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Posts Tagged ‘Psychopathology’

When ‘Just Cheering Up’ Isn’t Possible- the cognitions behind depression may be the key to ending misconceptions

December 7th, 2020 No comments

Your friend reveals to you that she suffers from depression. When she hangs out with you and your other friends, she always sees things negatively and seems to bring the whole group down. Why can’t she just think positive? Does she even have a real condition? Everyone gets sad sometimes. You don’t understand why she can’t just cheer up, especially because you always eventually cheer up when you’re sad. You’re confused because there is nothing she needs to be sad about anyways; she has a good life! Besides, it’s all in her head. She just needs to change her mindset. 

Depressed people are all too used to the unhelpful advice to ‘just cheer up.’ The cognitive processes behind depression mean that those suffering from it are simply unable to ‘just cheer up.’ They would cheer up if they were able to.

A multitude of misconceptions surround depression. The stigma surrounding depression often leaves individuals who suffer from it to be perceived as lazy, negative, sad, and dramatic. Depression can be very difficult to understand for those who have not suffered from it. This leads to the perpetuation of misconceptions and a lack of the effective support that depressed individuals need grately. If you’ve ever had thoughts similar to the ones above about someone in your life, while you may have good intentions and want them to get better, you are lacking a basic understanding of depression itself and the cognitive processes behind it. Here’s the thing: Platitudes such as, ‘just think positive!’ ‘snap out of it!’ and ‘you need to cheer up!,’ which are all too commonly used as advice for depressed people, completely miss the mark. Because of the various cognitive processes underlying depression, it is impossible for depressed individuals to fix the issue in the ways that are suggested. It’s not that simple. Believe me, if it was that simple, they would surely be free of their depression by now.

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Cognitive Implications of a “Journey Through Madness”

November 20th, 2020 No comments

Misconceptions about schizophrenia http://schizophreniasucks.blogspot.com/2013/07/schizophrenia-memes.html

Elyn Saks, an accomplished Professor of Law, Psychology, and Psychiatry and the Behavioral Sciences at University of Southern California Gould School of Law, has lived with schizophrenia for her entire life.  In her memoir, “The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness”, Saks explains that the cognitive nature of her illness was a large factor in her decision to write a book. She speaks out about how she has struggled every single day living with this disorder, yet she was ultimately incredibly cognitively and professionally successful.  Her disorder made it very difficult to hold attention in class or on school work when she was having a schizophrenic episode, and her diminished memory abilities made her work and relationships endure a different level of impairment. Elyn struggled with schizophrenia at a time when mental health was not at the forefront of societal concerns as it is today, and all of the symptoms she dealt with left her feeling alone and depressed, as making and keeping emotional connections with others was quite a troublesome task for her.  So, here is an incredibly accomplished woman working at a prestigious institution who has endured a debilitating disorder that is stereotypically portrayed and misunderstood with a connotation of violent, dangerous, and potentially crazy individuals.  The impressive work that Saks has done in sharing her story has contributed significantly to reducing the stigma of schizophrenia and has provided useful information in terms of the efficacy of various forms of treatment for the disorder, and you can click here to learn more about the efficacy of psychological treatment in schizophrenia.  My interest focused on how this crippling disorder affects individuals’ cognitive processes, in particular considering the detrimental effects it has on both memory and attention.

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Mood-Congruent Memory and Depression: A Vicious, Unrelenting Cycle

November 20th, 2020 No comments

Imagine this: You enter your dorm room after a long, difficult day, and you’re in a bad mood. You’ve been in the library all afternoon, you’re drenched to the core from walking back in the rain, and you still have what feels like an actual mountain of homework left. As you’re unpacking your bag, events from the day run through your mind, and they’re all negative: the test that didn’t go so well, the lunch that wasn’t great, the workout that felt particularly hard… the list goes on. Your day was not entirely bad, yet you’re only able to remember the not-so-great moments.

If you can relate to the above story, you’ve experienced the effects of mood-congruent memory, which is the idea that the memories we retrieve tend to be consistent with our current emotional state. This explains why people who are in a bad mood recall negative memories, and the same goes for all types of moods. Mood-congruency affects people’s attention, too, but I’m going to focus on memory. Essentially, individuals’ moods dictate the types of memories to which they have access, which in turn reinforce their current mood state. This can be helpful when the positive memories contribute to the happy mood, and it’s generally not a big deal when the bad mood is temporary, since the negative memories will likely soon be replaced by more cheerful ones. That being said, the reciprocal relationship between mood and memory can be dangerous when the sad mood state is constant. Consider, for instance, individuals who suffer from depression.

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How Just a Loud Noise Can Ruin Someone’s Day

May 2nd, 2014 1 comment

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Have you ever been focused on something, such as a homework assignment or a TV show, and been suddenly startled by a loud noise?  If so, you probably quickly focused on the noise and its source, then returned to the task at hand.  This is an example of attentional capture.  Attentional capture is the involuntary redirection of attention to an environmental cue, with the purpose of surviving potential predators or dangers.  Although we aren’t usually in danger, cues such as loud noises, flashes, or quick movements temporarily grab our attention from our current task.  Once we label the potential danger as being safe, we easily return our focus back to our original task.  However, not everyone can return to their previous task so easily.

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Money helps ADHD students perform on task!

November 23rd, 2013 1 comment

More and more children are being diagnosed with Attention-deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) across the United States every year. ADHD symptoms include problems paying attention, staying focused, controlling impulses, and uncontrollable hyperactivity (NIMH). There is much debate about whether this increase in diagnosis is because of an increase in occurrence of ADHD, or an increased need to pathologize childhood behavior in order to medicate. With this influx of ADHD diagnoses across the country, there are more ADHD students in schools across the country that are having significant problems learning and attending to different information. So, it is important that cognitive researchers look at the ways that ADHD affects the cognition and learning process of students so that school lessons can be more effectively taught!

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Bipolar Disorder: A Cognitive Curse or an Ego Booster?

November 16th, 2013 No comments

What do Britney Spears, Kurt Cobain, Marilyn Monroe, Jim Carrey, Robert Pattinson and Ben Stiller all have in common? Other than being rich, famous and having household names, they all struggle(d) with a mood disorder called Bipolar.

Bipolar Disorder (BD) is a mental disorder involving extremes. The stereotypical bipolar patient vacillates between severe depression and severe manic episodes with brief too long periods of remission between episodes. Remission simply refers to the time where a patient isn’t exhibiting symptoms from either category (e.g. they aren’t “cured” of BD, they just aren’t having a manic or depressive episode). A manic episode generally consists of extreme impulsivity, lack of control, feelings of grandeur, distractibility, racing thoughts, and feelings of irrational elation among other things; whereas depression generally consists of hopelessness, extreme sadness, lack of energy, irritability, lack of appetite and other various other symptoms.

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Memory in People With Schizophrenia: What is Impaired, What is Preserved?

April 30th, 2013 3 comments

One in four: This is the proportion of Americans living today that have suffered from a diagnosable mental illness within the last year (“Mental Illness,” 2011). Examining this statistic, it is clear that the effects of mental illness are widespread. In the US, for example, costs for direct treatment of mental illness are estimated to be US$ 148 billion annually, and indirect economic costs – like lost employment (due to medical leave) and decreased productivity, are two to six times higher than that (Panthare, 2003).

If you yourself aren’t directly afflicted with a disorder, chances are someone in your immediate or extended family may be. The outward physical manifestations of these disorders may be minimal for those possessing them, making them seem at times like “invisible illnesses;” that is, you may not be able to tell that someone has one of these disorders simply by looking at them. Complicating things even further for individuals with a mental disorder, many who are afflicted may not have received a proper diagnosis or are struggling without professional medical help.

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The Difference Between A Trip Up The Stairs and PTSD

April 30th, 2013 4 comments

We’ve all experienced it in some form. The sweaty palms, the pounding chest, the gasp of breath: the reliving of some unfortunate memory. Maybe it was a trip up the stairs, or a poorly executed class speech. These minor traumas delay our hectic lives for a moment; give us a second’s pause. But for some people, that pause lasts years instead of seconds.

So where is the distinction between these inconsequential daily events and a true trauma? What constitutes a true trauma for people our age? In 2006, Dorthe Berntsen and David Rubin designed a study to establish that distinction between a trip up the stairs and Post Traumatic Stress. The formal American Psychiatric Association (APA) definition for PTSD is “a history of exposure to a traumatic event meeting two criteria and symptoms from each of three symptom clusters: intrusive recollections, avoidant/numbing symptoms, and hyper-arousal symptoms” (APA, 2000). In other words, a mental roadblock.

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