Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Creative Accomplishments Reduce Anxiety Over Death

Creative Accomplishments Reduce Anxiety Over Death

A new UK study finds that creative achievement can provide a buffer against being anxious about death.

Psychologists at the University of Kent discovered that those with high levels of creative ambition and achievement are particularly likely to be more resilient to death concerns.

Creative people, such as newly-announced Nobel Prize for Literature winner Bob Dylan, are often thought to be motivated by the desire to leave an enduring cultural legacy.

Through their creative work, creatives such as Leonard Cohen and David Bowie continue to live on in our culture even after passing away.

Conversely, the destruction of ancient monuments and artifacts in Iraq in 2015 by members of Islamic State could be interpreted as a symbolic act aimed at achieving high negative impact on society through the destruction of a cultural legacy.

In the new study, Rotem Perach, a postgraduate researcher under the supervision of Dr Arnaud Wisman, performed what is thought to be the first empirical study of the anxiety-buffering functions of creativity.

Investigators studied 108 students for whom creativity constitutes a central part of their cultural worldview. Participants completed two questionnaires to gauge their level of creative achievement and creative ambition.

Those with a record of creative achievement, coupled to high levels of creative ambition, were found to make less death associations in their thought processes after thinking about their own demise in comparison to those in the control condition.

In comparison, among those with low levels of creative ambition – whatever their record of creative achievement – thinking about their own mortality did not affect their levels of death-thought accessibility in comparison to controls.

The findings suggest that those who pursue creativity and produce significant creative contributions may benefit from existential security in the face of death.

The paper, entitled “Can Creativity Beat Death? A Review and Evidence on the Existential Anxiety Buffering Functions of Creative Achievement”, is published in the Journal of Creative Behavior.

Source: University of Kent

from Psych Central News

Women With Dementia Receive Less Medical Attention

Women With Dementia Receive Less Medical Attention

Women with dementia make fewer visits to the doctor, receive less health monitoring and take more potentially harmful drugs than their male counterparts, according to a new study at the University College London (UCL).

The findings also show that only half of all dementia patients have a documented annual review. Furthermore, women were found to be at particular risk of staying on antipsychotic or sedative medication for a longer period of time. This might be because they have fewer appointments where their treatment can be reviewed.

“As women tend to live longer than men, they are more likely to live alone without a family carer to help them access healthcare,” says Dr. Claudia Cooper (UCL Psychiatry) who led the research.

“Perhaps because of this, they are more at risk of missing out on medical help that might help them stay well for longer. We found that women were more likely to be on psychotropic drugs – sedatives or anti-psychotics — which can be harmful in the long term and may not be appropriate. Women tended to stay on such drugs for longer, perhaps because they have fewer check-ups to see if the drugs were still needed.”

Cooper added that women with dementia who live on their own may need additional support accessing healthcare services. In addition, general practitioners (GP) need to be given the resources to proactively engage with these patients and review their condition regularly to make sure their treatment plan, including any drugs, are appropriate.

“Improving access to healthcare and reducing psychotropic drug use in people with dementia, especially women, could help them to live well with dementia for longer,” said Cooper.

For the study, the researchers evaluated the records of 68,000 dementia patients and 259,000 people without dementia to compare their access to healthcare services, using The Health Improvement Network (THIN) database. Overall, they found that dementia patients received less medical care than those without dementia even though they are more vulnerable to physical and mental illnesses.

“Dementia can cause a wide range of physical complications, including difficulties swallowing and mobility problems,” said Cooper. “People with dementia are particularly susceptible to malnutrition, as they may have difficulties eating, preparing food or remembering to eat.”

Prior research has found that up to 45% of dementia patients experience clinically significant weight loss, which can lead to further physical problems and frailty. However, despite this high risk, less than half of dementia patients are currently having a yearly check-up.

“The good news is that things seem to be improving: only 24% of patients had their weight monitored in 2002 compared with 43% in 2013,” said Cooper.

Improvements may be associated with the government’s National Dementia Strategy which launched in 2009. Around the time this was launched, GP surgeries were offered additional financial incentives through the NHS Quality and Outcomes Framework to review dementia patients annually.

However, these findings suggest that there is still more work to be done to ensure that people with dementia, particularly women, are able to access the services they need.

The findings are published in the journal Age and Ageing.

Source: University College London

from Psych Central News

My Brain Automatically Thinks Mean Things about Others

I don’t think this is a major problem but at random when I look at someone or look at a picture my brain automatically comments on something about them. If I am looking at a woman that is obese my brain will think “Wow she is so fat, she should start going work out” or something along those lines and then I think to myself that what I just thought was really mean. Do i have a condition that I am unaware of or is this normal. This doesn’t happen with everyone I meet but it just randomly happens even when i’m with my friends sometimes I a mean comment pops up and it surprises me. I don’t have any tragic/traumatic past but when I was a kid and even now I have trouble going to sleep because I am always afraid of something fictional. Like when I was younger I was very afraid of Dracula coming into my room and sucking my blood so i would sleep facing up, without my neck showing. Or anytime I closed my eyes I would imagine something from a horror film and couldn’t go to sleep. Also my parents spanked me with a clothe hanger when I was younger, but not very often only when I was misbehaving. I don’t think my past has anything to do with it and was just curious if I had a condition. Thanks in advance.

A: Thank you for your question. I think both parts of your reaction — the mean part and the part that questions it — are well within the normal range of thought. The fact that you are noticing it is good as it will give you an opportunity to correct unwanted reactions and biases.

from Ask the Therapist

Gay Men May Have Different Stress Levels

Gay Men May Have Different Stress Levels

New research suggest that stigma and discrimination may alter gay men’s cortisol balance resulting in stress. Moreover, black gay men, a double minority, are likely to experience more stress that white gay men.

Investigators explain that research over the past two decades has shown that cortisol is a life sustaining adrenal hormone essential to maintaining the natural balance of the body.

Cortisol is often referred to as “the stress hormone,” as it influences, regulates, and modulates many of the changes that occur in the body in response to stress.

New studies measure cortisol at various times during the day on a 24-hour basis to examine possible adrenal imbalances. The majority of these diurnal cortisol studies have been conducted among white heterosexuals, with very little research examining HPA-axis functioning between different minorities.

However, individuals who identify as both sexual and racial minorities may experience increased stigma and discrimination that can affect this HPA-axis functioning.

To address this need for more expansive research, investigators led by Stephanie H. Cook, DrPH, conducted a study, “Cortisol profiles differ by race/ethnicity among young sexual minority men”, examining differences in diurnal cortisol rhythm between young, self-identified, white gay men (WGM) and black gay men (BGM).

The research appears in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.

Researchers followed healthy men (n=68) with a mean age of twenty-three. Study methodology included a daily diary which consisted of researchers collecting four saliva samples daily for five days to measure their cortisol levels at different times of day throughout the week.

“Sexual minorities are more likely to experience discrimination based on their sexual orientation compared to heterosexual individuals,” said Dr. Cook.

“Recent research shows that sexual orientation-related stress and stigma can modulate HPA-axis (the biological response) reactivity among sexual minority individuals compared to heterosexual individuals.”

The research data showed a flattened 24-hour cortisol curve between BGM to WGM, with statistically significant differences found in bedtime levels of cortisol.

In the current study, the observed flattened diurnal pattern observed among BGM combined with their elevated evening levels suggests less daily variation in cortisol that may be indicative of an unhealthy stress response among BGM.

While beyond the scope of the current analysis, these findings suggest that social factors associated with being a ‘double minority’ may differentially calibrate circadian HPA-axis functioning in BGM compared to WGM.

“We must conduct additional studies to confirm these study findings because in the current study we cannot make definitive conclusions about our ‘double minority’ hypothesis because we did not have a majority Black referent group,” cautions Dr. Cook.

“However, with this being said, we believe this research study presents a first step in understanding differences in the HAP axis functioning among racial/ethnic and sexual minority men.”

The current study expands on previous research indicating that those individuals at the intersection of multiple stigmatized identities may indeed experience distinct diurnal cortisol profiles which should be explored further.

“The results of the present study expand health disparities research that has often focused solely on race/ethnic differences by using approaches that assess intersecting identities, which is the cornerstone of the work we undertake at CHIBPS,” said Dr. Cook.

“This study highlights these disparities and calls for further research on these topics.”

Source: New York University

from Psych Central News

Ducking Existential Questions Linked To Mental Health Issues

Ducking Existential Questions Linked To Mental Health Issues

In a new study, researchers from Case Western Reserve University found that evading existential concerns is linked with higher levels of depression, anxiety and difficulty regulating emotions.

“Religious and spiritual struggles — conflicts with God or religious people, tough questions about faith, morality, and the meaning of life — these are often taboo topics, and the temptation to push them away is strong,” said Dr. Julie Exline, professor of psychological sciences and co-author of the research.

“When people avoid these struggles, anxiety and depression tend to be more intense than if they faced these struggles head-on.”

People who more fully embrace these struggles with fundamental beliefs and values report better mental health than those who don’t, Exline added.

The study, based on a survey of 307 adults about recent life experiences, appears in the Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science.

Among the study’s findings:

  • An unwillingness to accept spiritual struggle could contribute to major social ills, leading to lost opportunities to engage with people of different faith beliefs and backgrounds and come to view them as threatening. “This avoidance may lead to the rejection of whole groups of people based on their religious differences or perceived incongruence between, for example, their sexuality or gender-based identity and religious teachings,” Exline said.
  • Mental health providers may find it useful to help clients with spiritual struggles face their difficulties in a more proactive way. “People seem to be more emotionally healthy if they’re able to accept troubling thoughts,” Exline said. “Looking at spiritual doubts in an objective way seems to help. You may or may not work through them, but at least you can tolerate having them.”
  • Avoidance itself is not a problem; rather, the behavior can become problematic when escaping becomes harmful or contrary to personal goals and sets a rigid pattern of experiencing and responding to the world. “Regular spiritual avoidance can make it difficult to identify, work toward or experience the qualities that lend a sense of purpose to life,” she said.
  • Using emotional and cognitive energy to push thoughts away will not stop them from continuing to intrude over time. “Continually being revisited by these thoughts can create strains on emotional health, especially if a person sees this kind of questioning as morally unacceptable and dangerous,” Exline said.

Source: Case Western Reserve University/EurekAlert
Photo: Julie Exline is a professor of psychological sciences at Case Western Reserve University. Credit: CWRU.

from Psych Central News

NPR News: Signed Out Of Prison But Not Signed Up For Health Insurance

Signed Out Of Prison But Not Signed Up For Health Insurance
Most of the state prison systems in the places that expanded Medicaid under Obamacare have come up short on enrolling exiting inmates, despite the fact that many of them are chronically ill.

Read more on NPR

Doctors And Hospitals Say ‘Show Me The Money’ Before Treating Patients