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University

Is the media portrayal of disasters itself disastrous?

04/05/2011

www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], from Wikimedia Commons">TV-camera Weeks after a disaster, such as in Japan or Christchurch, we are inundated with imagery and new stories. Tucked in between the sound bites of horror, grief and sadness were a few stories highlighting heroism, altruism and empathy. 

A recent study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology shows a direct link between watching these media reports of selfless actions in the face of tragedy our own behavior. People who observe such acts are more likely to help others – and this has big implications for the way the media portrays human behavior day in and day out. 

Lead author Karl Aquino at the Sauder School of Business and co-author Brent McFerran, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Michigan, wanted to know whether or not we experienced what they termed a “moral elevation” after seeing others perform an act of kindness. 

The participants were randomly assigned to read one of two news stories. One described the 2006 school shooting at the Amish schoolhouse and the parents’ act of forgiveness and gift of money to the shooters family. The second story was about a couples’ experience of watching a beautiful sunset together. They found that those who already had a stronger sense of moral identity were more likely to give more to others after watching a news story about altruism.

This may explain the surges of giving after a disasters, especially after all of the bad news has given way to stories of triumph. 

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University

Getting your groove on is good medicine

04/04/2011

Finnerud_dancing Anybody want to dance? 

Dancing has never been a fad … indeed it’s likely one of the first arts human beings created … but even so it seems like there’s a lot of it coming up today.  Turn on your television and what do you see?  Dancing with the Stars, America’s Best Dance Crew, So You Think You Can Dance …

Much of this has the reputation as being just reality TV, but could it also be an expression of something joyful, even healthy? 

In a recent article, Psychology today spoke to the mounting and compelling evidence suggesting that “getting your groove on” is psychologically, physically, and spiritually invigorating. 

Researchers at the University of New England looked at the effects of “tango dancing” over a period of six weeks with people diagnosed with depression and other mental health issues. Researcher Rosa Pinniger found that tango dancing with a partner is an effective alternative therapy for those suffering from anxiety and depression. Tango dancing was found to interrupt the negative cyclic thought patterns through the practice of “mindful awareness” and connection with one’s partner and the dance routine. Through the mindfulness practices that the tango dance requires, participants experienced freedom from their detrimental thought patterns that led to the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

The expressivity inherent in tango and other dance exercise regimens help people release emotions that have been “stored” in the body; keeping it all in the body can have deleterious health effects.  Indeed, Zumba, body movement, and other creative arts practices are increasingly becoming part of the realm of psychotherapeutic practice under the umbrella of expressive arts therapies. Leading the revolution in training expressive arts therapists is Dr. Natalie Rogers, daughter of the late humanist Carl Rogers.

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University

The best treatments for Borderline Personality Disorder are deeply personal

04/01/2011

It’s a diagnosis that ravages two percent of the general population and twenty percent of patients in psychiatric inpatient facilities. Characterized by frantic efforts to avoid abandonment, intense patterns of idealization and devaluation of interpersonal relationships, high levels of impulsivity in spending, sexuality, or eating-- all with deleterious effects—and this is only the beginning.

Welcome to the world of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

The fragile realm of BPD is rapidly changing in treatment and diagnosis. Changes to the upcoming Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) are heralding the most prominent adjustments to psychiatric diagnosis in some thirty years. Personality disorders are taking the biggest hit – half of personality disorders in the current manual getting the “boot.” All these changes and more are preliminary and awaiting field trial.

While diagnosis is an important part of the mix of modern medical and mental healthcare, it does little to directly help treatment and recovery. For those effected by BPD – it’s ravaging. For those that treat it – taxing.

But advances in treatment have occurred:  you just won’t find them in the DSM.  Research-based humanistic person centered treatment methods provide a beacon of hope for those with BPD.

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University

Heartache HURTS! Science catches up with a thousand sad songs to prove it

03/31/2011

Billie_Holiday_1949_b “The blues aint nothin' but a pain in your heart” Billie Holiday Lady Sings the Blues

She was right – and science has now caught up with a million songs of rejection to prove that love hurts. 

40 people graciously volunteered to share their pain for an experiment conducted by social psychologist Ethan Kross, the lead author of an article to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

All the volunteers shared a common story, they were broken hearted and had experienced this loss within the past six months.  Even thinking about the break up would bring about intense feelings of rejection. A very sad group.

Previous research had shown that yes, that there is an area of our brains that activates when we are in deep emotional pain. Physical pain and social rejection show up here as well. These researchers wanted to find out if there was a connection or neural overlap between emotional and physical pain.

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University

Women over 40 get eating disorders too; they just don't get treated very much

03/30/2011

Gull_-_Anorexia_Miss_A Do you ever outgrow eating disorders?  Do seniors and people later in life even develop them?

The answer is yes - but a lot of people don’t believe it.  Despite research and a mountain of anecdotal evidence suggesting that women over 40 are just as interested in their body images as younger women, plenty of people assume no older woman can develop an eating disorder. 

A research study looked at 48 published studies of eating disorders in people over the age of 50. They found that 88% of the cases were female, 81% had anorexia nervosa, and 10% had bulimia nervosa.

The New York Times recently featured an woman who suffered from anorexia until her 40s.  She’s recovered and at the 58 she is telling her story of healing. It's a stark narrative that is present in her story, that despite having all of the symptoms no one said anything to her. She was praised for her focus on exercise and eating “right.” Friends and family thought she looked great. They believed that she was successful, when in reality she was in pain.

Her story is supported by a small research study published in 2010 that looked at 32 patients over the age of 50 that were being treated at a national eating disorder clinic. The found that many of the patients had a history of eating disorders and that at the time of treatment they were in relapse.

For women both old and young, the signs of anorexia are still the same:

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Alumni Messenger

Alumnus Bart Billings, PhD '74 Announces The 19th Annual International Military & Civilian Combat Stress Conference

03/29/2011
The 19th Annual International Military & Civilian Combat Stress Conference This Combat Stress Conference is the longest running and one of the best of its kind in the world. It has been referred to by many who attend as the “Gold standard” of all Combat Stress Conferences. Throughout the years, this conference has trained both military and civilian staff to provide services to...

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University

Depression rates in men are going to rise - and we're not handling it well

03/29/2011

IdahoStumpFarmerLange For some of us depression is a hard subject to talk about with others. It has been described as the “Dark Night of the Soul”. But that darkness is certainly not a place that anyone would want to spend their lives, let alone spend that time alone without anyone else knowing or helping.

In an editorial published in the March 2011 issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry, Boadie Dunlap wrote that the rates for depression in men will increase. Why? Men are under the shadow of long term unemployment and recovering from the violence of war. Much like their fathers, they are confronted with their own sadness, grief and pain as a result of dealing with these struggles. But unlike their fathers, they have access to services, treatments and support for their depression.

Yet even with all of the education, outreach and support, many men are facing depression alone. Why?

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University

Deceptive advertising, unethical research practices, "brain shrinkage" -- have we had enough of Big Pharmacy yet?

03/28/2011

Seroquel BigPharma hasn’t admitted doing anything wrong – but their mask got pulled off all the same this month.

Drug company AstraZeneca agreed to settle lawsuits brought by 37 states – effectively they’re paying $67.5 million to avoid having to go to court and defend themselves against charges that their marketing was deceptive and their research practices unethical. 

The lawsuits centered around AstraZeneca’s illegal business practices with the antipsychotic medication Seroquel:  the company marked the drug for conditions including depression and anxiety, both of which were used it was not approved for by the FDA.  Further, AstraZeneca failed to publicize three studies showing mixed results on the effectiveness of Seroquel overall. 

It is not the first time a major drug company has been rightly accused of such wrong doing (AstraZeneca alone agreed to a $520 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice last year) and it won’t be the last. 

In fact, the lawsuit comes in the backdrop of

  • Research that proves the efficacy of psychotherapy without psychotropic medications for folks with schizophrenia
  • dramatic increases in physician’s prescribing patterns (estimates suggest that twenty-five percent of patients in nursing homes have been prescribed antipsychotic medications!)
  • disturbing “off label” uses of antipsychotic medications—all with perilous and anti-human side effects.

For many who walk into their doctor’s office, brain shrinkage and weight gain were not on their “to do” list for the day. Recent research proves that in a few years time these side effects become the reality for many who fall for the hidden research and deceptive Big Pharma tactics. Clearly, you are not the “patient” with an issue to them – you are a client with a bank account at your local pharmacy, a number with a money sign.

See for yourself.  Here’s the research, you be the judge. 

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University

Say hello to "sidewalk rage," a very real condition that's a symptom of the modern addiction to speed and anger

03/25/2011

Woman_in_rage Ladies and gentlemen, our culture has created a new kind of “mental illness” to suffer through.

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal highlights the modern form of road rage with a twist – sidewalk rage. It’s being comically called “Pedestrian Aggressive Syndrome,” and likely is in a city near you.

In Lower Manhattan, the capital of “side walk rage,” people average 4.27 feet per second. If you cannot keep up with this unwritten rule of how fast to move your legs you’re at risk for the rage and hostility of the fast walkers around you.

Quite literally, we are becoming a people addicted to anger and speed.  You probably didn't need a mental health professional to tell you that.  You've probably felt it in your own life. 

There’s more. Not only do people walk fast, they multitask even faster...

1)    Nicotine lovers walk 4.17 feet per second

2)    Cell phone junkies walk 4.20 feet per second

3)    Ipod addicts walk 4.64 feet per second.

 

Don't think these are harmless statistics: the fury associated with sidewalk rage and society’s increased levels of aggression is being connected to the well known psychiatric disorder, Intermittent Explosive Disorder. The DSM-IV defines the disorder as the following: 

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University

Getting through the day isn't good enough: we know what it takes to help kids thrive

03/24/2011

It’s one thing to live, it’s another to thrive.  We know the difference, but do the institutions we put our kids through?

There is an emerging field of study that focuses on what helps youth thrive rather than wither.

A research study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence looked at the role a child’s passions and interests or “sparks,” relationships and personal empowerment played in their well being and how this helped them to thrive.

What does it mean to thrive? The researchers described as such “…thriving persons are nurtured by their contexts and also make positive contributions to those contexts.” 

Their study included a national sample of 1,817 youth age 15 years, of this group 49% identified female; 56% were white, 17% Hispanic/Latino and 17% African American. The youth answered an online survey that asked questions about their talents, interests, hobbies, relationships, level of participation in community activities, self-efficacy and empowerment.

Their research conclusions found that youth who had high levels of sparks, opportunities for positive relationships, and empowerment were more likely to be leaders, value helping others and working for social justice in their communities. Even those who showed only two of the three strengths were more likely to volunteer weekly.

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