Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Press release] Boosting self-expression online may limit impulsive purchases

From the 10th December 2013 Penn State press release

By Matthew Swayne
December 10, 2013
Screen Shot 2013-12-14 at 5.22.49 AM

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Long online transactions can take a toll on a person’s self-control, but adding more self-expression and personal identity to those processes can help restore control, according to Penn State researchers.

“Making a lot of choices leads to what researchers call ego-depletion and that can affect self-control,” said S. Shyam Sundar, Distinguished Professor of Communications and co-director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory. “When a person makes a lot of choices, the ability to exert self-control begins to diminish with every choice.”

Participants in an online study showed more self-control after they tailored a personal website that represented their own values and personality than a group that customized a site for other people, said Sundar. Creating the website required several decisions on what features to add and where to place the new features.

After people make too many choices, they tend to make more impulsive decisions, according to the researchers, who report their findings in the current issue of Computers in Human Behavior. For example, while making online purchases, customers may be more prone to buy upgraded, but unneeded features, toward the end of the sale.

Sundar, who worked with Hyunjin Kang, a doctoral student in mass communications, said that the study may help remind web users that they should exercise caution when they are making a lot of decisions duringecommerce sessions, surveys and other online transactions.

“People should become aware that if they are making a lot of choices — for example, during hotel or travel purchases — the activity can deplete their ability to control their actions,” said Sundar. “They may want to take a break and step away from the computer for a while to recharge that self-control.”

While some businesses may want users to be more impulsive during online purchases, Sundar said companies that want their customers to make reasoned decisions should incorporate self-affirming activities into the process.

“For instance, a customer who is environmentally conscious may be interested in personalizing their stay at a hotel with options that can help the environment and affirm their green identity,” Sundar said.

The researchers asked 54 university students to either tailor or browse a customizable website. One group was asked to customize a site to best reflect their personality and values. Researchers asked another group to create a site that represented someone of a different gender. The control group did not create a site, but browsed a similar, but generic website.

Participants who tailored their own site worked significantly longer on a puzzle than those who customized the website for others. The puzzle, which is an unsolvable anagram task, is a standard way to measure ego-depletion and decision fatigue, according to the researchers. The length of time that subjects try to solve the problem indicates the level of self-control remaining after the assigned activity.

“This shows that choosing behaviors in the customization process can make you feel depleted and you’ll persist less in an unsolvable task,” said Kang. “The cure, then, seems to be tasks that improve self-expression and help protect one’s identity.”

December 14, 2013 Posted by | Psychology | , , , | Leave a comment

[Online Book] Subjective Well-Being: Measuring Happiness, Suffering, and Other Dimensions of Experience (2013)

Screen Shot 2013-12-14 at 4.52.42 AM

From the Overview at the National Academy Press

Description

Subjective well-being refers to how people experience and evaluate their lives and specific domains and activities in their lives. This information has already proven valuable to researchers, who have produced insights about the emotional states and experiences of people belonging to different groups, engaged in different activities, at different points in the life course, and involved in different family and community structures. Research has also revealed relationships between people’s self-reported, subjectively assessed states and their behavior and decisions. Research on subjective well-being has been ongoing for decades, providing new information about the human condition. During the past decade, interest in the topic among policy makers, national statistical offices, academic researchers, the media, and the public has increased markedly because of its potential for shedding light on the economic, social, and health conditions of populations and for informing policy decisions across these domains.

Subjective Well-Being: Measuring Happiness, Suffering, and Other Dimensions of Experienceexplores the use of this measure in population surveys. This report reviews the current state of research and evaluates methods for the measurement. In this report, a range of potential experienced well-being data applications are cited, from cost-benefit studies of health care delivery to commuting and transportation planning, environmental valuation, and outdoor recreation resource monitoring, and even to assessment of end-of-life treatment options.

Subjective Well-Being finds that, whether used to assess the consequence of people’s situations and policies that might affect them or to explore determinants of outcomes, contextual and covariate data are needed alongside the subjective well-being measures. This report offers guidance about adopting subjective well-being measures in official government surveys to inform social and economic policies and considers whether research has advanced to a point which warrants the federal government collecting data that allow aspects of the population’s subjective well-being to be tracked and associated with changing conditions.

 

December 14, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Psychology, Public Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Awkward Facebook Encounters

Facebook Notifications Management (Mark as Spam!)

Facebook Notifications Management (Mark as Spam!) (Photo credit: @superamit)

AWKWARD FACEBOOK ENCOUNTERS
Embarrassing Facebook posts cause certain people more anguish than others

From the 9 December 2013 Northwestern State University press release

EVANSTON, Ill. — A friend posts a picture on Facebook that shows you picking food out of your teeth. Awkward!

Such Facebook faux pas are common. But depending on who you are and to whom you allow access to your Facebook page, such embarrassments can cause greater anguish, according to a new Northwestern University study.

“Almost every participant in the study could describe something that happened on Facebook in the past six months that was embarrassing or made them feel awkward or uncomfortable,” said Jeremy Birnholtz, one of the authors of the paper. “We were interested in the strength of the emotional response to this type of encounter.”

People most concerned about social appropriateness (high self monitors) and those with a diverse network of friends on Facebook — who allow access to co-workers, clients and friends, for example — are more likely to strongly experience a “face threat,” the study found. Whereas people who felt they had a high level of Facebook skills reported experiencing these kinds of threats less severely.

“Perhaps people with more Facebook experience, who know how to control settings, delete pictures and comments and untag, think they knew how to deal with these encounters or at least try to deal with them,” Birnholtz said.

Birnholtz is an assistant professor in the department of communication studies at Northwestern and director of the Social Media Lab at Northwestern. The paper will be presented in February 2014, the ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing in Baltimore.

Interestingly, people with a high level of general Internet skills — who may understand the importance of online reputations — also reported more severe reactions to face threats, Birnholtz noted.

These are the type of violations or threats people in this study reported experiencing most often:

  • Norm violations: This is the most common type of threat study participants reported experiencing (45 percent) and involves situations when social norms are violated and one’s behavior is exposed in a way that could lead to social and emotional consequences.
  • Ideal self-presentation violations: This is the second most common threat reported (29 percent) and involves ideal self-presentation violations, when content posted is inconsistent with the manner in which a person wants to appear to his or her Facebook audience.
  • Association effects: These threats are a little less common (21 percent) and involve people worrying about their self-presentation because of how someone they associate with on Facebook is presenting himself.
  • Aggregate effects: This is the least common threat (5 percent) and it occurs when an individual’s content gains higher visibility within his or her network as more people like it or comment on it. The unexpected attention can cause one to feel self-conscious about their self-presentation.

For the study, researchers recruited Facebook users through university websites and Craigslist. Only 15 of the 165 people surveyed had not experienced some kind of face threat in the past six months.

Participants were asked to describe a recent uncomfortable Facebook experience and rate the severity of the threat on a scale of one to five. Information about their personality type, Internet and Facebook skills, size and diversity of their Facebook network was also collected and assessed.

Examples of awkward Facebook encounters from the study follow:

  • Norm violation: “I went to a concert with a friend. I had to miss a mandatory meeting to be there … the friend didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to be going so tagged me in a status saying I was at the venue. My meeting friends found out and were super angry.”
  • Ideal self-presentation violation: “I felt uncomfortable when my boyfriend posted an article about condoms on my Facebook wall … my mom reads my Facebook, and I didn’t want her to see that (even though she knows we are sexually active).”
  • Association effects: “A friend posted a link to an image that she thought was funny on my wall…I was slightly embarrassed because I did not find the image funny and I was worried about how my other Facebook friends would think of me for having the link on my wall. I did not want my other Facebook friends to think that I was the type of person to find the image funny.”
  • Aggregate effects: “A friend of mine commented on a picture I forgot I had posted of me with my ex-boyfriend and it showed in the newsfeed.”

Future research may focus on the specific actions people take to resolve face-threatening acts, Birnholtz said. In the meantime, people should think twice about a friend’s Facebook audience before commenting on their content or posting to their page, he said.

“People can make bad decisions when posting to your Facebook because they don’t have a good idea of your privacy settings and which friends of yours might see this content,” Birnholtz said. “Facebook doesn’t provide a lot of cues as to how friends want to present themselves to their audience.”

He said in the future Facebook could offer more pop-ups and nudges to help people think twice before posting a possible “threat” to a friend’s page.

This work is supported in part by the National Science Foundation (IIS-0915081 and DGE-0824162).

Other authors of this paper are Eden Litt and Madeline E. Smith of Northwestern University and Erin Spottswood and Jeff Hancock of Cornell University.

 

December 11, 2013 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[News article] State creating hoarding task force – as many as 45,000 affected

English: Compulsive hoarding Apartment Deutsch...

English: Compulsive hoarding Apartment Deutsch: Wohnküche eines Messies (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I’ve been in houses where one can just barely walk through a room. Remember being invited over to lunch at a friend’s. She said it took a whole week to clear the kitchen table so we could sit down and eat. Also remember my bother-in-law’s apartment. I kept on insisting she at least have a path form the door to her living room chair clear at all times, for the sake of safety.
Well, after reading this article, I have summoned up some compassion for folks who hoard.

 

From the 9 December 2013 Delaware Online article

 

Hoarding isn’t just about accumulating piles of stuff most of us would throw away. It’s more than the ceiling-high mounds of newspapers, books and dolls as shown on reality television shows like A&E’s “Hoarders” and TLC’s “Buried Alive.”

It’s about people paralyzed by the thought of getting rid of personal belongings, no matter how much – or little – they are worth. It’s about the social, physical and emotional isolation their hoarding behaviors cause. It’s about safety, not just for the hoarder but for those who live near them as well.

Initially, hoarding was considered a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder. More recently, researchers have found that only about 20 percent of people who hoard also have OCD. Depression is much more common, occurring in about 50 percent of those with hoarding disorder.

Earlier this year, the American Psychiatric Association included hoarding as a distinct disorder in its updated Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders, known as the DSM.

Several factors influence the likelihood that a person may be affected by hoarding, Schwartz said. At least 50 percent of people diagnosed with hoarding disorder also have a first-degree relative – such as a parent or sibling – who also has the problem.

Trauma also can trigger hoarding behaviors, such as a death in the family or an adult child leaving for college. In some cases, people who had a tendency to accumulate items may have had someone who helped keep them from going overboard in their hoarding. When that person is no longer there – such as because of a death – the hoarding may increase. People over age 55 are three times more likely to have a hoarding disorder, Schwartz said.

A study last year of people who struggle with hoarding tendencies found that hoarders tend to have unique brain activity when faced with making decisions about their possessions, compared with people who don’t have the disorder. In general, hoarders tend to struggle with organizational, attention and information processing, which makes it hard for them to toss out what most people would consider to be unnecessary.

“This isn’t just someone who is dirty and lazy. It’s a mental disorder,” said Chalmers, who has been featured as an expert on A&E’s “Hoarders.” “To a person who doesn’t suffer, you may think why is that such a struggle to get rid of what you don’t need. But to them, just to make a decision, their brain is complete chaos. They’re not thinking clearly like us.”

Hoarders don’t just fill their homes with books, papers and knickknack collections. In some cases, well-meaning people wind up collecting animals as well.

..

Treatment may involve helping hoarders to understand their own behavior and connect with the emotions they’re feeling. Although it may seem counterintuitive, the cleanup is actually one of the last steps people should take when dealing with a severe hoarding problem, said Chalmers, who runs a hoarding task force in San Bernadino that was developed in 2010.

“Without appropriate intervention, it will be a never-ending cycle of response,” Brown said. “If that person is allowed to go back to their typical life and receives no ongoing support, the likelihood they will start hoarding again is very, very high. That’s another reason we need this task force.”

 

 

 

Read the entire article here

 

 

December 11, 2013 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , | Leave a comment

Non-Specialist Health Workers Play Important Role in Improving Mental Health in Developing Countries

From the 19 November 2013 ScienceDaily article

Non-specialist health workers are beneficial in providing treatment for people with mental, neurological and substance-abuse (MNS) problems in developing countries — where there is often a lack of mental health professionals — according to a new Cochrane review.

Researchers, led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, say non-specialist health workers (such as doctors, nurses or lay health workers) not formally trained in mental health or neurology, and other professionals with health roles, such as teachers, may have an important role to play in delivering MNS health care. The study is the first systematic review of non-specialist health workers providing MNS care in low- and middle-income countries.

After examining 38 relevant studies from 22 developing countries, researchers found that non-specialist health workers were able to alleviate some depression or anxiety. For patients with dementia, non-specialists seemed to help in reducing symptoms and in improving their carers’ coping skills. Non-specialists may also have benefits in treating maternal depression, post traumatic stress disorder as well as alcohol abuse, though the improvements may be smaller.

Lead author Dr Nadja van Ginneken, who completed the research at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine’s Centre for Global Mental Health with funding from the Wellcome Trust Clinical PhD programme, said: “Many low- and middle-income countries have started to train primary care staff, and in particular lay and other community-based health workers, to deliver mental health care. This review shows that, for some mental health problems, the use of non-specialist health workers has some benefits compared to usual care.”

 

Read the entire article here

Cochrane Abstract is here
C
heck with a local academic, health/medical, or public library for free or low cost access to full text.

 

November 20, 2013 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychiatry, Psychology | , , | Leave a comment

[Press Release] More Than 3,200 Serving Life Without Parole for Nonviolent Offenses, Finds ACLU

American Civil Liberties Union

American Civil Liberties Union (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Seems I’m reading and re-posting criminal justice items today…
Selected this one because I am an ardent opponent of the death penalty.  And when the death penalty is abolished, there still are plenty of criminal justice issues that need addressing/resolving.
This statistic is new to me. Justice needs to be served, but life without parole for nonviolent offenders?  The punishment in these cases does not fit the crime.

 

Excessive Sentences for Drug and Property Crimes; Extreme Racial Disparities Shown

 

From the 13 November 2013 ACLU press release

 

NEW YORK – In the first-ever study of people serving life without parole for nonviolent offenses in the United States, the American Civil Liberties Union found that at least 3,278 prisoners fit this category in federal and state prisons combined.

“A Living Death: Life Without Parole for Nonviolent Offenses” features key statistics about these prisoners, an analysis of the laws that produced their sentences, and case studies of 110 men and women serving these sentences. Of the 3,278 prisoners, 79 percent were convicted of nonviolent, drug-related crimes such as possession or distribution, and 20 percent of nonviolent property crimes like theft.

“The punishments these people received are grotesquely out of proportion to the crimes they committed,” said Jennifer Turner, ACLU human rights researcher and author of the report. “In a humane society, we can hold people accountable for drug and property crimes without throwing away the key.”

The ACLU estimates that, of the 3,278 serving life without parole for nonviolent offenses, 65 percent are Black, 18 percent are white, and 16 percent are Latino, evidence of extreme racial disparities. Of the 3,278, most were sentenced under mandatory sentencing policies, including mandatory minimums and habitual offender laws that required them to be incarcerated until they die.

“The people profiled in our report are an extreme example of the millions of lives ruined by the persistent ratcheting up of our sentencing laws over the last forty years,” said Vanita Gupta, deputy legal director of the ACLU. “We must change our sentencing practices to make our justice system smart, fair, and humane. It’s time to undo the damage wrought by four decades of the War on Drugs and ‘tough-on-crime’ attitudes.”

Douglas Ray Dunkins Jr., who has served 22 years so far, told the ACLU, “It’s devastating, horrible, not being around to see [my children] graduate and go to school.” Dicky Joe Jackson, who has served 17 years, said, “I would rather have had a death sentence than a life sentence.”

The federal courts account for 63 percent of the 3,278 life-without-parole sentences for nonviolent offenses. The remaining prisoners are in Louisiana (429 prisoners), Florida (270), Alabama (244), Mississippi (93), South Carolina (88), Oklahoma (49), Georgia (20), Illinois (10), and Missouri (1). The ACLU estimates that federal and state taxpayers spend $1.8 billion keeping these people in prison for life instead of more appropriate terms.

In addition to interviews, correspondence, and a survey of hundreds of prisoners serving life without parole for nonviolent offenses, the ACLU based “A Living Death” on court records, a prisoner survey, and data from the United States Sentencing Commission, Federal Bureau of Prisons, and state Departments of Corrections obtained through Freedom of Information Act and open records requests.

“A Living Death” features comments from the prisoners’ family members, and in multiple instances, prisoners’ sentencing judges express frustration and outrage at the severity of the punishment the law required. Judge Milton I. Shadur told Rudy Martinez as he sentenced Martinez to life without parole: “[F]airness has departed from the system.”

The report includes recommendations to federal and state governments for changes in sentencing and clemency. The proposed policy reforms would help bring balance back to sentencing—crucial steps to reduce our nation’s dependence on incarceration.

“We must change the laws that have led to such unconscionable sentences,” said Turner. “For those now serving life without parole for nonviolent offenses, President Obama and state governors must step in and reduce their sentences. To do nothing is a failure of justice.”

The ACLU has placed ads online and in print to raise public awareness of the prisoners serving life-without-parole for nonviolent offenses and the larger problem of mass incarceration. Featuring photographs of six prisoners profiled in “A Living Death,” the ads will appear multiple times in print and online in such national outlets as Jet, The Nation, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post.

The report is available here:
aclu.org/fairandsmart

 

 

November 18, 2013 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , | Leave a comment

[News article] When Your Body Needs Calories, You Are More Inclined to Help the Poor

From the 12 November 2013 ScienceDaily article

 Imagine that you have not eaten anything for the past few hours. It is almost lunch time, and you are getting hungry. You receive an email. It is a survey asking about your political position regarding the welfare state. You answer the questions quickly and head off to lunch. Now imagine a different scenario. You have just come back from lunch. You are feeling full, as you sit down in front of your computer. You receive the same email. You answer the survey quickly and then get back to work. Do you think your answers in these two scenarios would be the same — or different?

Read the entire article here

Americans donate over $300 billion annually to nonprofits, averaging about $1,000 per person. We feel good when we give to our favorite charities. At the same time, philanthropy is broken, and almost everyone knows it.

The causes that receive the most donations are not typically the ones that make the greatest impact. Instead, the personal whims and preferences of donors determine where dollars flow. People pick charities based more on reputation and trust than proven effectiveness. Many donors do not know how to define a “high performing” nonprofit, let alone how to identify one or assess whether there are more worthy charities. Donors respond to inspirational anecdotes in professionally-written fundraising material rather than asking for meaningful evidence of performance; simultaneously, they express concerns about high overhead costs and program effectiveness. Philanthropy is broken, and it needs to be reinvented.

But how? There are three key areas that can create a domino effect of improving charitable giving.

1. There must be greater honesty about charitable giving.

Read the entire article here

 

November 13, 2013 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , | Leave a comment

[Ohio State University Press Release] Gun use in PG-13 movies has more than tripled since 1985

From the press release via the 10 November 2013 EurekAlert

Contact: Brad Bushman
Bushman.20@osu.edu
614-688-8779
Ohio State University

Gun use in PG-13 movies has more than tripled since 1985

Researchers worry about effects on teen viewers

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The amount of gun violence shown in PG-13 films has more than tripled since 1985, the year the rating was introduced.

In fact, the most popular PG-13 movies of 2011 and 2012 showed significantly more gun violence than R-rated movies of the same time period, a new study reveals.

“It’s shocking how gun use has skyrocketed in movies that are often marketed directly at the teen audience,” said Brad Bushman, co-author of the study and professor of communication and psychology at The Ohio State University.

“You have to wonder why we are seeing this surge in gun violence in PG-13 movies, when it isn’t appearing in G, PG and R-rated films.”

Bushman conducted the research with Patrick Jamieson, Ilana Weitz and Daniel Romer of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. The study was published online Nov. 11, 2013, in the journal Pediatrics.

Bushman said the results are concerning because other research has revealed the presence of a “weapons effect”: People who simply see a gun, or even a picture of a gun, are more aggressive toward others.

“Based on what researchers have found, it is not good for teens to be viewing this much gun violence in films,” he said.

PG movies suggest that “some material may not be suitable for children,” according to the Motion Picture Association of America, which creates the ratings. PG-13 movies carry a sterner warning: “Parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.” The MPAA says a PG-13 movie “may go beyond the PG rating” in violence “but does not reach the restricted R cateogry.”

PG-13 movies are also the most popular among viewers – 13 of the top 25 films in release during 2012 carried that rating, including seven of the top 10, according to the MPAA.

“By the standards of the MPAA, PG-13 movies shouldn’t have as much violence as R-rated movies, but they clearly do. It appears sex scenes are more likely to result in an R rating than scenes of violence,” Bushman said.

The researchers studied a database of 915 films that were drawn from the 30 top-grossing films for each year from 1950 to 2012. Researchers identified violent sequences performed by each character for each five-minute segment of the films.

They also noted whether each violent sequence since 1985 (the first full year after the PG-13 rating was introduced) included the use of a gun.

Overall, findings showed that the rate of violent sequences nearly quadrupled from 1950 to 2010. Since 1985, 94 percent of the movies studied (367 in total) had one or more five-minute segments that included violence. Overall, the films contained 700 segments with gun violence.

Findings showed that R-rated films averaged about 1.54 segments per hour featuring gun violence, and that number didn’t fluctuate much from 1985 to 2010. Movies rated G and PG averaged 0.41 segments of gun violence per hour, which also hasn’t changed since 1985.

The story is much different for films rated PG-13, Bushman said. In 1985, PG-13 movies essentially didn’t have any scenes of gun violence, but the number rose steadily until about 2005, when it began escalating even faster.

By 2010, PG-13 films averaged as many sequences featuring gun violence per hour as R-rated films. In 2011 and 2012, PG-13 movies actually had more gun violence than R-rated movies.

“The trend of increasing gun violence in PG-13 movies is disturbing because of what we know about the weapons effect and because those are the films kids are most attracted to,” Bushman said.

The weapons effect was first shown in 1967, in a study by psychologists that showed participants who were provoked until angry acted more aggressively toward others when there was a gun on a table in front of them.

Since then, more than 50 other studies have replicated the weapons effect, even among people who weren’t angry.

“Seeing these violent gun scenes in movies may be strengthening the weapons effect among young people,” Bushman said.

“In addition, these movies essentially provide young people scripts for how to use guns in real life, as we have seen in copycat killings. It is a bad situation.”

 

###

Data from the study were collected as part of The Coding of Media and Health Project at the Annenberg Public Policy Center. Funding for this study came from the APPC and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Contact: Brad Bushman, (614) 688-8779; Bushman.20@osu.edu

Written by Jeff Grabmeier, (614) 292-8457; Grabmeier.1@osu.edu

 

 

November 11, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Consumer Safety, Psychology, Public Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[New Scientist Article] Data trackers monitor your life so they can nudge you

From the 7 November 2013 New Scientist article by Hal Hodson

Once you know everything about a person, you can influence their behaviour. A thousand students with tattletale phones are going to find out how easy that is

THERE’S something strange about this year’s undergraduate class at the Technical University of Denmark – they all have exactly the same kind of phone.

The phones are tracking everywhere the students go, who they meet and when, and every text they send. Around 1000 students are volunteers in the largest-ever experiment of its kind, one that could change our understanding of how we interact in groups.

Sune Lehmann and Arek Stopczynski of DTU are using the data to build a model of the social network the students live in – who talks to who, where groups gather. They plan to test whether the results can be used for purposes like boosting student achievement, or even improving mental health. “We hope to be able to figure out how to make this work in terms of academic performance,” says Lehmann.

This is sociology on a different scale, gathering detailed data about an entire group and then using that information to “nudge” them into changing their behaviour. Used ethically, the results could improve the way society works, transforming everything from healthcare and public transport to education and governance. Used for the wrong reasons, it could be extremely dangerous.

Used ethically, the results could improve the way society works, transforming everything from healthcare and public transport to education and governance. Used for the wrong reasons, it could be extremely dangerous.

Used ethically, the results could improve the way society works, transforming everything from healthcare and public transport to education and governance. Used for the wrong reasons, it could be extremely dangerous. a 2010 study, participants were encouraged to boost their activity levels either through personal rewards, or rewards given to a buddy who was supposed to keep tabs on them. Being motivated by an incentivised buddy resulted in twice the activity increase of the direct reward.

..nudges related to public health could be as simple as allowing doctors to ring up their patients when their activity levels start to follow patterns that correlate with, say, diabetes or depression, and asking them if they are feeling OK.

But we shouldn’t lose sight of the potential dark side, says Evan Selinger, a technology ethicist at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. “There is extraordinary power in the access to data at a personal level – even predicting future behaviour,” he says. “There’s a lot to be gained, but there’s a lot of problems that scare the living ******** out of me.”

 

 

 

November 8, 2013 Posted by | Psychology, Public Health | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Addicts May Be Seeking Relief from Emotional Lows More Than Euphoric Highs

From the 6 November 2013 ScienceDaily Report

Cocaine addicts may become trapped in drug binges — not because of the euphoric highs they are chasing but rather the unbearable emotional lows they desperately want to avoid.

In a study published today online inPsychopharmacology, Rutgers University Behavioral and Systems Neuroscience Professor Mark West, and doctoral student David Barker in the Department of Psychology, in the School of Arts and Sciences, challenge the commonly held view that drug addiction occurs because users are always going after the high. Based on new animal studies, they discovered that the initial positive feelings of intoxication are short lived — quickly replaced by negative emotional responses whenever drug levels begin to fall.

If these animal models are a mirror into human addiction, Rutgers researchers say that addicts who learned to use drugs to either achieve a positive emotional state or to relieve a negative one are vulnerable to situations that trigger either behavior.

“Our results suggest that once the animals started a binge, they may have felt trapped and didn’t like it,” said West. “This showed us that negative emotions play an equal, if not more important role in regulating cocaine abuse.”

Read the entire article here

 

November 7, 2013 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bad boys: Research predicts whether boys will grow out of it — or not

From the University of Michigan press release at EurkAlert 

Contact: Diane Swanbrow
swanbrow@umich.edu
734-647-9069
University of Michigan

Bad boys: Research predicts whether boys will grow out of it — or not

ANN ARBOR — Using the hi-tech tools of a new field called neurogenetics and a few simple questions for parents, a University of Michigan researcher is beginning to understand which boys are simply being boys and which may be headed for trouble.

“When young children lie or cheat or steal, parents naturally wonder if they’ll grow out of it,” says Luke Hyde, a U-M psychologist who is studying the development and treatment of antisocial behavior.

Hyde, a faculty associate at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR) and assistant professor of psychology, is speaking at ISR on November 11 on how genes, experience and the brain work together to heighten or reduce the risks that normal childhood transgressions will develop into full-blown conduct disorders in adolescence and early adulthood. His talk is part of the ISR Research Center for Group Dynamics seminar series on violence and aggression, and is free and open to the public.

“The lifetime prevalence of conduct disorder is around 10 percent, and even higher in males and low-income populations,” says Hyde. “The total cost to society is enormous, since these behaviors are often chronic, lasting through adulthood.”

With colleagues at U-M, Duke University, the University of Pittsburgh, and other institutions, Hyde has been exploring the role of the environment and biology as they interact over time to shape behavior. In particular, he is using the techniques of a new field called neurogenetics, which combines genetics, neuroscience and psychology, to learn how genes and neural processes interact with harsh environments, including dangerous neighborhoods and harsh parents, and with a child’s own levels of empathy and personality traits, to increase the risk of antisocial behavior.

In one recent study, for example, Hyde and colleagues studied subjects with over-reactive amygdala responses . The amygdala is an almond-shaped part of the brain’s primitive limbic system involved in processing fear and other visceral emotions. It has been associated with impulsive, aggressive behavior, as well as anxiety disorders and depression.

“Previous research suggests that the amygdala becomes over-reactive probably as a result of both genetics and experience,” says Hyde. “And once the amygdala is over-reactive, people tend to behave in an anxious, over-reactive way to things they see as a potential threat.

“Our study found that this tendency is moderated by a person’s environment, including the social support they get. If they’re not getting support from family, friends, neighbors, or professionals, then the link between the amygdala and anxious behavior is much stronger.”

In another study, Hyde and colleagues showed that kids who are impulsive are only at higher risk of engaging in antisocial behavior if they live in dangerous neighborhoods.

He also identified specific items within childhood behavior checklists that can be used as early as the age of three to identify kids who will likely have worse trajectories for anti-social behavior compared to other children who have similar behavior problems, such as throwing tantrums.

These items assess observable behaviors that include whether the child is cruel to animals, doesn’t seem to feel guilty after misbehaving, is sneaky, lies, is selfish or won’t share, and won’t change his or her behavior as a result of punishment.

“The results of this test aren’t really meaningful until age three or three-and-a-half,” says Hyde. “Before that, many of these behaviors are fairly common, and don’t predict anything. But after age three, if children are still behaving in these ways, their behavior is more likely to escalate in the following years rather than improve.”

There is good news, though. Kids who scored high on this test benefitted just as much as other kids from interventions, according to Hyde. These interventions, often called parent management training, focus on giving parents better skills to manage child behavior problems, including training parents to spend more positive time with their kids, use time-outs instead of physical punishments, and reward good behavior by giving out stickers.

“Parents need to know that intervention works, especially if it’s done early,” says Hyde. “They need to go for help if they see signs of trouble. Clinical psychologists, among other professionals, have empirically supported treatments that are quite effective for children, especially in this age period.”

 

###

Funding for this research was provided by The National Institute of Drug Abuse, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Established in 1949, the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research (ISR) is the world’s largest academic social science survey and research organization, and a world leader in developing and applying social science methodology, and educating researchers and students from around the world. For more information, visit the ISR Web site at http://home.isr.umich.edu

 

 

November 5, 2013 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Behavioral Health United States 2012

Screen Shot 2013-11-05 at 5.40.36 AMFrom the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration press release

Behavioral Health United States 2012

SAMHSA’s newly-released publication, Behavioral Health, United States, 2012, the latest in a series of publications issued by SAMHSA biannually since 1980, provides in-depth information regarding the current status of the mental health and substance abuse field. It includes behavioral health statistics at the national and State levels from 40 different data sources. The report includes three analytic chapters:

  • Behavioral Health Disorders across the Life Span
  • Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders: Impairment in Functioning
  • Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders: Treatment Landscape

 

The volume also includes 172 tables, which are organized into four sections:

  • Behavioral Health of the Population: the mental health status of the U.S. population and prevalence of mental illness;
  • Behavioral Health Service Utilization: providers and settings for behavioral health services; types of behavioral health services provided; and rates of utilization;
  • Behavioral Health Treatment Capacity: number of facilities providing mental health and substance abuse services; numbers of qualified specialty mental health and substance abuse providers; and
  • Payer and Payment Mechanisms: expenditures and sources of funding for behavioral health services.

 

No other HHS publication provides this type of comprehensive information regarding behavioral health services delivery in the U.S. This publication is the only available comprehensive source of national-level statistical information on trends in both private and public sector behavioral health services, costs, and clients. Drawing on 40 different data sources, this publication also includes State-level data, and information on behavioral health treatment for special populations such as children, military personnel, nursing home residents, and incarcerated individuals.

 

 

November 5, 2013 Posted by | Educational Resources (Health Professionals), Educational Resources (High School/Early College(, Health Education (General Public), Psychiatry, Psychology, Public Health | , , | Leave a comment

Pregnant women who abuse drugs, alcohol need compassion, not stigma from doctors and society: experts

Smoking and drinking during pregnancy

Smoking and drinking during pregnancy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

My sentiments exactly, real humans do not shame!

 

From the 4 November 2011 Toronto National Post

 

Seeing a pregnant women smoking a cigarette, imbibing a glass of wine or using drugs is sure to raise a societal eyebrow.

But a new report says women with substance abuse problems should be treated with compassion by health providers and society at large, especially during pregnancy, because addiction is a brain disorder and not a personal failing.

“It’s harmful for us to look upon pregnant women with addiction issues and assume it’s as simple as saying: ’For the sake of the baby, stop using,”’ said Colleen Dell, research chair in substance abuse at the University of Saskatchewan.

The report says pregnancy offers an opportunity for doctors to help women seek treatment for addiction, while providing comprehensive care aimed at maximizing the health of both mother and baby.

That treatment should involve a wide range of care providers and programs, including addiction counselling, medication-assisted therapy and community resources for parents, the report says.

“When this continuum of care is provided, we see healthier babies and fewer premature births, and overall maternal and infant mortality rates go down,” said Finnegan.

But many women are hesitant to seek treatment because of the stigma around using a substance that’s known to be harmful to their developing fetus, she said.

It’s important to look at the antecedents to drug addiction, said Finnegan, noting that about 98% of the women in her clinic had been sexually or physically abused as children or as adults.

Often women also won’t seek medical help because they’re afraid of losing their children

“This is very much like PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). They have had trauma and taking a drug permits them to forget these terrible feelings that they have had. When they take the psychoactive drugs … they become addicted.

“So the first step is that we get them into treatment and help them feel welcome.”

Often women also won’t seek medical help because they’re afraid of losing their children to protective services if they admit to an addiction, she said, suggesting the judicial system has to change.

Dealing with stigma is the greatest challenge in trying to help pregnant women with an addiction, said Franco Vaccarino, a professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Toronto and chairman of the CCSA’s scientific advisory council.

“Addiction is a disorder of the brain,” he stressed.

‘Simply put, your brain is different after prolonged substance abuse than it was before’

“Simply put, your brain is different after prolonged substance abuse than it was before. Addiction fundamentally changes neurological functioning and it makes it next to impossible to just quit for the sake of the baby without significant supports.

“The challenge is anchoring the narrative of this discussion in health terms,” Vaccarino said. “If you anchor it in health terms and move it away from justice and moral and will-related issues, you focus the narrative around addiction, which is where it should be.”

 

 

 

November 5, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Psychology | , , , | 1 Comment

[NY Times article] When Best Friends Can Visit

Excerpts from the 10 April 2013 NY Times article

Policies vary at the [few]  institutions that allow visits by patients’ pets, but many share some of the same requirements. A doctor’s order allowing the family pet to visit is typically necessary, as is an attestation from a veterinarian that the animal is healthy and up to date on all its shots. Most institutions require that dogs — the most common visitors, by far — be groomed within a day or so of a visit and on a leash when they walk through hospital corridors. Cats must be taken in and out of the institution in a carrier.

If a dog or cat wants to get up on a patient’s bed, a covering is laid down first. If an animal seems agitated or distressed when it comes into the hospital, staff members who meet the family and escort them to the patient’s room have the right to turn it away. If the patient shares a room with someone, that person must agree before a pet may visit.

“We have not had any problems,” said the Rev. Susan Roy, director of pastoral care services at the University of Maryland Medical Center, whose “your pet can visit” policy has been in place since 2008. If anything, she said, the visits can be hard on dogs, who often respond viscerally to an owner’s illness and may take a day or two to recover from a visit.

Rush University Medical Center spent three years studying the issue before its new pet visitation policy went into effect in February. Diane Gallagher, the hospital’s associate vice president of nursing operations, described some of the questions: Would animals transmit infections to patients, or vice versa? What were the liability issues? Could allowing pets to visit interfere with patient care — if, for instance, a family dog became alarmed and protective of the sick person when a doctor, a nurse or a technician came into the room?

In the end, officials decided that the benefits — comfort and reduced stress for patients — were more substantial than the risks.

Although research has shown that hospital therapy dogs can pick up germs and potentially transmit bacteria that can cause dangerous infections, those animals typically wander from room to room, while people’s own pets are expected to stay with the patient they are visiting. If someone has an open wound or an active infection, a visit from a family pet is discouraged, according to most hospital policies.

Research on the value of personal pets visiting patients in the hospital hasn’t been done. One small 2010 study of 10 healthy dog owners by researchers atVirginia Commonwealth’s Center for Human-Animal Interaction found that both unfamiliar and familiar dogs provoked similar reactions: a relaxation response and reduction in blood pressure and levels of cortisol, a stress-related hormone, according to Dr. Sandra Barker, director of the center and a professor of psychiatry.

Read the entire article here

 

 

November 5, 2013 Posted by | health care, Psychology | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Research article] Racism, Gun Ownership and Gun Control: Biased Attitudes in US Whites May Influence Policy Decisions

From the Open Access article at the Public Library of Science (PloS)

Abstract

Objective

Racism is related to policies preferences and behaviors that adversely affect blacks and appear related to a fear of blacks (e.g., increased policing, death penalty). This study examined whether racism is also related to gun ownership and opposition to gun controls in US whites.

Method

The most recent data from the American National Election Study, a large representative US sample, was used to test relationships between racism, gun ownership, and opposition to gun control in US whites. Explanatory variables known to be related to gun ownership and gun control opposition (i.e., age, gender, education, income, conservatism, anti-government sentiment, southern vs. other states, political identification) were entered in logistic regression models, along with measures of racism, and the stereotype of blacks as violent. Outcome variables included; having a gun in the home, opposition to bans on handguns in the home, support for permits to carry concealed handguns.

Results

After accounting for all explanatory variables, logistic regressions found that for each 1 point increase in symbolic racism there was a 50% increase in the odds of having a gun at home. After also accounting for having a gun in the home, there was still a 28% increase in support for permits to carry concealed handguns, for each one point increase in symbolic racism. The relationship between symbolic racism and opposition to banning handguns in the home (OR1.27 CI 1.03,1.58) was reduced to non-significant after accounting for having a gun in the home (OR1.17 CI.94,1.46), which likely represents self-interest in retaining property (guns).

Conclusions

Symbolic racism was related to having a gun in the home and opposition to gun control policies in US whites. The findings help explain US whites’ paradoxical attitudes towards gun ownership and gun control. Such attitudes may adversely influence US gun control policy debates and decisions.

 

Editor: Brock Bastian, University of Queensland, Australia

 

Received: May 3, 2013; Accepted: September 7, 2013; Published: October 31, 2013

Copyright: © 2013 O’Brien et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Funding: These authors have no support or funding to report.

Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist

 

 

November 1, 2013 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychology | , , , , | 1 Comment

[Journal Article] The “Nasty Effect:” Online Incivility and Risk Perceptions of Emerging Technologies

From the 13 February 2013 article at The Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication

Abstract- Uncivil discourse is a growing concern in American rhetoric, and this trend has expanded beyond traditional media to online sources, such as audience comments. Using an experiment given to a sample representative of the U.S. population, we examine the effects online incivility on perceptions toward a particular issue—namely, an emerging technology, nanotechnology. We found that exposure to uncivil blog comments can polarize risk perceptions of nanotechnology along the lines of religiosity and issue support.

Full text of the article available at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jcc4.12009/full

 

October 31, 2013 Posted by | Psychology | , , | Leave a comment

[Repost] Surviving — Then Thriving

Lukas uses several television sets to absorb a...

Lukas uses several television sets to absorb as many Holocaust survivor testimonies as possible. The people seen are actual Holocaust survivors. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Am thinking that perhaps one needs to have at least some tools for thriving before a traumatic event in order to thrive after a traumatic event….

 

From the 29 November 2013 ScienceDaily article

Oct. 29, 2013 — Modern medicine usually considers trauma — both the physical and the psychological kinds — as unequivocally damaging. Now researchers at Tel Aviv University are lending support to a more philosophical view of suffering, finding that trauma, however terrible, may have distinct psychological benefits.

Last year, junior investigator Dr. Sharon Dekel and Prof. Zahava Solomon of TAU’s Bob Shapell School of Social Work found that individuals with Holocaust-survivor parents may be less likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder in the wake of their own traumas. In a study published in theJournal of Traumatic Stress, the researchers set out to see if so-called second-generation Holocaust survivors also undergo more post-traumatic “growth.”

“Post-traumatic growth can be defined as a workable coping mechanism, a way of making and finding meaning involved in the building of a more positive self-image and the perception of personal strength,” said Dekel. “We were interested in studying the effect of the Holocaust on the second generation’s propensity for this kind of growth. If we can identify verifiably positive implications of trauma, we will be able to incorporate them into treatment and teach people how to grow after terrible experiences,” she said.

Trauma’s silver lining

Researchers have traditionally focused on the negative implications of trauma, and survivors have been shown to pass this burden onto their children. But a growing body of evidence suggests that trauma can have positive outcomes as well. Some survivors of traumatic events develop new priorities, closer relationships, an increased appreciation of life, a greater sense of personal strength, and experience heightened spirituality.

Read the entire article here

October 30, 2013 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] The benefits of crying wolf

From the 28 October 2013 Indiana State University press release

Crying wolf: Who benefits and when?

A crisis at work can bring out the best in colleagues, often inspiring more cooperation and self-sacrifice. A new study from Indiana University and the University of Guelph has found the benefits are not shared equally, with higher-ranking group members having the most to gain by perceived threats to the group.

“Sociologists have known for a long time that groups tend to come together when they face adversity,” said social psychologist Stephen Benard, assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at IU Bloomington. “What our research highlights is that there is a downside to our tendency to stick together when things are tough — powerful group members can exploit that tendency to distract us from competing with them.”

The study, “Who cries wolf, and when? Manipulation of perceived threats to preserve rank in cooperative groups,” was published in the online journal Proceedings of the Library of Science One in September. Pat Barclay, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at University of Guelph in Canada is the co-author.

Benard and Barclay tested their theories by creating three-person groups and having them play a cooperative group game in which people could pay money to increase the perception of threat to their group. They found that people with higher-ranking positions paid more to manipulate the threat and the action helped maintain their privileged positions.

“With this approach, we find people in high-ranking positions are more likely to manipulate apparent threats when their position is precarious, compared to when it is secure,” Benard said.
But this doesn’t mean the next crisis at work is a ploy by the boss to boost her job security. Social science predictions involve the average person, in general, not specific people or situations.

“When groups face potential threats, it’s important to judge those threats carefully,” Benard said. “On one hand, you want to be alert to the fact that other group members might have an incentive to exaggerate the threat. On the other hand, it’s also important not to underestimate threats that could be real.”

The study was supported by the National Science Foundation in conjunction with the Minerva Initiative of the U.S. department of Defense and the Cornell University Institute for Social Sciences.

 

 

October 30, 2013 Posted by | Psychology, Workplace Health | , | Leave a comment

A Bid to Keep Youths Out of Adult Prisons – NYTimes.com

Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 7.42.53 AM

 

A Bid to Keep Youths Out of Adult Prisons – NYTimes.com.

Excerpts

DENVER — James Stewart died alone.

The 17-year-old from Denver had committed a terrible act: while driving drunk, he slammed into another vehicle head on and killed its driver. Initially placed with other juvenile offenders, he was moved to the county lockup after the district attorney charged him as an adult. Left alone in his cell despite his frantic pleas to be with others, he tightened his bedsheets around his neck and killed himself.

His death, in 2008, was one of two suicides by young people in Colorado jails that helped spur a significant change in state law last year by narrowing the authority of prosecutors to charge juveniles as adults and to place them in adult jails, part of a wave of such laws nationwide.

In a reversal of the tough-on-crime legislation that swept the nation in the late 1980s and ’90s, nearly half of the states have now enacted one or more laws that nudge more young offenders into the juvenile justice system, divert them from being automatically tried as adults and keep them from being placed in adult jails and prisons.

Sarah Brown, a director of the criminal justice program at the National Conference of State Legislatures, said the shift stems from a decline in juvenile crime, concerns about the costs of adult prisons and a growing understanding of adolescent brain development showing that the young have a greater potential for rehabilitation.

The Supreme Court has increasingly taken neurological research into account on juvenile justice issues — most recently in a 2012 case,Miller v. Alabama, which barred mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole for those who committed their crimes before they turned 18. Justice Elena Kagan’s majority opinion in the case cited adolescents’ “diminished culpability and heightened capacity for change.”

….

Read the entire article here

 

October 30, 2013 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] GVSU study on gender: Who counts as a man and who counts as a woman

 

Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 6.50.57 PM

From the 28 October 2013 Grand Valley State press release

Gender is no longer determined solely by biological factors, according to a new study by a Grand Valley State University researcher whose article, “Doing Gender, Determining Gender: Transgender People, Gender Panics, and the Maintenance of the Sex/Gender/Sexuality System,” was recently published in Gender & Society.

Laurel Westbrook, assistant professor of sociology at Grand Valley State, and Kristen Schilt, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Chicago, examined various case studies and found that biological factors, such as genitals and chromosomes, used to be the ultimate determiner of gender, but that is slowly changing.

“We explore the criteria for determining who is a ‘man’ and who is a ‘woman’ in sex-segregated spaces,” said Westbrook. “We are at an interesting point in the history of gender, where people are torn between valuing self-identity and believing that biology determines gender. Our study explores that change in the gender system.”

Westbrook examined case studies involving public debates over the expansion of transgender employment rights, policies determining eligibility of transgender people for competitive sports, and proposals to remove the genital surgery requirement for a change of sex marker on birth certificates.

“Transgender equality has never been more visible as a key issue than it is today, and with the development of every new trans-supportive law or policy, there typically follows an outbreak of criticism,” said Westbrook. “In our analysis, we find that these moments, which we term ‘gender panics,’ are the result of a clash between two competing cultural ideas about gender identity: a belief that gender is determined by biology versus a belief that a person’s self-identity in terms of gender should be validated. These gender panics frequently result in a reshaping of the language of such policies so that they require extensive bodily changes before transgender individuals have access to particular rights.”

These gender panics reveal the criteria for who counts as a woman and a man in our society, said Westbrook. The study shows that the criteria for determining gender — the practice of placing others in gender categories — are not the same across all social spaces. While self-identity is sufficient in many circumstances, such as the workplace, people are more likely to believe that biology determines gender in sex-segregated spaces.

“In the controversies we examined, it is access to bathrooms, locker rooms, and sports teams at the center of gender panics,” said Westbrook. “Moreover, not all sex-segregated spaces are policed equally. Because of beliefs that women are inherently vulnerable, particularly to unwanted heterosexual advances, it is women’s spaces at the center of these debates. Thus, with these controversies, much of the discussion is about a fear of ‘male’ bodies in ‘women’s’ spaces.”

Westbrook said as a result of these fears, transgender rights policies are often discarded or altered in ways that force transgender people to conform to normative ideas of gendered bodies in order to access public facilities and activities that fit their identities.

For more information, contact Laurel Westbrook at (510) 541-7378 or westbrol@gvsu.edu.

– See more at: http://www.gvsu.edu/gvnow/index.htm?articleId=FA97C788-0DFB-DB29-40E6CF0EF0EF9F22#sthash.qtNKGBfv.dpuf

 

October 28, 2013 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Keeping Emotions in Check May Not Always Benefit Psychological Health

Emotion

Emotion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

From the 28 October 2013 ScienceDaily article

 

Being able to regulate your emotions is important for well-being, but new research suggests that a common emotion regulation strategy called “cognitive reappraisal” may actually be harmful when it comes to stressors that are under our control. The study is published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

“Context is important,” says psychological scientist and lead researcher Allison Troy of Franklin & Marshall College. “Our research is among the first to suggest that cognitive reappraisal may actually have negative effects on psychological health in certain contexts.”

Previous research has shown that cognitive reappraisal — a strategy that involves reframing one’s thoughts about a given situation in order to change its emotional impact — is especially beneficial for the psychological health of people who are highly stressed. But, as Troy and colleagues discovered, the controllability of a given situation seems to be the key in determining whether cognitive reappraisal helps or hurts:

“For someone facing a stressful situation in which they have little control, such as a loved one’s illness, the ability to use reappraisal should be extremely helpful — changing emotions may be one of the only things that he or she can exert some control over to try to cope,” Troy notes.

“These results suggest that no emotion regulation strategy is always adaptive,” says Troy. “Adaptive emotion regulation likely involves the ability to use a wide variety of strategies in different contexts, rather than relying on just one strategy in all contexts.”

These findings have implications for public health, given that stress and impairments in the ability to cope with it are important predictors of psychological health problems. The findings also have important implications for clinicians, given that many existing forms of therapy focus on using cognitive reappraisal as a way of strengthening emotion regulation:

“Our results suggest that therapeutic interventions that seek to improve emotion regulation ability and teach clients to use particular strategies in context appropriate ways would be particularly beneficial,” says Troy. “It may be, for instance, that more active strategies like problem-solving and seeking social support could be particularly beneficial in more controllable contexts.”

The researchers plan on expanding their person-by-situation approach to the study of other emotion regulation strategies like acceptance, distraction, and suppression.

 

 

 

Read the entire article here

 

 

October 28, 2013 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Behavior problems in preschool and child care centers may be an issue of genes

From the 24 October 2013 EurkAlert

BEND, Ore. – A new study suggests that some children may be genetically predisposed to developing behavioral problems in child care and preschool settings.

Previous research has found that some children develop behavior problems at child care centers and preschools, despite the benefit of academic gains. It was never known, however, why some youngsters struggle in these settings and others flourish. The new study indicates that some children may be acting out due to poor self-control and temperament problems that they inherited from their parents.

The study’s lead author Shannon Lipscomb, an assistant professor of human development and family sciences at Oregon State University-Cascades, said the findings point to the reason that some children develop problem behavior at care centers, despite the best efforts of teachers and caregivers. The results are published online today in the International Journal of Behavioral Development.

“Assuming that findings like this are replicated, we can stop worrying so much that all children will develop behavior problems at center-based care facilities, because it has been a concern,” she said. “But some children (with this genetic predisposition) may be better able to manage their behavior in a different setting, in a home or smaller group size.”

Researchers from Oregon State University and other institutions collected data in 10 states from 233 families linked through adoption and obtained genetic data from birth parents as well as the children. They found that birth parents who had high rates of negative emotion and self-control, based on a self-reported temperament scale, were more likely to have children who struggled with behavioral issues such as lack of self-control and anger, in child care centers. They controlled for adoptive parent’s characteristics, and still found a modest effect based on the genetic link.

“We aren’t recommending that children are genetically tested, but parents and caregivers can assess a child’s needs and help them get to a setting that might be more appropriate,” Lipscomb said. “This study helps us to explain why some children struggle so much with large peer groups and heightened social interactions. It may not be a problem with a teacher or parent, but that they are struggling on a biological level.”`

 

###

 

Lipscomb is in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences. She is an expert on early childhood development and school readiness, and is particularly interested in adult influences on young children.

Researchers from the University of Oregon, Pennsylvania State University, University of Pittsburgh, University of California, Riverside, Yale Child Study Center, and Oregon Social Learning Center contributed to this study, which was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health.

 

Related article by Lipscomb

Academic gains found among high risk kids in Head Start

 

October 25, 2013 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Torture: The Use of Solitary Confinement in U.S. Prisons

Strongly believe solitary confinement  is a mental health issue.

How we treat the least of us is a reliable measure of just how human we are.

I’ve been know to take to the streets, so to speak, against war & the death penalty.
Most recently at the Supreme Court at the annual Starvin’ for Justice event this past June/July.
These days, when I don’t take to the streets I voice through other means, including this blog.

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From https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=516200851781018&set=a.509091729158597.1073741827.184364598297980&type=1&theater

That’s me on the left holding up the sign.  Kirk Bloodsworth, the speaker, is the first person exonerated from death row using DNA technology. The gentleman on the right holding up a sign is another Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (the preferred title of those of us who served). We shared stories, and perhaps reflected on how our overseas service shaped our views on peace and justice.

(For anyone who would say “get a job”, well my reply is witnessing against injustice is my job.)
(Oh, and for the record, I am now gainfully employed for the first time in three long years of job hunting.
Being unemployed against one’s will certainly is a mental health issue, but nothing compared to greater injustices)

The Hole

The Hole (Photo credit: Chris.Gray)

From the Web Page of the Center for Constitutional Rights

….

Ever since solitary confinement came into existence, it has been used as a tool of repression. While it is justified by corrections officials as necessary to protect prisoners and guards from violent superpredators, all too often it is imposed on individuals, particularly prisoners of color, who threaten prison administrations in an altogether different way. Consistently, jailhouse lawyers and jailhouse doctors, who administer to the needs of their fellow prisoners behind bars, are placed in solitary confinement. They are joined by political prisoners from various civil rights and independence movements.

CCR’s Challenges to Solitary Confinement

In May 2012, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a lawsuit against the state of California for its use of prolonged solitary confinement in the infamous Pelican Bay prison. Ruiz, et al. v. Brown, Jr., et al., is a federal class action challenging prolonged solitary confinement and deprivation of due process, based on the rights guaranteed under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, at Pelican Bay. The case challenges inhumane, unconstitutional conditions under which thousands of prisoners live. Ruiz reasserts the importance of fundamental human rights and the Constitution’s guarantee that no one may be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, and that all are entitled to the due process of law.

CCR’s case against solitary confinement at Pelican Bay is the latest in a long history of challenges to the use of isolation in prisons. InWilkinson v. Austin, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in support of CCR’s claims that prison officials cannot confine prisoners in long-term solitary confinement in a
super maximum prison without first giving them the opportunity to challenge their placement. CCR has engaged in solidarity efforts alongside hunger striking prisoners, as well as engaged in advocacy and education efforts around the impact of the use of isolation in prisons.

Solitary Confinement is Torture

The devastating psychological and physical effects of prolonged solitary confinement are well documented by social scientists: prolonged solitary confinement causes prisoners significant mental harm and places them at grave risk of even more devastating future psychological harm.

Researchers have demonstrated that prolonged solitary confinement causes a persistent and heightened state of anxiety and nervousness, headaches, insomnia, lethargy or chronic tiredness, nightmares, heart palpitations, and fear of impending nervous breakdowns. Other documented effects include obsessive ruminations, confused thought processes, an oversensitivity to
stimuli, irrational anger, social withdrawal, hallucinations, violent fantasies, emotional flatness, mood swings, chronic depression, feelings of overall deterioration, as well as suicidal ideation.

Exposure to such life-shattering conditions clearly constitutes cruel and unusual punishment – in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Further, the brutal use of solitary has been condemned as torture by the international community.

A Growing Human Rights Movement against the Use of Solitary Confinement

Across the United States and the world, there is an emerging movement calling for the end of solitary confinement.

In the U.S., prisoner-led movements have attracted media attention and public scrutiny to harsh conditions of confinement, including overcrowding, the use of isolation, deplorable health conditions, substandard medical care, and the discriminatory and careless treatment of people with mental illnesses. Several prisoner-led hunger strikes have drawn attention to these harsh
conditions, including efforts in Georgia, Ohio and California. Advocates have joined in solidarity and alongside prisoners to protest the use of solitary confinement.

International human rights experts and bodies have also condemned indefinite or prolonged solitary confinement, recommended that the practice be abolished entirely and argued that solitary confinement is a human rights abuse that can amount to torture. In August 2011, Juan Mendez, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, concluded that even 15 days in solitary confinement constitutes torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and 15 days is the limit after which irreversible harmful psychological effects can occur. However, many prisoners in the United States have been isolated for far longer.

Read more at http://ccrjustice.org/solitary-factsheet

October 23, 2013 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology, Public Health | , , , , | 1 Comment

[Repost] ‘Yes’ to One Drug Could Become ‘Yes’ for Other Drugs

English: Close up shot of some high quality ma...

English: Close up shot of some high quality marijuana. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

From the 8 October 2013 ScienceDaily article

 

High school seniors who frown upon the use of drugs are most likely to be female, nonsmokers or hold strong religious beliefs, according to a study¹ by Joseph Palamar of New York University. Palamar examines how teenagers’ attitudes toward marijuana influenced their thoughts on the further use of other illicit drugs. The work appears online in the journal Prevention Science², published by Springer.

The study was conducted as marijuana use continues to be on the upswing in the United States, along with more lenient legislation and diminishing public disapproval toward its use. Although previous research has shown that people who disapprove of a particular drug will in all likelihood not use it, little is known about how the use of one drug affects people’s attitudes toward using other drugs.

Palamar therefore examined how demographics and a lifetime use of various drugs — marijuana use in particular — can predict if a person will become partial to using “harder” and more dangerous drugs, such as powder cocaine, crack, LSD, heroin, amphetamine and ecstasy, also known as “Molly.” Data was obtained from 29,054 high school seniors who took part in the Monitoring the Future annual cross-sectional survey of approximately 130 public and private schools in 48 states between 2007 and 2011.

Palamar found that youths who smoked cigarettes or used more than one “hard” drug were consistently less critical of other drug use. The lifetime use of alcohol had no impact on people’s attitudes. Those who used only marijuana tended to be less judgmental of further using such so-called “socially acceptable” drugs as LSD, amphetamine and ecstasy. They did not approve of cocaine, crack or heroin, however, most likely because of their perceived dangers and addictive qualities.

Unsurprisingly, female high school seniors consistently disapproved of using cocaine, crack, LSD and ecstasy. Compared to their male counterparts, females are generally less likely to use most drugs. Palamar was also not surprised by the finding that religiosity robustly increased attitudes against drug use, as it is a major force in societal values.

Youths from more advantaged socio-economic backgrounds with highly educated parents as well as those living in urban areas were much less disapproving of the use of the so-called “less dangerous” drugs. Palamar believes that the higher prevalence of illicit drug use in urban areas may be helping to normalize drug use in cities.

The finding that Black students are less disapproving of powder cocaine, crack and ecstasy is somewhat paradoxical as members of this group generally use such drugs less than White students do. This could, in part, be explained by their strong religious beliefs and the higher rates of arrests and incarceration among Blacks that may serve as a deterrent. The normalization of ecstasy, specifically in rap and hip-hop music, may explain why Black youths are less disapproving of it.

“Public health and policy experts need to ensure that the use of other drugs does not increase in light of the growing prevalence of marijuana use and more lenient policies surrounding it,” Palamar explains. “Although it may be difficult to prevent an adolescent or a young adult from using alcohol, tobacco or marijuana, we need to prevent individuals from becoming users of multiple drugs.”

 

 

October 14, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Psychology | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Truth or consequences? The negative results of concealing who you really are on the job

 

 

Caption: Clayton R. Critcher is an assistant professor of marketing at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.

From the 8 October 2013 EurkAlert

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY’S HAAS SCHOOL OF BUSINESS – Most know that hiding something from others can cause internal angst. New research suggests the consequences can go far beyond emotional strife and that being forced to keep information concealed, such as one’s sexual orientation, disrupts the concealer’s basic skills and abilities, including intellectual acuity, physical strength, and interpersonal grace—skills critical to workplace success.

“With no federal protection for gays and lesbians in the work place, our work suggests that the wisdom of non-discrimination laws should be debated not merely through a moral lens, but with an appreciation for the loss of economic productivity that such vulnerabilities produce,” says Clayton R. Critcher, assistant professor at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. Critcher, a member of the Haas Marketing Group, conducts research on consumer behavior and social psychology, including questions of self and identity.

Critcher’s paper, “The Cost of Keeping it Hidden: Decomposing Concealment Reveals What Makes it Depleting,” forthcoming in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General and co-authored with Melissa J. Ferguson of Cornell University, details multiple negative consequences of concealment. The findings, says Critcher, stem from the difficulty of having to constantly monitor one’s speech for secret-revealing content that needs to be edited out.

The researchers conducted four studies, each of which was a variation on a single paradigm. When participants arrived at the study, they learned they would be taking part in an interview. Following a rigged drawing, all participants learned they were assigned to be an interviewee. Another supposed participant—who, in reality, was an actor hired by the experimenter—was the interviewer.

Some participants were given special instructions about what they could reveal in the interview. In three of the four studies, some participants were told they should make sure not to reveal their sexual orientation while answering the questions. For example, participants were told that in answering questions, instead of saying “I tend to date men who …,” the participants could say, “I tend to date people who ….”

After the interview, participants thought they were moving on to an unrelated study. In actuality, this second part of the experiment was related, offering researchers the opportunity to measure whether participants’ intellectual, physical, or interpersonal skills were degraded by concealment. The studies revealed the variety of negative effects of concealment.

In one study, participants completed a measure of spatial intelligence that was modeled after items on military aptitude tests. Participants randomly assigned to conceal their sexual orientation performed 17% worse than those who went through the interview without instructions to conceal. In another experiment, participants tasked with hiding their sexual orientation exhibited reduced physical stamina, only able to squeeze an exercise handgrip for 20% less time than those in a control condition. Additional studies revealed that concealment led people to show less interpersonal restraint. For example, the participants responded to a “snarky” email from a superior with more anger than politeness.

During another test, participants demonstrated poorer performance on a “Stroop task,” a commonly-used measure of executive cognitive function.

In consequent experiments, participants’ abilities were assessed both before and after the interview. This permitted the experimenters to more directly observe that merely going through an interview does not affect one’s strength of cognitive control, but going through an interview while having to conceal one’s sexual orientation led to significant declines.

In addition, the researchers varied whether questions focused on participants’ personal or dating life, or on topics for which one’s sexual orientation would never be revealed. Concealment caused similarly sharp declines in both cases.

“Environments that explicitly or implicitly encourage people to conceal their sexual orientation—even when employers adopt a ‘Don’t Ask’ policy—may significantly harm workers,” says Critcher, “Establishing a workplace climate that supports diversity may be one of the easiest ways to enhance workplace productivity.”

 

###

 

Watch Clayton Critcher talk about his research: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a2bSRNjd5Yo&feature=youtu.be

See full paper: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23796042

 

 

 

October 14, 2013 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Poor Concentration: Poverty Reduces Brainpower Needed for Navigating Other Areas of Life

Something I’ve suspected all along…now it seems to be quantified..

From the 29 August 2013 article at Science Daily

Poverty and all its related concerns require so much mental energy that the poor have less remaining brainpower to devote to other areas of life, according to research based at Princeton University. As a result, people of limited means are more likely to make mistakes and bad decisions that may be amplified by — and perpetuate — their financial woes.

Published in the journal Science, the study presents a unique perspective regarding the causes of persistent poverty. The researchers suggest that being poor may keep a person from concentrating on the very avenues that would lead them out of poverty. A person’s cognitive function is diminished by the constant and all-consuming effort of coping with the immediate effects of having little money, such as scrounging to pay bills and cut costs. Thusly, a person is left with fewer “mental resources” to focus on complicated, indirectly related matters such as education, job training and even managing their time.

In a series of experiments, the researchers found that pressing financial concerns had an immediate impact on the ability of low-income individuals to perform on common cognitive and logic tests. On average, a person preoccupied with money problems exhibited a drop in cognitive function similar to a 13-point dip in IQ, or the loss of an entire night’s sleep.

“Stress itself doesn’t predict that people can’t perform well — they may do better up to a point,” Shafir said. “A person in poverty might be at the high part of the performance curve when it comes to a specific task and, in fact, we show that they do well on the problem at hand. But they don’t have leftover bandwidth to devote to other tasks. The poor are often highly effective at focusing on and dealing with pressing problems. It’s the other tasks where they perform poorly.”

The fallout of neglecting other areas of life may loom larger for a person just scraping by, Shafir said. Late fees tacked on to a forgotten rent payment, a job lost because of poor time-management — these make a tight money situation worse. And as people get poorer, they tend to make difficult and often costly decisions that further perpetuate their hardship, Shafir said. He and Mullainathan were co-authors on a 2012 Science paper that reported a higher likelihood of poor people to engage in behaviors that reinforce the conditions of poverty, such as excessive borrowing.

“They can make the same mistakes, but the outcomes of errors are more dear,” Shafir said. “So, if you live in poverty, you’re more error prone and errors cost you more dearly — it’s hard to find a way out.”

The researchers suggest that services for the poor should accommodate the dominance that poverty has on a person’s time and thinking. Such steps would include simpler aid forms and more guidance in receiving assistance, or training and educational programs structured to be more forgiving of unexpected absences, so that a person who has stumbled can more easily try again.

“You want to design a context that is more scarcity proof,” said Shafir, noting that better-off people have access to regular support in their daily lives, be it a computer reminder, a personal assistant, a housecleaner or a babysitter.

“There’s very little you can do with time to get more money, but a lot you can do with money to get more time,” Shafir said. “The poor, who our research suggests are bound to make more mistakes and pay more dearly for errors, inhabit contexts often not designed to help.”

 

Read the entire article here

 

September 3, 2013 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reposting] Why do haters have to hate?

From the 26 August 2013 article at EurkAlert

Newly identified personality trait holds clues

 IMAGE: This image shows Dolores Albarracín (left), University of Pennsylvania, and Justin Hepler, University of Illinois.

Click here for more information. 

PHILADELPHIA (August 26, 2013) – New research has uncovered the reason why some people seem to dislike everything while others seem to like everything. Apparently, it’s all part of our individual personality – a dimension that researchers have coined “dispositional attitude.”

People with a positive dispositional attitude have a strong tendency to like things, whereas people with a negative dispositional attitude have a strong tendency to dislike things, according to research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The journal article, “Attitudes without objects: Evidence for a dispositional attitude, its measurement, and its consequences,” was written by Justin Hepler, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Dolores Albarracín, Ph.D., the Martin Fishbein Chair of Communication and Professor of Psychology at Penn.

“The dispositional attitude construct represents a new perspective in which attitudes are not simply a function of the properties of the stimuli under consideration, but are also a function of the properties of the evaluator,” wrote the authors. “[For example], at first glance, it may not seem useful to know someone’s feelings about architecture when assessing their feelings about health care. After all, health care and architecture are independent stimuli with unique sets of properties, so attitudes toward these objects should also be independent.” However, they note, there is still one critical factor that an individual’s attitudes will have in common: the individual who formed the attitudes. “Some people may simply be more prone to focusing on positive features and others on negative features,” Hepler said.

To discover whether people differ in the tendency to like or dislike things, Hepler and Albarracín created a scale that requires people to report their attitudes toward a wide variety of unrelated stimuli, such as architecture, cold showers, politics, and soccer. Upon knowing how much people (dis)like these specific things, the responses were then averaged together to calculate their dispositional attitude (i.e., to calculate how much they tend to like or dislike things in general). The theory is that if individuals differ in the general tendency to like versus dislike objects, attitudes toward independent objects may actually be related. Throughout the studies the researchers found that people with generally positive dispositional attitudes are more open than people with generally negative dispositional attitudes. In day-to-day practice, this means that people with positive dispositional attitudes may be more prone to actually buy new products, get vaccine shots, follow regular positive actions (recycling, driving carefully, etc.)

“This surprising and novel discovery expands attitude theory by demonstrating that an attitude is not simply a function of an object’s properties, but it is also a function of the properties of the individual who evaluates the object,” concluded Hepler and Albarracín. “Overall, the present research provides clear support for the dispositional attitude as a meaningful construct that has important implications for attitude theory and research.”

 

August 29, 2013 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , | Leave a comment

Substance use by adolescents on an average day is alarming

Screen Shot 2013-08-29 at 3.55.53 PM

 

I am all for decriminalizing illegal drug use. However, I am very concerned about substance abuse, especially among folks whose brains are still developing (and this goes on until age 25 or so).

From the abstract of the report at Full Text Reports

On an average day, 881,684 teenagers aged 12 to 17 smoked cigarettes, according to a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).   The report also says that on average day 646,707 adolescents smoked marijuana and 457,672 drank alcohol.
To provide some perspective, the number of adolescents using marijuana on an average day could almost fill the Indianapolis Speedway (seating capacity 250,000 seats) two and a half times.
“This data about adolescents sheds new light on how deeply substance use pervades the lives of many young people and their families,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. “While other studies indicate that significant progress has been made in lowering the levels of some forms of substance use among adolescents in the past decade, this report shows that far too many young people are still at risk.”
The report, which highlights the substance abuse behavior and addiction treatment activities that occur among adolescents on an average day, draws on a variety of SAMHSA data sets.
The report also sheds light on how many adolescents aged 12 to 17 used illegal substances for the first time.  On an average day:
  • 7,639 drank alcohol for the first time;
  • 4,594 used an illicit drug for the first time;
  • 4,000 adolescents used marijuana for the first time;
  • 3,701 smoked cigarettes for the first time; and
  • 2,151 misused prescription pain relievers for the first time.

Using data from SAMHSA Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS), the report also analyzes how many adolescents aged 12 to 17 were receiving treatment for a substance abuse problem during an average day.  These numbers included:

  • Over 71,000 in outpatient treatment,
  • More than 9,302 in non-hospital residential treatment, and
  • Over 1,258 in hospital inpatient treatment.

In terms of hospital emergency department visits involving adolescents aged 12 to 17, on an average day marijuana is involved in 165 visits, alcohol is involved in 187 visits and misuse of prescription or nonprescription pain relievers is implicated in 74 visits.

SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service that people – including adolescents and their family members — can contact when facing substance abuse and mental health issues. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information in print on substance abuse and mental health issues. Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visit the online treatment locators at http://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/.

The complete report contains many other facts about the scope and nature of adolescent substance abuse, treatment and treatment admissions patterns and is available at: http://www.samhsa.gov/data/2K13/CBHSQ128/sr128-typical-day-adolescents-2013.pdf. It was drawn from analyses of SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, Treatment Episode Data Set, and National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services, and Drug Abuse Warning Network.

 

August 29, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Health Statistics, Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Are the Brains of Introverts and Extroverts Actually Different?

From the 27 August 2013 post at Discover Magazine

By Ben Thomas

introvert extrovert

Introversion, it seems, is the Internet’s current meme du jour. Articles on introverts are nothing new, of course—The Atlantic’s 2003 classic “Caring for Your Introvert” still gets passed around Facebook on a regular basis—but the topic has gained some sort of strange critical mass in the past few weeks, and has been popping up everywhere from Gawker to Forbes.

This latest swarm of articles ranges from glorified personality quizzes (31 Unmistakable Signs That You’re An Introvert”) to history lessons (“16 Outrageously Successful Introverts”) to business essays (“Why Introverts Can Make Excellent Executives”) to silly, self-aware send-ups of the trend itself (“15 Unmistakable, Outrageously Secret Signs You’re an Extrovert”). The vast majority of them also come packaged with the assumption the reader understands the basic concept of introversion, and already has a pretty clear idea of whether he or she is an introvert or an extrovert.

The Science of Personality

In short, although the science of personality is still in the relative Dark Ages, researchers have begun to draw links between what these structural and functional brain differences between personality types might mean in terms of their respective peccadilloes.

But brain differences that correlate with introversion or extroversion don’t necessarily show which of these differences—if any—cause introversion or extroversion. “We don’t have experiments that really address whether those brain differences play a causal role,” Castro says. “We’re still pretty far from having … a scientific description of personality differences at the level of cells and synapses.”

And it’s important to keep in mind that our brain structures vary from person to person along all sorts of axes that inform our personalities—not just introversion and extroversion. As the science of brain mapping develops, maybe we’ll have a myriad of new spectrums we can use to describe our personalities in terms of our gray matter.

August 29, 2013 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

[Re-post] The Advantages of Not Multi-Tasking

Tantek Multitasking

Tantek Multitasking (Photo credit: Thomas Hawk)

 

Always thought it was best to focus on one thing at a time….

 

From the 8 August 2013 article at Higher Ed Jobs by Kelly A. Cherwin, Communications Editor, HigherEdJobs

 

Although I did turn off my cell phone, I attended the recent ACUHO-I conference session eating my yogurt and drinking a cup of coffee as I was taking notes on why most people are not efficient at multi-tasking. This is why I’m sharing tips from the presentation: “I’m Really Good at Multi-tasking” – No You Are Not!

Many people feel that if they multi-task, they can be more efficient and effective. However, the truth is that most people don’t do it well and often times the quality of each task completed may decrease. As discussed by the presenter, Cathy Bickel from Ball State University, a study by Microsoft found that it takes an employee an average of 15 minutes to return their attention back to the previous task when distracted by email, instant message, etc. If a person is in a meeting and then decides they must return a text message, they are no longer really focusing on the meeting details. They are physically sitting in the meeting, but they are not present because their attention is diverted to the text and then later more time is spent focusing their attention back to the meeting. Someone is on a phone call and then suddenly hears the “ding” of new emails in their inbox. They check the emails, while still talking on the phone but again, their attention is diverted from the phone call as well as possibly missing details in the emails. Examples of inefficient multi-tasking are plentiful. So, what is the answer? In most non-urgent cases, it is better to complete one task with one’s full attention and then move on to the next. Yes, the definition of urgent is subjective but most professionals should be able to distinguish between something urgent and the newest funny picture of a cat.

As Bickel mentioned, attention is a more limited resource than time and people need to manage their attention in order to be more productive. Here are strategies on how to manage attention and be more efficient without multi-tasking:

  • Prioritize the day. Try to schedule the most important tasks in the morning. Don’t move on to next task until the first one is complete. Having a to-do list of these necessary tasks is a must.
  • Consider time periods. Similar to what is encountered in school or in a sporting event, block the day into time periods. Work through these specific time periods accomplishing set tasks without allowing for interruptions. Schedule a bit of downtime in between periods for a breather or to take care of an urgent matter that may arise.
  • Remove negative attention. For example, turn off the phone during the meeting or set incoming message alerts to mute while on a phone call.
  • Don’t constantly fill the white space. There isn’t a need for technology all of the time. While waiting in line at the store or for the train, don’t always check the phone. Enjoy the surroundings!
  • Invest attention in high returns. Consider eliminating “non-essential” websites and only check your favorites like HigherEdJobs.com or others once a day.
  • Prevent distractions. Close the door if it is apparent that people or other noise will constantly be causing interruptions.
  • Discuss boundaries. Let friends and family know when it is appropriate to be contacted at work. If there is an illness, “yes” but to ask what is for dinner is a “no.”
  • Share commitments with others. If you tell people that you are not going to look at your emails the entire night, they can help hold you accountable.

It is not breaking news that we live in a chaotic world and often are forced to juggle many roles. But if we could all take a few minutes to slow down and truly focus on the task at hand (the meeting, an email, a co-worker, your family), both efficiency and effectiveness will follow even without multi-tasking.

 

 

August 29, 2013 Posted by | Psychology, Workplace Health | , , , | Leave a comment

We face an epidemic of excessive busyness

 

From the 11 August 2013 KevinMD.com article

 

In the past few years, I’ve observed an epidemic of sorts: patient after patient suffering from the same condition. The symptoms of this condition include fatigue, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, headaches, heartburn, bowel disturbances, back pain, and weight gain. There are no blood tests or x-rays diagnostic of this condition, and yet it’s easy to recognize. The condition is excessive busyness. It’s one with which, as a fellow sufferer, I empathize especially.

Being excessively busy has become so much a part of our culture that we’ve developed an extended vocabulary for it, like Eskimos and snow: tapped out, laid flat, on overload, crazy busy, fried. The other day, while discussing an interesting potential project with me, a colleague asked if I “had the bandwidth” to take it on.

The pervasiveness of busyness is such that we may not even notice it anymore. A patient of mine wanted to be tested for anemia–why else could she be so tired? It didn’t occur to her that working full time, going to school, and caring for a severely disabled child might have something to do with her exhaustion.

….

For the poor, as this recent editorial by science writer Moises Velasquez-Manoff points out, stress has a particularly pernicious effect on health. Velasquez-Manoff points out that it’s not busyness itself, but lack of control and resources to deal with stress that busyness engenders that makes poor people less healthy than rich people. He writes:

It’s not necessarily the strain of a chief executive facing a lengthy to-do list, or a well-to-do parent’s agonizing over a child’s prospects of acceptance to an elite school. Unlike those of lower rank, both the C.E.O. and the anxious parent have resources with which to address the problem. By definition, the poor have far fewer.

 

 

 

Read the entire article here

 

 

August 28, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Psychology | , , | 1 Comment

LSD and Other Psychedelics Not Linked With Mental Health Problems, Analysis Suggests

Well, I still don’t feel inclined to try any…despite my FB profile.

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Could psychedelics be healthy for you?

The researchers found that lifetime use of psilocybin or mescaline and past year use of LSD were associated with lower rates of serious psychological distress. Lifetime use of LSD was also significantly associated with a lower rate of outpatient mental health treatment and psychiatric medicine prescription.

The design of the study makes it impossible to determine exactly why the researchers found what they found.

“We cannot exclude the possibility that use of psychedelics might have a negative effect on mental health for some individuals or groups, perhaps counterbalanced at a population level by a positive effect on mental health in others,” they wrote.

Nevertheless, “recent clinical trials have also failed to find any evidence of any lasting harmful effects of psychedelics,” the researchers said, which supports the robustness of the PLOS ONE findings.

In fact, says Krebs, “many people report deeply meaningful experiences and lasting beneficial effects from using psychedelics.”

From the 19th August 2013 article at ScienceDaily

The use of LSD, magic mushrooms, or peyote does not increase a person’s risk of developing mental health problems, according to an analysis of information from more than 130,000 randomly chosen people, including 22,000 people who had used psychedelics at least once.

“After adjusting for other risk factors, lifetime use of LSD, psilocybin, mescaline or peyote, or past year use of LSD was not associated with a higher rate of mental health problems or receiving mental health treatment,” says Johansen.

Could psychedelics be healthy for you?

The researchers found that lifetime use of psilocybin or mescaline and past year use of LSD were associated with lower rates of serious psychological distress. Lifetime use of LSD was also significantly associated with a lower rate of outpatient mental health treatment and psychiatric medicine prescription.

The design of the study makes it impossible to determine exactly why the researchers found what they found.

“We cannot exclude the possibility that use of psychedelics might have a negative effect on mental health for some individuals or groups, perhaps counterbalanced at a population level by a positive effect on mental health in others,” they wrote.

Nevertheless, “recent clinical trials have also failed to find any evidence of any lasting harmful effects of psychedelics,” the researchers said, which supports the robustness of the PLOS ONE findings.

In fact, says Krebs, “many people report deeply meaningful experiences and lasting beneficial effects from using psychedelics.”

……….

Read the entire article here

August 28, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , | Leave a comment

Sweaty Palms and Racing Heart May Benefit Some Negotiators

From the 26 August 2013 post at ScienceDaily

The idea of having to negotiate over the price of a new car sends many into the cold sweats, but new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, suggests that sweaty palms and a racing heart may actually help some people in getting a good deal.

As researchers Ashley D. Brown and Jared R. Curhan of the Sloan School of Management at MIT demonstrate in two experiments, physiological arousal isn’t always detrimental:

“It turns out that the effect depends on whether you are someone who dreads or looks forward to negotiating,” Brown explains. “It’s not inherently harmful.”

Read the entire article here

 

August 28, 2013 Posted by | Psychology | , , | Leave a comment

Even Mild Stress Can Make It Difficult to Control Your Emotions

From the 26 August 2013 Science Daily article

Even mild stress can thwart therapeutic measures to control emotions, a team of neuroscientists at New York University has found. Their findings, which appear in the journalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, point to the limits of clinical techniques while also shedding new light on the barriers that must be overcome in addressing afflictions such as fear or anxiety.

“We have long suspected that stress can impair our ability to control our emotions, but this is the first study to document how even mild stress can undercut therapies designed to keep our emotions in check,” said Elizabeth Phelps, a professor in NYU’s Department of Psychology and Center for Neural Science and the study’s senior author. “In other words, what you learn in the clinic may not be as relevant in the real world when you’re stressed.”

In addressing patients’ emotional maladies, therapists sometimes use cognitive restructuring techniques — encouraging patients to alter their thoughts or approach to a situation to change their emotional response. These might include focusing on the positive or non-threatening aspects of an event or stimulus that might normally produce fear.

 

Read the entire article here

 

August 28, 2013 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] The Uninsured Mentally Ill

From the 10 August 2013 post at League of Bloggers for a Better World

Here’s a scary fact: A single hospital admission for a mentally ill patient paid for by the taxpayer-financed state medical-assistance program costs more than a year of private outpatient care. It makes little financial sense, yet it happens every single day in America.

Everyday, a mentally ill person is admitted to an ER in the throes of a psychiatric emergency, desperately needing care and having nowhere else to go. No psychiatrist, no therapist, no case manager, no nothing. So they rely on ER doctors and nurses- and tax payers. But after the patient gets emergency care, they are back on their own. Until it happens again.

So why do these patients lack proper, long term psychiatric care that could provide regular treatment? Why do they end up in this endless cycle? The answer is simple, yet still disturbing- they have no health insurance.

Psychiatrist Christine Montross wrote an article,”The Woman Who Ate Cutlery,” about this quandary that many mentally ill people who lack health insurance face on a regular basis. The article was featured in the New York Times on August 3, 2013.

From NYTimes.com:

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — M is a 33-year old woman who swallowed silverware. Each time she ingested utensils, she went to the emergency room so that doctors could remove them from her esophagus and stomach.

Then the hospital transferred M to the psychiatric unit, where she was assigned to my care. When I met M she had already been hospitalized 72 times.

M’s case is dramatic. But she is one of countless psychiatric patients who have nowhere to turn for care, other than the E.R.

It is well known that millions of uninsured Americans, who can’t afford regular medical care, use the country’s emergency rooms for primary health care. The costs — to patients’ health, to their wallets, and to the health care system — are well documented. Less visible is the grievous effect this shift is having on psychiatric care and on the mentally ill.

How could this cycle of self-injury be disrupted? M and other psychiatric patients who turn to emergency rooms for care need regular outpatient appointments with a doctor they know and trust who can monitor their symptoms and assess the efficacy of their often complicated medication regimens.

Sadly, M’s history of recurrent hospital admissions is not uncommon. Recently I treated a 65-year-old man caught in a chronic cycle of homelessness and suicide attempts who had been in and out of the E.R. 246 times. If M had insurance, or enough money to pay out of pocket, she might see a therapist every week for an hour and a psychiatrist once or twice a month.

For full article, go to nytimes.com.

 

August 10, 2013 Posted by | health care, Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog]New study explores the pathways that lead to jail time for women

From the 6 August 2013 article at Medical News Today

How do pathways to jail vary for females who are victims of specific types of trauma? New research published in Psychology of Women Quarterly, a SAGE journal, pinpoints the types of trauma such as caregiver violence, witnessing violence, and intimate partner violence, that lead to specific types of offending later in life and offers explanations based on real experiences.

Researchers Dana DeHart, Shannon Lynch, Joanne Belknap, and Bonnie Green conducted life-history interviews with 115 female inmates from five U.S. states and found the following patterns:

  • Intimate partner violence increased women’s risks for property crimes, drug offending, and commercial sex work. These relationships often related to intimate involvement with violent men who fluctuated between roles as the women’s co-offenders, drug dealers, and pimps.
  • Witnessing violence increased risks for property crimes, fighting, and use of weapons. These relationships often stemmed from affiliation with criminal networks, and often women’s use of weapons or aggression arose from efforts to protect themselves or others.
  • Experiences of caregiver violence increased risk of running away as a teen. Runaway youth often enact this behavior as a means of escaping intolerable maltreatment at home.

 

Read the entire article here 

 

August 6, 2013 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] 5 advantages of online patient communities

online-support-network1-300x200

 

From the 2 August 2013 KevinMD.com article

A support group has many potential benefits, some of which include improving coping skills, reducing anxiety, depression, isolation, ignorance about the condition and others.  Online patient communities (OPCs) are a recent phenomenon.  Some are open (with respect to type of member or fee) and some are more focused and closed.  Irrespective of the type, OPCs have blossomed. It is a major indication of social media’s penetration into healthcare (or vice versa) and why physicians need to establish a presence in social media.  While there are still reasons why support groups are popular, OPCs have definite advantages. I will highlight a few of them.

1. Many patients and caregivers cannot physically attend a support group.

Just as online social media is not a substitute for real life interpersonal exchanges, OPCs will not necessarily replace the real life experiences of support groups.  However, they do offer a different experience which brings together people from all over the world.

Read the entire article here

Resources

August 4, 2013 Posted by | Psychology | , , | Leave a comment

[Repost] Personality and social psychology highlights from the 2013 APA Convention

From the 2 August 2013 Medical News Today article

From how secrets influence our emails to personality traits that increase the risk ofobesity – a guide to some talks with new research in personality and social psychology at the APA Convention in Honolulu, July 31 – August 4, 2013 …

Linguistic Fingerprints of Secrets[1]

Keeping a secret not only burdens someone with the guilt of withholding information but also changes the way the person interacts with others, according to new research. In two studies, researchers looked at linguistic changes in the emails of people harboring secrets. They found that interactions with friends became more deceptive and detached, while interactions with acquaintances became more superficially positive and frequent.

Judging Health Based on Behavior, Personality[2]

Can you accurately size up someone’s health just by watching them? In a recent set of studies, researchers sought to answer this question by filming research participants and asking research assistants to assess their health or behavior. In one study, researchers judged participants on 15 health dimensions – including general health, tobacco use, alcohol use, physical activity, sleep quality, cholesterol, and blood pressure – based on just 5 minutes of film. They found that intuitive snap judgments of health can be surprisingly accurate.

Personalty Traits That Increase Risk of Obesity[3]

A complex mix of biological and social factors affects a person’s likelihood of becoming obese. Across four studies that looked at more than 8,900 people, researchers have found significant links between personality traits and obesity – showing that that high neuroticism and low conscientiousness, among other traits, are consistently associated with increased risk for obesity. These associations are similar across samples that vary in ethnicity, age, and socioeconomic status.

The Benefits of Confronting Bias[4]

Confronting discrimination may boost your well-being, according to new research. In three studies, researchers found that while experiencing discrimination is associated withdepression, confronting that bias gives people more autonomy, which helps to moderate the stressful situation. These results were true not only for minorities but also for Whites.

Being Grateful Trains Our Brains for the Good[5]

Feeling grateful can train us to feel better, finds a new study. Asking people daily for one week to write about three good things that made them grateful increased their well-being after the week, and even five weeks later. Researchers think that the gratitude exercise trains the brain for cognitive processes that support well-being, such as increasing attention so that individuals are more likely to notice benefits in their lives.

Two Hormones Together Explain Status-Seeking[6]

Looking at only testosterone as a hormonal measure of status-seeking behaviors is incomplete, argues new research. Testosterone’s influence on status-related behavior critically depends on levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Six studies suggest that researchers must consider the effects of testosterone and cortisol together. The studies show that a profile of high testosterone and low cortisol is associated with leadership, social dominance, risk-taking, emotional stability, and monetary reward maximization. On the other hand, a hormone profile of high testosterone and high cortisol is associated with subordinate behaviors, socioemotional sensitivity, anxiety, and monetary loss.

Positive Anticipation Helps Overcome Stress[7]

Past research has shown that eliciting positive emotions immediately to offset stress can ameliorate the negative effects of the stressor. Now researchers are testing the effects on stress of anticipating positive events – as that more realistically mirrors how people use emotion to regulate stress in daily life. In two studies, they found that anticipating a positive event leads to improved recovery after stress and is more effective in coping with stress than experiencing a positive event just prior to being stressed.

Recognizing that Life is Meaningful[8]

In our never-ending quest to understand the meaning of life, social psychologists are bringing a different perspective: urging us to think of meaning as an experience that involves seeing, recognizing, and noticing rather than something to search for or struggle to create. Simply maintaining a positive mood, for example, can facilitate meaning in our everyday lives and connect us more to the world.

The convention program is here

August 2, 2013 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , | Leave a comment

What to do if your partner is in a bad mood

Angry Penguin

Angry Penguin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the 6 July 2013 KevinMD.com post

 | CONDITIONS | JULY 6, 2013

As with most things in life, romantic relationships are, for many of us, a double-edged sword: while most find it wonderful to love and be loved, developing intimate emotional ties to someone makes us emotionally vulnerable—vulnerable not only to being hurt by our partner’s opinions of and feelings toward us, but also vulnerable to being affected by our partner’s bad moods. If a colleague or a friend gets depressed, we’re often able to offer a comforting word or two without ourselves being drawn into his or her emotional maelstrom. When our partner becomes depressed or sad or angry or jealous or anxious, however, our own emotions are often triggered in unpleasant ways. Just what can we do to manage our own bad moods that arise as a result of our partner’s?

1. Identify and understand your typical reactions to your partner’s bad moods. In medical school, students are taught that if they find themselves feeling depressed when interviewing a patient it’s often because the patient is depressed. Moods are contagious. Often—but certainly not always—your reaction to your partner’s mood will be to mimic it (i.e., he’s down so you become down; she’s angry so you become angry, and so on). For example, when my wife gets irritated at someone, I often become irritated at her. Why? Because I don’t like having to deal with angry people (it’s not rational, I know, but emotional reactions often aren’t).

2. Take responsibility for your own mood, not your partner’s.

Read the entire article here

July 26, 2013 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Brain Research Shows Psychopathic Criminals Do Not Lack Empathy, but Fail to Use It Automatically

From the 24 July 2013 article at Science Daily

Criminal psychopathy can be both repulsive and fascinating, as illustrated by the vast number of books and movies inspired by this topic. Offenders diagnosed with psychopathy pose a significant threat to society, because they are more likely to harm other individuals and to do so again after being released. A brain imaging study in the Netherlands shows individuals with psychopathy have reduced empathy while witnessing the pains of others. When asked to empathize, however, they can activate their empathy. This could explain why psychopathic individuals can be callous and socially cunning at the same time.

Why are psychopathic individuals more likely to hurt others? Individuals with psychopathy characteristically demonstrate reduced empathy with the feelings of others, which may explain why it is easier for them to hurt other people. However, what causes this lack of empathy is poorly understood. Scientific studies on psychopathic subjects are notoriously hard to conduct. “Convicted criminals with a diagnosis of psychopathy are confined to high-security forensic institutions in which state-of-the-art technology to study their brain, like magnetic resonance imaging, is usually unavailable,” explains Professor Christian Keysers, Head of the Social Brain Lab in Amsterdam, and senior author of a study on psychopathy appearing in the journal Brain this week. “Bringing them to scientific research centres, on the other hand, requires the kind of high-security transportation that most judicial systems are unwilling to finance.”

The Dutch judicial system, however, seems to be an exception. They joined forces with academia to promote a better understanding of psychopathy. As a result, criminals with psychopathy were transported to the Social Brain Lab of the University Medical Center in Groningen (The Netherlands). There, the team could use state of the art high-field functional magnetic resonance imaging to peak into the brain of criminals with psychopathy while they view the emotions of others.

…..

Related Video

  • The Unrepentent (Canadian Broadcasting Company-The Fifth Estate)
     “They are marked by their ability to kill without passion and without remorse. Some are called psychopaths – a term that evokes nightmare images of murderers and monsters. But the label can also apply to men and women who are successful, intelligent, charismatic, charming and amusing – and so all the more dangerous. This week on the fifth estate, Linden MacIntyre looks at what makes a psychopath through the fifth estate’s close encounters with of four of Canada’s most frightening criminals. [From the CBC site…video at this site is only accessible in Canada]

July 25, 2013 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NLM Director’s Comments Transcript Force Feeding Guantanamo Detainees Criticized

The NLM Director showed some courage in commenting on the force feeding of prisoners in Guantanamo.
This is indeed a health issue, because we are indeed responsible for the health (including mental health) of these detainees.

Some excerpts from the comments, full text may be found here.

A candid and stimulating editorial, recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, strongly suggests physicians at the Guantanamo Bay detainment camp in Cuba should not force feed detainees who are on a hunger strike. The editorial’s three authors argue the force feeding of some Guantanamo prisoners is medically unethical — and the practice warrants more criticism from health care professionals.

A news story about the editorial published in the U.K. Guardian reports the Guantanamo Bay camp currently houses about 166 prisoners (most of whom are held for alleged terrorist activities). Many of these detainees or prisoners have been held at Guantanamo Bay (a U.S. military base in Cuba) in an era that began with the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11, 2001. At the time the editorial was published, the Guardian reported 104 prisoners were on a hunger strike and 43 detainees received forced feeding.

The editorial’s authors (who are highly respected senior faculty at Boston University’s Schools of Public Health and Medicine) write [and we quote]: ‘Guantanamo is not just going to fade away, and neither is the stain on medical ethics it represents’ (end of quote).

The editorial’s authors explain the ethical principle to not force feed prisoners initially was advanced by the World Medical Association’s Declaration of Helsinki after World War II. The authors cite the declaration that says (and we quote): ‘forcible feeding (of mentally competent hunger strikers) is never ethically acceptable’ (end of quote). The authors add forced feeding (and we quote): ‘is a form of inhumane and degrading treatment’ (end of quote).

The editorial’s authors note a U.S. Department of Defense’s 2006 directive on force feeding detainees says (and we quote): ‘In the case of a hunger strike, attempted suicide, or other attempted serious self-harm, medical treatment or intervention may be directed without the consent of the detainee to prevent death or serious harm’ (end of quote).

However, the authors explain a hunger strike is not an attempt to commit suicide. They discern the goal of the hunger strikers (and we quote): ‘is not to die but to have perceived injustices addressed’ (end of quote).

In addition, the authors suggest physicians abdicate their professional responsibilities to make individual and independent medical assessments when they participate in penological decisions that maintain prison order by force feeding detainees. The authors write (and we quote): ‘physicians who participate in this nonmedical practice become weapons for maintaining prison order’ (end of quote).

The editorial’s authors also imply a sense of frustration with the dearth of criticism among physicians regarding Guantanamo’s forced feeding efforts.

The authors conclude (and we quote): ‘As (Guantanamo) increasingly becomes a medical ethics-free zone, we believe it’s time for the medical profession to take constructive political action to try to heal the damage and ensure that civilian and military physicians follow the same medical ethics principles’ (end of quote).

We should add it is rare to see such a frank and critical editorial in one of the world’s leading medical journals. The editorial is a reminder of the field of medical ethics’ capacity to illuminate health and social issues.

Meanwhile, a helpful overview of the legal and ethical issues in health care (provided by Merck and Co. Inc) is provided in the ‘overviews’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s medical ethics health topic page.

A link to information about the nutritional needs of end-of-life patients is available within the introduction of MedlinePlus.gov’s medical ethics health topic page. MedlinePlus.gov’s medical ethics health topic page also provides updated, comprehensive, evidence-based information about diverse healthcare ethics issues such as: genetic and prenatal testing, birth control, organ donation, and patient rights.

MedlinePlus.gov’s medical ethics health topic page additionally contains links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the ‘journal articles’ section. From the medical ethics health topic page, you can sign up to receive email updates with links to new information as it becomes available on MedlinePlus.

To find MedlinePlus.gov’s medical ethics health topic page, just type ‘medical ethics’ in the search box at the top of MedlinePlus.gov’s home page. Then, click on ‘Medical ethics (National Library of Medicine).’ MedlinePlus.gov also has a health topic page devoted to nutrition and health.

 

July 22, 2013 Posted by | health care, Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vitamins and minerals can boost energy and enhance mood

From the 17 July 2013 EurekAlert

Vitamins and minerals can boost energy and enhance mood

CHICAGO- Vitamin and mineral supplements can enhance mental energy and well-being not only for healthy adults but for those prone to anxiety and depression, according to a July 15 panel discussion at the 2013 Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting & Food Expo® held at McCormick Place.

Bonnie Kaplan, Ph.D., professor in the faculty of medicine at the University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, said Monday vitamins and mineral supplements can be the alternative to increasing psychiatric medicines for symptom relief of anxiety and depression. The supplements, she said, also can provide the mental energy necessary to manage stress, enhance mood and reduce fatigue.

In a series of studies she recently conducted in Canada, Kaplan found of the 97 adults with diagnosed mood disorders who kept a three-day food record, a higher intake of vitamins and minerals were significantly correlated with overall enhanced mental functioning.

Other vitamins that have been known to enhance mood, said C.J. Geiger, Ph.D., president of Geiger & Associates, LLC, and research associate professor in the division of nutrition at the University of Utah, include 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5 HTP), Vitamins B and D, as well as ginkgo biloba and Omega 3.

In her research, Geiger has found most adults define energy throughout the day as peaking mid-morning, falling to a valley in the afternoon after lunch and recovering with a pickup in late afternoon, settling back down before bedtime. However, these peaks and valleys did vary with gender, age and climate. She said many adults are known to use coffee, soft drinks, chocolate and candy bars as well as energy drinks, bars and chews with high sugar boosts to maintain energy throughout the day. She found other adults ate more frequent, smaller meals to sustain energy while making time for lots of rest and exercise.

 

###

 

About IFT

For more than 70 years, IFT has existed to advance the science of food. Our nonprofit scientific society—more than 18,000 members from more than 100 countries—brings together food scientists, technologists and related professions from academia, government, and industry. For more information, please visit ift.org.

 

 

 

July 19, 2013 Posted by | Nutrition, Psychology | , , , , , | Leave a comment

New PTC Research Finds Teen Girls the New Target of Sexual Exploitation on TV

Parents Television Council

Parents Television Council (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

From the summary of the report at Full Text Reports

 

July 18, 2013

New PTC Research Finds Teen Girls the New Target of Sexual Exploitation on TV
Source: Parents Television Council

New research from the Parents Television Council’s “4 Every Girl Campaign” found that underage female characters on primetime broadcast television are more likely to be presented in sexually exploitative scenes than adult women, and the appearance of underage female characters in a sexually exploitative scene increased the probability that the scene would be presented as humorous.

Study results revealed that out of 238 scripted episodes which aired during the study period, 150 episodes (63%) contained sexual content in scenes that were associated with females and 33% of the episodes contained sexual content that rose to the level of sexual exploitation.

The likelihood that sexual exploitation would be considered humorous increased to 43% when the sexual exploitation involved underage female characters. Topics that targeted underage girls and were presented as humorous included: sexual violence, sex trafficking, sexual harassment, pornography, and stripping.

 

 

 

 

July 19, 2013 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychology | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Using Behavioral Indicators to Help Detect Potential Violent Acts A Review of the Science Base

Reminded of a phrase used by one of my college professors.
“Now that you have this information, what are you going to do with it?”

In this case, when one has information about a person’s behavior, what does one do?
Especially when it seems the person might be predisposed to violent acts.
Does one find a way to commit him or her to a mental institution? Arrest him or her on some other charge to remove him or her from the general population? Find some way to get the person help as an out patient?

From the summary of the report at Full Text Reports

Government organizations have put substantial effort into detecting and thwarting terrorist and insurgent attacks by observing suspicious behaviors of individuals at transportation checkpoints and elsewhere. This report reviews the scientific literature relating to observable, individual-level behavioral indicators that might — along with other information — help detect potential violent attacks. The report focuses on new or nontraditional technologies and methods, most of which exploit (1) data on communication patterns, (2) “pattern-of-life” data, and/or (3) data relating to body movement and physiological state. To help officials set priorities for special attention and investment, the report proposes an analytic framework for discussion and evaluation; it also urges investment in cost-effectiveness analysis and more vigorous, routine, and sustained efforts to measure real-world effectiveness of methods. One cross-cutting conclusion is that methods for behavioral observation are typically not reliable enough to stand alone; success in detection will depend on information fusion across types of behaviors and time. How to accomplish such fusion is understudied. Finally, because many aspects of using behavioral observations are highly controversial, both scientifically and because of privacy and civil-liberties concerns, the report sharpens the underlying perspectives and suggests ways to resolve some of the controversy while significantly mitigating problems that definitely exist.

 

 

July 19, 2013 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Prisoners Doing Yoga May See Psychological Benefits

yoga

yoga (Photo credit: GO INTERACTIVE WELLNESS)

 

From the 11 July 2013 article at Science Daily

 

Yoga can improve mood and mental wellbeing among prisoners, an Oxford University study suggests, and may also have an effect on impulsive behaviour.

The researchers found that prisoners after a ten-week yoga course reported improved mood, reduced stress and were better at a task related to behaviour control than those who continued in their normal prison routine.

‘We found that the group that did the yoga course showed an improvement in positive mood, a decrease in stress and greater accuracy in a computer test of impulsivity and attention,’ say Dr Amy Bilderbeck and Dr Miguel Farias, who led the study at the Departments of Experimental Psychology and Psychiatry at Oxford University. ‘The suggestion is that yoga is helpful for these prisoners.’

Dr Bilderbeck adds: ‘This was only a preliminary study, but nothing has been done like this before. Offering yoga sessions in prisons is cheap, much cheaper than other mental health interventions. If yoga has any effect on addressing mental health problems in prisons, it could save significant amounts of public money.’

If yoga is associated with improving behaviour control, as suggested by the results of the computer test, there may be implications for managing aggression, antisocial or problem behaviour in prisons and on return to society, the researchers note — though this is not measured in this initial study.

Dr Bilderbeck, who practices yoga herself, cautions: ‘We’re not saying that organising a weekly yoga session in a prison is going to suddenly turn prisons into calm and serene places, stop all aggression and reduce reoffending rates. We’re not saying that yoga will replace standard treatment of mental health conditions in prison. But what we do see are indications that this relatively cheap, simple option might have multiple benefits for prisoners’ wellbeing and possibly aid in managing the burden of mental health problems in prisons.’

Sam Settle, director of the Prison Phoenix Trust, says: ‘Almost half of adult prisoners return to prison within a year, having created more victims of crime, so finding ways to offset the damaging effects of prison life is essential for us as a society. This research confirms what prisoners have been consistently telling the Prison Phoenix Trust for 25 years: yoga and meditation help them feel better, make better decisions and develop the capacity to think before acting — all essential in leading positive, crime-free lives once back in the community.’

 

 

July 18, 2013 Posted by | Health News Items, Psychology | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Acceptance of What Cannot Be Changed Predicts Satisfaction in Later Life

From the 11 July 2013 article at Science Daily

When older adults lose control as they move into residential care, they adapt and accept what cannot be changed in order to stay happy. According to a new study, by Jaclyn Broadbent, Shikkiah de Quadros-Wander and Jane McGillivray from Deakin University in Australia, when it comes to satisfaction in later life the ability to accept what cannot be changed is as important as the feeling of being able to exert control.

..

Ageing with satisfaction has been linked to maintaining a sense of control into the later years. Perceived control consists of two components. Primary control relates to the capacity to make changes to the environment to suit your desire or needs — this applies to older adults living independently in the community. Secondary control describes making cognitive changes within yourself to adapt to the environment — for example when older adults move into residential care. In effect, secondary control buffers losses in primary control by helping us to accept what cannot be changed.

Their analyses revealed that the unique relationship between primary control and satisfaction was always larger for the elderly living in the community than those in residential care. Equally, the contribution of secondary control to satisfaction was larger in the residential care group than in the community group. Having a strong sense of control is therefore likely to be more important to older adults living in the community than those living in residential care. In contrast, acceptance is likely to be more important to the well-being of care residents than community dwellers.

The authors conclude: “In order to protect the well-being of older individuals, adaptation involves both a sense of control and the active acceptance of what cannot be changed. Primary and secondary perceived control may predict satisfaction with comparable strength depending on the older person’s situation. Acceptance takes more of a prime position in low control situations.”

 

 

July 18, 2013 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , | Leave a comment

Gang Members Found to Suffer Unprecedented Levels of Psychiatric Illness

From the 12 July post at Science Daily

 

Young men who are gang members suffer unprecedented levels of psychiatric illness, placing a heavy burden on mental health services, according to new research led by Queen Mary, University of London.

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and Maurice & Jacqueline Bennett Charitable Trust funded study surveyed 4,664 men aged 18 to 34 in Britain. The survey covered measures of psychiatric illness, violence and gang membership. It is the first time research has looked into whether gang violence is associated with psychiatric illness, other than substance misuse.

In terms of mental health, gang members and violent men were significantly more likely to suffer from a mental disorder and access psychiatric services than non-violent men. The exception was depression, which was significantly less common among gang members and violent men.

Violent ruminative thinking, violent victimisation and fear of further victimisation were significantly higher in gang members and believed to account for high levels of psychosis and anxiety disorder in gang members.

The findings showed that, of the 108 gang members surveyed:

  • 85.8 per cent had an antisocial personality disorder;
  • Two-thirds were alcohol dependent;
  • 25.1 per cent screened positive for psychosis;
  • More than half (57.4 per cent) were drug dependent;
  • Around a third (34.2 per cent) had attempted suicide; and
  • More than half (58.9 per cent) had an anxiety disorder.

The authors suggest that the higher rate of attempted suicide attempts among gang members may be associated with other psychiatric illness, but could also correspond with the notion that impulsive violence may be directed both outwardly and inwardly.

Street gangs are concentrated in inner urban areas characterised by socioeconomic deprivation, high crime rates and multiple social problems. The authors report that around one per cent of 18 to 34-year-old men in Britain are gang members. The level rises to 8.6 per cent in the London borough of Hackney, where one in five black men reported gang membership….

English: An MS-13 suspect bearing gang tattoos...

English: An MS-13 suspect bearing gang tattoos is handcuffed. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

July 18, 2013 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , | 1 Comment

Listen to the stories behind substance dependence

English: Most significant possible long-term e...

English: Most significant possible long-term effects of ethanol. Sources are found in main article: Wikipedia:Ethanol#Long-term. Model: Mikael Häggström. To discuss image, please see Template_talk:Häggström diagrams (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

From the KevinMD blog of June 27, 2013

 

“You don’t have any idea what you’re dealing with, do you?” asked Mr. Johnson a mere two minutes into my interview. The scene is the Crisis Intervention Unit. The time is 3:00am. I have a feeling my breath is terrible. The hospital pizza I engulfed earlier in the evening has decided to stage a churning acidic protest in my guts. However, far worse than my half-closed eyes, my halitosis or my gastrointestinal distress is the fact that he’s absolutely right. Mr. Johnson is here because he has come to the realization that living sober is about as awful as living as an alcoholic. As a result, he has decided life is simply not worth living.

As a practitioner, patients caught in this double-bind are among the most frustrating to treat. They are living proof that substance dependence treatment can be quite shortsighted. The logic is charmingly simple and irritatingly simplistic: if you’re drinking too much, then you should probably stop. Once you stop, all will be better.

To properly understand the failure of this logic, we need to distinguish the brain from the mind. Although our medications and therapies are effective in removing alcohol from the brain, we are less successful filling the empty space left in the mind. Mr. Johnson’s alcohol use started as a coping strategy and slowly evolved into a way of navigating the world: a drink to take the edge off at a dinner party; a libation or five to take the edge off of a bad day at the office; a quick stop at the corner bar after work to steel himself against a troubled marriage and a wayward teen. Alcohol played prominently in the way his mind functioned for years….

 

Read entire blog post here

 

 

 

July 14, 2013 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog]Re-framing Drugs as a Public Health Issue

Re-framing Drugs as a Public Health Issue.

From the Criminal Injustice Blog item of April 2, 2013

By Louellyn Lambros

It is time that drug use be viewed as a public health issue, rather than a matter for the criminal justice system. Too many drug users are saddled unnecessarily with criminal records, making it extraordinarily difficult to have fulfilling lives including being able to work and to make other kinds of valuable contributions to their families and society.

The skyrocketing incarceration rate in our country has been an outgrowth of the War on Drugs, which began over thirty years ago and had its roots in a political strategy to gain the votes of disaffected whites, in the wake of a successful Civil Rights struggle. Since outright discrimination on the basis of race was no longer acceptable or legal, an alternative route was to label African-Americans as criminals, thereby opening the door to reintroduce all the same forms of discrimination – in employment, housing, voting rights, and so on.

As the number of incarcerated people in the US grew from 300,000 in the last half of the 20th century to over 2.2 million today, racism continues to fuel the revolving door of our fellow citizens into the criminal justice system. In addition, the system has become big business, employing a growing number of judges, lawyers, prosecutors, and all types of ancillary personnel. Prisons themselves are becoming increasingly privatized, run as money-making corporations which sell shares on the NYSE. In thirty-seven states, prison labor is contracted to major corporations who pay 16 to 28 cents an hour, ensuring astronomical profits.

While the majority of Americans, once educated on the issue, may be persuaded by the injustice of the situation as it affects minority communities and may be horrified by how the one percent is capable of turning anything into a lucrative business, it will take more time and effort to address the concerns of those whose loved ones have suffered from addiction and subsequent incarceration.

The truth is that no one, particularly the most vulnerable dealing with drug addiction, is served by the current system. Those who are susceptible to addiction are even more vulnerable and in need of self-soothing in the face of extreme stress. Why do therefore we respond to their difficulties with a system of incarceration which stresses them to the max and saddles them with second-class citizen status as a ‘felon’ upon release back into their home communities?

A policy of decriminalization, as has been in place in Portugal since 2001, would take the whole issue of drug addiction out of the criminal justice system and make it a civil and public health matter. A panel of three– made up of two individuals with a health background and one with a legal background–would make a determination: is this person’s drug use a problem? If not, perhaps a fine or a warning will suffice. If it is deemed a problem, treatment and rehabilitation are in order. Treatment facilities could easily be funded by resources reallocated from the criminal justice system.

 

May 2, 2013 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology, Public Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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