Frequent and occasional bullying were both associated with a higher risk for depression, psychological distress, suicidal thoughts, and anxiety disorders in middle age.
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“Some of the things I’m about to say might not make sense,” began O.M., a 22-year-old cancer survivor. He had the far-off look in his eyes that I recognized from so many of the other study participants. They sound like travelers, struggling to describe exotic foreign lands to the people left back home. That struggle is a sign that the treatment has worked. Ineffability is one of the primary criteria that define a mystical experience.
“I was outside of my body, looking at myself,” O.M. continued, “My body was lying on a stretcher in front of a hospital. I felt an incredible anxiety—the same anxiety I had felt every day since my diagnosis. Then, like a switch went on, I went from being anxious to analyzing my anxiety from the outside. I realized that nothing was actually happening to me objectively. It was real because I let it become real. And, right when I had that thought, I saw a cloud of black smoke come out of my body and float away.”
The encounter with the black smoke was just one of many experiences that O.M. had that day. As his mind, “like a rocket,” traversed vast expanses, his body never left the comfortable and well-worn couch at the Bluestone Center for Clinical Research in Midtown Manhattan. The athletic first-year medical student is one of 32 participants in a New York University study examining the hallucinogen psilocybin as a treatment for cancer-related anxiety.
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Our entire lives, when you think about it, are built around rewards — the pursuit of money, fun, love, and tacos.
How we seek and respond to those rewards is part of what determines our overall happiness. Aristotle famously said there were two basic types of joy: hedonia, or that keg-standing, Netflix binge-watching, Nutella-from-the-jar selfish kind of pleasure, and eudaimonia, or the pleasure that comes from helping others, doing meaningful work, and otherwise leading a life well-lived.
Recent psychological research has suggested that this second category is more likely to produce a lasting increase in happiness. Hedonic rewards may generate a short-term burst of glee, but it dissipates more quickly than the surge created by the more selfless eudaimonic rewards.
"Happiness without meaning characterizes a relatively shallow, self-absorbed or even selfish life, in which things go well, needs and desire are easily satisfied, and difficult or taxing entanglements are avoided," a study in the Journal of Positive Psychology found last year.
Aerobic activity has shown to be an effective treatment for many forms of depression. So why are so many people still on antidepressants?
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The intensely challenging job of law enforcement is linked to many health issues. I met a former officer who tried to protect my high school friend and learned the effect her death had on him.
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In our print magazine this month, Hanna Rosin tells the story of her son Jacob’s diagnosis with Asperger syndrome, in the context of the psychiatric community’s recent change in the definition of the disorder to part of what’s now known as autism spectrum disorder.
We received a lot of thoughtful responses from readers who have experience with the disorder in their own lives, themselves or their families, about how the diagnosis has affected them, and what the changes in definition mean to everyone. Here are excerpts from some of those stories.
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4.4 percent of the U.S. has bipolar disorder, as best we know. The global rate is about half that, though detection and diagnosis vary dramatically. Still, treatment for the millions of people with the at-times debilitating condition involves an impressive degree of trial and error amid arrays of pills.
This week in the journal Psychiatry Research, doctors at Brown University published their findings that more than a third of people with bipolar I disorder who were admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Rhode Island were taking four or more psychiatric medications.
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Why, Justin Bieber? How could you so rashly destroy our belieb in you?
“Why is one of the most affluent stars throwing eggs at his neighbor’s house?” asks Conan O’Brien.
“Cause he’ a “f*cking idiot,” Joel McHale responds.
Possibly, but that’s not the full story. The child-star meltdown is a trope: Lindsay Lohan went from portraying a set of precocious campers in 1998 to becoming synonymous with the word “tantrum.” Amanda Bynes has had her own share of psychological turmoil, some of which included “janky wigs.” For more examples, Buzzfeed helpfully provides a listicle of 16 Disney stars who have been arrested.
A closer look at the psychology of early acclaim helps explain some of these implosions. There aren’t that many studies of child stars—it would be tricky to corral them all into some university lab to fill out questionnaires—but psychologists who have studied the effects of young stardom say strict parental limits are key to preventing post-adolescent disasters.
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We can put a man on the moon a rover on Mars but we’re still figuring out our own brains. Mental illness is stigmatized, potentially overdiagnosed, and often misunderstood. Scientists are still learning new things about where conditions come from, while sufferers figure out how to cope.
William V. Harris, a professor of history and director of the Center for the Ancient Mediterranean at Columbia University, studies mental illness in the classical world—ancient Rome and Greece. Though the body of knowledge we have at our disposal is still not totally sufficient to understand mental illness today, there’s an added level of difficulty involved in trying to apply today’s knowledge to earlier civilizations. Or in understanding those civilizations’ concepts of mental illness in a time when the gods were thought to be involved in everyday life, and hallucinations weren’t something to worry about.
Harris is the author of several books, and most recently edited Mental Disorders in the Classical World, published last summer. I spoke with him over email about how the ancient Greeks and Romans approached mental illness and what we can learn from them today.
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