Thursday, 19 April 2018

From the way you move and sleep, to how you interact with people around you, depression changes just about everything. It is even noticeable in the way you speak and express yourself in writing. Sometimes this “language of depression” can have a powerful effect on others. Just consider the impact of the poetry and song lyrics of Sylvia Plath and Kurt Cobain, who both killed themselves after suffering from depression.

Scientists have long tried to pin down the exact relationship between depression and language, and technology is helping us get closer to a full picture. Our new study, published in Clinical Psychological Science, has now unveiled a class of words that can help accurately predict whether someone is suffering from depression.

Traditionally, linguistic analyses in this field have been carried out by researchers reading and taking notes. Nowadays, computerised text analysis methods allow the processing of extremely large data banks in minutes. This can help spot linguistic features which humans may miss, calculating the percentage prevalence of words and classes of words, lexical diversity, average sentence length, grammatical patterns and many other metrics.

So far, personal essays and diary entries by depressed people have been useful, as has the work of well-known artists such as Cobain and Plath. For the spoken word, snippets of natural language of people with depression have also provided insight. Taken together, the findings from such research reveal clear and consistent differences in language between those with and without symptoms of depression.

Content

Language can be separated into two components: content and style. The content relates to what we express – that is, the meaning or subject matter of statements. It will surprise no one to learn that those with symptoms of depression use an excessive amount of words conveying negative emotions, specifically negative adjectives and adverbs – such as “lonely”, “sad” or “miserable”.

More interesting is the use of pronouns. Those with symptoms of depression use significantly more first person singular pronouns – such as “me”, “myself” and “I” – and significantly fewer second and third person pronouns – such as “they”, “them” or “she”. This pattern of pronoun use suggests people with depression are more focused on themselves, and less connected with others. Researchers have reported that pronouns are actually more reliable in identifying depression than negative emotion words.

Negative words and first person pronouns can give a clue.hikrcn/Shutterstock

We know that rumination (dwelling on personal problems) and social isolation are common features of depression. However, we don’t know whether these findings reflect differences in attention or thinking style. Does depression cause people to focus on themselves, or do people who focus on themselves get symptoms of depression?

Style

The style of language relates to how we express ourselves, rather than the content we express. Our lab recently conducted a big data text analysis of 64 different online mental health forums, examining over 6,400 members. “Absolutist words” – which convey absolute magnitudes or probabilities, such as “always”, “nothing” or “completely” – were found to be better markers for mental health forums than either pronouns or negative emotion words.

From the outset, we predicted that those with depression will have a more black and white view of the world, and that this would manifest in their style of language. Compared to 19 different control forums (for example, Mumsnet and StudentRoom), the prevalence of absolutist words is approximately 50% greater in anxiety and depression forums, and approximately 80% greater for suicidal ideation forums.

Pronouns produced a similar distributional pattern as absolutist words across the forums, but the effect was smaller. By contrast, negative emotion words were paradoxically less prevalent in suicidal ideation forums than in anxiety and depression forums.

Our research also included recovery forums, where members who feel they have recovered from a depressive episode write positive and encouraging posts about their recovery. Here we found that negative emotion words were used at comparable levels to control forums, while positive emotion words were elevated by approximately 70%. Nevertheless, the prevalence of absolutist words remained significantly greater than that of controls, but slightly lower than in anxiety and depression forums.

Crucially, those who have previously had depressive symptoms are more likely to have them again. Therefore, their greater tendency for absolutist thinking, even when there are currently no symptoms of depression, is a sign that it may play a role in causing depressive episodes. The same effect is seen in use of pronouns, but not for negative emotion words.

Practical implications

Understanding the language of depression can help us understand the way those with symptoms of depression think, but it also has practical implications. Researchers are combining automated text analysis with machine learning (computers that can learn from experience without being programmed) to classify a variety of mental health conditions from natural language text samples such as blog posts.

Language analysis can help diagnose depression. Dmytro Zinkevych/Shutterstock

Such classification is already outperformingthat made by trained therapists. Importantly, machine learning classification will only improve as more data is provided and more sophisticated algorithms are developed. This goes beyond looking at the broad patterns of absolutism, negativity and pronouns already discussed. Work has begun on using computers to accurately identify increasingly specific subcategories of mental health problems – such as perfectionism, self-esteem problems and social anxiety.

That said, it is of course possible to use a language associated with depression without actually being depressed. Ultimately, it is how you feel over time that determines whether you are suffering. But as the World Health Organisation estimates that more than 300m people worldwide are now living with depression, an increase of more than 18% since 2005, having more tools available to spot the condition is certainly important to improve health and prevent tragic suicides such as those of Plath and Cobain.

Originally posted on  this website 


A new study found that teenagers are increasingly depressed, feel hopeless and are more likely to consider suicide. Researchers found a sudden increase in teens' symptoms of depression, suicide risk factors and suicide rates in 2012 — around the time when smartphones became popular, says Jean Twenge, one of the authors of the study.

Twenge's research found that teens who spend five or more hours per day on their devices are 71 percent more likely to have one risk factor for suicide. And that's regardless of the content consumed. Whether teens are watching cat videos or looking at something more serious, the amount of screen time — not the specific content — goes hand in hand with the higher instances of depression.

"It's an excessive amount of time spent on the device. So half an hour, an hour a day, that seemed to be the sweet spot for teen mental health in terms of electronic devices," Twenge says. "At two hours a day there was only a slightly elevated risk. And then three hours a day and beyond is where you saw the more pronounced increase in those who had at least one suicide risk factor."

Twenge spoke with NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro about the dangers of excessive smartphone use among teenagers, how parents can manage their teens' social media usage and when is the best age for them to get smartphones.

Interview Highlights

On how parents can help teens manage their time on social media and their phones

I think a great rule for both teens and adults is to try to keep your use at two hours a day or less. And then you put that phone down, and you spend the rest of your time on things that are better for mental health and happiness, like sleeping, seeing friends and family face to face, getting out and exercising. These are all things that are linked to better mental health. So if you use the phone to facilitate those things rather than stand in their way, that's a good way to go.



SHOTS - HEALTH NEWS

Depression Strikes Today's Teen Girls Especially Hard

On how it's known that higher rates of depression are linked to smartphones or social media and not other factors

The idea that they're under an increasing amount of academic pressure, and they're spending more and more time on schoolwork doesn't turn out to be true when you look at these large, nationally representative surveys. For example, there's a large survey of entering college students, so that's exactly the population you'd expect would feel a lot of pressure to have spent a lot of time on homework and extracurricular activities. Among that group, when they report on their last year in high school, homework time is about the same as it was in the '80s, and the time they spend on extracurricular activities is also about the same ... The other thing is, we also found that teens who spend more time on homework are actually less likely to be depressed.

On when is the best age for teens to get a smartphone

I think ideally, 14. Beginning of high school is a good age to aim for because there's some other data suggesting that the links between, for example, social media use and unhappiness are the strongest for 8th graders versus 10th or especially 12th graders. By the time they're at that age they're better able to handle the demands of social media. And some of the mental health trends are the most pronounced for the youngest teens, as well.
Originally posted on
 this website 


Over 60 percent of adults who were diagnosed with depression by a clinician didn't meet the official criteria for the disorder upon re-evaluation

By Lindsay Abrams

PROBLEM: Over the course of 20 years, according to the most recently available data, the U.S. saw a 400 percent increase in antidepressant use, resulting in 11 percent of Americans over the age of 12 taking some form of depression medication by 2008. Debate rages between those who believe that increased diagnoses mean we are turning normal human experience into a disease, and those who push for increased awareness of a very real psychological illness. Depending on who's doing the arguing, people are either being treated or are suffering in excess.

'Type A' Personality Doubles Risk of Having a StrokeCountries That Use More High Fructose Corn Syrup Have More DiabetesBeing Cold May Promote Longevity

METHODOLOGY: Ramin Mojtabai of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health looked at a national sample of 5,639 participants who had been diagnosed with depression by a clinician in a non-hopital setting between 2009 and 2010. In face-to-face interviews, the  participants were all re-evaluated for major depressive disorder (MDD) as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). To meet the official criteria, they had to have experienced a major depressive episode -- defined as a debilitating depressed mood or loss of interest in daily activities for a least two consistent weeks -- in the past twelve months.

RESULTS: Only 38.4 percent of participants who had been diagnosed with depression by their doctor were judged in the re-evaluation to have had a major depressive episode in the past year, and thus, in the author's opinion, to actually meet the criteria for MDD. Those participants were more likely to have "probable severe mental illness" and to report thinking about or attempting suicide. The discrepancy was more prominent among older adults: for those 65 or older, only 14.3 percent met the criteria. Participants with higher levels of education, who were out of the workforce, who were divorced or separated, or who believed themselves to be in poor health were more likely to have what were judged to be correct diagnoses. 

Of the 61.6 of participants who did not meet the criteria for MDD, 42.7 percent did qualify as having had depressive symptoms at some point in their life, in the form of either an earlier major depressive episode or what would be diagnosed as minor depression. 

Although the people whose diagnoses were not confirmed by the study reported feeling less distressed and impaired, and used fewer services, almost 75 percent of all the participants reported using prescription medications to manage their symptoms. Even excluding the people with some depressive symptoms, the majority of remaining participants with unconfirmed diagnoses -- 69.4 percent -- had used antidepressants.

IMPLICATIONS: The diagnosis of mental disorders can certainly be subjective; because of that, it's often impossible to say with certainty whether or not someone's diagnosis is "correct." Mojtabai writes that more than anything else, these findings may reflect doctors' uncertainty about ambiguous diagnostic criteria. But especially when medication is involved, while we don't want to devalue people's suffering, we also don't want to be too quick to throw pills at problems for which better, non-medical solutions may exist.

"Clinician-Identified Depression in Community Settings: Concordance with Structured-Interview Diagnoses" is published in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics

Originally posted on  www.theatlantic.com 


Tuesday, 17 April 2018


“Speak clearly, if you speak at all; carve every word before you let it fall.” ~Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.




The art of speaking wisely is one of the most difficult arts and for a very long time people have been trying to master it, so as to be able to better express themselves and hence better communicate their thoughts and emotions with other people.

Here you will read three basic tips on how to speak more wisely. By following these tips, you will be able to engage in meaningful conversations, grab the attention of your audience and inspire those who are listening to you.

1. Think before you speak.

This is one of the most important tips that you should follow, if you truly want to utter meaningful ideas that will make others take you seriously. Many of us are used to small talk and rarely pay attention to how many unimportant, sometimes even silly things we say. If you want people to pay close attention to what you say and listen deeply to your thoughts, be sure to think what you are about to utter, so whatever comes out of your mouth will be meaningful and coherent.

2. Speak out your mind.

The second basic tip you should follow in order to speak more wisely, is to be sure that whatever you are saying is coming out from the depths of your mind and your heart. In other words, speak honestly and authentically. The more you do so, the more power your words will have and the more confident you will be. In this way the people you are talking to will pay sincere attention to you and trust more in what you’re saying.

3. Don’t speak too much.

Lastly and perhaps most importantly, if you want to speak wisely, you need to learn to talk only when it’s necessary. Many of us are used to talking all the time, saying insignificant things that are tiresome and matter to no one, and so we inevitable find that nobody truly listens to what we’re saying. From now on, be sure to listen more and speak less, and I assure you that each and every word you utter will have more weight and will attract the attention of others as naturally as a magnet attracts iron.

Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.” ~Plato



Originally posted on this website 


Monday, 16 April 2018

By Cesar Millan

One of the most important things I teach people to do is always exhibit calm, assertive energy around their dogs — and it’s a good way to approach life in general. But I’m frequently asked, “How do I do that?”

The good news is that once you’ve figured out how to achieve that state of calm, it becomes more instinctual and easier to do. The better news is that anyone can learn how to emit calm, assertive energy. Here are five tips to help you achieve it.

Related: Pack Leadership Technique 1: Project calm, assertive energy

Relax. Your dog is not misbehaving on purpose
No matter what it seems like, your dog is not peeing on the floor or tearing up your favorite shoes to get back at you. When dogs do things like this, it is because you are not fulfilling their needs — but they don’t know that.

Bored dogs can become destructive and insecure dogs may urinate if they become fearful. It’s your job, as the pack leader, to make sure that their excess energy is drained through exercise, that their lives have structure through rules, boundaries, and limitations, and that you leave them with something intellectually stimulating — like a toy stuffed with treats — at those times when you have to leave them alone.

Remember, unlike children, you can’t rationalize with dogs and you cannot explain why something they did when you weren’t there is wrong. Don’t take their behavior personally and don’t get upset about it. Take it as their way of telling you what’s missing in their life.
 Your dog’s energy is a reflection of your own
The quickest way to figure out what energy you’re projecting to the world is to look at your dog, especially on the walk. If your dog is not calm and happy-go-lucky, then neither are you.

Does your dog go crazy at the sight of any other dog? Then you’re probably nervous or tense about a possible dog encounter as well.

Is your dog hesitant about going on the walk, refusing to follow you and trying to pull you back home? Ask yourself how you’re feeling in that moment. You may be angry or insecure.

How does your dog act at home? Is she bouncing off the walls or is she resting calmly? Again, this is all a reflection of the energy you’re exhibiting to your dog. What’s great about it is that you can use your dog as an emotional thermostat to check and adjust your own emotional “temperature."
 Try living in the moment
There’s a saying (incorrectly attributed to Lao Tzu) that goes, “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.”

So many of our negative emotions and unstable energy states come from not living in the present moment. The past gives us regret over things that we did or did not do, while the future gives us worries over things that may or may not happen.

We can’t change the past and we can’t live in the future until it becomes the present. Focusing on what’s happening right now will help us find that place of calmness. It’s what our dogs do naturally, and it’s one of the greatest lessons we can learn from them.
 Reconnect with nature
Take the time regularly to go someplace where nature surrounds you. It can be a park, the beach, the mountains, or the desert — whatever appeals to you. Leave your cell phone behind (or turn it off), take a walk with your dog, and just observe and enjoy what’s around you.

Learn to listen to nature and observe the interactions of the land, plants, and animals — wild birds have fascinating conversations with each other all the time. Stop thinking about what’s going on in your day-to-day human world and focus on the sensations; what you see, hear, smell, and feel. Breathe deeply and maybe even meditate.

This is the world that your dog lives in. It’s also the world that all humans were born into. It’s just very easy for us to lose sight of that.
 Rehabilitating your dog is a process
It’s the rare dog that seems to be born perfect — housebroken instantly, never destroys things that aren’t hers, and obeys automatically. If you have one of those dogs, congratulations.

If you don’t, then you’re like most dog owners. And, sometimes, it may seem like you’ll never be able to fix the problem. However, this attitude can become a trap. Remember what I said about living in the future? Well, worrying that you’ll never be able to rehabilitate your dog is living in the future, and if you’re anxious about not getting results, then you won’t get them.

Focus on the small successes on the way, as they happen. Pretty soon, the small successes will become more constant until you’re having medium successes and then big ones. At the same time, you’ll stop worrying about what’s going to happen and learn to enjoy what is happening.

Learning to exhibit calm, assertive energy is not a huge mystery. Humans even know how to do it as babies, sometimes. It isn’t a new skill to be learned. It’s a natural trait to be remembered, and mastering it will bring your relationship with your dog to a whole new level.

Stay calm!

How would you describe your own energy? Are you mostly calm and assertive, nervous, unsure, excited, other? Share it with us in the comments below.

Originally posted on  this website 


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