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January 28, 2011, 7:16 AM CT

Weighing the Costs of Disaster

Weighing the Costs of Disaster
Disasters-both natural and manmade-can strike anywhere and they often hit without warning, so they can be difficult to prepare for. But what happens afterward? How do people cope following disasters? In a new report in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, George Bonanno, Chris R. Brewin, Krzysztof Kaniasty, and Annette M. La Greca review the psychological effects of disasters and why some individuals have a harder time recovering than do others.

Individuals exposed to disaster may experience many psychological problems including PTSD, grief, anxiety, and increased substance abuse, but the evidence shows that less than 30% of adults experience severe, lasting levels of these problems. The majority of people exposed to a disaster experience passing distress but return to psychological health. In other words, people tend to be psychologically resilient.

But why do individuals respond to disasters so differently? There appears to be many factors that influence how people react following disasters, such as age and socioeconomic status. For example, children react to disasters differently than do adults: Initially they tend to show more extreme psychological distress than do adult disaster survivors, but as with adults, such severe psychological problems are often only temporary. At the other end of the age spectrum, elderly adults tend to overcome disasters with fewer psychological costs than do younger adults. Economic resources may also play a role in people's outcomes to disasters. Low socioeconomic status is consistently identified as a predictor of PTSD. Economically underdeveloped areas' lack of infrastructure hampers the ability of emergency response teams to provide aid and death tolls tend to be larger in poorer nations than in wealthier nations following natural disasters.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


January 25, 2011, 8:00 AM CT

Fear Is Quickly Learned During Infancy

Fear Is Quickly Learned During Infancy
There's a reason why Hollywood makes movies like Arachnophobia and Snakes on a Plane: Most people are afraid of spiders and snakes. A new paper published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, reviews research with infants and toddlers and finds that we aren't born afraid of spiders and snakes, but we can learn these fears very quickly.

One theory about why we fear spiders and snakes is because so a number of are poisonous; natural selection may have favored people who stayed away from these dangerous critters. Indeed, several studies have observed that it's easier for both humans and monkeys to learn to fear evolutionarily threatening things than non-threatening things. For example, research by Arne Ohman at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, you can teach people to associate an electric shock with either photos of snakes and spiders or photos of flowers and mushrooms-but the effect lasts a lot longer with the snakes and spiders. Similarly, Susan Mineka's research (from Northwestern University) shows that monkeys that are raised in the lab aren't afraid of snakes, but they'll learn to fear snakes much more readily than flowers or rabbits.

The authors of the Current Directions in Psychological Science paper have studied how infants and toddlers react to scary objects. In one set of experiments, they showed infants as young as 7 months old two videos side by side-one of a snake and one of something non-threatening, such as an elephant. At the same time, the scientists played either a fearful voice or a happy voice. The babies spent more time looking at the snake videos when listening to the fearful voices, but showed no signs of fear themselves.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


January 25, 2011, 7:41 AM CT

Practicing retrieval is best tool for learning

Practicing retrieval is best tool for learning
Research findings by Jeffrey D. Karpicke, a Purdue assistant professor of psychological sciences who studies learning and memory, show that the time students invest in rereading or reviewing their notes would be better spent practicing retrieval, such as self-testing, to ensure better learning. (Purdue University photo/Andrew Hancock)

The time students invest in rereading or reviewing their notes would be better spent practicing retrieval to ensure better learning, as per new research from Purdue University.

"We continue to show that practicing retrieval, or testing yourself, is a powerful, robust tool for learning," said Jeffrey D. Karpicke (pronounced CAR-picky), an assistant professor of psychological sciences who studies learning and memory. "Our new research shows that practicing retrieval is an even more effective strategy than engaging in elaborative studying.

"Educators, scientists and students are often focused on getting things 'in memory,' so techniques that encourage students to elaborate on the material are often popular. But learning is fundamentally about retrieving, and our research shows that practicing retrieval while you study is crucial to learning. Self-testing enriches and improves the learning process, and there needs to be more focus on using retrieval as a learning strategy".

He also observed that most students are not good at judging the success of their study habits.

"When students have the material right in front of them, they think they know it better than they actually do," he said. "A number of students do not realize that putting the material away and practicing retrieval is such a potent study strategy".........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


January 25, 2011, 7:10 AM CT

Workers most invested in their jobs have highest stress levels

Workers most invested in their jobs have highest stress levels
A workplace's key employees appears to be at the greatest risk of experiencing high levels of work stress, as per a newly released study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

In a survey of 2,737 workers, 18 per cent reported that their job was "highly stressful."

The odds of having high stress were greater if workers were managers or professionals, if they thought their poor job performance could negatively affect others, or if they worked long or variable hours. The study was published in this month's International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine

"The people who report high stress are the ones most invested in their jobs," says Dr. Carolyn Dewa, Senior Scientist and Head of CAMH's Work and Well-being Research and Assessment Program. "Employers should be very concerned with keeping this population healthy. From a business perspective, it is in a company's best interest to support these workers." .

The job characteristics linked to stress pointed to workers who were engaged and responsible. If workers felt their poor job performance could result in any physical injury, damage to company's equipment or reputation, or a financial loss, they were twice as likely to report high stress.

Having a worksite remote from their home, or having to entertain or travel for their jobs also increased the odds of being stressed. So did variable hours such as being on call, doing shift work or having a compressed work week.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


January 11, 2011, 6:24 AM CT

Does it hurt?

Does it hurt?
Pain pathway
It is well known that pain is a highly subjective experience. We each have a pain threshold, but this can vary depending on distractions and mood. A paper in the International Journal of Behavioural and Healthcare Research offers a cautionary note on measuring perceived pain in research.

There are a number of chronic illnesses and injuries that have no well-defined symptoms other than pain, but because of the subjectivity in a patient's reporting of their experience of the illness or injury, healthcare workers have difficulty in addressing the patient's needs. Moreover, when subjective reporting of pain is a critical component of a clinical trial, scientists involved in the trial often find it difficult to determine efficacy from patient to patient based on the subject's own assessment of painful symptoms. Commonly, patients are asked to rate their pain on a zero to ten scale, where zero represents no pain whatsoever and a value of ten indicates excruciating pain. Unfortunately, one person's "8" appears to be another's "10" on the same scale.

When seeking to assess the effectiveness of an intervention it is common practice that patients whose post-treatment pain scores are lower than their pre-treatment scores are categorized as having undergone effective therapy. This all but ignores the subjectivity of their experience of pain, where the simple act of being "treated" may lower their perception of their pain without the underlying cause of the pain having been physically reduced.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


January 11, 2011, 6:17 AM CT

Identifying depressed students

Identifying depressed students
One out of every four or five students who visits a university health center for a routine cold or sore throat turns out to be depressed, but most centers miss the opportunity to identify these students because they don't screen for depression, as per new Northwestern Medicine research.

About 2 to 3 percent of these depressed students have had suicidal thoughts or are considering suicide, the study found.

"Depression screening is easy to do, we know it works, and it can save lives," said Michael Fleming, professor of family and community medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "It should be done for every student who walks into a health center".

The consequences of not finding and treating these students can be can be serious and even deadly. "These kids might drop out of school because they are so sad or hurt or kill themselves by drinking too much or taking drugs," Fleming said.

"Things continually happen to students � a low grade or problems with a boyfriend or girlfriend -- that can trigger depression," Fleming said. "If you don't take the opportunity to screen at every visit, you are going to miss these kids."

Fleming, who joined Feinberg in the fall of 2010, is main author of a paper on the findings in the recent issue of the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry He conducted the research when he was a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


January 10, 2011, 6:52 AM CT

Many survivors of the WTC attacks experience PTSD

Many survivors of the WTC attacks experience PTSD
Nearly 10 years after the greatest human-made disaster in U.S. history-- the destruction of the World Trade Center (WTC) towers -- there has been little research documenting the attacks' consequences among those most directly affected -- the survivors who escaped the World Trade Center towers. In a study just released by Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, in conjunction with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the federal Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry (ATSDR), scientists observed that of the 3,271 civilians who evacuated the Twin Towers, 95.6% of survivors reported at least one current posttraumatic stress symptom and 15% screened positive for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), two to three years after the disaster. While past studies have examined PTSD prevalence among rescue and recovery workers, Lower Manhattan residents, other downtown building occupants, and passersby, this is the first study to focus specifically on people who were inside the towers when they were struck. The full study findings are currently online in the American Journal of Epidemiology

PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that occurs after experiencing or witnessing events that threaten death or serious injury and that involves intense feelings of fear, helplessness, or horror and is the third most common anxiety disorder in the United States. The scientists report that five characteristics of direct exposure to the terrorist attacks were predictors of PTSD: a key driver was initiating evacuation late. Other predictors were being on a high floor in the towers, being caught in the dust cloud that resulted from the tower collapses, personally witnessing horror, and sustaining an injury. Working for an employer that sustained fatalities also increased risk. Each addition of an experience of a direct exposure resulted in a two hundred percent increase in the risk of PTSD.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


January 7, 2011, 6:58 AM CT

Widespread use of costly antipsychotic drugs

Widespread use of costly antipsychotic drugs
A number of prescriptions for the top-selling class of drugs, known as atypical antipsychotic medications, lack good evidence that the drugs will actually help, a study by scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine and University of Chicago has found. Yet, drugs in this class may cause such serious effects as weight gain, diabetes and heart disease, and cost Americans billions of dollars.

"Because these drugs have safety issues, physicians should prescribe them only when they are sure patients will get substantial benefits," said Randall Stafford, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who is senior author of the study to be published online Jan. 7 in Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety "These are usually used and very expensive drugs".

Prescriptions for these drugs have risen steadily since they first came on the U.S. market in 1989, largely replacing the first generation of antipsychotics, which were mainly used to treat schizophrenia. The U.S. government's original stamp of approval for the new drugs was for treating schizophrenia, but they're used more today for other conditions, including other psychoses, autism, bipolar disorder, delirium, dementia, depression and personality disorders. And while some of these uses have recently been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a number of have not.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


January 3, 2011, 6:41 AM CT

Angry at God? If so, you're not alone

Angry at God? If so, you're not alone
The notion of being angry with God goes back to ancient days. Such personal struggles are not new, but Case Western Reserve University psychology expert Julie Exline began looking at "anger at God" in a new way.

"A number of people experience anger toward God," Exline explains. "Even people who deeply love and respect God can become angry. Just as people become upset or angry with others, including loved ones, they can also become angry with God."

Exline, an associate professor in Case Western Reserve's College of Arts and Sciences, has researched anger toward God over the past decade, conducting studies with hundreds of people, including college students, cancer survivors and grief-stricken family members.

She and her colleagues report their results in the article, "Anger toward God: Social-Cognitive Predictors, Prevalence, and Links with Adjustment to Bereavement and Cancer" in the new issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

Anger toward God often coincides with deaths, illnesses, accidents or natural disasters. Yet anger is not limited to traumatic situations. It can also surface when people experience personal disappointments, failures, or interpersonal hurts. Some people see God as ultimately responsible for such events, and they become angry when they see God's intentions as cruel or uncaring. They might believe that God abandoned, betrayed, or mistreated them, Exline says.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


December 21, 2010, 6:16 AM CT

New breathing therapy reduces panic and anxiety

New breathing therapy reduces panic and anxiety
A new treatment that helps people with panic disorder normalize their breathing works better to reduce panic symptoms and hyperventilation than traditional cognitive therapy, says SMU psychologist Alicia Meuret.

Credit: Hillsman Jackson, SMU

A new therapy program teaches people who suffer from panic disorder how to reduce the terrorizing symptoms by normalizing their breathing.

The method has proved better than traditional cognitive treatment at reducing both symptoms of panic and hyperventilation, as per a newly released study.

The biological-behavioral therapy program is called Capnometry-Assisted Respiratory Training, or CART, said psychology expert and panic disorder expert Alicia E. Meuret at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

CART helps patients learn to breathe in such a way as to reverse hyperventilation, a highly uncomfortable state where the blood stream operates with abnormally low levels of carbon dioxide, said Meuret, one of the scientists conducting the study.

Hyperventilation, a state of excessive breathing, results from deep or rapid breathing and is common in patients with panic disorders.

"We observed that with CART it's the therapeutic change in carbon dioxide that changes the panic symptoms � and not vice versa," Meuret said.



CART: Breathing exercises twice a day


During the therapy, patients undergo simple breathing exercises twice a day. A portable capnometer device supplies feedback during the exercises on a patient's CO2 levels. The goal of these exercises is to reduce chronic and acute hyperventilation and associated physical symptoms. This is achieved by breathing slower but most importantly more shallowly. Contrary to lay belief, taking deep breaths actually worsens hyperventilation and symptoms.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source



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Did you know?
Too little evidence exists to recommend or rule out estrogen as a treatment for schizophrenia in women, a new review of studies finds.People diagnosed with schizophrenia suffer distorted perceptions of reality and hallucinations. Today, estrogen is strictly an experimental therapy for the psychotic symptoms associated with the mental illness.

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