The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'mental health'
A biologist and a sociologist have put forward a new theory of brain development and mental disorders. Crespi and Badcock's theory posits a spectrum running between autism and related social dysfunctions on one side and schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disorder on the other, with the struggle between maternal and paternal genes in the womb determining where the child's neurology will fall on this axis:
Dr. Crespi and Dr. Badcock propose that an evolutionary tug of war between genes from the father’s sperm and the mother’s egg can, in effect, tip brain development in one of two ways. A strong bias toward the father pushes a developing brain along the autistic spectrum, toward a fascination with objects, patterns, mechanical systems, at the expense of social development. A bias toward the mother moves the growing brain along what the researchers call the psychotic spectrum, toward hypersensitivity to mood, their own and others’. This, according to the theory, increases a child’s risk of developing schizophrenia later on, as well as mood problems like bipolar disorder and depression.
It was Dr. Badcock who noticed that some problems associated with autism, like a failure to meet another’s gaze, are direct contrasts to those found in people with schizophrenia, who often believe they are being watched. Where children with autism appear blind to others’ thinking and intentions, people with schizophrenia see intention and meaning everywhere, in their delusions. The idea expands on the “extreme male brain” theory of autism proposed by Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen of Cambridge.
“Think of the grandiosity in schizophrenia, how some people think that they are Jesus, or Napoleon, or omnipotent,” Dr. Crespi said, “and then contrast this with the underdeveloped sense of self in autism. Autistic kids often talk about themselves in the third person.”
A study recently published in the Australasian Psychiatry journal has found correlations between musical preferences and a variety of mental illnesses and antisocial tendencies, and recommends that doctors ask their teenaged patients what sorts of music they listen to. The study, by Dr. Felicity Baker of the University of Queensland, is not online, but these articles contain various points from it. Among them:
- There are associations between listening to heavy metal and suicidal ideation, depression and drug use, while both metal and trance, techno and "medieval music" are connected with self-harm (though, apparently, only when associated with the goth subculture). Outside of the goth subculture, it seems, dance music is just associated with drug use.
- Different forms of rap/hip-hop are associated with different levels of criminality and delinquency, as well as violence and misogyny; apparently the worst is "French rap". I wouldn't have guessed that enough Australian teenagers would understand French well enough to get into the sound of les banlieues. Could it be that teenagers are learning French for the street cred?
- Those who are into jazz tend to be misfits and loners (one could presumably call this the Howard Moon Effect?) Is jazz a big thing among today's teens, or did they lump in a whole bunch of non-pop/non-dance genres, like post-rock, krautrock, Balkan/klezmer/gypsy and nu-gazer, with jazz?
Striking another blow against the modern idea that 100% cheerfulness is attainable or desirable, an expert on mood disorders at King's College argues that depression may be good for you:
The fact it has survived so long - and not been eradicated by evolution - indicates it has helped the human race become stronger.
"I have received e-mails from ex-sufferers saying in retrospect it probably did help them because they changed direction, a new career for example, and as a result they're more content day-to-day than before the depression."
Aristotle believed depression to be of great value because of the insights it could bring. There is also an increased empathy in people who have or have had depression, he says, because they become more attuned to other people's suffering.
An expatriate Briton in America was diagnosed as clinically depressed, prescribed antidepressants, and even scheduled for shock therapy, before doctors realised that he was not depressed, just British. (Or, to be precise, English.)
Doctors described Farthing as suffering from pervasive negative anticipation: a belief that everything will turn out for the worst, whether it's trains arriving late, England's chances of winning any national sports events, or his own prospects of getting ahead in life. The doctors reported that the satisfaction he seemed to get from his pessimism was particularly pathological.
'They put me on everything -- lithium, Prozac, St. John's wort,' Farthing says. 'They even told me to sit in front of a big light for half an hour a day or I'd become suicidal. I kept telling them this was all pointless, and they said that was exactly the sort of attitude that got me here in the first place.'The symptomology of Britishness, it seems, is indistinguishable from that of depression (the next edition of the DSM will presumably contain an entry for it). Luckily, both conditions are treatable.
(via Mind hacks)
The BBC has an article on the relationship between schizophrenia and artistic inspiration, by a photographer suffering from schizophrenia:
The symptoms feed me the tools to become creative. I seem to be thinking all the time and the psychosis is not necessarily destructive. The experience of a hallucination can often be recalled in the creation of artwork or poetry, for example.
But the problem is expressing what I see or hear because strong cognitive difficulties - such as memory loss, disorganized thoughts, difficulty concentrating and completing tasks - impair my ability to enhance and capture my true creative potential.
Unfortunately psychiatry leans far more towards controlling schizophrenia, rather than showing understanding towards a patient's true needs and potential capabilities.
New research shows that men who get married are more likely to suffer mental health problems, whilst men who remain single are most likely to suffer depression, with simply shacking up with a partner being the optimum solution. For men, that is; for women, unmarried cohabitation is, according to the Queen Mary University study, the worst of all options, with celibacy being best, followed by marriage. More ammunition for the claim that heterosexuality is an inherently adversarial zero-sum proposition.
Mental health groups protest Gollum, who, they say, perpetuates negative stereotypes of people suffering from schizophrenia. Umm, yeah.
John Shirley, who wrote some very dark and fucked-up post-cyberpunk scifi stories, has a Mental State of the Union, about the rise of mental illness of various sorts in our society, and the way that this is exacerbated by all sorts of things, from neurotoxins in the food chain to a generation of Ritalin kids to the dismantling of unprofitably expensive support networks for the mentally ill; he concludes with the suggestion that our society itself may be pervasively insane:
What is insanity? Among other things, it's the idea that we're immune to consequences. A madman thinks he's invulnerable -- at times when he's not being paranoid, as our Sane Leaders were in the McCarthy era. We think we can dump billions of pounds of toxins into ourselves -- and not have one in three people come down with cancer and one in five with a psychiatric disorder. We are insane as a society. We are far more asleep, more automatic, more mechanistic in our reactions, our behavior than we know -- and that is something psychiatry diagnoses as disassociation.
What if, as a society, we're far crazier than we realize? What if -- and that includes this magazine's hipster readership, each with his or her own set of conditioned psychological reflexes and insanely overblown vanities -- what if we're all truly -- not figuratively, but truly -- insane? We happen to be insane in a way that's functional, like a heroin addict who gets enough dope so he doesn't start screaming and manages to get through his day. But he knows his addiction in insanity. We're functional -- but insane.
Though that begs the question: was there ever a "sane" society? Did humanity or its ancestors once live in some primal arcadian utopia where everybody was sane, with insanity being a natural symptom of language/technology/urbanisation? Or is "sanity" itself (as defined above) on the scale of any society above a certain small size an impossible Platonic ideal, with human psychology being what it is?
It has been noted that the human brain can handle about 150 social relationships at any one time; any societies with more than that number of members require details to be abstracted away (Malcolm Gladwell mentions this in The Tipping Point). Perhaps any society that's not divided into autonomous units of 150 or fewer people automatically becomes "insane"?
A Chicago man has been committed to a mental hospital for promoting the tapes and materials of satellite radio conspiracy show host Alex Jones. Fair call, or proof that mental health laws are a tool of fnord the reptilian Illuminati used to silence anyone trying to alert the sheeple to their loathsome baby-eating ways? (via NWD)
(Jones may be best known for having investigated the Bilderberg Conference with Guardian journalist Jon Ronson; Ronson found a bunch of rich old men indulging in a somewhat pathetic frat-boy party, whereas Jones found Satanic rituals and human sacrifice in the same events. Go figure.)
Romantic Love Considered Harmful: New research shows that teenagers who are preoccupied with romantic thoughts in their adolescence are more likely to suffer depression later in life. (via FmH)
Only in New York would you expect something like this to arise: A dating service run by therapists, matching up people with compatible issues and neuroses. But the question is, is it any more crazy than the conventional dating system? (via Plastic)
A nifty list of culture-bound syndromes, from exotic ones like Koro and ghost sickness to Western syndromes such as anorexia (both secular and religious). (via bOING bOING)
The latest eating disorder: orthorexia, or an excessive dedication to following increasingly strict diets:
Amid a cacophony of competing menus, Bratman quickly forged his own dietary regime, eating only vegetables just plucked from the ground and chewing each mouthful 50 times. "After a year or so of this self-imposed regime, I felt light, clear headed, energetic, strong and self-righteous," Bratman wrote in an account of his experience. "I regarded the wretched, debauched souls around me downing their chocolate chip cookies and fries as mere animals reduced to satisfying gustatory lusts."
(via bOING bOING)
Scare meme of the day (or of a few days ago anyway): Falling in love is bad for your psychological health; at least if you're a teenager. Adolescents in the throes of romantic involvement and under the influence of phenylethylamine have been found to be more susceptible to depression, delinquency and drug abuse. Remember kids: Just Say No. (via Rebecca's Pocket)