Quotulatiousness

September 4, 2017

The mental health crisis on campus

Filed under: Education, Health, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

In Spiked, Naomi Firsht shares the concerns of Jonathan Haidt about the rise of mental health issues at US universities:

The heightened vulnerability of college students has had a chilling effect on discussion in the academic world, and Haidt sees this in his day-to-day experience on campus. “There is a rapidly spreading feeling that we are all walking on eggshells, both students and faculty. That we are now accountable, not for what we say, but for how anyone who hears it might take it. And if you have to speak, thinking about the worst reading that anyone could put on your words, that means you cannot be provocative, you cannot take risks, that means you will play it safe when you speak… This is what I’m seeing in my classes when topics related to race or gender come up – which we used to be able to talk about 10 years ago, but now it’s painful and there’s a lot of silence.”

This is disastrous for academic life, as Haidt points out: “A university cannot function if people will not put their ideas forth, will not contest ideas that they think are wrong, will not stand up for ideas that they think are right.”
He is keen to emphasise that this is not a right-left issue. “Several people on the left are noticing that college students are less effective politically as activists, as progressives, when they have this morality and this ethos with such heavy concept creep.”

Haidt believes there is a mental-health crisis on campus: “I have never seen such rapid increase in indicators of anxiety and depression as we have seen in the past few years”, he says. But his suggested approach is unlikely to find favour with student communities fond of Safe Spaces and therapeutic puppy-petting. “If you think about it as a mental-health crisis”, he explains, “then you might be tempted to say: we need more help, more counselling, more protection for those who are suffering from mental illness. But if you look at it that way you will miss the broader pattern, which is that for 20 to 30 years now, Americans have been systematically undermining the development of resilience or toughness of their children.” Referencing the work of Lenore Skenazy, author of Free-range Kids, he concludes: “We have made our children too safe to succeed.”

In his forthcoming book Misguided Minds: How Three Bad Ideas Are Leading Young People, Universities, and Democracies Toward Failure, Haidt claims that certain ideas are impairing students’ chances of success. Those ideas being: your feelings are always right; what doesn’t kill you makes you weaker; and the world is divided into good people and bad people. “If we can teach those three ideas to college students”, he says, “we cannot guarantee they will fail, but we will minimise their odds at success”.

So how can we resolve the problem of vulnerability among young Americans? Haidt says part of the solution must begin in childhood and will require parents to give their children daily periods of “unsupervised time”. “We have to accept the fact that in that unsupervised time there will be name-calling, conflict and exclusion. And while it’s painful for parents to accept this, in the long-run it will give them children that are not suffering from such high rates of anxiety and depression.”

August 14, 2017

When did you first suspect that the world was being run by incompetent idiots?

Filed under: Government, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Ace discusses the moment he realized there was a perfectly reasonable explanation for the otherwise incomprehensible way our government and mainstream media operate:

Here’s a question I’d like to ask. I’ll try to figure out my own answer in the comments. But this is what I’m interested in:

When did you begin to suspect that the people in charge of the government and the media were dumb, ignorant, and sometimes actually deranged, and what confirmed it for you? What were your feelings about this? That is, was it like taking the Red Pill? Was it scary?

I’m trying to remember when this happened to me. Oh, the media I knew was biased; but I didn’t realize until the last decade that it was pig-ignorant and incompetent and filled with people who are mentally unwell.

The government — well, I blithely assumed that people who ran the government (or other major institutions) were generally at least low-level qualified.

At some point I realized we are being led — or rather controlled, as we do not follow willingly, but through coercion — by misfits, morons, and maniacs.

It was both scarifying and liberating, in a dark way.

But I think these realizations came kind of slowly and I’m trying to think of major things that crystallized them.

It also changed my opinion of many of my fellow citizens and onetime allies: I now view them as fools and maniacs (or worse) themselves for apparently seeming to continue to believe that Everything’s Okay and we’re still being led (controlled) by, if not the best and brightest, certainly the somewhat good and reasonably intelligent.

August 5, 2017

“… theirs is a generation shaped by the smartphone and by the concomitant rise of social media. I call them iGen”

Filed under: Technology, USA — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

In The Atlantic, “Gen Xer” Jean Twenge is worried about the ways the new generation differ from their Millennial predecessors:

Click to see full-size image

I’ve been researching generational differences for 25 years, starting when I was a 22-year-old doctoral student in psychology. Typically, the characteristics that come to define a generation appear gradually, and along a continuum. Beliefs and behaviors that were already rising simply continue to do so. Millennials, for instance, are a highly individualistic generation, but individualism had been increasing since the Baby Boomers turned on, tuned in, and dropped out. I had grown accustomed to line graphs of trends that looked like modest hills and valleys. Then I began studying Athena’s generation.

Around 2012, I noticed abrupt shifts in teen behaviors and emotional states. The gentle slopes of the line graphs became steep mountains and sheer cliffs, and many of the distinctive characteristics of the Millennial generation began to disappear. In all my analyses of generational data — some reaching back to the 1930s — I had never seen anything like it.

At first I presumed these might be blips, but the trends persisted, across several years and a series of national surveys. The changes weren’t just in degree, but in kind. The biggest difference between the Millennials and their predecessors was in how they viewed the world; teens today differ from the Millennials not just in their views but in how they spend their time. The experiences they have every day are radically different from those of the generation that came of age just a few years before them.

What happened in 2012 to cause such dramatic shifts in behavior? It was after the Great Recession, which officially lasted from 2007 to 2009 and had a starker effect on Millennials trying to find a place in a sputtering economy. But it was exactly the moment when the proportion of Americans who owned a smartphone surpassed 50 percent.

The more I pored over yearly surveys of teen attitudes and behaviors, and the more I talked with young people like Athena, the clearer it became that theirs is a generation shaped by the smartphone and by the concomitant rise of social media. I call them iGen. Born between 1995 and 2012, members of this generation are growing up with smartphones, have an Instagram account before they start high school, and do not remember a time before the internet. The Millennials grew up with the web as well, but it wasn’t ever-present in their lives, at hand at all times, day and night. iGen’s oldest members were early adolescents when the iPhone was introduced, in 2007, and high-school students when the iPad entered the scene, in 2010. A 2017 survey of more than 5,000 American teens found that three out of four owned an iPhone.

The advent of the smartphone and its cousin the tablet was followed quickly by hand-wringing about the deleterious effects of “screen time.” But the impact of these devices has not been fully appreciated, and goes far beyond the usual concerns about curtailed attention spans. The arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers’ lives, from the nature of their social interactions to their mental health. These changes have affected young people in every corner of the nation and in every type of household. The trends appear among teens poor and rich; of every ethnic background; in cities, suburbs, and small towns. Where there are cell towers, there are teens living their lives on their smartphone.

It could be that the widespread use of available technology to “virtualize” adolescence is at least to a degree a reaction to helicopter parenting.

H/T to Kate at Small Dead Animals for the link.

June 29, 2017

Homeschooling is looking like a better option all the time

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Education, Health, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Susan Goldberg explains what some states are now asking primary school teachers to do in the way of monthly mental health evaluations of the kids they teach:

On paper it reads like a not-so-vague attempt to socially engineer your child’s behavior. In reality, teacher-led mental health assessments coming to a growing number of public schools are a bureaucratic nightmare. One that will no doubt further clog our nation’s public education system with increased paperwork and administrative costs while putting your child’s future at serious risk.

Thanks to Dr. Aida Cerundolo’s piece in The Wall Street Journal, we are beginning to understand the real-life ramifications of these dangerous educational ideas. Want the Cliffs Notes version? Head over to the excellent summation by Emmett McGroarty and Jane Robbins, detailing the ramifications of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a federal bill focused on the buzz-phrase “Social Emotional Learning” (SEL), the latest craze in public education. Schools in states that have ESSA legislation on the books can use the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA) to fulfill ESSA paperwork requirements.

    …every month the teacher must answer 72 questions about each of the perhaps dozens of students in her class. She must assess whether the student “carr[ies] himself with confidence,” whatever that means for a 5-year-old, and whether he can “cope well with insults and mean comments.”

    … Dr. Cerundolo’s alarm at the imposition of DESSA is shared by at least some New Hampshire teachers. One of them contacted Ann Marie Banfield, Education Liaison for Cornerstone Action in New Hampshire, to express her objections to completing the DESSA forms on her students. The teacher was especially troubled that the school neither sought parental consent nor even notified parents that their children were being screened by amateurs for mental-health issues. As the mother of public-school students, she worried that other teachers were completing this assessment on her children.

You read that right: if you live in an ESSA state, your child’s mental health will be assessed by a non-medical professional in a non-medical context. The paperwork will not be protected by HIPAA laws, which means that the school district can share a teacher’s assessment of your child’s mental health with literally anyone. Parents are not asked for permission before the DESSA is administered, nor do they have any say over where the records go once they are obtained.

I imagine that primary school teachers will be just overjoyed to take on yet another task for which they may have no formal training or aptitude, in addition to the piddling little details of actually teaching. Were you ever warned about youthful misbehaviour going on to your “permanent record”? Now, it’s not just the big ticket items that will follow your kids from now on in their school careers.

QotD: The medical equivalent of security theatre

Filed under: Health, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The most common reason for admission to a psychiatric hospital is “person is a danger to themselves or others”. The average length of stay in a psychiatric hospital is about one week.

Some clever person might ask: “Hey, don’t most psychiatric medicines require more than a week to take effect?” Good question! The answer is “yes”. Antidepressants classically take four weeks. Lithium and antipsychotics are more complicated, but the textbooks will still tell you a couple of weeks in both cases. And yet people are constantly being brought to psychiatric hospitals for dangerousness, treated with medications for one week, and then sent off. What gives?

As far as I can tell, a lot of it is the medical equivalent of security theater.

Scott Alexander, “Reflections From The Halfway Point”, Slate Star Codex, 2015-06-29.

June 26, 2017

QotD: Psychiatric hospitals

Filed under: Health, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

It’s interesting that psychiatric hospitals are used as a cliche for “a situation of total chaos” – I think I’ve already mentioned the time when the director of a psych hospital I worked at told us, apparently without conscious awareness or irony, that if Obamacare passed our hospital would have too many patients and “the place would turn into a madhouse”. There’s a similar idiom around “Bedlam”, which comes from London’s old Bethlehem psychiatric hospital.

In fact, psych hospitals are much more orderly than you would think. Maybe 80% of the patients are pretty ‘with it’ – depressed people, very anxious people, people with anger issues who aren’t angry at the moment, people coming off of heroin or something. The remaining 20% of people who are very psychotic mostly just stay in their rooms or pace back and forth talking to themselves and not bothering anyone else. The only people you really have to worry about most of the time are the manic ones and occasionally severe autistics, and even they’re usually okay.

For a place where two dozen not-very-stable people are locked up in a small area against their will, violence is impressively rare. The nurses have to deal with some of it, since they’re the front-line people who have to forcibly inject patients with medication, and they have gotten burned a couple of times. And we doctors are certainly trained to assess for it, defuse it, and if worst comes to worst hold our own until someone can get help.

Yet in the two years I’ve worked at Our Lady Of An Undisclosed Location, years when each doctor has talked to each of their patients at least once a day, usually alone in an office, usually telling them things they really don’t want to hear like “No, you can’t go home today” – during all that time, not one doctor has been attacked. Not so much as a slap or a poke.

I am constantly impressed with how deeply the civilizing instinct has penetrated. When I go out of the workroom and tell Bob, “I’m sorry, but you’re disturbing people, you’re going to have to stop banging on the window and shouting threats, let’s go back to your room,” then as long as I use a calm, quiet, and authoritative voice, that is what he does. With very few exceptions, there is nobody so mentally ill that calmness + authority + the implied threat of burly security guards won’t get them to grumble under their breath but generally comply with your requests, reasonable or otherwise.

Scott Alexander, “Reflections From The Halfway Point”, Slate Star Codex, 2015-06-29.

June 18, 2017

QotD: Punishment, Coercion, and Revenge

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Quotations, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Because I’m both both a libertarian and famous for conducting a successful propaganda campaign, libertarian activists sometimes come to me for tactical advice. During a recent email exchange, one of these criticized me for wishing (as he thought) to “punish” the Islamist enemies of the U.S. and Western civilization.

I explained that I have no desire to punish the perpetrators of 9/11; what I want is vengeance and death. Vengeance for us, death for them. Whether they experience ‘punishment’ during the process is of little or no interest to me.

My correspondent was reflecting a common confusion about the distinctions among coercion, revenge, and punishment. Coercion is intended to make another do your will instead of their own; vengeance is intended to discharge your own anger and fear. Punishment is neither of these things.

Punishment is a form of respect you pay to someone who is at least potentially a member of the web of trust that defines your ethical community. We punish ordinary criminals to deter them from repeating criminal behavior, because we believe they know what ethical behavior is and that by deterring them from crime we help them re-integrate with an ethical community they have never in any fundamental sense departed.

By contrast, we do not punish the criminally insane. We confine them and sometimes kill them for our own safety, but we do not make them suffer in an effort to deter them from insanity. Just to state the aim is to make obvious how absurd it is. Hannibal Lecter, and his all-too-real prototypes, lack the capacity to respond to punishment by re-integrating with an ethical community.

In fact, criminal psychopaths are not even potentially members of an ethical community to begin with. There is something broken or missing in them that makes participation in the web of trust impossible; perhaps the capacity to emotionally identify with other human beings, perhaps conscience, perhaps something larger and harder to name. They have other behavioral deficits, including poor impulse control, associated with subtle neurological damage. By existing, they demonstrate something most of us would rather not know; which is that there are creatures who — though they speak, and reason, and feign humanity — have nothing but evil in them.

Eric S. Raymond, “Punishment, Coercion, and Revenge”, Armed and Dangerous, 2005-07-05.

June 2, 2017

QotD: Daytime TV

Filed under: Media, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

I’m writing this sentence (who can say where I’ll be in an hour) at the Brooklyn Diner off Times Square (the pastrami frittata is fantastic!). I’m about a block away from the set of Good Morning America, where hundreds of decent, normal Americans are willingly turning themselves into meat props for a three-hour spectacle, two hours and forty-five minutes of which is dedicated to something someone named Kanyé said about someone else; the troubling rise in Pilates injuries; J-Lo’s ass; and breaking news of a puppy making friends with a stuffed toy — from someone’s Facebook page somewhere out in America. I don’t actually know that’s what’s on today’s show, but I’m pretty confident it’s not that far off either.

I don’t mean to single out Good Morning AmericaThe Today Show is equally vapid. It’s just that Good Morning America is fresh in my mind because I happened to watch an hour or so of it earlier this week while waiting for my car at the shop. I would have blown my brains out, but the show depleted my IQ so rapidly I couldn’t manage even the most rudimentary tasks. I got so dumb, Debbie Wasserman Schultz could have beaten me at checkers. But I did learn how Victoria Beckham struggles to have it all as a working mom. I don’t know how she does it. She’s a trooper.

And then there was the long segment on Suzy Favor Hamilton, the courageous former Olympic runner who married her college sweetheart, won a bunch of medals, started a family and a business, and then, “after one night with a Vegas call girl,” decided to become a hooker herself. “That light-bulb moment in my head, wow, why shouldn’t I get paid for sex?” she told GMA’s Lara Spencer. We then learn that her husband knew all about her moonlighting in Vegas, but he disapproved, as all decent husbands would, don’t ya know. You can read all about it in her new book (and so can her daughter). Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that — there’s a book. Contain your surprise.

Now, I’m not going to get all judgey here — because that would be wrong. Hamilton says she had serious mental-health problems, and that certainly seems more than plausible. Besides, we live in an age where having addictions, conditions, disorders, and issues is often a moral get-out-of-jail-free card. I have my own “issues” with that. But that’s a topic for another day.

[…]

And that was that. Hamilton betrayed her family and then compounded that “hurt” by splashing it all across the country — and somehow in a matter of seconds this becomes proof of her heroic struggle. She will have to live with this, but it was worth it because another journalist pandering to an interview subject said something that may or may not be true.

I’m not a big consumer of bipolar tell-alls, but I kind of feel like there are already more than a few out there and that it’s possible — just possible — the genre didn’t need one more, at least this one more. I’m sure this book helped someone, somewhere. But I resent the idea that somehow we’re all expected to celebrate this woman’s struggle and honesty and heroism and blah blah blah. And if we don’t celebrate it, not only are we the bad guys, but our judgmentalism makes her more of a hero.

It seems to me that if you don’t want people to judge you, maybe you shouldn’t herd your demons onto a public stage like they’re contestants in a beauty pageant?

Yeah, maybe her book will help someone out there. But maybe her top priority should be helping her family? I’d bet the book tour isn’t doing that.

Jonah Goldberg, “Our Culture Makes a Virtue Out of Victimhood”, National Review, 2015-09-18.

May 28, 2017

QotD: Nostalgia

Filed under: Health, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Nostalgia has been shown to counteract loneliness, boredom and anxiety. It makes people more generous to strangers and more tolerant of outsiders. Couples feel closer and look happier when they’re sharing nostalgic memories. On cold days, or in cold rooms, people use nostalgia to literally feel warmer.

Nostalgia does have its painful side — it’s a bittersweet emotion — but the net effect is to make life seem more meaningful and death less frightening. When people speak wistfully of the past, they typically become more optimistic and inspired about the future.

“Nostalgia makes us a bit more human,” Dr. Sedikides says. He considers the first great nostalgist to be Odysseus, an itinerant who used memories of his family and home to get through hard times, but Dr. Sedikides emphasizes that nostalgia is not the same as homesickness. It’s not just for those away from home, and it’s not a sickness, despite its historical reputation.

Nostalgia was originally described as a “neurological disease of essentially demonic cause” by Johannes Hoffer, the Swiss doctor who coined the term in 1688. Military physicians speculated that its prevalence among Swiss mercenaries abroad was due to earlier damage to the soldiers’ ear drums and brain cells by the unremitting clanging of cowbells in the Alps.

John Tierney, “What Is Nostalgia Good For? Quite a Bit, Research Shows”, New York Times, 2013-07-08.

May 19, 2017

QotD: Outpatient psychiatry

Filed under: Health, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Now I am halfway done with my residency. I will be switching to outpatient work. Everyone who sees me will be there because they want to see me, or at worst because their parents/spouses/children/friends/voices are pressuring them into it. I will be able to continue seeing people for an amount of time long enough that the medications might, in principle, work. It sounds a lot more pleasant.

I have two equal and opposite concerns about outpatient psychiatry. The first is that I might be useless. Like, if someone comes in complaining of depression, then to a first approximation, after a few basic tests and questions to rule out some rarer causes, you give them an SSRI [Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors]. I have a lot of libertarian friends who think psychiatrists are just a made-up guild who survive because it’s legally impossible for depressed people to give themselves SSRIs without paying them money. There’s some truth to that and I’ve previously joked that some doctors could profitably be replaced by SSRI vending machines.

The second concern is that everybody still screws it up. There’s an old saying: “Doctors bury their mistakes, architects cover theirs with vines, teachers send theirs into politics.” Well, outpatient psychiatrists send their mistakes to inpatient psychiatrists, so as an inpatient psychiatrist I’ve gotten to see a lot of them. Yes, to a first approximation when a person comes in saying they’re depressed you can just do a few basic tests and questions and then give them an SSRI. But the number of cases I’ve seen that end in disaster because their outpatient psychiatrist forgot to do the basic tests and questions, or decided that Adderall was the first-line medication of choice for depression – continues to boggle my mind. So either it’s harder than I think, or I’m surrounded by idiots, or I’m an idiot and don’t know it yet. In which case I’m about to learn.

Still, if it’s a disaster, it will be a different type of disaster.

Scott Alexander, “Reflections From The Halfway Point”, Slate Star Codex, 2015-06-29.

May 11, 2017

The transactional nature of “identity”

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Eric S. Raymond on the rising chatter about “identity”:

These criticisms imply a theory of “identity” that is actually coherent and useful. Here it is:

Your “identity” is a set of predictive claims you assert about yourself, mostly (though not entirely) about what kinds of transactions other people can expect to engage in with you.

As an example of an exception to “mostly”, the claim “I am white” implies that I sunburn easily. But usually, an “identity” claim implies the ability and willingness to meet behavioral expectations held by other people. For example, if I describe my “identity” as “male, American, computer programmer, libertarian” I am in effect making an offer that others can expect me to need to shave daily, salute the Stars and Stripes, sling code, and argue for the Non-Aggression Principle as an ethical fundamental.

Thus, identity claims can be false (not cashed out in observed behavior) or fraudulent (intended to deceive). You don’t get to choose your identity; you get to make an offer and it’s up to others whether or not to accept.

[…]

I can anticipate several objections to this transactional account of identity. One is that is cruel and illiberal to reject an offer of “I claim identity X” if the person claiming feels that identity strongly enough. This is essentially the position of those journalists from The Hill.

To which I can only reply: you can feel an identity as a programmer as strongly as you want, but if you can’t either already sling code or are visibly working hard on repairing that deficiency, you simply don’t make the nut. Cruelty doesn’t enter into this; if I assent to your claim I assist your self-deceit, and if I repeat it I assist you in misleading or defrauding others.

It is pretty easy to see how this same analysis applies to “misgendering” people with the “wrong” pronouns. People who use the term “misgender” generally follow up with claims about the subject’s autonomy and feelings. Which is well enough, but such considerations do not justify being complicit in the deceit of others any more than they do with respect to “I am a programmer”.

A related objection is that I have stolen the concept of “identity” by transactionalizing it. That is, true “identity” is necessarily grounded not in public performance but private feelings – you are what you feel, and it’s somehow the responsibility of the rest of the world to keep up.

But…if I’m a delusional psychotic who feels I’m Napoleon, is it the world’s responsibility to keep up? If I, an overweight clumsy shortish white guy, feel that I’m a tall agile black guy under the skin, are you obligated to choose me to play basketball? Or, instead, are you justified in predicting that I can’t jump?

You can’t base “identity” on a person’s private self-beliefs and expect sane behavior to emerge any more than you can invite everyone to speak private languages and expect communication to happen.

April 26, 2017

The End of Play: Why Kids Need Unstructured Time

Filed under: Education, Health, Liberty — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 25 Apr 2017

“School has become an abnormal setting for children,” says Peter Gray, a professor of psychology at Boston College. “Instead of admitting that, we say the children are abnormal.”

Boston College Psychology Professor Peter Gray says that a cultural shift towards a more interventionist approach to child rearing is having dire consequences for the well-being of kids. “Over the same period of time that there has been a gradual decline in play,” he told Reason‘s Nick Gillespie, “there are well documented, gradual, but ultimately huge increases in a variety of mental disorders in childhood — especially depression and anxiety.”

Gray believes that social media is one saving grace. “[Kids] can’t get together in the real world…[without] adult supervisors,” he says, “but they can online.”

For more on Gray’s work, follow his blog at Psychology Today.

Edited by Mark McDaniel. Cameras by Todd Krainin and Jim Epstein. Music by Broke for Free.

April 23, 2017

The “transformation of mental illness into a fashion accessory”

Filed under: Health, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Brendan O’Neill on the mainstreaming of mental illness as a status marker for “respectable society”:

One of the great media myths of the 21st century is that there’s a taboo against talking about mental illness. Please. Then how come I can’t open a newspaper or flick through my TV channels or browse social media without seeing someone go into grisly depth, often replete with sad selfies, about his latest bout of mental darkness? Far from taboo, having a mental illness, and talking about your mental illness, is all the rage. It’s the latest must-have. You’re no one unless you’ve had a mental episode. And I find this transformation of mental illness into a fashion accessory far worse than the old treatment of it as a taboo (which was very bad).

[…]

It’s dangerous firstly because it springs from and reinforces the weird 21st-century trend for actively inviting people to define themselves as mentally ill. Everything from exam stress to general anxiety to feeling up one day and down the next – which used to be called ‘moods’ but is now called ‘bipolar disorder’ – is being recategorised as a mental illness or disorder. Everyday emotions and experiences have been co-opted into the field of mental health. You think you’re shy? Nope, you have social anxiety disorder. Do you have an awkward friend? Maybe he has Asperger’s. Finding it hard to cope with your workload? Check out this Workplace Stress and Anxiety Disorder Survey to find out if really you are mentally ill.

Virtually all of life’s struggles and people’s personality quirks are being medicalised. And in some cases treated: Britain is said to be in the grip of a ‘psychiatric drug epidemic’, as the number of prescriptions for mental-health drugs rose by an astonishing 500 percent between 1992 and 2014. It’s like something out of Huxley’s Brave New World, in which people are given a mind drug that suppresses their ‘malice and bad tempers’. And people actively seek a diagnosis. A few years ago, a psychiatrist told the BBC that patients come to her saying, ‘I want to be bipolar’. She said the desire for a mental-illness diagnosis often reflects ‘a person’s aspiration for higher social status’. Yes, you can now boost your standing in respectable society by having a mental illness. This is how cool it has become to be mentally ill.

The dire impact of the must-have mental illness is most clear among the young. I can’t remember the last time I met a student who didn’t claim to have a mental illness of some kind. A few weeks of stress over their exams and they think they’re Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. They post long social-media confessions of mental ill-health and everyone says ‘How brave’, overlooking that it’s really not brave to do something everyone else is doing; to say ‘I am mentally ill’ in a world in which you can’t swing a tote bag in Waterstone’s without hitting 20 books about being mentally ill. Everyone’s mentally ill; you aren’t special – you’re boring.

April 7, 2017

QotD: You may not have to be crazy to be President, but it helps

Filed under: Health, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Does Mr. Trump really have serious psychiatric problems as increasing numbers of shrinks are suggesting?

Since in their DSM-5 [PDF] (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition), the Mental Health Guild has classified just about every possible combination of human emotion and behavior as a psychiatric disorder, they can certainly find Mr. Trump — along with the rest of us — has conditions they would gladly treat but not necessarily cure. For a nice fee, of course.

They suggest he’s grandiose, antisocial, narcissistic, and paranoid etc. And, since an Australian study found that 1 in 5 CEOs are psychopaths, we can probably add that and/or “sociopath” to the list.

And they say he’s deceitful and tells lies, so far, at least 129 of ’em. And counting. Well, DUH! That IS how politicians get elected after all. And most of the folks who manage to get a shot at the position are quite accomplished at it.

Bill Clinton was notable, and his wife is no slouch. Obama was quite slick at it and Dubya & Company told 935 thoroughly documented whoppers to get “us” to attack, kill, maim, and displace hundreds-of-thousands of innocent Iraqi men, women and children. Etc.

So, since as POTUS (President Of The United States), Mr. Trump will almost certainly be responsible for killing, etc. large numbers of innocent folks, being a bit of a sociopath — maybe even a psychopath — will help. And to feel better about it — and possibly avoid PTSD — he can follow previous Presidents and call most of those innocent victims “collateral damage” instead of “murder victims.”

The bottom line is that to serve as president, sociopathy etc. has become helpful and lying is necessary. As Historian Zinn put it, “If governments told the truth, they wouldn’t last very long.”

L. Reichard White, “Is Trump Nuts? Does it Matter?”, Libertarian Enterprise, 2017-03-26.

March 9, 2017

“… we’re psychologically training an entire swath of the population to be crazy”

Filed under: Health, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:12

At Ace of Spades H.Q., Ace talks about the huge rise in reported personality disorders among Millennials:

Therapeutic behavioral conditioning trains people how to de-trigger themselves from triggers that cause panic, anxiety, depression, or bad behavior (drinking, etc.) That sort of behavioral conditioning teaches people to be mindful of their triggers, to understand that the trigger is just a tic with no real world purpose, and to train themselves to associate the trigger not with an adverse behavioral pattern (being in crowd triggers claustrophobia-like panic) but to train the trigger to lead to some other more benign consequence (being in crowd triggers recitation of the Ode to Joy).

The idea is that your brain has miswired itself to connect an input (too many people close to me) to an undesirable psycho-somatic reaction (heart racing, extreme anxiety), and that it takes a determined attempt to reprogram the brain and untangle those wires so that the triggering input leads first to a benign output and, ultimately, no particular output at all.

This works. Allen Carr’s How to Quit Smoking the Easy Way taught me how to re-wire the trigger (the anxiety/stress one feels when one’s 45 minute nicotine clock runs down to 0) into a different behavioral pattern (go outside, gulp in some fresh air, pace around a little bit like I used to do when smoking). It also taught me that the stress of not smoking was irrational, and that it would be helpful to view the addiction as a malignant parasite inside of me trying to manipulate my brain into keeping it fed while it ruined my body.

Works.

[…]

He realized that the process could be reversed. As brains with bad triggers could be un-triggered to be healthy, so too could completely healthy brains be deliberately taught to be triggered by harmless things and bring about various mental ailments, panic, anxiety, irrational emotional outbursts, a compulsion to violence, tantrums, etc.

And he brought this theory to a social psychologist named Haidt and asked him “Is this possible?” And Haidt said, “Damn it, not only is that possible, I think you’ve hit upon a very real malapplication of psychological techniques — we’re psychologically training an entire swath of the population to be crazy.”

Okay, he didn’t really say that. But that’s kind of the gist.

Definitely read it.

There’s no great mystery to what’s going on. People who train themselves to be cool and clear of mind will find themselves becoming more cool and clear of mind.

People who train themselves to go to pieces over every damn thing will find themselves getting better and better at going to pieces over every damn thing.

When you valorize a mental disorder and turn it into a virtue to be cultivated, guess what you’re gonna get? More mental disorders.

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