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Depression: 10 fascinating insights into a misunderstood condition


Ten insights into a very common and widely misunderstood condition.
Depressed people feel helpless, hopeless, worthless and that their lives are out of control. Easy enough to state but much harder to treat, and still harder to deal with. But depression is a much more complex condition than many realise. It's more than just 'being sad' all the time or thinking that life has no meaning.

Here are ten fascinating facts about depression that provide some insights into a complex and very common condition.

1. No specific goals

People who are depressed have a tendency to over-generalise and abstract ("It's all the same to me, I don't care...").

That's why depressed people tend to have more generalised goals than those who are not depressed (Dickinson, 2013).

For example, depressed people may say to themselves: "I want to be happy," but this gives no indication about how it will be achieved.

Non-depressed people, in contrast, are more likely to have specific goals like: "I will keep in touch with my family by phoning them once a week."

Since they are so precise, specific goals are more likely to be achieved than generalised goals.
Chart Pie

5 classic signs of depression most people don't recognize

© Brandon Warren
A hidden epidemic: research reveals many Americans are depressed without knowing it.
Americans are more depressed now than they have been in decades, even if they don't know it, a new study finds.

Data from 6.9 million adults and adolescents from across the US found that Americans now report more psychosomatic symptoms of depression than similar studies in the 1980s (Twenge, 2014).

Dr. Jean Twenge, the study's author, said:
"Previous studies found that more people have been treated for depression in recent years, but that could be due to more awareness and less stigma.

This study shows an increase in symptoms most people don't even know are connected to depression, which suggests adolescents and adults really are suffering more."
Symptoms of depression that many reported, but which people appeared not to know were signs of depression included:
  1. Poor appetite.
  2. Problems sleeping.
  3. Lack of concentration.
  4. Restlessness.
  5. Feeling overwhelmed.

Comment: Ok, so things are bad. Now, what can we do to heal? Check out:

Mass nervous breakdown: Millions of Americans on the brink as stress pandemic ravages society


Éiriú Eolas increases neural plasticity, facilitating information processing, psychological well-being and stress relief.


Snakes in Suits

Examining terrorist propaganda - really?


Queen's professor David Skillicorn is examining terrorist propaganda (or is he?)
New research out of Queen's University could give insight into what terrorists are thinking. Professor David Skillicorn (School of Computing) analyzed language used in two jihadist magazines to gain intelligence about terrorist strategy.

He examined the language used in Inspire, an online magazine reportedly published by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which aims to increase the availability of their message, and the Islamic State News published by ISIS. Inspire has attracted attention because of its goal of attracting lone-wolf attacks in Western countries.


"The payoff from understanding how this all works is that intelligence and law enforcement analysts can get insight into what the 'bad guys' are doing from the speeches and documents that they produce, often for other purposes," says Dr. Skillicorn. "And because so much of it is impossible to manipulate because it's subconscious, it provides unfiltered insights."

Dr. Skillicorn's research focuses on reverse engineering language to get access to the mental state that generated it. This latest paper is one in a series exploring how mental state affects language (e.g. influence in elections, deception in legal proceedings, and fraud in financial statements), and how language reveals mental state (e.g. jihadist language in Islamist forums).

Comment: No serious research into what "terrorists are thinking" or gaining an "insight into what the 'bad guys' are doing" is possible without first studying ones own psychology - "do I / can I really think objectively?" - to see the world as it is, based on facts. Often so-called experts are actually just 'useful idiots' promoting the official narrative without realising it.

See how thinking works cognitive psychology studies everyone should know

A few good books that go deeper in how our thinking works - mostly unbeknownst to us - are:
Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious
Thinking, Fast and Slow
You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You're Deluding Yourself

To begin to truly understand the 'bad guys' is to study the vital issue of psychopathy The ramifications of psychopaths wielding power in society is discussed in the book "Political Ponerology".

"Political Ponerology is a study of the founders and supporters of oppressive political regimes. Lobaczewski's approach analyzes the common factors that lead to the propagation of man's inhumanity to man. Morality and humanism cannot long withstand the predations of this evil. Knowledge of its nature and its insidious effect on both individuals and groups - is the only antidote."

Take 2

How movies trick your brain into experiencing temporary tastes of psychosis

black swan schizophrenia
© Talma Hendler, Gal Raz and Eyal Sorek
This intense scene from Black Swan engages brain networks of "mental empathy" in pattern similar to those observed with schizophrenic patients. [editor's note]
There's a scene near the end of Black Swan, where Nina finally loses her grip on reality. Nina, played by Natalie Portman, is the protagonist of this 2010 psychological thriller, a ballerina stressed to the breaking point by competing with another dancer for a starring role. She begins to hallucinate black feathers poking through her skin, a sign she's becoming the part she's meant to play.

When people watch this scene, their brain activity bears some resemblance to a pattern that's been observed in people with schizophrenia, said Talma Hendler, a neuroscientist at Tel Aviv University in Israel, said at a recent event here sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

"My suggestion to you is that as Nina is getting crazier and crazier, the audience experiences something like schizophrenia," Hendler said.

Darren Aronofsky, who directed Black Swan, was onstage with Hendler, and he took this as a compliment. Aronofsky has a remarkable knack for putting his audience in the mindset of mentally unstable and anguished characters (recall the tortured mathematician in Pi, or Micky Rourke's battered wrestler, desperate for a comeback in The Wrestler).

Comment: More about Black Swan movie psychology can be found here.

People

That's why childhood psychological abuse should be as taboo as sexual or physical abuse: Large new study reveals how harmful psychological abuse in childhood can be

© Ardinnnn
Children who are neglected and emotionally abused experience similar, if not worse, psychological problems than those who are sexually or physically abused.

Despite this, childhood victims of psychological mistreatment rarely receive treatment and their suffering frequently goes unidentified.

Those are the conclusions of a new study of 5,616 youths who had faced different types of childhood abuse (Spinazzola et al., 2014).

The study is published in the journal Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy.
Flashlight

Conspiracy theories: the ironclad logic and how to break it

© Credit: Flickr/dexterd, CC BY
Conspiracy theories are so hard to debunk because they use science.
As the United Nations warns of the dire consequences of global warming, the commitment of the current Australian government to the reality of climate change remains unclear, with a history of disturbingly uninformed commentary on the issue and a climate policy with a decidedly ad hoc flavour.

Even the prime minister's business adviser, Maurice Newman, suspects the World Meteorological Organisation of conspiracy and propaganda.

Let's be very clear - to deny the science of climate change is to believe in a conspiracy. It may be thought of as a conspiracy between scientists and "the left", the UN, or all of them, but it is a necessary part of any such position.

Those in public life who deny climate science have long had a free reign in the media, appealing to the right for alternative views to be heard, claiming that this or that study is flawed, or explicitly claiming that a conspiracy exists.

The genius of conspiracy theories is that you can't prove them wrong, and this is true for two reasons.

Comment: Are you irate, irritable and irrational when presented with evidence that goes against your preconceived notions of how the world operates? Looking for a solution to your stress?

Then, open your eyes: Conspiracy theories confronting cognitive dissonance



Butterfly

Brittany Maynard: Why I scheduled my death for November 1st

brittany maynard

Brittany Maynard with her husband on their wedding day
Brittany Maynard carries a prescription in her wallet. It was written by a doctor in Oregon, one of five states with legal protections for terminally ill patients who want to end their suffering. And in three weeks, she plans to use it to die.

Maynard has chosen to die Nov. 1 in her bedroom in Portland, Ore., surrounded by family - her mother and stepfather, her husband and her best friend, who is a physician. She said she wanted to wait until after her husband's birthday, which is Oct. 26. But she is getting sicker, experiencing more pain and seizures, she told People in an exclusive interview.

"I've had the medication for weeks," she wrote in an op-ed for CNN. "I am not suicidal. If I were, I would have consumed that medication long ago. I do not want to die. But I am dying. And I want to die on my own terms."
Bulb

Stepping 'outside' of ourselves expands our view of our thinking, our emotional awareness

New research finds that distance can be the key to cracking your dilemmas.

© What-buddha-said.net
It's easy to become rigidly fixed within a view of who you are ("This is just the way I am"), and to become unable to envision possibilities for expanding your personal capacities, thinking, and emotions outside of that fixed view. Unfortunately, this disables you from enlarging your perspective, which is necessary to solve conflicts or problems that you feel stuck inside of, or unable to change or alter.

President Dwight Eisenhower reportedly said that if you're having difficulty understanding a problem and how to solve it, "enlarge" it. That applies to life beyond the battlefield or White House. That is, "enlarging" how you envision a problem or situation you're stuck within can free you from the limitations of the perspective that imprisons you to begin with.

New empirical research demonstrates this, and shows that, in effect, distancing yourself from a problem or conflict enhances your reasoning, and helps you find new solutions through a broadened perspective. For a study reported in Psychological Science, Igor Grossmann of the University of Waterloo and Ethan Kross from the University of Michigan examined the ability to recognize the limits of one's own knowledge, search for a compromise, consider the perspectives of others, and recognize the possible ways in which the scenario could unfold.

The research found that you may think about a conflict more wisely if you consider it as an outside observer would.

"These results are the first to demonstrate a new type of bias within ourselves when it comes to wise reasoning about an interpersonal relationship dilemma," Grossmann says. "We call the bias 'Solomon's Paradox,' after the king who was known for his wisdom, but who still failed at making personal decisions."

Comment: Due to the nature of the adaptive unconscious, an outside observer would necessarily see situations more wisely, objectively. Read the discussion on our forum based on Timothy Wilson's book, Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious

Pi

World's largest Near Death Experiences (NDEs) study published

Dr Sam Parnia

Dr Sam Parnia
Recollections in relation to death, so-called out-of-body experiences (OBEs) or near-death experiences (NDEs), are an often spoken about phenomenon which have frequently been considered hallucinatory or illusory in nature; however, objective studies on these experiences are limited.

In 2008, a large-scale study involving 2060 patients from 15 hospitals in the United Kingdom, United States and Austria was launched. The AWARE (AWAreness during REsuscitation) study, sponsored by the University of Southampton in the UK, examined the broad range of mental experiences in relation to death. Researchers also tested the validity of conscious experiences using objective markers for the first time in a large study to determine whether claims of awareness compatible with out-of-body experiences correspond with real or hallucinatory events.

Comment: The paper, Parnia S, et al. AWARE - AWAreness during REsuscitation - A prospective study. Resuscitation, 2014 is available here

Family

Toddlers regulate behavior to avoid making adults angry

Baby
© Compassionate Sleep Solutions
When kids say "the darnedest things," it's often in response to something they heard or saw. This sponge-like learning starts at birth, as infants begin to decipher the social world surrounding them long before they can speak.

Now researchers at the University of Washington have found that children as young as 15 months can detect anger when watching other people's social interactions and then use that emotional information to guide their own behavior.

The study, published in the October/November issue of the journal Cognitive Development, is the first evidence that younger toddlers are capable of using multiple cues from emotions and vision to understand the motivations of the people around them.

"At 15 months of age, children are trying to understand their social world and how people will react," said lead author Betty Repacholi, a faculty researcher at UW's Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences and an associate professor of psychology. "In this study we found that toddlers who aren't yet speaking can use visual and social cues to understand other people - that's sophisticated cognitive skills for 15-month-olds."
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