Welcome to the Nexus of Ethics, Psychology, Morality, Philosophy and Health Care

Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy
Showing posts with label Anxiety. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Anxiety. Show all posts

Saturday, April 6, 2024

LSD-Based Medication for GAD Receives FDA Breakthrough Status

Megan Brooks
Originally posted March 08, 2024

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted breakthrough designation to an LSD-based treatment for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) based on promising topline data from a phase 2b clinical trial. Mind Medicine (MindMed) Inc is developing the treatment — MM120 (lysergide d-tartrate).

In a news release the company reports that a single oral dose of MM120 met its key secondary endpoint, maintaining "clinically and statistically significant" reductions in Hamilton Anxiety Scale (HAM-A) score, compared with placebo, at 12 weeks with a 65% clinical response rate and 48% clinical remission rate.

The company previously announced statistically significant improvements on the HAM-A compared with placebo at 4 weeks, which was the trial's primary endpoint.

"I've conducted clinical research studies in psychiatry for over two decades and have seen studies of many drugs under development for the treatment of anxiety. That MM120 exhibited rapid and robust efficacy, solidly sustained for 12 weeks after a single dose, is truly remarkable," study investigator David Feifel, MD, PhD, professor emeritus of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, and director of the Kadima Neuropsychiatry Institute in La Jolla, California, said in the news release.

Here is some information from the Press Release from Mind Medicine.

About MM120

Lysergide is a synthetic ergotamine belonging to the group of classic, or serotonergic, psychedelics, which acts as a partial agonist at human serotonin-2A (5-hydroxytryptamine-2A [5-HT2A]) receptors. MindMed is developing MM120 (lysergide D-tartrate), the tartrate salt form of lysergide, for GAD and is exploring its potential applications in other serious brain health disorders.

About MindMed

MindMed is a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company developing novel product candidates to treat brain health disorders. Our mission is to be the global leader in the development and delivery of treatments that unlock new opportunities to improve patient outcomes. We are developing a pipeline of innovative product candidates, with and without acute perceptual effects, targeting neurotransmitter pathways that play key roles in brain health disorders.

MindMed trades on NASDAQ under the symbol MNMD and on the Cboe Canada (formerly known as the NEO Exchange, Inc.) under the symbol MMED.

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Living in an abortion ban state is bad for mental health

Keren Landman
Originally posted 20 Feb 24

Here is an excerpt:

What they found was, frankly, predictable: Before the Court’s decision, anxiety and depression scores were already higher in trigger states — a population-wide average of 3.5 compared with 3.3 in non-trigger states. After the decision, that difference widened significantly, largely due to changes in the mental health of women 18 to 45, what the authors defined as childbearing age. Among this subgroup, anxiety and depression scores subtly ticked up in those living in trigger states (from 4.62 to 4.76) — and dropped in those living in non-trigger states (from 4.57 to 4.49). There was no similar effect in older women, nor in men.

These differences were small but statistically meaningful, especially since they sampled the entire population, not just women considering an abortion. Moreover, they were consistent across trigger states, whether their policies and political battles around abortion had been high- or low-profile. Even when the researchers omitted data from states with particularly severe restrictions on women’s reproductive health (looking at you, Texas), the results held up.

It’s notable that the different levels of mental distress across states after Roe was overturned weren’t just a consequence of worsened anxiety and depression in states with trigger bans. Also contributing: an improvement in these symptoms in states without these bans. We can’t tell from the study exactly why that is, but it seems plausible that women living in states that protect their right to access necessary health care simply feel some relief.

Here is the citation to the study:

Thornburg B, Kennedy-Hendricks A, Rosen JD, Eisenberg MD. Anxiety and Depression Symptoms After the Dobbs Abortion Decision. JAMA. 2024;331(4):294–301. doi:10.1001/jama.2023.25599

Conclusions and Relevance  In this study of US survey data from December 2021 to January 2023, residence in states with abortion trigger laws compared with residence in states without such laws was associated with a small but significantly greater increase in anxiety and depression symptoms after the Dobbs decision.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Worried about AI in the workplace? You’re not alone

Michele Lerner
American Psychological Association
Originally posted 7 September 23

Here is an excerpt:

“Advances in AI are happening rapidly in the workplace, and many of their effects are uncertain,” says Fred Oswald, PhD, a professor in the department of psychological sciences at Rice University in Houston. “Will AI empower employees and organizations to be more effective? Or consistent with employee worries, will AI replace their jobs? We’re likely to see both. We’ll need more research to inform targeted AI-oriented investments in employee training, career development, mental health, and other interventions.”

We asked Oswald and Leslie Hammer, PhD, emerita professor of psychology at Portland State University and codirector of the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center at the Oregon Health and Science University, to outline ways employers and employees can address the psychological impact of AI in the workplace.

The survey shows 46% of workers worried about AI making some or all of their job duties obsolete intend to look for another job compared with 25% of workers who are not worried about AI. How seriously should employers take workers’ concerns?
Oswald: Both real and perceived job insecurities often motivate employees to look for other jobs. In general, managers should always attempt to maintain healthy communication with their employees, where in this case it would be to understand and address the root cause of AI-related worries. Communication helps overall to ensure the well-being of individual employees and improves the culture and morale of the organization, and this might be more important when AI becomes present in the workplace.
Survey data show worried workers also feel they do not matter in their workplaces, and that they feel micromanaged. Mattering at work is among the five components of a healthy workplace identified by the U.S. Surgeon General. What can employers do to ensure workers feel they matter and to help workers feel more comfortable about AI, given that changes are likely inevitable?
Hammer: It’s very important that workplaces communicate information regarding any changes related to AI clearly and honestly. Fear of the unknown and loss of a sense of control are directly related to psychological distress, occupational stress, and strain, as well as negative physical health outcomes. Providing information about the use of AI and allowing employee input into such changes will significantly alleviate these outcomes.

The info is here. 

Saturday, July 1, 2023

Inducing anxiety in large language models increases exploration and bias

Coda-Forno, J., Witte, K., et al. (2023).
arXiv preprint arXiv:2304.11111.


Large language models are transforming research on machine learning while galvanizing public debates. Understanding not only when these models work well and succeed but also why they fail and misbehave is of great societal relevance. We propose to turn the lens of computational psychiatry, a framework used to computationally describe and modify aberrant behavior, to the outputs produced by these models. We focus on the Generative Pre-Trained Transformer 3.5 and subject it to tasks commonly studied in psychiatry. Our results show that GPT-3.5 responds robustly to a common anxiety questionnaire, producing higher anxiety scores than human subjects. Moreover, GPT-3.5's responses can be predictably changed by using emotion-inducing prompts. Emotion-induction not only influences GPT-3.5's behavior in a cognitive task measuring exploratory decision-making but also influences its behavior in a previously-established task measuring biases such as racism and ableism. Crucially, GPT-3.5 shows a strong increase in biases when prompted with anxiety-inducing text. Thus, it is likely that how prompts are communicated to large language models has a strong influence on their behavior in applied settings. These results progress our understanding of prompt engineering and demonstrate the usefulness of methods taken from computational psychiatry for studying the capable algorithms to which we increasingly delegate authority and autonomy.

From the Discussion section

What do we make of these results? It seems like GPT-3.5 generally performs best in the neutral condition, so a clear recommendation for prompt-engineering is to try and describe a problem as factually and neutrally as possible. However, if one does use emotive language, then our results show that anxiety-inducing scenarios lead to worse performance and substantially more biases. Of course, the neutral conditions asked GPT-3.5 to talk about something it knows, thereby possibly already contextualizing the prompts further in tasks that require knowledge and measure performance. However, that anxiety-inducing prompts can lead to more biased outputs could have huge consequences in applied scenarios. Large language models are, for example, already used in clinical settings and other high-stake contexts. If they produce higher biases in situations when a user speaks more anxiously, then their outputs could actually become dangerous. We have shown one method, which is to run psychiatric studies, that could capture and prevent such biases before they occur.

In the current work, we intended to show the utility of using computational psychiatry to understand foundation models. We observed that GPT-3.5 produced on average higher anxiety scores than human participants. One possible explanation for these results could be that GPT-3.5’s training data, which consists of a lot of text taken from the internet, could have inherently shown such a bias, i.e. containing more anxious than happy statements. Of course, large language models have just become good enough to perform psychological tasks, and whether or not they intelligently perform them is still a matter of ongoing debate.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Institutional Courage Buffers Against Institutional Betrayal, Protects Employee Health, and Fosters Organizational Commitment Following Workplace Sexual Harassment

Smidt, A. M., Adams-Clark, A. A., & Freyd, J. J. (2023).
PLOS ONE, 18(1), e0278830. 


Workplace sexual harassment is associated with negative psychological and physical outcomes. Recent research suggests that harmful institutional responses to reports of wrongdoing–called institutional betrayal—are associated with additional psychological and physical harm. It has been theorized that supportive responses and an institutional climate characterized by transparency and proactiveness—called institutional courage—may buffer against these negative effects. The current study examined the association of institutional betrayal and institutional courage with workplace outcomes and psychological and physical health among employees reporting exposure to workplace sexual harassment. Adults who were employed full-time for at least six months were recruited through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk platform and completed an online survey (N = 805). Of the full sample, 317 participants reported experiences with workplace sexual harassment, and only this subset of participants were included in analyses. We used existing survey instruments and developed the Institutional Courage Questionnaire-Specific to assess individual experiences of institutional courage within the context of workplace sexual harassment. Of participants who experienced workplace sexual harassment, nearly 55% also experienced institutional betrayal, and 76% experienced institutional courage. Results of correlational analyses indicated that institutional betrayal was associated with decreased job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and increased somatic symptoms. Institutional courage was associated with the reverse. Furthermore, results of multiple regression analyses indicated that institutional courage appeared to attenuate negative outcomes. Overall, our results suggest that institutional courage is important in the context of workplace sexual harassment. These results are in line with previous research on institutional betrayal, may inform policies and procedures related to workplace sexual harassment, and provide a starting point for research on institutional courage.


Underlying all research on institutional betrayal and institutional courage is the idea that how one responds to a negative event—whether sexual harassment, sexual assault, and other types of victimization—is often as important or more important for future outcomes as the original event itself. In other words, it’s not only about what happens; it’s also about what happens next. In this study, institutional betrayal and institutional courage appear to have a tangible association with employee workplace and health outcomes. Furthermore, institutional courage appears to attenuate negative outcomes in both the employee workplace and health domains.

While we once again find that institutional betrayal is harmful, this study indicates that institutional courage can buffer against those harms. The ultimate goal of this research is to eliminate institutional betrayal at all levels of institutions by replacing it with institutional courage. The current study provides a starting point to achieving that goal by introducing a new measure of institutional courage to be used in future investigations and by reporting findings that demonstrate the power of institutional courage with respect to workplace sexual harassment.

Monday, November 7, 2022

Neural processes in antecedent anxiety modulate risk-taking behavior

Nash, K., Leota, J., & Tran, A. (2021). 
Scientific Reports, 11.


Though real-world decisions are often made in the shadow of economic uncertainties, work problems, relationship troubles, existential angst, etc., the neural processes involved in this common experience remain poorly understood. Here, we randomly assigned participants (N = 97) to either a poignant experience of forecasted economic anxiety or a no-anxiety control condition. Using electroencephalography (EEG), we then examined how source-localized, anxiety-specific neural activation modulated risky decision making and strategic behavior in the Balloon Analogue Risk Task (BART). Previous research demonstrates opposing effects of anxiety on risk-taking, leading to contrasting predictions. On the one hand, activity in the dorsomedial PFC/anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and anterior insula, brain regions linked with anxiety and sensitivity to risk, should mediate the effect of economic anxiety on increased risk-averse decision-making. On the other hand, activation in the ventromedial PFC, a brain region important in emotion regulation and subjective valuation in decision-making, should mediate the effect of economic anxiety on increased risky decision-making. Results revealed evidence related to both predictions. Additionally, anxiety-specific activation in the dmPFC/ACC and the anterior insula were associated with disrupted learning across the task. These results shed light on the neurobiology of antecedent anxiety and risk-taking and provide potential insight into understanding how real-world anxieties can impact decision-making processes. 


Rarely, in everyday life, must we make a series of decisions as anxious events fit in and out of awareness. Rather, we often face looming anxieties that spill over into the decisions we make. Here, we experimentally induced this real-world experience, in which we examined how antecedent anxiety and the accompanying neural processes modulated decision-making in a risk-taking task. Based on past research demonstrating that anxiety can have diverging effects on risk-taking, we formulated contrasting predictions. An anxious experience should modulate dmPFC/dACC and anterior insula activity, brain regions tightly linked with anxious worry, and this anxiety-specific activation should predict more risk-averse decisions in the BART. Alternatively, anxiety should modulate activation in the vmPFC, a brain region important in emotion regulation and decision-making and this anxiety-specific activation should then predict more risk-seeking decisions in the BART, through disrupted cognitive control or heightened sensitivity to reward.

We found evidence related to both predictions. On the one hand, right anterior insula activation specific to
antecedent anxiety predicted decreased risk-taking. This finding is consistent with considerable research on the neural mechanisms of risk and the limited prior research on incidental anxiety and decision-making. For example, the threat of shock during a decision-making task increased the anterior insula’s coding of negative evaluations and this activation predicted increased rejection rate of risky lottery decisions. For the first time, we extend these prior results to antecedent anxiety. The experience of economic anxiety is a poignant and difficult to regulate event. Presumably, right anterior insula activation caused by the economic anxiety manipulation sustained a more cautious approach to negative outcomes that trickled-down to risk-averse decision-making.

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Can Conspiracy Beliefs Be Beneficial? Longitudinal Linkages Between Conspiracy Beliefs, Anxiety, Uncertainty Aversion, and Existential Threat

Liekefett, L., Christ, O., & Becker, J. C. (2022). 
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 


Research suggests that conspiracy beliefs are adopted because they promise to reduce anxiety, uncertainty, and threat. However, little research has investigated whether conspiracy beliefs actually fulfill these promises. We conducted two longitudinal studies (N Study 1 = 405, N Study 2 = 1,012) to examine how conspiracy beliefs result from, and in turn influence, anxiety, uncertainty aversion, and existential threat. Random intercept cross-lagged panel analyses indicate that people who were, on average, more anxious, uncertainty averse, and existentially threatened held stronger conspiracy beliefs. Increases in conspiracy beliefs were either unrelated to changes in anxiety, uncertainty aversion, and existential threat (Study 2), or even predicted increases in these variables (Study 1). In both studies, increases in conspiracy beliefs predicted subsequent increases in conspiracy beliefs, suggesting a self-reinforcing circle. We conclude that conspiracy beliefs likely do not have beneficial consequences, but may even reinforce the negative experience of anxiety, uncertainty aversion, and existential threat.

From the General Discussion

Are conspiracy beliefs beneficial or harmful for the individual?

In both studies, within-person increases in conspiracy beliefs did not predict reduced anxiety, uncertainty aversion, and existential threat. Increases in conspiracy beliefs were either unrelated to changes in these variables (Study 2) or even predicted increases in uncertainty aversion, anxiety, and existential threat (Study 1). This indicates that conspiracy beliefs are likely not beneficial in this regard. However, we cannot answer conclusively whether conspiracy beliefs, instead, reinforce the negative experience of anxiety, uncertainty, and threat: We observed these harmful effects only in Study 1. It may be that the time intervals in Study 2 were too long to observe these effects. It has been argued that the optimal time intervals to observe longitudinal relations are relatively short, especially for within-person effects (Dormann & Griffin, 2015), and that effect sizes typically decrease as time intervals get larger (Atkinson et al., 2000; Cohen, 1993; Dormann & Griffin, 2015; Hulin et al., 1990). This may explain why we observed only few within-person associations in Study 2.

We did not find within-person consequences of coronavirus-related conspiracy beliefs in Study 2. This may be due not only to long time intervals, but also to opposing effects that cancel each other out: Most coronavirus conspiracy beliefs contain some element that downplays the dangers of the virus, which might relieve distress. Yet, most of them also describe threatening scenarios of malevolent, secret forces, which should increase distress.

We revealed an additional way in which conspiracy beliefs may be harmful for the individual: Both studies found that increases in conspiracy beliefs predicted even further increases in conspiracy beliefs at the next measurement wave. This effect emerged for both short- and long-term distances, and indicates that conspiracy beliefs are part of a self-reinforcing cycle that results in more and more extreme attitudes (Goertzel, 1994; Swami et al., 2010; Wood et al., 2012).

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

The Most Common Pain Relief Drug in The World Induces Risky Behavior, Study Finds

Peter Dockrill
Originally published 18 NOV 21

Acetaminophen, also known as paracetamol and sold widely under the brand names Tylenol and Panadol, also increases risk-taking, according to a study published in 2020 that measured changes in people's behavior when under the influence of the common over-the-counter medication.

"Acetaminophen seems to make people feel less negative emotion when they consider risky activities – they just don't feel as scared," neuroscientist Baldwin Way from The Ohio State University explained last year.

"With nearly 25 percent of the population in the US taking acetaminophen each week, reduced risk perceptions and increased risk-taking could have important effects on society."

The findings add to a recent body of research suggesting that acetaminophen's effects on pain reduction also extend to various psychological processes, lowering people's receptivity to hurt feelings, experiencing reduced empathy, and even blunting cognitive functions.

Similarly, Way's study suggests people's affective ability to perceive and evaluate risks can be impaired when they take acetaminophen. While the effects might be slight, they're definitely worth noting, given acetaminophen is the most common drug ingredient in America, found in over 600 different kinds of over-the-counter and prescription medicines.


Overall, however, based on an average of results across the various tests, the team concludes that there is a significant relationship between taking acetaminophen and choosing more risk, even if the observed effect can be slight.

That said, they acknowledge the drug's apparent effects on risk-taking behavior could also be interpreted via other kinds of psychological processes, such as reduced anxiety, perhaps.

Monday, November 1, 2021

Social Media and Mental Health

Luca Braghieri, Ro’ee Levy, and Alexey Makarin
Independent Research
August 21


The diffusion of social media coincided with a worsening of mental health conditions among adolescents and young adults in the United States, giving rise to speculation that social media might be detrimental to mental health. In this paper, we provide the first quasi-experimental estimates of the impact of social media on mental health by leveraging a unique natural experiment: the staggered introduction of Facebook across U.S. colleges. Our analysis couples data on student mental health around the years of Facebook’s expansion with a generalized difference-in-differences empirical strategy. We find that the roll-out of Facebook at a college increased symptoms of poor mental health, especially depression, and led to increased utilization of mental healthcare services. We also find that, according to the students’ reports, the decline in mental health translated into worse academic performance. Additional evidence on mechanisms suggests the results are due to Facebook fostering unfavorable social comparisons. 


Implications for social media today 

Our estimates of the effects of social media on mental health rely on quasi-experimental variation in Facebook access among college students around the years 2004 to 2006. Such population and time window are directly relevant to the discussion about the severe worsening of mental health conditions among adolescents and young adults over the last two decades. In this section, we elaborate on the extent to which our findings have the potential to inform our understanding of the effects of social media on mental health today. 

Over the last two decades, Facebook underwent a host of important changes. Such changes include: i) the introduction of a personalized feed where posts are ranked by an algorithm; ii) the growth of Facebook’s user base from U.S. college students to almost three billion active users around the globe (Facebook, 2021); iii) video often replacing images and text; iv) increased usage of Facebook on mobile phones instead of computers; and v) the introduction of Facebook pages for brands, businesses, and organizations. 

The nature of the variation we are exploiting in this paper does not allow us to identify the impact of these features of social media. For example, the introduction of pages, along with other changes, made news consumption on Facebook more common over the last decade than it was at inception. Our estimates cannot shed light on whether the increased reliance on Facebook for news consumption has exacerbated or mitigated the effects of Facebook on mental health. 

Despite these caveats, we believe the estimates presented in this paper are still highly relevant today for two main reasons: first, the mechanisms whereby social media use might affect mental health arguably relate to core features of social media platforms that have been present since inception and that remain integral parts of those platforms today; second, the technological changes undergone by Facebook and related platforms might have amplified rather than mitigated the effect of those mechanisms. 

Friday, July 23, 2021

Women Carry An Undue Mental Health Burden. They Shouldn’t Have To

Rawan Hamadeh
Ms. Magazine
Originally posted 12 June 21

Here is an excerpt:

In developing countries, there is a huge gap in the availability and accessibility of specialized mental health services. Rather than visiting mental health specialists, women are more likely to seek mental health support in primary health care settings while accompanying their children or while attending consultations for other health issues. This leads to many mental health conditions going unidentified and therefore not treated. Often, women do not feel fully comfortable disclosing certain psychological and emotional distress because they fear stigmatization, confidentiality breaches or not being taken seriously.

COVID-19 has put the mental well-being of the entire world at risk. More adults are reporting struggles with mental health and substance use and are experiencing more symptoms of anxiety and depressive disorders. The stressors caused by the pandemic have affected the entire population; however, the effect on women and mothers specifically has been greater.

Women, the unsung heroes of the pandemic, face mounting pressures amid this global health crisis. Reports suggest that the long-term repercussions of COVID-19 could undo decades of progress for women and impose considerable additional burdens on them, threatening the difficult journey toward gender equality.

Unemployment, parenting responsibilities, homeschooling or caring for sick relatives are all additional burdens on women’s daily lives during the pandemic. It’s also important that we acknowledge the exponential need for mental health support for health care workers, and particularly health care mothers, who are juggling both their professional duties and their parenting responsibilities. They are the heroes on the front lines of the fight against the virus, and it’s crucial to prioritize their physical as well as their mental health.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Top German psychologist found to have fabricated data—University Investigation Finds Anxiety Expert Pressured Whistleblowers

Hristio Boytchev
Science  09 Apr 2021:
Vol. 372, Issue 6538, pp. 117-118
DOI: 10.1126/science.372.6538.117

Here is an excerpt:

Wittchen was one of the top epidemiologists of psychiatry, and TU Dresden “has benefited greatly from him,” says Jürgen Margraf, a psychologist at Ruhr University, Bochum, who has collaborated with Wittchen. “If the commission’s findings turn out to be true, they are very disturbing for the entire field, and that would also have an impact on TU Dresden.” Thomas Pollmächer, director of the mental health center at Ingolstadt Hospital, says the allegations are “startling.” He worries about other possible irregularities in Wittchen’s extensive publication record. “Some time bombs may be ticking,” he says.

The study in question was a €2.4 million survey of staffing levels and quality at nearly 100 German psychiatric facilities. Working for TU Dresden’s Association for Knowledge and Technology Transfer (GWT), Wittchen was the principal investigator of the effort, which aimed to examine workloads at the clinics and inform government regulations.

But in February 2019, German media reported allegations, stemming from whistle-blowers close to the survey project, that study data had been fabricated. The university launched a formal investigation, led by law professor Hans-Heinrich Trute.

After 2 years of work, the commission, in its final report, has found that only 73 of 93 psychiatric clinics were actually surveyed. For the others, the report says, Wittchen instructed researchers to copy data from one clinic and apply them to another.

 “The violations were intentional, not negligent,” the report says. “Wittchen wanted to appear more successful than he was.”

Wittchen told Science he would not answer detailed questions “because they are the issue of legal proceedings.” But he denies any wrongdoing and says the study in question was “scientifically correct.”

The investigation report also shows how Wittchen sought to avoid repercussions. 

In April 2019, he sent an email to Hans Müller-Steinhagen, president of TU Dresden at the time, warning him to “stay out of the project” and stop the investigation, because otherwise there would be a “national political earthquake.” 

Monday, November 30, 2020

In Japan, more people died from suicide last month than from Covid in all of 2020

S. Wang, R. Wright, & Y. Wakatsuki
Originally posted 29 Nov 20

Here is an excerpt:

In Japan, government statistics show suicide claimed more lives in October than Covid-19 has over the entire year to date. The monthly number of Japanese suicides rose to 2,153 in October, according to Japan's National Police Agency. As of Friday, Japan's total Covid-19 toll was 2,087, the health ministry said.

Japan is one of the few major economies to disclose timely suicide data -- the most recent national data for the US, for example, is from 2018. The Japanese data could give other countries insights into the impact of pandemic measures on mental health, and which groups are the most vulnerable.

"We didn't even have a lockdown, and the impact of Covid is very minimal compared to other countries ... but still we see this big increase in the number of suicides," said Michiko Ueda, an associate professor at Waseda University in Tokyo, and an expert on suicides.

"That suggests other countries might see a similar or even bigger increase in the number of suicides in the future."


Compounding those worries about income, women have been dealing with skyrocketing unpaid care burdens, according to the study. For those who keep their jobs, when children are sent home from school or childcare centers, it often falls to mothers to take on those responsibilities, as well as their normal work duties.

Increased anxiety about the health and well-being of children has also put an extra burden on mothers during the pandemic.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Active shooter drills may do more harm than good, study shows

Katie Camero
Miami Herald
Originally posted 3 September 20

Here is an except:

The research team discovered that social media posts alone displayed a 42% increase in anxiety and stress from the 90 days before active shooter drills to the 90 days after them. The frequent use of words such as “afraid, struggling and nervous” served as evidence, according to the report.

Signs of depression increased by 39% based on posts that featured the words “therapy, cope, irritability and suicidal” following drill events. Concerns about friends grew by 33%, concerns about social situations rose by 14% and concerns about work soared by 108%, the researchers found.

“I can tell you personally, just as an educator, we were not okay [after drills]. We were in bathrooms crying, shaking, not sleeping for months. The consensus from my friends and peers is that we are not okay,” one anonymous K-12 teacher wrote on social media, according to the report.

Worries over health also jumped by 23% while fears about death rose by 22%. “The analysis revealed words like blood, pain, clinics, and pills came up with jarring frequency, suggesting that drills may have a direct impact on participants’ physical health or, at the very least, made it a persistent topic of concern,” the researchers wrote.

An anonymous parent tweeted, “my kindergartener was stuck in the bathroom, alone, during a drill and spent a year in therapy for extreme anxiety. in a new school even, she still has to use the bathroom in the nurses office because she has ptsd from that event.”

Saturday, July 4, 2020

In the face of Covid-19, the U.S. needs to change how it deals with mental illness

Jeffrey Geller
Originally posted 29 May 20

Here are two excerpts:

Frontline physicians, nurses, and other health care workers are looking death in the face every day. Shift workers in economically treacherous situations are forced to risk their health for a paycheck. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs. Still more are separated from the people they love, their daily routines have been disrupted, and they are making anxious choices every day that affect their physical and mental health.


Second, Covid-19 has laid bare the severe doctor shortage across the United States, and that shortage includes psychiatrists. While every kind of mental health professional is necessary and indeed critical to responding to the crisis, psychiatrists bring unique expertise in serving some of the most severely compromised patients in psychiatric units and hospitals, long-term care facilities, homeless shelters, and jails and prisons. Forgiving some of the debt that students amass during medical school would incentivize more individuals to serve in these capacities, as would lifting caps on federal funding for new residency slots.

Third, we needed more psychiatric beds in hospitals before Covid-19, and need even more now as physical distancing continues — yet some hospitals have decreased the number of psychiatric beds by converting them to beds for individuals with Covid-19. Patients in psychiatric units who contract Covid-19 need to be separated from other patients. We currently do not have enough beds to treat everyone for the length of time they need. Without federal funding for psychiatric beds, we will have an increase in deaths from the mental health sequelae of Covid-19.

The info is here.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

A third of Americans report anxiety or depression symptoms during the pandemic

Brian Resnick
Originally posted 29 May 20

Here is an excerpt:

The pandemic is not over. The virus still has a great potential to infect millions more. It’s unclear what’s going to happen next, especially as different communities enact different precautions and as federal officials and ordinary citizens grow fatigued with pandemic life.

The uncertainty of this era is likely contributing to the mental health strain on the nation. As the pandemic wears on into the summer, some people may grow resilient to the grim reality they face, while others may see their mental health deteriorate more.

What’s also concerning is that, even pre-pandemic, there were already huge gaps in mental health care in America. Clinicians have been in short supply, many do not take insurance, and it can be hard to tell the difference between a clinician who uses evidence-based treatments and one who does not.

If you’re reading this and need help, know there are free online mental health resources that can be a good place to start. (Clinical psychologist Kathryn Gordon lists 11 of them on her website.)

The Covid-19 pandemic has a knack for exacerbating underlying problems in the United States. The disease is hitting the poor and communities of color harder than white communities. And that’s also reflected here in the data on mental health strain.

As the pandemic continues, it will be important to recognize the growing mental health impacts for such a large portion of Americans — and to uncover who is being disproportionately impacted. Hospitalizations and infection rates are critical to note. But the mental health fallout — from not just the virus but from all of its ramifications — will be essential to keep tracking, too.

The info is here.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Stressed Out at the Office? Therapy Can Come to You

Rachel Feintzeig
The Wall Street Journal
Originally published 31 Jan 20

Here is an excerpt:

In the past, discussion of mental-health issues at the office was uncommon. Workers were largely expected to leave their personal struggles at home. Crying was confined to the bathroom stall.

Today, that’s changing. One reason is a broadening of the popular understanding of “mental health” to encompass anxiety, stress and other widespread issues.

It’s also a reflection of a changing workplace. Younger workers are more comfortable talking about their struggles and expect their employers to take emotional distress seriously, says Jeffrey Pfeffer, a professor of organizational behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Senior leaders are responding, rolling out mental-health services and sometimes speaking about their own experiences. Lloyds Banking Group Plc chief executive António Horta-Osório has said publicly in recent years that the pressure he felt around the bank’s financial situation in 2011 dominated his thoughts, leaving him unable to sleep and exhausted. He took eight weeks off from the company to recover, working with a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist later helped him devise a mental-health program for Lloyds employees.

Brynn Brichet, a lead product manager at Cerner Corp., a maker of electronic medical-records systems, said she sometimes returns from her counseling appointments with an on-site therapist red-faced from crying. (The therapist sits a few floors down.) If colleagues ask, she tells them that she just got out of an intense therapy session. Some are taken aback when she mentions her therapy, she said. But she thinks it’s important to be open.

“We all are terrified. We all are struggling,” she said. “If we don’t talk about it, it can run our lives.”

The info is here.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Decoding the neuroscience of consciousness

Emily Sohn
Originally published July 24, 2019

Here is an excerpt:

That disconnect might also offer insight into why current medications for anxiety do not always work as well as people hope, LeDoux says. Developed through animal studies, these medications might target circuits in the amygdala and affect a person’s behaviours, such as their level of timidity — making it easier for them to go to social events. But such drugs don’t necessarily affect the conscious experience of fear, which suggests that future treatments might need to address both unconscious and conscious processes separately. “We can take a brain-based approach that sees these different kinds of symptoms as products of different circuits, and design therapies that target the different circuits systematically,” he says. “Turning down the volume doesn’t change the song — only its level.”

Psychiatric disorders are another area of interest for consciousness researchers, Lau says, on the basis that some mental-health conditions, including schizophrenia, obsessive–compulsive disorder and depression, might be caused by problems at the unconscious level — or even by conflicts between conscious and unconscious pathways. The link is only hypothetical so far, but Seth has been probing the neural basis of hallucinations with a ‘hallucination machine’ — a virtual-reality program that uses machine learning to simulate visual hallucinatory experiences in people with healthy brains. Through experiments, he and his colleagues have shown that these hallucinations resemble the types of visions that people experience while taking psychedelic drugs, which have increasingly been used as a tool to investigate the neural underpinnings of consciousness.

If researchers can uncover the mechanisms behind hallucinations, they might be able to manipulate the relevant areas of the brain and, in turn, treat the underlying cause of psychosis — rather than just address the symptoms. By demonstrating how easy it is to manipulate people’s perceptions, Seth adds, the work suggests that our sense of reality is just another facet of how we experience the world.

The info is here.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Why parents are struggling to find mental health care for their children

Bernard Wolfson
Kaiser Health News/PBS.org
Originally posted May 7, 2019

Here is an excerpt:

Think about how perverse this is. Mental health professionals say that with children, early intervention is crucial to avoid more severe and costly problems later on. Yet even parents with good insurance struggle to find care for their children.

The U.S. faces a growing shortage of mental health professionals trained to work with young people — at a time when depression and anxiety are on the rise. Suicide was the No. 2 cause of death for children and young adults from age 10 to 24 in 2017, after accidents.

There is only one practicing child and adolescent psychiatrist in the U.S. for about every 1,800 children who need one, according to data from the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

Not only is it hard to get appointments with psychiatrists and therapists, but the ones who are available often don’t accept insurance.

“This country currently lacks the capacity to provide the mental health support that young people need,” says Dr. Steven Adelsheim, director of the Stanford University psychiatry department’s Center for Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing.

The info is here.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Anger, Fear, and Echo Chambers: The Emotional Basis for Online Behavior

Wollebæk, D., Karlsen, R., Steen-Johnsen, K., & Enjolras, B.
(2019). Social Media + Society. 


Emotions, such as anger and fear, have been shown to influence people’s political behavior. However, few studies link emotions specifically to how people debate political issues and seek political information online. In this article, we examine how anger and fear are related to politics-oriented digital behavior, attempting to bridge the gap between the thus far disconnected literature on political psychology and the digital media. Based on survey data, we show that anger and fear are connected to distinct behaviors online. Angry people are more likely to engage in debates with people having both similar and opposing views. They also seek out information confirming their views more frequently. Anxious individuals, by contrast, tend to seek out information contradicting their opinions. These findings reiterate predictions made in the extant literature concerning the role of emotions in politics. Thus, we argue that anger reinforces echo chamber dynamics and trench warfare dynamics in the digital public sphere, while fear counteracts these dynamics.

Discussion and Conclusion

The analyses have shown that anger and fear have distinct effects on echo chamber and trench warfare dynamics in the digital sphere. With regard to the debate dimension, we have shown that anger is positively related to participation in online debates. This finding confirms the results of a recent study by Hasell and Weeks (2016). Importantly, however, the impact of anger is not limited to echo chamber discussions with like-minded and similar people. Angry individuals are also over-represented in debates between people holding opposing views and belonging to a different class or
ethnic background. This entails that regarding online debates, anger contributes more to what has been previously labeled as trench warfare dynamics than to echo chamber dynamics.

The research is here.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Therapy Is No Longer a Politics-Free Zone

Peggy Drexler
The Wall Street Journal
Originally posted November November 23, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

A May 2018 survey published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology—which devoted an entire issue to how mental health professionals can understand and deal with the dramatic increase in clients feeling politics-related anxiety—found that of 604 psychotherapy patients from 50 states, only 32 percent said their therapist didn’t disclose their political beliefs, while 30 percent said their therapists divulged their views and the other 38 percent said their therapists very clearly made their beliefs known. “The old rules are pretty straightforward: Don’t talk about it,” says Dr. Steven Schlozman. a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. “But our country right now is so about what side you’re on that almost every interaction people have these days is characterized by that.”

Full disclosure may be surprising, but it isn’t necessarily unwelcome. A 2018 poll conducted by market research firm Branded Research found that 61 percent of more than 8,000 therapy patients surveyed say it is “very” or “somewhat” important that they and their therapist share the same political values. Manhattan clinical psychologist Sarah Gundle, the co-clinical director of Octave, a “behavioral health studio” that opened in October offering individual and group therapy—including support groups for those feeling politics-related stress or anxiety—recalls a recent patient who wanted to know where she stood.

The info is here.