Categories
Videos

Through another’s eyes: Capgras Syndrome

Through Another’s Eyes is a video series that explores how different individuals perceive the world. Capgras Syndrome is very rare, but it reminds us how much our brains do behind the scenes, and is a helpful reminder to be patient with others.

 

For more about Capgras Syndrome:

When a ‘Duplicate’ Family Moves In by Carol W. Berman, M.D. in The New York Times

Seeing Imposters: When Loved Ones Suddenly Aren’t by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich on Radiolab

Categories
Autism Spectrum Disorder

Churchill’s Unlikely Source of Success: The Black Dog

Would you believe me if I said World War II may have been won as a result of something as simple as a black dog? No, not the black dog as in the barking canine. The term “black dog” was made infamous by Winston Churchill when he used it to describe his periods of depression. The term is still in use today as synonymous with depression.

Churchill was born into a family that had a history of mental illness. His father had symptoms of schizophrenia and his daughter was also diagnosed with major depressive disorder. Churchill referred to his own mental illness, as his “black dog” (NAMI). Churchill used his experience with depression to construct a realistic analysis of the different threats from the warring states during World War II. It was his depression that convinced him of Hitler’s threatening outlook and intentions. While the rulers before Churchill tried to appease Hitler, hoping that it may be enough to stop the war, Churchill actively resisted Hitler’s regime (NAMI). Because of his “black dog”, Churchill had enough insight to realize that Hitler could not be stopped through the simple means those before him had attempted.

His psychiatrist, Anthony Storr, also explained how Churchill used depression to help him make vital political decisions. Storr states, “Only a man who knew what it was to discern a gleam of hope in a hopeless situation, whose courage was beyond reason and whose aggressive spirit burned at its fiercest when he was hemmed in and surrounded by enemies, could have given emotional reality to the words of defiance which rallied and sustained us in the menacing summer of 1940.”

As the National Alliance of Mental Illness states, “It was Churchill’s experience with mental illness that ultimately allowed him to be a successful leader…Churchill’s depressive realism helped change the course of world history. He not only refused to submit to his black dog, he was able to use it to his advantage.”  Churchill’s example is a wonderful illustration of learning from, overcoming, attaining strength, and reaching success from a mental illness. As Churchill himself says, “Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts”. Churchill’s courage to overcome his black dog of depression may very well have changed the course of history forever.

 

References:

NAMI. “Winston Churchill and his “Black Dog” that Helped Win World War II.” . National Alliance on Mental Illness, n.d. Web. 4 May 2014.

Categories
Autism Spectrum Disorder

“Narrative Enhancement Cognitive Behavioral Therapy”

By: Yasharah Raza

There is no doubt that a stigma towards depression and mental illness exists in society, but when the stigma that is prevalent is internalized, there can be serious negative outcomes. Internalized stigma can lead to many complications, and can worsen the symptoms of already existing consequences of mental illness. Scientific evidence that shows that in 1 out of every 3 people suffering from mental illness, the rate of internalized stigma is higher, which compromises the outcomes of recovery (Yanos). A study performed by Philip Yanos explores an original idea known as Narrative Enhancement Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (NECT for short), which attempts to treat and address internalized stigma.  Self-stigma, as internalized stigma is termed in the study, can play a major role in the change in identity of an ostracized individual. As a consequence, the individual to lose hope, and begin to see themselves as deserving of the negative attitudes held about them. NECT is a group-based therapy treatment which attempts to aid in recovery from internalized stigma.

There are three main components to NECT:

1. Psychoeducation.

2. Cognitive Restructuring

3. Narrative and Positive Identity

 Psychoeducation is essential in that it provides current patients with a set of objectives, accurate facts about their mental illness, and also explains why societal stigmas and beliefs are incorrect (Yanos). The main focus of this aspect of treatment is to generate a dialogue between professionals and their patients.

Cognitive Restructuring is vital since self-stigma is often just a set of inaccurate, negative beliefs that an individual has conceptualized about themselves. It is necessary to restructure this set of beliefs because these beliefs are often the core issues of the individuals’ identity and can thwart recovery. This is different from psychoeducation in that cognitive restructuring takes the information learned and applies it to the individual. Yanos and his team takes this concept of cognitive restructuring, and apply it to individuals so that their dysfunctional beliefs can be challenged and replaced.

Narrative and positive identities are also important factors because, as Yanos puts it, “self-stigma is not merely a matter of inaccurate beliefs, but also infects the stories one tells about oneself”. The goal of this aspect of treatment is to help a person construct a new, positive story about his or her life in addition to debunking their false beliefs. Yanos states that a transformation of one’s own personal narrative is a central aspect of this treatment, however; for a patient who has undergone severe depression, or other severe mental illnesses, this can be a daunting task.

This is an incredibly interesting treatment approach. It may seem simple on the surface, but the difficulty lies in the transformation of perspectives in the patients. It is amazing how a personal story can empower as much as it can cause detriment. Through NECT it may be possible to rid society of internalized stigma, one story at a time.  

 

References:

Philip T. Yanos, David Roe, and Paul H. Lysaker (2011). Narrative Enhancement and Cognitive Therapy: A New Group-Based Treatment for Internalized Stigma Among Persons with Severe Mental Illness. International Journal of Group Psychotherapy: Vol. 61, No. 4, pp. 576-595. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3191919/>

Categories
Autism Spectrum Disorder

A Game of Taboo

Taboo. Forbidden. Off-limits. Unspeakable.

To us and many others, Taboo is just a fun party game, eliciting memories of childhood. The game itself is played by forming teams and having a person draw a card that contains a word that must be explained and guessed by the others on his team, all the while avoiding the use of a specific five words. The taboo words. If these words are spoken, a person from the opposite team hits the buzzer, and play proceeds to the other team.

For those suffering with mental illnesses, Taboo is much more than a game, it becomes their life. As soon as it is mentioned that the day that he took off from work, or the day she stayed home from school was due to a mental illness such as depression, rather than a more accepted illness, like the common cold, a person has spoken the taboo word, and is then associated with a certain set of stereotypes and is stigmatized. Rather than helping and showing sympathy, as society would do to someone who had the cold, or the flu, society tends to shuns or even look down at those who grapple for help with their mental illness. Because of this stigma, many people are unable to seek treatment and are unable to heal from their ailment. Rather than being able to speak openly about their condition, those who are victims of stigma deny their illness to everybody around them and even end up in denial themselves. It becomes taboo to say openly, and even becomes taboo within oneself, because admitting that there is a problem to oneself means succumbing and “being weak or damaged” (Abrams).

Allison Abrams, a topic expert contributor on depression from an association that advocates ethical therapy called Good Therapy, even refers to depression as “the last taboo”, the last major societal prohibition. The irony exists in the fact that, by the year 2020, the Center for Disease Control estimates depression to be the second most common health problem in the world (Abrams). Abrams suggests that media be used as a tool to combat this taboo against depression and mental illness at large. Media often tends to set the norm for a society, and if this powerful tool is used to create widespread support for those suffering from depression and other currently stigmatized mental illnesses, then society would be taking a step in the right direction towards destigmatizing mental illness and allowing those who are suffering to get the help they need.

References:

Abrams, Allison. “The Last Taboo: Breaking Down the Stigma of Depression.” Good Therapy. Good Therapy, 21 Aug 2013. Web. 28 Mar 2014.

Categories
Autism Spectrum Disorder

Taking Courage in the Home of the Brave

The Land of Opportunity, The Land of Freedom, and The Land of Milk and Honey are all common nicknames for the United States of America; however this promising nation of 313.9 million people [1] is also a nation with one of the highest rates of major depressive disorder in the world [2]. As many as 1 in 10 people in the United States suffer from depression [2], yet not much is being done to eradicate the stigma that surrounds this illness.

http://www.healthline.com/health/depression/statistics-infographic
http://www.healthline.com/health/depression/statistics-infographic

So what is depression? It’s much more than the context we are used to hearing it in and goes far beyond just being sad or upset. There are many different types of depression, but the most common symptoms of depression are a sudden loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities, thoughts of suicide, and prolonged feelings of desolation, hopelessness, and worthlessness [3].  The effects of depression do not end with its symptoms, and in many states there are strong correlations between rates of depression and rates of obesity, heart disease, stroke, sleeping disorders, lack of education, and less access to medical insurance [2]. 

60-80% of all cases of depression can easily be treated with brief psychotherapy and antidepressants. But the worst part is that over 80% of the people who suffer from symptoms of depression are not even receiving treatment for it [2]! You may be wondering why this is. Many times it is because of the label they are given by society; the stigma surrounding this illness.  The unfortunate reality is that this stigma, this disgrace associated with a particular aspect of a one’s very being is far too prevalent in today’s society. Those who suffer from clinical depression, have to deal not only with the hardships associated with their ailment, but also the stigma and labels given to them by an ignorant society. For those who suffer from depression and the stigma associated with it, although they are living in this world with 7 billion other human beings, they feel absolutely alone and therefore suffer alone. Many times people tend to disregard those who may be suffering from clinical depression as just “a negative person” and because such a stigma exists towards, those who are actually suffering from it, avoid seeking the help they need in order to avoid being associated with these labels.

This stigma becomes a very heavy burden on the individual, and in many cases pushes a person to avoid treating their ailment— either through medication, or through therapy– altogether.  To those who suffer from depression, and to the society at large, I urge you to take courage in this Home of the Brave, maintain a positive outlook, and eradicate these stigmas once and for all.

 

[1] “Population (Total) Data | Table.” The World Bank. The World Bank Group, n.d. Web. 6 Feb 2014. <http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.TOTL>.

[2] “Unhappiness by the Numbers.” Healthline. Healthline, n.d. Web. 6 Feb 2014. <http://www.healthline.com/health/depression/statistics-infographic>.

[3] “Depression and College Students.” NIMH. National Institutes of Health, n.d. Web. 6 Feb 2014. <http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression-and-college-students/index.shtml>.

[4] Image: 2012. Graphic. BioQuick NewsWeb. 18 Feb 2014. <http://www.bioquicknews.com/node/885>.