Oct 25

Latest News in MH: Anxiety, Bullying, and More

Latest news in mental health (October 2017):

I. Anxiety Makes It Harder to Listen to Your Intuition. Katie Heaney, The Cut 

Heaney starts out: “As an anxious person, I find the mantra ‘go with your gut’ endlessly frustrating. What’s so trustworthy about my gut instinct, which has, at various times, convinced me I’m dying of brain cancer, or about to get on an airplane doomed to crash, or destined to be alone forever?”

An excerpt about recent research on this topic:

The researchers hypothesized that anxiety’s effects on our decision-making is damaging for several reasons: Anxiety makes us risk-averse, pessimistic, and less confident — all qualities which make us likelier to choose what we perceive as the most safe, routine, and unchallenging decision.
In some cases, anxiety can also effectively paralyze us, resulting in no decision made at all. Using one’s intuition, the researchers argue, requires confidence and trust in oneself. If anxious people don’t have that confidence and trust, they may be more likely to ignore subtle emotional or bodily cues which indicate a ‘hunch.’ But any anxious person knows it goes beyond that — many of us deal with what could be considered ‘cues’ and ‘hunches’ all the time: a racing heart, elevated heartbeat, sweating, weird twinges and tingles. For many anxious people, the psychosomatic symptom possibilities are endless, and only infrequently indicate that something is actually wrong. In many cases, it’s wiser for us to ignore these ‘signs’ and symptoms than to take them seriously…

II. How Fiction Becomes Fact on Social Media. Benedict Carey, New York Times  

“Skepticism of online ‘news’ serves as a decent filter much of the time, but our innate biases allow it to be bypassed, researchers have found — especially when presented with the right kind of algorithmically selected ‘meme’.”

Those pesky cognitive biases at work again.

III. Feel deal: which emotions really make us happy? Quiz. Ben Ambridge, The Guardian     

Intro by Ambridge: “What is the secret to happiness? Is it simply experiencing pleasant emotions most of the time? Actually, according to Aristotle, the best way to be happy is to experience the emotions that you want to experience, whether positive or negative. So, do you?”

And now, the quiz:

On a scale of 1 (never) to 5 (most of the time), how often do you experience emotions in each of the following four groups?

(a) Love, affection, trust, empathy and compassion
(b) Anger, contempt, hostility and hatred
(c) Interest, curiosity, excitement and enthusiasm
(d) Passion, calmness, relaxation, relief and contentment

Now – on the same 1-5 scale – how often do you want to experience each of these four types of emotions? The greater the similarity between your two sets of scores, the happier you are likely to be, and the less likely you are to show symptoms of depression.

IV. Walking Study Corroborates Hippocrates’s Prescriptive Wisdom. Christopher Bergland, Psychology Today

Subtitle: “A new study backs up his favorite prescription for health and longevity.” Guess what it is?

V. Burger King/”Bullying Jr.”

As described by the company, their interesting new PSA:

Scrawny. Short. Ugly. Fat. Weird. 30% of school kids worldwide are bullied each year and bullying is the #1 act of violence against young people in America today (Source: nobully.org). The BURGER KING® brand is known for putting the crown on everyone’s head and allowing people to have it their way. Bullying is the exact opposite of that. So the BURGER KING® brand is speaking up against bullying during National Bullying Prevention Month.

In the BURGER KING® brand Bullying Jr. experiment, more people stood up for a bullied WHOPPER JR.® than a bullied high school Jr. Visit NoBully.org to learn how you can take a stand against bullying.

Be prepared to maybe shed a few tears:

Aug 02

July News: Women, Children, Animals Edition

Some of the most interesting mental health news in July pertained to women, children, and animals:

I. What’s in It for Women? Vs. What’s in It for My Husband? Bella DePaulo, PhD, Psychology Today

Psychologist Bella DePaulo has written extensively on topics related to being single. An excerpt from her recent article comparing single women to married ones on the issue of politics:

Unmarried women, whether Black or White or Latina, think differently than married women in an important way, and that difference may help explain why single women vote reliably for Democrats and married women do not…

There are other important ways that married and unmarried women differ, such as the ways they think about traditional gender roles or gender discrimination, and whether they have children at home. The authors examined a half-dozen such differences, and none of them mattered for voting as much as the women’s beliefs about whether their own life outcomes were linked to those of other women’s.

II. In 100 Percent Unsurprising News, Working at Breastaurants Is Bad for Women’s Mental Health. Rachel Sugar, Grub Street

Hooters is one example of a “breastaurant,” lingo that was new to me, as was SOREs (see below excerpt). As Sugar notes, what’s not shocking at all is the “greater risk for anxiety and eating disorders” among women who work at such places.

While these problems aren’t specific to ‘sexually objectifying restaurant environments”’ (SOREs for short) — people, especially women, are objectified working at all kinds of restaurants, the study acknowledges — the researchers chose to focus on breastaurants, rather than restaurants in general, because ‘those types of restaurants are growing in popularity.’

III. The children most likely to be bullied by their own friends. Jacqueline Howard, CNN

In just-what-they-need kids’ news…

Two separate studies published in June support…that overweight or obese children are more likely to have ‘frenemies’ than non-overweight children…
Frenemies and weight-related bullying can have a negative impact not only on overweight children’s emotional health but on physical health, and it could lead to more weight gain for a child…

IV. Spanking Leads to Mental Health Problems, Study Shows. Dawn Jorgenson, Local 10

In another-study-with-a-predictable-outcome news:

Data gathered over a 50-year period shows the more children are spanked, the more likely they are to develop mental health problems.

According to a study conducted at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan, even though most Americans don’t recognize spanking as abusive behavior, it has been linked to aggression, anti-social behavior and cognitive difficulties….

V. Therapy animals are everywhere. Proof that they help is not. Karin Brulliard, Washington Post

…The trend, which has accelerated hugely since its initial stirrings a few decades ago, is underpinned by a widespread belief that interaction with animals can reduce distress — whether it happens over brief caresses at the airport or in long-term relationships at home. Certainly, the groups offering up pets think this, as do some mental health professionals. But the popular embrace of pets as furry therapists is causing growing discomfort among some researchers in the field, who say it has raced far ahead of scientific evidence…

On the other hand, scientific evidence isn’t everything. Sometimes you just know something helps.

(And on the other other hand—sorry, but this is reportedly true—sometimes a service animal is actually just the beloved pet of someone faking a mental health problem for selfish purposes.)