NY Times on “Mindfulness Meditation” therapy

27 05 2008

The NY Times has a very good article on the emergence of “mindfulness meditation” as a therapy for mental illness.

Mindfulness Meditation, Based on Buddha’s Teachings, Gains Ground With Therapists – NYTimes.com:

Steven Hayes, a psychologist at the University of Nevada at Reno, has developed a talk therapy called Acceptance Commitment Therapy, or ACT, based on a similar, Buddha-like effort to move beyond language to change fundamental psychological processes.

“It’s a shift from having our mental health defined by the content of our thoughts,” Dr. Hayes said, “to having it defined by our relationship to that content — and changing that relationship by sitting with, noticing and becoming disentangled from our definition of ourselves.”

For all these hopeful signs, the science behind mindfulness is in its infancy. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which researches health practices, last year published a comprehensive review of meditation studies, including T.M., Zen and mindfulness practice, for a wide variety of physical and mental problems. The study found that over all, the research was too sketchy to draw conclusions.

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Bingeing behavior in monkeys

20 05 2008

In Abnormal Psychology, we were taking about eating disorders, and the biological basis for bingeing. The NY Times has an article today regarding research with monkeys which shows stress-related eating binges occur in lower-status monkeys, but they only binge on monkey junk food…

Eating Junk Food May Help Stressed-Out Monkeys Cope – New York Times:

“Essentially, eating high-calorie foods becomes a coping strategy to deal with daily life events for an individual in a difficult social situation,” Dr. Wilson said. “The subordinates don’t get beat up, but they get harassed by high-ranking monkeys. If they’re sitting somewhere and a dominant monkey comes over, they give up their seat and move away. They’re always looking over their shoulders.”

These results seem to jibe with the famous Whitehall study of British civil servants, which found that lower-ranking workers were more obese than higher-status workers. Even though the subordinate workers were neither poor nor lacked health care, their lower status correlated with more health problems.

The new monkey data also jibe with an American study that looked at women’s snacking tendencies. After they worked on puzzles and recorded a speech, the women were tempted with an array of chocolate granola bars, potato chips, rice cakes and pretzels provided by the research team, led by Elissa Epel, a psychologist at the University of California, San Francisco.

The women who seemed most stressed by the tasks, as measured by their levels of cortisol, ate more of the sweet, high-fat snacks, the same pattern observed in the subordinate monkeys with high cortisol levels. But as Dr. Wilson and others caution, there are plenty of other factors besides status and stress that affect humans’ diets and waistlines.

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Fighting Stigma with “Mad Pride”

11 05 2008

After having finished Kay Jamison’s memoir, An Unquiet Mind, we were discussing stigma and mental illness in Abnormal Psychology class. Mind Hacks pointed me toward a great article in the New York Times on the “Mad Pride” movement:

Mad Pride; Fights a Stigma – New York Times

Just as gay-rights activists reclaimed the word queer as a badge of honor rather than a slur, these advocates proudly call themselves mad; they say their conditions do not preclude them from productive lives.

RECENT mad pride activities include a Mad Pride Cabaret in Vancouver, British Columbia; a Mad Pride March in Accra, Ghana; and a Bonkersfest in London that drew 3,000 participants. (A follow-up Bonkersfest is planned next month at the site of the original Bedlam asylum.)

The article points to a website of a writer at the Philadelphia Weekly who chronicles her experience with bipolar disorder. Here’s a link.

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One Milgram participant who did not continue

7 05 2008

In class, we have been discussing conformity and obedience. The always great Mind Hacks blog pointed me toward a first-person account of participation in the Stanley Milgram obedience experiments:

Jewish Currents: Resisting Authority: A Personal Account of the Milgram Obedience Experiments :

With some trepidation on my part, we began the experiment. After a few shocks, the learner let out an “Ouch!” and I asked if he was okay. He said he was, but after the next shock, his complaint became louder. I said I would stop. The “professor” told me to continue, and the learner said he was ready to go on, too. I went on for two or three more shocks. With each, the learner’s cry of pain became louder — and then he asked to stop, and I refused to go any further. The professor became very authoritative. He said that I was costing them valuable time, it was essential for me to continue, I was ruining the experiment. He asserted that he was in charge, not me. He reminded me that I had been paid and insisted that I continue. I refused, offered to give him back the five dollars, and told him that I believed the experiment to be really about how far I would go, that the learner was an accomplice, and that I was determined not to continue.

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