Using Digital To Address The Mental Health ‘Silent Epidemic’

Digital tools and platforms are a natural fit for overcoming the top barriers to getting mental healthcare: accessibility, cost and social stigma, says Emily Thayer, a Senior Consultant within Cognizant Consulting’s Healthcare Practice.

Untreated mental health conditions have long been a top healthcare concern. In 2019, fewer than half of Americans with a diagnosed mental illness received treatment for that condition, according to the US National Institute of Mental Health.

Not only is untreated mental illness detrimental to patients’ health — it’s also a strain on national healthcare costs. In fact, mental health disorders cost the US economy an estimated $4.6 billion per year in unnecessary ER visits and $300 billion in lost workplace productivity, making mental health disorders among the most costly untreated conditions in the US.

The pandemic has only accelerated the need for care — according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study, over 40% of US adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression in January 2021, compared with 11% in the first six months of 2019. Given the well-documented therapist shortages that have resulted, the concern of connecting patients with care has only grown more acute.

It’s no wonder, then, that interest and investment are growing in digitally oriented mental healthcare, from platforms that match therapists with patients, to chatbots, to online cognitive behavioral therapy tools. Although emerging digital solutions are nascent and will inevitably encounter friction, virtual remedies show great promise in lowering the barriers that both practitioners and patients face.

Consider how digital tools can address the top three factors that have historically kept patients from seeking mental health care: accessibility, cost and social stigma.

Improving accessibility to mental health treatment

As of May 2021, over 125 million Americans live in a behavioral or mental health professional shortage area. This gap will continue to widen as the pandemic exacerbates the therapist shortage.

To expand accessibility to behavioral health services, companies like Quartet and Talkspace are using telehealth platforms to connect patients and therapists. By leveraging clinical algorithms, these platforms identify available therapists based on the patient’s symptoms, state of residence (due to cross-state licensing restrictions), insurance carrier, preferred mode of communication (synchronous video or audio and asynchronous text messaging) and desired appointment cadence.

In other words, if you have a connected device, you can receive on-demand care for your behavioral health condition. Digital accessibility also addresses physician shortages and burnout on a national scale.

As these entities are still relatively new to the market, challenges and questions remain, such as the fundamental disconnect between virtual treatment and physician intervention in a clinical setting. As patient adoption grows, enough accurate data will be generated to prompt when physician intervention is necessary.

Additionally, these telehealth platforms are more geared toward mild cases, as these services do not replace the necessary stages of the care continuum that may be needed for more serious mental health conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Lowering behavioral healthcare costs

An estimated 47% of US adults with an untreated behavioral or mental health illness do not seek treatment due to high costs.

Many entities in the private and public sectors are turning to virtual services to help patients better afford behavioral and mental health services. For instance, traditional in-person therapy ranges from $64 to $250 per hour, depending on patient insurance, whereas digital solutions can cost under $32 per hour.

Accordingly, many workplaces are incorporating digital solutions into their employee-sponsored health plans through health platforms like Ginger, which offers 24×7 access to behavioral health coaches via asynchronous texting for low-acuity conditions like anxiety and depression.

Recent moves by the federal government further bolster the effort to make behavioral healthcare affordable. In addition to the US Department of Health and Human Services announcing an additional $3 billion in funding to address pandemic-related behavioral and mental health issues, the Biden administration has signaled commitment to expanding access to telehealth services for underserved communities. Such efforts will need to be combined with further work in the private sector to ensure mental healthcare affordability through virtual means.

Overcoming negative social stigma

Perceived social stigma is an additional barrier for many people seeking mental health treatment. In a study of patients with schizophrenia, 86% of respondents reported concealing their illness due to fears of prejudice or discrimination.

To circumvent these challenges, some mental health providers have embraced artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots and online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) tools. Although chatting with a bot may seem counterintuitive to the “high-touch” nature of the healthcare industry, the anonymity of this approach can ease patient anxiety about opening up to another potentially judgmental human.

In a randomized control trial with a conversational agent that delivers CBT treatment, patients reported a 22% reduction in depression and anxiety within the first two weeks. This study shows promise for the effectiveness of chatbot-based therapy, particularly for younger generations, many of whom already share many intimate details of their lives on digital forums and hence have a higher level of acceptance of these tools. Older generations may view the adoption of this new behavioral care model with more incredulity and hesitancy.

A virtual future for behavioral healthcare

It is clear that the virtual care industry is poised for future growth, as there is a clear correlation between our understanding of behavioral healthcare challenges and the evolution of treatment modalities to bridge those gaps.

While digital services may not be a cure-all remedy for behavioral health, they certainly offer a promising long-term solution to one of the country’s most prominent and costly diseases.

To learn more, visit our Healthcare solutions section or contact us.

Emily Thayer is a Senior Consultant within Cognizant Consulting’s Healthcare Practice, who specializes in driving digital transformation. Emily has a proven track record in both the private and public sectors, most notably in health plan strategy and operations, business development and project management. Emily earned her bachelor’s degree in business management and psychology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and University of Oxford, and an MBA from Washington University in St. Louis. She can be reached at Emily.Thayer@cognizant.com

Source: Using Digital To Address The Mental Health ‘Silent Epidemic’

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Why Women Are More Burned Out Than Men

Statistics show that stress and burnout are affecting more women than men en masse. Why – and what happens next?

When Jia, a Manhattan-based consultant, read Sheryl Sandberg’s bestselling book Lean In in 2014, she resolved to follow the advice espoused by the chief operating officer of Facebook.

“I’d just graduated from an Ivy League business school, was super pumped up and loved the idea of leaning in,” says Jia, whose last name is being withheld to protect her professional reputation. “Learning to self-promote felt so empowering, and I was 100% ready to prove that I was the woman who could have it all: be a high-powered career woman and a great mother.”

But today, the 38-year-old strikes a different tone. For years, she says, she feels like she’s been overlooked for promotions and pay rises at work on account of her gender, particularly after becoming a mother in 2018. Since then, she’s picked up the brunt of childcare responsibilities because her husband, who is a banker, has tended to travel more frequently for work. That, she adds, has given her a misguided reputation among her colleagues and managers – the majority of whom are male – for not being professionally driven.

Then when Covid-19 hit, it was as if all the factors already holding her back were supercharged. When her daughter’s day care closed in March 2020, Jia became the default caregiver while trying to stay afloat at work. “I was extremely unmotivated because I felt like I was spending all hours of the day trying not to fall off an accelerating treadmill,” she explains. “But at the same time, I felt like I was being trusted less and less to be able to do a good job. I could feel my career slipping through my fingers and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.”

In early 2021, Jia’s therapist told her she was suffering from burnout. Jia says she’d never struggled with her mental health before. “But now I’m just trying to get through each week while staying sane,” she says.

Jia’s story is symptomatic of a deeply ingrained imbalance in society that the pandemic has both highlighted and exacerbated. For multiple reasons, women, particularly mothers, are still more likely than men to manage a more complex set of responsibilities on a daily basis – an often-unpredictable combination of unpaid domestic chores and paid professional work.

I could feel my career slipping through my fingers and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it – Jia

Though the mental strain of mastering this balancing act has been apparent for decades, Covid-19 has cast a particularly harsh light on the problem. Statistics show that stress and burnout are affecting more women than men, and particularly more working mothers than working fathers. This could have multiple impacts for the post-pandemic world of work, making it important that both companies and wider society find ways to reduce this imbalance.

Unequal demands

Recent data looking specifically at burnout in women is concerning. According to a survey by LinkedIn of almost 5,000 Americans, 74% of women said they were very or somewhat stressed for work-related reasons, compared with just 61% of employed male respondents.

A separate analysis from workplace-culture consultancy a Great Place to Work and health-care start-up Maven found that mothers in paid employment are 23% more likely to experience burnout than fathers in paid employment. An estimated 2.35 million working mothers in the US have suffered from burnout since the start of the pandemic, specifically “due to unequal demands of home and work”, the analysis showed.

Women tend to be dealing with a more complex set of work and personal responsibilities, leading to stress (Credit: Getty)

Experts generally agree that there’s no single reason women burn out, but they widely acknowledge that the way societal structures and gender norms intersect plays a significant role. Workplace inequalities, for example, are inextricably linked to traditional gender roles.

In the US, women still earn an average of about 82 cents for each dollar earned by a man, and the gap across many countries in Europe is similar. Jia’s firm does not publish its gender pay-gap data, but she suspects that it’s significant. Moreover, she thinks many of her male peers earn more than her, something that causes her a huge amount of stress.

“The idea that I might be underselling myself is extremely frustrating, but I also don’t want to make myself unpopular by asking for more money when I’m already pushing the boundaries by asking my company to make accommodations for me having to care for my daughter,” she says. “It’s a constant internal battle.”

Research links lower incomes to higher stress levels and worse mental health in general. But several studies have also shown more specifically that incidences of burnout among women are greater because of differences in job conditions and the impact of gender on progression.

In 2018, researchers from University of Montreal published a study tracking 2,026 workers over the course of four years. The academics concluded that women were more vulnerable to burnout than men because women were less likely to be promoted than men, and therefore more likely to be in positions with less authority which can lead to increased stress and frustration. The researchers also found that women were more likely to head single-parent families, experience child-related strains, invest time in domestic tasks and have lower self-esteem – all things that can exacerbate burnout.

Nancy Beauregard, a professor at University of Montreal and one of the authors of that study, said that reflecting on her work back in 2018, it’s clear that Covid-19 has amplified the existing inequalities and imbalances that her team demonstrated through their research. “In terms of [the] sustainable development of the human capital of the workforce,” she says, “we’re not heading in a good direction.”

A pandemic catalyst

Brian Kropp, chief of human resources research at Gartner, a global research and advisory firm headquartered in Connecticut, US, agrees that while many of the factors fueling women’s burnout were in play before the pandemic, Covid-19 notably exacerbated some as it forced us to dramatically overhaul our living and working routines.

When the pandemic hit, many women found that their domestic responsibilities surged – making juggling work even harder (Credit: Getty)

Structures supporting parents’ and carers’ lives closed down, and in most cases, this excess burden fell on women. One study, conducted by academics from Harvard University, Harvard Business School and London Business School, evaluated survey responses from 30,000 individuals around the world and found that women – especially mothers – had spent significantly more time on childcare and chores during Covid-19 than they did pre-pandemic, and that this was directly linked to lower wellbeing. Many women had already set themselves up as the default caregiver within their households, and the pandemic obliterated the support systems that had previously allowed them to balance paid employment and domestic work.

That’s exactly what Sarah experienced in March 2020, when schools across New York first closed. “Initially the message was that schools would stay closed until the end of April, so that was my target: ‘Get to that point and you’ll be fine’,” recalls the Brooklyn-based 40-year-old. Now, more than 18 months into the pandemic, her two sons, aged 6 and 9, are only just reacquainting themselves with in-person learning, and Sarah’s life has changed dramatically.

In April 2020, for the first time ever, she started suffering from anxiety. The pressures of home-schooling her children while working as marketing executive for a large technology company overwhelmed her. She couldn’t sleep, worried constantly and felt depressed. Worst of all, she felt like whatever she did was inadequate because she didn’t have enough time to do anything well.

Six months into the pandemic, it was clear something had to change. Sarah’s husband, a lawyer, was earning much more than her, and had done so since they got married in 2008. So, in August 2020 the couple jointly decided that Sarah would leave her job to become a stay-at-home mother. “Before this, I never really knew what being burned out meant,” she says. “Now I know beyond a shadow of a doubt.”

Sarah’s experience is emblematic of a much broader trend. In September last year, just as the pandemic was gaining pace, more than 860,000 women dropped out of the US workforce, compared with just over 200,000 men. One estimate put the number of mothers who had quit the US workforce between February and September last year at 900,000, and the number of fathers at 300,000.

As women lost crucial social lifelines during lockdown which may have been emotional and physical outlets for stress, it’s clear that the abrupt avalanche of extra domestic responsibilities pushed many who were already busily juggling home and work life further than they could go.

‘What’s the cost?’

One of the greatest concerns workplace experts harbour is that poor mental health among women in the workplace could discourage future generations from setting ambitious professional goals, particularly if they want to start a family. That could exacerbate the gender inequalities that already exist in terms of pay and seniority in the labour market.

Data indicate that this is indeed a legitimate concern; statistics collected by CNBC and polling company SurveyMonkey earlier this year showed that the number of women describing themselves as “very ambitious” in terms of their careers declined significantly during the pandemic. Data from the US Census Bureau shows that over the first 12 weeks of the pandemic, the percentage of mothers between the ages of 25 and 44 not working due to Covid-19-related childcare issues grew by 4.8 percentage points, compared to no increase for men in the same age group.

In terms of [the] sustainable development of the human capital of the workforce, we’re not heading in a good direction – Nancy Beauregard

Equally, there are concerns about how new ways of working such as hybrid could impact on workplace gender equality. Research shows that women are more likely than men to work from home in a post-pandemic world, but there’s evidence that people who work from home are less likely to get promoted than those who have more face-time with managers. “Women are saying, I’m working just as hard and doing just as much, but because I’m working from home, I’m less likely to get promoted,” says Kropp. “That’s extremely demotivating.”

Dean Nicholson, head of adult therapy at London-based behavioural health clinic The Soke, suggests that perceptions of fairness – or otherwise – could impact on women’s workplace participation. “When the balance of justice is skewed against us in the workplace, then it’s invariably going to lead to negative feelings, not just towards the organisation, but in the way that we feel about ourselves and the value of our contribution, as well as where we’re positioned on a hierarchy of worth.”

To prevent an exodus of female talent, says Kropp, organisations must appreciate that old workplaces practices are no longer fit for purpose. Managers need to fundamentally rethink how companies must be structured in order to promote fairness and equality of opportunity, he says. That means pay equality and equal opportunities for promotion, as well as creating a culture of transparency where everyone – mothers, fathers and employees who are not parents – feels valued and can reach their professional potential while also accommodating what’s going on at home.

Steve Hatfield, global future of work leader for Deloitte, notes that mothers, especially those in senior leadership roles, are extremely important role models. “The ripple effect of what they’re seen to be experiencing right now has the potential to be truly profound on newer employees, and so it’s up to organisations to prove that they can accommodate and cater to the needs of all employees,” he says.

As such, Hephzi Pemberton, founder of the Equality Group, a London-based consultancy that focuses on inclusion and diversity in the finance and technology industry, emphasises the need for managers to be trained formally and to understand that the initiative to create a workplace that’s fit for purpose must come from the employer rather than the employee. “That’s absolutely critical to avoid the risk of burnout,” she says.

But Jia, who says she’s now on the brink of quitting her job, insists that notable changes need to happen in the home as well as the workplace. “What’s become abundantly clear to me through the pandemic is that we all have a role to play in understanding the imbalances that are created when stereotypical gender roles are blindly adhered to,” she says. “Yes, of course it sometimes makes sense for a woman to be the default caregiver or to take a step back from paid work, but we need to appreciate at what cost. This is 2021. Sometimes I wonder if we’re in the 1950s.”

By Josie Cox

Source: Why women are more burned out than men – BBC Worklife

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China Leaps Ahead in Effort to Rein In Algorithms

Beijing is building a system to ensure that the automated processes of Internet platforms are fair, transparent and in line with the ideology of the Communist Party

Regulators called for the algorithms to be fair and transparent, following the ideology of the Communist Party of China.

The campaign puts China one step ahead in policing tech forums, as governments around the world grapple with how to respond to automated technologies that reshape business, social interactions and politics.

Earlier this year, the European Union proposed restricting certain uses of artificial intelligence to reduce potential harm. In the US, lawmakers are investigating Facebook’s influence Inc. NS

Algorithm-driven content on users, after Businesshala reported that the company’s Instagram app has a negative impact on children’s mental health.

China has targeted algorithms more aggressively under the close watch of its domestic tech sector. Draft guidelines released this summer would require algorithms to protect the rights of workers and consumers, and restrict the use of algorithms to manipulate user accounts, online traffic or search results.

“We don’t necessarily see China as a regulatory innovator, but in this case they are,” said Rogier Creamers, an assistant professor at Leiden University in the Netherlands, which focuses on Chinese technical policy.

Under a three-year plan released last week, Chinese regulators outlined steps to monitor algorithms, including a registration process and the establishment of a technical team to evaluate the mechanisms and risks of an algorithm.

The latest campaign builds on a broad regulatory push in China’s tech sector that has prompted investigations into some of the country’s biggest companies, including e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding. Ltd.

The push is partly directed at business practices that regulators deem harmful so workers or consumers.

Companies such as Meituan and Didi have faced heat over the working conditions of drivers, as well as calls for creating algorithms that schedule workers’ tasks and pay more transparently. Officials have also warned tech companies this year against exploiting personal data and using algorithms to charge discriminatory prices from customers.

China’s Cyberspace Administration, Alibaba and Didi did not respond to requests for comment. China is currently celebrating its National Day holiday.

Meituan declined to comment. The company previously published an explanation of its delivery algorithm and said it is making changes to give delivery drivers more flexibility.

Experts said it would be a challenge for regulators to tighten controls on algorithms without hindering development or innovation in one of China’s most successful sectors. Internet companies rely on complex mathematical instructions for tasks ranging from analysis of social-media behavior to mapping optimal distribution routes.

While algorithms have contributed to technological advancement and societal development, the CAC said in last week’s announcement, they have also brought “challenges to ideological security, a fair and equal society, and the protection of the legal rights of Internet users.”

Beijing-based partner at law firm Bird & Bird, James Gong, said tighter regulatory oversight of algorithms is likely to impact China’s internet industry.

Mr. Gong said of the country’s Internet companies, “Almost all of them use algorithms and automated decision-making and profiling to ensure that their marketing is more accurate and to improve business efficiency and increase profits.” Is.”

A senior manager at ByteDance Ltd said the requirement to register the algorithm would only add a step, restricting the learning of user behavior and recommendation services, as well as requiring disclosure of proprietary technology that could hurt the company’s business. .

ByteDance, which owns social-media sensation TikTok and its Chinese sister app Douyin, is known for its powerful algorithms that drive user recommendations and content.

“The regulatory environment is clear, and we need to start thinking about how to adjust accordingly,” the ByteDance manager said. He said that since most of the new regulation is still under debate, it is difficult to say what the immediate commercial impact will be.

ByteDance did not respond to a request for comment.

Sam Sachs, senior fellow at Yale Law School’s Paul Tsai China Center, said China’s approach could appeal to other countries that want a thriving digital economy while maintaining a firm grip on political and social discourse. However, she said there is still a lot of uncertainty over the details and enforcement of these new rules.

“I think they understand that this is an impossible task that they have set for themselves,” Ms Sachs said. “I would also say that three years can be ambitious.”

The CAC guidelines also state that algorithms used by Chinese companies must uphold core socialist values ​​and promote “positive energy” in content provided to users.

China is taking more control of online content and communities. In recent months, it has severely restricted online-videogame time for players under the age of 18, banned pop-idol rankings and criticized online male personalities for being too sacrilegious. are visible.

“It’s almost taking online censorship up a notch,” Ms Sachs said. “It is saying that you have an obligation to ensure that any content that is algorithmically driven that you feed into the online space is to shape socialist values.”

By: Stephanie Yang, Reporter, The Wall Street Journal

Source: China Leaps Ahead in Effort to Rein In Algorithms

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How To Identify Your Dominant Emotional Style (and Why It’s so Important)

During difficult times, we often find ourselves defaulting to a single, dominant emotion, even when another might be more “logical.” For example, your default emotion may be anxiety, which is what you’ll feel during the stressful times, even if a more appropriate emotional reaction might be anger, sadness, or frustration.

This is your dominant emotional style, said Alice Boyes, Ph.D., author of the book “The Healthy Mind Toolkit,” in a recent article she wrote for Psychology Today. In times of stress, a “dominant emotion” is the emotion we default to and is often linked to how we interpret and react to situations. Going back to the anxiety example, your reaction may be due to a tendency to blame yourself for situations; if your dominant emotion is anger, that might be due to a tendency to assume others are trying to hurt you.

Why being able to feel a range of emotions matters

We default to our dominant emotion because that’s what we know and what is most familiar to us. However, it’s important to be able to experience a range of emotions, as this is often the key to a healthier, happier life.

One way to think about emotions is to think about all of the different emotions as being part of a balanced ecosystem. Within an ecosystem there are many different components, all of which are important for a healthy system. If this balance gets disrupted though, with one emotion becoming heavily dominant, then the overall health of the system gets thrown off balance.

As studies are showing, people who experience a broad range of emotions tend to have better mental and physical health, which includes lower rates of depression. One possible reason is that a mixture of emotions, even if they are negative ones, can help prevent a single emotion from completely taking over.

Two options for reducing your dominant emotion

Feeling too much of one emotion is exhausting and can leave you burnt out. According to Boyes, there are two options that can help you step back from your dominant emotion.

The first option is to think through other possible interpretations of the situation. As Boyes notes, her dominant emotion is anxiety, where she will usually blame herself. However, when she slows down and evaluates the situation, trying to think through other reasons for what is going on, this allows her other emotions to surface.

The second option is to focus on the quieter feelings, the ones that have been drowned out by your dominant emotion. “If I tune into my smaller emotions, they rise to the surface more,” Boyes wrote. These other feelings can help you come up with different solutions to your problem, while also helping you to have a more balanced perspective.

As Boyes points out, these strategies for dialing down your dominant emotion can have a lot of positive benefits. This includes feeling a sense of relief, enhancing your creativity, identifying new ways to problem-solve, as well as motivating you to try alternative approaches that you might not otherwise think of.

As Boyes noted, when it comes to feeling these other emotions, “It’s okay if feeling your non-dominant emotions leaves you feeling unsettled and perhaps a little at sea. You can feel unsettled and still also benefit.”

Source: How to Identify Your ‘Dominant Emotional Style’ (and Why It’s so Important)

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Neurodiversity is Not Enough. We Should Embrace Psydiversity

The concept of ‘neurodiversity’ has gained enormous cultural influence in recent years. Computer scientists and ‘techies’ wear the ‘neurodiverse’ label with pride; businesses are building ‘neurodiverse’ workforces; scriptwriters strive to represent and cast ‘neurodivergent’ people. Those framed as ‘different’ have been given a remarkable new lens through which to reimagine that variance.

The sociologist Judy Singer coined the term ‘neurodiversity’ in the late 1990s. Inspired by other emancipatory social movements based on race and gender, Singer used her standing as an autistic person to rally together neurodivergent people. This was partly a response to what Singer called the ‘social constructivist’ view of autism, where the condition was seen as having no solid biological basis.

This denied the reality of neurological difference, according to Singer. In reply, she offered up ‘neurodiversity’ in the spirit of biodiversity, in that it recognized and respected natural variance among humans. The movement quickly gained support via online forums and new social networks. Since Singer’s first use of the term, neurodiversity has widened beyond autism to include people who identify with categories such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, bipolar disorder, depression and more.

It’s come to mean any real mental differences – neither choices nor simply illnesses – that aren’t problems to solve so much as enrichments for society. Neurodiversity has done brilliant work in breaking down social barriers, challenging stigmas, and raising awareness. But it also contains limitations, and these are becoming increasingly prominent as the concept expands into new domains.

The main premise of the neurodiversity movement is that society should be robust enough to embrace and celebrate all people, no matter how their brains are ‘wired’. That’s a laudable goal and shouldn’t be tricky for anyone to wrap their head around. Yet since the beginning, critics of neurodiversity have claimed that its mantra of radical acceptance could hinder treatments and interventions for those who are suffering. Embracing neurodivergent thought too enthusiastically, they say, risks distracting from genuine physical, emotional or social needs that require attention.

This debate quickly descends into unhelpful recriminations. But it also distracts from a deeper philosophical problem that neurodiversity must confront as it expands into new territory. Neurodiversity’s vision of inclusion, alluring as it is, tends to rely on the idea that neural wiring is at the root of all differences in how humans relate to the world. But reducing diversity to brain-based distinctions can stand in the way of more sensitive and potentially fruitful ways of understanding mental life.

In fact, the success of neurodiversity has exposed the glaring lack of any shared vision or sense of solidarity around mental difference that isn’t anchored in brain-based accounts. So while we can applaud neurodiversity’s ethos of acceptance, we should question its commitment to achieving legitimacy through false ‘neuro’ certainties.

There is a different way forward, in which we fashion our political advocacy and scientific reasoning not on the brain but the ‘mind’. I call this programme ‘psydiversity’. Psydiversity rejects the claim that mental states can be cleanly and predictably mapped on to the brain. Instead, it augments the valuable work of neurodiversity by demonstrating that mental processes and the way we understand them change and evolve through history.

Indeed, psydiversity holds that the mind and ‘human nature’ are not unitary things, but are profoundly embedded and even constituted by the society and context in which they appear. That isn’t to deny the reality of difference, but rather to situate this reality as part of an unfolding social and historical process.

If there’s one aspect of neurodiversity that’s core to its agenda, it’s the ‘neuro’ prefix. The term ‘neuro’ actually stems from the ancient Greek ‘neûron’ or the Latin ‘nervus’, defining nerves or the nervous system. Contemporary neuroscientific approaches have their origins in the early 19th century, when physiologists such as Franz Joseph Gall, Charles Bell, and François Magendie used a combination of human anatomical studies and terrifying animal vivisections to identify the relation between brain, spinal cord and nervous system.

By the early 20th century, neurologists had created detailed maps of the brain and nervous system, and had named many distinct conditions such as cerebral palsy and hemiplegia. It wasn’t until the 1990s, though, that the brain sciences began to really assert themselves in other branches of human knowledge. Via new imaging and genomic testing technologies, evidence emerged that differences in human emotion and behaviour could be traced to differences within people’s brains.

This spawned a number of ‘neuro-’ prefixes that could be attached to subjects as disparate as ‘neuroeducation’, ‘neuroethics’, ‘neuroanthroplogy’, ‘neuroaesthetics’ and ‘neurolaw’. The former US president George Bush called the 1990s the ‘decade of the brain’, while the philosophers Fernando Vidal and Francisco Ortega declared that the neurosciences were leading us to believe that ‘we are our brains’.

Once a treatment or medical tool exists, social, financial and political forces tend to push up diagnoses. All this fervour sprang from the belief that brain-based sciences and genetic research could transform society for the better. When the Dutch geneticist Han Brunner claimed that deficiencies in the MAOA gene could be responsible for an increased propensity to violence, this inspired hopes that moral judgments about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ behaviour could be transformed into progressive scientific research and treatment.

There would be no more ‘evil’ people, merely malfunctioning brains. If human motivation could be identified at the molecular level, it could also be changed. From the 1990s, the neuroscientific dream was that unique behaviours and ‘mental disorders’ could be correlated with brain states and treated accordingly. In reality, though, most psychiatric diagnoses or conditions are not stable or static, don’t have simple ‘watermarks’ in the brain, and are often very difficult to treat.

What’s more, drug developments have often preceded the refinement of psychiatric categories and, disturbingly, treatments tend to lead to increased diagnosis – the opposite of the neuroscientific fantasy. This was the case with ADHD, where the development of amphetamine treatments coincided with large increases in diagnosis, while rates of depression moved in line with the production of Prozac and other antidepressant drugs.

The disquieting truth is that, once a treatment or medical tool exists, social, financial and political forces tend to push up diagnoses. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) – the medical textbook that serves as the basis for most real-world psychiatric diagnoses but also most neuroscientific laboratory studies – is by no means an impeccable diagnostic tool, as the psychiatrist Allen Frances and others have argued.

Drug companies might tout theories that brain- and drug-based theories will be a panacea for all forms of mental suffering, but we are a long, long way from that becoming a reality. While this ‘neuro’ revolution didn’t ever come to fruition, it still opened the door for new dreams and aspirations. It was in this context that ‘neurodiversity’ came into being. While neurodiversity advocates can be critical of mainstream neuroscience and psychiatry, they have also created a curious alliance with these same disciplines.

Starting with its reframing of autism, the neurodiversity movement latched on to the scientific legitimacy of both the neurosciences and the DSM, without really acknowledging the critiques and other, competing interpretations of human mental life. It’s striking that autism itself is unique in the DSM. No other diagnosis spread so rapidly throughout the 1980s and ’90s. Most importantly, its expansion had nothing to do with the production of drugs, as in the cases of ADHD and depression.

The autism category is something of an anomaly, yet ironically it’s this anomaly that sparked the entire neurodiversity movement, which is now growing to encompass an increasing number of other DSM diagnoses. When neurodiversity originated, its dismissal of earlier psychological sciences was very much intentional. As an autistic woman in the 1990s, Singer understandably wanted a clean slate when it came to defining her identity. The dominant discourse around autism often involved blaming mothers for creating the condition in their children, drawing on the work of a number of postwar male psychologists such as Bruno Bettelheim.

By the 1970s, a new generation of psychologists argued that these claims were outlandish, because they did not even contain a clear definition of what autism was. Lorna Wing, a psychologist and the mother of an autistic child, then worked tirelessly to correct the conceptual drift by creating a standardized definition of autism as a kind of social and communication ‘impairment’. This was the definition that was solidified in the DSM in the 1980s, and which in turn invited genetic explanations.

Autism diagnoses shot up in line with the destruction of the postwar welfare state. Coming across all these descriptions and definitions in the 1990s, Singer was well placed to make her own claims of the development of her own identity. She didn’t want to adopt former models of psychological development that pathologised mothers and benign psychological differences. Yet she also didn’t want to adopt the label of ‘impaired’. The neurodiversity movement allowed for a new form of identity that was psychologically distinct, but didn’t see its members as lacking in some way.

Political categories are always a response to the conditions in which they arise. Singer sensed that her personal identity was under threat, and so rapidly set up a new framework on which to build a fresh one. As I have argued before, the diagnosis of autism slotted neatly into a neoliberal model of social welfare in the 1990s, where only those with defined social disabilities or ‘impairments’ received any social support.

In the UK, the US, Australia and elsewhere, these two factors combined such that autism diagnoses shot up in line with the destruction of the postwar welfare state. So when Singer advocated for political representation for autistic people in the 1990s, she could do so only because autistic people had already become a political class. Singer merely rallied the crowds, and she did so under the banner of neurodiversity.

What’s so wrong with brain-based or ‘neuro’ accounts anyway? All explanations of this sort rest on the premise that the brain gives us access to a scientific reality that can then be projected out on to the world to explain the immensity and range of human experience. This satisfies our craving for absolutes and certainties, and can even be the foundation of solidarity and meaningful identities. Yet human categories are almost always contingent, messy, uncertain affairs.

In fact, there are a number of other scientific models and working hypotheses that could help us get a handle on psychological development, although Singer relegated them to the bottom of the class. These are the ‘psy’ sciences we know today – psychology, psychoanalysis, psychiatry, psychotherapy. Just as ‘neuro’ has its origins in the Greek for ‘nerves’, ‘psy’ has its origins in the Greek for ‘psyche’, meaning the soul, mind or life.

The ‘psy’ sciences as we know them today sprang up in the decades either side of 1900, fuelled by Sigmund Freud’s ‘discovery’ of the unconscious. Freud exploded comfortable Western notions of the rational minds steering human history on an upward path to progress Enlightenment. Instead, he posited a theory of unconscious motivation, in which human beings were driven by ingrained, instinctual urges. These principles had a profound influence on educators, bureaucrats and governments across the world.

A strong adherence to ‘neuro’ explanations leaves scant room for wider theories of unconscious motivation. For most of the 20th century, ‘psy’ sciences dominated theorisations of the brain and nervous system. The creation of IQ testing in France in 1905 set the scene for the massive expansion of psychological sciences. In the early 1900s, psychological laboratories, institutions and departments began to be established, and psychologists distinguished themselves as a professional group.

Compulsory education and the growth of new communication technologies such as film, radio and TV in modern democracies supported this spread. ‘Psy’ sciences made huge contributions to all theorisations of the self, and of identity, and continue to be influential in the governance of everyday life via social, medical and legal services. For example, the creation of the juvenile court in the UK in 1908 united ‘psy’ and legal professionals to reframe juvenile crime in terms of psychological motivation rather than moral failing. It encouraged psychological programmes in schools, health centres and social service departments, a model that many other industrialised nations soon followed.

Crucially, earlier ‘psy’ sciences paid particular attention to how the mind adapted instinctual urges to cope with demands placed upon them by ‘civilisation’, offering new perspectives on the pressures of industrialisation and modernity. So when neurodiversity advocates turned their back on psychological theories in the 1990s, they turned away from much more than Bettelheim’s badly formulated theories of maternal love.

A strong adherence to ‘neuro’ explanations also leaves scant room for wider theories of unconscious motivation – and, in many ways, the social sciences as a whole, to the extent that these seek to identify underlying systems of thought and ideologies that guide human action. The development of new neuroscientific models in the 1990s, together with the internet and social media technologies, has catalysed new identity politics that destabilise prior ‘psy’ professional networks and created new models for identity.

These are vital developments to be sure, but it would be naive to think that they could replace some of the fundamental principles that have shaped wider understandings of human thought for more than 100 years. It’s essential to recognise the value of what the neurodiversity movement has achieved without unwittingly submitting to the rigid aspects of a wholly brain-based ‘neuro’ society.

Historically, both ‘psy’ and neurosciences have been mobilised to justify large-scale social injustices in democratic countries, from confinement to forced sterilisation and hormone treatments to ‘cure’ aberrant sexualities. We must be under no illusions here. However, it doesn’t make sense to denigrate one and eulogise the other. Indeed, often it’s psychologists taking a ‘softer’ approach to human motivation that’s served to ward off more draconian approaches to brain-based difference.

For example, when eugenicists such as Carlos Blacker in the UK equated ‘mental deficiency’ with social and economic redundancy after the Second World War in order to advocate for sterilisation, it was psychologists such as Neil O’Connor and Beate Hermelin who argued that psychological and social intervention was always preferable.

It’s striking that previous critics of ‘psy’ sciences rarely sought to radically dispose of all psychological knowledge. Take forerunners to the neurodiversity movement, such as the ‘anti-psychiatry’ and ‘psychiatric survivors’ movements that developed in the 1950s and ’60s. They were critical of how the psychiatric system had pathologised and damaged them, yet remained resolutely opposed to all brain-based or ‘neuro’ explanations for mental states.

This opposition was partly due to a postwar backlash against eugenic or hereditary understandings of mental illness or disability, which were bound up with the Nazis – a pushback that contributed to the proliferation of ‘social constructivist’ theories of mental states in the late 1970s and ’80s via charities, universities and a booming publishing industry.

It’s testament to how far we have come that neurodiversity advocates such as Singer can embrace even small aspects of neuroscience and genetics as part of a new social movement, let alone radically advocate for brain-based theories. The mind is always a historically situated object, regardless of its ‘neuro’ states

Anti-psychiatrists knew that the ‘psy’ sciences served an important role in empowering people, even if they’d been employed poorly in the past. In many ways, the anti-psychiatry movement integrated key psychoanalytic principles by employing historical knowledge to empower and galvanise populations to criticise the practices of psychologists. This was a psychoanalytically and historically informed kind of activism.

Instead of discrediting psychological sciences, the philosopher Michel Foucault and others played psychologists at their own game: ‘If you’re going to analyse where my identity “problems” came from,’ they might have said, ‘then I will analyse where your identity, legitimacy and power also came from.’ This was shrewd because it not only unchained the shackles that ‘psy’ professionals had placed on their own individuality: it also revealed how the psychological sciences wielded power through psychological experts, institutions and policies.

What Foucault called ‘historical ontology’ – the study of what makes being or becoming possible – asserted the importance of history, and of collective thought, to understanding contemporary minds. In some ways, this was just a highly refined form of self-reflective psychology. What it showed was that the mind is always a historically situated object, regardless of its ‘neuro’ states.

Psydiversity accepts that minds are entangled with the societies around them, and can’t be moored to neuroscientific verities – which are, in any event, a byproduct of the time as well. Psydiversity would move us beyond an unhealthy reliance on the knowledge monopoly of the neurosciences, and address the difficulties of stretching neurodiversity to cover all human differences.

None of this is to say the ‘psy’ sciences are perfect, and retooling them to fit our current needs should also involve critically assessing their influence on democracy and society. That influence cannot be overstated. In many ways, the ‘psy’ sciences are the cornerstones of modern democracies. Thinkers such as Jean Piaget, Maria Montessori, Susan Sutherland Isaacs, Edward Glover and Anna Freud gave shape to many ideas that have become fundamental to democratic functioning, such as the principles of early education and attempts to understand rather than punish children’s misbehaviour.

Today, psychiatrists, psychologists, psychoanalysts and psychotherapists have become the footsoldiers of liberal, economically prosperous nations. Through psychological theories, individuals and policymakers alike have learnt to harness human motivations, balancing citizens’ democratic freedoms against the necessity of laws and social norms.

Psydiversity aims to rehabilitate the positive features of such methods, without shying away from where they’ve hit walls in the past. The major problem with ‘psy’ disciplines isn’t necessarily the theories themselves, but their potential to be used as cudgels on behalf of narrow, controlled and regulated versions of the family, society or nation. One of the neurodiversity movement’s key achievements has been to expose the illogical nature of many such approaches.

Activists such as Steven Kapp and Damian Milton have pointed out, for example, that preventing behaviours such as tics and ‘stimming’ isn’t usually done for the benefit of the individual concerned but to maintain social norms and structures. This is correct, and there’s no doubt that the reach of psychological sciences must constantly be kept in check – but psydiversity also makes this possible by internalising a historical self-critique, maintaining a constant awareness of how and for whom knowledge is developed, employed and granted legitimacy.

Psydiversity conceives of our minds as being structured by science, yes, but also by law, society and history. Yet ‘psydiversity’ doesn’t simply skip along to the tune of prior ‘psy’ models. Rather, it aims to reclaim psychological knowledge for the populations it’s supposed to serve. It encourages a radical reframing of the psychological sciences, such that they are both historicised and variegated.

Instead of holding them out as seers or sages, psydiversity encourages psychological professionals to acknowledge the scientific foundations of their approaches and to make this clear at every point of practice: from the statistical sciences that support the DSM; the remnants of Darwinism and instinct theory that support psychoanalysis; and the computing metaphors that support the cognitive sciences. It is only by having an understanding of this history that we can hope to change it. Psychology has had, and continues to have, a role in shaping our understandings of ourselves that can’t simply be dismissed as we now stand in thrall to the new neurosciences.

In short, psydiversity creates a space for psychology to mediate the dogmatic aspects of contemporary neurosciences. It greatly values neurodiverse perspectives, but recognises that we live in a world that needs to move beyond identity politics and develop new models of the mind. Instead of grounding ‘the self’ in ‘the brain’, psydiversity conceives of our minds as being structured by science, yes, but also by law, society and history.

Crucially, it acknowledges that psychological and mental suffering is real, exists in many different forms, and often stems from stigmas or threats to one’s existence with deep historical origins. It’s fruitless to expect neuroscience alone to come to our aid here. The ‘neurodiverse’ tag is becoming more common and widely applied. Many contemporary psychological scientists such as the autism researcher Francesca Happé talk casually about the distinction between ‘neurotypical’ and ‘neurodivergent’ brains.

This has encouraged many debates and discussions about which conditions do or don’t qualify as ‘neurodivergent’. In turn, this makes researchers such as the former neurobiologist Mo Costandi worry that the legitimising power of the ‘neurodiverse’ label might encourage people to avoid treatment or engage in damaging thoughts and behaviours, such as anorexic aspirations. While this has nothing to do with the stated aims of the neurodiversity movement per se, the fact that it has put so much store in locating conditions in the brain clearly affects these narratives.

None of this is to deny the profound sense of solidarity that’s developed within the autism community via neurodiversity, which Steve Silberman eloquently described in his book Neurotribes (2015). The fact that the law has changed to provide specific protections for autistic people was absolutely necessary and correct. However, I question whether we really want to see a society in which DSM-based ‘neurotribes’ become the new political and social classes. It seems to me there’s a limit to the value that such categories can provide in terms of enhancing all human flourishing.

As the neurodiversity movement has shown, threats to identity often provoke unifying political responses. However, history teaches us that these threats shift over time, and that both ‘neuro’ and ‘psy’ categories react and change in turn. Nothing is certain now and for all time, not even a brain-based model of autism. Psydiversity encourages us to think about how to support people regardless of their individual or ‘neuro’ identity.

It offers another perspective from which to understand differences among people, and to celebrate them too. For a child recently diagnosed with ADHD, or an adult diagnosed with bipolar disorder, psydiversity will offer another dimension of understanding as to how they arrived at that point. Just as legal scholars recognise that it’s citizens who ultimately enforce any law via the legal system, psydiversity recognises that it’s individuals who ultimately interpret and implement information deriving from the neurosciences.

That can happen only via the involvement of ‘psy’ knowledge. If we are to genuinely acknowledge the value of all human life, we must first see the human mind in all its fluidity and complexity as our mediating instrument, rather than a detached, ahistorical object that neuroscience allows us to stand outside of. Psydiversity holds that the first step towards understanding the mind must be self-criticism and self-enquiry. This requires a psychology that’s aware of its own history, a psychology that recognises diversity, and a psychology that doesn’t just latch on to existing neuroscientific categories. After neurodiversity, we have a responsibility to explore the wider implications of how humans think. The challenge is to do so without losing our minds.

By: Bonnie Evans

Source: Neurodiversity is not enough. We should embrace psydiversity | Aeon Essays

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When Your Child Is Newly Diagnosed With ADHD

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Is ADHD Real?

How ADHD Affects Teens

What’s Causing My Mood Swings?

Lithium for Bipolar Disorder

Lithium to Treat Bipolar Disorder  

Treatment-Resistant Depression

Tips to Help Fight Heart Failure

The Story of “Eczema Warrior”

Metastatic NSCLC: How to Live Well

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Penis Curved When Erect

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Lung Cancer Treatment

Pandemic Brain Explains Why You Have Brain Fog & Can’t Focus

If you feel like you’re losing your mind, you’re not weird. In fact, right now you’re probably in the majority and dealing with what people are calling “pandemic brain.”

There are many reasons for why the late-stage pandemic is messing with your brain. Your colleagues are showing up for Zoom calls fresh-faced and smiling, moments after posting memes that say, “I am in hell.” Your social media feeds are dystopian — a picture of your high school classmate in a crowded club above a heartbreaking photo of your friend’s dad on a ventilator, above an ad for a multilevel marketing scheme clearly aimed at mums who have been pushed out of the workforce.

Your job, if you’re lucky enough to have one, is encouraging you to “give yourself breaks!” and “find time to relax!” while subtly suggesting that if you don’t work doubly hard, you won’t have a job to take breaks from. Everything you do is harder than it used to be.

“People feel like they’re not as sharp — there is a sense of being overwhelmed,” says Raquel Gur, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry, neurology, and radiology at the University of Pennsylvania. Gur has been conducting an international study of personal resilience during the pandemic, and she’s heard countless people describe similar symptoms of “being flooded with emotion” and “being dysregulated.”

It’s an experience people are calling “pandemic brain.”

Pandemic brain is not a disorder, and it hasn’t yet been studied, Gur says, but it’s certainly happening. “It’s more of a subjective report of what people describe as a fogging mind,” she explains.

Neurobiologically, this makes sense. “When the temporal limbic regions of the brain are active from being overwhelmed with worries and uncertainty,” she says, it’s harder for the part of your brain that lets you complete tasks to function.

“It’s like a fogginess or a low-level depression that comes with being isolated or off your regular routines,” saysDeanna Crosby, a therapist who has been hearing reports of these symptoms from her clients, including people who felt healthy before the pandemic.

In other words, it turns out there are real consequences to trying to carry on at normal levels of productivity through a prolonged period of crisis. And even though your impulse might be to stop feeling sorry for yourself, or to get over it, or think about how others have it worse, scientists are telling us clearly that the mental effects of living through the past 16 months are an extremely serious, widespread problem. Whatever you’re feeling, you’re not alone.

How bad are things, really?

“I’ve been doing this for about 21 years and I think this is the hardest I’ve ever seen people struggle with depression and anxiety and definitely substance use,” says Crosby. A screening of more than 300,000 adults by the U.S. Census Bureau found that, compared with 2019, American adults in the spring of 2020 were more than three times as likely to meet criteria for depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, or both. Depression symptoms are especially associated with having low savings and low income.

Another survey of 70,000 people throughout the pandemic revealed, depressingly, what you might already have intuited: “Depression and anxiety are still highest in young adults, women, people with lower household income, people with a long-term physical health condition, people from ethnic minority backgrounds, and people living with children.”

Gur’s research has also found that women have higher levels of COVID worry than men, and that Black women, consistently, shoulder the greatest burden of worry around jobs and health.

What many people need is so much more than we can do for ourselves—direct government intervention for food security, rent breaks, medical care, and unemployment pay. But there are ways to feel less dread, less confusion, and less pandemic brain fogginess now.

What can I do to feel better?

“The best thing that I have found that naturally increases serotonin and dopamine is exercising,” says Crosby. I know, I know! We should be sitting less and exercising more, we get it! But it’s not about burning calories, and it doesn’t matter what form it takes for you, or how short it is—any kind of movement can help clear your head.

And yes, Crosby also recommends meditation to help with pandemic brain. I know, I know, I know! I’m tired of hearing about the amazing benefits of meditation too! But Crosby makes a strong case for at least trying it: “We can do anything for five minutes. Spend two weeks to a month doing five-minute meditations,” she advises. “Anyone can do five minutes a day.”

The key isn’t necessarily to torture yourself with the same tired list of wellness recommendations you’ve heard a thousand times before, says Gur. The key is to ask yourself: “What makes me feel better?” The key is to interrupt your feelings of despair or brain fog with an action. “Ask yourself: What can I do that will alleviate some of the being flooded with emotion, being dysregulated?” Gur says.

It could be running or meditating, but it could also be listening to music. Joining any kind of online community—from a religious community, to a gaming community, to the international karaoke app that I am personally obsessed with—can help.

This practice of lifting yourself out of those feelings is building resilience, and that is a powerful tool in fighting pandemic brain. “We found that resilience is associated with less anxiety and depression,” Gur says. So, in other words, “people who are resilient do better during the pandemic.” Being resilient, she says, means “the ability to cope with adversity and self-regulate emotions.” And the good news is it’s something she believes you can build overtime if it’s not your strength right now.

But wait! I’ve tried those things.

You already know that exercise is good for you. But when you’re engulfed in feelings of worry and despair, you’re not exactly in the mood for a 5k. “Being depressed is like pushing an elephant uphill,” says Crosby. “It’s really hard to do the things that are the best for you when you’re depressed.”

Her recommendation is to break the cycle: baby steps; a little bit of discipline; self-compassion. “Just try to be a little better today than you were yesterday,” she says.

Part of what’s so hard about feeling low-level (or high-level) depression and anxiety right now is that our culture is carefully set up to convince us that everyone else is fine. But we can destigmatize emotional struggling. “People will say things to me, as a psychologist, like, ‘Wow, you work with some really sick people!’” Crosby says. “And I’ll think, Well, I work with your husband, and your neighbor. They’re not ‘really sick people’; they’re just people who want to be better.”

Things really are about to get better.

Gur says that with so many people getting the vaccine, mental health reports are starting to look a lot more optimistic. But people who were able to build resiliency — who learned how to give themselves real breaks, regulate their emotions, steady themselves through the lows of COVID — are doing better across the board.

And if you continue to deal with depression, anxiety, and pandemic brain fog, it’s not a reflection of your character. It’s not you; it’s just a condition. “If you have a broken arm, nobody says you’re weak,” says Crosby.

“But when you’re struggling mentally, people seem to think there’s that stigma that you’re weak. But it’s not a mind-over-matter thing—if people could not be depressed, they would not be depressed! But they can’t. It’s beyond their control.”

Building resilience is a long process. Building it while dealing with depression, anxiety, or any kind of pandemic brain fog is brave.

Source: Pandemic Brain Explains Why You Have Brain Fog & Can’t Focus | Glamour UK

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More Contents:

COVID-19’s impacts on the brain and mind are varied and common – new research

Is it time to give up on consciousness as ‘the ghost in the machine’?

Curious Kids: why does the sun’s bright light make me sneeze?

A new understanding of how the human brain controls our hands – new research

COVID-19 restrictions take a toll on brain function, but there are techniques to help you cope

You don’t have a male or female brain – the more brains scientists study, the weaker the evidence for sex differences

Queer people’s experiences during the pandemic include new possibilities and connections

What is the ‘unified protocol’ for PTSD? And how can it help?

Losing speech after a stroke can negatively affect mental health – but therapy can provide hope

Best evidence suggests antidepressants aren’t very effective in kids and teens. What can be done instead?

3 lessons the COVID-19 pandemic can teach us about preventing chronic diseases

The forgotten psychological cost of corruption in developing countries

The COVID-19 Symptoms Doctors Are Seeing The Most Right Now

More than a year into the coronavirus pandemic, experts have unraveled so many mysteries about how to treat the virus and prevent it. But at the same time, SARS-CoV-2 is always changing as new variants emerge. And accordingly, the ways in which the virus affects people seem to be shifting as well.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the most common COVID-19 symptoms doctors are seeing right now, and how vaccines and variants fit into this picture.

The most common symptoms — such as cough, fever, and loss of taste and smell — are all still pretty much the same.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the most common symptoms of the virus included a cough (often dry), shortness of breath, a fever of 100 degrees or higher, and the sudden loss of taste and smell.

Those, however, are by no means the only frequent symptoms. People also report everything from headaches to diarrhea, all of which are listed on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s rundown of common possible symptoms.

For the most part, that list of the most common symptoms hasn’t really changed. “The symptoms are really the same as before. It’s the headache, cough, fatigue, runny nose, fever — those kind of generalized flu-like symptoms,” said Jonathan Leizman, chief medical officer of Premise Health, a health care company headquartered in Tennessee.

The emergency warning signs of COVID-19 have also stayed pretty much the same. Those include issues like trouble breathing, persistent chest pain or pressure, and new mental confusion.

With the delta variant, some people’s symptoms might look more like a common cold.

The delta variant (B.1.617.2) is circulating widely around the globe and is now the main strain here in the United States; it’s hitting areas with high numbers of unvaccinated Americans particularly hard.

There is some initial evidence that the symptoms associated with delta might be a bit different than those with the original SARS-CoV-2 virus, though experts caution that it remains too early to say definitively.

“The information we’re getting from the U.K. and Europe and some initial surveys here in the United States is that the delta virus infection seems to be more likely to produce symptoms that are more typical of a common cold,” said William Powderly, co-director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, which has recently seen a big uptick in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. “That’s a sore throat, mild cough and nasal congestion.”

“The symptoms we were seeing earlier on, which were much more like lower respiratory and fever, are less common,” Powderly added. “That isn’t to say they don’t happen. But there does seem to be a shift in the frequency and type of symptoms being reported.”

Experts don’t yet understand why the symptoms might be slightly different. It could be simply that there are now more infections in younger people, Powderly said. At the same time, researchers are exploring how variants classified as “of concern” and “of interest” — including delta but also lambda and others — might be different in terms of their ability to be transmitted or to make people more or less sick.

The newer coronavirus variants could be making people sicker.

While some people infected with the delta variant have symptoms that are in line with a common cold, there is also preliminary evidence suggesting that other people’s symptoms may be “more intensely felt” with delta, Leizman said.

“We have seen that hospitalization rates are seemingly increased in younger populations with the delta variant,” he offered as an example.

But at this point, there’s no scientific consensus on whether the delta variant is likely to make people sicker than the initial strain, simply because it (and other variants) are so new. The best we have at this point are one-off studies, surveys or even just anecdotal information from the field.

“There’s now data coming out of England and Scotland showing that the severity of the disease may be increased, and it may be leading to an increased risk of hospitalization,” said Carlos Malvestutto, an infectious disease specialist at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center.

“People who are not vaccinated are particularly vulnerable because the new variants — and particularly the delta variant — transmits faster and may be causing more severe disease,” Malvestutto added.

Symptoms tend to be mild in those who are fully vaccinated.

While the vast majority of new cases and hospitalizations occur in those who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 (around 99% of new infections in some parts of the country), so-called “breakthrough cases” do occur among those who’ve received both shots of either of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines or the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine.

But the symptoms people experience in those instances tend to be relatively mild, according to the data that’s available at this point. About a third of people who got infected after being fully vaccinated were totally asymptomatic, for example.

The CDC now only tracks breakthrough cases that result in hospitalization or death, so there’s just not really robust data looking at how many people experience milder symptoms post-vaccine (or no symptoms at all), nor is there clarity about what variant those people may have caught. Still, there have been high-profile breakthrough infections in the news, like the New York Yankees cluster or entertainment reporter Catt Sadler, who recently said she had contracted COVID-19 after vaccination.

Ultimately, however, the goal of vaccination is not only to reduce transmission but to also drastically reduce hospitalizations and deaths — and the vaccines have done just that.

“The vast majority of individuals who are fully vaccinated do not have those severe consequences of disease, which makes us think the symptoms might be more mild in general for individuals who are fully vaccinated,” Leizman said.

Breakthrough cases also remain rare. As of mid-July, the CDC said that more than 157 million people in the United States had been fully vaccinated. There have been about 5,000 patients with COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough infections who were hospitalized or who died — though not all of those cases were directly attributed to COVID-19.

Which is why health experts are adamant that getting vaccinated is the best thing people can do to keep themselves and others safe — and to avoid developing any kind of symptoms at all.

“I’m in a state where we’re seeing a significant uptick in hospitalized patients … and they’re all people who have not been vaccinated, which is really hard and devastating, because these are completely preventable,” Powderly said.

Experts are still learning about COVID-19. The information in this story is what was known or available as of publication, but guidance can change as scientists discover more about the virus. Please check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most updated recommendations.

Source: The COVID-19 Symptoms Doctors Are Seeing The Most Right Now | HuffPost UK Wellness

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References :

The Delta SARS-CoV-2 variant first appeared in India in October 2020. This is the fastest-growing variant and is currently outpacing all other variants. This variant contains the “eek” mutation in the Spike protein, which helps the virus evade certain antibodies.  As a result, the Delta variant has shown significantly increased transmission.

This variant is responsible for the dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases in India over the past several months. Additionally, this variant has been identified in over 98 countries across the world as of July 2, 2021. Both the Pfizer/BioNTech (88%) and the AstraZeneca/Vaxzevria (67%) vaccine demonstrated protection was retained against severe disease caused by the Delta variant. Data is still limited relating to vaccine efficacy and the delta variant.

  1. Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID)
  2. Network for Genomics Surveillance in South Africa 
  3. Journal- Increased transmissibility and global spread of SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern as at June 2021
  4. Journal- Effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines against hospital admission with the Delta (B.1.617.2) variant
  5. Sheikh A, McMenamin J, Taylor B, Robertson C. SARS-CoV-2 Delta VOC in Scotland: demographics, risk of hospital admission, and vaccine effectiveness. 

 

Want to Raise Successful Kids? Science Says These 5 Habits Matter Most

I’ve been on a mission, collecting science-based parenting advice both here in my column on Inc.com and in my continuously updated free e-book How to Raise Successful Kids, which you can download here.

Here’s a short but detailed look at five of the most useful studies that I’ve found, and the habits they suggest for successful parents.

1. Be a role model (but not their only role model).

Let’s give the plot twist up front: Kids need great role models, but one of the most important roles you can model is how you deal with failure.

Deal with it honestly, openly, and transparently. Let them see that you do sometimes try and come up short. Because, of course, they will fail at things themselves, and you want to teach them two things:

  • Don’t be afraid or ashamed of failure, especially if they’ve given it their all.
  • Rebound from it the right way.

A few years ago, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology ran experiments with children as young as 15 months old. The more their parents let them see that they struggled and failed at times, the more resilient the kids became.

“There’s some pressure on parents to make everything look easy,” one of the study’s leads said. “[T]his does at least suggest that it may not be a bad thing to show your children that you are working hard to achieve your goals.”

Beyond that? Make sure they have great role models, both in their lives and in literature.

2. Teach them to love the outdoors.

This advice seems especially timely as we emerge from the pandemic. But kids need to be outside.

Studies show that kids who spent a lot less time outdoors during the early days of the coronavirus crisis experienced a strikingly negative effect on their emotional well-being.

This almost seems like common sense, but we see it come up again and again in both children and adults.

These kinds of habits — and a lifelong appreciation for nature (or not) — can start young, and cost almost nothing.

Against this — and I’m no Luddite, and I know we live in a digital world, but — researchers have found that happiness and well-being among U.S. middle schoolers has declined steadily since 2012.

Hmmm, what happened in 2012? That’s when American kids largely started to get their own smartphones, combined with unlimited data plans.

3. Teach them to prioritize kindness.

A couple of years ago, psychologist and business school professor Adam Grant and his wife, Allison Sweet Grant, wrote a book about kids and kindness. In an article they wrote for The Atlantic around the same time, they made an interesting point:

  • More than 90 percent of U.S. parents say that “one of their top priorities is that their children be caring.”
  • But if you ask children what their parents’ top priorities are for them,  “81 percent say their parents value achievement and happiness over caring.”

There’s a disconnect. And it might stem from people not realizing one of the most fascinating paradoxes, which is that people who demonstrate kindness and caring for others are often more likely to achieve what they want as a result.

As the Grants put it:

Boys who are rated as helpful by their kindergarten teacher earn more money 30 years later. Middle-school students who help, cooperate, and share with their peers also excel–compared with unhelpful classmates, they get better grades and standardized-test scores.

The eighth graders with the greatest academic achievement, moreover, are not the ones who got the best marks five years earlier; they’re the ones who were rated most helpful by their third-grade classmates and teachers.

And middle schoolers who believe their parents value being helpful, respectful, and kind over excelling academically, attending a good college, and having a successful career perform better in school and are less likely to break rules.

We see this in negotiations, too: Develop empathy with the people you’re dealing with, care legitimately about what they want as well as what you want, and you’re more likely to reach a desirable resolution.

4. Praise them the right way.

There are at least three facets of praising kids well that I’ve found in my surveys of the research.

The first is to praise kids for their effort, not their gifts. I’ve gotten a bit of pushback on this idea recently, which I’ll address in a future column. But in short:

  • Good: I’m very proud of you. I saw how hard you studied for that test.
  • Not-so-good: I knew you’d do well on that test. You’re so smart and naturally good at math.

The second is to praise them authentically. Kids aren’t stupid (mostly). They know if you’re blowing smoke when you praise them for things that don’t really merit praise. But they also need reinforcement to know that you’re proud and think they’re doing the right things.

In one study of 300 kids, researchers found that:

When parents perceived that they over- or underpraised their children for schoolwork, children performed worse in school and experienced depression to a greater extent, as compared with children whose parents thought their praise accurately reflected reality.

Finally, however: Be generous with your praise in terms of quantity.

A three-year study out of Brigham Young University found that there’s no magic amount of praise, but it’s helpful to do so as often as possible. One trick might be to break down tasks and praise for each one specifically, as opposed to holding your positive reinforcement until the end of a task.

5. Be there for them, and then some.

This last bit of advice is perhaps the hardest because it flies in the face of one of the parenting clichés we all want to avoid: namely, becoming a helicopter parent.

That said, I’m going to combine studies here, and at least give you food for thought — if not a complete guide.

The bottom line up front is to be there, be vocal, and be involved, while still letting your kids do for themselves as much as they can.

  • Study No. 1: Researchers found that girls whose mothers “nagged the heck out of them” were less likely to become pregnant as teenagers, more likely to go to college, and less likely to have long periods of unemployment or get stuck in dead-end jobs.
  • Study No. 2: A series of studies, actually, found that parents who were quick to run to their children’s side when they faced big challenges or had setbacks — at almost any age — wound up raising kids who were more successful and had better relationships with their parents as they got older.

In short, you’re your child’s parent, and they need you to act like that: guiding them, pushing them, and showing that you’ll always be there for them. Do that much, and you’re doing quite a lot.

By: Bill Murphy Jr., http://www.billmurphyjr.com@BillMurphyJr

Source: Want to Raise Successful Kids? Science Says These 5 Habits Matter Most | Inc.com

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Critics:

Parenting or child rearing promotes and supports the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood. Parenting refers to the intricacies of raising a child and not exclusively for a biological relationship. The most common caretaker in parenting is the father or mother, or both, the biological parents of the child in question. However, a surrogate may be an older sibling, a step-parent, a grandparent, a legal guardian, aunt, uncle, other family members, or a family friend.

Governments and society may also have a role in child-rearing. In many cases, orphaned or abandoned children receive parental care from non-parent or non-blood relations. Others may be adopted, raised in foster care, or placed in an orphanage. Parenting skills vary, and a parent or surrogate with good parenting skills may be referred to as a good parent. Parenting styles vary by historical period, race/ethnicity, social class, preference, and a few other social features.

Additionally, research supports that parental history, both in terms of attachments of varying quality and parental psychopathology, particularly in the wake of adverse experiences, can strongly influence parental sensitivity and child outcomes.

Parenting does not usually end when a child turns 18. Support may be needed in a child’s life well beyond the adolescent years and continues into middle and later adulthood. Parenting can be a lifelong process.

Parents may provide financial support to their adult children, which can also include providing an inheritance after death. The life perspective and wisdom given by a parent can benefit their adult children in their own lives. Becoming a grandparent is another milestone and has many similarities with parenting.

See also

Supporting a Friend or Family Member with a Mental Illness

It can be scary when someone you love is sick. It can be especially scary if they’re diagnosed with a mental illness. It’s hard to see someone you love in pain and it’s confusing when someone you know well is not acting like themselves. You know how you would take care of them if they had a cold or flu, but what do you do for a mental illness? Like any other health problem, someone with a mental illness needs extra love and support. You may not be able to see the illness, but it doesn’t mean that you’re powerless to help.

How can I help?

Research confirms that support from family and friends is a key part of helping someone who is going through a mental illness. This support provides a network of practical and emotional help. These networks can be made up of parents, children, siblings, spouses or partners, extended families, close friends and others who care about us like neighbours, coworkers, coaches and teachers. Some people have larger networks than others, but most of us have at least a few people who are there for us when we need them.

There are a number of major ways that family and friends can help in someone’s journey of recovery from a mental illness:

Knowing when something is wrong—or right: Getting help early is an important part of treating mental illness. Family and friends are often the first ones to notice that something is wrong. See “How do I know when to help?” on the next page for signs to watch for. Finding a treatment that works is often a process of trial and error, so family members may also be the first to see signs of improvement.

How do I do this?

  • TIP: Learn more about the signs and symptoms of different mental illnesses. Also learn more about how treatments work so that you know what side effects you may see, when to look for improvements and which ones to look for first. A recent review found that when the family is educated about the illness, the rates of relapse in their loved ones were reduced by half in the first year.

Seeking help: Families and friends can be important advocates to help loved ones get through those hard, early stages of having a mental illness. They can help their loved one find out what treatment is best for them. They can also be key in letting professionals know what’s going on, filling in parts of the picture that the person who’s ill may not be well enough to describe on their own.

How do I do this?

  • TIP: Offer to make those first appointments with a family doctor to find out what’s wrong or accompany your loved one to the doctor—these steps can be hard if your loved one doesn’t have much energy or experiences problems with concentration. If you do accompany the person, work with them to write down any notes or questions either of you have in advance so that you cover all the major points. If your loved one wants to do it on their own, show them your support and ask them if there’s anything you could do to help.
  • TIP: You can’t always prevent a mental health crisis from happening. If your loved one needs to go to hospital, try and encourage them to go on their own. If you’re concerned that your loved one is at risk of harm, they may receive treatment under BC’s Mental Health Act. It may be necessary in certain cases, but involuntary treatment can be complicated and traumatic for everyone. To learn more about the Mental Health Act, see the “Coping with Mental Health Crises and Emergencies” info sheet.

Helping with medications, appointments and treatments: If you spend a lot of time around your loved ones, you can help them remember to take their medications. You may also be able to help tell a doctor why medications aren’t being taken as they should be. Similarly, you may be involved in reminding your loved one to do their counselling homework or use their light therapy treatment each morning, or reminding your loved one to make or keep appointments for treatment.

How do I do this?

  • TIP: If you notice that your loved one is having trouble taking their medication, you can encourage them to talk to their doctor or pharmacist. They can suggest ways to make pill taking easier. If there are other problems with taking medicine, such as side effects, encourage your loved one to write down their concerns and questions and talk to their doctor. If they don’t have a good relationship with their doctor, help them find a new one. If cost is a barrier, learn about BC’s no-charge psychiatric medication coverage called Plan G.

Supporting a healthy lifestyle: Families can also help with day-to-day factors such as finances, problem solving, housing, nutrition, recreation and exercise, and proper sleeping habits.

How do I do this?

  • TIP: See our Wellness Modules at http://www.heretohelp.bc.ca for practical tips on how to have a healthy lifestyle for both you and your loved one. Case managers and peer support workers at mental health centres in your community may be able to help with life skills training as well as connections to income and housing.

Providing emotional support: You can play an important role in helping someone who’s not feeling well feel less alone and ashamed. They are not to blame for their illness, but they may feel that they are, or may be getting that message from others. You can help encourage hope.

How do I do this?

  • TIP: Try to be as supportive, understanding and patient as possible. See our “Where do I go from here?” section for resources on how to be a good communicator.
  • TIP: Taking care of an ill family member or friend can be stressful. Remember that you need emotional support, too. Consider joining a support group for family members of people with mental illness. There, you can connect with other people going through the same things and they can help you work through your own emotions. It’s very important to make sure you are taking care of your own mental health as well.

“Tom’s recovery has been an exercise in patience, love and understanding. We take one step forward and stumble two steps back; baby steps—small increments of success, tiny improvements of things we would ordinarily take for granted—are things we celebrate. When Tom smiles, cracks a joke or declares that he wants to go for a run, they are positive, encouraging signs: baby steps forward.”
—Family member from Family Toolkit

“The most important thing [families] have to do is accept you completely, with all your faults. Families can help by saying ‘You’re okay, we love you, and you’ll get better”
—Mariam, 31 in recovery from clinical depression 

If you need advice on how to get your loved one the help they need, there are a number of resources available to you.

Other helpful resources are:

BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information
Visit www.heretohelp.bc.ca for info sheets and personal stories on supporting loved ones. You’ll also find more information, tips and self-tests to help you understand many different mental health problems.

Alzheimer Society of BC
Visit www.alzheimerbc.org or call 1-800-936-6033 (toll-free in BC) for information and community resources for individuals and families with dementia.

AnxietyBC
Visit www.anxietybc.com or call 604-525-7566 for information, tools, and community resources on anxiety.

British Columbia Schizophrenia Society
Visit www.bcss.org or call 1-888-888-0029 (toll-free in BC) or 604-270-7841 (in Greater Vancouver) for information and community resources on schizophrenia and other major mental illnesses and support for families.

Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division
Visit www.cmha.bc.ca or call 1-800-555-8222 (toll-free in BC) or 604-688-3234 (in Greater Vancouver) for information and community resources on mental health and mental illnesses.

FORCE Society for Kids’ Mental Health
Visit.www.forcesociety.com or call 1-855-887-8004 (toll-free in BC) or 604-878-3400 (in the Lower Mainland) for information and resources that support parents of a young person with mental illness.

Jessie’s Legacy at Family Services of the North Shore
Visit www.familyservices.bc.ca or call 1-888-988-5281 ext. 204 (toll-free in BC)  or 604-988-5281 ext. 204 (in Greater Vancouver) for information and resources on body image and prevention of eating disorders.

Kelty Mental Health
Contact Kelty Mental Health at www.keltymentalhealth.ca or 1-800-665-1822 (toll-free in BC) or 604-875-2084 (in Greater Vancouver) for information, referrals and support for children, youth and their families in all areas of mental health and addictions.

Mood Disorders Association of BC
Visit www.mdabc.net or call 604-873-0103 (in the Lower Mainland) or 1-855-282-7979 (in the rest of BC) for resources and information on mood disorders. You’ll also find more information on support groups around the province.

Resources available in many languages:
*For each service below, if English is not your first language, say the name of your preferred language in English to be connected to an interpreter. More than 100 languages are available.

1-800-SUICIDE
If you are in distress or are worried about someone in distress who may hurt themselves, call 1-800-SUICIDE 24 hours a day to connect to a BC crisis line, without a wait or busy signal.

Source: Supporting a Friend or Family Member with a Mental Illness | Here to Help

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References

7 Ways To Become More Mentally Immune And Emotionally Resilient

Mental immunity is the foundation of emotional resilience.

The same way in which a cold or flu can derail the health of someone who is already ill, a small setback or troubling thought can do the same to someone who is not “mentally immune.” Mental immunity is what happens when we condition our minds to not only expect fearful thoughts or external challenges, but to tolerate them when they arise. It is shifting one’s objective in life from avoiding pain to building meaning, recognizing that pain will be some part of the journey regardless.

Mental immunity is not being able to resist or deny negative thoughts, it is being able to observe them without acting on them, or automatically believing they represent reality.

uncaptionedWhen we have mental immunity, we are able to become a third party observer to our thoughts and feelings. We can identify what we need, what we don’t want, and what really matters to us. Through the process of reintegration – or nonresistance – we become more capable of tolerating thoughts that scare us. The less reactive we are to them, the more we can learn. Frequently, there is an unhealed root association with recurring thoughts we have, or feelings that keep coming up. Being able to process these uncomfortable sensations will not only help us overcome singular issues but progress our lives forward in other ways, too.

So, we know that mental immunity is good, but when we are in the thick of our suffering, how do we begin to build it?

Today In: Leadership

1. Adopt an attitude of progress, not perfection.

Aiming for even a 1% improvement in your behavior or coping mechanisms each day is more effective than trying to radically revolutionize your life for one reason only: the former is actually attainable.

2. Be careful not to identify with that which you struggle.

A lot of people who have spent their lives struggling with anxiety begin to assume that it is just part of their personality. “I am an anxious person,” or similar phrases, are common but not necessarily true. Adopting an idea about yourself into your identity means that you believe it is who you fundamentally are, which makes it significantly more difficult to change.

3. Stop trying to eradicate fear.

Expect the fearful thought, but recognize that it is not always reflective of reality.

4. Interpret “weird” or upsetting thoughts as symbols, not realities.

If you are afraid of driving in the car by yourself, or losing a job, or being stuck in some kind of natural disaster, consider what that could represent in your life (perhaps you feel as though you are disconnected from loved ones, or that you are “unsafe” in some way). Most of these are trying to direct you to make a change, so honor them.

5. Be willing to see change.

When people struggle with something for long periods of time, there can be a resistance to seeing anything change, simply because of the length of time it has been going on. The willingness to see something change actually begins to change it. If you can do nothing else in a day, say out loud: I am willing to see this change. 

6. Imagine what you would do with your life if fear were no object. 

That is what you should be doing now. Focusing too much on trying to “get over” something actually reinforces it. It keeps us in the space of being broken. Learning to refocus on what matter is what actually gets us to move on.

7. Be present.

Everything in your life that is sabotaging you is the product of being unwilling to be present. We shop, spend, eat, drink, dream and plan our way out of the present moment constantly, which means that we never confront the feelings that we are carrying around. Being present is essential for developing mental strength and emotional health, because it allows us to actually respond to our thoughts and feelings in real time, and to confront that which unnerves us before we adopt unhealthy coping mechanisms to eradicate it.

The subconscious mind believes whatever it feels to be true. Therefore, it is easy for us to program ourselves to be subconsciously convinced that we are inadequate, in danger, or unloved. Mental immunity is what happens when we bring those ideas to the forefront of our consciousness and debunk them by marrying our feelings with reason.

Consistently reminding ourselves that a spectrum of feeling is healthy and helpful and letting go of the idea that overcoming something means eradicating it, rather than learning to act in spite of it, will help us to inch toward the lives we aspire to, rather than succumb to being victims of our own minds.

Source: 7 Ways To Become More Mentally Immune And Emotionally Resilient

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