Childhood trauma scars the brain and boosts depression risk

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Childhood trauma such as neglectful parenting causes physical scarring to the brain and increases the risk of severe depression, a new study has found.

For the first time, scientists have linked changes in the structure of the brain both to traumatic early-years experiences and poor mental health in later life.

Published in the Lancet, the study found a “significant” link between adults who had experienced maltreatment as children with a smaller insular cortex, part of the brain believed to help regulate emotion.

It focused particularly on a phenomenon known as “limbic scarring”, which previous research has hinted is linked to stress.

It involved 110 patients admitted to hospital with major depressive disorder who were then monitored for relapses over the following two years.

They were subjected to a detailed childhood trauma questionnaire, which retrospectively assessed historical incidents of physical abuse, physical neglect, emotional abuse, emotional neglect and sexual abuse.

The patients were then given MRI brain scans, which looked for changes to brain structure.

Dr Nils Opel from the University of Münster, Germany, who led the research, said: “Given the impact of the insular cortex on brain functions such as emotional awareness, it’s possible that the changes we saw make patients less responsive to conventional treatments.

“Future psychiatric research should therefore explore how our findings could be translated into special attention, care and treatment that could improve patient outcomes.”

The findings suggest that the reduction in the area of the insular cortex due to limbic scarring could make a future relapse more likely, and that childhood maltreatment is one of the strongest risk factors for major depression.

All participants in the current study, aged 18 to 60 years, had been admitted to hospital following a diagnosis of major depression and were receiving inpatient treatment.

What is Mental Abuse?

Author Article

Brenda knew something was wrong in her marriage to Bill, but she was unable to put her finger on what. She felt like she was abused but he never hit her, so she minimized and even dismissed any warning indicators that something else was off. She was intentionally exploited by her husband; endured regular insults and rejection, alternating with affirmation; and felt manipulated into doing or saying something out of character.

Abuse is not just physical. There are many other forms of abuse, such as sexual, financial, emotional, mental, and verbal. While some of the other forms of abuse are obvious, mental abuse can be difficult to spot and explain. Abuse can happen in a home between spouses, from a parent to a child, in social situations between friends, and even at work from a boss to an employee. The sex of the abuser or the victim is irrelevant. Abusers can be both male and female.

It starts simply with a casual comment about anything: color of the wall, dishes in the sink, or the car needing maintenance. The remark is taken out of context by the abuser. The abuser misperceives their spouse’s remark as disapproval of them in some way. No matter how hard the spouse tries to explain that wasn’t their intention, it doesn’t work. The abuser calls them a liar and is off on a tirade, which ends in the spouse feeling like they are losing their mind.

Here are eight typical mental abuse tactics using Brenda’s experiences with Bill as an example.

  1. Rage – One minute everything is fine and then out of nowhere, Bill would unleash in a rage. In a fit of intense, furious anger he startled and shocked Brenda into compliance or silence. Brenda would do whatever he demanded just to reduce the intensity of his rage or make it stop. Over time, she would learn his triggers to avoid his rages. He would not take responsibility for his reactions, instead, he blamed her for losing it.
  2. Gaslighting – Bill would lie about what Brenda did in the past, making her doubt her memory, perception, and even sanity. He claimed and gave evidence of her past wrong behavior further causing doubt. As this continued, she began to question what she said a minute ago. She even thought she was losing her mind. Bill used this to further take advantage of her.
  3. The Stare – This is an intense stare lasting 1-2 minutes to longer durations with no feeling behind it. At times, it would feel creepy. Bill did this to scare Brenda into submission and frequently mixed it with the silent treatment. Bill would even do this at social gatherings giving her “the look” which meant he was upset about something she said, who she was talking to, how long she was talking, or even her not giving him enough attention.
  4. Silent Treatment – Bill would punish by ignoring Brenda. Then he let her “off the hook” by demanding an apology even though she wasn’t to blame for whatever upset him. This was done to modify her behavior. Bill also had a history of cutting others out of his life permanently over small things. Brenda learned to fear the silent treatment as a worse experience than a rage.
  5. Projection – Bill dumped his issues onto Brenda as if she were the one doing it. For instance, he would accuse her of lying when he lied. Or he made her feel guilty for doing something wrong when he did the act. This created confusion for Brenda. She started to feel as though she was the unhealthy extension of everything he didn’t like about himself. She struggled to see where he ended and she began.
  6. Twisting – When Bill was confronted by Brenda or another person, he would twist it around to blame Brenda for his actions. He would not accept responsibility for his behavior and instead insisted that Brenda apologizes to him. He was relentless in his demands that it was Brenda’s fault. When she resisted or fought back, he would add other abusive behavior such as verbal assaults or threats until she was no longer able to take it and succumbed to his demands.
  7. Manipulation – A favorite manipulation tactic for Bill was to make Brenda fear the worst, such as abandonment, infidelity, or rejection. Knowing of Brenda’s abandonment as a child, he played on that fear to manipulate her into doing what he wanted. Even in instances where she would normally reply “No,” he used her fears as a control tactic to get her to agree to do something she wouldn’t. It didn’t take long before Brenda could not recognize herself as she allowed him to manipulate her into doing things she never wanted to experience.
  8. Victim Card – When all else failed, Bill resorted to playing the victim card. He would claim that his feelings were being hurt and it was Brenda’s job to make him feel better. Sometimes, he would bring up things from his past and accuse Brenda of triggering uncomfortable feelings and then demand that she take responsibility. This was designed to gain sympathy and further control her behavior.

Once mental abuse is realized, a decision needs to be made. Are you going to continue in the relationship or leave? Whatever you choose, do it with an awareness of what is happening, the trauma this invokes, and methods to counteract the mental abuse tactics.

What Is the Psychological Power of a Dog’s Name?

Author Article

It is a cocktail party and the room is filled with people engaged in many different conversations. Suddenly you think that you hear someone mention your name. You don’t recognize the voice of the speaker, but your attentionhas been caught and you focus in on that particular conversation, screening out all other sounds from your brain while you follow what is being said.

Names have that power for people, especially your first name. They have such a strong psychological pull that first responders in crisis situations (such as paramedics and firemen) are trained to find out the name of a person who appears to be wavering on the brink of unconsciousness so that they can use it when speaking to the injured person in order to see if there is any response. If there is even a flicker of consciousness, a person hearing their name (even spoken by an unfamiliar voice) will try to turn their head, or at least their eyes, in the direction of whoever is speaking their given name.

Dan Lentz (CC BY-ND 2.0)
Source: Dan Lentz (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Does a dog’s name have the same power to attract and focus the animal’s attention? Dog trainers and canine behaviorists are divided on this issue. When I was first learning the basics of dog training I was always instructed to begin each command with the dog’s name. Therefore, the correct grammar when addressing a dog would be “Lassie come,” “Lassie sit,” or “Lassie down.” The rationale was that saying the dog’s name caught its attention and informed it that the next sound that came from your mouth was directed toward him. In beginners’ dog classes, especially if the room is noisy and there is a lot of activity, you can often observe the effects of not following that grammatical principle. When the novice trainer says “Down Lassie” instead of “Lassie down,” the dog often looks at the trainer’s face in confusion. You get the impression that the command (in this instance “down”) has gone unnoticed by the dog, but when it hears its name it catches the dog’s attention, and now he is looking at the human’s face. He is not responding to the “down” command, however: What seems to be running through the dog’s mind is something like, “Okay, you have my full focused attention. So what is it that you want me to do?”

However, many contemporary dog trainers would disagree. Their argument is that there is nothing special about a dog’s name. If the dog is already focused on you, then, they say, there is no need to use the name: Simply giving the command should suffice. They agree that saying a dog’s name will often capture the dog’s attention, but they disagree that there is something special about the name itself. They believe that the name is simply a bit of sound which alerts the dog to the fact that their trainer is uttering something. The importance of the spoken name is just that it is in the trainer’s familiar voice and that means it’s a sound that demands attention. According to this principle, any arbitrary sound preceding the command, even if it is meaningless and has no relationship to the dog’s name, would work just as well, as long as the utterance was produced in the trainer’s familiar voice. Thus you might as well say “Refrigerator come” or “Refrigerator down.”

Further, these trainers suggest that a dog’s name, spoken by a completely unfamiliar voice, should have little or no effect in capturing the dog’s attention.

A team of researchers led by Amritha Mallikarjun of the University of Maryland-College Park decided to test whether there really is an attention-getting power in a dog’s name, much as there is in a human’s name. They chose canine test subjects who averaged a bit over four years of age and had, therefore, heard their name continuously for a substantial amount of time.

To create the target stimulus, prior to the test visit, each dog owner was asked the name or nickname that their dog was most commonly called by. This name was then recorded, and repeated 15 times, by a female native English speaker from Eastern Pennsylvania. The idea was that the dog would hear either its own name or the name of another dog in the study spoken by the same unfamiliar female voice. In addition, as a background distractor, the researchers mimicked the sounds of a noisy party by having nine different women recording passages read from nine different text sources, all of which could be mixed together to form a backdrop drone of human voices.

The test situation consisted of a small booth in which the dog and its owner sat. On either side, there was a speaker through which the various sounds could be played. The notion was simple: If the dog’s attention was caught by a particular sound it was presumed to be highly likely that the dog would turn its head in the direction of that sound. A video camera mounted in the booth monitored the dog’s responses, and the videos were scored to determine how long the dog paid attention to a particular sound stream played on either of the speakers.

The dogs were presented with sound streams containing either their own name or the name of another dog repeated over a 22-second period. This was repeated for several blocks of trials. Contrary to the expectations of some trainers, even though the voice saying their name was completely unfamiliar, the dogs paid more attention to their own name sounds than to the sound of an unfamiliar name. Furthermore, even when the sounds of the dogs’ names were superimposed on a medium-level distractor stream of conversational sounds, the dogs would focus more on the speaker voicing their own name. In a follow-up experiment, the researchers made the sound level of the dog’s name and the sound level of the distracting background conversations the same, and even under those difficult conditions, the sound of the dog’s name had a strong enough psychological pull to cause the animal to focus most of its attention on the speaker producing it.

The results seem quite clear: A dog’s name has psychological power. It attracts the dog’s attention even when the name is spoken by a voice unfamiliar to the animal, and even when their name is competing with an environment filled with other human voices saying a variety of irrelevant things. This seems to suggest that the practice of preceding a command with a dog’s name is, in fact, a sensible and effective way of capturing the dog’s attention, especially in a noisy environment. The investigators conclude:

“Our study shows that generally, dogs will behaviorally respond to their name even if a sound source is not immediately clear. This has practical implications for working dogs, like search-and-rescue dogs that may need to take commands from someone other than their handler in emergency situations, and may need to do so at a distance, when the speaker is out of view….even in the context of multitalker background babble.”

Copyright SC Psychological Enterprises Ltd. May not be reprinted or reposted without permission

This Is What Science Says About People Who Like Being Alone

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If you’re more of the lone wolf type we have some good news for you: You may be a genius.

According to a 2016 study by researchers at Singapore Management University and the London School of Economics, those who exhibit high IQ scores experience lower life satisfaction when they socialize more often. And that means those smarty pants types likely choose to spend more time alone.

To come to this conclusion, the team analyzed survey responses that were part of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. That survey, Inverseexplained, measured life satisfaction, intelligence, and health.

In total, the team looked at the responses of 15,197 individuals between the ages of 18 and 28. The data showed that while spending time in dense crowds (for example, at a party) leads to unhappiness. However, socialization with close friends typically leads to happiness. Unless, of course, the person exhibits high intelligence.

These contradicting feelings may all be thanks to our hunter and gatherer ancestors. The authors, Inverse reported, explained the findings with the “savanna theory of happiness.”

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“The savanna theory of happiness is the idea that life satisfaction is not only determined by what’s happening in the present but also influenced by the ways our ancestors may have reacted to the event,” reporter Sarah Slot wrote. She added, “evolutionary psychology argues that, just like any other organ, the human brain has been designed for and adapted to the conditions of an ancestral environment. Therefore, the researchers argue, our brains may have trouble comprehending and dealing with situations that are unique to the present.”

In plain speech, this means that while our ancestors got to spend more time with close friends and family in less densely populated areas, we modern humans are stuck being surrounded by strangers all the time thanks to the population boom over the last several thousand years.

“In general, more intelligent individuals are more likely to have ‘unnatural’ preferences and values that our ancestors did not have,” researcher Satoshi Kanazawa told Inverse. “It is extremely natural for species like humans to seek and desire friendships and, as a result, more intelligent individuals are likely to seek them less.”

Beyond an intelligent person’s preferences to be alone, the team also found that smarter people were less likely to feel that they benefited from friendships. Again, this may be because our ancestors tended to benefit from group thinking, while our more intelligent ancestors were able to solve problems alone.

So, next time you feel like bailing on plans with your friends to stay in and watch a movie alone go ahead and do it. It’s the smartest decision you’ll ever make.

How Clinical Depression Affects Mind and Body

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The term  requires antidepressant medication, psychotherapy, or both.

People with this form of depression don’t just feel sad and hopeless; rather, they have a constellation of both mental and physical symptoms that interfere with their lives.

In addition to feeling sad, they often experience guilt. Some don’t actually identify their feelings of guilt, but do admit to feeling that they’re letting others down.

Depressed individuals also typically lose interest in everyday activities. Oftentimes, their thinking has slowed, and they may even experience confusion and memory loss.

Particularly in older adults, these symptoms make it challenging to differentiate depression from Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.

Patients with major depression sometimes may even want to harm themselves. Their emotional pain is so great that they believe the only way to escape the pain is through suicide.

Others, because of religious or other beliefs, may not have suicidal thoughts but believe they would be better off dead.

Fortunately, just because someone talks about feeling suicidal does not necessarily mean that they will act on those feelings.

However, if someone makes any suggestion of suicidal thinking, it needs to be taken seriously and assessed by an experienced mental health professional.

Physical symptoms that commonly occur in clinical depression include fatigue and a decrease in energy levels. This is often accompanied by insomnia and restless sleep, although some patients experience increased sleep.

Patients also typically lose their appetite and then experience weight loss. Such weight loss can raise concerns about physical illnesses as well.

There are some depressed patients, however, who experience an increase in appetite and gain weight.

Overcoming the Bystander Effect | The Psychology of Heroism

BBC Article

In 1964, Kitty Genovese was killed outside her apartment building in densely populated Queens, New York. As the story goes, there were dozens of people that heard the young woman screaming for help but none of them acted or went to Genovese’s aid. The infamous murder launched decades of studies investigating the “bystander effect,” where a diffusion of responsibility and fear of risk leads to inaction on the part of people who may be able to rectify a risky situation.

“Fear is a huge de-motivator for people,” Matt Langdon said in a phone interview. Langdon is the founder of the Hero Construction Company, a company that helps train everyday people to develop and foster heroic tendencies. Langdon has worked closely with renowned psychological researcher Philip Zimbardo, one of the foremost authorities on the bystander effect and its impacts on human behavior. “What we try to do is increase the small chance that any one person will act and make it more likely they’ll do something. And once that happens, that’s a gateway to other people helping and they might be motivated to get past their fear to do something as well.”

Breaking that dam of apprehension can be as simple as someone speaking up when they see something troubling. In 2018, a young woman riding in a crowded subway car in New York was verbally assaulted at random by another straphanger, later identified as Anna Lushchinskaya. It wasn’t until Lushchinskaya started kicking the young woman that people stepped in between attacker and her victim, physically restraining Lushchinskaya until police were able to apprehend her. The entire exchange was captured on camera, and it’s a prime example of how a simple action can break down the barrier of the bystander effect swiftly.

But why does the bystander effect happen in the first place? Frank Farley, a professor of psychology at Temple University and former head of the American Psychological Association, believes that humans are unique in their ability to manage and assess risk and adapt quickly to situations requiring that sort of critical thinking. “If there’s a lot of people around during an incident, you may feel that you don’t have to take a risk,” he said. “So you don’t have to jump into the swirling river or run into the burning building.”

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Stephanie Preston, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, says that those reactions aren’t just present in humans either. She points to a research study where rats were presented with an opportunity to help a fellow rodent and that, once an unfamiliar rat was released into the scenario, the group of familiar rats saw their stress hormones spike. “When there’s strangers, there’s this added inhibition from acting,” she said. “There’s this fear of what the other people are going to think, or what they’re going to do, and how they’re going to judge you, and you don’t have any knowledge about if they could be more helpful.” Diffusion of responsibility and fear of judgement are driving factors behind the bystander effect, and why many would rather do nothing than risk making a serious mistake.

The same self-preservation instinct goes into the “freeze” response many people have to especially traumatic events. Many who report freezing up during a trauma also report entering a sort of dissociative state and not being able to recall the events. Researchers say that could be the body attempting to reduce emotional stress both during the event and in its aftermath, an emotionally protective reaction that can dull the impacts of afflictions like PTSD.

Freezing is what happens when neither fight nor flight is a viable option, but overcoming paralysis during events where those options are available is about being equally cognizant of what your brain is doing as well as cultivating a pattern of action. “Nobody is born with courage, it is literally something that you have to learn,” Kate Swoboda, psychologist and author of “The Courage Habit”, said. “If you practice courageous behaviors once, they can be replicated again. The more they are practiced and replicated, the more they become part of someone’s identity. Then once it becomes part of your identity, it becomes a habitual response to stress instead of shutting down, instead of backing away.” Heroism is less about exceptional individuals swooping in to save the day than everyday people acting on instincts that have been developed over a lifetime.

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It can even be something developed through the course of a career. When terrorists swept into the Taj Hotel in Mumbai in 2008, it was the hotel staff that stepped up and became heroes. The Taj is legendarily committed to service, and many have credited that philosophy with saving countless lives during the assault. “It’s not that the staff were fearless, they were very scared, but it was despite those fears that they acted heroically and selflessly,” said Anthony Maras, director of the upcoming film “Hotel Mumbai,” which tells the story of the Taj Hotel attacks. “There were all these key moments where the staff could have opted to save themselves or they could put themselves at great risk in order to save their guests.” More often than not, the Taj staff chose the latter, putting themselves in the crosshairs of a terrorist’s gun in order to save strangers. “The staff were there for them,” Maras said.

You don’t have to risk life and limb to be a hero, though. Farley, the Temple professor, breaks heroism into two categories with equal merit. “‘Big H’ heroism is the extreme behavior, saving a life, running into a burning building,” he said. “‘Small H’ heroism is about gratitude. Helping someone across the street, helping a friend that’s being bullied in school.” It all comes down to cultivating a personality that works against simply being a bystander when faced with a stressful situation. “The opposite of a hero isn’t a villain,” says Langdon, of the Hero Construction Company. “It’s a bystander.”

9 Signs You Might Be An Ambivert

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I’m sure you’ve been asked many times whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert. For some people, it’s an easy choice, but for most of us, it’s difficult to choose one way or the other.It’s hard to choose because the introvert/extrovert dichotomy reflects a tired and outdated view of personality. Personality traits exist along a continuum, and the vast majority of us aren’t introverts or extroverts — we fall somewhere in the middle.


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Personality consists of a stable set of preferences and tendencies through which we approach the world. Personality traits form at an early age and are fixed by early adulthood. Many important things about you change over the course of your lifetime, but your personality isn’t one of them.

“Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.” – Bruce Lee

The continuum between introversion and extroversion captures one of the most important personality traits. It’s troubling that we’re encouraged to categorize ourselves one way or the other because there are critical strengths and weaknesses commonly associated with each type.

Adam Grant at Wharton set out to study this phenomenon, and his findings are fascinating. First, he found that two-thirds of people don’t strongly identify as introverts or extroverts. These people (aka, the vast majority of us) are called ambiverts, who have both introverted and extroverted tendencies. The direction ambiverts lean toward varies greatly, depending on the situation.

Think of introversion and extroversion as a spectrum, with ambiversion lying somewhere in the middle:

Ambiverts have a distinct advantage over true introverts and extroverts. Because their personality doesn’t lean too heavily in either direction, they have a much easier time adjusting their approach to people based on the situation. This enables them to connect more easily, and more deeply, with a wider variety of people.

Grant’s research also disproved the powerful and widely held notion that the best-performing salespeople are extroverts. He found that ambiverts’ greater social flexibility enabled them to outsell all other groups, moving 51 percent more product per hour than the average salesperson. Notice how sales increased as extroversion increased, peaking with those who were just moderately extroverted.

Grant explained the finding this way:

“Because they naturally engage in a flexible pattern of talking and listening, ambiverts are likely to express sufficient assertiveness and enthusiasm to persuade and close a sale, but are more inclined to listen to customers’ interests and less vulnerable to appearing too excited or overconfident.”

How Ambiversion Works in the Brain

How social you are is largely driven by dopamine, the brain’s feel-good hormone. We all have different levels of dopamine-fueled stimulation in the neocortex (the area of the brain that is responsible for higher mental functions such as language and conscious thought). Those who naturally have high levels of stimulation tend to be introverts — they try and avoid any extra social stimulation that might make them feel anxious or overwhelmed. Those with low levels of stimulation tend to be extroverts. Under-stimulation leaves extroverts feeling bored, so they seek social stimulation to feel good.

Most people’s levels of natural stimulation don’t reach great extremes, though it does fluctuate. Sometimes you may feel the need to seek out stimulation, while other times, you may avoid it.

Finding Out Whether You’re An Ambivert

It’s important to pin down where you fall in the introversion/extroversion scale. By increasing your awareness of your type, you can develop a better sense of your tendencies and play to your strengths.

If you think that you might be an ambivert, but aren’t certain, see how many of the following statements apply to you. If most of them apply, you’re most likely an ambivert.

    1. I can perform tasks alone or in a group. I don’t have much preference either way.
    2. Social settings don’t make me uncomfortable, but I tire of being around people too much.
    3. Being the center of attention is fun for me, but I don’t like it to last.
    4. Some people think I’m quiet, while others think I’m highly social.
    5. I don’t always need to be moving, but too much down time leaves me feeling bored.
    6. I can get lost in my own thoughts just as easily as I can lose myself in a conversation.
    7. Small talk doesn’t make me uncomfortable, but it does get boring.
    8. When it comes to trusting other people, sometimes I’m skeptical, and other times, I dive right in.
    9. If I spend too much time alone, I get bored, yet too much time around other people leaves me feeling drained.
    10. The trick to being an ambivert is knowing when to force yourself to lean toward one side of the spectrum when it isn’t happening naturally. Ambiverts with low self-awareness struggle with this. For example, at a networking event, a self-aware ambivert will lean toward the extroverted side of the scale, even when it has been a long day and he or she has had enough of people. Mismatching your approach to the situation can be frustrating, ineffective, and demoralizing for ambiverts.

Bringing It All Together

TalentSmart has conducted research with over a million people and found that those in the upper echelon of performance at work also tend to be highly self-aware (90 percent of them, in fact). By gaining a better sense of where you fall on the introversion/extroversion scale, you can build insight into your tendencies and preferences, which increases your self-awareness and emotional intelligence. This will help you improve your performance.

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.

What 8 Psychologists Do to Get Through Their Crappiest Days

Author Article

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It’s a nonnegotiable fact of life: Everyone has bad dayssometimes. We all have different ideas of what constitutes a crappy day and different reasons for having one, but it’s comforting to know that nobody is immune from having a rotten, awful, stinkin’ day at least once in a while. That includes psychologists, some of the very people trained to help others manage their own bad days (and mental health in general). Luckily, psychologists also happen to have some very useful tools for digging themselves out of a funk.

Here, eight psychology experts tell us what they do on those days where everything just sucks. While many of them have multiple methods for dealing with those bad moods, here are their most tried-and-true strategies.

1. Focus on rewarding work.

Work is the number one bad-day fix for Dolores Malaspina, M.D., M.S.P.H., a professor and the director of the Psychosis Program in the department of psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “[Seeing patients is] a great way to get through tough days,” she tells SELF.

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Immersing herself in patient sessions helps Dr. Malaspina focus on the present instead of whatever is occupying her mind, she says: “Being in the moment with a patient can be centering.”

Rather than compounding her bad day, a particularly hard or tiring session can be an especially excellent way to center her thoughts. As Dr. Malaspina explains, these kinds of sessions require complete engagement in a way that takes her out of her bad mental state.

2. Take time for your passion project.

Carrie Landin, Psy.D., a psychologist at the UC Health Integrative Medicine Center, tells SELF that her go-to mood-booster is her passion project, Dame Podcast.

“When I have a bad day, I try to make some time to work on my podcast, whether that’s researching my next episode, editing a current episode, or finding sound bites and music,” Landin says. “It’s about women in history who have significantly influenced the culture for women in positive ways.”

Landin is currently editing an episode about Sally Ride, the first American woman astronaut to enter space. Ride’s legacy helped open up a field to women that was historically dominated by men. “I enjoy [working on the podcast] tremendously,” Landin says. “It brings me fulfillment.”

3. Try to zoom out.

“I try to be aware of negative thinking that contributes to my own stress levels and to think about problems in a balanced and flexible way,” Martin Antony, Ph.D., an author, professor, and graduate program director in the department of psychology at Ryerson University in Toronto, tells SELF. To figure out if he’s giving something too much weight, he will ask himself, “Is that thing that’s stressing me out as important as it feels?” or “Will it still matter a week from now or a month from now?”

4. Don’t let a bad moment mean a bad day.

It’s all about perspective for Scott Bea, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist, psychotherapy trainer, and supervisor in the Adult Psychiatry Residency Training Program at Cleveland Clinic. “There are challenging moments, [and] I try to experience them as just moments, not days,” Bea tells SELF.

When he does have an all-around difficult shift, Bea does his best to leave it at the door on his way out. “I have worked on not having many thoughts about work when I am not at work,” he says. For Bea, this is essential for preventing burnout or compassion fatigue. Also known as secondary traumatic stress, compassion fatigue indicates the emotional and physical depletion that can impact care providers who work with people who have experienced trauma. In severe cases, it can even contribute to mental health issues such as PTSD, so creating boundaries when possible is incredibly important for care providers, Bea explains.

5. Acknowledge and accept the crappy moments.

The first bad-day step for Nancy Burgoyne, Ph.D., chief clinical officer and vice president of clinical services at the Family Institute at Northwestern University, is to simply acknowledge the reality that she’s in a bad mood. If it happens when she’s at work, she doesn’t make it worse by beating herself up for being a “bad” therapist. She asks, “Would you want a therapist who couldn’t ‘get it’ that life can take a toll at times?”

After accepting her bad mood, Burgoyne tries to avoid blowing the impact of a crappy day out of proportion, especially when it comes to below-average sessions with her patients. “I ground myself…by taking the long view,” she tells SELF. “I know that therapy is a process, and therefore no one session will determine its impact.”

(By the way, if you’re in therapy, had a less than stellar session, and are wondering if your therapist is having a crappy day, it’s OK to ask. “A good therapist will accept that as feedback and be open to looking at what your experience has been,” Burgoyne says.)

6. Get outside.

Shout-out to the beautiful scenery and predictably good weather of Northern California, where J. Faye Dixon, Ph.D., is a psychologist, assistant clinical professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and ADHD clinic director at UC Davis Medical School. “On really difficult days, I try to get out in nature for an impromptu walk just to reset,” she tells SELF.

Since Dixon already runs four or five times a week, many days—bad ones included—have her personal mood-boosting duo of fresh air and endorphins built into the schedule.

7. Have a go-to chill move.

On bad days, Nanci Pradas, Ph.D., L.I.C.S.W., a Massachusetts-based psychologist, turns to diaphragmatic breathing, a relaxation method she teaches many of her patients for times of stress or anxiety.

“You breathe in through your nose slowly, take a little pause, and breathe out through your mouth. You can put your hands on your stomach if you’re just learning it; your stomach should go out when you breathe in,” she tells SELF. Pradas also recommends thinking of a scene or image you find pleasant or relaxing—“I like the beach and the waves”—as well as some kind of a mantra. “I say, ‘In with peace and relaxation, out with all my stress,’ ” she explains.

Pradas says that this method of relaxation became easier with daily practice, so now she can call upon it whenever she needs it.

8. Talk it out.

Michael Brustein, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist based in New York City, tells SELF that talking to a trusted friend about what’s going on allows him to find some clarity and perspective. “Expressing my thoughts and feelings with others helps to validate and organize my experience, making it feel less ambiguous and daunting,” he explains.

The back-and-forth also makes Brustein feel less alone in his struggles. “Using social support helps me feel more connected and reminds me that I’m not the only [one] who suffers,” he explains.

As Brustein has seen in his clinical experience, people often fear that expressing their emotions will make them a “burden” on others. But isolating yourself can make a bad mood even worse, he says, adding, “I believe reaching out and using social support [are] key for well-being.”
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Mental Health Awareness Means Talking About All Types of Mental Illness

Let’s keep talking.
Morgan Johnson

Mental illness is incredibly common: Nearly one in five adults in the United States lives with a mental illnessaccording to the National Institutes of Mental Health(NIMH). But in spite of its prevalence, there still exists a tremendous amount of stigma associated with mental health conditions. That stigma can have far-reaching consequences, from limiting our understanding of these conditions to interfering with a person’s willingness to seek treatment when they truly need it.

The good news is that, culturally, we’re making some headway on that stigma. I have written and edited health content for a little over a decade, and it’s been amazing to see how the conversation around mental health has evolved in that time. Many brave people have publicly shared stories about their experiences navigating mental health conditions. And as the wellness industry has exploded, so too has our cultural understanding that being well and taking care of yourself requires tending to your mental health, and that means seeking help if you need it.

It’s no longer shocking when a celebrity discusses seeing a therapist, or living with depression or anxiety. That’s in part because we’ve made some progress toward normalizing these things and making it clear that they’re incredibly common and nothing to be ashamed of. There’s still work to do, of course, but there’s also good reason to feel optimistic. We’re heading in the right direction.

That said, certain mental health conditions still largely remain in the shadows, with an unequal share of awareness and attention. One such condition is bipolar disorder.

This is on my mind because March 30 is World Bipolar Day.

The mission of this day is to bring awareness to bipolar disorder and to eliminate social stigma. Bipolar disorder is one of the most misunderstood mental illnesses, and the confusion around it persists even as we make strides in the way we talk about other mental health conditions. Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder characterized by significant shifts in mood and energy levels, according to the NIMH. These shifts are referred to as “mood episodes” and they can come in various forms, though the two main types are manic episodes and depressive episodes. There are several types of bipolar disorder, each dependent on the symptoms that someone experiences and the severity, duration, and combination of those symptoms.

Bipolar disorder is a complicated, multifaceted mental illness that can significantly impact someone’s daily life. So why isn’t it given the time and space that anxiety and depression are given in our collective conversations around mental health?

Certainly part of the story here is that anxiety and depression are among the most common mental illnesses. While an estimated 31.1 percent of adults in the U.S. will experience an anxiety disorder at some point, an estimated 4.4 percent will experience bipolar disorder. That may be a much smaller slice of our population, but it’s still millions of people affected by the condition.

Of course, this isn’t to say that the work in busting stigma around anxiety and depression is done; rather, it’s a call to action to bring that energy to other mental health conditions as well.

At SELF, we strive to talk about the nuances of mental health conditions not just on awareness days but throughout the calendar year. We’ve been making a genuine effort over the past few months to create more content around a wider range of mental health conditions, including bipolar disorder. That includes talking about the basics (like key facts people should know about bipolar disorder) as well as real stories from people living with the condition (like this personal essay about what it feels like to experience psychosis, which is a symptom for some people with bipolar disorder). But the conversation shouldn’t end there. We’re doing our best to give genuinely helpful information to people living with bipolar disorder, which means writing about treatmentsymptoms, how to deal with mood episodes, and how to navigate medication side effects.

Beyond bipolar disorder, we have also been working to provide more coverage of other heavily stigmatized and misunderstood mental health conditions such as schizophreniaborderline personality disorder, and OCD, among others.

I’m proud of the work that we’ve done in this space and the stories that we’ve elevated and given a platform to. But I’m also aware that it’s just a start, and that there’s so much more we can and should be doing, and so many more stories that we should strive to tell. SELF’s goal is to help people feel better. In order to live up to that mission we need to do as much as we can to raise awareness and eliminate stigma all year long—exactly what World Bipolar Day calls for.

11 Great Jobs for Introverts

Author Article

Myths about introverts abound. For example, not all introverts are quiet, avoid social interaction, or would classify themselves as “shy.”

In fact, many introverts are quite sociable and have excellent people skills. However, after an experience of socializing, an introvert will often need alone time to recharge. While an extrovert might feel energized by heading up a meeting or working in a group, an introvert might thrive in the moment, but need a lot more time alone to regenerate.

Professionally speaking, while introverts are equally as capable as extroverts of doing the same tasks (running meetings, giving presentations, etc.), they may be more fulfilled and feel much more at ease in a career that matches their strengths.

The best jobs for introverts will:

  • Involve more one-on-one interaction rather than with large groups
  • Offer quiet workspaces rather than large, open spaces with a lot of noise and energy
  • Involve independent work, rather than large collaboration sessions with a lot of people

Here are 11 jobs that are good fits for introverts:

1. Accountant

A lot of accounting is done solo, and involves creating financial reports, analyzing data, and developing quality policies policies. As an accountant moves into a managerial role, they can also start to oversee the work of junior accounts, which can provide more connection at work, but still in a one-on-one way.

2. Landscape Designer

A creative career, landscape designers create a horticultural plan for a particular space, then execute on the vision they agree upon with their client. They can incorporate things like ponds, bridges, walkways, and solar lighting to create a magical outdoor space. It involves a lot of time alone, but can also involve interacting with contractors to execute on a large scale.

3. Behavioral Therapist

This career involves supporting people through mental illnesses and disorders like depression, anxiety, ADHD, and addiction. Behavioral therapists do a lot of active listening, interacting with people one-on-one to help. It can be a very rewarding career, and a good fit for many introverts.

4. Editor

Both writing and editing can be great professions for introverts–especially those with a strong attention to detail. In addition to combing through copy for grammar and spelling errors, editors may also need to fact-check, a satisfying and often intellectually engaging task. Bonus: depending on the position, you can often do the bulk of your work from home (in your PJs if you want).

5. Graphic Designer

Quality graphic designers become highly skilled at software like Photoshop to create beautiful, custom visuals that really say something. It is a highly creative profession that takes advantage of an introvert’s skills without being overwhelmingly full of large-group meetings, etc. (Can also be done in PJs.)

6. Commercial pilot

Pilots spend plenty of time alone or in one-on-one situations. An important job that helps keep people safe, being a pilot also (obviously) comes with excellent travel perks. After completing your flight instructor certificate, you need 1500 hours to work for an airline in the U.S. If you’re diligent, you can get that done in a year, making your total time from zero to commercial pilot three years.

7. IT Manager

IT managers handle operation and security of an organization’s information systems. This often involves managing the technical budget; taking care of both software and hardware upgrades; and (depending on the size of the organization) directing junior members of the IT team. It can be both a challenging and rewarding profession.

8. Research Scientist

A research scientist may work for a for-profit company (like a pharmaceutical company), or the government; educational institution; or even an environmental organization. Researchers design and perform laboratory experiments and tests, gather and analyze data, and determine outcomes. It often involves a lot of strictly solo work, or in small teams.

9. Social Media Manager

While it may seem counterintuitive (a “social” position for an introvert), managing an organization’s social media accounts involves a lot of time alone. Outstanding social media managers are both creative and perceptive, with excellent writing skills and a sense of how to curate content to match the audience and brand.

10. HVAC mechanic

HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, and HVAC mechanics that know what they’re doing are always in demand. Given how ubiquitous HVAC systems are and how devastating it can be if they go down, HVAC mechanics have a lot of job security. They spend a lot of time solo fixing systems, for which clients are very grateful.

11. Software Engineer

While advancements like artificial intelligence will make huge changes in many industries including software engineering, currently software engineers are still very much in demand. They use computer programming languages like Java, Python, and Ruby to build networks, operating systems, databases, and/or mobile apps.

We Should Be Talking About Suicide — Here’s How to Do It Correctly

Author Article
By De Elizabeth and Lauren Rearick

As the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, suicide remains an ongoing topic in the mental health community, and around the world. With more than 43 million American adults currently dealing with mental illness, the importance of how we talk about suicide has once again come to light in the wake of three highly publicized deaths, all within the span of a week: those of Sydney Aiello, a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida; a second, currently unnamed Parkland student; and Jeremy Richman, a 49-year-old father of a Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victim.

All three deaths were reported on within the same week, but it’s not possible to know if there was a link between each incident beyond the fact that all three people were impacted by gun violence at some point in their lives. For his part, Richman founded the Avielle Foundation in honor of his daughter, who was among the 20 students and 7 adults killed at Sandy Hook in 2012. The non-profit organization was created to “prevent violence by building compassion through brain research, community engagement, and education.” And Sydney’s mother, Cara Aiello, told CBS Miami that her daughter had struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder following the 2018 attack at MSDHS, noting Sydney remained fearful of encountering another act of gun violence. She added that she wants her daughter’s struggles to help others, and she reminded community members to seek help if they needed it.

Finding that help isn’t always easy, especially for young people with limited resources. “About halfway through my freshman year of college, I realized I was struggling with mental health,” a 20-year-old named Delaney told MTV News. Although her school provided counseling, there was a waitlist. “I was advised to go out into the community to seek out a therapist,” she explained. “I was fortunate enough to be able do do that, but I know that not everyone is.” Most mental health programs prioritize helping those with suicidal ideations if they can, but people should feel empowered to seek help at the first sign of stress, whether minor or dire.

And to point to PTSD, or one specific incident alone, as the sole cause of a suicide can dangerously oversimplify suicide and suicidal ideation, and leave many gun violence survivors feeling hopeless. Surviving a school shooting can certainly be disruptive to someone’s mental health, and such an event can understandably cause lasting trauma. However, ahost of issues contribute to instances of suicide, which is why it is imperative that those dealing with suicidal ideation feel safe enough to ask for help, and that our society at large is better equipped to talk about suicide, and provide support and resources to those experiencing ideations.

“What we know to be true is that if somebody dies by suicide in a specific community … then the other folks in that community are at a much higher risk for also dying by suicide. And that’s why the word contagion comes up in this conversation,” Chris Bright, Director of Public Training for The Trevor Project, told MTV News. “For vulnerable populations … the exposure to inappropriate ways of talking about suicide or inappropriate depictions of suicide puts them at a higher risk for attempting suicide after that exposure.” For that reason, Trevor Project offers a variety of resources for young people who might be struggling with suicidal ideation, including both a phone and text hotline, as well as a chat service.

Melissa McCormick, a licensed mental health counselor in Longwood, Florida, also told MTV News that people should avoid sharing specific details of how someone died. “When someone can envision details of a traumatic event, they can imagine it more thoroughly, and are more likely to struggle with trauma responses,” McCormick said.

The three recent deaths have received a lot of media coverage, but not all reporting has been responsible, with many outlets using troubling language to describe the events. (MTV News is choosing not to link to the stories in question in order to minimize the chances of contagion.)

But the responsibility extends beyond reporters; through social media, we have the ability to share information instantaneously with followers and friends alike. While posting news stories of highly publicized suicides is often done in good faith, such efforts can sometimes have an adverse effect. We don’t know who within our online circles might be struggling, and stories that simply relay details of suicides without any hope or information for prevention can be hugely damaging, especially if dangerous language is used.

Both Bright and McCormick note that we should never use the phrase “committed suicide” when talking about someone’s death; rather, it’s important to say “died by suicide,” as HuffPost points out.

Bright posed the question: “When do you normally hear the phrase ‘committed?’ The answer is, you usually hear it in regards to a crime… You don’t often hear it in ways that have positive connotations. So when you use that word, you’re further stigmatizing something that is already hard to talk about.”

“Died by suicide,” in opposition, is neutral. “It’s just a very factual way to talk about something that isn’t stigmatized,” Bright said. “It doesn’t use words that make people afraid.” McCormick added that making these conscious word choices “shows the importance of shifting our perspective on suicide.”

None of this is to say that we shouldn’t discuss suicide at all; in fact, it’s just the opposite. We must discuss it, both in order to continue to lower stigma, but also to reassure other people that they aren’t alone.

And that’s why it’s more crucial than ever to have the proper tools to discuss suicide safely and productively. Our words matter, and by using the right language, we can create a safer environment for those struggling with suicidal ideation. Responsible conversations can empower people to ask for help; sometimes, it’s just as simple as sharing information about suicide prevention, or telling a friend that you’re there to listen. But it’s also crucial that people feel they have access to seek professional help should they need it, without stigma; in some cases, you might not be equipped to help someone in the way a counselor or a doctor can, and the best way you can be there them is by supporting them while they find the care they need.

“Trauma and loss don’t just go away, you have to learn to live with it through getting support,” David Hogg, a member of March for Our Lives, the student-led organization dedicated to gun reform, wrote on Twitter. “We should be spending all the money politicians want to spend on arming teachers on something that will actually save lives, like mental health care in our schools.”

There are also online resources available for people experiencing suicidal ideation, and those who want to learn more about how to properly discuss suicide. Half of Us,  The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and the Trans Lifeline also offer support services through telephone hotlines (call 1-800-273-TALK), while the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Suicide Awareness Voices of Education offer online resources. The National Alliance for Mental Illness helpline can help provide answers to questions about treatment options; though they do not provide therapy or recommend individualized recommendations for therapists in your area, they may be able to help point callers in the right direction. The American Psychological Association also providesresources and databases for those seeking professional help.

“Young people should be able to talk about suicide,” Bright emphasized to MTV News. “They should be able to talk about their feelings and the things that they have going on in their lives, and they want to be able to identify the friends who are going to handle that type of conversation with respect, dignity, and support.

If you or someone you know is struggling with their emotional health, head to halfofus.com for ways to get help.

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