Scott Alexander writes a lot. He's a psychiatrist, but talks about all kinds of stuff (in his about page, he calls out cognitive science, psychology, history, politics, medicine, religion, statistics, transhumanism, corny puns, and applied eschatology). Every time I read something of his, I'm struck by how reasonable he is. Evidently, I'm not alone: his posts each attract hundreds of comments. And he gets linked here a good bit. So a long-time reader of his combed through all his writings of the past decade-or-so and assembled this best-hits list. It's going to take me several happy months to get through it.
From Frontiers in Psychology, a list of inaccurate, misleading, misused, ambiguous, and logically confused words and phrases. "The goal of this article is to promote clear thinking and clear writing among students and teachers of psychological science by curbing terminological misinformation and confusion. To this end, we present a provisional list of 50 commonly used terms in psychology, psychiatry, and allied fields that should be avoided, or at most used sparingly and with explicit caveats."
"Humans as Superorganisms: How Microbes, Viruses, Imprinted Genes and Other Selfish Entities Shape Our Behavior" by Peter Kramer and Paola Bressan discusses the idea that an individual homo sapiens is only one component of the human superorganism we call a person, focusing on the psychological and psychiatric ramifications thereof. (Paola Bressan previously.)
Could depression be an infectious disease? Might hallucinogenic mushrooms be an effective treatment for depression (New York Times link)? Do antipsychotic drugs hinder long-term recovery from episodes of schizophrenia?
They say that one night of ayahuasca is like ten years seeing a psychiatrist.
Twilight in the Box. "The suicide statistics, the squalor and the recidivism haven’t ended solitary confinement. Maybe the brain studies will." [Via]
A new dystopian novel in the classic mode takes the form of a dictionary of madness. Sam Kriss reviews a recent book. [more inside]
National Institute of Mental Health director Thomas Insell reports that NIMH will phase out its reliance on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), in favor of a revamped psychiatric diagnostic system based on "genetics, imaging, cognitive science, and other levels of information to lay the foundation for a new classification system." [more inside]
"Every year thousands of westerners flock to India to meditate, practice yoga, and seek spiritual transcendence. Some find what they're looking for. Others give up and go home. A few become so consumed by their quest for godliness that it kills them."
Body Integrity Identity Disorder is when a subject feels that he or she would be happier living as an amputee. This raises several questions: should amputation be offered as a treatment to people suffering from Body Integrity Identity Disorder? Or, should the alien limb be integrated into the body image? To what extent is the disorder psychological or neurological? Regardless, further research is needed. That said, in talking about newly categorized disorders such as BIID, do we spread "semantic contagion"? [previously]
Falling STAR*D?: It is common practice for psychiatrists to switch depressive patients between different antidepressants if their current drug does not evince a symptomatic response. Despite clinical wisdom supporting this, little empirical, controlled evidence exists to direct “switching” protocols (e.g. if a patient with Z characteristics is on drug X, is it usually better to switch to drug A, B, or C? Will switching help at all?) in the psychopharmacological treatment of depression. The NIMH-funded STAR*D (Sequenced Alternatives to Relieve Depression) study aimed to address these questions of treatment direction in a very large (n>4000), “real-world” sample using a multi-phase treatment plan with different drugs (and cognitive therapy) at every step to maximize chances of eventual remission. Overall, the NIMH reported that about 67% of patients eventually achieved remission, with few differences in effectiveness between different types of treatment at each step. However, researchers and commentators have raised concerns regarding inconsistent reporting of outcomes, after-the-fact changes in study design and analysis, and other issues that may have inflated, partially invalidated, or misrepresented widely reported treatment outcomes. These inequities may also have implications for the secondary moderator analyses (i.e. does trait A predict switching to X or Y is better?) that were a major reason for the study. [more inside]
In DSM 5- 'Living Document' or 'Dead on Arrival', Allen Frances, chair of the DSM-IV development committee details some of the problems with the DSM-5 development process and alludes to some of the current controversies. The post is part of his ongoing series DSM-5 In Distress. [more inside]
The Brain on Trial. Advances in brain science are calling into question the volition behind many criminal acts. A leading neuroscientist describes how the foundations of our criminal-justice system are beginning to crumble, and proposes a new way forward for law and order.
"We may someday find that many types of bad behavior have a basic biological explanation—as has happened with schizophrenia, epilepsy, depression, and mania."[more inside]
The epidemic of mental illness plaguing the Americans and the overmedication of psychiatric patients are in part artifacts of the diagnostic method. [more inside]
Is the contemporary epidemic of mental illness fueled by useless or even harmful anti-depressants and other psychoactive drugs? A review of books by Irving Kirsch, Robert Whitaker, and Daniel Carlat, notes that per Kirsch, "[a]n active placebo is one that itself produces side effects...there was no difference between the antidepressant and the active placebo" (new research claims very severe cases are different). Whitaker argues that psychoactive drugs may actively "disturb neurotransmitter function" and cause mental illnesses which a mounting cascade of drugs are then needed to manage. (previously, previously)
The Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Wellbutrin, Celexa, Effexor, Valium, Klonopin, Ativan, Restoril, Xanax, Adderall, Ritalin, Haldol, Risperdal, Seroquel, Ambien, Lunesta, Elavil, Trazodone War New York Magazine's Jennifer Senior writes on prescription drug (ab)use among soldiers and veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. [more inside]
At midnight tonight, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) released a proposed draft of the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). [more inside]
“The psychoanalytic mystique was overwhelming. It was a little bit like the evangelical movement.” How Aaron Beck and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helped increase empiricism in psychotherapy.
Are you batshitinsane? Viruses and/or bacteria may be the cause.
Psychiatry in Pictures is a monthly feature of The British Journal of Psychiatry which often demonstrates art created by the psychopathologically afflicted. Other installments include portraits of important figures in the history of psychiatry, paintings drawn during art therapy, and photographs of (quite inhumane) psychiatric treatments.
INTERVOICE (International Network for Training, Education and Research into Hearing Voices) "offers information, publications, research, and good practice on hearing voices and other key issues." Voice hearing is surprisingly common, even normal. Many people find it a pleasurable and positive experience. Find everything from stencil graffiti to a recent New York Times magazine article on the work of the Hearing Voices Movement. (w i k i s)
Dictionary of Disorder - shaping the DSM
Oh... the evils of psychotherapy. And they are many - by turning to therapists, we don't get the strong emotional bonds that are the benefit of sharing your trouble with friends. (More Inside)
Interview with Profiler Roy Hazelwood. Enough to make you feel a little less safer, and to marvel at both the "the infinity of darkness," the depths of potential monstrosity, and the ability of some to understand broken minds and bent hearts. "'If I were to give you each a test, could you take it the way you think this offender would take it?' We said yes.... Both of us came out as paranoid schizophrenics. The psychiatrist was astounded. We sat there and tried to take the test as we thought the guy we had in mind would take the test. "
Stranger is as stranger does Lets see, the older I get, the more eccentric I become. Boy, am I in trouble.
Utah Leads Nation in Rate of Anti-Depressant Use. It is interesting (to me) in that the people doing the study credit a "Mother of Zion" syndrome of married Mormon women putting on the happy face regardless of how happy they truly are. My state is up at the top also. Could be all the rain I guess. . .*sigh*
Chicken Soup for the soulless? Is Psychology screwing us all up? From messing up the civil rights movement , medicalizing grief, inventing faux illnesses and treating them , planting false memories , to diagnosing 25% of the United States with PTSD on October 11th, the industry/profession of psychology and its drug prescribing cousin psychiatry seem to be both the sloppiest and most ethically bankrupt scientific field. Is a diet of steady chicken soup for the soul actually toxic?