Showing posts with label Mental. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mental. Show all posts

August 24, 2017

GOP Senate Leader McConnell Doubts Trump Can Keep The Presidency

The relationship between President Trump and Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, has disintegrated to the point that they have not spoken to each other in weeks, and Mr. McConnell has privately expressed uncertainty that Mr. Trump will be able to salvage his administration after a series of summer crises.
What was once an uneasy governing alliance has curdled into a feud of mutual resentment and sometimes outright hostility, complicated by the position of Mr. McConnell’s wife, Elaine L. Chao, in Mr. Trump’s cabinet, according to more than a dozen people briefed on their imperiled partnership. Angry phone calls and private bad-mouthing have devolved into open conflict, with the president threatening to oppose Republican senators who cross him, and Mr. McConnell mobilizing to their defense.
The rupture between Mr. Trump and Mr. McConnell comes at a highly perilous moment for Republicans, who face a number of urgent deadlines when they return to Washington next month. Congress must approve new spending measures and raise the statutory limit on government borrowing within weeks of reconvening, and Republicans are hoping to push through an elaborate rewrite of the federal tax code. There is scant room for legislative error on any front.
A protracted government shutdown or a default on sovereign debt could be disastrous — for the economy and for the party that controls the White House and both chambers of Congress.
Yet Mr. Trump and Mr. McConnell are locked in a political cold war. Neither man would comment for this article. Don Stewart, a spokesman for Mr. McConnell, noted that the senator and the president had “shared goals,” and pointed to “tax reform, infrastructure, funding the government, not defaulting on the debt, passing the defense authorization bill.” 
 Still, the back-and-forth has been dramatic.
In a series of tweets this month, Mr. Trump criticized Mr. McConnell publicly and berated him in a phone call that quickly devolved into a profane shouting match.
During the call, which Mr. Trump initiated on Aug. 9 from his New Jersey golf club, the president accused Mr. McConnell of bungling the health care issue. He was even more animated about what he intimated was the Senate leader’s refusal to protect him from investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to Republicans briefed on the conversation.
Mr. McConnell has fumed over Mr. Trump’s regular threats against fellow Republicans and criticism of Senate rules and questioned Mr. Trump’s understanding of the presidency in a public speech. Mr. McConnell has made sharper comments in private, describing Mr. Trump as entirely unwilling to learn the basics of governing.
In offhand remarks, Mr. McConnell has expressed a sense of bewilderment about where Mr. Trump’s presidency may be headed and has mused about whether Mr. Trump will be in a position to lead the Republican Party into next year’s elections and beyond, according to people who have spoken to him directly.
While maintaining a pose of the public reserve, Mr. McConnell expressed horror to advisers last week after Mr. Trump’s comments equating white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., with protesters who rallied against them. Mr. Trump’s most explosive remarks came at a news conference in Manhattan, where he stood beside Ms. Chao, the transportation secretary. (Ms. Chao, deflecting a question about the tensions between her husband and the president she serves, told reporters, “I stand by my man — both of them.”)
Mr. McConnell signaled to business leaders that he was deeply uncomfortable with Mr. Trump’s comments: Several who resigned advisory roles in the Trump administration contacted Mr. McConnell’s office after the fact, and were told that Mr. McConnell fully understood their choices, three people briefed on the conversations said.
Mr. Trump has also continued to badger and threaten Mr. McConnell’s Senate colleagues, including Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, whose Republican primary challenger was praised by Mr. Trump last week.
“Great to see that Dr. Kelli Ward is running against Flake Jeff Flake, who is WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate,” he tweeted last week. “He’s toxic!” 
At a campaign rally in Phoenix on Tuesday, Mr. Trump alluded to Mr. Flake unfavorably, referring to him as “weak on borders” and “weak on crime” without mentioning him by name. He referred to Mr. McConnell only in passing, calling on him to abolish the Senate filibuster.
Senior Republican officials said before the rally that they would stand up for Mr. Flake against any attacks. A Republican “super PAC” aligned with Mr. McConnell released a web ad on Tuesday assailing Ms. Ward as a fringe-dwelling conspiracy theorist.
"ChemtrailKelli," an attack ad released by a Republican “super PAC” aligned with Mr. McConnell. Video by Senate Leadership Fund
“When it comes to the Senate, there’s an Article 5 understanding: An attack against one is an attack against all,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who has found himself in Mr. Trump’s sights many times, invoking the NATO alliance’s mutual defense doctrine.
The fury among Senate Republicans toward Mr. Trump has been building since last month, even before he lashed out at Mr. McConnell. Some of them blame the president for not being able to rally the party around any version of legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, accusing him of not knowing even the basics of the policy. Senate Republicans also say strong-arm tactics from the White House backfired, making it harder to cobble together votes and have left bad feelings in the caucus. 
When Mr. Trump addressed a Boy Scouts jamboree last month in West Virginia, White House aides told Senator Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican from the state whose support was in doubt, that she could only accompany him on Air Force One if she committed to voting for the health care bill. She declined the invitation, noting that she could not commit to voting for a measure she had not seen, according to a Republican briefed on the conversation.
Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska told colleagues that when Mr. Trump’s interior secretary threatened to pull back federal funding for her state, she felt boxed in and unable to vote for the health care bill.
In a show of solidarity, albeit one planned well before Mr. Trump took aim at Mr. Flake, Mr. McConnell will host a $1,000-per-person dinner on Friday in Kentucky for the Arizona senator, as well as for Senator Dean Heller of Nevada, who is also facing a Trump-inspired primary race next year, and Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska. Mr. Flake is expected to attend the event.
Former Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, a Republican who is close to Mr. McConnell, said frustration with Mr. Trump was boiling over in the chamber. Mr. Gregg blamed the president for undermining congressional leaders, and said the House and Senate would have to govern on their own if Mr. Trump “can’t participate constructively.”
“Failure to do things like keeping the government open and passing a tax bill is the functional equivalent of playing Russian roulette with all the chambers loaded,” Mr. Gregg said.
Others in the party divide blame between Mr. Trump and Mr. McConnell. Al Hoffman, a former finance chairman of the Republican National Committee who has been supportive of Mr. McConnell, said Mr. McConnell was culpable because he has failed to deliver legislative victories. “Ultimately, it’s been Mitch’s responsibility, and I don’t think he’s done much,” Mr. Hoffman said.
But Mr. Hoffman predicted that Mr. McConnell would likely outlast the president.
“I think he’s going to blow up, self-implode,” Mr. Hoffman said of Mr. Trump. “I wouldn’t be surprised if McConnell pulls back his support of Trump and tries to go it alone.”
An all-out clash between Mr. Trump and Mr. McConnell would play out between men whose strengths and weaknesses are very different. Mr. Trump is a political amateur, still unschooled in the ways of Washington, but he maintains a viselike grip on the affections of the Republican base. Mr. McConnell is a soft-spoken career politician, with virtuoso mastery of political fund-raising and tactics, but he had no mass following to speak of.
Mr. McConnell, while baffled at Mr. Trump’s penchant for internecine attacks, is a ruthless pragmatist and has given no overt indication that he plans to seek more drastic conflict. Despite his private battles with Mr. Trump, Mr. McConnell has sent reassuring signals with his public conduct: On Monday, he appeared in Louisville, Ky., with Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, for a discussion of tax policy.
Mr. McConnell’s Senate colleagues, however, have grown bolder. The combination of the president’s frontal attacks on Senate Republicans and his claim that there were “fine people” marching with white supremacists in Charlottesville has emboldened lawmakers to criticize Mr. Trump in withering terms.
Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee rebuked Mr. Trump last week for failing to “demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence” required of presidents. On Monday, Senator Susan Collins of Maine
said in a television interview that she was uncertain Mr. Trump would be the Republican presidential nominee in 2020.
There are few recent precedents for the rift. The last time a president turned on a legislative leader of his own party was in 2002 when allies of George W. Bush helped force Trent Lott to step down as Senate minority leader after racially charged remarks at a birthday party for Senator Strom Thurmond, Republican of South Carolina.
For the moment, Mr. McConnell appears to be far more secure in his position, and perhaps immune to coercion from the White House. Republicans are unlikely to lose control of the Senate in 2018, and Mr. Trump has no allies in the Senate who have shown an appetite for combat with Mr. McConnell.
Still, some allies of Mr. Trump on the right — including Stephen K. Bannon, who stepped down last week as Mr. Trump’s chief strategist — welcome more direct conflict with Mr. McConnell and congressional Republicans.
Roger J. Stone Jr., a Republican strategist who has advised Mr. Trump for decades, said the president needed to “take a scalp” in order to force cooperation from Republican elites who have resisted his agenda. Mr. Stone urged Mr. Trump to make an example of one or more Republicans, like Mr. Flake, who has refused to give full support to his administration.
“The president should start bumping off incumbent Republican members of Congress in primaries,” Mr. Stone said. “If he did that, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan would wet their pants and the rest of the Republicans would get in line.” 
But Mr. McConnell’s allies warn that the president should be wary of doing anything that could jeopardize the Senate Republican majority.
“The quickest way for him to get impeached is for Trump to knock off Jeff Flake and Dean Heller and be faced with a Democrat-led Senate,” said Billy Piper, a lobbyist and former McConnell chief of staff.

June 4, 2016

Younger Men Less Likely to Say They are “Completely Masculine”

Image result for very masculine man

Younger American men are noticeably less likely than older men to say that they are 'completely masculine'

Few areas of American life have seen as much change as the world of gender and sexuality. When the youngest retirees were born in the early 50s, women were expected to stay in the home and nurture the children while men were expected to serve as breadwinners, aloof from many of the mundane household tasks and joys. Today, in 2016, gender roles have been transformed as the percentage of men who stay home to take care of children increases and women begin to beat men in academic achievement and are slowly closing the income gap. 
Research from YouGov shows that the muscular masculinity of decades past is a fading feature of American life for the young. Americans were asked to rate themselves on a scale of 0 to 6, there 0 is 'completely masculine' and 6 is 'completely feminine'. 65% of men over the age of 65 say that they are 'completely masculine, while only 28% of men aged 30 to 44 and 30% of men aged 18 to 29 say the same. Among under-30s, 13% put themselves halfway between the masculine and the feminine, while 12% say that they are at least slightly feminine. Only 4% of over-65 men say that they are at all feminine. 
Women show a very similar split along age, but women are slightly less likely than men to describe themselves as atypical. 88% of American women describe themselves as feminine, compared to 82% of American men who describe themselves as masculine.
This survey was also conducted in the UK. In the UK men and women are less likely to describe themselves as completely masculine or feminine, and the age gap is even more pronounced. Among British men 56% of over-65s describe themselves as 'completely masculine - only 9% lower than in the US. Among British men aged 18 to 24, however, only 2% say that they are 'completely masculine'. 
Full poll results and margin of error can be found here.

January 12, 2013

Dangerous Killer Dreamers} Are You One?

As the sun set in the Welsh village of Aberporth in July 2008, 59-year-old Brian Thomas sat with his wife, Christine, in a motor home overlooking the sea. The pair had been married almost 40 years and now spent their retirement watching rugby together and traveling the countryside. After dinner, the couple went to bed, only to be awoken around 11:30 by rowdy teenage boys nearby. Unable to return to sleep, they drove to another site and bedded back down.
Then the night took a deadly turn. Brian woke to find himself with his hands around Christine's neck as she lay unresponsive. In a panic, he called 999, the Welsh equivalent of 911. "I think I've killed my wife," he told the operator. "Oh, my God. I thought someone had broken in. I was fighting with those boys, but it was Christine. I must have been dreaming. What have I done?"

In his sleep, Brian had strangled his wife to death. Sixteen months later, he appeared in court to face charges of murder. The question before the jury was stark in its simplicity: Was the death of Christine Thomas the fault of her husband or a tragic accident over which he had no control?
For most, a bad night's sleep leads to little more than bleary eyes the next day. But for those who suffer from parasomnias, a group of sleep disorders that includes sleepwalking and night terrors, a bad night can quickly become a catastrophe. While asleep, these people have been known to dive into nightstands, drive, or make phone calls—with no recollection of their actions come morning. In extreme cases, they can pose a lethal threat to themselves or others, according to Mark Mahowald, director of the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorder Center and a neurologist at the University of Minnesota. He has studied cases in which people ran into traffic while asleep or woke up and realized that they had their wives trapped in a headlock.

Image: Letter Z over body chalking
Those with parasomnias sometimes resort to tying themselves to their bed at night out of fear they'll accidentally kill themselves or someone else. Comedian Mike Birbiglia jumped out of a window while asleep, seriously injuring himself. He has since described zipping himself into a sleeping bag each night so that he can't harm himself again. The accident was the basis of his recent hit indie film, Sleepwalk With Me

Study} Religion&Mental/Physical Health Vs Wellness Could Be The Kool-Aide That Kills U

The relationship between spirituality and/or religion and mental and physical health has increasingly come under study in recent years. It almost seems to have become conventional wisdom that spirituality is associated with better health, mental and physical. However, a recently published Britishstudy found that people who consider themselves spiritual but not religious are more likely to have a mental disorder compared to conventionally religious people and to those who are neither religious nor spiritual. Conventionally religious people and those who were neither religious nor spiritual did not differ in their mental health status, suggesting that being religious offers few advantages in terms of mental health. The reasons for this are still unclear. Studies on the psychology of spirituality offer some clues as to why spiritual but not religious people might be prone to poorer mental health although more research is needed to fully explain the relationship.

Claims that “spirituality” is beneficial for mental health (see this articlefor example) have been criticised on the grounds that definitions of spirituality have been broadened so much that they imply mental health by definition (Koenig, 2008). Spirituality traditionally had a narrow definition centred on belief in supernatural spirits such as God. However, mental health services  have become increasingly interested in addressing the “spiritual” needs of consumers in recent times, and as a result attempts have been made to redefine the term in a way that would be maximally inclusive, so as to apply to people from diverse religious backgrounds and to those with no religion (Koenig, 2008). Many studies have broadened the term to incorporate a wide range of positive psychological concepts, such as purpose in life, hopefulness, social connectedness, peacefulness and well-being in general. This becomes problematic for research attempting to assess the relationship between “spirituality” and mental health because by most definitions good mental health implies that a person has some purpose in life, is hopeful, socially connected and has peace and well-being. Thus it becomes a meaningless tautology to say that spirituality is associated with better mental health when the term is defined this way (Lindeman & Aarnio, 2007).
A recent British study looked at the relationship between spirituality and mental health using a more traditional understanding of the term to avoid this problem of tautology (King et al., 2013). The study involved in-depth interviews with over 7000 people in England. Participants were sorted into those whose understanding of life was predominantly religious, spiritual, or neither. These terms were explained in the following way:
‘By religion, we mean the actual practice of a faith, e.g. going to a temple, mosque, church or synagogue. Some people do not follow a religion but do have spiritual beliefs or experiences. Some people make sense of their lives without any religious or spiritual belief.’
 Participants were also interviewed in depth about their mental health, alcohol and drug use, social support, use of psychotropic medication, gambling, and were asked about their overall happiness.
The results showed that religious participants were similar to non-religious/non-spiritual ones in regards to their mental health in most respects, although the religious were less likely to have used or been dependent on drugs in the last year. However, there were striking differences for those in the spiritual but not religious category. Compared to people who were in the neither category, spiritual but not religious people were more likely to take psychotropic medication, to use or be dependent on recreational drugs, to have a generalised anxiety disorder, phobia, or any neurotic disorder, or to have abnormal eating attitudes. These differences still held even when taking into account social support and physical health, as well as age, sex, and ethnicity. None of the groups differed in their overall happiness though.
The authors concluded that people who are spiritual but not religious in their understanding of life are more vulnerable to mental disorders than other people. The nature of the causal relationship between spirituality and mental disorder is currently unknown. An earlier British study had similar findings and the authors noted that it is possible that not having a religious framework for one’s beliefs could lead to mental disorder in people who have a need for a spiritual understanding of life (King, Weich, Nazroo, & Blizard, 2006). Alternatively, having a mental disorder might prompt a person to engage in a spiritual quest in the hope of mental healing or deeper understanding of one’s problems.

Spirituality may be as much about anguish as inner peace

An earlier study on the personality traits associated with “spirituality” and religiosity might shed some light onto the relationship between spirituality and mental disorder (Saucier & Skrzypińska, 2006). Spirituality in this study was defined as “quest for meaning, unity, connectedness to nature, humanity, and the transcendent.” Note that this definition focuses on subjective and mystical understandings of life, in contrast to more conventional religiosity which emphasises adherence to orthodox belief systems. Although many people describe themselves in terms of both conventional religiosity and subjective spirituality, people who were more focused on subjective spirituality and less interested in religiosity tended to have distinctly different personality characteristics compared to those with a more orthodox religious orientation. People who described themselves in conventional religious terms tended to be fairly conservative in their attitudes and beliefs. Those who were more spiritual and less religious tended to be more non-conforming and even peculiar in their outlook and personal traits. For example, they were more likely than other people to describe themselves as weird and crazy. Additionally, they tended to believe in a range of “alternative” ideas (such as psychokinesis, reincarnation, astrology, witchcraft, and psychic powers), say that they “respect the power of magic,” and scored highly in measures of magical thinking, fantasy proneness, and absorption[1].
Characteristics such as magical thinking and so on have been linked to a set of traits known as schizotypy, or proneness to mildly psychotic thinking. Schizotypy refers to a cluster of cognitive, emotional, and behavioural traits that are similar to but generally milder than those exhibited in schizophrenia. It is associated with unusual beliefs about reality (e.g. that it is possible to harm other by thinking bad thoughts about them) and the tendency to have odd perceptual experiences (such as feeling that strangers are reading one’s mind). Other research has found that adherents of New Age beliefs and practices (such as yoga, Reiki, astrology, and Tarot) tend to be high in schizotypy and this is reflected in a loose 'holistic' thinking style (Farias, Claridge, & Lalljee, 2005). Schizotypy tends to be associated with high levels of anxiety and depression (Lewandowski et al., 2006). It could be the case that people with schizotypal tendencies and associated proneness to anxiety and depression may find unconventional spiritual ideas to be particularly appealing. It is also possible (and I admit this is speculation) that adherence to such ideas exacerbates their existing mental imbalances. (It should be noted though that many people with schizotypal tendencies are otherwise well-adjusted. Schizotypy has also been linked to artistic creativity.)

Whether unconventional spiritual pursuits are harmful to mental health is not yet known. In some respects, the association between spirituality and mental disorder seems contrary to the benefits that many spiritual traditions claim to offer. Spiritual fulfilment is supposed to lead to inner peace, even bliss. In fact certain mystics have gone so far as to claim that spiritual “work” can lead to an inner transformation that will result in “True wisdom and perfect happiness”! The very idea of “perfect happiness” seems like an impossible mirage, although a more charitable interpretation is that the term is intended as a poetic metaphor rather than a literal reality. So why are so many spiritual people so troubled? It may be that some people are simply not that successful in pursuing whatever spiritual fulfilment they are seeking. King et al. (2013) found that those who were spiritual but not religious rated the strength of their belief and the importance of the practice of their faith somewhat lower than the religious participants in their study. This might indicate a lack of dedication or self-discipline on the part of those who claim to be spiritual but not religious. More detailed studies are needed to determine if this is the case.
Another limitation of the study by King et al. was that it did not examine the specific content of the beliefs and practices of the spiritual but not religious. The content of one’s spiritual beliefs could well affect one’s mental health. For example, belief in the interconnectedness of things might be relatively beneficial, whereas more “superstitious” beliefs such as in the “evil eye” could be harmful to one’s mental health.  Research could examine whether certain particular spiritual practices are more associated with mental disorder than others. For example, yoga and meditation are generally thought to be beneficial to one’s well-being, but more bizarre practices (such as “regression” to before one’s birth) might encourage a person to hold peculiar ideas that may not serve them well in real life.
An additional puzzle is why the three groups in the King et al. study did not differ in their overall happiness even though one group was more prone to mental disorder. Happiness was assessed with a single question, whereas mental health status was assessed with a clinical interview, so a more detailed assessment of well-being might provide a more nuanced picture.
Considering the increasing prominence in modern society of people who consider themselves spiritual but not religious, more in-depth research is needed to understand fully why this group seems to be particularly vulnerable to mental illness.
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[1] I discuss absorption and its relationship to mystical experiences occasioned by psychedelic drugs in a previous post.
Previous posts discussing spiritual beliefs
Reason Versus Faith? The Interplay of Intuition and Rationality In Supernatural Belief
Opening the Mind: where skepticism and superstition meet
Precognition and the search for the soul: Part 1 and 2
The Spirituality of Psychedelic Drug Users
Farias, M., Claridge, G., & Lalljee, M. (2005). Personality and cognitive predictors of New Age practices and beliefs. Personality and Individual Differences, 39(5), 979-989. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2005.04.003
King, M., Marston, L., McManus, S., Brugha, T., Meltzer, H., & Bebbington, P. (2013). Religion, spirituality and mental health: results from a national study of English households. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 202(1), 68-73. doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.112.112003
King, M., Weich, S., Nazroo, J., & Blizard, B. (2006). Religion, mental health and ethnicity. EMPIRIC – A national survey of England. Journal of Mental Health, 15(2), 153-162. doi: doi:10.1080/09638230600608891
Koenig, H. G. (2008). Concerns About Measuring "Spirituality" in Research. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 196(5), 349-355 310.1097/NMD.1090b1013e31816ff31796.
Lewandowski, K. E., Barrantes-Vidal, N., Nelson-Gray, R. O., Clancy, C., Kepley, H. O., & Kwapil, T. R. (2006). Anxiety and depression symptoms in psychometrically identified schizotypy. Schizophrenia Research, 83(2–3), 225-235. doi:
Lindeman, M., & Aarnio, K. (2007). Superstitious, magical, and paranormal beliefs: An integrative model. Journal of Research in Personality, 41(4), 731-744. doi: 10.1016/j.jrp.2006.06.009
Saucier, G., & Skrzypińska, K. (2006). Spiritual But Not Religious? Evidence for Two Independent Dispositions. Journal of Personality, 74(5), 1257-1292. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.2006.00409.x

December 17, 2012

Mood Swings and Accepting The Reality Of Mental Illness

Outpatient involuntary treatment needs to be considered.  by Dr. Nassir Ghaemi in Mood Swings

A psychiatrist surveys the mind and the wider world  

A mentally ill young male kills innocents. He had struggled with –
fill in the blank mental illness
(autismdepressionbipolar disorderschizophrenia) – and did not
receive treatment, or did not
agree to treatment, or did not respond to treatment. He and his
family tried to get help, but failed,
 and eventually his family gave up. The young man became a
 loner, living quietly on the margins
 of society, until, one day, he had enough and decided to kill himself.
He had access to guns, yes, but it was an insane mind that pulled the triggers, a mind, 
often, with a treatable disease. Not infrequently, we know the disease, we know how to
 treat it, we have the treatments. It is sometimes the case that it is not lack of knowledge
 which leads to tragedy; it is the inability to implement what we know.

This is not a problem of ignorance; it's a problem of will. And the blame for not being able to implement what we know lays with us, with many members of our liberal American society, who will defend to the death their personal liberties, their civil rights. One cannot force outpatient treatment for mental illness in most states. Many will even deny that these mental illnesses are “real.” The blogs, including many on this Psychology Today website, are full of critics of psychiatry and drugsand the pharmaceutical industry and the medical profession. It’s all made up, they say. These are “socially constructed” illnesses, whereby the psychiatric profession can exert its power-hunger and the pharmaceutical industry will profit.
 If these are fictional conditions, then some very real innocent lives have been lost because of those fictions.We must finally put aside all the discrimination against mental illnesses, which reaches the point of denying their existence, and admit what any civilized, educated society would do: these are real illnesses, often characterized by the refusal of those who have them to accept treatment. Sometimes, society has rights which overrule extreme individual civil liberties. Besides strict gun laws, we need more laws allowing for outpatient commitment to treatment for severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
There is the phenomenon of suicide-by-cop; there can also be
 The young man decided to kill himself by killing others, thereby
 ensuring that police
would kill him, and, if not, he could always kill himself at the end.
 It might be in a
movie theater, or a subway station, or at a mall where a politician
 would speak.
 it might even be in an innocent elementary school.

This doesnt mean that we can cure all mental illnesses easily and that all of our treatments are just fine. But we can treat some illnesses, and we can manage to control some extreme behaviors. I have known many persons with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, who could have had at least moderate benefit from treatments, but who refused to accept those treatments.  And their parents could not force adult children to be treated. And judges could not change the laws.  Extreme tragedies are rare, but small tragedies happen on a daily basis, because of insufficient legal ability to treat some of our most treatable mental illnesses in the outpatient setting.We don't need to lock people up; we just need to give parents of adults with mental illnesses more legal tools to try to get their children treatment. Such interventions may not have prevented this tragedy, or they might have; we cannot know. But I think it is highly probable that in a society with very strict access to guns, and with much wider ability to treat mental illness in the community, such tragedies would be much less common than they are in these United States. 

The radical libertarian right will hate it, but so will the radical left, who can’t accept the idea of
 mental illnesses being real rather than social fictions. And many liberals, who have no problem
 with forcing people to pay money in higher taxes, will refuse to force people to get their 
diseases treated. When both extremes oppose an idea, it tends to be right. 

November 26, 2012

Leukodystrophy} Brain Goes on Reverse to Childhood

It's late afternoon in a terraced house in Hull, and the Clark brothers are battling it out at Monopoly at the dining room table. "They love board games – they'd play them all day," says their mother, Christine. "The only problem," adds Tony, their father, "is when one of them finds out he hasn't won, Then you end up with a huge fight, with the board and the pieces on the floor."
It sounds like the sort of thing that could happen in any home with a couple of primary school-aged kids. But the terrible reality is that the children in question are 42 and 39. An extremely rare medical condition means Michael and Matthew Clark aren't in their first childhood, they're going through their second – and for their parents, the agony is almost unendurable.
The Clarks don't like the boys hearing the story – and they'd never sit still for long enough to allow us to talk – so we retreat to the sitting room while they continue their game with the carers who come in each afternoon to give Tony and Christine a break. On the mantelpiece, there's a picture of the boys aged around 13 and 10. But the reality, says Christine, 62, is that in many ways they were more mature then than they are now.
Looking back, Tony and Christine can see there were warning signs, through the years, that all was not well – but the situation they were warning about was so bizarre and shocking that no one could possibly have heeded them. "I remember taking the boys to Spain for a holiday," says Tony, 63. "They were both in their thirties, and I remember, as the plane took off, they were shouting out 'Yippee' like a pair of kids."
On the same holiday, Christine remembers having a nagging sense that something wasn't right. "The boys kept squabbling, and they seemed really childish. I thought it was odd; by that stage Matthew was a dad himself."
Both Michael and Matthew had done well at school. Matthew was offered places both in the Royal Navy and at agricultural college, though he ended up doing a variety of training schemes. Michael went into the RAF at the age of 20, and later qualified as a cabinet maker. Both men married: Matthew and his wife had a daughter, Lydia – now 19 – and Michael had stepchildren. "They left home, settled down, and all seemed to be going well," says Christine.
By this stage, Tony was in his late  forties. He decided to take early retirement from his job as a prison officer. "And then we decided to move to Spain," says Christine. So seven years ago, believing their years of heavy-duty childrearing were well behind them, they sold their home in Gloucestershire and moved to a village near Benidorm.
The plan was for Michael and Matthew to visit whenever they could, but from the outset things seemed strange. "They never answered their mobiles – I kept calling and calling," says Tony. "And then, one day, Lydia phoned to say a worker from a hostel had called to say her dad was living there, and there were some problems he needed to discuss."
Tragically, Tony and Christine's departure had coincided with their sons' downward spiral. "If we'd been in the UK, we'd have realised something was very wrong," says Christine. Instead, Michael and Matthew, who were by this stage both divorced, ended up on benefits, sharing an increasingly squalid flat in Lincoln – and they became gradually unable to look after themselves. By the time their parents came back, the two were like a pair of toddlers unable to cope in an adult world. "The flat was an absolute tip, with the washing all piled up in one corner, and the kitchen took me hours and hours to clean up," says Christine. "It was unbelievable."
By this stage, the brothers had been squabbling so much that Michael had moved out of the flat and into a hostel. Workers there arranged for him to have medical checks: and when doctors realised he had a brother with similar problems, they ran a series of genetic tests. The results were devastating: both brothers were found to have terminal leukodystrophy. The boys' brains were being destroyed: intellectually and emotionally, they were returning to their babyhood.
For Tony and Christine, there was only one possible course of action: earlier this year they left Spain for good (though because of the economic situation, they've been unable to sell their house) and came back to the UK to look after their children full-time. This summer, Hull Council gave them a specially adapted house, and they're now living a back-to-the future existence as parents of two children who are, to all intents and purposes, getting younger by the day.
In almost every way, life for Tony and Christine is as it was three decades ago – the only difference being that the "toddlers" they're caring for are six-feet-tall adults. "Michael is the most child-like: he's moody, he can't be left on his own. Matthew talks all the time, he says whatever comes into his head, and he tends to make big noises and to shout out a lot," says Christine.
"They can be very affectionate, particularly with one another – they'll often put their arms around one another, and Michael will say, 'He's my little brother'. Just like small children, they wake up a lot during the night – I was up seven times with them last night – and, also like children, they'll deny and deny that they're tired, even when you can see their eyelids drooping."
At the moment, both boys eat normally but, says Christine, it's only going to be a matter of time before that will be too difficult for them. "A few weeks ago, they could still manage with a knife and fork, but now that's getting too difficult for them – they get the food on to their forks, but somehow it all falls off before it reaches their mouths."
Walking, too, is becoming increasingly difficult: Matthew uses a wheelchair when he's out, and Michael is finding walking more and more of a struggle. "I took him to the supermarket the other day, and I felt this big hand reaching out for mine," says Tony sadly. "So we walked around hand in hand: we got a few stares, but if it's what he needs to do, it's what we're doing."
The boys have been called the "Benjamin Button brothers", after the F Scott Fitzgerald character who is born as an old man and grows up to be a child. But Christine says the analogy is upsetting. "For one thing, they're not getting smaller – there's no return to them being cute little boys, they're big strong men – and that presents a quite different set of problems," she says.
Most tragically of all, there are occasions when her sons – especially Michael – are all too aware of their situation. "There are times when they know what they had, they know they were once normal adults with normal lives," says 
Christine. "They're aware of what it is they're losing." She and Tony, she says, are aware that both their sons might die before they do. "My biggest fear is that they'll outlive us, because it would be terrible to think of them having to survive without us," she says. "But I don't know how we'll begin to deal with losing them."
One of the few things that make them happy, these days, is being around children – at a family event in the summer, says Christine, they enjoyed splashing around in the paddling pool and playing with a water gun. They don't get much chance to mix with children – although, in a sad twist of fate, Matthew recently became a grandfather when Lydia gave birth to a son called Zachery. "She brought him over to meet us, but it was very hard all round," says Christine. "Matthew loved him, and he knows he's his grandson – but in some ways he seemed more like a slightly older brother. It all feels so wrong – this is so absolutely not how anyone's life should ever be."
'The Curious Case of the Clark Brothers' is broadcast tomorrow at 9pm on Channel 4
What is leukodystrophy?
* Leukodystrophy is a neurological disease which affects the brain, nervous system and spinal cord.
* It attacks the white ("leuko") matter of the spinal cord and brain, causing gradual loss of brain functions.
* It cannot be cured, and there is no medical treatment to slow the symptoms.
* It's extremely rare – there are only around 100 people affected in the UK, most of them children.
* There are around 40 known types, and research is ongoing into the cause and possible treatments.
* Most forms of the condition are inherited from parent carriers of the gene deficiency. However, there's only a one in three billion chance of two carriers meeting and deciding to have children together.
Joanna Moorhead

November 24, 2012

Imaging Showing Psychics Minds May Show Mental Disease

A new imaging study that examined the brains of a group of Brazilian mediums while they were in a dissociative, or trance, state may shed light on "disastrous psychiatric conditions" such as schizophrenia.
Investigators used single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) to scan the brains of 10 mediums who were in a trance while performing psychography, a practice in which a deceased person or spirit is believed to write through the medium's hand.
Results showed that the mediums who were considered more experienced had significantly lower levels of activity in several brain areas, including the left hippocampus, the right superior temporal gyrus, and the frontal lobe regions of the left anterior cingulate and right precentral gyrus, during psychography compared with their nontrance writing state of consciousness.
However, less experienced mediums showed increased levels of cerebral blood flow in these frontal areas.
Dr. Andrew Newberg
"I thought this type of training effect between the 2 groups was interesting. When someone is more purposeful in their intent, they may work harder, as shown by higher levels of activation in the cognitive processing area," senior study author Andrew Newberg, MD, director of research at the Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, told Medscape Medical News.
For example, someone who is first learning to play the piano is very conscious of moving their fingers and hitting the right keys. "But as you become an expert, you do it almost without thinking, and the brain activity decreases," explained Dr. Newberg.
"This is part of a large area of research, which asks: what is the impact of different spiritual practices and experiences on our well-being? If they support good cognitive function and good emotional state, they can be very beneficial for people."
The study was published online November 16 in PLoS One.
Spiritual Practices
Dr. Newberg and his colleagues have previously conducted research that examined brain function during practices such as meditation and prayer.
"Spiritual experiences affect cerebral activity, this is known. But the cerebral response to mediumship, the practice of supposedly being in communication with or under the control of the spirit of a deceased person, has received little scientific attention," said Dr. Newberg in a release.
For the study, the investigators focused primarily on the prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate gyrus, areas of the brain that are known to be involved in the brain's attentional network.
In addition, they also assessed the hippocampus and the superior temporal region, which are involved with language reception, and the precentral gyrus, which may be related to writing.
Ten mediums between the ages of 33 and 59 years (60% women) from the area of Sao Paulo, Brazil, were included. Each one was right-handed, was considered to be in good mental health, and reported having performed 2 to 18 psychographies per month for 15 to 47 years.
Five of the mediums were considered to be novices (mean age, 48.6 years), whereas the other 5 had at least 20 years of experience (mean age, 48 years). None of them had ever been paid for performing psychography for others.
Absence of Focus
All participants were injected with a radioactive tracer and were scanned using SPECT to assess areas of the brain that were active and inactive during the practice of psychography, which included the medium entering a trancelike state, and during controlled writing activities in their normal state of consciousness.
The writing samples produced during both types of consciousness were examined and scored by a Brazilian language and literature expert.
Results showed that during psychography, the group of experienced mediums had lower levels of activity in the left culmen, left hippocampus, left inferior occipital gyrus, left anterior cingulate, right superior temporal gyrus, and right precentral gyrus than when they were performing normal writing tasks ( P < .05 overall when compared with the less expert mediums).
The frontal lobe areas are associated with reasoning, planning, generating language, movement, and problem solving, perhaps reflecting an absence of focus, self-awareness, and consciousness during psychography, the researchers note.
The less experienced mediums had significantly increased levels of cerebral blood flow in these brain regions during psychography than during normal writing ( P < .001 for all).
In addition, the complexity scores for all of the writing samples produced during psychography were significantly higher than for those during controlled writing ( P = .007), as were the scores just from the experienced mediums ( P = .04).
Neurophysiologic Correlates
"One speculation is that as frontal lobe activity decreases, the areas of the brain that support mediumistic writing are further disinhibited (similar to alcohol or drug use) so that the overall complexity can increase," explains the release.
"In a similar manner, improvisational music performance is associated with lower levels of frontal lobe activity, which allows for more creative activity."
Nevertheless, the investigators note that this activity, as well as states during alcohol/drug use, are "quite peculiar and distinct" from psychography.
"While the exact reason is at this point elusive, our study suggests there are neurophysiological correlates of this state," said Dr. Newberg.
He went on to liken the brain activity in these mediums with what happens to those who have learned a new language. At first, the person often tries to translate every word. But after a while, they switch over and begin to actually think in the new language.
"You're still speaking the same language. You're just changing the way your brain activates during that particular practice," said Dr. Newberg.
He noted that he is looking forward to future studies that will examine some of these issues.
"Different lines of research are coming together in a promising development pointing toward more profound comprehension of consciousness and dissociation," write the investigators.
"The present study provides useful preliminary data and points to the potential utility of epistemologically informed in-depth improve our understanding of the mind and its relationship with the brain."
Not Mystical
Commenting on the findings for Medscape Medical News, Charles L. Raison, MD, associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the College of Medicine and at the Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences at the University of Arizona in Tucson, said the study is interesting — both specifically and in a generalizable way for psychiatrists.
Dr. Charles Raison
"This study showed that people had different patterns of brain changes when they were in dissociative experiences, which is something that has been looked at a lot in people with what used to be called multiple personality disorder and things like that," he said.
"So from a scientific perspective, we shouldn't be surprised by these findings. There's a lot of evidence that our mental functioning, the way we think and the way we feel and the experiences we have, seems to be created by the complex functioning of the brain."
As reported by Medscape Medical News, Dr. Raison and colleagues recently published a study in theFrontiers of Human Neuroscience that showed that adults who underwent 2 months of either of 2 types of meditation training had a greater response to emotional stimuli in the right amygdala than those in a health discussion group.
"People have this incredible interest in meditation. And we've learned that meditation changes the way the brain responds to stuff. That's fascinating to people. But we also know you can grow parts of your brain by learning to juggle," he said.
"The question of whether spiritual practices in general and dissociative phenomena specifically can change brain functioning is also very interesting to people, but they really shouldn't be surprised by these findings. And I don't see anything particularly mystical about what these authors found."
Understanding Brain Changes
Dr. Raison, who was previously an associate professor and clinical director of the Mind-Body Program at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, added that it also makes sense that the more experienced mediums showed different patterns of activity.
"We can't get an overview of what a medium is actually doing or whether they're in an advanced meditative state. But over time, you get more proficient in an activity and it becomes more automatic. You're able to do it with more efficient circuits and less effortful control."
He noted that he would like to see a follow-up study that looked at whether or not inducing patterns of brain change seen in these mediums could then produce similar experiences or feelings of dissociation.
"It would be interesting to see what kind of perception and feelings copying these brain patterns might produce. If you could induce changes in those brain activities through neurofeedback, and you could show it relatively reliably, that would be pretty powerful evidence that these brain areas are generating these experiences," said Dr. Raison.
"That would be very useful for understanding certain phenomena in psychotic conditions, such as hallucinations in schizophrenia — especially the type that gives the sense of being controlled or driven by some outside force."
He added that the results are also relative for dissociative disorders. "These are terrible, catastrophic conditions. For these people, their consciousness is like Swiss cheese as they go in and out of awareness."
"For psychiatrists, mediumship might be a model for beginning to understand how the brain changes involuntarily in these disastrous psychiatric conditions."
The study authors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.
PLoS One.

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