understand your fears, frustrations, and all of that in this regard. But, there is a path that you can take, starting with some things that are right here, right now, and vegan, and if things don't improve, you can continue on the process through l/o vegetarianism and back to variations of omnivorism if necessary.



also remember that there are many depressed omnivores too, but i have also found just in my observation and in my research that our low fat omni diets that are high in processed "fat free" type foods (which are high in sugars, artificial flavors and sweetners, white flours, etc) are also "low cholesterol" diets that may lead to "low cholesterol" problems which may be linked to depression.



pm me if you want to talk about this more, though i'll pop by the thread too.
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#15 Old 01-06-2005, 10:05 AM
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organica - did it arrive yet? It should be there by Friday or Monday



You want the front up truth?



1. You need to eat better. Eating vegan is all peachy and happy, but if you can't find or afford vegan food in your area, then you're defeating the entire point of being vegan by harming yourself.



2. You need vitamins. Not an option. Especially since you don't eat well. Get a full-range women's vitamins (make sure it has zinc, calcium, iron, and B12). Also pick yourself up some flax oil and sprinkle it on your meals instead of salt - or, just stuck back 1 tbsp a dat.



3. You will not kill yourself if you live your bf. Learning to be dependent on a man whom who don't like isn't the answer. There are millions of functional single people who suffer from depression. Work out an escape route for yourself (ie. if I can't control the feelings today, I will take a book, walk to the ER, and sit there until the feelings are managable). But above all, stop short-changing yourself. It doesn't help.
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#16 Old 01-06-2005, 10:27 AM
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I suffer from depression and anxiety, and going vegan actually helped there. I can't imagine that meat would contain anything that would help seratonin production, dopamine production, regulation of mood, or anything else, but everyone IS different. I would try vitamins and exercise first, and make sure you're getting enough dark greens and good veggies before digging into a steak, tho. There are alot of things in meat that definitely are NOT good for you, and that could actually make you feel worse, so, if I were you, I would exhaust other possibilities first.







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#17 Old 01-06-2005, 10:51 AM
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The animal product that I've ever heard can help ease depression symptoms in fish oil. In a study done in 2002, people who added a daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids to their diet had significant improvement in symptoms, including anxiety, sleeping problems, sadness, decreased sexual desire, and suicidal tendencies. That's because studies have suggested that depressed people have lower-than-normal levels of a fatty acid known as EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), which plays an important role in maintaining normal brain function. There is also evidence that depression could be caused by a skewed ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 in the body. The recommended dose of fish oil is 2 to 4 grams a day.



Perhaps your levels of EPA are low? I'm a lacto-ovo vegetarian but I have to admit I do take fish oil supplements everyday. (I'm not proud of this) I wanted to get off of the depression pharmaceuticals so bad that I decided to go this route. It worked for me. There might be vegan omega-3 supplements but I have not checked into this yet. (I'm slowly working my way into a complete vegetarian diet) Does anyone know of any vegetable sources of omega-3s?
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#18 Old 01-06-2005, 10:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wolfie View Post


Try to avoid "white" processed foods as much as possible, too, though I realize that can be hard on a budget. White rice, pasta, flour just aren't healthy and I notice if I eat lots of "junk" foods like these for a few days in a row, I feel anxious for no reason.



Good luck.



Beans and potatos are also cheap and I find that even though brown rice is more expensive, I don't need to eat as much to feel full.
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#19 Old 01-06-2005, 10:54 AM
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There might be vegan omega-3 supplements but I have not checked into this yet. (I'm slowly working my way into a complete vegetarian diet) Does anyone know of any vegetable sources of omega-3s?



Walnuts and flaxseed oil (cold, not heated).



For me, I found fish oil worked overall a lot better for my skin and immune system then flax or walnuts, but I have childhood trauma of cod liver oil capsules and don't take them anymore
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#20 Old 01-06-2005, 10:54 AM
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There might be vegan omega-3 supplements but I have not checked into this yet. (I'm slowly working my way into a complete vegetarian diet) Does anyone know of any vegetable sources of omega-3s?





I am vegan and get my omega fatty acids from seeds and nuts. (They are found in other foods as well) Udo's Choice Oil and Flax/Hemp/Walnut are great sources...
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#21 Old 01-06-2005, 11:49 AM
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So it is coincidence that my vegetarian transition coincided w/ my mental illness?

There do seem to be a fair number of depressed people on here....



There are quite a few long posts in this thread, so it may have already been mentioned and I could have missed it but...



It could be coincidence. Most mental illnesses start to appear or worsen when an individual is in their early 20's.
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#22 Old 01-06-2005, 12:02 PM
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For Omega 3's: In addition to flaxseed oil, there is ground flaxseed. I found ground flaxseed in the cereal section at Trader Joe's. It can be used like wheat germ (sprinkled in cereals, used in smoothies, baked into bread). I'm sure other natural food stores have it as well. There is also an increasing number of breads and cereals that contain flax.

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#23 Old 01-06-2005, 12:16 PM
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I know this sounds ridiculous, but my bf suggested it. I've been getting more & more mentally ill (depression, anxiety) since I became vegetarian in my early 20's. I eat as healthy a diet as I can afford, so maybe it's just the fact that I have to live on chips & ramen noodles sometimes that is doing this?



Yes, diet does effect mood and yes you might be excaberbating a mood disorder by eating a poor vegan diet.



Eating vegan, healthy, and cheaply is doable. You just have to cook more and be more alert to prices.

My Blog: beforewisdom.com
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#24 Old 01-06-2005, 12:17 PM
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I find lots of depression-suffering people on all kinds of message boards. If there's any anecdotal evidence to air here, it's that depressive types spend more time in front of their keyboards reaching out to like-minded souls over the Internet.



As for the deterioration of your mental state due to your diet, that's highly unlikely, unless you really are eating poorly. Lack of B-12 can feed into depression. Awareness of and treatment for mental illnesses do tend to rise as you age, period. I found that my depression (with me since I was a young teen) has found greater definition and understanding in my late 20s. Doesn't mean it wasn't there before, but I had greater self-awareness as I matured. That's just an example. Your results may vary...
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#25 Old 01-06-2005, 02:29 PM
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I agree with what others have said about the B vitamins and omega-3's. For some reason depressed people tend to have lower levels of B vitamins, so I really think it's a very good idea to take a vitamin B complex everyday. Infact like the others said, MANY vitamin deficiencies can contribute towards depression, I think anyone who is depressed should definitly take a good multivitamin everyday! With omega 3's, they've actually found fish oil is a very good help to bipolar disorder. Now 1)they haven't done studies with unipolar(regular) depression and 2)I don't want to encourage the use of fish oil. But I still think it's a very good idea to supplement with flaxseed oil, which is very similar to fish oil. It could help a lot. Unfortunatly there haven't been studies on whether flaxseed oil helps depression, I really wish they would do studies on it though.
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#26 Old 01-06-2005, 04:17 PM
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So it is coincidence that my vegetarian transition coincided w/ my mental illness?

There do seem to be a fair number of depressed people on here....



I think it's too simplistic to argue this...but also, think of some key things.



First of all. Sensitivity. Highly sensitive people are MORE LIKELY to get overwhelmed and long term stress can overtime change biochemical production...hormonal production. Hence, long term stress often leads to burnout and with it, massive depressive episodes.



I also think that those who are very concerned with animal rights, with environmentalism, with politics and global food distribution...I think you are going to have a larger number of individuals with these interests who are also very sensitive. Afterall, who is going to become consummed and passionate about things that don't directly impact them? More sensitive people. Not all the time, but usually, and sensitive people might also be more prone to depressive disorders because it's like being a highly receptive recorder. A little noise...and SCREETCH. TOO LOUD. If you can understand my lame-brain analogy.



Secondly, being more sensitive can lead some people...without the strongest network of friends, or a solid family...to feel isolated. Loneliness can worsen depression, I think. When I'm down, a call from a friend, a hug...these boost my spirits.



Now, other posters have also mentioned that mental disturbances can worsen during the late teens and early 20's (my idea? Yup - you got it Stress Sleep disturbances, ulcers, worrying about getting to your second job, worrying about student loans, and writing that honors paper, oh shoot...I'm five minutes late for that babysitting gig! ahhh!). I think college students who actually sleep are a rare breed. Most of my friends pop sleeping pills/ wake up pills or some type of upper, and average far less than we know is best for 'optimal health'. But they have a lot to do, and also have worries about jobs and current (and future!) finances (since they are, dang, now in debt!) and everything else. I think for that reason, 18-24 year old's are more than susceptible to frazzled-nerves-syndrome!



Finally, biological health. If you become a vegetarian, but simply cut out animal products, and that is it...you'll wind up in trouble. This is what happened when I was 13...although I had been vegetarian for 5 years prior to that... But I started living off of junk food, like lots of teens, and meat I guess, had been my buffer. It has enough iron, and lots of relative protein, and overall it 'bridged' the gap that my high chocolate-low veggie intake would have generated. Without it, and without a real sense of nutrition, I became highly anemic at 13. The problem was remedied when I was 14, and started taking iron pills and eating better foods (I was dangerously low in the iron department...I also have a congential absorption problem...just fate. Not caused by vegetarianism. Not caused by an ed. Just a flaw since birth...and I don't absorb nutrients very well. I don't digest food wholly.). Anyway, deprive the brain of oxygen...as is the case in anemia (whether pernicious or iron deficient related)...and you wind up in trouble.



Muddled thinking, crying spells, dizziness...which can LEAD to fears and LEAD to panic attacks. So many psychological disorders can be triggered by poor health.



So I'd say that b12 is a good idea too, and lots of b vitamins in general, and watch iron, and generally try to eat many different kinds of lentils and veggies and whatnot.



In essence, I don't think vegetarianism CAUSES any mental disturbance...only that there might be a clustering of traits that certain people possess... There might be certain pre-dispositions that cause people to become interested in certain issues, and maybe there is a genetic basis for this...and also for certain mental illness.



Additionally (I think this is fascinating) but certain groups are often more likely to have physical 'strengths' and 'weaknesses'. There is a spiking of OCD amongst germanic peoples, and celiac disease is more common among the irish. Tay Sachs is common to a particular Jewish segment in very high numbers compared to the general population, and African American peoples are more likely to develop sickle cell anemia. There is a biological reason for all of this... But depression, including bipolar, schizophrenia, and a bunch of other mental disorders were studied...and there is also some thought that viral exposure is a key player or could be a component. In one recent study, 78% of the participants came back with flagged blood tests...positive for the borna virus (it was a study on manic depression). So it could also be that, in the future, we may learn that certain conditions...certain times of sickness...that seem to 'trigger' a disorder. That a virus, or a prion is, in fact, the root cause. The body is pre-disposed, given genetic sensitivities, comes in contact with the virus. The virus is latent (as some viruses remain latent in tissue for years!) and then a disorder is 'activated' by extreme stress...and this could explain why there is a disproportionate number of 20somethings showing the first real signs of mental disturbance.



Additionally, I read about a rare syndrome of pediatric anorexia cause by a virus...or was it strep? Something like that - a moneran or something similar...fascinating article.



There are so many possibilities...so many 'attributable potential causes'...but I'd say that the vegetarianism didn't cause the mental disturbance that currently plauge you... I have never read that the correlation of any mental disturbance is higher amongst vegan/ vegetarian groups.



I just hope you feel better soon!



((hugs))



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#27 Old 01-06-2005, 04:31 PM
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I've suffered from depression since I was 7. I don't think I even knew what a vegetarian was back then. I ate plenty of hambugers and chicken nuggets and I was still 'sad'.
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#28 Old 01-06-2005, 04:39 PM
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Jinga...yeah! I was always a highstrung, overly empathic (can you be? I guess when it is self destructive, yes), worry wart of a child who alph. her books. Now I'm a highstrung, overly empathic, worry wart of a young adult who alph. her cd collection. And prior to 8 I ate red meat, fowl, fish, eggs...the whole kit and kaboodle. At 8 - I gave up red meat, at 9 - all fowl/ fish...and basically all eggs too. And for about a decade...it was minimal dairy at best (sometimes a bit in a dressing or something)...but almost pure veganism.



My temperment didn't change, but when stress got worse, my anxiety levels went thru the roof, and culiminated into what I'm sure is an anxiety disorder...



-Linzey
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#29 Old 01-06-2005, 04:45 PM
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When you also add in the guilt of eating meat and not being true to your personal ethics, I'd have to say it wouldn't help most soon-to-be-ex-veggies anyway. I'd end up even more depressed.



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#30 Old 01-06-2005, 04:48 PM
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WORD! I'd feel so...disillusioned. Like living in a Hobbesian world. Meh. Why-bother mentality...which is already a problem, especially in this culture.



-Linz
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