Serious Mental Illness Blog

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More similar than we know: When animals go madBy Laurel Braitman, ideas.ted.com
Author of the book Animal Madness, TED Fellow Laurel Braitman shares 5 ways in which animals and humans suffer from similar mental illnesses. Anthropomorphism run amok? You decide.
A golden retriever chases his tail every morning for hours on end. In the evening he compulsively licks his paws till they’re bare and oozy. When he’s given Prozac, he calms down and stops injuring himself … After the death of her mate, a scarlet macaw plucks out every last one of her feathers and doesn’t stop until she’s befriended by a cockatoo … A tabby cat who grew listless and stopped eating after his favorite human went off to college is cheered by the arrival of the family’s new pet rabbit, whom he likes to follow around the house.
Is the dog obsessive-compulsive? The parrot struggling with trichotillomania? The cat, once depressed, now recovered?
Making sense of animal emotional states and behavior, especially when they are doing things that seem abnormal, has always involved a certain amount of projection. The diagnoses that many of these animals receive reflect shifting ideas about human mental health, since people use the concepts, language and diagnostic tools they are comfortable with to puzzle out what may be wrong with the animals around them.
This isn’t to say that the creatures aren’t suffering, but the labels we give to their suffering reflect not only our beliefs about animals’ capacity for emotional expression, but also our own, most popular, ideas about mental illness and recovery. Where, for example, earlier generations saw madness, homesickness and heartbreak in themselves and other animals, veterinarians and physicians now diagnose anxiety, impulse control and obsessive-compulsive disorders in humans, dogs, gorillas, whales and many animals in between.
Looking at instances of purported animal madness is like holding up a mirror to the history of mental illness in people. It’s not always flattering — but it’s always interesting. Here are five classic examples of animal insanity, as diagnosed by arguably the craziest creatures of all, humans:
1. Heartbreak
Well into the 20th century, brokenheartedness was considered a potentially lethal medical problem that affected both humans and other animals alike, from jilted lovers who were thought to have died of shock after being left at the altar to loyal dogs that died immediately after their masters. In 1937, a German shepherd named Teddy stopped eating when his horse companion died; he stayed in the horse’s stall for three days until he died himself. These cases still pop up from time to time. In 2010, two elderly male otters that had been inseparable for 15 years died within an hour of each other at a New Zealand zoo. Only one had been ill; their keepers believed that the second otter died of a broken heart. In March 2011 another heartbreak story pinged around the web. A British soldier, Lance Corporal Tasker, was killed in a firefight in Helmand, Afghanistan. His dog, Theo, a Springer spaniel mix trained to sniff out explosives, watched the whole thing. Theo wasn’t injured in the firefight, but hours after Tasker died, she suffered a fatal seizure, brought on, according to witnesses, by stress and grief over the loss of her companion.
2. Madness
It wasn’t until Louis Pasteur successfully inoculated the first person against rabies in 1885 that people began to understand the disease as a matter of contagion. Before Pasteur, rabies symptoms were often seen as a form of insanity that could be passed between people and other animals. How and why animals could catch madness was a confusing business. Creatures could go mad from a lifetime of abuse, such as Smiles, the Central Park rhinoceros, who reportedly did so in 1903. Maddened horses, as they were known, could simply take off running, still attached to their carriages or dragging their riders behind, often with fatal consequences. Mad monkeys bit small children at the circus, and dogs could sometimes go mad with loneliness. Looking back, it’s likely that more than a few of these animals were not actually rabid. Instead, madness was a catch-all term for lots of different kinds of emotional suffering and other forms of insanity.
3. OCD
Obsessive-compulsive disorders are now relatively common diagnoses in humans and other animals. Many of these behaviors are actually healthy animal activities gone awry. People, mice and dogs, for example, can develop hand- or paw-washing habits that are so extreme as to keep them from playing, eating their meals, going on walks or sleeping. Parrots can develop feather-plucking compulsions that leave them bald as roasting chickens; rodents, cats, humans and other primates can compulsively pluck their hair to the point of baldness, a disorder known as trichotillomania. Other OCD spectrum behaviors, like rituals, can also be seen in nonhumans, as for instance this dog that spins every time he sees a car.
4. Phobias
Some animals, like some people, develop extremely specific fears of particular things in their environment, such as escalators, the beeps of an electronic alarm clock, shadows, even toaster ovens. One of the most common phobias, at least in dogs, iscrippling fear of thunderstorms, but cats can develop fears too, like this one whose owners believe is scared of measuring spoons. Horses can develop fears of plastic bags or umbrellas, among many other things. Thankfully, both people and other animals can learn to overcome their phobias, often with a mixture of behavior therapy and training, time, and psychopharmaceutical drugs such as Valium or Xanax.
5. PTSD
Traumatic stress disorders have been documented in a variety of animal species — from great ape veterans of pharmaceutical testing and elephants rescued from brutal circus training to canine veterans of armed conflict. How similar is PTSD in different animal species? It’s hard to know, but there are many shared symptoms, from changes in temperament and mood, difficulty sleeping and more sensitive startle responses to possible flashbacks of traumatizing events. In his book Second Nature,the ethologist Jonathan Balcombe shares an account of PTSD at the Fauna Sanctuary in Quebec, Canada, a refuge for chimps who’d been used in research. One afternoon, keepers loaded a shipment of materials onto a metal trolley they pushed past the enclosure of two chimps, Tom and Pablo. As soon as the chimps caught sight of it they let out frightened shrieks and became inconsolable. The staff later realized that the same brand of trolley, or one that looked like it, had been used to transport unconscious chimps to the surgery room at a research facility where Tom and Pablo had lived, and been experimented upon, two years earlier.
Laurel Braitman’s book, Animal Madness: How Anxious Dogs, Compulsive Parrots and Elephants in Recovery Help Us Understand Ourselves, is out now.
For more mental health resources, Click Here to access the Serious Mental Illness Blog.
Click Here to access original SMI Blog content

More similar than we know: When animals go mad
By Laurel Braitman, ideas.ted.com

Author of the book Animal Madness, TED Fellow Laurel Braitman shares 5 ways in which animals and humans suffer from similar mental illnesses. Anthropomorphism run amok? You decide.

A golden retriever chases his tail every morning for hours on end. In the evening he compulsively licks his paws till they’re bare and oozy. When he’s given Prozac, he calms down and stops injuring himself … After the death of her mate, a scarlet macaw plucks out every last one of her feathers and doesn’t stop until she’s befriended by a cockatoo … A tabby cat who grew listless and stopped eating after his favorite human went off to college is cheered by the arrival of the family’s new pet rabbit, whom he likes to follow around the house.

Is the dog obsessive-compulsive? The parrot struggling with trichotillomania? The cat, once depressed, now recovered?

Making sense of animal emotional states and behavior, especially when they are doing things that seem abnormal, has always involved a certain amount of projection. The diagnoses that many of these animals receive reflect shifting ideas about human mental health, since people use the concepts, language and diagnostic tools they are comfortable with to puzzle out what may be wrong with the animals around them.

This isn’t to say that the creatures aren’t suffering, but the labels we give to their suffering reflect not only our beliefs about animals’ capacity for emotional expression, but also our own, most popular, ideas about mental illness and recovery. Where, for example, earlier generations saw madness, homesickness and heartbreak in themselves and other animals, veterinarians and physicians now diagnose anxiety, impulse control and obsessive-compulsive disorders in humans, dogs, gorillas, whales and many animals in between.

Looking at instances of purported animal madness is like holding up a mirror to the history of mental illness in people. It’s not always flattering — but it’s always interesting. Here are five classic examples of animal insanity, as diagnosed by arguably the craziest creatures of all, humans:

1. Heartbreak

Well into the 20th century, brokenheartedness was considered a potentially lethal medical problem that affected both humans and other animals alike, from jilted lovers who were thought to have died of shock after being left at the altar to loyal dogs that died immediately after their masters. In 1937, a German shepherd named Teddy stopped eating when his horse companion died; he stayed in the horse’s stall for three days until he died himself. These cases still pop up from time to time. In 2010, two elderly male otters that had been inseparable for 15 years died within an hour of each other at a New Zealand zoo. Only one had been ill; their keepers believed that the second otter died of a broken heart. In March 2011 another heartbreak story pinged around the web. A British soldier, Lance Corporal Tasker, was killed in a firefight in Helmand, Afghanistan. His dog, Theo, a Springer spaniel mix trained to sniff out explosives, watched the whole thing. Theo wasn’t injured in the firefight, but hours after Tasker died, she suffered a fatal seizure, brought on, according to witnesses, by stress and grief over the loss of her companion.

2. Madness

It wasn’t until Louis Pasteur successfully inoculated the first person against rabies in 1885 that people began to understand the disease as a matter of contagion. Before Pasteur, rabies symptoms were often seen as a form of insanity that could be passed between people and other animals. How and why animals could catch madness was a confusing business. Creatures could go mad from a lifetime of abuse, such as Smiles, the Central Park rhinoceros, who reportedly did so in 1903. Maddened horses, as they were known, could simply take off running, still attached to their carriages or dragging their riders behind, often with fatal consequences. Mad monkeys bit small children at the circus, and dogs could sometimes go mad with loneliness. Looking back, it’s likely that more than a few of these animals were not actually rabid. Instead, madness was a catch-all term for lots of different kinds of emotional suffering and other forms of insanity.

3. OCD

Obsessive-compulsive disorders are now relatively common diagnoses in humans and other animals. Many of these behaviors are actually healthy animal activities gone awry. People, mice and dogs, for example, can develop hand- or paw-washing habits that are so extreme as to keep them from playing, eating their meals, going on walks or sleeping. Parrots can develop feather-plucking compulsions that leave them bald as roasting chickens; rodents, cats, humans and other primates can compulsively pluck their hair to the point of baldness, a disorder known as trichotillomania. Other OCD spectrum behaviors, like rituals, can also be seen in nonhumans, as for instance this dog that spins every time he sees a car.

4. Phobias

Some animals, like some people, develop extremely specific fears of particular things in their environment, such as escalators, the beeps of an electronic alarm clock, shadows, even toaster ovens. One of the most common phobias, at least in dogs, iscrippling fear of thunderstorms, but cats can develop fears too, like this one whose owners believe is scared of measuring spoons. Horses can develop fears of plastic bags or umbrellas, among many other things. Thankfully, both people and other animals can learn to overcome their phobias, often with a mixture of behavior therapy and training, time, and psychopharmaceutical drugs such as Valium or Xanax.

5. PTSD

Traumatic stress disorders have been documented in a variety of animal species — from great ape veterans of pharmaceutical testing and elephants rescued from brutal circus training to canine veterans of armed conflict. How similar is PTSD in different animal species? It’s hard to know, but there are many shared symptoms, from changes in temperament and mood, difficulty sleeping and more sensitive startle responses to possible flashbacks of traumatizing events. In his book Second Nature,the ethologist Jonathan Balcombe shares an account of PTSD at the Fauna Sanctuary in Quebec, Canada, a refuge for chimps who’d been used in research. One afternoon, keepers loaded a shipment of materials onto a metal trolley they pushed past the enclosure of two chimps, Tom and Pablo. As soon as the chimps caught sight of it they let out frightened shrieks and became inconsolable. The staff later realized that the same brand of trolley, or one that looked like it, had been used to transport unconscious chimps to the surgery room at a research facility where Tom and Pablo had lived, and been experimented upon, two years earlier.

Laurel Braitman’s book, Animal Madness: How Anxious Dogs, Compulsive Parrots and Elephants in Recovery Help Us Understand Ourselves, is out now.

For more mental health resources, Click Here to access the Serious Mental Illness Blog.

Filed under animal animals pet pets dog cat dogs cats heartbreak sad sadness depressed depression madness mad ocd phobia scared ptsd trauma traumatized mind body brain wellness health healthy mental mental health mental illness

185 notes

Why We Should Stop Calling People “Crazy”By Lauren Messervey, Writer, Huffington Post Canada
When you feel the “crazy” creep up on your tongue, I urge you to remember your compassion. Although I do not wish pain on anyone, I want you to trust me on this; you will likely find yourself in the same sort of pain in your own life. And when it happens, you would be so grateful to find that “crazy” is no longer part of your diagnosis.
It’s patio season in Toronto. I’m sitting at one of my favorite spots in the city, side by side with King Street West, sipping on cherry-cola and locking eyes with the passers-by. At the left of me sit two guys, “bros” by society’s nomenclature. They’re talking about a girl that one of them used to sleep with.
"Man, she was CRAZY," says the first bro to the second. "She called me crying one night, asked me if I even cared about her."
"I told you, man. Didn’t I tell you she was nuts?" said the second bro to the first. "Don’t pretend that you didn’t see it coming. That bitch cried at everything." I think that they high-fived each other. I took another sip of my cola and pretended not to be listening.
This is not the first, second, or thirtieth time that I have heard something like this. “Crazy” is a common insult. According to the likes of the men on that patio, thousands of women carrying any form of “emotional baggage” should be institutionalized. An interpreted weakness is the first sign of insanity. The remedy is to joke about her needing her prescriptions filled and a high five from your buddy.
I hear the exact same words come from women. “Oh my God, she is SO crazy.” “I heard that she is like, certifiably crazy.” “Can you believe him? He is TOTALLY crazy!” And so on and so forth until the words blur together in a menagerie of crazy/stupid. The genders collaborate to form a diagnosis that seems so scathingly official that it would hope to put each doctor out of their practice.
Being a woman between the ages of 17 and 39, I have been labelled “crazy” on numerous occasions. Whether it’s because of my emotional reactions, my philosophies on life, my very basic, human character, or being in the wrong place at the wrong time, people have gained immense satisfaction by calling me “crazy.” If accusations held up in court, I would have been committed countless times. It’s really quite exhausting to have to withstand such “professional” scrutiny.
Out of all of the terms to be re-addressed in light of recent mental health awareness, “crazy” should be the first to go. It has become verbal leprosy, a warning to all of those who witness it for fear of spreading its sickness. A crazy girl or boy is to be avoided at all cost. They don’t get to have normal things like love, or happiness, or a good time with friends and loved ones. Instead, they are emotionally quarantined and sent off into the abyss of neglect.
"Crazy" is, in actuality, a label that people use because they do not like the emotional reaction they are witnessing. Humans are insatiable control freaks, and if they see something that they can’t control in another person, it is a threat to their nature. It takes more effort to empathize and sympathize, so a simple label that asserts their power over the perceived "lesser" being is sufficient effort to be used. A singular, hurtful word can give you the power to deny your own humanity and forward your own, superficial glory.
When you call someone “crazy”, you are not helping them. You’re taking away that person’s basic right to feel whatever they need to. You may feel that calling a person in pain “crazy” gives you the upper hand, but in reality, it only helps you cover up your own fears in a shiny coat of ignorance. Your self-validation, however satisfying as it may seem, is short lived.
It is unfortunate that a large majority of the “crazies” are women. Women tend to be more emotional in nature, and generally crave human connection in a more intimate way. In the realm of paranoia’s disconnect, this is the craziest thing in existence. Though men are not exempt from this label, it seems as though the emotional, opinionated, and open-hearted women are being attacked with an unofficial diagnosis on a daily basis. It’s enough to drive you crazy, as it were.
If you are reading this right now and you have never experienced a thought or feeling that would be deemed “irrational” in society’s eyes due to a deep-seated emotional trauma or wound, consider yourself exceptionally lucky or dead (and it’s likely the latter). I have yet to meet a person who has never experienced pain. If we are honest with ourselves, we may admit that pain is the route of every experience or reaction that we would call “crazy.” Look beneath the blossoms of Schizophrenia, Borderline Personality Disorder, or even Psychosis, and you will be sure to find a very deep, painful root.
I’d like to see the end of “crazy.” I’d like to be able to deal with my emotions with all of the comfort that deep pain affords. I’d like to see the same for all of my friends, enemies, and beloved frenemies. It is far better to be counted as equals than it is to be counted as lessers.
The Chershire Cat once told Alice that, “We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.” I have yet to meet a person who has never felt broken, never suffered, and has never been accused of being crazy by some non-doctor-or-rather. We’re all in this together, and if we are ever in pain, we have the right to feel that pain and be met with compassion.
When you feel the “crazy” creep up on your tongue, I urge you to remember your compassion. Although I do not wish pain on anyone, I want you to trust me on this; you will likely find yourself in the same sort of pain in your own life. And when it happens, you would be so grateful to find that “crazy” is no longer part of your diagnosis.
Let the doctors be doctors, dear readers. All you have to do is be.

Image Credit: http://lilliemcferrin.com

 
 
For more mental health resources, Click Here to access the Serious Mental Illness Blog.Click Here to access original SMI Blog content

Why We Should Stop Calling People “Crazy”
By Lauren Messervey, Writer, Huffington Post Canada

When you feel the “crazy” creep up on your tongue, I urge you to remember your compassion. Although I do not wish pain on anyone, I want you to trust me on this; you will likely find yourself in the same sort of pain in your own life. And when it happens, you would be so grateful to find that “crazy” is no longer part of your diagnosis.

It’s patio season in Toronto. I’m sitting at one of my favorite spots in the city, side by side with King Street West, sipping on cherry-cola and locking eyes with the passers-by. At the left of me sit two guys, “bros” by society’s nomenclature. They’re talking about a girl that one of them used to sleep with.

"Man, she was CRAZY," says the first bro to the second. "She called me crying one night, asked me if I even cared about her."

"I told you, man. Didn’t I tell you she was nuts?" said the second bro to the first. "Don’t pretend that you didn’t see it coming. That bitch cried at everything." I think that they high-fived each other. I took another sip of my cola and pretended not to be listening.

This is not the first, second, or thirtieth time that I have heard something like this. “Crazy” is a common insult. According to the likes of the men on that patio, thousands of women carrying any form of “emotional baggage” should be institutionalized. An interpreted weakness is the first sign of insanity. The remedy is to joke about her needing her prescriptions filled and a high five from your buddy.

I hear the exact same words come from women. “Oh my God, she is SO crazy.” “I heard that she is like, certifiably crazy.” “Can you believe him? He is TOTALLY crazy!” And so on and so forth until the words blur together in a menagerie of crazy/stupid. The genders collaborate to form a diagnosis that seems so scathingly official that it would hope to put each doctor out of their practice.

Being a woman between the ages of 17 and 39, I have been labelled “crazy” on numerous occasions. Whether it’s because of my emotional reactions, my philosophies on life, my very basic, human character, or being in the wrong place at the wrong time, people have gained immense satisfaction by calling me “crazy.” If accusations held up in court, I would have been committed countless times. It’s really quite exhausting to have to withstand such “professional” scrutiny.

Out of all of the terms to be re-addressed in light of recent mental health awareness, “crazy” should be the first to go. It has become verbal leprosy, a warning to all of those who witness it for fear of spreading its sickness. A crazy girl or boy is to be avoided at all cost. They don’t get to have normal things like love, or happiness, or a good time with friends and loved ones. Instead, they are emotionally quarantined and sent off into the abyss of neglect.

"Crazy" is, in actuality, a label that people use because they do not like the emotional reaction they are witnessing. Humans are insatiable control freaks, and if they see something that they can’t control in another person, it is a threat to their nature. It takes more effort to empathize and sympathize, so a simple label that asserts their power over the perceived "lesser" being is sufficient effort to be used. A singular, hurtful word can give you the power to deny your own humanity and forward your own, superficial glory.

When you call someone “crazy”, you are not helping them. You’re taking away that person’s basic right to feel whatever they need to. You may feel that calling a person in pain “crazy” gives you the upper hand, but in reality, it only helps you cover up your own fears in a shiny coat of ignorance. Your self-validation, however satisfying as it may seem, is short lived.

It is unfortunate that a large majority of the “crazies” are women. Women tend to be more emotional in nature, and generally crave human connection in a more intimate way. In the realm of paranoia’s disconnect, this is the craziest thing in existence. Though men are not exempt from this label, it seems as though the emotional, opinionated, and open-hearted women are being attacked with an unofficial diagnosis on a daily basis. It’s enough to drive you crazy, as it were.

If you are reading this right now and you have never experienced a thought or feeling that would be deemed “irrational” in society’s eyes due to a deep-seated emotional trauma or wound, consider yourself exceptionally lucky or dead (and it’s likely the latter). I have yet to meet a person who has never experienced pain. If we are honest with ourselves, we may admit that pain is the route of every experience or reaction that we would call “crazy.” Look beneath the blossoms of Schizophrenia, Borderline Personality Disorder, or even Psychosis, and you will be sure to find a very deep, painful root.

I’d like to see the end of “crazy.” I’d like to be able to deal with my emotions with all of the comfort that deep pain affords. I’d like to see the same for all of my friends, enemies, and beloved frenemies. It is far better to be counted as equals than it is to be counted as lessers.

The Chershire Cat once told Alice that, “We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.” I have yet to meet a person who has never felt broken, never suffered, and has never been accused of being crazy by some non-doctor-or-rather. We’re all in this together, and if we are ever in pain, we have the right to feel that pain and be met with compassion.

When you feel the “crazy” creep up on your tongue, I urge you to remember your compassion. Although I do not wish pain on anyone, I want you to trust me on this; you will likely find yourself in the same sort of pain in your own life. And when it happens, you would be so grateful to find that “crazy” is no longer part of your diagnosis.

Let the doctors be doctors, dear readers. All you have to do is be.

Image Credit: http://lilliemcferrin.com

 

 





For more mental health resources, Click Here to access the Serious Mental Illness Blog.
Click Here
 to access original SMI Blog content

Filed under crazy mad madness mental illness health mental health mental illness diagnosis disorder stigma respect recovery healthy mind body brain feelings emotions respectful psychology psychiatry cousneling emotional thoughts weak weakness insane insanity help

42 notes

“Talking Back to Madness”By M. Balter (2014) Science, 343.
Science notices that “For decades, antipsychotic drugs have been the main line of defense, but they have serious side effects and lots of patients end up not taking them. Recently, a number of clinical trials have suggested that psychological approaches, including old-fashioned “talk” psychotherapy and a method called cognitive behavioral therapy, can be moderately effective in many cases. These techniques engage with the human being behind the symptoms and are attracting increasing attention from the medical profession.”
From the article:
“Most schizophrenia experts subscribe to the stress-vulnerability model of the disorder, in which some individuals have a greater predisposition—either because of genes, childhood trauma, or environmental factors—to psychosis than others. In vulnerable people, psychotic episodes are often set off by some sort of stressful event, usually in the late teens or early adulthood.
“But past psychological approaches, such as psychoanalysis, have shown limited success in treating the disease. Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, eventually gave up on using it to treat psychotic patients, although a number of later post-Freudian psychiatrists continued to use it with sporadic success. When antipsychotic drugs arrived in the 1950s, with their clear ability to dampen the worst psychotic symptoms, psychotherapy became increasingly marginalized.”
“Drugs have serious side effects, however, and at least 50% of patients either refuse or fail to take them, according to recent studies. Moreover, the search for genes behind schizophrenia and other mental illnesses, which might lead to new drug therapies, has failed to produce any smoking guns and has led only to the discovery of a large number of genetic variants, each conferring a very small additional risk. “We’re trying to fix something, but we don’t know what’s broken,” says Brian Koehler, a psychologist at New York University in New York City who also sees schizophrenia patients in private practice.
“Now, psychological treatments are gaining ground again. Most advocates of psychotherapies insist they are not claiming that schizophrenia is purely a psychological malady caused by a dysfunctional family background. “We’re looking for a much more nuanced form of psychiatry that doesn’t reject biology, but that is able to situate the biology within the realm of lived human experience, which is socially and culturally determined,” says psychiatrist Pat Bracken, director of mental health at Bantry General Hospital in Ireland.
“In 2012, another team confirmed that CBT could be effective for so-called negative symptoms of schizophrenia, such as emotional distance, apathy, and social withdrawal, which are usually much harder to treat.
“And the most recent CBT trial, published last month in The Lancet, concludes that CBT might serve as a substitute for antipsychotic drugs in some cases, rather than just an adjunct to them as in most clinical studies (see ScienceNOW, http://scim.ag/schizCBT). In this study, 74 schizophrenia spectrum patients who were being treated in Manchester and Newcastle, and who had declined to take drugs, were randomized by computer into two groups, one receiving TAU and the other TAU plus CBT.
“After 18 months, the CBT group showed moderately better scores on various tests for psychotic symptoms; indeed, CBT performed about as well as antipsychotic drugs do when compared with placebos, meaning that CBT could substitute for drugs in some situations—especially those in which patients are refusing to take them anyway.
“Clinical psychologist Anthony Morrison of the University of Manchester, who led the study, stresses that a drug-free approach might be appropriate only for patients who are relatively high-functioning and have not shown any risk to themselves or others. Nevertheless, the results are “utterly convincing,” says Max Birchwood, a psychologist at the University of Warwick in Coventry, U.K.
“Arenella, who treats Terry and some of her other patients with a combination of psychodynamic and CBT approaches, says that in the end it doesn’t matter whether talk therapies work because of the theory behind them or just because someone is taking the patient and their symptoms seriously. “It may be a placebo effect, but I will go for all the placebo effect I can get,” she says. “I’ll take it.”
“In the end, the spread of talk therapies for psychosis could be limited by a scarcity of resources, and of therapists willing to try them. Treating such clients is very stressful and seldom financially rewarding. “A lot of people don’t want to take these patients,” Arenella says. “Working with them is scary. People get violent, people get hurt, computers get thrown to the ground, ceiling tiles get pulled out.” And Martindale says that “contact with madness is very disturbing; it conjures up all sorts of feelings.”
“Government agencies and insurance companies can help by covering such treatments, even though they are more expensive in the long run than drugs, say Arenella and others. They are worth trying, Bracken says. “I have a lot of patients whom I would say recovered from psychosis. I see people who move on with their lives, get their quality of life back, are able to live independently.” Indeed, the popular notion that a schizophrenia diagnosis is a life sentence of mental illness is not borne out by the statistics: In one typical study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in 2004, researchers found that nearly 50% of first-episode schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder patients were symptom-free after 5 years.
“But many people don’t get there no matter what we do,” Bracken says, “until that spark in them finally says, ‘I want my life back.’ “

 

 

 
For more mental health news, Click Here to access the Serious Mental Illness Blog

“Talking Back to Madness”
By M. Balter (2014) Science, 343.

Science notices that “For decades, antipsychotic drugs have been the main line of defense, but they have serious side effects and lots of patients end up not taking them. Recently, a number of clinical trials have suggested that psychological approaches, including old-fashioned “talk” psychotherapy and a method called cognitive behavioral therapy, can be moderately effective in many cases. These techniques engage with the human being behind the symptoms and are attracting increasing attention from the medical profession.”

From the article:

“Most schizophrenia experts subscribe to the stress-vulnerability model of the disorder, in which some individuals have a greater predisposition—either because of genes, childhood trauma, or environmental factors—to psychosis than others. In vulnerable people, psychotic episodes are often set off by some sort of stressful event, usually in the late teens or early adulthood.

“But past psychological approaches, such as psychoanalysis, have shown limited success in treating the disease. Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, eventually gave up on using it to treat psychotic patients, although a number of later post-Freudian psychiatrists continued to use it with sporadic success. When antipsychotic drugs arrived in the 1950s, with their clear ability to dampen the worst psychotic symptoms, psychotherapy became increasingly marginalized.”

“Drugs have serious side effects, however, and at least 50% of patients either refuse or fail to take them, according to recent studies. Moreover, the search for genes behind schizophrenia and other mental illnesses, which might lead to new drug therapies, has failed to produce any smoking guns and has led only to the discovery of a large number of genetic variants, each conferring a very small additional risk. “We’re trying to fix something, but we don’t know what’s broken,” says Brian Koehler, a psychologist at New York University in New York City who also sees schizophrenia patients in private practice.

“Now, psychological treatments are gaining ground again. Most advocates of psychotherapies insist they are not claiming that schizophrenia is purely a psychological malady caused by a dysfunctional family background. “We’re looking for a much more nuanced form of psychiatry that doesn’t reject biology, but that is able to situate the biology within the realm of lived human experience, which is socially and culturally determined,” says psychiatrist Pat Bracken, director of mental health at Bantry General Hospital in Ireland.

“In 2012, another team confirmed that CBT could be effective for so-called negative symptoms of schizophrenia, such as emotional distance, apathy, and social withdrawal, which are usually much harder to treat.

“And the most recent CBT trial, published last month in The Lancet, concludes that CBT might serve as a substitute for antipsychotic drugs in some cases, rather than just an adjunct to them as in most clinical studies (see ScienceNOW, http://scim.ag/schizCBT). In this study, 74 schizophrenia spectrum patients who were being treated in Manchester and Newcastle, and who had declined to take drugs, were randomized by computer into two groups, one receiving TAU and the other TAU plus CBT.

“After 18 months, the CBT group showed moderately better scores on various tests for psychotic symptoms; indeed, CBT performed about as well as antipsychotic drugs do when compared with placebos, meaning that CBT could substitute for drugs in some situations—especially those in which patients are refusing to take them anyway.

“Clinical psychologist Anthony Morrison of the University of Manchester, who led the study, stresses that a drug-free approach might be appropriate only for patients who are relatively high-functioning and have not shown any risk to themselves or others. Nevertheless, the results are “utterly convincing,” says Max Birchwood, a psychologist at the University of Warwick in Coventry, U.K.

“Arenella, who treats Terry and some of her other patients with a combination of psychodynamic and CBT approaches, says that in the end it doesn’t matter whether talk therapies work because of the theory behind them or just because someone is taking the patient and their symptoms seriously. “It may be a placebo effect, but I will go for all the placebo effect I can get,” she says. “I’ll take it.”

“In the end, the spread of talk therapies for psychosis could be limited by a scarcity of resources, and of therapists willing to try them. Treating such clients is very stressful and seldom financially rewarding. “A lot of people don’t want to take these patients,” Arenella says. “Working with them is scary. People get violent, people get hurt, computers get thrown to the ground, ceiling tiles get pulled out.” And Martindale says that “contact with madness is very disturbing; it conjures up all sorts of feelings.”

“Government agencies and insurance companies can help by covering such treatments, even though they are more expensive in the long run than drugs, say Arenella and others. They are worth trying, Bracken says. “I have a lot of patients whom I would say recovered from psychosis. I see people who move on with their lives, get their quality of life back, are able to live independently.” Indeed, the popular notion that a schizophrenia diagnosis is a life sentence of mental illness is not borne out by the statistics: In one typical study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in 2004, researchers found that nearly 50% of first-episode schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder patients were symptom-free after 5 years.

“But many people don’t get there no matter what we do,” Bracken says, “until that spark in them finally says, ‘I want my life back.’ “

 

 

 




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A Disease of Silence? Social Stigma and SchizophreniaBy Henry Lane, Jewish Journal
Schizophrenia is one of the most common health conditions yet it is also one of the most misunderstood, a knowledge gap that leads to a very stereotyped view of the disease. For example, many people believe that people with schizophrenia are violent and dangerous when in fact they are more at risk of attack or of hurting themselves than harming other people. Summing it up in his book, Surviving Schizophrenia, senior psychiatrist Dr E Fuller Torrey calls the condition “the modern-day equivalent of leprosy”.
Many people with schizophrenia recover fully or are able to manage the condition well enough to lead normal lives, especially if help is sought early on. However, in common with other mental health conditions, the disease brings a strong social stigma and discrimination.
In 2008, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) conducted a survey to better understand the depths of the stigma surrounding schizophrenia. The survey found that:
85% of respondents understood that schizophrenia is a medical illness
Only 43% said they would tell their friends if they had schizophrenia.
27% admitted that they might be embarrassed if a family member had the illness.
Almost half of those living with schizophrenia said they felt that doctors did not take their physical health complaints seriously.
For many people, the stigma and discrimination they experience – from society in general but also from families, friends and employers – can make their problems far worse. Nearly nine out of ten people with mental health problems say that stigma and discrimination have a negative effect on their lives. Among those with a long-term health condition or disability, people with mental health problems are amongst the least likely to:
find work
be in a steady, long-term relationship
live in decent housing 
be socially included in mainstream society.
The NAMI survey highlighted the social and professional challenges that people with schizophrenia face, which can have huge impacts on their quality of life. The survey showed that:
Nearly one-quarter of respondents would not want to work with someone with schizophrenia, even if he or she was receiving treatment
34% would not want their boss to have schizophrenia
Nearly half would not want to date a person with schizophrenia, even if the person was in treatment. 
The stigma associated with schizophrenia also poses a dilemma for many doctors, says Ken Duckworth, MD, medical director at NAMI and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. “Doctors are reluctant to make a diagnosis. They don’t want to give you what amounts to a social death sentence.” He called schizophrenia a “low-status illness”, meaning it doesn’t have the same acceptance as diseases such as breast cancer or inherited genetic problems.
Social stigma in Jewish communities?
Jewish communities have a long history with schizophrenia and many of those links are surprising. For example, there is a commonly held belief that those in the Ashkenazi community are at higher risk of developing the disease. This myth is explained by the fact that members of the Ashkenazi community have participated in a series of studies aimed at understanding the biological basis for both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder as part of the Epidemiology/Genetics Research Programme in Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University.
Blogger and multi-faith chaplain, Diane Weber Bederman, quoted these studies in her blog article Mental Illness and the Jews. “Due to a long history of marriage within the faith, which extends back thousands of years, the Jewish community has emerged from a limited number of ancestors and has a similar genetic makeup. This allows researchers to more easily perform genetic studies and locate disease-causing genes.” She added: “Results of the studies: Scientists estimate the incidence of schizophrenia in the Ashkenazi Jewish population to be no higher than that of the general population (about one percent).”
Mental health problems may not be more common in Jewish populations, but what about social stigma? Betty Jampel, writing in the New Jersey Jewish News, has a clear message: “It is a sad fact of life that… we are still dealing with mental illness as a shameful malady. While there have been public awareness campaigns to stigmatize mental illness and a shift in the scientific community to understand the biochemical nature of psychiatric illnesses, the shame persists. Those with mental illnesses still tend to be viewed as flawed, as somehow not doing enough for themselves to get better.”
The focus should be on tackling social stigma, she added. “As a Jewish community of mental health professionals, clergy, and laypeople, it is incumbent on all of us to change our perceptions of mental illness and to stop perpetuating the myths that come with these disorders. We as a Jewish community need to embrace differences and practice inclusion in all the various settings that bring us together. We need to stop judging others and to lovingly accept that we are all here to fulfill different life goals. We may look different and our life’s goals may be different, but put all together, we are all here to lift each other as a collective community.” 
Artwork by Louis Wain



For more mental health news, Click Here to access the Serious Mental Illness Blog 

A Disease of Silence? Social Stigma and Schizophrenia
By Henry Lane, Jewish Journal

Schizophrenia is one of the most common health conditions yet it is also one of the most misunderstood, a knowledge gap that leads to a very stereotyped view of the disease. For example, many people believe that people with schizophrenia are violent and dangerous when in fact they are more at risk of attack or of hurting themselves than harming other people. Summing it up in his book, Surviving Schizophrenia, senior psychiatrist Dr E Fuller Torrey calls the condition “the modern-day equivalent of leprosy”.

Many people with schizophrenia recover fully or are able to manage the condition well enough to lead normal lives, especially if help is sought early on. However, in common with other mental health conditions, the disease brings a strong social stigma and discrimination.

In 2008, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) conducted a survey to better understand the depths of the stigma surrounding schizophrenia. The survey found that:

  • 85% of respondents understood that schizophrenia is a medical illness
  • Only 43% said they would tell their friends if they had schizophrenia.
  • 27% admitted that they might be embarrassed if a family member had the illness.
  • Almost half of those living with schizophrenia said they felt that doctors did not take their physical health complaints seriously.

For many people, the stigma and discrimination they experience – from society in general but also from families, friends and employers – can make their problems far worse. Nearly nine out of ten people with mental health problems say that stigma and discrimination have a negative effect on their lives. Among those with a long-term health condition or disability, people with mental health problems are amongst the least likely to:

  • find work
  • be in a steady, long-term relationship
  • live in decent housing 
  • be socially included in mainstream society.

The NAMI survey highlighted the social and professional challenges that people with schizophrenia face, which can have huge impacts on their quality of life. The survey showed that:

  • Nearly one-quarter of respondents would not want to work with someone with schizophrenia, even if he or she was receiving treatment
  • 34% would not want their boss to have schizophrenia
  • Nearly half would not want to date a person with schizophrenia, even if the person was in treatment. 

The stigma associated with schizophrenia also poses a dilemma for many doctors, says Ken Duckworth, MD, medical director at NAMI and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. “Doctors are reluctant to make a diagnosis. They don’t want to give you what amounts to a social death sentence.” He called schizophrenia a “low-status illness”, meaning it doesn’t have the same acceptance as diseases such as breast cancer or inherited genetic problems.

Social stigma in Jewish communities?

Jewish communities have a long history with schizophrenia and many of those links are surprising. For example, there is a commonly held belief that those in the Ashkenazi community are at higher risk of developing the disease. This myth is explained by the fact that members of the Ashkenazi community have participated in a series of studies aimed at understanding the biological basis for both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder as part of the Epidemiology/Genetics Research Programme in Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University.

Blogger and multi-faith chaplain, Diane Weber Bederman, quoted these studies in her blog article Mental Illness and the Jews. “Due to a long history of marriage within the faith, which extends back thousands of years, the Jewish community has emerged from a limited number of ancestors and has a similar genetic makeup. This allows researchers to more easily perform genetic studies and locate disease-causing genes.” She added: “Results of the studies: Scientists estimate the incidence of schizophrenia in the Ashkenazi Jewish population to be no higher than that of the general population (about one percent).”

Mental health problems may not be more common in Jewish populations, but what about social stigma? Betty Jampel, writing in the New Jersey Jewish News, has a clear message: “It is a sad fact of life that… we are still dealing with mental illness as a shameful malady. While there have been public awareness campaigns to stigmatize mental illness and a shift in the scientific community to understand the biochemical nature of psychiatric illnesses, the shame persists. Those with mental illnesses still tend to be viewed as flawed, as somehow not doing enough for themselves to get better.”

The focus should be on tackling social stigma, she added. “As a Jewish community of mental health professionals, clergy, and laypeople, it is incumbent on all of us to change our perceptions of mental illness and to stop perpetuating the myths that come with these disorders. We as a Jewish community need to embrace differences and practice inclusion in all the various settings that bring us together. We need to stop judging others and to lovingly accept that we are all here to fulfill different life goals. We may look different and our life’s goals may be different, but put all together, we are all here to lift each other as a collective community.” 

Artwork by Louis Wain




For more mental health news, 
Click Here to access the Serious Mental Illness Blog 

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Paul Gross on Madness and the Creative ProcessBy Brad Wheeler, The Globe and Mail
Stratford Festival’s second annual Shakespeare Slam includes a one-man cabaret-rock performance by Hawsley Workman, but the main event is a debate inspired by the theme of this year’s festival, Madness: Minds Pushed to the Edge. Participants include academics, professionals and singer-songwriter Steven Page (who has suffered from depression) and actor Paul Gross (famed for his portrayal of a mentally overwrought artistic director in the miniseries Slings and Arrows). We spoke to the latter.
The subject of this year’s debate is whether or not madness is inherent in the artistic process. Who’s on which side?
Steven is arguing that madness is not required as part of the creative process. And I’m arguing that it is. Neither of us are in any position to comment with any certainty, and I don’t feel I’m an authority on mental illness per se. But I can talk about the creative process, which does have altered states involved in it. I’m actually not sure exactly what Steven’s argument is going to be. Just that I’m wrong, I’m sure.
Can you give us an idea of what your argument will be?
First, I would define madness as being slightly different from mental illness. I think madness is more closely aligned with shamanism or berserkers or oracles. I think most artists who are any good at their trade – and even those who aren’t – go into a kind of altered state where your proper self recedes to the background and you can receive creative inspiration. It goes back to as far as we can look, and it’s part of the process. But it’s manageable. Or, at its best, it should be managed so that you can enter the state, return from the state, and your consciousness comes back to the foreground and tries to make sense of what you’ve discovered.
Gord Downie has said that his goal as a songwriter is to get out of his own way. Is that the same as the altered state you’re talking about?
I think so. With the governor, the thing that controls you, you have to somehow put it in a closet for a little while, and then open it up and bring it back. I know that Kurt Vonnegut said the trick to writing, for him, was to get rid of his big brain. And yet, he does have to bring back that big brain to edit what he’s written. It’s being able to go in and out fluidly, and being able to call upon whatever you call the muse.
Getting into actual mental illnesses, what about the appeal of the so-called tortured artist?
Authenticity in an artist is what people respond to. But I think it’s a bit mixed up, and for few centuries there’s a been a romantic notion of the tortured artist. It can be difficult for audiences and artists to be able to separate a mental-health problem from inspiration. I don’t think they are aligned necessarily.
So, you’re not contending that artists with a mental illness have this weird reservoir of special inspiration or anything?
Right, that’s not what at all what I’ll be arguing for. But that an artist finds, and uses as a tool, states that are akin to mental illness.
Shakespeare Slam happens April 23, 8 p.m. $29 to $54. Koerner Hall, 273 Bloor St. W., 416-408-0208, 1-800-567-1600 or tickets.rcmusic.ca.

For more mental health news, Click Here to access the Serious Mental Illness Blog 

Paul Gross on Madness and the Creative Process
By Brad Wheeler, The Globe and Mail

Stratford Festival’s second annual Shakespeare Slam includes a one-man cabaret-rock performance by Hawsley Workman, but the main event is a debate inspired by the theme of this year’s festival, Madness: Minds Pushed to the Edge. Participants include academics, professionals and singer-songwriter Steven Page (who has suffered from depression) and actor Paul Gross (famed for his portrayal of a mentally overwrought artistic director in the miniseries Slings and Arrows). We spoke to the latter.

The subject of this year’s debate is whether or not madness is inherent in the artistic process. Who’s on which side?

Steven is arguing that madness is not required as part of the creative process. And I’m arguing that it is. Neither of us are in any position to comment with any certainty, and I don’t feel I’m an authority on mental illness per se. But I can talk about the creative process, which does have altered states involved in it. I’m actually not sure exactly what Steven’s argument is going to be. Just that I’m wrong, I’m sure.

Can you give us an idea of what your argument will be?

First, I would define madness as being slightly different from mental illness. I think madness is more closely aligned with shamanism or berserkers or oracles. I think most artists who are any good at their trade – and even those who aren’t – go into a kind of altered state where your proper self recedes to the background and you can receive creative inspiration. It goes back to as far as we can look, and it’s part of the process. But it’s manageable. Or, at its best, it should be managed so that you can enter the state, return from the state, and your consciousness comes back to the foreground and tries to make sense of what you’ve discovered.

Gord Downie has said that his goal as a songwriter is to get out of his own way. Is that the same as the altered state you’re talking about?

I think so. With the governor, the thing that controls you, you have to somehow put it in a closet for a little while, and then open it up and bring it back. I know that Kurt Vonnegut said the trick to writing, for him, was to get rid of his big brain. And yet, he does have to bring back that big brain to edit what he’s written. It’s being able to go in and out fluidly, and being able to call upon whatever you call the muse.

Getting into actual mental illnesses, what about the appeal of the so-called tortured artist?

Authenticity in an artist is what people respond to. But I think it’s a bit mixed up, and for few centuries there’s a been a romantic notion of the tortured artist. It can be difficult for audiences and artists to be able to separate a mental-health problem from inspiration. I don’t think they are aligned necessarily.

So, you’re not contending that artists with a mental illness have this weird reservoir of special inspiration or anything?

Right, that’s not what at all what I’ll be arguing for. But that an artist finds, and uses as a tool, states that are akin to mental illness.

Shakespeare Slam happens April 23, 8 p.m. $29 to $54. Koerner Hall, 273 Bloor St. W., 416-408-0208, 1-800-567-1600 or tickets.rcmusic.ca.




For more mental health news, 
Click Here to access the Serious Mental Illness Blog 

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