It’s not much of a leap to extrapolate from the GPS to the smartphone. A normal cellphone can remember numbers for you so that you no longer have to do so. Confess– can you remember the actual cellphone number of the people you call most frequently? We used to rely on our neurons to hold onto these crucial bits of information. Now they reside somewhere out there in the ether. What’s worse is that most people don’t even take the time to write down a new phone number anymore. You call your new acquaintance and your new acquaintance calls you, and the information is automatically stored in your contacts. It’s great for efficiency’s sake, but you’ve now given your working memory one less important exercise. Memory benefits from practice, especially in the crucial stage of encoding. Let’s move from phone numbers to information in general. People with smartphones no longer have to remember important facts because when in doubt, they can just tap into Google. When was the last time St. Louis was in the World Series, you wonder? Easy! Just enter a few letters (not even the whole city name) into your “smart” search engine. Your fingers, much less your mind, don’t have to walk very far at all. Trying to give your brain a workout with a crossword puzzle? What’s to stop you from taking a few shortcuts when the answers are right there on your phone? No mental gymnastics necessary. This leads us to Siri, that seductress of the smartphone. With your iPhone slave on constant standby, you don’t even have to key in your questions. Just say the question, and Siri conjures up the answer in an instant. With a robot at your fingertips, why even bother to look the information up yourself? The irony is that smartphones have the potential to make our brains sharper, not dumber. Researchers are finding that videogame play involving rapid decision-making can hone your cognitive resources. Older adults, in particular, seem to be able to improve their attentional and decision-making speeded task performance when they play certain games. People with a form of amnesia in which they can’t learn new information can also be helped by smartphones, according to a study conducted by Canadian researchers (Svobodo & Richards, 2009). The problem is not the use of the smartphone itself; the problem comes when the smartphone takes over a function that your brain is perfectly capable of performing. It’s like taking the elevator instead of the stairs; the ride may be quicker but your muscles won’t get a workout. Smartphones are like mental elevators. Psychologists have known for years that the “use it or lose it” principle is key to keeping your brain functioning in its peak condition throughout your life. As we become more and more drawn to these sleeker and sexier gadgets, the trick will be learning how to “use it.” So take advantage of these 5 tips to help your smartphone keep you smart: 1. Don’t substitute your smartphone for your brain. Force yourself to memorize a phone number before you store it, and dial your frequently called numbers from memory whenever possible. If there’s a fact or word definition you can infer, give your brain the job before consulting your electronic helper. 2. Turn off the GPS app when you’re going to familiar places. Just like the GPS-hippocampus study showed, you need to keep your spatial memory as active as possible by relying on your brain, not your phone, when you’re navigating well-known turf. If you are using the GPS to get around a new location, study a map first. Your GPS may not really know the best route to take (as any proper Bostonian can tell you!). 3. Use your smartphone to keep up with current events. Most people use their smartphones in their leisure time for entertainment. However, with just a few easy clicks, you can just as easily check the headlines, op-eds, and featured stories from respected news outlets around the world. This knowledge will build your mental storehouse of information, and make you a better conversationalist as well. 4. Build your social skills with pro-social apps. Some videogames can actually make you a nicer person by strengthening your empathic tendencies. Twitter and Facebook can build social bonds. Staying connected is easier than ever, and keeping those social bonds active provides you with social support. Just make sure you avoid some of the social media traps of over-sharing and FOMO (fear of missing out) syndrome. 5. Turn off your smartphone while you’re driving. No matter how clever you are at multitasking under ordinary circumstances, all experts agree that you need to give your undivided attention to driving when behind the wheel. This is another reason to look at and memorize your route before going someplace new. Fiddling with your GPS can create a significant distraction if you find that it’s given you the wrong information. Smartphones have their place, and can make your life infinitely more productive as long as you use yours to supplement, not replace, your brain. Reference: Svoboda, E., & Richards, B. (2009). Compensating for anterograde amnesia: A new training method that capitalizes on emerging smartphone technologies. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 15(4), 629-638. doi:10.1017/S1355617709090791 Follow Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D. on Twitter @swhitbo for daily updates on psychology, health, and aging and please check out my website,www.searchforfulfillment.com where you can read this week’s Weekly Focus to get additional information, self-tests, and psychology-related links.
- Why Do So Many Robots Have A Woman’s Voice? [Technology] (jezebel.com)
- Siri lets strangers control some iPhone functions (redtape.msnbc.msn.com)
The Experience of Recurring Panic Attacks
To understand panic disorder with agoraphobia, we must first talk about panic attacks. Sudden and recurring panic attacks are the hallmark symptoms of panic disorder. If you have never had recurring panic attacks, it may be hard to understand the difficulties your friend or loved one is going through. During a panic attack, the body’s alarm system is triggered without the presence of actual danger. The exact cause of why this happens is not known, but it is believed that there is a genetic and/or biological component.
Sufferers often use the terms fear, terror and horror to describe the frightening symptoms of a full-blown panic attack. But even these frightening words can’t convey the magnitude of the consuming nature of panic disorder. The fear becomes so intense that the thought of having another panic attack is never far from conscious thought. Incessant worry and feelings of overwhelming anxiety may become part of your loved one’s daily existence.
These Intense Symptoms Must Mean Something…Something Terrible
At the onset of panic disorder, your loved one may be quite certain they are suffering from a heart condition or other life-threatening illness. This may mean trips to the nearest emergency room and intensive testing to rule out physical disease. But, even when he or she is assured that these symptoms are not life-threatening, it does little to put his or her mind at ease. The feelings experienced during panic attacks are so overwhelming and uncontrollable, sufferers are convinced they are going to die or are going crazy.
A New Way of Life Emerges: Fear and Avoidance
So frightening are the symptoms of panic disorder, that your loved one may go to any and all lengths to avoid another attack from occurring. This may include many avoidant types of behavior and the development of agoraphobia. But, despite the efforts to avoid another panic episode, the attacks continue without rhyme or reason. There is no place to escape, and the sufferer becomes a prisoner of an insidious and illogical fear. Without appropriate treatment, your loved one may become so disabled that he or she is unable to leave his or her home at all.
Self Image Is Redefined
At times, we’ve all experienced nervousness, anxiousness, fear and, perhaps, even terror or horror. But in the midst of a catastrophic event, we understand these symptoms. Once the event is over, so, too, are the symptoms. But, imagine reliving these symptoms over and over again, without any warning or explanation.
This type of fear is life-changing. As abilities become inabilities, things once taken for granted, like going to into a store, become anxiety-filled events. Some enjoyable activities, like going to concerts or movies, may be avoided altogether. It is not uncommon for sufferers to experience a sense of shame, weakness and embarrassment as their self-image is redefined by fear.
Panic disorder is not just being nervous or anxious. Panic disorder is not just about the fear, terror and horror experienced during a full-blown panic attack because it does not end when the panic subsides. It is a disorder that is quick to invade and can alter one’s very essence, redefine one’s abilities and take over every aspect of one’s life.
Your Role As A Support Person
As a support person, you can play an important role in your loved one’s recovery process. Understanding what panic disorder is, and what it is not, will help you on this journey. Author Ken Strong provides a lot of information for supporting a person with panic disorder in his book, Anxiety:The Caregivers, Third Edition.
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When she hasn’t been drinking, the -year-old New Yorker says that she rarely does more than browse online retail sites. But give her some booze and the buying begins.
“Get some drinks in me and I’m more likely to bite the bullet and figure out where to store the crap later on,” she said.
Andrea, who asked to withhold her name to protect her privacy, said she’s shopped under the influence more than a dozen times, but the habit comes and goes.
“I’ll do it several times over a month and then forget about it for a while,” she said. “Luckily, I haven’t bought or won anything terribly extravagant. Generally, I am pleasantly surprised about my purchases.”
After her latest late-night spree, she said awoke to the whole Doc Savage comic book series, the movie “Popeye,” with Robin Williams, the children’s book “Mouse Tails,” and (her favorite) the book “Statistics for the Utterly Confused.”
While inebriated Internet buying may not be be an epidemic, it’s also not that unusual. A spokesperson for an online retail site, who asked to speak on condition of anonymity, said that intoxicated-sounding shoppers regularly call the site’s customer service asking for help placing orders.
“They’re trying to get a little roadside assistance on the shopping piece,” the spokesperson said, adding that sometimes the customers need technical guidance, while other times it sounds like they just want to hear a friendly voice.
Andrea said she’s partial to things that remind her of childhood memories (her very first drunk purchases were the book “The Phantom Tollbooth” and a whittling kit), but, occasionally, she said she wakes up to the just plain bizarre. “I [bid] on a plaster casting kit, which is rather surprising as I have no idea what I was thinking of doing with it,” she said.
But no matter what her sober self finds in the morning, she said she never thinks of returning anything. Why? “[I'm] way too embarrassed,” she said. Psychologists say the habit is fairly harmless as long as people don’t take it to extremes or spend extravagantly. “Normally, when we haven’t had a drink or two, our rational selves intercede between the emotion and the action and we say, ‘Oh, I don’t really need that’ or ‘Oh, I don’t have the money right now,’” said John Grohol, a clinical psychologist and founder of the online mental health resource PsychCentral.com. “But alcohol takes that one step away, that rational voice away, and we go directly to the emotion and the behavior.” Source: ABC news
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Regular exercise can play an important a role in improving the physical and mental wellbeing of individuals with schizophrenia, according to a review published in The Cochrane Library. Following a systematic review of the most up-to-date research on exercise in schizophrenia, researchers concluded that the current guidelines for exercise should be followed by people with schizophrenia just as they should by the general population.
“Current guidelines for exercise appear to be just as acceptable to individuals with schizophrenia in terms of potential physical and mental health benefit,” says lead researcher Guy Faulkner of the Faculty of Physical Education and Health at the University of Toronto, Canada. “So thirty minutes of moderate physical activity on most or all days of the week is a good goal to aim for. Start slowly and build up.”
Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness affecting four in every people. It is already known that exercise can improve mental health, but so far there has been only limited evidence of effects in schizophrenia. The new review focused on three recent small studies that compared the effects of - week exercise programmes, including components such as jogging, walking and strength training, to standard care or yoga.
The researchers found that exercise programmes improved mental state for measures including anxiety and depression, particularly when compared to standard care. Changes in physical health outcomes were seen but they were not significant overall. However, the researchers suggest this may be due to the short timescale of the trials.
Two previous reviews have found exercise therapy to be beneficial in schizophrenia, but called for more rigorous research. “This new review suggests that such calls are starting to be addressed,” says Faulkner. “But we still need more research that will help us learn how we can get individuals with schizophrenia engaged in exercise programmes in the first place, and how such programmes can be developed and implemented within mental health services. That’s one of the biggest challenges for this type of intervention.”
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Researchers from the University of Essex found that as little as five minutes of a “green activity” such as walking, gardening, cycling or farming can boost mood and self esteem.
“We believe that there would be a large potential benefit to individuals, society and to the costs of the health service if all groups of people were to self-medicate more with green exercise,” Barton said in a statement about the study, which was published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
Barton and Pretty looked at data from 1,252 people of different ages, genders and mental health status taken from 10 existing studies in Britain.
They analyzed activities such as walking, gardening, cycling, fishing, boating, horse-riding and farming.
They found that the greatest health changes occurred in the young and the mentally ill, although people of all ages and social groups benefited. The largest positive effect on self-esteem came from a five-minute dose of “green exercise.”
All natural environments were beneficial, including parks in towns or cities, they said, but green areas with water appeared to have a more positive effect.
Just when I think our world has moved a baby step in the right direction regarding our understanding of mental illness, I get another blow that tells me otherwise. For example, awhile back I quoted an intelligent woman who wrote an article in a popular women’s magazine about dating a bipolar guy when she was bipolar herself. She recently discovered that she had jeopardized a job prospect because the article came up — as well as all those who referenced it, like Beyond Blue — when you Googled her name. So she requested everyone who picked up that article to go back and change her real name to a pseudonym.
Because talking about bipolar disorder in the workplace is pretty much like singing about AIDS at the office a hundred years ago or maybe championing civil rights in the 60s.
I totally get why this woman created a pseudonym. Trust me, I entertained that possibility when I decided to throw out my psychiatric chart to the public. It’s risky. Extremely risky. Each person’s situation is unique, so I can’t advise a general “yes ” or “no.” As much as I would love to say corporate America will embrace the person struggling with a mood disorder and wrap him around a set of loving hands, I know the reality is more like a bipolar or depressive being spit upon, blamed, and made fun of by his boss and co-workers. Because the majority of professionals today simply don’t get it.
Not at all.
They don’t get it even though the World Health Organization predicts that by 2020, mental illness will be the second leading cause of disability worldwide, after heart disease; that major mental disorders cost the nation at least $193 billion annually in lost earnings alone, according to a new study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health; that the direct cost of depression to the United States in terms of lost time at work is estimated at 172 million days yearly.
I realize every time I publish a personal blog post — one in which I describe my severe ruminations, death thoughts, and difficulty using the rational part of my brain — I jeopardize my possibilities for gainful employment in the future. I can pretty much write off all government work because, from what I’ve been told, you have to get a gaggle of people to testify that you have no history of psychiatric illnesses (and, again, all it takes is one Google search to prove I’m crazy).
It’s totally unfair.
Do we penalize diabetics for needing insulin or tell people with disabling arthritis to get over it? Do we advise cancer victims to use a pseudonym if they write about their chemo, for fear of being labeled as weak and pathetic? That they really should be able to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and heal themselves because it’s all in their heads?
But I don’t want to hide behind a pseudonym. I use my real name because, for me, the benefit of comforting someone who thinks they are all alone outweighs the risk of unemployment in the future. Kay Redfield Jamison did it. She’s okay. So is Robin Williams. And Kitty Dukasis. And Carrie Fisher. Granted all four of those people have talent agents ready to book them as speakers for a nice fee.
In their book, Living with Someone Who’s Living with Bipolar Disorder Chelsea Lowe and Bruce M. Cohen, MD, Ph.D., list the pros and the cons of going public with a mood disorder. I’m paraphrasing a little bit, but here are the pros:
- There’s nothing disgraceful about the condition, any more than there would be about cancer or heart disease.
- Carrying a secret is an enormous burden. Sharing it lightens it.
- The more people who know and are looking out for you, the more likely you’ll be able to get help before the problems turn serious.
- Sharing the information lessons the burden on your partner.
- Lots of people have psychiatric issues; maybe your boss or family member does too.
- Taking about the diagnosis is an opportunity to educate others.
The authors suggest telling your employer under these circumstances:
- If you are taking a new medication and may need time for adjustment.
- If your schedule doesn’t allow for regular, restful sleep–which is an important factor in controlling the disorder–or if you need to request certain adjustments to your schedule, like telecommuting.
- If you need to be hospitalized or take a leave of absence.
- If the disorder is affecting your behavior or job performance.
- If you need to submit benefit claims through your employer rather than the insurance company, or if your employer requires medical forms for extended absences.
And the cons:
- Prejudice and stigma about psychiatric disorders are still common in our society. A disclosure of bipolar disorder [or any mental illness] will inevitably color your employer’s and coworkers’ perceptions of his job performance: “Did Jerry miss that meeting because the bus was late, or because he was off his meds?” Potential problems include discrimination, stigmatization, fear and actual job loss.
- You can’t un-tell a secret.
- Your chances for promotion could be hurt.
- The employer is under no obligation to keep your condition secret.
- Discrimination is illegal but difficult to prove.
- You could be written off as “crazy.”
It’s Tricky! What are your thoughts?
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