Saturday, 30 August 2014

VIDEO Schizophrenia: Holding The Sun

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Building Positive Sports Team Culture

Some sports are ready made for a discussion about the influence of team culture on individual and team performance. Team sports, such as basketball, football, and soccer, require that time and energy be devoted to building a culture that will lead to success. Without this discussion, the chances of a team being successful are small.
Individual sports, however, often don’t give much attention to team culture despite the fact that most individual sports are built around a team structure, for example, track and field, ski racing, and tennis. The fact is that, for individual sports, the influence that individual athletes can have on a team, whether healthy or toxic, is just as important as in true team sports.

Nor do we often think about how an individual sports team can have a significant effect on the performances of its individual members. Yet, have you ever been on a “downer” team? I’m talking about one that is permeated with negativity, unhealthy competition, and conflict. It sure doesn’t feel good and it can definitely interfere with your performing your best. Whether you are an athlete on a team or one of its coaches, you can have a big impact on how your team gets along, functions, and performs.

In addition to my psychology work with athletes, I consult extensively in the corporate world where I help executives and companies to maximize individual and team performance. One of the most important areas I focus on in this work involves helping senior management to create an organizational culture that is positive and high performing. While working with the coaching staffs of several junior sports programs, it occurred to me that developing a healthy team culture is as important in the sports world as it is in the corporate world. So, in applying these concepts to sports programs, let’s start with an understanding of what a team culture is and why it is of essential value.

A culture is the expression of a team’s values, attitudes, and beliefs about sports and competition. It determines whether, for example, the team’s focus is on fun, mastery, or winning or whether it promotes individual accomplishment or team success. The culture is grounded in an identified sense of mission and shared goals, for instance, the goal of qualifying for a regional championships or winning a state title.

Individual sports teams are complicated a bit by the fact that they aren’t really team sports. Unlike true team sports such as basketball or football, the success of one athlete isn’t dependent on how his or her teammates perform. Yet, I’m sure that you would agree that the culture of a team, whether healthy or unhealthy, has a real impact on its individual athletes. For example, a team that is in constant conflict or has a negative atmosphere will bring team members, athletes and coaches alike, down and this unpleasant atmosphere will also hurt individual athletes’ performances. Conversely, a team culture built on positive energy, support, and fun will lift everyone up, feel comfortable and supportive, and the results will show it.

The culture creates norms of acceptable behavior on a team, either explicitly or implicitly conveying to members what is allowed and what is not. These norms can dictate to team members how to behave, communicate, cooperate, and deal with conflict. When clear norms are established, everyone on a team is more likely to abide by them.

Very importantly, the culture creates the atmosphere that permeates every aspect of a team’s experience. Is the atmosphere relaxed or intense? Light-hearted or competitive? Supportive or competitive?

All of these qualities of a culture have real implications for how the team functions, how its members get along, and, crucially, how the athletes on the team perform and the results they get. When a team has a defined culture that is understood by all of its members, they feel an implicit pressure (in the good sense) to support that culture.

How a Team Culture Develops
Coaches can allow the culture of their team to develop in one of two ways. First, it can emerge naturally as an expression of its individual members. The benefits to this “organic” approach is that team members feel a sense of ownership for the culture because they created it. But there is a risk that the creation of the team be unfairly shaped by one or a few team members who may be particularly assertive or controlling, leaving other members of the team feeling marginalized and powerless. And a real danger can arise when the team culture is hijacked by a small subset of the team who are more interested in exerting their own power over the team, however unhealthy it might be. The result can be a truly toxic culture that serves neither the best interests of the team as a whole or its individual members.

The second approach, and the one that I recommend, is for coaches to take an active (though not dominating) role in the creation of a team culture. Through your leadership and open discussions with team members, your team can identify the values, attitudes, and beliefs that you and your athletes want to act as the foundation of the team culture. You can also discuss what all of you feel is important in terms of the atmosphere you want to create, the expectations the team has about their behavior, and the way in which team members communicate. This collaborative approach to team culture will ensure that members feel a sense of ownership for the culture and, as a result, are more likely to live by its dictates.

Training Group Subcultures
In addition to the over-all culture that a coaching staff fosters to best serve the goals of the entire team and the needs of all of its athletes, training groups (e.g., based on age, ability, or specialty) or position groups (e.g., football lineman or receivers) within the larger team can also create their own cultures. These training-group cultures better reflect the individual personalities of their coaches and athletes and the unique goals that they are pursuing. These subcultures also allow athletes who may be unable to take a leadership role in the team as a whole to exert influence within their group.

Questions to Ask
Coaches, I encourage you to sit down with the rest of the coaching staff and your athletes to discuss the kind of culture your team wants to have. You should ask the following questions (and any others that you think relevant). Training groups can ask the same questions:
What values do we want to act as the foundation for our team culture?
What attitudes and beliefs about your sport, competition, and team do you want to hold?
What are the goals that the team wants to pursue?
How do the athletes and coaches want to treat each other?
What kind of atmosphere do we want on your team?

When you ask and answer these questions, you are proactively developing a team culture of your team’s own design rather than leaving it to chance. In doing so, you are building a team that has its best chance of being positive and supportive and, as a result, performing at its highest level possible.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Trapeze Depression Remedy

Swinging through the air on a rope might seem like the last thing you would want to do if you were feeling down. But for the leggings-clad crew at a trapeze class on the outskirts of London, it is both body and mind that benefit.

I started on what felt like a rather feeble bar - just a metre and a half off the ground.

Reaching up to grip the fat ropes and pulling myself up from sitting took all my strength. I felt a significant sense of achievement (and relief) when I graduated to a move that involved flipping backwards, landing on my feet on a crash mat.

The instructor, Amanda Miles, has been giving trapeze lessons for more than 20 years, so I was in safe hands.

The aim of My Aerial Home is to build fitness and confidence. "Everyone can have a go - we will get you on somehow… you feel empowerment physically, which makes you mentally stronger."

Positive influence

Very few of the 350 million people around the world who have depression will have been prescribed circus skills as a remedy.

Depression affects work and family life - and while talking therapies and medication can help, should doctors be doing more to promote the positive influence of physical exercise on well-being?

Swinging effortlessly through the air takes real skill but for a beginner like me it is back to basics.

Ms Miles is a patient teacher. "The day they can sit on the trapeze with their arms above them and pull themselves up - so I can see daylight under their bottom - it's like all their Christmases at once. They don't start thinking they can lift their own bodyweight - but things do get easier."

Watching the regulars, it looked relatively easy. But it was clear I had underestimated how much strength is required to lift your own body weight. I managed to straddle the bar. It wasn't elegant but I'd made it into the air and it felt like a big achievement.

A vision in purple whose toes grip the rope as she twirls above our heads is Adatka Radwanska. Originally from Poland, she looks like she was born for the trapeze. "The impact on me? It's made me much more confident. It got me from being extremely low and weak to a point where I am ready for challenges. I love it."

The classes are recommended by a charity that helps people with mental health problems or disabilities to return to work. Jo Rixom's own love of the ropes and trapeze (which is actually the bar you sit on) prompted her to offer sessions to people helped by Status Employment.

Data gathered from her clients after they had participated in the six or 12-week courses suggests people reported that taking part had helped them.

Those in the study kept journals and filled in questionnaires. These revealed improved well-being and self-esteem. It also generated practical results. People reported taking up volunteer roles, education or training and even finding employment.

The classes are open to everyone. Ms Rixom said the mix "helped to reduce stigma to see that everyone was just the same and didn't need separating or different care".

Sam Challis, of the mental health charity Mind, agrees about the benefits of exercise. "Physical activity is a natural stimulator of many important 'mood' hormones, including serotonin and dopamine, so after exercising you may feel less stressed and have a clearer head. If you keep on exercising, ideally for 30 minutes a day, you'll notice long-term benefits too."

But he cautions that activities like trapeze might not suit everyone. "Not everybody has a head for heights, and what helps one person may not work for another. People experiencing severe depression may find it difficult to engage in exercise, but may benefit from talking therapies, medication or a combination of both.

"Therapies such as arts therapy, drama therapy and ecotherapy can also have a positive impact, and people with severe mental health problems might find that their symptoms improve to the point where they can engage in physical activity - even trapeze."

Rebecca (not her real name) is one of those who says her mental health has benefited from the group.

At the time she was working a difficult environment where bullying and harassment were commonplace.Her partner spotted an advert for the classes in a local magazine but it was a year before Rebecca summoned the courage to go along.

She says: "I ended up hitting a very low point.

"I would only dwell on the bad and felt that I had nothing to offer anyone."

Rebecca says she was nervous, but the first lesson had her hooked. She says the "trapeze treatment" has helped to transform both her body and mind.

"I'm physically stronger and my shape has changed. I've since moved jobs and, although life is still throwing stuff at me, actually doing something physical like this takes me away from it all, just for a little while.

Ms Miles has seen similar transformations again and again as women attend her classes.

Rebecca says it changed her whole outlook on life. "The idea of facing fears, such as moving to a higher trapeze, climbing to the top of the rope… trickled in to my daily life and meant that I felt I could cope more with the pressures from work and home."

Saturday, 23 August 2014

VIDEO The Chemistry Between Us: Love And Romance

Thursday, 21 August 2014

The Dark Psychology of Being A Good Comedian

Immediately after 9/11, comedy ground to a halt. The Daily Show went off the air for nine days. Saturday Night Live, whose 27th season started 18 days later, featured a somber cold-open with Lorne Michaels asking New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, "Can we be funny?"

The staffers of The Onion, the satirical paper that had just relocated to New York, weren’t sure how to answer that question. Even three weeks after the attack, the comedian Gilbert Gottfried was publicly hissed at for joking that he was taking a flight that would make a stop at the Empire State Building.

The Onion staffers agonized, but they eventually settled on publishing an entire paper devoted to 9/11 on September 26. As described by psychologist Peter McGraw and journalist Joel Warner in their upcoming book, The Humor Code, the issue was smash hit. The Onionwriters aimed their bile at the hijackers, whom they depicted being tortured by “tusked, asp-tongued demons” in Hell. One headline read, “God Angrily Clarifies 'Don't Kill' Rule.”

The paper was deluged with fan mail from readers who seemed to find catharsis in the terrorists' derisive rendering.

The Onion’s triumph reflects McGraw’s long-held theory that comedy is equal parts darkness and light. The best jokes, he believes, take something awful and make it silly. Go purely light-hearted and you risk being toothless. Too edgy, and like Gottfried, you’ll make people uncomfortable.

This “benign violation” theory of humor is central to The Humor Code, which Warner and McGraw, a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, researched by digging into comedy trends around the world. The book comes out on April 1 (obviously).

McGraw’s thinking expands on the work of Stanford psychologist Thomas Veatch, which in turn builds on past explanations about why we laugh. Great thinkers have been trying for centuries to figure out the evolutionary purpose of comedy. The theories that have emerged are all very different, but one thing they share is a tendency to hint at the art form's shadowy side.

Hobbes and Plato took the playground perspective, suggesting that making fun helps us feel superior to others. Kant and later psychologists though it was about a cognitive shift that moves a serious situation into playful territory. In 1905, Freud suggested that humor was the fun-loving id making itself known despite the protestations of the conformist superego.

A few years ago, psychologist Daniela S. Hugelshofer suggested that humor acts as a buffer against depression and hopelessness. And evolutionary psychologists have suggested that humor is a way to subtly outshine our competitors for mates. Nothing says “pick me” like having an entire office/bar/dorm double over at your imitation of Shosh from Girls.

These approaches have a lot in common, though: You can’t make a joke without inserting a wicked twist, and you can’t be a comedian without holding a small amount of power, for even a short period of time, over the audience.

And if that’s the case, is there something about the psychology of comedians that makes them better able to tap into these “violations”? Do they enjoy wielding that kind of power? Or do funny people just know something the rest of us don’t?

One of McGraw’s favorite quotes is from Mark Twain: “The secret source of humor itself is not joy, but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven.”

It’s this juxtaposition of injury and cheer that McGraw has studied in depth, both in his book and at the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Humor Research Lab(acronym: HURL).

“Humor is something people inherently enjoy,” he told me. “But there also needs to be something wrong, unsettling, and threatening in some way. We call those violations.”

Our caveman ancestors lived in a world rife with physical threats. There was relief in discovering that a rustling in the darkness was a mouse rather than a saber-toothed tiger.

“Before people could speak, laughter served as a signaling function,” McGraw explained. “As if to say, ‘this is a false alarm, this is a benign violation.’”

Tickling, the basic form of humor that even non-verbal primates use, is a perfect example: “There's a threat there, but it's safe,” McGraw said. “It's not too aggressive and it's done by someone you trust.”

Today, our threats are less likely to be four-legged, but humor still serves as a way to overcome them. Jokes ease tension; they help us deal with life’s injustices, both minor and large. But like the Onion staffers after 9/11, jokes have to air these wrongs before making them right.

When jokes are too gentle or anodyne, like this picture of a cat, we don’t laugh; there’s no violation. (“You can’t tickle yourself,” McGraw explains.) Meanwhile, something that’s too offensive, like, say, this, is purely a violation. (“Like if a creepy guy in a trench coat tried to tickle you,” he said. “That’s terrifying!”)
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The Evolution of Bitchiness

Some cultures avoid these types of blatant transgressions by restricting the topics that can be fodder for jokes. But Warner, McGraw’s co-author, noticed that while some cultures compartmentalize humor by subject matter, others do so by geography. When they were in Japan, for example, they noticed that the comedy in clubs was as raunchy as it gets, but certain settings were entirely off-limits to joking:

“In the office or at school, that's not okay,” Warner said. “It was not okay to laugh in the office of the humor researchers, even. But in bars and karaoke theaters, anything goes.”

In the HURL lab, McGraw has been trying determine what exactly flips a joke from offensive to funny. Or in research terms, what puts the “benign” in “benign violation?”

Through clinical studies, the lab has found that tragedies—think earthquakes, deaths, and the like—are funnier when they’re either physically or socially distant. “Mishaps” meanwhile, are funnier when we’re closer to them, which is why Anthony Weiner’s Twitter misadventures featured prominently on American late-night shows, but comparable foibles by, say, an Indonesian politician would not have. Likewise, participants found a picture of a man with a frozen beard (mishap) funnier than a man with his finger stuck through his own eye socket (tragedy.)

The lab has also identified that jokes can, indeed, be “too soon,” as my colleague Julie Beck described: One study by McGraw and researchers at Texas A&M University found tweets about Hurricane Sandy to be least funny 15 days after it struck, most funny 36 days after the fact, and once again not funny 99 days later.

The passage of about a month, they wrote, creates a “sweet spot” in which poking fun at sadness is neither too neutered nor too sharp: “A tragic event is difficult to joke about at first, but the passage of time initially increases humor as the event becomes less threatening. Eventually, however, distance decreases humor by making the event seem completely benign.”

It's even better if the comedy can put the audience physically on edge, which is why most comedy clubs cram people into a tiny room and force them to sit on hard stools, he said—it’s best if the audience doesn’t get too comfortable.

Last year, the comedian Stephen Fry publicly discussed his bipolar disorder and suicide attempt. In describing his quiz show, QI, Fry has said, “There are times when I’m doing QI and I’m going ‘ha ha, yeah, yeah,’ and inside I’m going ‘I want to fucking die. I ... want ... to ... fucking ... die’”

“I’ve seen a lot of miserable guys do pretty amazing stand-up,” Marc Maron once told a fellow comedian.

There’s always been an anecdotal link between comedy and inner turmoil, but the empirical evidence has started to back it up. In the 1920s, the psychologistLewis Terman found that children rated as having a good sense of humor by their parents and teachers died younger as adults. A longitudinal study of Finnish police officers found that the funniest among them were more likely to be obese and to smoke. And an analysis of New York Times obituaries found that performers died nearly eight years younger than members of the military did.

Is there something unusually taxing about the process of dreaming up violations and deploying them to crack people up?

Last month, a group of British scientists found that comedians are more likely than regular people to exhibit psychotic traits, or the characteristics associated with people who have schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

Writing in the British Journal of Psychiatry, the authors describe how they administered a questionnaire to 523 comedians, 364 actors, and 831 people with non-performance jobs. The survey asked about experiences with magical thinking, antisocial behavior, distractibility, and “introverted anhedonia,” or not deriving pleasure from others.

Comedians and actors alike scored higher than the non-performers across almost all of the traits. The only difference was that comedians were more likely to experience a reduced ability to feel social and physical pleasure, but the same wasn’t true of actors. Comedians, more so than the regular folk or even actors, were more likely to have a mild distaste for humanity.

“Comedians had an introverted set of traits, which is rather counterintuitive,” Oxford psychologist Gordon Claridge, one of the authors, told me. “Actors were outgoing in a consistent way.”

It’s important to note, Claridge said, that this doesn’t mean comedians are mentally ill. In fact, few of the subjects actually experienced psychotic symptoms; they just shared some traits with people who suffer from psychotic ailments.

These characteristics might help comedians “tap into some sort of out-of-the-box thinking,” he said. “Together, they underpin a creative cognitive style.”

McGraw is skeptical, though. He thinks the study supports a certain “crazy comedian” stereotype but isn’t definitive.

“People think comedians are kind of screwed-up people, but that they have developed a sense of humor to cope with it,” he said. “That's a compelling idea, but there's not great evidence for that.”

He points to the fact that the comedians scored roughly on par with the actors. Comedians, he says, are just actors starring in their own play.

“It's more about the kind of person who is drawn to a world of theater more than comedy specifically,” he argues. “Gilbert Gottfried doesn't talk like that all the time. Lewis Black doesn't walk around outraged at the bus stop.”

Besides, no one gets ahead in comedy by being “an asshole,” as McGraw puts it. Such a competitive field demands attentiveness to showtimes, hours spent perfecting jokes, and being cordial to club owners.

The HURL lab once studied 600 novices and experts in the Upright Citizen’s Brigade, an improv comedy troupe, and found that the only difference was that the experts were more conscientious, McGraw said.

“The really screwed up people aren't comedians, they're criminals. They're in jails, and they're not funny. They're sad and angry," he said.

“No, there's something else that predicts success in comedy.”

Gil Greengross, a University of Mexico anthropologist, thinks the secret to being funny is being smart. In fact, he’s written that humor itself is an “intelligence indicator.”

For a 2011 study published in the journal Intelligence, Greengross gave 400 undergrads a series of verbal and abstract-reasoning intelligence tests, and then measured them against history’s greatest yardstick of hilarity: writing captions for New Yorker cartoons.

The captions were then rated by the judges, who were blind to any of the participants’ identifiable information.

As he expected, the students who scored higher on the intelligence measures also created the funniest captions. This makes sense. According to all of the theories of humor, wit involves putting discordant ideas together quickly, all while being perceptive enough to offend your audience a little, but not too much.

“You need to be clever to see the things that are wrong in the world and to make them okay,” McGraw said. “Smart people are better-read and they know more about the world. They can connect these dots.”“Men are trying harder than women to make others laugh. They tend to produce or try to produce more humor in the presence of women."

Greengross said that when he’s run the same tests with professional stand-up comedians, they produced much higher vocabulary scores than the students did.

And of course, the professionals “were able to produce caption after caption that were really funny.”

But—prepare to cringe, fellow feminists—Greengross found that the male students wrote more and funnier captions than the female students did, even though the men had only slightly larger vocabularies on average.

Of course, it could be that writing New Yorker captions isn’t how women best express humor. Or it could be that women don’t feel as comfortable spouting a bunch of violations, however benign, in a clinical setting.

The evolutionary explanation, though, is that women use humor as a proxy to select the cleverest mates from a crowd. It’s apparently how we determine mental fitness without forcing men to tattoo their SAT scores on their foreheads.

One key part of the experiment, though, was that the men were actually attempting more jokes. They wrote more captions overall, so they had more total successes.

“Men are trying harder than women to make others laugh. They tend to produce or try to produce more humor in the presence of women,” Greengross said. “On the other hand, women tend to laugh more than men in general, and especially when men are present.”

But humor can function as a mate-luring strategy for women, too: The authors found that the female participants who had started having sex earlier or had a greater number of sexual partners were also the ones who produced the funnier captions.

And of all of the different purposes of comedy, this might be the most subversive of all. It could be that office-cooler witticisms, stand-up routines, and sitcoms are just part of one big pickup line you never saw coming.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Nine Signs That You Are Setting Yourself Up To Be Controlled

Nine Signs That You Are Setting Yourself Up To Be Controlled

These nine examples reflect our tendency to invite, or even subconsciously require, others to control us. If you do one or more of these things consistently, you may be inviting more control into your life than you consciously want.
1. You don’t take good care of yourself.

If you don’t take care of yourself, you send a subconscious message to others. The message is: I can’t take care of myself, so please take care of me. This invites others to intervene and tell you what you should be doing. It also invites them to nag you to get yourself together. You are inviting control from others by neglecting yourself.

2. You rebel against authority or expectations.

Emotional rebels are masters of being controlled. When genuine authority beckons, they resist, which invites greater intervention from those in charge. Line up 10 employees. Nine of them follow the rules and cooperate with each other. One is a rebel. Who gets monitored more closely? The rebel. The rebel invites more authority into his life than anyone. He is begging to be controlled.

He hates authority, but is subconsciously inviting authority to come down on him daily. Deep down, does he really hate authority or is he seeking to be controlled by it? Both.
3. You don’t follow through

You’ve agreed to do certain things. You don’t do them. What happens next? You get confronted. Someone comes after you, demanding you make good on your word. By not doing what you agree to do, you invite others to step in and take charge of you.
4. You continually ask for help when you don’t really need it.

Ever known anyone who compulsively asks for help to do things that he or she could do just as well alone? Sometimes this is an invitation for companionship. But if you do this constantly, you’re asking others to take charge.

5. You are not willing to take risks.

If you’re afraid of taking risks, making mistakes and being held accountable for them, you’ll likely invite others to come in and take over for you. Fearing mistakes is fearing the inevitable. Everyone makes them. Smart people are thankful for mistakes because mistakes help you learn, which makes you more independent.

6. You refuse to say no.

Huge set up for giving power away and feeling controlled by the demands of life. When you can’t say no when you should, you are automatically over extended. Then, of course, people expect you to follow through. When you can’t, they begin to bug you.
7. You will not express your opinion.

A sure way to ensure that others have all the power is to withhold your thoughts, feelings and opinions that they you have no say in what’s going on. This way, you agree to the agenda of those willing to speak up. They have the power and you are at their mercy by virtue of your silent compliance.
8. You attract controlling people.

You may just be attracted to people who like to control others. These controlling types may appear more powerful, independent, charismatic and safer for you to be with. If you have a subconscious desire to be controlled, you may not feel comfortable with someone who expects you to make your own decisions and be responsible for them.

9. You have little awareness of your feelings.

Feelings are an indispensable part of decision-making. Clear feelings reflect your values and give you a sure foundation in life. If you aren’t in touch with your feelings, you may not have a clear idea where you stand.

For example, someone asks you to do something that you are not comfortable with. Your discomfort is vague and you push it away, not wanting to grapple with it. Unable to be clear about your feelings, you are more likely to ignore them and “just do it.”

This is risky. It’s this level of repression that entices you to succumb to pressure or make decisions based on someone else’s agenda.
Full Article:

Saturday, 16 August 2014

VIDEO Thin: Eating Disorders

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Regular Marijuana Use Bad For Teenage Brains

Frequent marijuana use can have a significant negative effect on the brains of teenagers and young adults, including cognitive decline, poor attention and memory, and decreased IQ, according to psychologists discussing public health implications of marijuana legalization at the American Psychological Association's 122nd Annual Convention.

"It needs to be emphasized that regular cannabis use, which we consider once a week, is not safe and may result in addiction and neurocognitive damage, especially in youth," said Krista Lisdahl, PhD, director of the brain imaging and neuropsychology lab at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Marijuana use is increasing, according to Lisdahl, who pointed to a 2012 study showing that 6.5 percent of high school seniors reported smoking marijuana daily, up from 2.4 percent in 1993. Additionally, 31 percent of young adults (ages 18 to 25) reported using marijuana in the last month. People who have become addicted to marijuana can lose an average of six IQ points by adulthood, according to Lisdahl, referring to a 2012 longitudinal study of 1,037 participants who were followed from birth to age 38.

Brain imaging studies of regular marijuana users have shown significant changes in their brain structure, particularly among adolescents, Lisdahl said. Abnormalities in the brain's gray matter, which is associated with intelligence, have been found in 16- to 19-year-olds who increased their marijuana use in the past year, she said. These findings remained even after researchers controlled for major medical conditions, prenatal drug exposure, developmental delays and learning disabilities, she added.

"When considering legalization, policymakers need to address ways to prevent easy access to marijuana and provide additional treatment funding for adolescent and young adult users," she said. She also recommended that legislators consider regulating levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the major psychoactive chemical in marijuana, in order to reduce potential neurocognitive effects.

Some legalized forms of marijuana have higher levels of THC than other strains, said Alan Budney, PhD, of Dartmouth College. THC is responsible for most of marijuana's psychological effects. Some research has shown that frequent use of high potency THC can increase risk of acute and future problems with depression, anxiety and psychosis. "Recent studies suggest that this relationship between marijuana and mental illness may be moderated by how often marijuana is used and potency of the substance," Budney said. "Unfortunately, much of what we know from earlier research is based on smoking marijuana with much lower doses of THC than are commonly used today." Current treatments for marijuana addiction among adolescents, such as brief school interventions and outpatient counseling, can be helpful but more research is needed to develop more effective strategies and interventions, he added.

Additionally, people's acceptance of legalized medical marijuana use appears to have an effect on adolescents' perception of the drug's risks, according to Bettina Friese, PhD, of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in California. She presented results from a 2013 study of 17,482 teenagers in Montana, which found marijuana use among teenagers was higher in counties where larger numbers of people voted to legalize medical marijuana in 2004. In addition, teens in counties with more votes for the legalization of medical marijuana perceived marijuana use to be less risky. The research findings suggest that a more accepting attitude toward medical marijuana may have a greater effect on marijuana use among teens than the actual number of medical marijuana licenses available, Friese said.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Hypnotherapy Case Study: Phobia

Things aren't always what they seem
- looking beyond the phobic response

Jo Nicholson BSc(Hons), RGN, PDHyp


My initial training was in nursing and I spent a brief time as a general nurse before discovering psychiatry. I had always been interested in 'what makes us tick' and so moving into psychiatric nursing seemed to be an obvious step. I trained and worked with adults before specializing in child, adolescent and family psychiatry. After some years in this area I moved away from nursing to study Psychology. It was during my final undergraduate year, when I studied a module in hypnosis, that my interest in this field developed. It seemed to pull together my earlier training. I graduated and began lecturing in health studies and psychology, my interest in hypnosis continued although it was several years later that I began my training with the LCCH. I am now an LCCH supervisor and trainee lecturer. I work as a freelance stress consultant and clinical hypnotherapist in Glasgow.

To quote Patrick Casement's book 'On Learning from the Patient', this particular patient taught me a lot about looking beyond the presenting problem. Mae was one of the first patients I saw. At the time I was working a few hours a week in an emotional health centre as a stress manager and was also just beginning to introduce hypnotherapy into the service.

Mae was referred to the service via her G.P. She had been off work for the last 6 months with depression following her husband's death 2 years earlier. Mae was initially seen by the counsellor within the health centre and had made good progress. Towards the end of her time with the counsellor, Mae began talking about her phobia of mice and was referred on to me to look at this. I had seen Mae around the centre and we had spoken briefly. She was well motivated and interested in exploring the use of clinical hypnosis.


Mae was a 52-year-old woman with three grown-up daughters, all married and living within the local area. Mae lived alone since her husband's death and had recently begun refurbishing the house but found that she had no interest in spending time in her home and had begun to view it as a bit of a millstone.

Her married life had been difficult. Her husband had enjoyed a drink but became aggressive and her time with him had been quite unhappy. She felt a mixture of relief and guilt about his death, but, through her work with the counsellor, Mae was able to address these feelings and begin to move forward. Although she had been prescribed antidepressants, Mae only took them briefly as she didn't feel comfortable taking the medication. She informed her G.P of this and at that point a referral was made to the emotional health centre.


Mae had a full-time job, which she found quite demanding, but wanted to maintain it until she retired in 8 years' time. Mae was just returning back to work after a 6-month absence when I began seeing her.

She had a good network of friends and met with them socially 2 or 3 times a week. Mae also visited her daughters regularly and, when able to, would look after her grandchildren. Mae was a fit and active woman, with a wonderful warm sense of humour. She was petite and recognized that in recent months her weight had dropped and she had lost some of her 'sparkle'. She was now, however, beginning to pay closer attention to her dietary needs and also taking some time out for herself away from family and friends. Mae described herself as generally a healthy person, a non-smoker, who enjoyed the occasional drink.

Case history

Mae could recall having a phobia of mice from early adulthood. She remembered being heavily pregnant with her first child and moving into rented accommodation with her husband. The house was overrun with mice and she became so distressed that she packed her bags and went around to her mother's house. As her mother opened the front door to let her in, a mouse ran out and across Mae's foot. Mae remembers feeling surprised and terrified by this sequence of events. She had earlier memories of mice at her grandmother's house, but described feeling no fear. Her grandmother had told her to clap her hands if the mice came close to her. Mae did this and it became a game to her as a young child.

Mae now found it difficult to even think about mice. During her house refurbishment a mouse had found it's way into her kitchen, Mae heard the scurrying noise and ran out into the street screaming. She was unable to return home until the house had been thoroughly checked for any further evidence of mice. She was concerned that she may be looking after her grandchildren, see a mouse, and just run and leave them. She felt that, over the years, her phobia had intensified.

Mae and I drew up a Subjective Unit of Disturbance Scale (SUDS), Mae was able to think of twenty examples that we included on the scale. Her most extreme anxiety, which she clearly rated as 100, was seeing a mouse in her home and the tails of mice particularly bothered her. Interestingly she rated the word 'mouse' as 50 on the scale. She initially would refer to them as 'm' and it seemed a real struggle for her to say the word. Iif she did she would speak it very quickly and quietly, and she would also grimace as she did so. Other aspects she found disturbing were pictures of mice. She described a pair of household rubber gloves that apparently had a mouse logo on their packaging, and she also felt uncomfortable with the cartoon mouse 'Jerry' from 'Tom and Jerry'.


The first session with Mae consisted of history taking and drawing up a SUDS. I also talked Mae through progressive relaxation and breathing techniques. We established a place of relaxation, which for Mae was a favourite holiday resort. I met up with Mae a week later and we began the hypnodesensitisation. I induced trance through progressive relaxation and installed the I.M.R's. Though Mae's level of comfort/discomfort was evident through her facial expressions during this session Mae was able to comfortably move up the scale from 0 - 30. She found the image of mice shaped sweets a bit of a struggle, but was able to relax and move on.

By the end of this session Mae had moved past 50 on her scale. We ended the session with lots of ego strengthening and Mae left feeling very positive.

The following week and the third session we continued with the hypnodesensitisation. Mae had had quite a busy week at work and was finding her return to work tiring. As the session progressed there were several 'sticking points', in particular it was difficult to move further up the scale from Mae's anxiety about hearing the sound of a mouse in the house. Towards the end of the session, Mae made an interesting remark, where she linked her late husband with the appearance of a mouse in her home. Mae then dismissed this thought as silly. However we did begin to discuss what this fear meant to her. There had been some shift in Mae's thinking with the hypnodesensitisation, but we were both feeling that there was something else around that was creating this 'stuckness'. Mae was open to exploring this through regression.

On the fourth session, using regression via diagnostic scale, Mae's I.M.R's indicated several key points in her life: at the age of 2l years, married; 17 years, leaving home; and around age 2/3 years Mae's facial expressions indicated that this was a time of sadness for her. Once out of trance and during our discussion Mae recalled being in hospital as a very small child, she thought possibly about 2/3 years old. She described being in a large TB ward, where visiting was restricted. The nurses were kind but busy. Mae also remembered that there were mice about at night-time and the nurses would clap their hands and 'shoo' the mice away, just as grandmother would do a few years later. Mae didn't remember feeling scared, she saw the mice as 'playmates' and, as she continued to talk, Mae said that she felt a sadness and an overwhelminq feeling of loneliness. We talked around this and discussed how the mice seemed to have become the objects of or receptacles for these difficult feelings. Mae was able to relate to this and agreed that we would work on this next week.

Fifth session, using advanced pseudo-regressive therapy, Mae was able to 'revisit' her early experience with new insights. She comforted her 'inner child' who sobbed as she felt so scared and lonely, and Mae hugged and held her tightly. The 'inner child' work was continued on the sixth session, which also included further additional ego strengthening. Mae responded very positively to this work and, although she felt sadness about being left alone in hospital as a small child, this sadness was the sadness of an adult rather than the raw pain and isolation she felt as a child. Mae now felt able to tolerate mice. Although she said that she would never be a great lover of them, they no longer felt so powerful and she felt pleased with that.

Summary and discussion

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, this was a great learning experience for me on so many different levels. I learned, or should I say, relearned, that things aren't always what they seem. I learned that it's okay to try alternative approaches if the first one isn't progressing (of course I had been taught that anyway, but somehow I had to experience it for myself to know that it really is okay!). I learned that the client will give you clues if you are open to them. Again I had experienced in my 'play work' with children, that the same themes and patterns will be repeated, you just have to pick up on them.

I met up with Mae several weeks later and she was very positive. She had regained her 'sparkle' and said that she had moved on with her life. She still enjoyed meeting up with friends, but also now found that she liked to have her own time at home.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Do Summer Holidays Re-Charge Batteries?

Ticking off the weeks until your summer holiday? You may anticipate a relaxing time away, but your body can react to the change in routine in negative as well as positive ways. 
Angela Epstein asks the experts to explain what happens.

Air travel can trigger pain in a tooth that hasn't previously bothered you, says Luke Cascarini, a consultant oral surgeon at BMI The Sloane Hospital.
'Changes in altitude can cause tiny pockets of air to become trapped in deep fillings or collect in areas of decay. This air is trapped at a different pressure to cabin pressure, which is why it causes pain,' he explains.
The same could happen if you were mountain climbing or skiing.
'Unfortunately, you won't know about potential problem areas until you fly. Have a check-up before you go away to check you don't need any fillings. The pain should dissipate within a few hours of landing - but see an emergency dentist if it persists.'


YOUR stomach is vulnerable from the moment you start your journey. Long-haul flights can slow down the speed at which food moves through the gut, and this change, together with possible dehydration on the plane, can lead to constipation, says Dr Charles Murray, consultant gastroenterologist at The Royal Free Hospital.

EVEN if you haven't taken sick leave in months, you may find yourself succumbing to a cold or infection as soon as you arrive on holiday.
Dutch researchers found that around one person in 30 becomes ill - with a variety of different complaints - as soon as they stop working and try to relax; a phenomenon sometimes called leisure sickness.
One theory is that while we are at work our body is constantly producing stress hormones such as adrenaline, which may help to ward off infection while we battle with the demands of our busy lives - this is our fight-or-flight response to stressful situations.
But the minute we start to relax, we catch any bugs that are around.
Dr Matthew Buckland, a consultant immunologist at Barts Health in London, explains: 'Travel itself can be quite stressful. But once you're on holiday there is a kind of overhang and the body finally gives into this build-up of stress, lowering immunity and making you more susceptible to any bugs or infections.'
And being in close proximity to people in a plane cabin won't help. Colds are more than 100 times more likely to be transmitted on a plane than during normal daily life on the ground, according to the Journal of Environmental Health Research

THOUGH the tree pollen season is now over, the grass pollen season is in full swing in this country and in some parts of the world continues until the end of July.
'The rule of thumb is that if you travel south to the Mediterranean the grass pollen season finishes earlier, so it's pretty much over now - which is why you may find your hay fever improving,' explains Dr Jean Emberlin, scientific adviser to Allergy UK.
'But if you are heading north to Scandinavia, for instance, the grass pollen season may still be going on until July. The same is true of the U.S. 'Take the same precautions you would at home, such as using nasal sprays and wearing sunglasses, as you never know when you might be exposed to pollen.'


Hot weather puts insulin-dependent diabetics at a higher risk of hypoglycaemia - where blood sugar levels fall too low - says Douglas Twenefour, clinical adviser at Diabetes UK.
This is thought to be the result of blood vessels expanding as the body tries to cool down in heat. The charity suggests that if the temperature rises much above 25c (77f) you should monitor your glucose levels more regularly.

NUMEROUS studies have shown that no matter how much you have enjoyed your holiday, the lasting effects can fade away in less than a week.
One holidaymaker in three says that the very thought of returning to work makes them feel depressed. It can seem as though it's almost pointless going away.
'If you can, give yourself a day to recover from the holiday, perhaps by not beginning to answer emails straight away,' suggests Dr Sandi Mann, lecturer in occupational psychology at the University of Central Lancashire.
'That will take away a self-imposed pressure. But unpack immediately instead. There's nothing worse than a half- unpacked suitcase in a corner of the room to remind you that your holiday is over.'
Basking in the holiday sun may lower your blood pressure, suggest researchers from Southampton and Edinburgh Universities. In their study, 24 healthy young men sat under a sun lamp for 20 minutes and had their blood pressure measured.
Diastolic pressure - the lower of the two figures in a blood pressure reading, when the heart relaxes - dropped significantly and remained low for at least half an hour after the lamp was switched off.
It's thought that the UV rays triggered the release a compound called nitric oxide from the skin, which relaxes blood vessels, causing blood pressure to fall.
If you suffer with skin complaints such as psoriasis - in which scaly pink patches form on the elbows, knees and scalp - you may find that the condition improves when you're on holiday.
'Short bursts of ultra-violet radiation (UV light) reduce inflammation on the skin, which is why it's a common treatment for psoriasis and eczema,' explains Dr Sajjad Rajpar, consultant dermatologist at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham and the BMI Priory Hospital. 'However, you need only five minutes of sunlight exposure - without sun cream - to have an effect.'
The salt in seawater also has antiseptic properties and may reduce an infection associated with eczema - though it's important to rinse skin after swimming, then moisturise and apply sun cream.
A 2008 study published in the journal Skin Research found that eczema and dermatitis - inflammation and irritation of the skin -improved after sufferers bathed in seawater.
The theory is that salt and potassium chloride in the water 'formed a barrier over the damaged skin and speeded its healing'.

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