Anxiety and Panic

Psychology Around the Net: July 9, 2016

Happy Saturday, Psych Central readers!

I hope my fellow Americans enjoyed last week's Fourth of July celebrations! Unfortunately, my neck of the woods has been devastated with rain and extreme flooding, so I didn't get to celebrate as much as I would have liked.

However, the sun is shining today, and it's time to catch up on this week's latest mental health news! Keep reading for information on how medical marijuana has lowered prescription drug use, see pictures one photographer uses to chronicle his quest for peace amid anxiety and depression, which habits say a lot about your personality, and more.

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Project Semicolon: For Lives that Could Have Ended But Didn’t

There was a girl in front of me in yoga class yesterday with a long piece of text written on her side. I was squinting to see what it said. I almost pulled out my readers, but then I realized we had mirrors in front of us so she could see me struggling to try to read her skin. I thought I’d better return to tree pose.

I find all tattoos intriguing. Even the tacky ones that cover an entire body. They always tell a story that I want to hear.

I am especially intrigued when I see a semicolon, because I know, without having to utter a word to the person who has that specific kind of tattoo, that he or she is a kindred spirit.
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Happy Independence Day, 2016

Two hundred and forty years ago, America turned the world upside down by declaring its own right to be a free and independent country. A country freed from the tyranny of a government that didn't recognize the rights of its own colonist citizens in Parliament.

It was an astounding moment in history, to challenge the world's greatest super power at the time with nothing resembling an organized army and no navy of which to speak. The resolve of a few brave men who stood in the face of overwhelming odds changed the world forever.

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Brain and Behavior

The Healing Power of Hugs

One day several years ago, I spontaneously hugged a patient of mine, Gretchen. It was during a moment in which her despair and distress were so intense that it seemed cruel on a human level not to reach out my arms to her, in the event that she might derive some relief or comfort from an embrace. She hugged me for dear life.

Months later, Gretchen reported to me that the hug had changed her. “The motherly embrace you gave me that day,” she said, “lifted the depression I have had all my life.”

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Solitary Confinement Crushes Any Chance of True Recovery

Solitary confinement is a torture device. In New York, an inmate can be sent to solitary for a nonviolent rules infraction like too many stamps or being in the wrong place.

For Maria, solitary confinement “made me want to use more.”

“I went from not caring to not giving a f--k,” Maria said.

The Queens native is currently serving time in one of New York state’s female prisons. Though she was already a drug user before she got locked up, Maria says that her addiction has only gotten worse since she’s been behind bars, where she started experimenting with more substances than the pot, alcohol and occasional pills she was doing on the outside.
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Massachusetts: Third-World Mental Health Care?

There are few states that have a more broken mental health care system than Massachusetts. You'd probably think of poorer, more rural states when you think of low-quality healthcare. After all, Massachusetts is home to some of the nation's best universities (Harvard, MIT) and renowned hospital systems (Mass. General [Partners], Brigham & Women's, Beth Israel).

Yet none of these local institutions, nor the state itself, appear to have given much thought to the mental health care of their most vulnerable citizens. Instead, I live in a state that appears to offer the equivalent of third-world care for those with chronic mental illness.

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Community Building After Tragedy

My satirical policy recommendation: Bowling in every street.

You chuckle. But, in the States, we are striking out at the type of grassroots events that bind neighborhoods into communities and transform wary strangers into community leaders.

Robert Putnam’s book is more apropos than ever. In his bestselling Bowling Alone, he tackles the decline of social institutions. We don’t bowl together or host neighborhood parties. Our social connectivity is now through virtual platforms.
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Brain and Behavior

Compassion Fatigue in the Animal Welfare Community

Before becoming a psychotherapist, I had a career in animal welfare. I’ve worn both the boots and the sandals -- that’s jargon for working on the law enforcement side and the shelter side -- and I’ve seen my fair share of trauma.

Whether you’re a humane officer or a shelter volunteer, a vet tech or an animal rights activist, you have likely seen, heard about, or experienced things that most people can’t even begin to understand. Long-term exposure to abuse and neglect, euthanasia, and grief-stricken clients not only can affect your work productivity and satisfaction, but it can also wear on you mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. If you feel like you care so much that it hurts, you may be struggling with compassion fatigue.
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Brain and Behavior

Psychology Around the Net: June 11, 2016

Earlier this week, I experienced an episode of sleep paralysis. It wasn't my first time (though I've experienced it only a handful of times at most), but it was definitely the most terrifying time. I was exhausted and decided to take a quick midday nap...only, when I tried to wake up, not only could I not move, but I couldn't keep my eyes open for longer than a second.

During that second I could keep them open? I hallucinated a creepy, hunchbacked old man pilfering around my living room and sheer panic took over.

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VA Medication Treatment Outperforms Private Sector

For all of the bad things we hear about the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) system, it seems like it would be easy for good science to get lost in the noise.

We've previously written how bad VA mental health care is and how it's lied about the wait times for patients waiting to receive care. In response, the VA upped clinician numbers.

A new study just published (but based upon data from 2007-2008) suggests that at least in one area, the VA may be doing better than private health insurance plans.

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Bipolar Disorder & Violence: Is There a Relationship?

As long-time World of Psychology readers already know, a researcher has a lot of latitude in how they design a study to "encourage" a predetermined outcome. Researchers generally don't recognize this as an inherent bias problem, because virtually all researchers do it to one degree or another (or have done it at one time or another in their career).

The relationship between mental illness and violence is one area of contention among researchers, with most research showing only the smallest of correlations between the two. The real risk factor for violence remains -- and has always been -- substance abuse, not mental illness.

Recently it was suggested that those with bipolar disorder are at greater risk for committing violence. So we took a look at some of the research to see how good the studies are that suggest such a connection.

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