Saturday, July 31, 2010

Veterans and Suicide

A recent New York Times article on Veterans and Suicide reveals that according to the CDC, veterans account for at least one out of every 5 suicides every year. Ohio has the 4th highest veteran population of all of the states, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs.

Psychologists play a critical role in suicide assessment and prevention, as do suicide prevention hotlines. Here are some important websites and phone numbers to have available if you know someone who is suicidal.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK
Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation
Ohio Department of Mental Health: Suicide Prevention

Please also consider supporting research for suicide prevention by donating to or participating in the "Out of the Darkness" Suicide Prevention Walks.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Easy Yoga Poses for Depression

click here for more details on the poses

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Pot and your Sex Life

Recently, I listened as a prominent sex researcher summarized the sexual impairment caused by dozens ofdrugs, both legal and illicit. Her list included marijuana. Afterward, several in the audience asked why.

"Because it's sex-inhibiting," she replied. "No it isn't," several countered. They all agreed it was sex-enhancing.

The presenter immediately pulled out her citation, one lone report published 40 years previously showing that marijuana reduced testosterone by up to half, enough for many women and some men to suffer libido loss.

Returning home, I delved into the literature and discovered what this researcher had failed to mention. The study she cited triggered a flurry of reports on marijuana and testosterone. Those studies, published in the late 1970s, showed no significant marijuana-induced suppression of the hormone, and no significant loss of libido or sexual impairment in lovers who used it, even frequent users.During the 1980s, several studies considered pot's effects on lovemaking. The results were all over the map, from strongly sex-inhibiting to strongly sex-enhancing. The best report, based on interviews with 97 adults in Kansas City, showed that "over two-thirds reported increased sexual pleasure and satisfaction with marijuana use. About half of both sexes also reported increased sexual desire while using marijuana. Emotional closeness and physical enjoyment of snuggling were also enhanced." But one-third said the drug was not sex-enhancing, and half reported no increase in desire. [Weller, RA and JA Halikas, "Marijuana Use and Sexual Behavior," Journal of Sex Research (1984) 20:186.]

For the rest of the article, please visit Psychology Today.

Can You Ask a Pig If His Glass Is Half Full?

ScienceDaily (July 28, 2010) — Babe may be the most famous sensitive pig in the world but new research from Newcastle University suggests he is by no means the only one.

Experts from the university's School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development have shown for the first time that a pig's mood mirrors how content he is, highlighting that pigs are capable of complex emotions which are directly influenced by their living conditions.

Led by Dr Catherine Douglas, the team has employed a technique to 'ask' pigs if they are feeling optimistic or pessimistic about life as a result of the way in which they live.

In an experiment reminiscent of Pavlov's dogs, the Newcastle team taught the pigs to associate a note on a glockenspiel with a treat -- an apple -- and a dog training 'clicker' with something unpleasant -- in this case rustling a plastic bag.

The next step was to place half the pigs in an enriched environment -- more space, freedom to roam in straw and play with 'pig' toys -- while the other half were placed in a smaller, boring environment- no straw and only one non-interactive toy.

The team then played an ambiguous noise -- a squeak -- and studied how the pigs responded. Dr Douglas said the results were compelling.

"We found that almost without exception, the pigs in the enriched environment were optimistic about what this new noise could mean and approached expecting to get the treat," she said. "In contrast, the pigs in the boring environment were pessimistic about this new strange noise and, fearing it might be the mildly unpleasant plastic bag, did not approach for a treat.

"It's a response we see all the time in humans where how we are feeling affects our judgement of ambiguous events. For example, if you're having a bad day -feeling stressed and low -- and you're presented with an ambiguous cue such as your boss calling you into their office, the first thing that goes through your head is what have I done wrong? We call this a negative cognitive bias. But on a good day you greet the same ambiguous event far more positively, you might strut in expecting a slap on the back and a pay rise.

"This 'glass half empty versus glass half full' interpretation of life reflects our complex emotional states, and our study shows that we can get the same information from pigs. We can use this technique to finally answer important questions about animal welfare in relation to a range of farm environments, for pigs and potentially other farm animals."

The research, funded by Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW) was presented at the organisation's annual conference in York last month.

Quality of life of our farm animals is becoming increasingly important to consumers, scientists and government and the study is part of ongoing research at Newcastle to further our understanding of animal welfare and improve the lives of farmed stock.

Sandra Edwards, professor of agriculture at Newcastle University and one of the UK's leading experts in pig welfare, said the next step would be to refine and further validate the methodology so it could be used to help scientists determine what is really important to the pig for its well-being.

"Historically, animal welfare research looked only at alleviating suffering. Now the UK industry itself is going beyond a minimum standard and funding research to explore measuring, and then promoting, quality of life," she explained.

"Although techniques exist to measure stress, in the past we haven't been able to directly ask a pig if it is happy or not. Instead we have assessed production systems based purely on human perceptions and our best interpretations of behaviour.

"Our research, for the first time, provides an insight into pigs' subjective emotional state and this will help scientists and farmers to continue to improve the lives of their pigs in the future.

Turning wrongs into rights

Two years ago, this magazine exposed a dark chapter in the life of Nahi Alon, a clinical psychologist who ordered the killing of Palestinians in the Six-Day War. Now he describes the personal journey that resulted, which included emotional encounters with Arab friends and a new approach to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

By Coby Ben-Simhon

Click here to read the article in it's entirety-

Expected Changes In DSM-V Leave Some Questioning Who’s Normal

With several new diagnoses expected in the forthcoming edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a group of leading mental health professionals is questioning whether anyone will still be considered “normal.”

Citing what they call three false epidemics in recent years — high rates of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism and childhood bipolar disorder that emerged after the current DSM-IV was published — several psychiatric experts are taking on the wide variety of new disorders expected to be added to the DSM in the August issue of the Journal of Mental Health.

“In the new edition, temper tantrums among toddlers and heartache over a lost spouse could now be defined as mental health conditions,” says Jerome Wakefield, a social worker at New York University. “One of the most frightening scenarios is the potential for medicating people — particularly children — who haven’t yet shown any signs of illness in a bid to ‘treat’ them for Psychosis Risk Syndrome, as identified by the new draft of DSM-V.”

The DSM serves as the bible for mental health professionals, researchers and insurers by determining what symptoms warrant an official diagnosis. The current edition was released in 1994 and the American Psychiatric Association is presently compiling a fifth version, which is expected to be published in May 2013.

Among the chief concerns outlined in the Journal of Mental Health articles are the stigma that’s associated with mental illness and how that could impact a growing part of the population and fears about over-medication that may result if more and more symptoms are considered worthy of diagnosing.

Revisions to the DSM can be heated and debate emerged about the currently proposed changes even before an official draft was revealed in February. In particular, a proposal to bundle several labels including Asperger’s syndrome under the term “autism spectrum disorders” has proven particularly contentious.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

4 Elements of Forgiveness

Theories of forgiveness or like LinkedIn accounts- everybody has one but most people never really use it. Here is an interesting theory on Forgiveness. The benefits, both mental and physical , of forgiveness are well established ( but for some reason, its much easier to talk about forgiveness than to actually do it. Why ? All acts of forgiveness should include four crucial parts :

A. Express the emotion: Whatever the crime or injustice or violation, the forgiver needs to fully express how it made her feel. If the transgression elicits anger or sadness or hurt, those feelings need to be deeply felt and expressed. If it's possible to express it to the perpetrator, great. If not, a stand-in, empty chair, heartfelt letter or yelling in the car with the windows rolled down might suffice. Are you expunging all the feelings? Probably not, but enough to allow you to focus on the other areas.

B. Understand why: Our brain will continue to search for some explanation until it's satisfied. Maybe we won't agree with the rationale, but we need some schema that explains why the act took place. In some situations, even an acceptance of randomness can be a sufficient paradigm.

C. Rebuild safety: The forgiver needs to feel a reasonable amount of assurance the act won't recur. Whether it comes in the form of a sincere apology from the perpetrator, a stronger defense against future attacks or removal from that person's influence, safety needs to be re-acquired. To a reasonable amount, of course, because we are never 100% safe.

These three elements help us process the event. It's how I feel, how I understand what happened, how I know it won't happen again. On to the fourth:

4. Let go: This very difficult step is a decision. Letting go is making a promise to not hold a grudge. In the case of a relationship, it means one partner won't refer to that past transgression again: "I'm forgetful?!? Well, you forgot our anniversary once!" It's resolving to refrain from lording the transgression over the other in the future. When it comes to forgiveness, the victim holds all the power. I've even seen a smile creep over the face of someone who has been trespassed upon: "You screwed me over? That gives me a whole year of guilt-tripping." Letting go means surrendering this dominant role; a stepping down from the powerful position of victim to allow equality again. In addition, letting go is making a promise to yourself that you'll stop dwelling/replaying/ruminating/perseverating on the injustice. If letting go feels impossible, it's probably because A, B or C weren't sufficiently completed.

Read the whole article here-