Psych Research Again Proving the Obvious: We Need Each Other

A meta-analysis of multiple studies coordinated by researchers at BYU found that

social isolation…, loneliness…, and living alone.., correspond[ed] to an average of 29%, 26%, and 32% increased likelihood of mortality, respectively. [The researchers] found no differences between measures of objective and subjective social isolation. Results remain consistent across gender, length of follow-up, and world region, but initial health status has an influence on the findings. Results also differ across participant age, with social deficits being more predictive of death in samples with an average age younger than 65 years. Overall, the influence of both objective and subjective social isolation on risk for mortality is comparable with well-established risk factors for mortality. source

Or, as the clickbait headline from the Huffington Post blares: “Loneliness and Isolation are as Bad for You as Obesity.”

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Gun Violence Trends in the US

A new report in the Annual Review of Public Health on gun deaths was just released and is making its way through the news.  My husband and I will be in the UK and Europe again this spring, and I remember how inexplicable Americans’ affection for their firearms seemed to people living there, given how dangerous our gun culture is.

Here are some of the findings of the report:

Mortality rates for traffic accidents are now only slightly higher than for firearms.

While deaths from firearms declined dramatically in the mid-90s after a 30 year surge in the late 60s, the percentage of yearly deaths from suicide as compared to homicide has risen to 64%.  Suicide is increasing; homicide is decreasing.

The four biggest mass killings of the century resulted in a total number of 84 homicides.  But there is an average of 82.3 deaths from guns every day: 32.5 homicides and 49.8 suicides.

Homicide risk is highest among black males.  Suicide risk is highest among white males and is increasing.  Suicide risk for white males increases with age.

Owning a gun is the major risk factor for dying by firearm.

1.4% of firearm deaths are due to “legal intervention” – police shootings (2012 data).

Americans have low rates of assaultive violence, as compared to other industrialized nations, but uniquely high mortality rates from firearm homicide and suicide.

While I was still in graduate school, I learned that two former patients had shot themselves.  A significant minority of patients throughout my career have had parents, grandparents, lovers, or children do the same.  Dealing with the aftermath of suicide is uniquely messy and painful for everyone left behind.  Jonathan Browning was one of my ancestors – it is a legacy I am very ambivalent about, to say the least.

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Mindfulness and Depression Relapse

An article from the latest issue of the APA Monitor says about depression,

Depression is not only the most common mental illness, it’s also one of the most tenacious.  Up to 80 percent of people who experience a major depressive episode may relapse.

A recent study – one of a growing body of research as noted in the article – shows that one form of mindfulness training can be as effective as antidepressant medication in preventing a recurrence of depressive symptoms.

Here is a TED talk by Zindal Segal, PhD, one of the leading researchers in the area.

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Book (p)Review: Depersonalization Disorder

I remember, at the funeral of a loved one, shaking hands, accepting hugs, saying “thank you” – when suddenly my brain gave way.  I couldn’t speak, couldn’t think, had forgotten how to respond to comfort.  It was the lowering of The Bell Jar, a glass wall between me and the rest of the world (including my husband and children), and lasted sporadically for about 8 months.

For me at that time, and at occasional stressful times since, depersonalization has descended.  I felt numb and separate. I felt no joy, no connection, and no interest.  For me it was a part of grief or depression – for others it can be a part of panic or anxiety disorder.  Some develop depersonalization as a result of trauma.  Most inexplicable are those instances in which depersonalization begins for no apparent reason, and stays for weeks, months, or years.

Common Symptoms

  • Derealization – feeling like you’re living in a dream or that everything is 2-dimensional
  • Detachment from surroundings – feeling indifferent to situations and people around you
  • Detachment from personal relationships – feeling emotionless towards others
  • Robotic – feeling like you are a robot, like your body isn’t your own
  • Body distortion – feeling like your body or parts are distorted (smaller or larger)
  • Fear of going crazy – having a phobia or constant fear of “going crazy” or “losing your mind”
  • Lack of sensation – lacking normal feelings of sensation and pain
  • Spontaneous OBEs – having spontaneous moments of “floating above one’s own body” and seeing oneself act without having control over one’s actions

Here is the American book: “Overcoming Depersonalization Disorder: A Mindfulness and Acceptance Guite to Conquering Feelings of Numbness and Unreality” by Katharine Donnelly & Fugen Neziroglu (2010)

Here is the British book: “Overcoming Depersonalization and Feelings of Unreality: A Self-Help Guide Using Cognitive Behavioral Techniques” by Anthony David, Dawn Baker & Elaine Hunter (2013)

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Here’s my son Chris, with Matt and Landon in their band Coral Bones, and their first official music video.

Here’s another video that’s a little less formal.  Enjoy!

Because Chris has Bipolar I Disorder, the band decided to contribute all proceeds from the Queensway single to NAMI.  If you’re interested in more of Coral Bones’ music, check out their website here.

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Your Weekly Chuckle: Anger Management

angry birds


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Suicide Danger Scale

This scale can be helpful for a person who is having suicidal thoughts as a way for them (or family and friends) to judge how dangerous their suicidality is.  It can be used in conjunction with therapy.  One caveat is that a person can impulsively do something without really meaning it, and if the method is lethal enough, they can kill themselves “accidentally.”  All the studies I’ve read say that talking about it does not make the person more likely to do it.  Sometimes it’s hard for family and friends to know the difference between supportively talking about suicide, and badgering them too much.

10        I have a highly lethal method in my possession and I am determined to use it immediately to kill myself.  Nothing can stop me.

9          I have a lethal method in my possession or within my reach and I have decided when I’m going to do it.  Hardly anything or anyone could stop me.

8          I’ve decided to do it and I have a plan that will work.  Someone could possibly convince me not to, if they intervened at the right time.

7          I have thought through my plan in specific detail.  1) My method is either highly lethal (gun, jumping, hanging, car wreck) but I haven’t decided for sure yet to do it, or 2) My method is not always lethal (pills, cutting) but I’m pretty certain I’m going to do it.

6          I have pretty much decided on a plan, but I haven’t decided when exactly.  I’m more convinced that suicide is the only way out.

5          I’m beginning to think about specific ways to kill myself.  Right now my plan is either not very lethal—i.e. pills or cutting rather than a gun—or I’m not very determined to do it right away.

4          I’m further down the path toward suicide.  I have researched methods online, but haven’t decided on anything specific yet.  I’m still ambivalent.

3          I would really rather be dead.  I think about my own death a lot of the time.  I maybe will actually do it.

2          I often think vaguely suicidal thoughts like, “I wish I just wouldn’t wake up,” or “it would be such a relief if it were all over with,” but I would never actually kill myself.

1          I sometimes wish I didn’t have to deal with how hard life is.

0          I have no suicidal thoughts or feelings whatsoever.

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