PsychNotes July 2016
by Monica A. Frank, Ph.D.
Clinical and Sport Psychologist
July 29, 2016
Brain Training and Age-related Decline of Driving Skills
Full disclosure: In this PsychNote I am unabashedly promoting an android app Speed Card created by Tesseract Mobile, a company owned by Laura Ockel and my son, Josh Frank.
Many people worry about growing older and losing their independence. In much of the U.S. ability to drive is directly related to being able to function independently. However, age-related decline may interfere with driving skills. Research has shown that when older adults cease driving they engage in fewer social activities and have increased depression. Fortunately, though, there are methods that can reduce age-related decline and allow people to function independently for a longer time as they grow older (Edwards, et al., 2009).
Older adults who receive speed processing training are more likely to retain their ability to drive longer. A review of the research on speed processing training shows a variety of methods can be effective. The common feature of most of these methods is focusing attention to enhance speed and accuracy of performing an activity. Read more...
July 26, 2016
Irrational: Is it the Word or the Intention that is Offensive?
I notice some people are offended when I and other cognitive-behavioral therapists use the word “irrational” to describe their thinking. I propose, however, at the risk of adding insult to injury, being offended by a common word is usually irrational itself. In particular, it is the irrational thinking style of “emotional reasoning” in which a person believes that because they feel something it must be true. In other words, they don't evaluate the evidence for the emotion.
For those who are offended by the word “irrational” their emotional reaction is likely due to past negative experiences with the word. Perhaps they were called “irrational” as a way of shaming them: “You're just being irrational.” Or maybe they have associated the word with other words that were used maliciously against them such as thinking “irrational” means the same as “crazy.” Or perhaps they believe they should never be irrational because it is an illogical emotional reaction.
We tend to attribute meaning to words based upon our experiences. But that doesn't always mean the word itself is bad or intended to cause hurt. Certainly, there are some words that have been so closely associated with malicious intentions that the two cannot be separated. However, with ordinary words or, in this case, ones that can convey particular psychological meaning succinctly the intention needs to be considered. Is the word being used in a way that is meant to be hurtful? Read more...
July 23, 2016
Using the Cognitive Diary for Eating Disorders
Healthline has selected Excel At Life's android app Cognitive Diary CBT Self-help
as one of the best apps for eating disorders. Although the Cognitive Diary app is a general multipurpose app, it can be used for specific types of problems. The following provides some tips as to using it for eating disorders.
Although eating disorders are more complex and involve physiological processes as well, two psychological aspects of eating disorders can be managed:
1) Thought process
. The type of thinking can vary with the type of eating disorder. However, typically the thoughts are inaccurate in some way. For instance, the thoughts may involve inadequacy, perfectionistic demands/expectations, and control. For anorexia, in particular, the thoughts include a focus on a distorted body image. In addition, the thoughts aren't always directly related to food or body image but irrational assumptions and demands of the self can be focused on any type of problem that is experienced so that other types of problems such as relationship issues can trigger the eating behavior. Read more...
July 21, 2016
Is the Stress Hormone Good or Bad?
You may have heard of the stress hormone and the role that increased levels of cortisol can play in negative emotions and health consequences such as heart disease. However, when it comes to the human body nothing is ever simple. We often hear about something being good or bad for us and then finding out the opposite is true.
The problem is that most things are neither good nor bad but have the potential to be good or bad for us. It depends. Our bodies need to be in a state of homeostasis which another word for balance. Good examples of homeostasis are body temperature and blood sugar—both need to be in a certain healthy range, too high or too low can be a problem. Read more...
July 14, 2016
When Do Good People Cheat? Or, Developing Compassion by Recognizing Your Flaws
Not surprisingly, a state of physical deprivation can lead to violating personal moral beliefs if it reduces the physical distress. Research showed that when people had an opportunity to cheat without getting caught they were more likely to do so if they were hungry or thirsty and the reward was food or water. On the other hand, if the reward was not something that would reduce their physical discomfort, they were not more likely to cheat (Williams et al., 2016).
These researchers conducted their studies with the average consumer in a grocery store (hunger group) or with someone who had just worked out in a gym (thirsty group). The participants were not chronically deprived but were in a temporary state of hunger or thirst. If asked, most people say they would not violate their moral beliefs for small pay-offs. Yet, this research showed that minor physical need can cause a person to cheat to reduce their immediate discomfort. Read more...
July 7, 2016
Young Adults Can Improve Romantic Relationships by Learning to Be Okay Alone
The more desperate you are to be in a romantic relationship, the less satisfying your relationships will be. The best relationships are those between two people who have a strong sense of self and can balance their personal needs with the needs of the relationship. They are neither overly dependent upon the relationship nor overly aloof from it.
When a person develops an independent sense of self that person will make healthier choices in relationships which is more likely to result in good outcomes. Those who have a strong sense of self are less likely to be sensitive to rejection which often leads to behaviors that can damage relationships.
Too often in young adulthood people try to be what they think their partner wants or they try to avoid rejection by controlling the relationship. Yet, satisfying relationships are not based upon compliance or coercion. Instead, they are founded on developing a strong sense of self first and then focusing on creating a healthy relationship. Read more...
July 1, 2016
Recovering from the Physical Assault of Surgery or Intensive Care
Although the vast majority of people hospitalized in an intensive care unit reported good care, at six months following treatment 14% were suffering from post-traumatic stress (PTS). In addition, a large portion of the patients reported depression (30%), anxiety (23%), and general stress symptoms (18%) with poor sleep quality associated with these conditions. The PTS symptoms did not appear to be related to previous levels of trauma (Elliott, et al., 2016).
My clinical experience with clients who have had surgery or intensive care is that they are not adequately prepared to understand and manage the aftereffects of their treatment. Although psychological symptoms are often assessed these days they are not adequately explained. People continue to associate psychological symptoms such as depression and anxiety with mood states. As a result, they often resist the label: “I'm not depressed! My life is good. I've recovered well from the surgery. I just need to shake it off.” Thinking this way often prevents them from effectively taking care of themselves post-treatment. Read more...