World Notes

You can't diagnose a mental disorder the way you fix a toaster - but the DSM keeps trying


Cover_of_Diagnostic_and_Statistical_Manual_of_Mental_Disorders It’s been a busy for the manual of mental disorders.

A new organizational framework was announced for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Published by the American Psychiatric Association, it’s the book doctors look at to decide if you’re crazy and what medicine to prescribe for it.  It may or may not be accurate – but it’s a big deal. 

The newest version, now scheduled for May 2013, is proposing to restructure previous categories and chapters to reflect scientific advancements and hypothesized. 

Sounds good, but there’s one big problem:  the DSM has always been flawed, and the proposed DSM-5 looks to be no better.

The flaw is that it tries very hard to figure out symptoms, but no time at all trying to understand people. 

There’s no empirical validation to this approach … and it’s packed with conflicts of interest to the drug companies who benefit each time a new symptom is deemed “treatable” by drugs.    

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It matters what the voices in your head are saying


Schizophrenia_PET_scan Have you ever been known or been with someone who was diagnosed as schizophrenic? Have they ever shared their experiences with you?

Have you ever wondered what that’s like?

Hearing voices or “auditory hallucinations” is the one aspect that

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Can America come to terms with the post-911 reality it created?


Flag_-_3rd_Infantry Emotions have run high since United States president Barack Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden.

“The head of the snake is gone,” said Rudi Dekkers, the owner of the flight school that trained the two terrorist pilots responsible for killing thousands in the World Trade Center towers.

Bin Laden’s death marks a turning point of nearly a decade of grief, anger, and insecurity for all effected by the tragedies of 9-11. The tragic events of that day will forever be present as a reminder and a threat of the destructive capacities of terrorism.

But always remembering must not mean we stay locked in the past:  Amidst great pain and fear, issues of remorse, forgiveness, and rehumanization are beginning to surface in light of the gross human rights violations that followed September 11, 2001.

In the Journal of Humanistic Psychology, author Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela draws on experiences from the South African apartheid to remind us what remorse, forgiveness and rehumanization look like in the aftermath of gross human rights violations.

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There are no shortcuts to wisdom


Platon_Aristote If you were wise, what would it be like?

I don’t mean “what would you know” – I mean “what would the experience of life be like?”  Are wise people different from the rest of us?  How do they live?

That’s the question Pscyhologist Dolores Pushkar set out to answer in a recently published piece:  “What Philosophers Say Compared with What Psychologists Find in Discerning Values: How Wise People Interpret Life”.

Pushkar, Etezadi, and Lyster acknowledge that there is no consensus on what defines wisdom, but they propose the following as being key aspects; knowledge, deep understanding of human nature, life contentment, empathy and the flexibility to see issues from others’ perspectives.

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What does it take to get mentally healthy in 21st century America?


There is no health, without mental health. 

May is Mental Health Month—bringing hope and awareness for more than 54 million adults in America who have a diagnosable mental health condition. One and four American adults live with a mental illness that is diagnosable, debilitating and better yet: treatable.

It’s estimated that up to half of the more than 54 million people with a mental illness do not seek help. Cost, stigma, lack of information, or insufficient health insurance coverage account for the disparity—with frightening repercussions for individuals, families, society.

Poor mental healthcare is a public health crisis. Regrettably, it effects are widespread. Here are some of the frightful side effects--

  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15-24 year olds.
  • Older adults with untreated depression and diabetes—die at twice the rate of those who receive effective treatment and care for their depression.
  • Research suggests that students ages 14-21 with emotional disturbances or mental health conditions drop out of school at twice the rate of students with other disabilities.

Reforming America’s mental healthcare system begins as a grassroots level; by embracing the foundational principles inherent in humanistic psychology.

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Obese kids are at higher risk for mental illness -- what are we going to do about it?


A twenty year cohort study in The Australian And New Zealand Journal Of Psychiatry looked at overweight and obese children and their risk of developing of a mental illness later in life. The research found that obese and overweight children have an increased risk for the development of a mood disorder in adulthood when the same overweight trends continued. The research included both sexes; however overweight and obese girls were found to have an even higher risk than boys for developing mood disorders and other mental health issues when the obesity continued on into adulthood. 

A first of its kind, the research looks at the psychiatric risk factors associated with obesity and overweight children. While more research is needed—one conclusion can be made. Obesity in American youth is a risk factor for the development of a mental disorder later in life.

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Racial bias a key factor in decisions we don't know we make


Iat-image Who do you trust and why?

You might be surprised.

In the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences researchers showed (yet again) that we make many of our decisions around money and overall trust based on our unconscious racial bias.

Psychologists have generally agreed that we have explicit and implicit thoughts that inform our day to day experience. Explicit refers to intentional thinking, decisions and judgments. Implicit thoughts are hidden behind all those good intentions. These implicit biases, or the more technical term for this implicit social cognition have an impact on how we live and work.

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Reviews of Guantanamo files confirm: psychologists knew of torture, and tacitly supported it


599px-Camp_x-ray_detainees In 2008 the American Psychological Association issued a resolution saying that psychologists may not work in places where people are tortured, or support torture in any form. 

To many of us have done it anyway. 

Vincent Iacopino and Stephen Xenakis reviewed Guantanamo Bay (GTMO) medical records and case files of nine prisoners. The records showed that the detainees did tell GTMO medical staff that they were being tortured, tortured with abusive interrogation methods that are clearly defined by the UN as being torture. What they went through was even beyond the Bush administration lax definition of torture.

Despite witnessing the physical and psychological wounds of these nine detainees, medical staff took no action to report the violations. They patched them up and sent them back in.

It gets worse. Medical records show that the detainees were showing signs of psychological problems. Yes, being imprisoned is going to take someone to an edge of psychological despair, but the records showed that there was much more going on.  One of the detainees was having nightmares, memory lapses, loss of appetite, depression and suicidal thoughts. He was treated with antidepressants and a chilling recommendation of “You…need to relax when guards are being more aggressive.”

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Painkiller addiction requires a psychological cure


Is heroin still heroin when it’s prescribed?  

Alleviating pain was the original intent behind the design, creation and prescribing of pain medications. A well-used type of pain killer is the powerful class of narcotics called opioids. Oxycodone is essentially pure version of heroin develop in 1916. Of course its purity adds to its’ addictive quality. The number of prescriptions for opioids has gone from 74 milligrams in 1997 to 369 milligrams in 2007.

Where are all these drugs going? These drugs are going to mothers, fathers, their children and even our elders; to the homeless and the owner of the penthouse on the corner. It’s easy to get these drugs and doing so is even validated by the fact that many people are getting them from physicians.

The Food and Drug Administration is taking one small step towards helping end opiate addiction.

The latest efforts by the FDA and supported by the Whitehouse are an attempt to stop the flow of the drug. They are recommending a four part approach:

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Rediscovering Virginia Satir - and fighting for self-esteem


Are women who choose to breastfeed their babies seen as less competent?

The surprising answer is yes, according to the latest research. In the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Researchers Smith, Hawkinson, and Paull report findings that suggest prejudice against women who choose to breastfeed their children. The research findings report that women who breastfed were viewed as less competent, capable and intelligent. They were less likely to be hired, to be viewed as competent in analytical disciplines, and more likely to be viewed in a sexualized manner.

Furthering this research, researchers Schooler, Ward and Merriwether found a link between risky sexual activity, decision-making processes and feelings regarding women’s reproductive capacities. Published in the Journal of Sex Research, researchers found that greater societal shame and ignominy regarding natural menstruation cycles led to higher levels of sexual risk taking. Essentially, the shame a woman has regarding her body increases her willingness to take risks in sexual activity.

We have a big societal problem. Women’s natural reproductive and physiological functions have become the scapegoat in society’s messed-up psyche, causing the self-esteem of individual women to plummet.

We need to take action:  but we don’t need new tools.  A pioneering psychologist has already developed them.

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