Quantum Psychology

Posted by Maddalena Frau on November 6, 2014 at 1:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Connoisseurs know that my work on quantum consciousness has much to say about how to frame a scientific psychology that integrates all of psychology and most of psychotherapy.


What is quantum psychology?

Quantum psychology is based on quantum principles. Its primary premise is that all objects of our experience—sensing, feeling, thinking, and intuiting—are quantum objects that have a two realm existence—possibility and actuality. As quantum possibilities, they are embedded in a holistic nonlocal consciousness; as actualities they make up four independent worlds: the physical (for sensing), the vital (for feeling), the mental (for thinking meaning), the archetypal or supramental (for intuiting). These worlds do not directly interact; their interactions are mediated by the signaless communication of nonlocal consciousness.


Why quantum psychology?

Quantum psychology is necessary to resolve all the dichotomies of our experiences and in this way integrate all the psychologies that treat all the varieties of our experiences piecemeal.


Where do we apply quantum psychology?

Well, there is politics here and vested interests that want to keep away the new. The new makes people defensive especially when we are talking about big changes like a paradigm shift. I think the application will begin with you the lay-reader first who like self-help for which quantum psychology is appropriate as you will see when the project is finished. Individual therapists will adapt some of the practices of quantum psychology piecemeal next.

With time, as the philosopher Thomas Kuhn said, old paradigmers never change, but they do die. I think the new generation of psychologists will see the strength of the quantum integral approach quickly, one unified science within consciousness quickly and from then on, there is no going back. When the younger generation takes over the academe, academe will change.


When will the transition be complete?

A few decades perhaps.



We need activism. There is a danger in what is happening with materialist science, especially psychology, that surreptitiously is killing the individualistic human spirit that has made America, but few people notice it. Materialist psychology is objective; for materialists it is best if everybody were just the average Joe or Jane because prediction and control would be so simple then. Today, journalists and politicians talk about rampant individualism, but what they mean is narcissism, a very predictable self-centered mold in which everybody fits in. The alternative psychologies, especially depth psychology, humanistic psychology, and positive psychology promote and uphold the individual through the emphasis of their very individual creative pursuit of the timeless archetypes.

The average approach in any garb, be it cognitive/behavioral science or Ken Wilber’s type of integral psychology, that tries to undermine the age-old archetypes is ultimately the biggest threat to the real American individuality, to the American dream.


As James Hillman said, “{Ordinary] activism looks to the facts, psychological activism inquires into essences.” Depth psychologists already talk about archetypal activism. If we don’t save the absolute archetypes of timeless truth, we get Fox news. Quantum psychology has an even more general suggestion: quantum activism.

The motto of quantum activism is to change yourself to excel in your individuality (Carl Jung called this individuation) and simultaneously help the society to become a collection of heterogeneous individuals, not homogeneous machines!


When Integral Psychology is at hand, what then?:

The Vision of Quantum Psychology.


In quantum psychology we recognize the full import of what the humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers first hinted: to become a person, we need to be the proud creative producer of a new idea that is my idea. Until that happens, face it: we are just repeating and analyzing other people’s ideas and opinions. To become a quantum society we have to change the essence of society from conditioning to creativity; we have to help others in the society to be creative.


What if somebody has neurosis so severe that creativity is impossible, the rigor of the creative process is unbearable.

The quantum psychotherapist (and I don’t necessarily mean a professional) has to lend to such a person his or her creative acumen. If not you, who will? Remember the cognitive/behavioral therapists will always try to adapt their clients to the established cultural complex.


How to do it?

Quantum physics has given us two ideas with which to move from “I” to “we” consciousness. The first idea is nonlocality. When I am influencing somebody through local means, local communication, I try to homogenize the person with me—simple human nature. When I communicate with someone with nonverbal and nonlocal consciousness, I empower him or her with the creative power of downward causation.


Have you noticed how in the current culture, locality has taken over as our means of communication?

Locality gives us a sense of connectedness—that part is good. But the tendency to homogenize is the problem. We should use the local to connect, but use the connection to trigger and explore our nonlocal consciousness so all of us can prosper individually to fulfill our own creative agenda.


For the therapist or activist helper, what works better is establish a tangled hierarchical connection of circular causality with the client and investigate the archetype of wholeness together. If that sounds intriguing, it is not that hard, you will see.


Ken Wilber gave us the idea of a four-quadrant consciousness that introduced the notion of “we”-psychology.

Unfortunately, Wilber meant the cultural we, the local homogeneous we. Quantum psychology is much more ambitious, much more in tune with the creative purpose of the evolution of consciousness.


The poet John Keats wrote: See the world as Vale for soul-making.


If you do, he wrote to a friend, you will see the purpose of the world. The soul is our archetypal body, the body that we cannot manifest yet except through mental creativity. But so long as we are creative, and helping others to be creative, we are okay, we are into soul-making.



Herbs and Supplements for Depression

Posted by Maddalena Frau on March 25, 2014 at 1:45 AM Comments comments (0)

Depression is a serious medical condition characterized by low mood, lack of energy, sadness, insomnia, and an inability to enjoy life.

Although anyone may experience one or more of these symptoms upon occasion, true depression (sometimes called clinical depression, or major depression) lasts for weeks or more. Until the introduction of antidepressant medications in the mid-20th century, modern medicine could offer few solutions to reverse the debilitating effects of the disease.

With the realization that depression is a physiological disorder caused by disturbances in brain neurotransmitters, rather than a purely psychological disease, scientists worked to develop medications to correct these imbalances. Modern antidepressant drugs work by boosting brain cells’ access to brain messenger chemicals such as serotonin and norepinephrine.

Although modern science has only recently learned to address the underlying causes of depression, for centuries folk medicine has offered some mildly effective treatments. Among these are St. John’s Wort, the omega-3 fatty acids, and other herbal and nutritional supplements.

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)

This venerable herb has been cultivated in Europe for centuries, where folk healers have used it to dispel melancholia (which we now call clinical depression) since the days of ancient Greece.

In modern Germany, St. John’s wort is routinely prescribed to treat mild to moderate depression among both children and adults. Some studies have concluded that the herb may be as effective in the treatment of mild to moderate depression as modern antidepressant drug therapy with fewer side effects. 

One caveat: St. John’s wort interacts with numerous drugs, and should never be taken without a doctor’s approval, especially by someone who is presently taking other medications.

Chemicals in the herb are believed to relieve depression, much like modern antidepressant medications, by blocking the reuptake of serotonin by nerve cells, making more serotonin available to the brain. For this reason, it should never be taken with a prescription antidepressant, as a rare, but potentially dangerous excess of serotonin could result.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Countless well-controlled studies have concluded that omega-3 fatty acids, obtained primarily from fatty cold-water fish and fish oil supplements, are crucial for proper regulation of a number of brain functions, including mood.

The omega-3 fatty acids are a group of three chemicals, EPA, DHA and ALA, which are essential nutrients. They must be obtained through the diet, and the body must have an adequate supply to function properly. EPA and DHA are especially important. The brain is nearly 60 percent fat by weight, much of that fat consisting of omega-3 fatty acids, which serve as structural components of the brain’s cells and tissues. As integral components of nerve cell membranes, they play a crucial role in allowing the efficient passage of messenger chemicals.

Many medical professionals believe that depression is rooted in faulty brain chemical signaling, and that, as a result, an adequate supply of omega-3 fatty acids promotes optimal functioning. Studies show that supplemental omega-3 fatty acids may help regulate mood and reduce the likelihood of depression, while also improving the effectiveness of antidepressant medications, should they become necessary. Some studies suggest that an intake of at least 2 g of mixed EPA/DHA per day is beneficial.

SAM-e & Folate

S-adenosyl-methionine (SAM-e) is a common chemical present in every cell in the body. Through simple chemical reactions, it is converted in the body into other important chemicals, including the mood-regulating brain chemicals, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. Available as a prescription drug in some European countries, SAM-e is sold as a safe, well-tolerated supplement in the U.S.

Studies have shown that levels of SAM-e are abnormally low in the brains of people diagnosed with depression. Clinical trials suggest that oral supplementation with SAM-e reverses this deficit and significantly improves mood. Some trials have concluded that SAM-e may be as effective as older tricyclic antidepressant medications with fewer side effects and a quicker onset of action.

Therapeutic doses may range from 400 mg to 1,600 mg per day. For best results, SAM-e should be taken with B vitamins, including B6, B12, and folic acid. Adequate levels of these vitamins will ensure that SAM-e is not converted to the amino acid, homocysteine, which has been implicated in atherosclerosis, a root cause of cardiovascular disease. Folic acid, also known as folate, is also under investigation as a therapy for mild depression. Folate is often abnormally low among people with depression, and some clinical trials indicate that adding folate to the diet may improve the effectiveness of modern antidepressant drugs.

How to manage anxiety

Posted by Maddalena Frau on February 5, 2014 at 2:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Everyone occasionally experiences some anxiety. It is a normal response to a stressful event or perceived threat. Anxiety can range from feeling uneasy and worried to severe panic. The aim of this Tip Sheet is to inform people about what anxiety is and to provide some tips to help manage anxiety when it becomes a problem.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is an uncomfortable feeling of fear or impending disaster and reflects the thoughts and bodily reactions a person has when they are presented with an event or situation that they cannot manage or undertake successfully. When a person is experiencing anxiety their thoughts are actively assessing the situation, sometimes even automatically and outside of conscious attention, and developing predictions of how well they will cope based on past experiences.

Although some anxiety is a normal response to a stressful situation, when the anxiety level is too high a person may not come up with an effective way of managing the stressful or threatening situation. They might "freeze", avoid the situation, or even fear they may do something that is out of character.

Anxiety generally causes people to experience the following responses:

  • An intense physical response due to arousal of the nervous system leading to physical symptoms such as a racing heartbeat.
  • A cognitive response which refers to thoughts about the situation and the person's ability to cope with it. For someone experiencing high anxiety this often means interpreting situations negatively and having unhelpful thoughts such as "This is really bad" or "I can't cope with this".
  • A behavioural response which may include avoidance or uncharacteristic behaviour including aggression, restlessness or irrational behaviour such as repeated checking.
  • An emotional response reflecting the high level of distress the person is experiencing.

What causes anxiety?

There is no one cause of high anxiety. Rather, there are a number of factors that may contribute to the development of anxious thoughts and behaviour. Some causes of anxiety are listed below.

Hereditary factors 

Research has shown that some people with a family history of anxiety are more likely (though not always) to also experience anxiety. 


Biochemical factors

Research suggests that people who experience a high level of anxiety may have an imbalance of chemicals in the brain that regulate feelings and physical reactions. Medication that helps to correct this imbalance can relieve some symptoms of anxiety in some people.


Life experiences

Certain life experiences can make people more susceptible to anxiety. Events such as a family break-up, abuse, ongoing bullying at school, and workplace conflict can be stress factors that challenge a person's coping resources and leave them vulnerable to experiencing anxiety.


Personality style

Certain personality types are more at risk of high anxiety than others. People who have a tendency to be shy, have low self-esteem, and a poor capacity to cope are more likely to experience high levels of anxiety.


Thinking styles

Certain thinking styles make people more at risk of high anxiety than others. For instance, people who are perfectionistic or expect to be in constant control of their emotions are more at risk of worrying when they feel stress.


Behavioural styles

Certain ways of behaving also place people at risk of maintaining high anxiety. For instance, people who are avoidant are not likely to learn ways of handling stressful situations, fears and high anxiety.


What are the symptoms of anxiety?

The experience of anxiety will vary from person to person. Central features of anxiety include ongoing worry or thoughts that are distressing and that interfere with daily living. In addition to worry or negative thinking, symptoms of anxiety may include:

  • Confusion
  • Trembling
  • Sweating
  • Faintness/dizziness
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Upset stomach or nausea
  • Restlessness
  • Avoidance behaviour
  • Irritability

How is anxiety treated?

Psychological treatment, particularly cognitive-behaviour therapy, has been found to be very effective in the treatment of anxiety. Cognitive behaviour therapy is made up of two components. The first component, cognitive therapy, is one of the most common and well supported treatments for anxiety. It is based on the idea that a person's thoughts in response to an event or situation causes the difficult feelings and behaviours (i.e., it is often not an event that causes distress but a person's interpretation of that event). The aim of cognitive therapy is to help people to identify unhelpful beliefs and thought patterns, which are often automatic, negative and irrational, and replace them with more positive and helpful ways of thinking. The second component of cognitive-behaviour therapy involves assistance with changing behaviours that are associated with anxiety, such as avoidance or restlessness. These may be dealt with through learning relaxation techniques and through changes in the way that certain situations are handled.

Other treatments used to address anxiety include medication and making lifestyle changes such as increasing exercise, reducing caffeine and other dietary changes.

Your general practitioner or psychologist will be able to provide you with more information on these treatment options.

Tips on how to manage anxiety

Identification of stress and trigger factors

The first step in managing anxiety is to identify the specific situations that are making you stressed or anxious and when you are having trouble coping. One way to do this is to keep a diary of symptoms and what is happening when anxiety occurs. It is also helpful to identify any worrying thoughts as this can lead to finding ways to solve the specific problem that is of concern.

People tend to have a greater ability to manage stressful events than they sometimes realise. Once you have identified a specific situation that is causing the anxiety, problem-solving is a useful technique to help resolve anxiety by addressing the problem. Structured problem solving involves the following steps:

  1. Identify the problem. When you have identified the situations that are contributing to your anxiety, write down the problem and be very specific in your description, including what is happening, where, how, with whom, why, and what you would like to change.
  2. Come up with as many options as possible for solving the problem, and consider the likely chances that these will help you overcome your problem.
  3. Select your preferred option.
  4. Develop a plan for how to try out the option selected and then carry it out.
  5. If this option does not solve the problem remember that there are other options to try.
  6. Go back to the list and select your next preferred option.

Breathing exercises

When people feel anxious they often breathe more rapidly. This rapid breathing can lead to many of the unpleasant feelings such as light-headedness and confusion that may be experienced when anxious. Learning a breathing technique to slow down breathing can often relieve symptoms and help a person to think more clearly.

The following simple breathing technique can slow down breathing and reduce symptoms of anxiety. You should begin by timing your breathing and then complete the following steps.

  • Breathe in through your nose to the count of three (3 seconds) and say to yourself: "IN, TWO, THREE".
  • Breathe out through your nose, again counting to three, and say to yourself: "RELAX, TWO, THREE".
  • Keep repeating this for two to three minutes, and then time your breathing.

This breathing technique can be used to slow down breathing whenever a person feels anxious and can be done anywhere without anyone else noticing.

Relaxation techniques

People who feel anxious most of the time report that they have trouble relaxing. Knowing how to release muscle tension is an important anxiety treatment. Relaxing can bring about a general feeling of calm, both physically and mentally. Learning a relaxation technique and practising it regularly can help a person to maintain a manageable level of anxiety. A psychologist or other health professional can teach you relaxation techniques or they can be self-taught by using books or CDs that guide you through the steps.

Thought management

Thought management exercises are useful when a person is troubled by ongoing or recurring distressing thoughts. There is a range of thought management techniques. For instance, gentle distraction using pleasant thoughts can help take attention away from unpleasant thoughts. Alternatively, one can learn ‘mindfulness techniques' to redirect attention from negative thinking. A simple technique is ‘thought replacement' or using coping statements. Develop a set of statements that will counteract worrying thoughts (e.g., "This is difficult but I have been through it before and have got through it okay", "Hang in there, this will not last much longer"). Substitute one of the reassuring or coping statements for the troubling thought. The choice of thought management technique will depend on the type of anxiety problem. A psychologist can help you decide on thought management strategies that are likely to be most helpful.

Lifestyle changes

  • Plan to take part in a pleasant activity each day.
    This doesn't have to be something big or expensive as long as it is enjoyable and provides something to look forward to that will take your mind off your worries.
  • Increase exercise.
    Regular exercise will help to reduce anxiety by providing an outlet to let off stress that has been built up in your body.
  • Reduce caffeine intake.
    Caffeine is a stimulant and one of its side-effects is to keep us feeling alert and awake. It also produces the same physiological arousal response that is triggered when we are subjected to stress. Too much coffee will keep us tense, and aroused, leaving us more vulnerable to anxiety.
  • Reduce alcohol intake.
    Alcohol is frequently used to help deal with stress, anxiety and depression. However, too much alcohol leaves us more vulnerable to anxiety and depression.
  • Improve time-management skills.
    Having a busy lifestyle can add daily pressure to your life and serve to increase stress and anxiety. Much of this stress may be associated with poor time management. Plan and schedule time throughout the day but be prepared to be flexible. Ensure to plan some rest time and some leisure activities and be realistic about time limitations, not scheduling too much into the day.


Other resources on anxiety

Anxiety disorders

For some people the feeling of high anxiety can become severe and interfere with their functioning, making it difficulty for them to cope with normal daily demands. If this high anxiety persists over a long period of time an anxiety disorder may be diagnosed. Almost 30 per cent of the population will experience some form of anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. A range of anxiety disorders can be diagnosed depending on the symptoms experienced. People with an anxiety problem can frequently experience a number of specific anxiety disorders at the same time. If a person is concerned about having an anxiety disorder it is important to seek professional help to determine the best form of treatment to manage the anxiety.

Generalised Anxiety Disorder. This disorder involves persistent and excessive worry, often about daily situations like work, family or health, with associated physical symptoms. This worry can be difficult to control, leading to problems in concentration, restlessness and difficulty sleeping.

Specific phobia. People with a specific phobia experience extreme anxiety and fear if exposed to a particular feared object or situation. Common phobias include fear of flying, spiders and other animals, heights or small spaces.

Panic Disorder. Panic Disorder occurs when a person has sudden surges of overwhelming fear that come without warning. These panic attacks often only last a few minutes, but repeated episodes may continue to occur.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). In OCD a person has repeated, upsetting thoughts called obsessions (e.g., "there are germs everywhere"). To make these thoughts go away, the person will often perform certain behaviours, called compulsions, over and over again (e.g., repeated hand washing). These compulsions can take over a person's life and while people with OCD usually know that their obsessions and compulsions are an over-reaction, they can't stop them.

Social Anxiety Disorder. In Social Anxiety Disorder the person has severe anxiety about being criticised or negatively evaluated by others. This leads to the person avoiding social events and being afraid of doing something that leads to embarrassment or humiliation.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD can occur after exposure to a frightening and traumatic event. People with PTSD re-experience the traumatic event through memories and/or dreams, they tend to avoid places, people, or other things that remind them of the event, and are extremely sensitive to normal life experiences that are associated with the event.

Flower Symbols

Posted by Maddalena Frau on October 14, 2013 at 1:20 AM Comments comments (0)

Since antiquity, flower symbolism has been a significant part of cultures around the world. Flowers accompany us in every major event in
life--birth, marriage, holidays, graduations, illness, and finally
death. Flowers have been grown in decorative gardens and used as
adornment for centuries on virtually every continent on earth. Finding
the right flower to give to someone your love is an art. Make sure to
include a note about the meaning of the flower!

Flower Symbolism and Religion

Flower SymbolismFlower symbolism began with many ancient religions. Many flowers were originally linked to ancient deities including Venus, Diana, Jupiter
and Apollo. During the Renaissance, nature was viewed as a reflection
of the divine.

Flower symbolism was included in much of the religious art of the day and medieval gardens were often created with both the symbolic meaning of
flowers and spiritual symbolism in mind.
Flower symbols were used in the religious art of the Middle Ages and
Renaissance, and reached the highest level of development in the
Victorian era.

The Victorian Language of Flowers

Flower SymbolismAlthough the legendary associations and religious meanings of flower symbolism have existed for centuries, the use of the symbolic meaning of flowers
to represent emotions was developed to a high degree during Victorian

Due to the strict protocol of the times, emotions, wishes and thoughts were not openly expressed between men and women. Instead, an elaborate language
based on flower symbolism was developed. Gifts of either single flowers
or bouquets conveyed clear messages to the recipient.

Guidebooks for Flower Symbols

Flower LanguageWith increasing complexity of flower symbolism, handbooks were written to guide the understanding of the symbolic meaning of flowers. The first
book written on flower symbolism in modern times was Le Language des Fleurs
by Madame Charlotte de la Tour in 1819. The most popular book on flower
symbolism, which remains a prominent resource today, is Kate
Greenaway's Language of Flowers (1884).

During the Victorian era, flowers adorned nearly everything--hair, clothing, jewelry, home decor, china plates, stationary, wallpaper, furniture and
more. Even the scents of flowers had their own meanings in the language
of flowers. For example, a scented handkerchief might be given in place
of actual flowers.

Modern Symbolism of Flowers

Flower PaintingsFlowers are still used today to convey feelings in a more general way than in Victorian times. Many florists provide information on the language of
flowers to encourage the practice of helping modern gift-givers to "say
it with flowers." The flower symbolism for many flowers has been
obscured by time and may remain only as a few key phrases or words.

The beauty and feminine quality of flowers also inspired the tradition of naming girls after flower names. This tradition has existed in many
cultures throughout history and continues today. Popular girls' names
related to flowers include Rose, Daisy, Lily, Holly, Violet, Heather,
Fern, Jasmine, Myrtle, and Lavender.

Illustrated List of Flower Symbols

Flower symbolism and other fascinating facts about many flowers and plants from around the world are included in the following illustrated list of
the symbolic meaning of flowers:

Aster Flower Symbolism

aster flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with asters is daintiness, love, from Greek word for "star." Asters are believed to have healing properties. Asters
were laid on the graves of French soldiers to to symbolize the wish
that things had turned out differently.

Azalea Flower Symbolism

azalea flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with azaleas is temperance, passion, womanhood (China), take care of yourself for me and fragile passion.
Azaleas are members of the rhododendron family (see more below).
Azaleas grow as shrubs and small trees with large, showy flowers and
are popular as ornamental plants in landscaping.

Baby's Breath Flower Symbolism

baby's breath flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with baby's breath is purity of heart, innocence, the breath of the Holy Spirit. Baby's breath is white with
dense, delicate clusters of flowers. They are native to Europe, but
have been naturalized throughout the eastern United States. Baby's
breath is a traditional filler flower for bouquets, boutonnieres and

Bachelor Button Flower Symbolism

bachleor button flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with bachelor buttons is celibacy, single, blessedness, hope in love, delicacy. The bachelor's button is also
known as the cornflower, basket flower and boutonniere flower. Bachelor
buttons are blue and have been prized historically for their pigment.
According to folklore, a young man would wear a bachelor button flower
to indicate his love for a young woman, If the love was unrequited, the
flower would fade quickly. The bachelor button, or blue cornflower, is
the national flower of Poland.

Bamboo Symbolism

The bamboo is the most popular plant in China and represents the spirit of summer. The bamboo is considered a gentleman with perfect virtues. The
bamboo combines upright integrity with accommodating flexibility. It
has the perfect balance of grace and strength, or the Yin and the Yang.
When a storm comes, the bamboo bends with the wind. When the storm
ceases, it resumes its upright position. Bamboo symbolizes longevity,
immortality and youth. Its ability to cope with adversity and still
stand firmly without losing its original ground is inspirational.

Begonia Flower Symbolism

begonia flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with begonias is fanciful nature and beware. Begonias are large shrubs which grow in subtropical and
tropical moist climates, in South and Central America, Africa and
southern Asia. Because of their showy flowers of white, pink, scarlet
or yellow color and often attractively marked leaves, many species and
innumerable hybrids of begonias are cultivated.

Bird of Paradise Flower Symbolism

bird of paradise flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the bird of paradise flower is freedom, good perspective, faithfulness (when given from a woman to a
man). The bird of paradise flower is so-named because of a resemblance
to the actual bird of paradise. In South Africa it is commonly known as
a "crane" flower. The leaves are large, 30-200 cm long and 10-80 cm
broad, similar to a banana leaf but with a longer petiole, and arranged
to form a fan-like crown of evergreen foliage.

Bluebell Flower Symbolism

bluebell flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with bluebells is humility, constancy and gratitude. Bluebells are closely linked to the realm of fairies and are
sometimes referred to as "fairy thimbles." To call fairies to a
convention, the bluebells would be rung.

Buttercup Flower Symbolism

The flower symbolism associated with buttercups is humility, neatness, childishness. Buttercups are part of a large genus of 400 species.
Buttercups usually flower in April or May but flowers may be found
throughout the summer. In the Pacific Northwest (USA) the buttercup is
called ‘Coyote’s eyes.’ In the original legend, a coyote was tossing
his eyes up in the air and catching them again when an eagle snatched
them. Unable to see, coyote made eyes from the buttercup.

Cactus Flower Symbolism

cactus flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the cactus flower is endurance, my heart burns with love, maternal love. Cacti are distinctive and unusual
plants, adapted to extremely arid and hot climates, with a wide range
of features which conserve water. Their stems have expanded into green
succulent structures containing the chlorophyll necessary for life and
growth, while the leaves have become the spines for which cacti are so
well known.

Calendula Flower Symbolism

calendula flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the calendula is grief, despair and sorrow. Calendula blossoms in wine are said to ease indigestion.
Calendula petals are used in ointments to cure skin irritations,
jaundice, sore eyes and toothaches.

Calla Lily Flower Symbolism

calla lily flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the calla lily is magnificent beauty. Calla lilies are native to southern Africa. The calla lily is visible
in many of Diego Rivera's works of art. Georgia O'Keeffe's sensual
flowers redefined the flower as a pure, almost geometric form. Her
painting "Calla Lilies with Red Anemone" (1928) recently was sold for
$6.2 million at a Christie's auction in New York.

Camellia Flowers

The symbolic meaning of camellia flowers is admiration, perfection, good luck gift for a man, gratitude, nobility of reasoning. The colors have
specific symbolic meanings including innate worth, adoration,
perfection and loveliness (white); longing, longing for a man (pink);
and you're a flame in my heart or excellence (red).

Carnation Flower Symbolism

carnation flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the carnation is fascination, impulsiveness, fascination, capriciousness, joy, devoted love; disdain,
refusal (white only). Carnations were used in Greek ceremonial crowns.
The name carnation may come from the Greek carnis (flesh) and refer to
the incarnation of God made flesh.

Cattail Flower Symbolism

The flower symbolism associated with the cattail is peace and prosperity. Cattails or bulrushes are wetland plants with spongy, strap-like leaves
and starchy, creeping stems. The thick root can be ground to make a
flour substitute. The spread of cattails is an important part of the
process of open water bodies being converted to vegetated marshland and
eventually to dry land.

Chamomile Flower Symbolism

chamomile flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the chamomile flower is energy in action. The extract of German chamomile is taken as a strong tea. It
has been used in herbal medicine as a a digestive aid and has
anti-inflammatory properties. It is also used in ointments and lotions,
and as a mouthwash against infections of mouth and gums.

Cherry Blossom Flower Symbolism

cherry blossom flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the cherry blossom is education. In China, the cherry blossom is also a symbol of feminine beauty. It also
represents the feminine principle and love. In Japan, cherry blossoms
symbolize the transience of life because of their short blooming times.
Falling blossoms are metaphors for fallen warriors who died bravely in
battle. This connotation links them with the samarai.

Christmas Rose Flower Symbolism

Chrsitmas rose flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the Christmas rose is that it is purported to have flowered on Christmas Day, and is therefore
associated with the infant Jesus. The Christmas Rose is a member of the
genus Helleborus and is not related to the rose bush. The Christmas
Rose is frost-resistant and many species are evergreens. The Christmas
Rose of Mary Gardens bears pure white or pink flowers and are sometimes
known as the Lenten Rose.

Chrysanthemum Flower Symbolism

chrysanthemum flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the chrysanthemum is abundance, wealth, cheerfulness, optimism, truth (white), hope, rest and wonderful
friendship, I love (red), slighted love (yellow). The Japanese put a
single chrysanthemum petal on the bottom of a wine glass to sustain a
long and healthy life. Japanese emperors sat on the Chrysanthemum
throne. In Italy, chrysanthemums are associated with death.

Crocus Flower Symbolism

crocus flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the crocus is cheerfulness and gladness. The genus crocus is placed botanically in the iris family.
The plants grow from corms and are mainly perennials. They are found a
wide range of habitats including woodland and meadows.

Cyclamen Flower Symbolism

The flower symbolism associated with cyclamen flowers is resignation and goodbye. Cyclamen are native in the Mediterranean and Africa. Cyclamen
grow in dry forest or scrub areas.

Daffodil Flower Symbolism

daffodil flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the daffodil is regard, unrequited love, chivalry, sunshine, respect and the sun shines when I'm with you.
Though the traditional daffodil of folklore, poetry, and field may have
a yellow to golden-yellow color all over, both in the wild species and
due to breeding, the daffodil may be variously colored. Breeders have
developed some daffodils with double, triple, or ambiguously multiple
rows of petals, and several wild species also have known double

Dahlia Flower Symbolism

dahlia flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the dahlia is dignity, elegance, forever thine. The Aztecs used dahlias as a treatment for epilepsy.
Europeans used the dahlia as a source of food in the 1840s when disease
destroyed the French potato crop.

Daisy Flower Symbolism

daisy floer symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the daisy is purity, innocence, loyal love, beauty, patience and simplicity. Daisies are often depicted in
meadows in Medieval paintings, also known as a "flowery mead." Daisies
are believed to be more than 4,000 years old and hairpins decorated
with daisies were found during the excavation of the Minoan Palace on
the Island of Crete. Even further back, Egyptian ceramics were
decorated with daisies. Daisies were used in Mary Gardens.

Dandelion Flower Symbolism

dandelion flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the dandelion is love me, affection returned, desire, sympathy, faithfulness, happiness and love's oracle.
The dandelion is native to Europe and Asia, and has been introduced to
many other places. In northern areas and places where the dandelion is
not native, it has become a weed, exploiting disturbed ground in human

Day Lily Flowers

The symbolic meaning of the day lily is forgetting worries. As an omen for expectant mothers who wish for baby boys, the flower means "Suited for
A Boy." The Chinese also venerate the day lily as a symbol of filial
devotion to one's mother.

elphinium Flower Symbolism

delphinium flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the delphinium is big-hearted, fun, lightness, levity, ardent attachment. The name delphinium comes from
the Greek word delphis, a reference to the flower's resemblance to the
bottle-like nose of the dolphin. Delphiniums were used by Native
Americans to make blue dye. European settlers used delphinium for
making ink. Delphiniums were also once thought to drive away scorpions.

Edelweiss Flower Symbolism

edelweiss flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the edelweiss flower is daring, courage and noble purity. The flowers are felted and woolly with white
hairs, with characteristic bloom consisting of five to six small yellow
flower heads surrounded by leaflets.

Fern Symbolism

fern flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with ferns is magic, fascination, confidence, shelter, discretion, reverie and a secret bond of love. A
great many ferns are grown as landscape plants, for foliage for cut
bouquets and as houseplants.

Forget-Me-Not Flower Symbolism

forget-me-not flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the forget-me-not is true love and memories. In 15th century Germany, it was supposed that the wearers of
the flower would not be forgotten by their lovers. Legend has it that
in medieval times, a knight and his lady were walking along the side of
a river. He picked a posy of flowers, but because of the weight of his
armour he fell into the river. As he was drowning he threw the posy to
his loved one and shouted "Forget-me-not". It is also told in pious
legend that the Christ child was sitting on Mary's lap one day and said
that he wished that future generations could see them. He touched her
eyes and then waved his hand over the ground and blue forget-me-nots

Foxglove Flower Symbolism

fosglove floer symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the foxglove is stateliness and youth. Foxglove flowers have both positive and negative symbolic meanings.
They are said to sometimes hurt and sometimes heal. The scientific name
is digitalis, a reference to the presence of powerful chemicals that
can heal heart conditions if taken correctly but can kill if taken in
large amounts. Thus, foxglove is symbolic of both healing and harm.

Fuchsia Flower Symbolism

fuchsia flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the fuchsia is confiding love. Fuchsia flowers are a very decorative pendulous "eardrop" shape, borne in
profusion throughout the summer and autumn, and all year in tropical
species. In many species, the sepals are bright red and the petals
purple, a combination of colors that attract hummingbirds.

Gardenia Flower Symbolism

gardenia flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the gardenia is you're lovely, secret love, purity and refinement. Gardenia plants are prized for the strong
sweet scent of their flowers, which can be very large in some species.

Geranium Flower Symbolism

geranium flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the geranium is a true friend, stupidity, folly and meeting. The genus name is derived from the Greek
word geranos, meaning "crane". The name derives from the appearance of
the seed-heads, which have the same shape as the bill of a crane.

Gladiolus Flower Symbolism

gladiolus flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the gladiolus is preparedness, strength, splendid beauty and love at first sight. The gladiolus is
named for the shape of its leaves, "gladius" or sword. The gladiolus is
said to have symbolized the Roman gladiators. The British used the stem
base (corms) as a poultice for thorns and splinters.

Globe Amaranth Flower Symbolism

globe amaranth flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the globe amaranth is unfading love. The globe amaranth is an annual plant that grows up to 24 inches in
height. The true species has magenta flowers, and garden varieties have
additional colors such as purple, red, white, pink, and lilac.

Holly Flower Symbolism

holly flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the holly is defense, domestic happiness and forecast. The Romans decorated their hallways with holly
garlands for their mid-winter celebration, Saturnalia. Medieval monks
called the holly the Holy Tree and believed holly would keep away evil
spirits and protects their homes from lightening. In Christianity, the
pointed leaves represented the crown of thorns worn by Jesus, and the
red berries symbolized drops of his blood.

Honeysuckle Flower Symbolism

honeysuckle flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the honeysuckle is bond of love and I love you. Wood cuttings from honeysuckle are sold as cat toys. The wood
contains nepetalactone, the active ingredient found in catnip.

Huckleberry Symbolism

hucleberry symbolismThe symbolism associated with the huckleberry is faith and simple pleasures. The tiny size of huckleberries led to their frequent use as
a way of referring to something small, often in an affectionate way.
The phrase "a huckleberry over my persimmon" was used to mean "a bit
beyond my abilities". "I'll be your huckleberry" is a way of saying
that one is just the right person for a given job.

Hyacinth Flower Symbolism

hyacinth flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the hyacinth is games, sports, rashness, and playful joy. Hyacinths are named after Hyacinth, a figure
in Greek mythology. Hyacinths are sometimes associated with rebirth.
The hyacinth flower is used in the Haftseen table setting for the
Persian New Year celebration. The prophet Mohammad is reported to have
said “If I had but two loaves of bread, I would sell one and buy
hyacinths, for they would feed my soul.”

Impatiens Flower Symbolism

Impatiens Flower SymbolismThe flower symbolism associated with impatiens flowers is motherly love. Impatiens flowers come in a wide variety of forms including flat
flowers and orchid-like shapes. In the medieval Mary gardens devoted to
the Virgin Mary, impatiens plants were called "Our Lady's earrings."

Iris Flower Symbolism

iris flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the iris is faith, wisdom, cherished friendship, hope, valor, my compliments, promise in love, wisdom. Irises
were used in Mary Gardens. The blade-shaped foliage denotes the sorrows
which 'pierced her heart.' The iris is the emblem of both France and
Florence, Italy.

Ivy Symbolism

ivy symbolismThe symbolism associated with ivy is wedded love, fidelity, friendship and affection. Ivy walls are considered idyllic and charming. A soundly
mortared wall is impenetrable to the climbing roots of ivy and will not
be damaged, and is also protected from further weathering by the ivy.
However, walls with already weak or loose mortar may be badly damaged,
as the ivy is able to root into the weak mortar and further break up
the wall.

Jasmine Flower Symbolism

jasmine flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the jasmine flower is attachment, sensuality, modesty, grace and elegance. Jasmines are widely cultivated
for their flowers, enjoyed in the garden, as house plants, and as cut
flowers. The flowers are worn by women in their hair in southern and
southeast Asia. Some claim that the daily consumption of Jasmine tea is
effective in preventing certain cancers.

Lady's Mantle Symbolism

lady's mantle symbolismThe symbolism associated with Lady's Mantle is that of a cloak for for the Blessed Virgin. Lady's mantle was grown in Mary Gardens. The name
alchemilla ("little magical one") derives from the dew which collects
on the lady's mantle. Dew is often associated with magic. The dew was
used as a beauty lotion, while pillows stuffed with it were reputed to
bring on a good sleep.

Lilac Flower Symbolism

lilac flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the lilac is beauty, pride, youthful innocence and youth. A pale purple color is generally known as lilac
after the flower. Lilacs are known for their strong, perfume-like scent
and are the state flower of New Hampshire.

Lily Flower Symbolism

lily floer symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the lily is chastity, virtue, fleur-de-lis, Holy Trinity, faith, wisdom, chivalry, royalty; beauty
(calla), mother (China), hatred (orange), wealth, pride (tiger);
sweetness, virginity, purity, majesty, it's heavenly to be with you
(white); gaiety, gratitude, I'm walking on air (yellow). The flower
symbolism of lilies is associated with the annunciation of the birth of
Jesus by the angel Gabriel. Lilies were used in the flower symbolism of
Mary Gardens. In both Christian and pagan traditions, lilies symbolize
fertility. In Greek marriage ceremonies, the bride wears a crown of

Lotus Flower Symbolism

lotus flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the lotus is estranged love and forgetfulness of the past. The lotus is the national flower of India.
The blue or Indian lotus, also known as the bean of India and the
sacred water-lily of Hinduism and Buddhism. Lotus roots are also used
widely in Asian cooking.

Lupine Flower Symbolism

lupine flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with Lupines are symbolic of imagination. The name "lupinus" actually means "of wolves" due to the mistaken
belief that ancient peoples had that lupines robbed the soil of
nutrients. The fact is that lupines add nitrogen to the soil. Lupines
are the only food for the Karner blue butterfly's caterpillar. The
scent from lupine blossoms is like that of honey, a nice addition to
any garden.

Magnolia Flower Symbolism

magnolia flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with nobility, perseverance and love of nature. Magnolia is the official state state flower of both Mississippi
and Louisiana. The flower's abundance in Mississippi is reflected in
its state nickname, the "Magnolia State". The magnolia is also the
official state tree of Mississippi. One of the oldest nicknames for
Houston, Texas Is "The Magnolia City" due to the abundance of Magnolia
Trees growing along Buffalo Bayou.

Marigold Flower Symbolism

marigold flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with marigolds is indicated in the name: Mary's Gold. Marigold flowers were "golden gifts" offered to the Virgin
by the poor who could not afford to give actual gold. Marigolds were
used in Mary Gardens. Marigolds are symbolic of passion and creativity.
Marigolds are also known as the "Herb of the Sun." Marigolds have been
used as love charms and incorporated into wedding garlands. In some
cultures, marigold flowers have been added to pillows to encourage
prophetic or psychic dreams.

Marjoram Symbolism

marjoram symbolismThe symbolism associated with marjoram is joy and happiness. Marjoram is a somewhat cold-sensitive under shrub with sweet pine and citrus flavors.
It is also called sweet marjoram. Marjoram is cultivated for its
aromatic leaves, either green or dry, for culinary purposes. The tops
are cut as the plants begin to flower and are dried slowly in the shade.

Morning Glory Flower Symbolism

morning glory flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the morning glory is affection. As the name implies, morning glory flowers, which are funnel-shaped, open in
the morning, allowing them to be pollinated by hummingbirds,
butterflies, bees, other daytime insects and birds. The flower
typically lasts for a single morning and dies in the afternoon. New
flowers bloom each day.

Narcissus Flower Symbolism

narcissus flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the narcissus is normality, stay sweet, self-esteem and vanity. The name narcissus is derived from that
of the youth of Greek mythology called Narcissus, who became so
obsessed with his own reflection as he kneeled and gazed into a pool of
water that he fell into the water and drowned. The legend continues
that the narcissus plant first sprang from where he died.

Nasturtium Flower Symbolism

nasturtium flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the nasturtium is victory in battle and conquest. Nasturtium literally means "nose-twister" or
"nose-tweaker" and refers to a genus of roughly 80 species of annual
and perennial flowering plants. Nasturtium have showy, often intensely
bright flowers and rounded, shield-shaped leaves with the petiole in
the center.

Orange Blossom Flower Symbolism

orange blossom flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the orange blossom is innocence, eternal love, marriage and fruitfulness. The orange blossom, which is
the state flower of Florida, is traditionally associated with good
fortune, and was popular in bridal bouquets and head wreaths for
weddings. The petals of orange blossom can also be made into a
delicately citrus-scented version of rosewater. Orange blossom water is
a common part of Middle Eastern cuisine.

Orchid Flower Symbolism

orchid flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the orchid is love, beauty, refinement, many children, thoughtfulness and mature charm. Orchids
have become a major market throughout the world. Buyers now bid
hundreds of dollars on new hybrids or improved ones. Orchids are one of
the most popular cut-flowers on the market.

Pansy Flower Symbolism

pansy flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the pansy is merriment and you occupy my thoughts. The pansy is also called the heartsease or Johnny Jump Up.
The name pansy is derived from the French word pensée meaning
"thought", and was so named because the flower resembles a human face.
In August the pansy is thought to nod forward as if deep in thought.

Peony Flower Symbolism

peony flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the peony is happy marriage, compassion and bashfulness. Peonies are extensively grown as ornamental
plants for their very large, often scented flowers. Peonies tend to
attract ants to the flower buds due to the nectar that forms.

Petunia Flower Symbolism

petunia flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the petunia is your presence soothes me. Dixon, Illinois is the Petunia Capital of the world. Every year,
the Petunia Festival draws thousands of visitors to the city. The
streets are lined in petunias. The parade mascot is Pinky Petunia.

Poinsettia Flower Symbolism

poinsettia flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the poinsettia has an ancient history. The ancient Aztecs considered the poinsettia to be a symbol of purity.
Today, poinsettias are the most easily recognized flower symbolic of
Christmas. Poinsettias are also known as the "Christmas flower" and
"Mexican flame leaf." Poinsettias originally came from Mexico and
Central America. According to legend, one day near Christmas a child
who was too poor to buy a present for the Christ child picked a weed
from the side of the road. When he reached the church, the plant
blossomed in red and green flowers.

Poppy Flower Symbolism

poppy flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with poppies is beauty, magic, consolation, fertility and eternal life. The Egyptians included poppies at funerals
and in burial tombs. The Greeks used poppies in the shrines of Demeter,
goddess of fertility, and Diana, goddess of the hunt. Poppies denote
sleep, rest and repose. In modern times, poppies have been associated
with Flanders fields as an emblem of those who died in World War I.

Pussy Willow Flower Symbolism

pussy willow symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with pussy willows is motherhood. When grown commercially, pussy willow shoots are picked just as the buds
expand in spring, and can last indefinitely once dried. The branches
can be put in vases or the buds can be used for table decoration.

Rhododendron Flower Symbolism

rhododendron flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the rhododendron is beware and caution. Rhododendron means "rose tree." Some spices are toxic to
animals and may have a hallucinogenic and laxative effect on humans,
thus the symbolism related to warning and danger. Rhododendrons were
originally found in Nepal. Today there are over 1,000 species of
rhododendrons. Rhododendrons are the national flower of Nepal, the
state flower of Sikkim in India, and the state flower of West Virginia
and Washington in the United States.

Rose Flower Symbolism

The flower symbolism associated with roses is love, remembrance, passion (red); purity (white); happiness (pink); infidelity (yellow);
unconscious beauty, I love you. Roses were first cultivated 5,000 years
ago in Asian gardens. Confucius wrote that the emperor of China owned
over 600 books on the cultivation of roses. Roses were introduced to
Europe during the Roman Empire and were thereafter used for ornamental
purposes. Roses are emblems of England and New York City.

Shamrock Symbolism

shamrock symbolismThe symbolism associated with shamrocks is lightheartedness, good fortune and good luck. The shamrock is a symbol of Ireland and a registered
trademark of the Republic of Ireland. The shamrock was traditionally
used for its medicinal properties and was a popular decorative motif in
Victorian times. The shamrock is also symbolic of St. Patrick's Day,
celebrated on March 17th.

Snapdragon Flower Symbolism

snapdragon flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with snapdragons is graciousness and strength. The snapdragon is important as a model organism in botanical
research. Its genome has been studied in detail.

Sunflower Flower Symbolism

sunflower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with sunflowers is adoration. Sunflowers turn their heads to the sun, which is the origin of their common name.
Sunflowers belong to the genus helianthus, a reference to Helios, the
sun god. Sunflowers are native to the Americas and are the state flower
of Kansas.

Sweet Pea Flower Symbolism

sweet pea flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with sweet peas is bliss, delicate pleasure, good-bye, departure, adieu and thank you for a lovely time.
Sweet peas were very popular in the late 1800s and are often considered
the floral emblem for Edwardian England. Sweet peas are the flowers
most closely connected to the month of April.

Tulip Flower Symbolism

tulip flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with tulips is fame and perfect love. The symbolic meanings also change with the color of the tulips. Red tulips
mean "believe me" and are a declaration of love. Variegated tulips mean
"you have beautiful eyes." Yellow tulips mean "there's sunshine in your
smile." And cream colored tulips mean "I will love you forever." Tulips
are the foremost national symbol of Holland, rivaling wooden shoes and

Verbena Flower Symbolism

verbena flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with the verbena flower is pray for me and sensibility. Verbena has longstanding use in herbalism and folk
medicine, usually as a tea. Verbena is grown as a honey plant to supply
bees with nectar.

Violet Flower Symbolism

Violet Flower SYmbolismThe flower symbolism associated with violets is modesty, virtue, affection, watchfulness, faithfulness, love and let's take a chance on happiness.
When newly opened, viola or violet flowers may be used to decorate
salads or in stuffing for poultry or fish. Soufflés, cream and similar
desserts can be flavored with essence of violet flowers.

Wisteria Flowers

The symbolic meaning of wisteria flowers is welcome and playful spontaneity. The wisteria is called "Purple Vine" in China. In one
cluster, the petals shade harmoniously from the strong, dark purple tip
to the soft, light pink at the open base.

Zinnia Flower Symbolism

zinnia flower symbolismThe flower symbolism associated with zinnias are thoughts of absent friends, lasting affection, constancy, goodness and daily remembrance.
Zinnias are the state flower of Indiana. The original zinnias were
found in the early 1500s in the wilds of Mexico. They were so dull and
unattractive that the Aztec name for them meant "eyesore." The common
name, garden Cinderella, indicates the level of the zinnia's later

What You Hear Affects What You See

Posted by Maddalena Frau on September 14, 2013 at 4:45 AM Comments comments (0)
By Daniel Albright,


There are a lot of different models of attention, and the differences between them can be complex and subtle. Most of them, however, treat attention as a limited and expendable resource — you can only pay attention to so many things for so long a time. Is attention really in short supply?

Attention is usually not modality specific: For example, if you’re making a lot of effort paying attention to something that you’re seeing, you’re not likely to be able allocate attention to an acoustic cue as well. In short, there isn’t a store of visual attention, a separate store of aural attention, another one for tactile attention, and so on. There’s just one central store of attention.

Recent evidence has also led many researchers believe that rhythms entrain the attentional system so that it increases the amount of attention allocated at certain temporal locations. For example, if you see a blinking light, neural oscillations will synchronize with the rhythm of the blinking, so that you’re paying more attention at the points when the light is likely to be on.

A study published earlier this year used a fascinating methodology to determine whether or not this entrainment is cross-modal. Participants heard a tone played at regular or irregular intervals for a specified amount of time. At the end, a dot would appear in one of the four corners of a screen (the appearance of the dot was either synchronized with the final tone in the series, played earlier than the tone, or played later than the tone) and the participants would look at it. The researchers measured how long it took the participants to fixate on the dot.

Interestingly, participants were significantly faster to fixate on the dot when it was synchronized with the final tone than when it was not, suggesting that the visual attentional system was entrained by the aural tone series. When the experimenters omitted the final tone, the results remained the same, proving that it wasn’t the final tone itself that speeded up fixation, but the rhythm that preceded it.

Another important note is that participants weren’t directed to attend to the auditory tones. In fact, they weren’t told anything about them at all, suggesting that the entrainment of the attentional system is automatic and unconscious.

Although they may seem intuitively obvious, these findings lend additional insight into how attention works, and give major support to the idea that attention is a limited resource that is shared between different perceptual modalities, and provides proof that entrainment developed through one modality is accessed by other modalities.

Research on neural oscillation has been quite fruitful recently, and this is another example of how this is at the core of processes that we take for granted, like rhythmic attentional entrainment and many other temporal processes in the brain. Exactly how this low-level process is integrated into higher-level systems, like time-keeping and attention, is likely to see a lot more research in the near future.


Miller JE, Carlson LA, & McAuley JD (2013). When what you hear influences when you see: listening to an auditory rhythm influences the temporal allocation of visual attention. Psychological science, 24 (1), 11-8 PMID: 23160202

Art Therapy

Posted by Maddalena Frau on September 14, 2013 at 4:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Improving Emotional Intelligence in Psychosis with Art Therapy

By Ann Reitan, PsyD


Emotional intelligence is defined as “the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.” Self-regulation of emotional intelligence is is vital to healthy emotional interactions.

Emotional intelligence is formed of interpersonal intelligence and intrapersonal intelligence. Interpersonal intelligence reflects competence in the context of social relationships, while intrapersonal intelligence reflects the ability to regulate one’s own emotions.

The degree of an individual’s emotional intelligence affects the degree to which that individual can deal psychopathological conditions such as schizophrenia. Although schizophrenics may be emotionally sensitive, the interpersonal and intrapersonal spheres of emotional intelligence of these individuals are likely to be negatively impacted for several reasons.

Due to the fact that schizophrenia emerges in late adolescence and early adulthood, it is likely that the Eriksonian stages of social development that correspond with this emergent pathology are negatively impacted by schizophrenia, especially the tasks of achieving independence and forming close relationships.

Much of what comprises emotional intelligence relies on self-permeable boundaries related to appropriate detachment and attachment with others. In terms of successful negotiation of the Eriksonian stages, “identity versus role confusion” may allow the individual to determine appropriate detachment from others by means of differentiating the self, and “intimacy versus isolation” may allow the individual to achieve appropriate attachment within the context of a relationship with another person.

Psychotic individuals have obstacles achieving this due to factors implicit to psychosis. These individuals are both socially alienated and overly involved in their mental realms, stemming partly from stigmatization that may not allow them to find what they perceive as accurate reflections of their internal states in the external world and their understanding of other people. Empathic reflection, in the tradition of Roger’s Person-Centered Therapy, is seldom understood to be available to schizophrenics, perhaps simply due to the fact that most clinicians cannot relate to the psychotic experience of a schizophrenic.

In addition, auditory hallucinations — the internal or intrapersonal experience of a schizophrenic — may be represented by an amalgamation of perceptions of “self” and “other”. This experience does not necessarily allow the schizophrenic the ability to self-regulate her emotions, primarily because she does not entirely own her mental experience. Due to the representation of hallucinations in the minds of psychotic individuals as “entities”, there is also a lack of apparent privacy in the mental realm of the psychotic individual, and the type of experience implied by this perceived lack of privacy can be punitive.

If people with psychosis cannot distinguish boundaries in their own mind, how can they be expected to demonstrate effective intrapersonal intelligence? If stigma causes impenetrable interpersonal boundaries between the psychotic mind and the minds of those who are not psychotic, how can psychotic individuals demonstrate effective interpersonal intelligence?

So this brings us to an essential question: How can the schizophrenic individual negotiate both the intrapersonal and the interpersonal realms in a healthy way? The schizophrenic requires some means of healthy self-expression that allows for symbolic representation of the self that can be at least partly understood by others.

It is suggested that artistic self-expression is a means of creating a personal stance in the social arena that will allow for healthy regulation of emotion. Art therapy could be an important avenue toward increased mental health in the psychotic individual. Engaging in art not only allows the psychotic individual to express his own emotions to others, but the canvas (whether a poem, song or literal canvas) can reflect back to him his internal state. This dialogue between the artist and his work serves an important therapeutic function.

Ann Reitan, PsyD

Ann Reitan, PsyD, is a clinical psychologist and well published essayist of fiction and creative nonfiction. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from University of Washington, Master of Arts in Psychology from Pepperdine University, and Doctorate of Clinical Psychology from Alliant International University. Her post-doctoral research at Washington University in St. Louis, MO, involved personality theory, idiodynamics and creativity in literature.

Brain Anatomy of Dyslexia Is not the Same in Boys and Girls

Posted by Maddalena Frau on May 20, 2013 at 12:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Using MRI, neuroscientists at Georgetown University Medical Center found significant differences in brain anatomy when comparing men and women with dyslexia to their non-dyslexic control groups, suggesting that the disorder may have a different brain-based manifestation based on sex.

Their study, investigating dyslexia in both males and females, is the first to directly compare brain anatomy of females with and without dyslexia (in children and adults). Their findings were published online in the journal Brain Structure and Function.

Because dyslexia is two to three times more prevalent in males compared with females, "females have been overlooked," says senior author Guinevere Eden, PhD, director for the Center for the Study of Learning and past-president of the International Dyslexia Association.

"It has been assumed that results of studies conducted in men are generalizable to both sexes. But our research suggests that researchers need to tackle dyslexia in each sex separately to address questions about its origin and potentially, treatment," Eden says.

Previous work outside of dyslexia demonstrates that male and female brains are different in general, adds the study's lead author, Tanya Evans, PhD.

"There is sex-specific variance in brain anatomy and females tend to use both hemispheres for language tasks, while males just the left," Evans says. "It is also known that sex hormones are related to brain anatomy and that female sex hormones such as estrogen can be protective after brain injury, suggesting another avenue that might lead to the sex-specific findings reported in this study."

The study of 118 participants compared the brain structure of people with dyslexia to those without and was conducted separately in men, women, boys and girls. In the males, less gray matter volume is found in dyslexics in areas of the brain used to process language, consistent with previous work. In the females, less gray matter volume is found in dyslexics in areas involved in sensory and motor processing.

The results have important implications for understanding the origin of dyslexia and the relationship between language and sensory processing, says Evans.



Bipolar Disorder

Posted by Maddalena Frau on April 27, 2013 at 3:00 AM Comments comments (0)

The "Bottom Line" -- The Main Point of All This

If your depressions are complicated; if you have mood swings, but not "mania", you can still be "bipolar enough" to need a treatment that's more like the treatments we use in more easily recognized Bipolar Disorder. You'll read here about those forms which do not have "mania" to make them stand out or easily recognizable, including Bipolar II. Depression is the main symptom, including especially sleeping too much, extreme fatigue, and lack of motivation. What makes bipolar depression different is the presence of something else as well

But that "something else" often does not look anything like mania. "Hypomania", which you'll learn about here, can show up as huge sleep changes, irritability, agitation/anxiety, and difficulty concentrating.

And finally, some people can have some bipolarity without any hypomania at all.

What happened to "manic-depressive" (now bipolar I)?

Somewhere along the way you probably learned about manic-depressive illness: episodes of mania, and episodes of severe depression. Here are the symptoms of "mania"

  • Mood much better than normal
  • Rapid speech
  • Little need for sleep
  • Racing thoughts, trouble concentrating
  • Continuous high energy
  • Overconfidence
  • Delusions (often grandiose, but including paranoid)

What happened to "manic-depressive"?

As our understanding of bipolar disorder has grown, the naming system has changed as well. Recently the concept of a "mixed state" of bipolar disorder, in which manic symptoms and depressive symptoms are found at the same time, was added. Obviously this changes the understanding of manic-depressive illness from one in which the two mood states alternate, to one in which they can co-occur! Things are getting more complicated.

Psychiatry has a diagnostic "rule book" that lists the symptoms people must have in order to meet the definition of a particular "disorder", called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. The most recent edition came out in 1994, the "DSM-IV". "Bipolar II" was added in this edition, although it was first described as a pattern of mood change long before that. Technically Bipolar II describes a pattern in which patients experience "hypomania" (to be discussed in detail below), alternating with episodes of severe depression.

However, one of the most experienced professionals in this field, who has bipolar disorder herself, has criticized even this advance as too limited:

    "The clinical reality of manic-depressive illness is far more lethal and infinitely more complex than the current psychiatric nomenclature, bipolar disorder, would suggest. Cycles of fluctuating moods and energy levels serve as a background to constantly changing thoughts, behaviors, and feelings. The illness encompasses the extremes of human experience. Thinking can range from florid psychosis, or "madness," to patterns of unusually clear, fast and creative associations, to retardation so profound that no meaningful mental activity can occur. Behavior can be frenzied, expansive, bizarre, and seductive, or it can be seclusive, sluggish, and dangerously suicidal. Moods may swing erratically between euphoria and despair or irritability and desperation. The rapid oscillations and combinations of such extremes result in an intricately textured clinical picture." (Kay Jamison, Ph.D.)

 Everything you will read below can be found in a recent review by two mood experts, except that their version is written in full medical jargon. 

Even the International Society for Bipolar Disorders has advocated a change in diagnostic procedure, moving beyond the DSM-IV, using what we've learned since 1994 in the diagnostic process (Ghaemi and colleagues; if you look closely you'll see that my name is on the list of co-authors: I was honored to be invited to participate and write for this 2008 update on bipolar diagnosis guidelines). Their recommendations are very consistent with what you'll read below. 

What is the official definition of Bipolar II?


Technically, this is literally a "little" mania — the familiar symptoms but less so:

  • Mood much better than normal
  • Rapid speech
  • Little need for sleep
  • Racing thoughts, trouble concentrating
  • Continuous high energy
  • Overconfidence

You may have noticed that "delusions" have disappeared from the list: these are by definition not found in Bipolar II. A patient who has had the above symptoms repeatedly, without having delusions, is much less likely to ever lose contact with reality (including weird experiences like auditory hallucinations, which are common in bipolar mania) than a patient who has experienced delusions.

"Bipolar II" is technically the combination of hypomanic phases with separate phases of severe depression If the depressive phases are only mild, the term "cyclothymia" is used. Getting confused? I certainly was, until I began to think of these variations as points on a continuous spectrum. I hope the following discussion will impress you as simpler.

What is the "mood spectrum?" (references updated 4/2008)

Until very recently, depression and "manic-depressive illness" were understood as completely independent: a patient either had one or the other. Now the two are seen by many mood specialists  as two extremes on a continuum, with variations found at all points in between, as in the graph below (e.g. Ghaemi; Pies; Moller; Birmaher; Skeppar; Mackinnon; Angst and Cassano; Akiskal to name just a few important articles since 2001; and finally, my ISBD review in 2008):

On the left, the "unipolar" extreme represents straightforward depression with no complications. There are many forms of depression, of course. For an overview, see the appendix: "What kinds of depression are there?". The depressions discussed further below are of a more genetic, or "chemical" nature; versus those of a more situational type, like losing a loved one. Situational depressions may respond well to time or therapy and not require "bipolar" thinking.

On the right, the "manic-depressive" extreme is defined by the presence of manic episodes, just the kind that most people have seen or heard of: full delusional mania. But in between these extremes is a large area which some mood experts think includes more people than either extreme. In other words, it might be the most common form of bipolar disorder, this middle group.

Consider the following points A and B on this spectrum:

Point A on the continuum describes people who have a complex depression but who still respond well to antidepressant medication or psychotherapy.

Around point B, however, there is some sort of threshold where these approaches are no longer completely or continuously effective: either they don’t work at all, offer only partial relief, or help for a while then "stop working" (which may account for some or much of "Prozac poop-out", now regarded as a "soft sign" of bipolar disorder, described below).  

Until 1994 and the publication of the DSM-IV, there was no official name for all the variations between B and the "manic-depressive" extreme.

It was as though these variations did not exist. In the minds of a few, they still don’t, including some psychiatrists who have not adopted this new "spectrum" way of thinking about diagnosis.

The DSM-IV itself does not describe this "spectrum" concept. In it, the entire span between blue and green is still "Major Depression", the same as the violet end to your left. Only the orange and red zones are clearly "bipolar".

Light green and yellow is BP NOS, Bipolar Not Otherwise Specified. That diagnosis means you have something that looks like bipolar disorder but does not meet the criteria for BP II or BP I. Isn't it simpler just to think of it as a continuum? That is much closer to reality. We see all sorts of variations in between these named points on the graph above. 

What do "bipolar variations" look like?

Warning: The following represents my clinical experience taking referrals from primary care physicians. Most patients I see have been on 3 or more antidepressants before I see them. This selects very directly for "bipolar spectrum" patients. However, note that none of these descriptions are found in the DSM, nor are they widely spoken of by mood experts. This is my personal formulation based on almost 15 years of full-time selection for such patients.

Roller coaster depression

Many people have forms of depression in which their symptoms vary a lot with time: "crash" into depression, then up into doing fine for a while, then "crash" again — sometimes for a reason, but often for no clear reason at all.

They feel like they are on some sort of mood "roller coaster". They wonder if they have "manic-depression".

But, most people know someone or have heard of someone who had a "manic" episode: decreased need for sleep, high energy, risky behaviors, or even grandiose delusions (‘I can make millions with my ideas"; "I have a mission in space"; "I’m a special representative for God"). So they think "well, I can’t have that — I’ve never had a manic episode".

However, the new view of bipolar disorder means it’s time to reconsider that conclusion.

Hypomania doesn’t look or feel at all like full delusional mania in some patients.

Sometimes there is just a clear sense of something cyclic going on. Some mood disorder experts consider depression that occurs repeatedly to have a high likelihood of having a manic phase at some pointFawcett, especially if the first depression occurred before age twenty.Geller, Rao These two features--repeated recurrence, and early onset--are also included among the bipolar "soft signs" below:  not enough to make a diagnosis, but suggestive, especially if they occur with several other such signs, even if "hypomania" is not detectable at all.Ghaemi 

Depression with profound anxiety

Many people live with anxiety so severe, their depression is not the main problem. They seem to handle the periods of low energy, as miserable as they are.

Often they sleep for 10, 12, even 14 hours a day during those times. But the part they can’t handle is the anxiety: it isn’t "good energy".

Many say they feel as though they just have too much energy pent up inside their bodies.

They can’t sit still. They pace. And worst of all, their minds "race" with thoughts that go over and over the same thing to no purpose.

Or they fly from one idea to the next so fast their thoughts become "unglued", and they can’t think their way from A to C let alone A to Z. 

When this is severe, people who enjoy books can find themselves completely unable to read: they just go over and over the same paragraph and it doesn’t "sink in". They will get some negative idea in their head and go around and around with it until it completely dominates their experience of the world. Usually these "high negative energy" phases come along with severely disturbed sleep (see Depression with Severe Insomnia, below). Thoughts about suicide are extremely common and the risk may be high.Fawcett(b)

Depressive episodes with irritable episodes

Many people with depression go through phases in which even they can recognize that their anger is completely out of proportion to the circumstance that started it. They "blow up" over something trivial. Those close to them are very well aware of the problem, of course. Many women can experience this as part of "PMS". As their mood problems become more severe, they find themselves having this kind of irritability during more and more of their cycle. Similarly, when they get better with treatment, often the premenstrual symptoms are the "last to go". Others can have this kind of cyclic irritability without any relationship to hormonal cycles. Many men with bipolar variations say they have problems with anger or rage.

Depression that doesn’t respond to antidepressants (or gets worse, or "poops out")

Many people have repeated episodes of depression. Sometimes the first several episodes respond fairly well to antidepressant medication, but after a while the medications seem to "stop working". For others, no antidepressant ever seems to work. And others find that some antidepressants seem to make them feel terrible:  not just mild side effects, but severe reactions, especially severe agitation. These people feel like they’re "going crazy". Usually at this time they also have very poor sleep. Many people have the odd experience of feeling the depression actually improve with antidepressants, yet overall —perhaps even months later —they somehow feel worse overall.  In most cases this "worse" is due to agitation, irritability, and insomnia. 

In some cases, an antidepressant works extremely well at first, then "poops out".Byrne  The benefits usually last several weeks, often months, and occasionally even years before this occurs.  When this occurs repeatedly with different antidepressants, that may mark a "bipolar" disorder even when little else suggests the diagnosis.Sharma

Depression with periods of severe insomnia

Finally, there are people with depression whose most noticeable symptom is severe insomnia. These people can go for days with 2-3 hours of sleep per night. Usually they fall asleep without much delay, but wake up 2-4 hours later and the rest of the night, if they get any more sleep at all, is broken into 15-60 minute segments of very restless, almost "waking" sleep. Dreams can be vivid, almost real. They finally get up feeling completely unrested. Note that this is not "decreased need for sleep" (the Bipolar I pattern). These people want desperately to sleep better and are very frustrated.


Unofficial but evidence-based markers of Bipolar Disorder

You have probably figured it out by now:  making a diagnosis of bipolar disorder can be pretty tricky sometimes!  You're about to read a list of eleven more factors that have been associated with bipolar disorder.  None of these factors "clinches" the diagnosis.  They are suggestive of bipolarity, but not sufficient to establish it.  They are best regarded as markers which suggest considering bipolar disorder as a possible explanation for symptoms.  They are not a scoring system, where you might think "the more I have of these, the more likely it is that I have bipolar disorder."  That way of thinking about these factors has not been tested.  

Here's the list of items which are found with bipolar disorder more often than you would expect by chance alone.  This list is adapted from a landmark article by Drs. Ghaemi and Goodwin and Ko.  (Drs. Goodwin and Ghaemi are among the most respected authorities on bipolar diagnosis in the world. This important article is online https://ww1.cpa-apc.org/Publications/Archives/CJP/2002/march/inReviewCadesDisease.asp).  

  1. The patient has had repeated episodes of major depression (four or more; seasonal shifts in mood are also common).
  2. The first episode of major depression occurred before age 25 (some experts say before age 20, a few before age 18; most likely, the younger you were at the first episode, the more it is that bipolar disorder, not "unipolar", was the basis for that episode).
  3. A first-degree relative (mother/father, brother/sister, daughter/son) has a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.
  4. When not depressed, mood and energy are a bit higher than average, all the time ("hyperthymic personality").
  5. When depressed, symptoms are "atypical":  extremely low energy and activity; excessive sleep (e.g. more than 10 hours a day); mood is highly reactive to the actions and reactions of others; and (the weakest such sign) appetite is more likely to be increased than decreased.  Some experts think that carbohydrate craving and night eating are variants of this appetite effect. 
  6. Episodes of major depression are brief, e.g. less than 3 months.
  7. The patient has had psychosis (loss of contact with reality) during an episode of depression.
  8. The patient has had severe depression after giving birth to a child ("postpartum depression").
  9. The patient has had hypomania or mania while taking an antidepressant (remember, severe irritability, difficulty sleeping, and agitation may -- but do not always -- qualify for "hypomania").
  10. The patient has had loss of response to an antidepressant (sometimes called "Prozac Poop-out"):  it worked well for a while then the depression symptoms came back, usually within a few months. 
  11. Three or more antidepressants have been tried, and none worked.

There is a very radical idea buried in these 11 items, which we should look at before going on, but you should be aware that this idea is likely be dismissed with a "hmmmph" by many  practicing psychiatrists.  The idea is this:  Dr. Ghaemi and colleagues propose that there might be a version of "bipolar disorder" that does not have any mania at all, not even hypomania.  They call it "bipolar spectrum disorder".  

This is strange, you are saying to yourself.  "I thought bipolar disorder was distinguished from 'unipolar' depression by the presence of some degree of hypomania. Don't you have to have some hypomania in order to be bipolar?  How could it be 'bi' - polar if there is no other pole!?"

But Dr. Ghaemi and colleagues assert that there are versions of depression that end up acting more like bipolar disorder, even though there is no hypomania at all that we can detect (or, as in item #9, only when an antidepressant has been used).   These conditions often do not respond well, in the long run, to antidepressant medications (which "poop out" or actually start making things worse).  They respond better to the medications we routinely rely on in bipolar disorder, the "mood stabilizers" you'll be introduced to in the Treatment section of this website (including several non-medication approaches).  And these patients have other folks in their family with bipolar disorder or something that looks rather more like that (e.g. dramatic "mood swings", even if the person never really gets ill enough to need treatment).  

In Dr. Ghaemi's description, then, there are people whose depression looks so "unipolar" that even a "fine-toothed comb" approach to looking for hypomania will not identify it as part of the "bipolar spectrum".  According to Ghaemi and colleagues, these people should be regarded as "bipolar", in a sense, because of the way they will end up responding to treatment.  In other words, there is something in these people which doesn't look like our old idea of bipolar disorder, or even our newer idea of bipolar disorder (bipolar II, etc.), but will still better describe their future (their prognosis) and the medications that are most likely to help them.  Remember that this is the very purpose of "diagnosis", to describe the likely outcomes with and without treatment, and to identify effective treatments.  So, on that basis, it seems reasonable to include these patients on the "bipolar spectrum", like this: 

The idea that someone can "have" bipolar disorder and yet not have any hypomania at all is not widely understood.  You probably would get blank looks from most psychiatrists if you mention it, and frank disbelief from nearly all primary care doctors, who don't have time to read the literature on the diagnosis of bipolar disorder.  So, if you mention this idea to anyone, be prepared for some serious resistance.  As of 2005  the Harvard-associated Mood Disorder program started using this approach to diagnosis. They call it the Bipolarity Index

Other researchers are also beginning to use the same framework of thought.  For example, one research group just reported that patients with migraine headaches are much more likely to have these bipolar spectrum traits.Oedgaard (Migraines are much more common in patients with unipolar and Bipolar II  than in Bipolar I, interestingly.Fasmer) One recent summary article for primary care doctors, about bipolar disorder, discusses these "soft signs" in considerable detail.Swann The concept of a bipolar "spectrum" is supported by work from a research group calling themselves the Spectrum Project.e.g. Cassano 

Probably better not to raise this issue unless you have to, but if you must, cite the source.  Here's that article link again.Ghaemi   Dr. Ghaemi is the chairman of the committee on diagnosis for the International Society for Bipolar Disorder.  One of his two co-authors is Dr. Frederick Goodwin, who wrote the "bible" of bipolar disorder for our lifetime (Manic-Depressive Illness, with Dr. Kay Jamison).  These are highly respected researchers amongst mood experts.  Dr. Ghaemi emphasizes the need to rely on evidence in all his papers on diagnosis and treatment and is very frequently cited by other authors on this topic .  But he is certainly not the only such voice. If you haven't seen enough references yet, here's another similar recent one, by other international mood experts.Mitchell

Anxious depression could be "bipolar"?!

Warning: leaving DSM-IV territory

The remainder of this "diagnosis" discussion cannot be found in the DSM. I will repeatedly reference mood disorder experts, but many of these views are controversial. You must evaluate for yourself the validity of what follows.

Unfortunately, "hypomania" is quite a mis-naming. There are many patients whose "hypomanic" phases are an extreme and very negative experience. As noted above by Dr. Jamison, mania can be negative as often as it is positive. The "racing thoughts" can have a very negative focus, especially self-criticism. The high energy can be experienced as a severe agitation, to the point where people feel they must pace the floor for hours at a time. Sleep problems can show up as insomnia: an inability to sleep, rather than decreased need.  (If you or a friend or doctor is skeptical about anxiety as a "bipolar" symptom, try that link for more details and references.)  

Most of these people come to treatment with a combination of agitation, anxiety and self-criticism — and they can’t sleep well. Is this "anxiety?" Is this some mood variation? How could you tell the difference? Is there a difference? What is really going on chemically? Unfortunately, this is still almost completely unknown. See the appendix "What’s the latest on why?", which I will try to keep updated frequently, for the latest research about the cause of this illness.

Again, my opinion: you can’t easily distinguish "anxious depression" from bipolar II in a mixed state. I doubt that there is a distinction to be made, ultimately (when we know, hopefully someday relatively soon, what the chemical basis for anxiety with depression really is). For example there is nearly complete overlap between Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Bipolar II.

For now, the only way to tell is by how treatment turns out. Depression that is not bipolar can get better and stay better: with time, or counseling, or formal psychotherapy, or antidepressants. If you get better — great! If you don’t, you may need this new understanding of mood disorders in order to consider mood stabilizers medications, discussed in detail below, as an option.

Meanwhile, at least one experienced mood researcher warns that anxiety in someone who is depressed is associated with a high suicide risk.Fawcett(b) So although there is diagnostic confusion, there are tremendous stakes involved. Approaching this situation with an open mind seems wise, given this risk.

What does Hypomania actually feel like? 
(revised  3/2010)

It's true that hypomania is a milder version of mania --  just how mild, you'll see in a moment.  Mind you, Bipolar II is not a milder version of Bipolar I, though it is very often described that way, to my utter dismay. 

The suicide rate in Bipolar II is the same or higher than the rate for Bipolar I, for example.Dunner  So the BP II version is definitely not a "mild" illness. The depression phases are as bad as in BP I, and often more common (that is, they occur more frequently and represent a more dominant part of the person's life). 

Nevertheless, hypomania can indeed by subtle, certainly by comparison with full mania, as shown in this graph (from Smith and Ghaemi).  Here are the symptoms which people with clear-cut hypomania actually experience -- and how often.  For example, at the bottom of the graph you see that nearly 100% of people with hypomania will have an increase in their activity. By comparison, optimism is prominent only about 70% of the time in hypomania. 

As you can see, these "symptoms" are not clearly abnormal. Everyone experiences these feelings from time to time. When they are extreme; and when they show up over and over again in cycles of mood/energy change; when they are accompanied by other signs of bipolarity, such as phases of depression; that's when we should think of this as "abnormal", or at least as warranting caution if someone wants to treat those depressed phases with an antidepressant.  

However, hypomania is not always positive.  Just as manic phases can be very negative (so-called "dysphoric mania"),  hypomania also can be very unpleasant. Here is an example of how hypomania can change from a positive experience to a very negative one/

First, the positive phase: 

Increased energy. A extraordinary feeling of happiness with myself and the world. A very loving feeling towards the people I care about. An uncommon ability to get things done. A huge burst of energy from the moment I awaken until I go to bed. An expanded ability to multi-task. An organizational acuity that is second to none. A willingness to engage with people. A desire to spend more time with people I care about--and even those I don't.

Then, the negative phase of hypomania (still pretty subtle): 

I start feeling burned out. While I still have a lot of energy, I don't have that "I love the world" feeling. If I've been playing my Autoharp at my mother's assisted living facility, and jumping up and down to help all the participants turn the pages and stay with me, I suddenly feel that the staff should be more helpful in doing this.

... things don't just slide off my back. While I try not to "snap" back at people, I am not always successful. I am certainly less willing to ignore things that days or weeks earlier wouldn't have bothered me at all.

I become far less happy, joyful, and kind. I dislike being criticized in any which way. 

How short can an episode of hypomania be? 

Officially, the answer is "four days", according to the DSM. But in real life, it's very clear that episodes can be shorter, and that's agreed upon by nearly all mood experts I've ever heard. They might disagree whether we should shorten the required duration in the DSM, as that would "admit" a lot more people into the bipolar camp which is already a controversial issue. But no one really seems to think that a hypomanic episode lasting only 3 days instead of four is anything other than hypomania; it just doesn't "meet criteria", that's all. 

Indeed, a recent studyBauer showed that episodes lasting as little as one day are common. So don't get hung up on length of episodes as an issue if you're trying to figure out if you "have bipolar disorder" or not. Remember, that's the wrong question anyway... Instead, it's "how bipolar are you?" as affirmed in a recent editorial Smith in the British Journal of Psychiatry (one of the biggies...). 

What does bipolar depression actually feel like? 
(added  6/2011)

Theoretically, bipolar depression is exactly the same as "unipolar" or straight Major Depression. Theoretically, you can't distinguish between the two, so you can't tell if someone has bipolar disorder just by looking at their depressions. 

But I think there is a different quality to the depressions that people with bipolar disorder experience, because before they start feeling sad and having difficulty experiencing pleasure from their usual activities, they very often have problems with energy.  To emphasize this I'd just like you to look at this list of symptoms which people with bipolar disorder said they have when they're just starting to get depressed. 

If you think "that's me!", careful: this does not mean you have bipolar depressions. But it might help to see what people with bipolar disorder have said about their experience. I don't hear about these symptoms so much when people have a more purely "unipolar" -- not bipolar -- depression. 



Granted, people in this study also endorsed "loss of interest in activities" and "feeling sad, wanting to cry" but these are her typical symptoms in official "Major Depression". And low energy can also be seen in Major Depression. But look at how prominent it is in this study. I think that might be telling us something about the nature of bipolar depression. Certainly matches what I hear from patients. 

Finally, the original intent of this list was to help people identify symptoms that mark the beginning of another episode of depression. He might find it useful in that respect also.

Diagnosis: Summary

I hope it may now make sense to you to think of mood symptoms as falling on a continuum between plain depression and "depression plus", the far end of which is Bipolar I, with many variations falling in between. 

If you are wondering  whether what you've just read is "mainstream" or "fringe" (that's a good thing to wonder), you'll find the same "spectrum" concept coming from the head of the Harvard Bipolar Clinic, in this 2005 interview: Sachs.  

By contrast, another mood disorder expert has shown that bipolar disorder is overdiagnosed (Zimmerman, 2008; here is a close examination of his findings). He's certainly right, if one sticks to the DSM rules (although his paper also shows a notable underdiagnosis rate as well). And there are quite a few people getting this diagnosis who might be better understood with a different diagnostic framework, like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). But in my view, one of the things that can help you figure out what's going on is to learn more about "bipolarity", as you have done here. You are an important part of the diagnostic process. 

Is there a test for bipolar disorder? Can you be sure if you have it or not? 

This used to be simple. When "manic" only meant one thing (classic mania) one could ask "have you ever had a manic episode?" and many people knew what was being asked:

  • Mood much better than normal
  • Rapid speech
  • Little need for sleep
  • Racing thoughts, trouble concentrating
  • Continuous high energy
  • Overconfidence
  • Loss of contact with reality (delusions)

As you now know afresh if you came from elsewhere), this list looks for obvious mania.  It misses all the complexity we have just discussed. What you might be wanting is a "no way!" bipolar test.  Something to provide a clear statement, like: "no, you don’t have it, or anything like it".  Or you might be looking for the opposite: "you definitely have bipolar II".  Sorry, that is not possible, but please read on.  

On other websites you'll find a test called the Mood Disorders Questionnaire (MDQ) which is supposed to give you a "yes or no" answer.   But another test came along after the MDQ which is better suited to looking for subtle versions of bipolar II.  

Think about it:  if by this point on this website you're saying to yourself "that's me!", which some people do, then you really don't need some test to tell you that you should go ahead and consider treatment.  Or that the diagnostic basis for that treatment should include a consideration of bipolar II.  On the other hand, if someone else thinks you might have it, but you don't think you do, is a test result going to make a difference to you?  If so, go ahead and take one of these tests.  

Family or friends could "take the test", answering as if they were you, on the basis of what they've seen you do or heard you say.  And then they could gently wonder out loud if perhaps the test might mean something, who knows, no one can tell for sure, but darn it sure seems like your life is a struggle sometimes, wow, what if there was a tool out there that would make life a bit smoother sometimes, not even necessarily a medication treatment, oh well, just thinking about this, of course you'd want to decide for yourself, not for me to say of course, etc. etc. 

The people who are in a position to benefit from taking one of these diagnostic tests are those who are wondering if a "bipolar" variation might be worth considering to explain their symptoms.  Here's the test I'd recommend for you, called the  Bipolar Spectrum Diagnostic Scale.  It won't give you a yes-or-no answer.  I hope by this point you understand why that's a good thing.  If after all that you still want to use a "fine-toothed comb" to look for hypomanic/manic symptoms, as I sometimes do when people are still wondering about the diagnosis after learning all this, here is a 32-item checklist of such symptoms. 

Thank you for patiently reading all the way to this point.  It's a lot to swallow at once, isn't it?  read more about diagnosis issues in the Diagnosis Details section, or go on to Treatment.

Mediterranean diet and the lower risk of cognitive impairment

Posted by Maddalena Frau on February 26, 2013 at 11:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Eating a Mediterranean diet appears to be associated with less risk of mild cognitive impairment—a stage between normal aging and dementia—or of transitioning from mild cognitive impairment into Alzheimer's disease, according to a report in the February issue of Archives of Neurology.


"Among behavioral traits, diet may play an important role in the cause and prevention of Alzheimer's disease," the authors write as background information in the article.

Previous studies have shown a lower risk for Alzheimer's disease among those who eat a Mediterranean diet, characterized by high intakes of fish, vegetables, legumes, fruits, cereals and unsaturated fatty acids, low intakes of dairy products, meat and saturated fats and moderate alcohol consumption.

Nikolaos Scarmeas, M.D., and colleagues at Columbia University Medical Center, New York, calculated a score for adherence to the Mediterranean diet among 1,393 individuals with no cognitive problems and 482 patients with mild cognitive impairment.

Participants were originally examined, interviewed, screened for cognitive impairments and asked to complete a food frequency questionnaire between 1992 and 1999.

Over an average of 4.5 years of follow-up, 275 of the 1,393 who did not have mild cognitive impairment developed the condition.

Compared with the one-third who had the lowest scores for Mediterranean diet adherence, the one-third with the highest scores for Mediterranean diet adherence had a 28 percent lower risk of developing mild cognitive impairment and the one-third in the middle group for Mediterranean diet adherence had a 17 percent lower risk.Among the 482 with mild cognitive impairment at the beginning of the study, 106 developed Alzheimer's disease over an average 4.3 years of follow-up. Adhering to the Mediterranean diet also was associated with a lower risk for this transition.

The one-third of participants with the highest scores for Mediterranean diet adherence had 48 percent less risk and those in the middle one-third of Mediterranean diet adherence had 45 percent less risk than the one-third with the lowest scores.

The Mediterranean diet may improve cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels and blood vessel health overall, or reduce inflammation, all of which have been associated with mild cognitive impairment.

Individual food components of the diet also may have an influence on cognitive risk. "For example, potentially beneficial effects for mild cognitive impairment or mild cognitive impairment conversion to Alzheimer's disease have been reported for alcohol, fish, polyunsaturated fatty acids (also for age-related cognitive decline) and lower levels of saturated fatty acids," they write.


Read more at: http://phys.org/news153419152.html#jCp

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Posted by Maddalena Frau on February 9, 2013 at 2:05 PM Comments comments (0)

The causes of ADHD.


According to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a legitimate psychologic condition.

ADHD is a syndrome generally characterized by the following symptoms:

Inattention Distractibility Impulsivity Hyperactivity

Some doctors categorize ADHD into three subtypes:

Behavior marked by hyperactivity and impulsivity, but not inattentiveness Behavior marked by inattentiveness, but not hyperactivity and impulsivity A combination of the above twoThere is some debate over these criteria.

Some argue the condition is overdiagnosed. Others say it's underdiagnosed.

One-third of cases are accompanied by learning disabilities and other neurologic or emotional problems, making an ADHD diagnosis particularly difficult.

It is likely that the term attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder will eventually give way to subgroups of problems that include some of these general symptoms.

ADHD is a genuine disorder, but it is telling that the U.S. accounts for 90% of worldwide prescriptions for stimulants for ADHD.

It is not known whether this reflects a real increase in ADHD, or a better ability to recognize it. Some say it may be an indication of a culture that places excessive value on normalcy and academic achievement at the expense of more frequent diagnoses.

Symptoms of ADHD usually occur around the age of 7. Studies indicate that ADHD symptoms in preschool children with ADHD do not differ significantly from older children.

The classic ADHD symptoms do not always adequately describe the child's behavior, nor do they describe what is actually happening in the child's mind.

Some researchers focused on deficits in "executive functions" of the brain to understand and describe all ADHD behaviors. Such impaired executive functions in ADHD children can cause the following problems:

Inability to hold information in short-term memoryImpaired organization and planning skills

Difficulty in establishing and using goals to guide behavior, such as selecting strategies and monitoring tasksInability to keep emotions from becoming overpoweringInability to shift efficiently from one mental activity to anotherHyperactivity.

The term hyperactive is often confusing since, for some, it suggests a child racing around non-stop.

A boy with ADHD playing a game, for instance, may have the same level of activity as another child without the syndrome. But when a high demand is placed on the child's attention, his brain motor activity intensifies beyond the levels of the other children. In a busy environment, such as a classroom or a crowded store, children with ADHD often become distracted and react by pulling items off the shelves, hitting people, or spinning out of control into erratic, silly, or strange behavior.

Impulsivity and Temper Explosions. Even before the "terrible twos," impulsive behavior is often apparent. The toddler may gleefully make erratic and aggressive gestures, such as hair pulling, pinching, and hitting.

Temper tantrums, normal in children after age 2, are usually exaggerated and not necessarily linked to a specific negative event in the life of a child with ADHD. One of the most painful events a parent may experience is an abrupt and aggressive attack that may occur after cuddling a young child with ADHD.

Often this reaction seems to be caused not by anger, but by the child's apparent inability to endure over stimulation or displays of physical affection.

Attention and Concentration. Children with ADHD are usually distracted and made inattentive by an overstimulating environment (such as a large classroom).

They are also inattentive when a situation is low-key or dull. Some researchers theorize that certain parts of the brain in ADHD children may be underactive, so the children fail to be aroused by nonstimulating activities.

In contrast, they may exhibit a kind of "super concentration" to a highly stimulating activity (such as a video game or a highly specific interest).

Such children may even become over-attentive -- so absorbed in a project that they cannot modify or change the direction of their attention.

Impaired Short-Term Memory. Many doctors now believe that an essential feature in ADHD, as well as in learning disabilities, is an impaired working (also called short-term) memory. People with ADHD can't hold groups of sentences and images in their mind long enough to extract organized thoughts.

They are not necessarily inattentive. Instead, a patient with ADHD may be unable to remember a full explanation (such as a homework assignment), or unable to complete processes that require remembering sequences, such as model building.

In general, children with ADHD are often attracted to activities (television, computer games, or active individual sports) that do not tax the working memory, or produce distractions.

Children with ADHD have no differences in long-term memory compared with other children.

Inability to Manage Time. Studies suggest that children with ADHD have difficulties being on time and planning the correct amount of time to complete tasks. (This may coincide with short-term memory problems.)

Lack of Adaptability. Children with ADHD have a very difficult time adapting to even minor changes in routines, such as getting up in the morning, putting on shoes, eating new foods, or going to bed. Any shift in a situation can precipitate a strong and noisy negative response.

Even when they are in a good mood, they may suddenly shift into a tantrum if met with an unexpected change or frustration. In one experiment, These children can closely focus their attention when directly cued to a specific location, but they have difficulty shifting their attention to an alternative location.

Hypersensitivity and Sleep Problems.. Children with ADHD are often hypersensitive to sights, sounds, and touch.

They may complain excessively about stimuli that seem low key or bland to others. Sleeping problems usually occur well after the point when most small children sleep through the night. In one study, 63% of children with ADHD had trouble sleeping.

Adult ADHDAlthough ADHD is primarily thought of as a childhood disorder, diagnoses of attention-deficit disorder in adults are on the rise.

Methylphenidate (Ritalin) was prescribed for nearly 800,000 adults in the U.S. in 1997, nearly three times the number in 1992. It is estimated that ADHD affects about 4.1% of adults ages 18 - 44 years in a given year. The disorder appears to be distributed equally between adult women and men.

Accompanying Mental Health Disorders. About 20 % of adults with ADHD also have major depression or bipolar disorder. Up to 50 % have an anxiety disorder. Bipolar disorder plus ADHD, in fact, may be very difficult to differentiate from ADHD alone in adults.

Accompanying Learning Disorders. About 20% of adults with ADHD have learning disorders, usually dyslexia and auditory processing problems. These problems should be considered in any treatment plan.

Effect on Work. Compared to adults without ADHD, those with the condition tend to reach lower educational levels, earn less money, and be fired more often. In fact, one study reported that by the time they are in their 30s, about 35% of ADHD adults are self-employed.

Substance Abuse. About 1 in 5 adults with ADHD also contend with substance abuse. Studies indicate that adolescents with ADHD are twice as likely to smoke cigarettes as their peers who do not have ADHD.

Cigarette smoking during adolescence is a risk factor for the development of substance abuse in adulthood.


Brain Structure

Research using advanced imaging techniques shows there is a difference in the size of certain parts of the brain in children with ADHD compared to children who do not have ADHD. The areas showing change include the prefrontal cortex, the caudate nucleus and globus pallidus, and the cerebellum.

Brain Chemicals

Abnormal activity of certain brain chemicals in the prefrontal cortex may contribute to ADHD. The chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine are of special interest. Dopamine and norepinephrine are neurotransmitters, or chemical messengers, that affect both mental and emotional functioning. They also play a role in the "reward response." This response occurs when a person experiences pleasure in response to certain stimuli (such as food or love). Studies suggest that increased levels of the brain chemicals glutamate, glutamine, and GABA -- collectively called Glx -- interact with the pathways that transport dopamine and norepinephrine.

Nerve Pathways

Another area of interest is a network of nerves called the basal-ganglia thalamocortical pathways. Abnormalities along this neural route have been associated with ADHD, Tourette syndrome, and obsessive-compulsive disorders, all of which share certain symptoms.

Genetic Factors

Genetic factors may play the most important role in ADHD. The relatives of ADHD children (both boys and girls) have much higher rates of ADHD, antisocial, mood, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders than the families of non-ADHD children. Some twin studies report that up to 90% of children with a diagnosis of ADHD shared it with their twin.

Most of the research on the underlying genetic mechanisms targets the neurotransmitter dopamine. Variations in genes that regulate specific dopamine receptors have been identified in a high proportion of people with addictions and ADHD.

Risk Factors:

Gender and ADHD

ADHD is most often diagnosed in boys. However, there is some evidence that it is underdiagnosed in girls. Until recently, all major studies were conducted using boys as subjects. More studies on girls with ADHD are now underway. A major study reported that girls with the condition experience the same multiple impairments as boys do.

Family History

ADHD tends to run in families. A child who has a parent or sibling with ADHD has an increased risk of also developing ADHD.

Environmental Factors

Some research suggests that prenatal exposure to tobacco and alcohol may increase the risk for ADHD. Environmental lead exposure before age 6 may also raise the risk for ADHD.

Dietary Factors

Several dietary factors have been researched in association with ADHD, including sensitivities to certain food chemicals, deficiencies in fatty acids (compounds that make up fats and oils) and zinc, and sensitivity to sugar. No clear evidence has emerged, however, that implicates any of these nutritional factors as risk factors for developing ADHD.





Resourceswww.aap.org -- American Academy of Pediatricswww.nimh.nih.gov -- National Institute of Mental Healthwww.chadd.org -- Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit Disorderwww.add.org -- Attention Deficit Disorder Associationwww.aabt.org -- Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapieswww.psych.org -- American Psychiatric Associationwww.parentsmedguide.org -- Medication Guide for Treating ADHDwww.aacap.org -- American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatrywww.nichcy.org -- National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilitieswww.ncld.org -- National Center for Learning Disabilitieswww.ldaamerica.org -- Learning Disabilities Association of America




Marijuana Quiz

Posted by Maddalena Frau on February 9, 2013 at 1:55 PM Comments comments (0)


Marijuana Quiz

(Must get 20 correct to pass)



1. Marijuana has a major active chemical called

a. delta cannibinoid

b. androus delta 9

c. delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol

d. none of the above

2. In 2004, 16 percent of 8th graders had tried marijuana.

True ___ False___

3. Marijuana is frequently combined with other drugs, often without the user being aware, such as crack cocaine, PCP, formaldehyde and codeine cough syrup.

True ___ False___

4. THC passes from the lungs into the bloodstream, which carries the chemical to all organs in the body, including the brain. Marijuana affects the brain in the following ways (circle all that apply).

a. THC connects to specific sites called cannabinoid receptors on nerve cells and it then influences the activity of those cells.

b. Many cannabinoid receptors are found in the parts of the brain that influence pleasure, memory, thought, concentration, sensory and time perception and coordination.

c. The THC is water soluble and only stays in the brain a short time.

d. Once the euphoria and pleasant sensations pass, the user may feel sleepy, depressed, anxious, fearful or distrustful.

5. Heavy marijuana use impairs a person’s ability to form memories, remember events and shifts the person’s attention from one thing to another.

True ___ False___

6. Cancer of the respiratory tract and lungs may be promoted by marijuana smoke, which is usually inhaled more deeply than tobacco smoke.

True ___ False___

7. Marijuana’s use on the job causes the worker to out-perform his/her co-workers in productivity and other important job functions.

True___ False ___

8. One study of 129 college students found that among heavy users of marijuana (people who had smoked it 27 out of the preceding 30 days) those individuals had more trouble keeping and shifting their attention, and were functioning at a reduced intellectual level.

True ___ False___

9. Marijuana users report (circle the one that is not true) 

a. That heavy use negatively affected their thinking ability, career achievement, social lives and physical and mental health in negative ways.

b. That the pleasure they received from marijuana use was worth the other negative consequences.

c. Poor outcomes on a variety of measures of life satisfaction and achievement.

10. Research has shown that some babies born to women who used marijuana during their pregnancies displayed poor performance on tasks involving attention and memory during their pre-school years.

True ___ False___

11. Can marijuana use become addictive?

Yes ___ No___

12. Early marijuana use (before age 17) has been shown to increase the risk of later drug problems.

True___ False___

13. There are a number of medications available to treat marijuana abuse.

True___ False___

14. Even after long-term, heavy marijuana use, some thinking and reasoning abilities may be recovered.

True ___ False___

15. Which of the following is not true? (Please circle)

a. The ingredient THC in marijuana impairs the immune system’s ability

to fight off infectious diseases and cancer.

b. A person’s risk of a heart attack during the first hour after smoking

marijuana is four times his or her usual risk.

c. Long-term marijuana use causes blackouts.

16. The marijuana available today can be five times more

potent than the marijuana available in the 1970’s.

True___ False___

17. Marijuana use has fewer side effects if the user has first

eaten a full meal.

True ___ False___

18. The more a person uses marijuana, the more likely they

are to fall behind in accumulating intellectual, job and social


True ___ False ___

19. Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States, with more than 94 million people over age 12 having tried it at least once.

True___ False ___

20. Many cannabinoid receptors are found in the parts of the

brain that influence pleasure, memory, thought, concentra-

tion, sensory and time perception and coordinated move-


True ___ False___

21. When marijuana is smoked, its effects begin immediately after the drug enters the brain and lasts from 1 to 3 hours.

True___ False___

22. THC enters the brain and causes a user to feel euphoric or “high” by acting in the brain’s reward system.

True___ False___

23. When the euphoria passes: ( circle all that are true)

a. A user may feel sleepy or depressed.

b. A user may feel energized and clear-headed.

c. a. only

d. b. only

e. neither a nor b

24. THC can be used in an oral medication to treat nausea in cancer chemotherapy patients.

True ___ False ___

25. Marijuana can be used to brew tea.

True ___ False ___

26. In males, heavy marijuana use over time can cause gynecomastia (enlarged breasts)

True___ False___



1.   C.

2.   True

3.   True

4.   a. b. d.

5.   True

6.   True

7.   False

8.   True

9.    B.

10. True

11. Yes

12. True

13. False

14. True

15. C.

16. True

17. False

18. True

19. True

20. True

21. True

22. True

23. C.

24. True

25. True

26. True


Am I Normal? By John M. Grohol

Posted by Maddalena Frau on December 5, 2012 at 3:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Am I Normal?

By John M. Grohol

This is a common theme I hear echoed from a lot of people I meet.

“Am I normal?”

“I can’t wait to feel more normal again.”

“Must be nice being so normal …”

The problem is, I don’t know what normal is.

I suppose for some of the people, they mean “without the symptoms of my disorder.” That makes sense, especially as some symptoms of some disorders can be pretty severe and debilitating toward living their everyday life.

But then I realize that even people without a diagnosed condition still don’t often feel “normal.” We live our lives, we have our stresses, we hate our bosses or the 9-to-5 routine, we get into arguments with our significant others. Is this “normal?”


Some days you don’t know why you wake up. Some days you don’t know why you go into work. Some days you don’t know what the ultimate point of your life is going to be. Is this “normal?”

Every other waking moment, you’re thinking of food or eating. Every hour you think of sex. Every day you imagine what “normal” must feel like. Is this “normal?”

You sing along with the radio. You talk on your cell phone while driving (even knowing that you shouldn’t). You hate your parents. You can’t wait to visit them during the next holiday, though, because you haven’t seen them for awhile. And then you feel guilty for thinking, “I hate my parents.” Is this “normal?”

The point is simple — there is no “normal.” There is a homeostasis we try and maintain in our constantly-changing environment. None of us live a “normal” life because there’s no such thing. The grass may be greener in your neighbor’s yard, but that may be because their pumping their kid’s college funds into yard maintenance and fertilizer. You never know other people’s lives — you only know what they choose to show you.

That couple you met at the dinner party the other night were so nice to each other because they get along well and genuinely like each other. But does that mean they never fight? Of course not. And does that mean the couple that tosses light-hearted barbs at one another at the same party has a worse, more unhealthy relationship? No, just a different kind of one. And yes, they argue in private too (all couples do at some point — it’s actually a sign of a healthy relationship).

Maybe it’s best to think of “normal” as a range of life experiences where we can live the life we want, without significant health or mental health impediments. It still has its ups and downs, it still has moments where we question our own sanity, but it’s relatively predictable with routines that feel familiar but not necessarily suffocating.

Or maybe I still have no idea what normal is … So please drop me a note when you find it. I’ll be waiting here next to my neighbor’s extraordinarily green lawn.



Gender and race: How overlapping stereotypes affect our personal and professional decisions

Posted by Maddalena Frau on December 5, 2012 at 3:00 AM Comments comments (0)


Racial and gender stereotypes have profound consequences in almost every sector of public life, from job interviews and housing to police stops and prison terms. However, only a few studies have examined whether these different categories overlap in their stereotypes. A new study on the connections between race and gender – a phenomenon called gendered race – reveals unexpected ways in which stereotypes affect our personal and professional decisions.

Within the United States, Asians as an ethnic group are perceived as more feminine in comparison to whites, while blacks are perceived as more masculine, according to new research by Adam Galinsky, the Vikram S. Pandit Professor of Business at Columbia Business School. Further research by Galinsky shows that the fact that race is gendered has profound consequences for interracial marriage, leadership selection, and athletic participation.

The first study conducted by Galinsky and his colleagues Erika Hall of Kellogg School of Management and Amy Cuddy of Harvard University directly tested whether race was gendered. Eighty-five participants of various backgrounds completed an online survey in which they evaluated either the femininity or masculinity of certain traits or attributed those traits to Asians, whites, and blacks.

The stereotype content for blacks was considered to be the most masculine, followed by whites, with Asians being the least masculine," Galinsky wrote in the study, soon to appear in Psychological Science. "Thus, we found a substantial overlap between the contents of racial and gender stereotypes.

" A separate study, in which participants were subliminally exposed to a word related to race before reacting to words perceived as masculine or feminine, showed that the association between racial and gender stereotypes exists even at an implicit level.

Their next set of studies demonstrated that these associations have important implications for romantic relationships. Within the heterosexual dating market, men tend to prefer women who personify the feminine ideal while women prefer men who embody masculinity. Galinsky showed that men are more attracted to Asian women relative to black women, while women are more attracted to black men relative to Asian men.

Even more interesting, the more a man valued femininity the more likely he was attracted to an Asian women and the less likely he was attracted to an black women. The same effect occurred for women, with attraction to masculinity driving the differential attraction to black men and Asian men.

These interracial dating preferences have real-world results, Galinsky found. He analyzed the 2000 US Census data and found a similar pattern among interracial marriages: among black-white marriages, 73 percent had a black husband and a white wife, while among Asian-white marriages, 75 percent had a white husband and an Asian wife.

An even more pronounced pattern emerged in Asian-black marriages, in which 86 percent had a black husband and an Asian wife.The effects of gendered races extend to leadership selection and athletic participation, further research showed.

In a study in which participants evaluated job candidates, Asians were more likely to be selected for a leadership position that required collaboration and relationship building, traits typically perceived as feminine.

Black candidates were more likely to be chosen for positions that required a fiercely competitive approach, typically seen as masculine.A final study analyzed archival data from the National Collegiate Athletic Association's (NCAA) Student-Athlete Ethnicity Report, which breaks down the racial composition of 30 different collegiate sports (NCAA, 2010) from 2000-2010 for Divisions I, II, and III.

Galinsky and his colleagues found that the more a sport was perceived to be masculine the greater the relative number of black to Asian athletes who played that sport at the collegiate level, with blacks more likely to participate in the most masculine sports.

"This research shows that the intersection of race and gender has important real-world consequences," Galinsky concluded. "Considering the overlap between racial and gender stereotypes – our gendered race perspective – opens up new frontiers for understanding how stereotypes impact the important decisions that drive our most significant outcomes at work and at home.

"Journal reference: Psychological Science search and more info website

Provided by Columbia Business School




The yin and yang of genes for mood disorders

Posted by Maddalena Frau on October 9, 2012 at 12:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Individual genes do not cause depression, but they are thought to increase the probability of an individual having a depression in the face of other accumulating risk factors, such as other genes and environmental stressors.

One gene that has been shown to increase the risk for depression in the context of multiple stressful life events is the gene for the serotonin transporter protein.

This gene is responsible for making the protein that is targeted by all current drug treatments for depression. In a number of studies it has been shown that people who inherit one form of this gene, called SLC6A4, are at up to four times the risk of depression if they experience unusual stresses in their lives.

Basic science experiments and imaging studies in normal people suggest that the way this form of the gene affects risk for depression is by impacting on the development of a system in the brain that mediates how negative environmental stresses and threats feel.

The effects of this serotonin gene on this brain system are thought to occur early in development, where the shaping of brain systems related to how the environment is experienced emotionally is critically determined.

Basic science experiments have shown that another gene, called BDNF, regulates the expression of a protein that is important for the ability of the serotonin gene to cause these developmental effects.

The BNDF gene plays a critical role in allowing the serotonin gene to have its affect on brain development.Interestingly, the BDNF gene also has been found to be a risk factor for mood disorders and is thought to be important in mediating the effects of antidepressant drugs.

Thus, given the basic molecular link between SLC56A4 and BDNF, and the potential that risk for depression might be better understood in the context of these two genes together rather than any one of them alone, investigators now have looked at how inheriting different combinations of forms of these two gene would impact on the development of this emotion regulation system in the brain.

They found that in normal subjects the deleterious impact of the serotonin gene on the development of this brain system was critically dependent on which form of the BDNF gene was also inherited.

If an individual inherited one form of the BDNF gene, they were particularly susceptible to the deleterious form of the serotonin gene but if they inherited the other form of the BDNF gene, they were completely protected against it.

This study is the first to show the complex interactions that occur between mood disorder related genes and their impact on mood disorder related brain circuitry.

The study makes it clear that individual genes have to be viewed in a context, both a genetic and an environmental context.

But the results also illustrate that no one gene is an island unto itself, and the impact that any gene will have on complex condition like mental illnesses will depend on how that gene interacts with other genes sharing biological overlap.

This study also makes it clear why individuals genes do not show stronger effects on predicting complex illnesss like depression, because risk is based on the combinatorial effects of interacting risk factors.

Source: Molecular Psychiatry