Brain and Behavior

Genetic Testing for Psychiatric Drugs: Not There Yet

Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should do it. Many of us could drive a bicycle on a freeway, but it wouldn't be a wise thing to do. Many of us could pay money for "brain games," but it wouldn't necessarily help our brains' health.

And so it is with genetic testing for psychiatric drugs. While you could pay for such a test to help you better understand how your body might react to certain psychiatric drugs, you're probably better off not. At least not at this point.

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Congress & Policymakers: Stop Scapegoating Mental Illness in Mass Shootings

It's time that the United States Congress and national policymakers stop scapegoating mental illness for mass shootings in America. It's a simplistic -- but entirely wrong -- answer to mass shootings and gun violence in the United States. And it's also time that we hold our representatives in Congress accountable to have them stop shamelessly using another violent shooting to push their own agenda -- and blaming mental illness as the cause.

Mass shootings are generally not committed by people with a mental illness. People who commit violent acts with a gun are far more likely to have no history of mental illness. This includes the nearly-daily mass shootings we've experienced in the past three years.

It's time to have a serious, nuanced conversation about this issue -- and stop the simplistic fear-mongering that politicians and policymakers with their own agendas to push seem to revel in.

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What Does the Lack of Reproducibility in Psychology Research Mean?

Last week, the results of the world's largest effort to reproduce results found in psychology research came in. Brian Nosek's Reproducibility Project took a look at 100 psychology experiments' results published in 2008 from just three major psychology journals. It attempted to reproduce the study to see what kind of results they would get.

In an ideal world, one might think that something on order of 75 or even 80 percent of the studies should have reproduced similar results, right? Because the new studies where simply re-conducted on a different population by researchers who carefully followed the original researchers' methods. In most cases, the researchers also had direct contact and cooperation from the original researchers.

But in a finding spun a dozen different ways since published in last week's Science journal, the Project didn't come anywhere close to 75 percent. Only 36 percent of the replications produced significant results -- compared to 97 percent of the original 100 studies.

What does this mean for psychology?

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Why Gun Laws Targeting ‘Crazy People’ Would Have Little Benefit

Two days ago, according to FBI crime statistics, approximately 38 murders took place in the U.S. Most of these murders were completed with a gun between two or more people who knew one another.

But people are only talking about two of them -- the deaths of TV reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward by Vester Flanagan (aka Bryce Williams). Flanagan was a disgruntled former worker at the local TV station where the three of them briefly worked at the same time for about 9 months in 2012.

And one of the victims' fathers -- Andy Parker -- has now made it his mission in life to increase common sense gun control laws in the U.S. Targeting "crazy people."

Unfortunately, had his laws been in place, they likely wouldn't have prevented this tragedy -- or most tragedies like this.

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Sharing and Shaming: What Has Social Media Done for You Lately?

We all use social media, whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or any number of blogging sites. But rarely do we think about how social media leaves us exposed in a way that could hurt us irreparably.

In Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed he studied several people who in recent years have been widely criticized via social media -- some of them for sharing things online they now regret. For instance, Justine Sacco lost her job after she tweeted, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” Or Lindsey Stone, who also lost her job after she shared a photo of herself on Facebook which showed her flipping off a sign outside the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Before they knew it, they were trending online and a social media hammer had come down on them. Something as simple as posting online made them infamous.

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Spreading Misinformation About ADHD

John Rosemond, MS is a nationally-syndicated columnist and parenting expert who's made a name for himself by promoting a lot of old-fashioned parenting skills. You know, like spanking. I suppose there's nothing wrong with ignoring research data and science that's been published in the past few decades (if that's your thing).

But I was a little taken aback by Rosemond's recent answer to a parent's concern that her child may have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Rosemond starts his reply off with this outrageous claim: "First and foremost, there is no good science behind the diagnosis of ADHD."

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Brain and Behavior

Learning to Accept Our Emotions: Lessons from Disney’s ‘Inside Out’

I recently had the opportunity to see Disney Pixar’s latest animated feature, "Inside Out." I didn’t need much prompting: it's a movie about feelings, and I'm a psychologist. It did not disappoint.

Here’s a quick synopsis of the film’s premise (spoiler alert): An 11-year-old girl named Riley moves cross-country with her family. A move is a huge transition, especially at such an impressionable age, and she experiences a gamut of emotions as she leaves her home, friends, and hockey league behind. Riley's feelings -- the main characters of Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust -- provide a glimpse into the workings of Riley’s mind as she navigates this life-changing experience.

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We All Agree: Don’t Put a Mental Hospital In My Backyard

Sadly, in many communities across America, people still feel it is perfectly acceptable to discriminate against people with a mental illness.

Now in a small town north of San Luis Obispo, California called Templeton, residents there are saying no to a voluntary inpatient psychiatric hospital that a company would like to build -- adding to the town's tax rolls and job base.

Would they be equally likely to say no to a regular, medical hospital? Or is there something specific about a psychiatric inpatient hospital that the residents of Templeton object to?

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Brain and Behavior

3 Lessons about Psychological Well-Being from a Social Media Tsunami: Professor Holding a Baby

In the past few weeks I have been swept up in a social media tsunami. A photograph of me holding a baby while lecturing, taken without my knowledge in one of my lectures, went viral.

For those knowledgeable about these things, apparently being number one on BuzzFeed Trending and Facebook Trending is “huge.” The frenzy included mainstream media with articles and interviews appearing in the Washington Post, The Guardian and The Independent, as well as on CNN, Canadian television, BBC Radio 5, South African radio and the list goes on and on. On one site alone the photo received more than one million likes.

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Anger Is an Appropriate Response to Stigma

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines the word “snap” as:

to grasp at something eagerly; make a pounce or snatch
to bark out irritable or peevish retorts
to undergo a sudden and rapid change

I wanted to make sure that is, in fact, what happened yesterday toward the end of my run at the Naval Academy.

My husband and I were talking about my giving up the role of playing a “political correctness” cop on the online depression community I host. Someone wrote...
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Anxiety and Panic

9 Tips for Self-Care

Living with depression, anxiety, trauma, and other mental illnesses takes a toll, often in more ways than we realize. Our wounds leave us fragile and sensitive to the suffering of others. It is not uncommon for those with mental illness to find it difficult to read about certain subjects, view movies with disturbing themes, or even to read the news. This is referred to as being triggered, because witnessing or learning about the suffering of others may trigger the reopening of our own wounds.

While mental illness leaves us vulnerable and sensitive to others' suffering, it also has a way of increasing our interest in those stories that feel familiar. We have been through a lot, and we can easily identify with how others feel. We don’t want to shut the world out as a result of our reactivation.

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The Connection Between Depression & Parkinson’s Disease

A Swedish population study was recently published in the journal Neurology suggesting that people who experienced depression at one point in their lifetime were at greater risk for also developing Parkinson's disease.

Of the 140,688 patients in Sweden with depression over a period of 25 years, 1.1 percent developed Parkinson's -- compared to a rate of 0.4 percent risk factor in the control group. That's an increased risk factor of nearly 3 times.

If you have depression, should you be concerned?

I'd argue -- not much. Here's why.

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