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Mindfulness-based therapy for chronic pain

Mindfulness-based therapy for chronic pain

Chronic pain is a common, disabling complaint affecting approximately 20-30% of the adult population in Western countries and is often associated with high rates of comorbid depressive symptoms. While current therapeutic approaches, including analgesics and opioids, can provide significant improvements, the most effective medications only reduce pain by 30-40% in less than 50% of the patients. In addition, surgical techniques such as implantation of artificial spinal discs offer limited pain reduction in only a subset of patients. This has led to the proposal of various psychological treatments for chronic pain (Chiesa & Serretti, 2011).

Over the last three decades, mindfulness-based interventions have become increasingly important in the treatment of chronic pain (Reiner, Tibi, & Lipsitz, 2013). Mindfulness focuses on detached observation of a constantly changing field of objects, which means observing perceptions, emotions and cognitions, without judgement and attempts to change or control them (Kabat-Zinn, Lipworth, & Burney, 1985). A substantial body of research supports the benefits of mindfulness-based interventions for chronic pain patients. However, much of this research primarily addresses global distress, functional capacity and quality of life (Reiner et al., 2013).

Although mindfulness-based interventions are far from being uniform, they are characterized by three core features. The first is to observe the reality of the present moment by focusing attention on objective features of the momentary situation or experience. The second is to focus attention on a single aspect of consciousness and accept it as it is, without judgement, action or preoccupation with its implications. The third is to remain open to whatever is in focus at the moment, without holding on to any particular point of view or outcome. These three characteristics have also been described in terms of a two-component model, where one component involves attention to the present moment and the second component involves an attitude of acceptance and openness (Kabat-Zinn et al., 1985).

There are currently several mindfulness-based interventions that have been shown to be beneficial for pain disorders. The most researched among them are Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR; Reiner et al., 2013). Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) was originally developed to improve the self-management of chronic pain patients (Kabat-Zinn et al., 1985). MBSR is based on the rationale that mindfulness practice leads to a spontaneous decoupling of the sensory component of pain from the emotional and cognitive components, thus reducing the level of distress caused by pain. In MBSR, individuals learn the principles of mindfulness through various techniques, for example, practicing yoga and various meditations such as body scan meditation or breathing meditation (Kabat-Zinn et al., 1985). A meta-analysis that examined the effects of MBSR in adults with chronic conditions (including chronic pain) concludes that there is evidence of the effectiveness of MBSR in reducing stress and impairment in this population (Bohlmeijer, Prenger, Taal, & Cuijpers, 2010). ACT is also offered for chronic pain as well as a variety for other psychological problems (Reiner et al., 2013). The acceptance method combines mindfulness practice with work on personal values, behaviour commitment and behaviour change strategies to help patients live more fulfilling lives (McCracken, Carson, Eccleston, & Keefe, 2004).

Bibliography :
  • Bohlmeijer, E., Prenger, R., Taal, E., & Cuijpers, P. (2010). The effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy on mental health of adults with a chronic medical disease: a meta-analysis. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 68(6), 539–544. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2009.10.005
  • Chiesa, A., & Serretti, A. (2011). Mindfulness-based interventions for chronic pain: a systematic review of the evidence. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (New York, N.Y.), 17(1), 83–93. doi: 10.1089/acm.2009.0546
  • Kabat-Zinn, J., Lipworth, L., & Burney, R. (1985). The clinical use of mindfulness meditation for the self-regulation of chronic pain. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 8(2), 163–190. doi: 10.1007/BF00845519
  • McCracken, L. M., Carson, J. W., Eccleston, C., & Keefe, F. J. (2004). Acceptance and change in the context of chronic pain. Pain, 109(1–2), 4–7. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2004.02.006Reiner, K., Tibi, L., & Lipsitz, J. D. (2013). Do mindfulness-based interventions reduce pain intensity? A critical review of the literature. Pain Medicine (Malden, Mass.), 14(2), 230–242. doi: 10.1111/pme.12006
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Author : Alexander Ariu

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Folie a deux

“Folie a deux” or “Shared Psychotic Disorder” is a rare type of mental illness in which a person who does not have a primary mental health disorder comes to believe the delusion of a close person with a psychotic or delusional disorder. For example, a wife might come to believe her husband’s delusions even though she is otherwise mentally healthy. 

Shared Psychotic Disorder develops in the context of a relationship in which one person influences the other. The psychotic symptoms develop in the course of a close long-term relationship with a person who already had a psychotic disorder. These relationships can for example be between family members, couples, sisters and in rare cases can even include more than two individuals. The person with a preexisting disorder is called the primary case (Inducer) and the other person is called the secondary case (Inductee or Recipient).

The symptoms of shared psychotic disorder depend on the diagnosis of the primary person with the disorder. The secondary person develops hallucinations or delusions gradually over time and is usually not aware of these changes. Neither the person with the primary mental illness nor the person who develops the same delusions has insight into the problem. Therefore, the first person does not realize that they are making the other person sick. They assume that they are simply showing the truth to the second person.

In general, both individuals behave paranoid, fearful, and distrustful of others. They react very defensive and angry if their shared delusions are questioned. The delusions themselves are usually persecutory. With the separation of the primary and the secondary person, the developed delusions from the secondary person seem to disappear.

 But what causes this extraordinary disorder? There are several possible risk factors for “Shared Psychotic Disorder”:

  • Social isolation of the primary and secondary person from the outside world
  • High levels of chronic stress or the occurrence of stressful life events
  • A dominant primary person and submissive secondary person 
  • A close connection between the primary and secondary person; usually a long-term relationship with attachment (e.g., family members, couples, sisters, etc.)
  • A secondary person with a neurotic, dependent, or passive personality style or someone who struggles with judgment/critical thinking
  • A secondary person with another mental illness such as depression, schizophrenia, or dementia
  • An untreated disorder (e.g., delusional disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder) in the primary individual
  • An age difference between the primary and secondary person
  • A secondary person who is dependent on the primary due to being disabled (e.g., physically or mentally)

To get a better impression of the Shared Psychotic disorder I show you a case described by Mohamed in which an 8-year-old girl was admitted to a psychiatric center. The girl had acute psychosis with agitation, confusion, paranoid delusions, and hallucinations. The girl reported that her neighbors broke into her house, raped her, and injected her with drugs and rat poison. She also stated hearing the neighbors’ voices and additionally suffered from insomnia, and has trouble falling asleep. The girl had no history of psychiatric or medical illness according to her family and her primary care physician. Examinations showed that the 8-year-old had no physical signs of needlesticks or rape, and her mental status was normal except for the paranoid content of her thoughts. When attempts were made to contact the mother, it was discovered that the mother had checked herself into the same psychiatric clinic. The mother reported to her psychiatrist about the same atrocities committed by the neighbors as her daughter. In her records, it was found that the mother had been to the emergency department several times before and reported similar symptoms. The mother always refused psychiatric assessment or treatment. 

After a full assessment, it was revealed that there were no signs of genital trauma and any kind of drugs. The daughter was diagnosed with Shared Psychotic Disorder and the mother was diagnosed with Psychotic Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. 

After the diagnosis, the daughter was separated from her mother and was able to recover quickly. The daughter was left in the care of a family friend. The mother went for treatment and was able to see her daughter under supervision.

Bibliography :
  • Abu-Salha, M. (1998). Folie á Deux: Two Case Reports. Jefferson Journal of Psychiatry, 14(1). https://doi.org/10.29046/JJP.014.1.002
Featured image :
  • Canva. (n.d.).
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The many faces of hallucination

Are you wondering about this strange picture I chose for this week’s blog? Well, you should because this picture isn’t less than a magical artifact, capable to let whole camels disappear. Just close your left eye, focus on the target with your right and move towards your screen. And Hocuspocus and Abrakadabra the camel is nada! Did you see it disappear? I hope so because this means your optic nerve leaving your eyeball creates an area where photoreceptors are absent. This results in a blind spot which is perfectly normal. But the interesting part is not that this exists, it’s the psychological reaction to this anatomical problem. It’s the filling in of this blind spot with visuals of the surrounding so we don’t even notice it in our daily life (Durgin, Tripathy & Levi, 1995). So, the reason we don’t see a void stain when we close an eye is that our brain creates an unreal image without the presence of an external stimulus. It’s hallucinating.

When talking about hallucinations most people think about psychedelics like LSD or Psilocybin. But these drug-induced states are just a small part of a much bigger picture. Hallucinations can occur without any external substances involved. In mental illnesses like schizophrenia, patients report hallucinations in various sensory systems. They can be olfactory, visual, tactile, auditory, or gustatory and the patients often experience them in more than just one sensory system (Goodwin & Rosenthal, 1971). On one hand, this makes sense because all our sensory areas in the cortex are neuronal strongly connected but on the other hand, it also seems that patients have individual connectivity patterns which would explain predominant hallucinations in one sense, most of the time visual or auditorial (Amad et al., 2014). But also, an imbalance in neurotransmitters, mostly dopamine and serotonin, seem to play a major role in schizophrenia. An imbalance that is known to cause hallucinations in other diseases like Parkinson’s syndrome (Stahl, 2016). All of these just mentioned hallucinations have a clinical background even though healthy people are just as capable of producing these illusions. All you have to do is to skip sleep for some nights (Waters, Chiu, Atkinson & Blom, 2018). Sleep and hallucinations seem to be related anyway in some kind of way and I’m not talking about your ordinary dreams. Those affected by sleep paralysis, which by the way would deserve an article on his own, report about vivid hallucinations of mostly frightening creatures like ghosts and shadow creatures. They are often seen by the sleeping person in the same room as they are, sometimes even touching them or sitting on top of their victim (Cheyne, Rueffer & Newby-Clark, 1999). Interestingly, a possible cause in the serotonin system is also discussed here, as is the case with hallucinations in schizophrenia (Jalal, 2018). But one does not need an unusual amount of a neurotransmitter to perceive things that aren’t really there. Sometimes the lack of a sensory information also causes hallucinations, as seen in the Charles Bonnet syndrome. Mostly elderly, visually impaired people see colorful pictures of people, faces and animals while being completely aware that these images are not real. And even if these scenes are mostly perceived as very entertaining and not threatening at all, there is often a fear of the associated stereotype. Those affected are afraid of being labeled as mentally unfit even though their cognitive function is faultless (Menon, Rahman, Menon & Dutton, 2003).

The list goes on and on. Sensual deprivation and sensual overload, prescription and unprescribed drugs, mentally ill and sane, young and old, hallucinations are omnipresent! And while there are still many unanswered questions about how they arise, we can already learn a lot from them about perception in general. Why we see our world the way we do. And most importantly, how individual this view is.

Bibliography :
  • Amad, A., Cachia, A., Gorwood, P., Pins, D., Delmaire, C., Rolland, B., & Jardri, R. (2014). The multimodal connectivity of the hippocampal complex in auditory and visual hallucinations. Molecular psychiatry, 19(2), 184-191.
  • Cheyne, J. A., Rueffer, S. D., & Newby-Clark, I. R. (1999). Hypnagogic and hypnopompic hallucinations during sleep paralysis: neurological and cultural construction of the night-mare. Consciousness and cognition, 8(3), 319-337.
  • Durgin, F. H., Tripathy, S. P., & Levi, D. M. (1995). On the Filling in of the Visual Blind Spot: Some Rules of Thumb. Perception, 24(7), 827–840. https://doi.org/10.1068/p240827
  • Goodwin, D. W., & Rosenthal, R. (1971). Clinical significance of hallucinations in psychiatric disorders: a study of 116 hallucinatory patients. Archives of General Psychiatry, 24(1), 76-80.
  • Jalal, B. (2018). The neuropharmacology of sleep paralysis hallucinations: serotonin 2A activation and a novel therapeutic drug. Psychopharmacology, 235(11), 3083-3091.
  • Menon, G. J., Rahman, I., Menon, S. J., & Dutton, G. N. (2003). Complex visual hallucinations in the visually impaired: the Charles Bonnet Syndrome. Survey of ophthalmology, 48(1), 58-72.
  • Stahl, S. (2016). Parkinson’s disease psychosis as a serotonin-dopamine imbalance syndrome. CNS Spectrums, 21(5), 355-359. doi:10.1017/S1092852916000602
  • Waters, F., Chiu, V., Atkinson, A., & Blom, J. D. (2018). Severe sleep deprivation causes hallucinations and a gradual progression toward psychosis with increasing time awake. Frontiers in psychiatry, 9, 303.
Featured image :
  • Joachim Herz Stiftung. (2021). Experiment zum Blinden Fleck. Retrieved from: https://www.leifiphysik.de/optik/optische-linsen/versuche/blinder-fleck

Author : Max Frutiger

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The gender gap in Psychology

There is a stricken fact that people notice when they enter a room full of psychology students: most of them are female. As a student yourself, if you’re a heterosexual female, you may have doubts about whether you’re going to find the love of your life in that room or not. On the opposite side, if you’re one of the three to ten men in the class, you’ll most likely be excited about this gender gap. All jokes and love interests aside, psychology is a field in which about 70% of master’s and doctoral students are female (National Science Foundation, 2016). Despite this over-representation of females in the classes, only a third of the professors are females and when women do decide to make a career in experimental psychology, they’re less published and cited than their male counterparts (Odic & Wojcik, 2020). 

A study analyzing records from 125 high-impact, peer-reviewed psychology journals, with the goal of determining how men and women contribute to research in psychology, showed that females are less cited and published than their male colleagues (Odic & Wojcik, 2020). The authors were also interested in testing whether these gaps persist across factors such as authorship position and subdiscipline as well as in studying the evolution of these patterns between 2003 and 2019. Firstly, they found that this publication gap is pervasive but not identical across subfields. For example, Developmental and Health psychology show a smaller publication gap than Neurosciences. Furthermore, if this publication gap is more or less important across different fields in psychology, it is not the case for the citation gap. Indeed, publications by male researchers receive more citations than those made by females independently of the field (Odic & Wojcik, 2020). The authors do not have an explanation for this but there is a hypothesis that the gap may be explained by the fact that men could tend to self-cite more than women (Larivière et al., 2013). Lastly, this publication gap seems to be evolving towards a more equal situation where women are better represented in some subdisciplines. This is not by any means perfect but it shows that psychology is not a stagnated science dominated by men and that on the contrary, women are now strongly represented in psychology faculties and early career positions (Odic & Wojcik, 2020). Even though these findings are interested, the authors accentuate the importance of conducting further research to explain why this gap exists and which are the factors contributing to its perpetration. They consider that the gaps may, for example, be explained by the hiring rates for men and women and journal policies.  In conclusion, there is a gender publication and citation gap that favors men and future research should be done in order to investigate which social, cultural and contextual factors contribute to these gaps.

Bibliography :
  • Larivière, V., Ni, C., Gingras, Y., Cronin, B., & Sugimoto, C. R. (2013). Bibliometrics: Global gender disparities in science. Nature, 504, 211– 213. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/504211a
  • National Science Foundation. (2016). Survey of earned doctorates (NSF No. 18–304). Retrieved from https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/2018/nsf 18304/ 
  • Odic, D., & Wojcik, E. H. (2020). The publication gender gap in psychology. American Psychologist, 75(1), 92–103. https://doi.org/10.1037/amp0000480
Featuring image :
  • Stancikatie, A. (2020). We Need to Close the Gender Data Gap By Including Women in Our Algorithms [Illustration]. TIME. Retrived from : https://time.com/collection/davos-2020/5764698/gender-data-gap/

Author : Paula Morales

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Living in parallel lives: when daydreaming is a psychiatric condition

For most people, daydreaming is a fun little pastime but some people experience frequent and intrusive daydreams. When daydreaming becomes an extensive fantasy activity that replaces human interaction and/or interferes with one’s job, studies or interpersonal relationships, we talk about maladaptive daydreaming [MD] (Somer, 2002). MD is not formally identified by diagnostic manuals yet but it is a clinically well-defined phenomenon.

What does a typical universe of a maladaptive daydreamer [MDer] look like? Generally, dreams are consistent, their universes are whole and there are often recurrent characters. The sagas can last for months or even years. It’s like a long and elaborated scenario of a TV show. The dreamer has mostly a first role where he/she/they is often a hero·ine, an incredibly talented character who always finds a way to save the situation. They are two main themes in MDers plots: (1) relationships and family life and (2) social status (success, recognition, power & fame; Somer et al., 2016). 

MDers often report having sensory components associated with their daydreams, their senses are stimulated even in the absence of external stimuli such as imagery, smells or noises (Somer et al., 2016). It feels like external reality, they are really living in the story they are creating. MDers also report affects during their daydreams: they can make themselves cry, laugh, and feel all kinds of emotions. However, they are fully aware that they are creating stories so it’s not similar to hallucinations. 

The activation of MD requires solitude. Most MDers also report activating daydreaming with kinesthetic activity or music which helps to get immersed in the imaginary world. MDers can get really deeply absorbed in their daydream world, which seem to be one of the main differences with non-MDers who can’t completely immerse themselves. 

MD is an impediment to life functioning: MDers report spending on average 57% of their waking hours in fantasy activity (Bigelsen et al., 2016)! As MDers are deeply immersed in their imaginary world, they get emotionally involved and can get very attached to their characters which makes it difficult to get out or limit daydreaming. However, they seem to be able to reduce daydreaming when they absolutely have to, for example when they are in public (Bigelsen et al., 2016). MD is still a time-consuming activity that interferes with achieving life goals and completing everyday tasks and in the end causes distress.

MD is yet an under-researched disorder and MDers are often misdiagnosed because this disorder is little known. Psychiatrists may think they are schizophrenic but MDers are fully aware that they are creating daydreams. They are also often diagnosed with ADHD as they have difficulties to stay focused – when they are bored, they easily start daydreaming. They are also often suspected to have a dissociative disorder as they are living in two (or more) worlds with different roles.

Bibliography
  • Bigelsen, J., Lehfeld, J.M., Jopp, D.S. & Somer, E. (2016). Maladaptive daydreaming: evidence for an under-researched mental health disorder. Consciousness and Cognition, 42, 254-266.
  • Somer, E. (2002). Maladaptive Daydreaming: a Qualitative Inquiry. Journal or Contemporary Psychotherapy, 32 (2). 
  • Somer, E., Somer, L. & Jopp, D.S. (2016). Parallel lives : A phenomenological study of the lived experience of maladaptive daydreaming. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, 17(5), 561-576.
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Author : Johanna Henry

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Hikikomori

When a friend showed me his new song a couple of years ago, I couldn’t stop wondering about the strange title; “Hikikomori”. If I had listened to the first verse instead, I might had guessed the meaning behind it. “Screaming but you can’t hear ‘em. No TV shows will be appealing. Four walls, no doors, one ceiling. The hikikomori feeling.” (Naj, 2018). He was telling his listeners about the mysterious circumstances under which an increasing number of the population in Japan live their daily life. 

The Japanese term “hikikomori”, which describes a person, originates from the verb hikikomoru. It contains the term “to pull back” (hiku) and “to seclude oneself” (komoru) as a description of the behavior shown by the hikikomoris. These mostly young men withdraw themselves physically and psychologically from society by locking themselves into their room for at least six months, avoiding as much direct human contact as possible. Even if this behavior intersects with other mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or social phobia, in this case at least a part of the trigger seems to be rooted in our modern way of life. Often hikikomoris feel under pressure by a society where performance means everything. They drop out of school or quit work to spend their time alone at home reducing all activities outside to the absolute minimum. This ranges from 2-3 interactions with others outside per week to less than one per week. Here comes another key-factor of our modern world into play, the internet. In these times where nearly all our needs can be satisfied online, what is the reason to go out? We interact with others in chats or games, find sexual satisfaction in pornography and order food online. Financially, they are often supported through their parents who are worried and ashamed of their children. Especially in a country with a collectivist culture like japan, being or supporting a hikikomori comes along with a strong stigma. So, it is not surprising that hikikomori and their families need support to deliver them from their suffering. In Japan there are various forms like “meeting spaces” for hikikomoris, telephone consultation and job-placement support, mainly organized through community support centers and mental health welfare centers. (Kato, Kanba & Teo, 2019)

Now, hikokomoru was most of the time seen as a Japanese phenomenon bound to the mentality and culture of the country but in the last decade, more and more similar cases all over the world were reported (Kato et al., 2012). And just recently an employee of a psychiatric youth institution told me about hikikomori like behavior of some patients. I personally think we as a society should be aware of this problem our modern way of life can cause. Because out there in the anonymous world of delivery services and apartment blocks, there may be living someone who has withdrawn himself into seclusion and could use help.

Bibliography :
  • Naj, (2018). Hikikomori. Retrived Ferbuary 10, 2021, from https://soundcloud.com/najstb/hikikomori
  • Kato, T. A., Kanba, S., & Teo, A. R. (2019). Hikikomori: Multidimensional understanding, assessment, and future international perspectives. Psychiatry and clinical neurosciences73(8), 427-440.
  • Kato, T. A., Tateno, M., Shinfuku, N., Fujisawa, D., Teo, A. R., Sartorius, N., & Kanba, S. (2012). Does the ‘hikikomori’syndrome of social withdrawal exist outside Japan? A preliminary international investigation. Social psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology47(7), 1061-1075.
Featured image :
  • G., Genaro. (2019). Hikikomori, un disagio da contrastare. Retrieved from: https://www.regione.piemonte.it/web/pinforma/notizie/hikikomori-un-disagio-contrastare

Author : Max Frutiger

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COVID-19 pandemic: did climate-related concerns decrease among the population?

Climate change issues were on top of the public debate these last years before COVID-19 arrived. In 2019, 170 climate strikes were organized in Switzerland which demonstrated a growing conscience and worry about the threat. It has been almost a year since the coronavirus pandemic started and consequently put environmental issues in the background at least in the media. The “finite pool of worry” hypothesis states that humans have a finite emotional resource for worry (Sisco et al., 2020), so that when a concern rises, another one may diminish. Like this, the pandemic would reduce climate change (and other) concerns as COVID-19-related worries would rise. 

Did the pandemic truly affect the concerns about climate change among the population?  A study in the UK showed that the participants perceived COVID-19 less threatening than climate change and thus revealed no evidence for diminishing climate change concerns during the pandemic (Evensen et al., 2020). 

As exposure to information is closely tied to worry about it, another study extended its analysis of the effects of COVID-19 on both worry and attention about climate change and other threats related to it (Sisco et al., 2020). Sisco and colleagues (2020) found that attention to climate change decreased as attention to COVID-19 increased. However, they also found that a higher COVID-19 worry is associated with a higher worry about climate change (Sisco et al., 2020). In other words, worrying about a new threat (COVID-19) can increase concerns about preexisting threats (climate change) which is contrary to the finite pool of worry hypothesis (Sisco et al., 2020). Additionally, they found that political ideology moderates the positive association between COVID-19 concern and climate policy support and that this relationship is the strongest for conservatives (Sisco et al., 2020).  As conservatives are usually less worried about climate change, the pandemic could help diminish the partisan divide in attitudes toward climate change and environmental policies. 

Bibliography :
  • Evensen, D., Whitmarsh, L., Bartie, P., Devine-Wright, P., Dickie, J., Varley, A., Ryder, S. & Mayer, A. (2021). Effect of “finite pool of worry” and COVID-19 on UK climate change perceptions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118(3). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2018936118 
  • Sisco, M.R., Constantino, S.M., Gao, Y., Tavoni, M., Cooperman, A.D., Bosetti, V. & Weber, E.U (2020). A finite Pool of Worry or a Finite Pool of Attention? Evidence and Qualifications.  DOI : 10.21203/rs.3.rs-98481/v1
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Author : Johanna Henry

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Hypnagogia – The strange place between two worlds

Have you ever wondered how the molecular structure of benzene was discovered? Or what was the source of Salvador Dali’s creativity? Since you are visiting the website of the umbrella association of swiss psychology students I assume you’re more interested in psychology than chemistry or art, so probably not. But I’m going to tell you this ordinary story anyways because it is more connected to the depths of human consciousness than you might think. 

Since the mid 19th century, the German chemist August Kekulé has been concerned with molecular structures, particularly in organic chemistry. Today he is considered the father of the structural formula that enables every chemist to quickly recognize how the molecule of a substance is built up. But one particular molecule gave him a headache. The structure of benzene remained a mystery to him, until one day he fell asleep on top of a Londoner bus. In a dozing state he saw dancing atoms spinning in a circle. But when the conductor’s call tore him out of his dreams, he couldn’t do anything with this vision. It was not until the winter of 1861 when he fell asleep again in front of the fireplace that he realized that benzene had to be arranged in the form of a ring. Half awake, half asleep, he saw again these dancing atoms but this time also a Ouroboros, a snake biting his own tail (Anders, 2003).

Around a hundred years later, an eccentric enchants the art world. Salvador Dali’s drawings show grotesque faces and people, geometric figures like waves and circles and all of this in strange landscapes. Surrealism is celebrated around the world for its sheer inexhaustible creativity. And to make sure that his creativity doesn’t suddenly wane, the Spaniard has developed a technique that guarantees him new inspiration. During “slumber with a key”, as he called the technology, you sit down on an armchair with a heavy key between the index finger and thumb of your left hand. An inverted plate is placed under the armrest beforehand so that the key is directly above it when the arm is placed on the armrest. Now comes a phase of relaxation. The user makes himself comfortable in his armchair and surrenders to sleep. Coupled with it is muscle paralysis, which makes it impossible to hold on to the key. It falls directly on the plate and makes a loud noise. The person who has just fallen asleep returns to the waking world. Thoughts and images that were experienced in this state of consciousness must now be recorded immediately before they fade. It is not known how many and which works of art Dalis were created using this technique. The urgent recommendation on his part to colleagues to use this intellectual resource suggests that it was part of a routine of the Spaniard (Nielsen, 1992).

You may have already experienced the phenomenon that these two stories connect with each other. Hypnagogia, as it is known, is an altered state of consciousness that occurs during the transition from the waking state of consciousness to sleep and differs from dreams, which are often associated with the REM phases, in the short duration and the fact that the person does not perceive himself as acting or asleep. Acoustic, kinesthetic and optical hallucinations often occur during the hypnagogic state. They express themselves by hearing senseless sentences or melodies, seeing colors and flashes of light or feeling floating (Dittrich, 1996). A topic that receives little attention in comparison to dreams or waking consciousness, even though it would deserve it if one considered the prominent followers of this state. So next time when you start dozing off, you may want to draw your attention to the breathtaking scenery that opens up to you. Who knows, it might even make you a famous chemist or artist.

Bibliography :
  • Anders, R. (2003). Wolkenlesen. Über hypnagoge Halluzinationen, automatisches Schreiben und andere Inspirationsquellen. Greifswald: Wiecker Bote.
  • Dittrich, A. (1996). Ätiologie – Unabhängige Strukturen veränderter Wachbewusstseinszustände. Ergebnisse empirischer Untersuchungen über Halluzinogene I. und II. Ordnung, sensorische Deprivation, hypnagoge Zustände, hypnotische Verfahren sowie Reizüberflutung. Berlin: Verlag für Wissenschaft und Bildung. 
  • Nielsen, T. A. (1992). A self-observational study of spontaneous hypnagogic imagery using the upright napping procedure. Imagination, Cognition and Personality11(4), 353-366.
Featured image :
  • Salvador Dali. (1937). Le Sommeil. Retrieved from: https://www.dalipaintings.com/sleep.jsp#prettyPhoto

Author : Max Frutiger

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What does Christmas have to do with psychology ?

Most people are probably already in the preparations, some are taking their time just before closing time on the 24th, but everyone is aware of it: Christmas! Mulled wine, fairy lights, advent candles, the same films every year, and maybe let’s hope for snow. Just those wonderful, heart-warming holidays that you can (or have to) spend comfortably with your family. But what is actually behind it? What really happens to us at Christmas?

For a little introduction to the psychology of Christmas, here are some psychological proofs about Christmas.

The annual recurring December question is: What should I get as a gift? Psychology’s answer is not money! Giving and receiving gifts is very important for our relationships, and a gift can have a lot of influence. The perfect gift should be respectful and loving, and at the same time, it should adequately reflect the intimacy and closeness of the relationship between the two people. All of this is not represented by money. So, give it some thought – What do you want for your gift to say to the person you are giving it to (Burgoyne & Routh, 1990)?

Now we come to the wrapping of the gifts. In fact, how the gift is wrapped has an effect on our attitude towards the gift. This effect comes from the fact that the wrapping induces a positive mood, which is then transferred to the contents of the wrapping (Howard, 1992). So put a lot of effort into the wrapping.

Decorating your house for Christmas makes a nice impression. According to a US study, people whose houses are decorated are considered friendlier than owners of undecorated houses. Moreover, these people were also assumed to be more sociable, even though this was not the case (Werner, Peterson-Lewis, & Brown, 1989). So, a tip to all homeowners: If things are not going well in the neighborhood, just decorate a little and things will work out.

Imagine the smell of biscuits and Christmas music. What does that do with us? At least in shops, it makes us think everything is better. And what’s most important: the combination of both! Nice music but a bad smell does not convince us much. We want the total package of nice things (Spangenberg, Grohmann, & Sprott, 2005).

For those of you who like to put on a little weight over Christmas, don’t panic. On average, people only gain half a kilo (Andersson & Rössner, 1992). Those who are now thinking, “But if I gain half a kilo every year, then it will always be more!” can immediately be reassured. In spring we automatically consume more energy, so that the fat deposits are reduced (to a certain extent; Zahorska-Markiewicz, 1980). So, dig in and enjoy.

Yes, Christmas is a great thing (at least most of the time). And with these facts, there were certainly a few tips to help you get through the holidays happy and relaxed. Finally, we from psyCH would like to wish you a Merry Christmas !

Bibliography :
  • Andersson, I., & Rössner, S. (1992). The Christmas factor in obesity therapy. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders: Journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 16(12), 1013–1015.
  • Burgoyne, C. B., & Routh, D. A. (1991). Constraints on the use of money as a gift at Christmas: the role of status and intimacy∗. Journal of Economic Psychology, 12(1), 47–69. doi: 10.1016/0167-4870(91)90043-S
  • Howard, D. J. (1992). Gift-Wrapping Effects on Product Attitudes: A Mood-Biasing Explanation. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 1(3), 197–223. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/S1057-7408(08)80036-8
  • Spangenberg, E. R., Grohmann, B., & Sprott, D. E. (2005). It’s beginning to smell (and sound) a lot like Christmas: the interactive effects of ambient scent and music in a retail setting. Journal of Business Research, 58(11), 1583–1589. doi: 10.1016/j.jbusres.2004.09.005
  • Werner, C. M., Peterson-Lewis, S., & Brown, B. B. (1989). Inferences about homeowners’ sociability: Impact of christmas decorations and other cues. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 9(4), 279–296. doi: 10.1016/S0272-4944(89)80010-6
  • Zahorska-Markiewicz, B. (1980). Thermic effect of food and exercise in obesity. European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology, 44(3), 231–235. doi: 10.1007/BF00421622
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Author : Alexander Ariu

Categories
current directions news

An interview with an applied psychology graduate

In this week’s blog post we decided to take a break from COVID and from the more formal articles to offer you an insight into a relatively less known field in psychology. So, I sat with my friend Alexia Gaillard, who recently finished her master in applied psychology at Geneva’s University, to discuss about what she does and what led her to choose this master. I hope this can give you some clues that would help you out in the difficult task of choosing a master amongst all the interesting options out there. 

P: Hi Alex, first I would like to thank you for accepting this socially distant safe interview to talk a bit about your field and your motivations for following this path. Maybe I would like to start by asking you to tell us a little bit about your educational background… 

A: Sure, I started in post-obligatory business school, at the time I didn’t really know what I wanted to do so I thought that maybe with that I could end up somewhere. Then during the last year, I had to do an internship that helped me realize that it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I wanted to do something a bit more meaningful and interesting so I decided to change. I went to an event at UNIGE where they presented me a profile of a psychology student and almost everything in that profile resonated with me. 

P: Do you remember what the profile sounded like? 

A: I just remember two words, which were organized and curious. And that is something with which I identify. 

P: So, it was kind of a natural choice for you. 

A: Yeah, I didn’t have to do a lot of thinking and the courses seemed so interesting that I didn’t even consider the other faculties. 

P: It’s so interesting that the two words that you remember are organized and curious… it’s something that is so linked to the master you chose three years after. 

A: Yeah that’s right… I don’t know, if I had to describe myself I would say organized and curious, maybe that’s why I remember it the most. I guess I also wanted to do psychology out of a desire to understand why people do certain things. I also had trouble being in social groups and the choice came from a motivation to further understand the dynamics and maybe feel more comfortable around others.  

P: It’s funny because it’s quite narcissistic but I feel like it is the case for many psychologists to choose psychology in order to understand themselves first. So, at that point what was the representation you had of a psychologist? 

A: Well, I think I had the stereotyped idea of a person with paper notes sited in front of a patient/client who’s sitting on a couch hoping for some advice (which was such a reductionist and wrong idea). But of course, this representation changed towards an image of a scientist too. At first I didn’t think that psychology was that scientific. 

P: Yeah, I had the same feeling. Then you go to uni and realize that you have to take statistics classes, learn all about the scientific methodology and even conduct research. 

A: Yeah, I liked that kind of stability that the scientific method offers to psychologists. 

P: So, when you finished your bachelor did you have a clear idea of what master you wanted to choose? 

A: I knew that I wanted to choose the social orientation because those were the courses I enjoyed the most and the ones where I felt that I was the most engaged with. You know, the interesting thing about those classes was the fact that when you go around your life, interacting as any human being and watching others interact, you can experience the dynamics and everything you learnt in class. I also knew I wanted to do research. 

P: Definitely. So let’s get into the difficult task of defining applied psychology… what would you say it is? 

A: Well, the world applied says it all. You take the knowledge that comes from research, from fundamental psychology and you apply those findings to the problem you want to solve. Let’s say, you start by defining a problem, for example, smoking behavior. You do your literature research on this behavior from A to Z and then you search for alternative solutions based on the behavior changing techniques that come precisely from research. 

P: I see. So, what are some of the fields you can work on being an applied psychologist? 

A: We can work on environmental, health, education and societal issues. The idea is to create intervention programs that are aimed at changing behavior. For example, recently we talk a lot about fast fashion and how consumerism behavior contributes to environmental issues and how we can create interventions to make people change that in order to adopt a more environmentally friendly behavior. To do this, it is important to know how conscious the population your intervention is aimed is about the problem. Because of course, the intervention will be much different for a person who doesn’t acknowledge the problem at all compared to someone who knows that their behavior is bad but doesn’t know how to change it. Our task is to investigate all these factors and create an intervention according to the issue, to the population and to the means you have to create this intervention. After this, the most important part in this process is to evaluate the impact of our intervention, what worked, what didn’t work and what can be done to make it better. The strength of applied psychology interventions compared to others is that it is evidenced-based, we don’t start with an intervention that “seems like a good idea” because the likelihood of it not working is much higher. 

P: Thank you Alex for your time and for sharing your experience with us. 

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  • 27 Social Psychology Dissertation Topics for Academic Resea, A., No Comment. Retrieved from : https://dissertationsage.co.uk/social-psychology-dissertation-topics/

Author : Paula Morales

Categories
current directions news

Why the arranging model is more important than ever in times of Covid-19

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and its measures, maintaining mental health is becoming increasingly difficult for many people (FSP, 2020). We know from various studies that quarantine has a negative effect on a person’s mental state. In a review, Brooks et al. (2020) have reported the negative psychological effects of quarantine, including anxiety, sadness, nervousness, anger, and post-traumatic stress symptoms. During a quarantine, people can manifest a variety of stressors such as fear of infection, boredom, frustration, insufficient care, stigmatization, and financial loss. These stressors can cause long-term effects such as mental disorders (Brooks et al., 2020). According to the WHO, quarantine and its effect on humans could lead to higher levels of loneliness, harmful alcohol and drug consumption, depression, and it is expected that self-harm or suicidal behavior will also increase (WHO, 2020).

According to a press release of the FSP, 1300 psychologists report in a survey about an increased demand from patients since summer 2020 (FSP, 2020). More than 70% of the patients were rejected due to a lack of therapeutic capacity. Due to the corona pandemic, 31% of the participants suffered from new mental illnesses, with some of the participants already carrying a pre-existing mental burden before the corona pandemic. Furthermore, psychologists reported that 47% of their existing clients reported that corona and the nation wide lockdown worsened their symptoms (FSP, 2020). In the field of mental health, there have been barriers to care in Switzerland for quite some time (Stettler, Stocker, Gardiol, Bischof, & Künzli, 2013; Stocker et al., 2016). According to the FSP, patients often have to wait up to six months for ambulatory treatment, which is a considerable amount of waiting time while being in a position of need (FSP, 2020). 

For this reason, the barriers to ambulatory psychotherapy must be reduced as quickly as possible. Until now, ambulatory psychotherapy by psychological psychotherapists has only been reimbursed by the basic insurance as soon as they are employed under a psychiatric doctor. This is the so-called delegation model, which greatly limits the number of psychotherapy places available and leads to long waiting periods (FSP, 2020). Therefore, the critical delegation model should be replaced by the arranging model. The purpose of this model is to enable psychotherapy to be carried out by self-employed psychotherapists in the future, where the costs are also covered by the basic insurance. However, the assignment of patients to a therapist should be made on the instructions of a medical doctor. The regulation change, which is necessary for the introduction of the arranging model, has been available since summer 2019. The consultation process has been completed since October 2019, and the Health Commissions of the Council of States and National Council also support the change. It is now up to the Federal Council to ensure that, in the near future, all people have rapid access to psychotherapeutic services financed by the basic insurance (FSP, 2020).  

Bibliography :
  • Brooks, S. K., Webster, R. K., Smith, L. E., Woodland, L., Wessely, S., Greenberg, N., & Rubin, G. J. (2020). The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: rapid review of the evidence. The Lancet, 395(10227), 912–920. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30460-8
  • Föderation der Schweizer Psychologinnen und Psychologen [FSP] (2020). Covid und die Psyche – Mehr Anfragen bei Psychologen seit dem Sommer. Retrieved November 11, 2020, from https://www.psychologie.ch/covid-und-die-psyche-mehr-anfragen-bei-psychologen-seit-dem-sommer 
  • World Health Organization [WHO] (2020). Mental health and COVID-19. Retrieved November 11, 2020, from https://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/health-emergencies/coronavirus-covid-19/publications-and-technical-guidance/noncommunicable-diseases/mental-health-and-covid-19 
Featured image :
  • Standing Jake (n.d). How to address business growth barriers. Retrieved November 12, 2020, from https://www.platinumpublishing.co.uk/platinum-business-magazine/2019/07/how-to-address-business-growth-barriers/

Author : Alexander Ariu

Categories
news psyCH aktuell

What is the “Kick-off Event” of psyCH and what happens there?

You may have heard of psyCH before or at least you have seen some posters or flyers in the corridors of your school. psyCH is a student organization consisting of future psychologists from different disciplines. The goal of psyCH is to promote the interests of psychology students and to unite different psychology circles to create a large national and international network of students. This is mainly intended to serve the networking of different students and professional associations. Besides the annual psyKO and the operation of psyPra, we have other events, such as the kick-off event.

The kick-off event took place in mid-August in Basel, where most of the psyCH members from the 2020/21 mandate met for the first time. This event was about getting to know all new and old members first, but also about some organization. From the schedule of the Kick-off Event, we started with a short overview of “What is psyCH?’”. For example, we got some interesting information about the vision and mission of psyCH which you can find on our website under the “About us” section. We also set some goals for 2021, for example, we want to join forces with other (local or national) student associations for common projects and we want to increase our online and offline visibility, so that we can refer to different events like the psyKo and the psyCH Trainers School.

After the organizational part, we participated in a short but amusing team building program where we shared some stories about ourselves. The activity was very relaxing and it allowed everyone to come together and laugh warmly. It certainly made the day nicer. The lunch was also quite nice because as we all know, food connects people in conversation.

After that, we worked a little bit in our so-called, “Buddy-working session”. During this time, we met with various buddies (our Heads of different disciplines), where we had to clarify some organizational points for the mandate 2020/2021. The Buddy-working session resulted in a nice and large output of information, which each member presented briefly. Finally, the kick-off event concluded in a picture, which can be seen above. In this picture, you can find the course and the goals for psyCH in this and next year.  

We hope this article gave you an understanding of our Kick-off event. Anyway, the experience was very cool, and everybody had the change to participate in the organization and vote anonymously for certain decisions. All in all, The communication was very open, and it was well organized.

Featured image:
  • Weber, A-S., (2020). Kick-off event 2020.

Author : Alexander Ariu

Categories
news psyCH aktuell

psyKo 2020

We regret to inform you that psyKo 2020 must be cancelled due to the latest developments concerning the corona virus and the regulations of the Federal Office of Public Health – your health has priority! Those who have already transferred the money will be refunded the amount as soon as possible. It is expected that next year’s congress will take place under the same motto at the same location.

We regret that this year’s congress will not take place and we hope to welcome you all next year.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at any time. Until then we wish you a good time, take care of yourselves and stay healthy!

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news

Welcome on our blog!

We will inform you about psyCH and their upcoming events, give you some insight into students life, inform you about important political changes or post-graduate opportunities in sponsored content and finally keep you up to date with the hottest research being done in psychology!

Author: Webmaster psyCH