Tag Archives | Psychiatry

Moroccan Mentally Ill Imprisoned At Mausoleum To Await Cure from ‘Demons’

PIC: (CC)

PIC: (CC)

Being diagnosed with a mental illness is stigmatizing just about anywhere in the world (The United States only got around to forcing insurance companies to cover mental health treatment less than two decades ago.) but some places are worse than others. In Morocco, the belief that the mentally ill and drug addicted are possessed by evil spirits is a fairly common one. The Bouya Omar mausoleum is a particularly heinous last stop for families looking for spiritual cures for their loved ones’ psychiatric illnesses. The residents are chained, beaten, robbed and left to the mercy of a small group of religious acolytes who supposedly run the place.

Via Yahoo! News:

…A thin mist hangs in the air as a handful of troubled souls wander aimlessly around the Bouya Omar mausoleum in central Morocco, the occasional chilling cry rising from behind its walls.

These are Morocco’s “possessed” — from violent schizophrenics to hard drug users — who are believed to be tormented by evil spirits and whose relatives bring them here to await deliverance.

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How To Spot A Psychopath

BreivikSo how many psychopaths are in your life? Writing for the Telegraph, Tom Chivers says, “We think of psychopaths as killers, alien, outside society. But, says the scientist who has spent his life studying them, you could have one for a colleague, a friend – or a spouse”:

There are a few things we take for granted in social interactions with people. We presume that we see the world in roughly the same way, that we all know certain basic facts, that words mean the same things to you as they do to me. And we assume that we have pretty similar ideas of right and wrong.

But for a small – but not that small – subset of the population, things are very different. These people lack remorse and empathy and feel emotion only shallowly. In extreme cases, they might not care whether you live or die. These people are called psychopaths.

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Is Religion Good for Your Brain?

Eastman Johnson, Child at Prayer, circa 1873A scientific justification for otherwise inexplicable belief systems? From Discovery News:

If you live in Georgia, you’re more likely to have a healthy brain than if you live in Minnesota. That’s according to an annual state-by-state ranking released this week by a national health education campaign called Beautiful Minds.

While Georgians could use more “mental stimulation through reading and game playing,” their high level of religious activity elevated them to a No. 10 ranking. And while Minnesotans read more and are active in their communities, their low level of religious activities contributed to their No. 31 ranking.

Why the emphasis on religion? Research has linked religious activity with everything from reduced stress to better memory retention.

One recent study, published in December of 2013 in JAMA Psychiatry, found that people at risk of depression were much less vulnerable if they identified as religious: Brain MRIs revealed that religious participants had thicker brain cortices than those who weren’t as religious (those with a family history of depression often have a thinning of the cortices).

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LSD Reconsidered for Therapy

William Rafti (CC)

William Rafti (CC)

Strange as it may seem in what in many cases is an extremely reactionary period of time, the war on some drugs has loosened up considerably and not just in the burgeoning mariajuana legalization movement. Research into the medical benefits of psychedelic drugs has resumed and appears to be making significant headway. The New York Times reports on the comeback of LSD in psychiatric treatment:

He heard about the drug trial from a friend in Switzerland and decided it was worth volunteering, even if it meant long, painful train journeys from his native Austria and the real possibility of a mental meltdown. He didn’t have much time, after all, and traditional medicine had done nothing to relieve his degenerative spine condition.

“I’d never taken the drug before, so I was feeling — well, I think the proper word for it, in English, is dread,” said Peter, 50, an Austrian social worker, in a telephone interview; he asked that his last name be omitted to protect his identity.

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Twenty Percent of US Soldiers Had Mental Illness Before Enlisting

120117-A-0000X-771 (7016614597)Some people might say you’d have to have a mental problem to enlist in the military, but that’s not exactly the point of a new study published in JAMA Psychiatry as reported in The Guardian:

The first three studies in a large research initiative to better understand US military suicides indicates that some patterns in military suicide are reflective of mental health problems in the civilian population.

The Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers (Army Starrs) uses data from existing army systems and what researchers can collect from soldiers to better understand why soldiers might be at an increased risk for suicidal behavior compared to the civilian population.

Two of the three papers, published Monday in Jama Psychiatry, show the results of surveys and interviews with 5,428 soldiers which looked at theprevalence of mental disorders among non-deployed soldiers and suicidal behavior among currently deployed soldiers. The third study tested common theories about military suicide using historical data.

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Enlightenment’s Evil Twin: The Pit of the Void

Pic: Expretta (CC)

Pic: Expretta (CC)

Jeff Warren explores the promises and pitfalls of vipassana and other mindfulness meditation on Psychology Tomorrow Magazine:

Practicing vipassana, you have more space to make appropriate responses, and more space, too, around your looping thought-track, which can dramatically reduce stress and anxiety as well as raise a person’s baseline levels of happiness and fulfillment. This is one reason why mindfulness has become the technique of choice for thousands of clinicians and psychotherapists, and there is now a considerable body of scientific research demonstrating these and other benefits.

Yet most of the clinicians who so enthusiastically endorse mindfulness do not have a proper understanding of where it can lead. The fact is that mindfulness in large doses can penetrate more than just your thoughts and sensations; it can see right through to the very pith of who you are – or rather, of who you are not. Because, as Buddhist teachers and teachers from many other contemplative traditions have long argued, on close investigation there doesn’t appear to be any deeper “you” in there running the show.

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The Selling of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD)

AdhdbrainFinally some tough questions are being asked about one of Big Pharma’s most successful manufactured “diseases,” ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). The New York Times reports that the number of diagnoses soared amid a 20-year drug marketing campaign – and now it’s gearing up to persuade adults that they have ADHD just like their kids do:

After more than 50 years leading the fight to legitimize attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Keith Conners could be celebrating.

Severely hyperactive and impulsive children, once shunned as bad seeds, are now recognized as having a real neurological problem. Doctors and parents have largely accepted drugs like Adderall and Concerta to temper the traits of classic A.D.H.D., helping youngsters succeed in school and beyond.

But Dr. Conners did not feel triumphant this fall as he addressed a group of fellow A.D.H.D. specialists in Washington. He noted that recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the diagnosis had been made in 15 percent of high school-age children, and that the number of children on medication for the disorder had soared to 3.5 million from 600,000 in 1990.

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Should Lithium Be Added To Drinking Water To Prevent Suicides?

lithiumMother Nature Network has the latest news on the previously discussed sort-of-logical-yet-profoundly-horrifying concept:

A study carried out in June of 2011 demonstrated that drinking water contaminated with lithium could actually lower suicide rates. So should lithium be added as a supplement to the water supply, as is done with fluoride?

In the study, 6,460 samples of drinking water were tested across 99 districts in Austria. Districts with higher levels of lithium tended to report lower suicide rates. In some areas lithium occurs naturally in the water supply, likely leached out of rocks and stones.

The results weren’t terribly shocking, as lithium has been used for decades to treat depression. This was the first time its effect was measured based on trace amounts within drinking water, however.

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Amygdala Myths Revealed: It’s Not All About the Fear

1959_1028_tinglerNeurology has always interested me, and I still remember learning in my undergrad neuropsychology class  that the almond-shaped portion of the brain know as the amygdala was responsible for the emotion of fear. Like so many things we grow up hearing, the truth is a little more complicated, as BoingBoing science writer Maggie Koerth-Baker learns in her interview with scientist Paul Whalen. It turns out that fear is just easier to study.

BoingBoing:

Maggie Koerth-Baker: Your research shows that the amygdala does a lot more than just make us afraid. In fact, your research suggests that the idea of “fear” involves a lot more than just reacting to something scary. But where did these ideas come from, to begin with? Why do we think of the amygdala as a “fear center”?

Paul Whalen: In the early 1980s, the psychologists who wanted to study emotion had to pick one, and fear is the easiest to study in a human or animal.

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