Psychotherapy and shame

He looked right through me…..I was so ashamed!

We need to feel seen, to be recognised. Even the self-sufficient person may carry a fear of not being acknowledged; self-sufficiency can be a way to avoid the pain of being ignored. The narcissist is often reacting to a terrible fear of being rejected.

The pain of not being seen varies according to who is looking right through us. Being ignored by a stranger is different to being cold-shouldered by our partner. However, no matter what the level of intensity, most of us fear being ignored.

What are our reactions when we feel ignored? We feel awkward, we feel embarrassed and blush. To be ignored is a source of shame. Another person’s rudeness may diminish them in our eyes, but for us the main person who is cut down in size is ourselves. Even the possibility of shame can stop us from reaching out to others and can lead to acute social anxiety. Read more Psychotherapy and shame

The effectiveness of psychodynamic psychotherapy

A team from the Justus-Liebig University Giessen in Germany has conducted a systematic search for evidence for the effectiveness of psychodynamic psychotherapy. They concluded that this form of therapy was effective for a range of common mental disorders including major depressive disorder, social anxiety disorder, some personality disorders, somatoform pain disorder and anorexia nervosa. They also found some evidence for effectiveness in treating dysthymia, complicated grief, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and substance abuse/dependence. Read more The effectiveness of psychodynamic psychotherapy

Prenatal depression and infant development

There is strong evidence that a mother’s depression during pregnancy tends to be associated with later psychological difficulties for her child, including the child’s own depression. Are these later difficulties linked to infant development in utero and so directly related to the prenatal depression? Or are the child’s difficulties more associated with its experiences after birth, perhaps to a continuation of the mother’s depression, postpartum? Recent research suggests some answers to these questions. Read more Prenatal depression and infant development

Skunk and psychosis

Does the regular use of skunk cause psychosis? A study in South London set out to test that link and found a high correlation between daily skunk use and first episode psychosis. However, no correlation was found in this study between psychosis and the daily use of the less powerful form of cannabis, hash.

Previous studies have suggested a link between cannabis use and psychosis. The UK’s 2012 Schizophrenia Commission claimed that cannabis use is the most preventable risk factor for psychosis. This present study is important because it attempts to clarify which type or frequency of cannabis use contributes to this risk factor. Read more Skunk and psychosis

Birth complications and autism

Do birth complications increase the risk of autism? Some previous studies have suggested a link, but more recent research has cast doubts upon this connection. Amongst research findings rejecting this link are those presented in a paper delivered to the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) 2015 Annual Pregnancy Meeting.

The cause or causes of autism are not yet fully known, although studies of twins suggest that there is a strong genetic component to the condition. Environmental factors are also thought to play a part and while a variety of factors have been considered, none have been conclusively implicated. However, it is likely that some environmental factors have an effect very early in the child’s life, hence the interest in what happens during birth. Read more Birth complications and autism

Talking therapy changes the brain

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) have identified changes in the metabolic activity of a key brain region in patients successfully treated for depression with psychodynamic psychotherapy – talking therapy.

The study involved 16 patients with major depression who were offered weekly psychodynamic psychotherapy sessions. Each of the participants had unsuccessfully tried treatment for their depression with medication. Nine of the patients completed the course of psychotherapy and ‘almost all’ reported a greater than 50% reduction in their depression. Read more Talking therapy changes the brain

An overabundance of synapses and autism

Some of the symptoms of autism may be due to the brain failing to prune synapses during the early, crucial years of a child’s life. The resulting overabundance of synapses could contribute to some of the symptoms of autism and an understanding of the mechanisms behind this failure to prune may lead to future treatments for the condition.

A study by researchers from Columbia University Medical Center, reported in Neuron, found higher densities of dendritic spines in the brains of children and adolescents diagnosed with autism, compared to those without that diagnosis. Dendritic spines are those parts of the neuron where synapses are found, the connections that carry signals between neurons. According to one estimate, each neuron contains on average around 7,000 synapses. Read more An overabundance of synapses and autism

‘Stanford Prison’ and our capacity for cruelty

Maybe we’re not so bad after all.

Interesting piece from the BPS Research Digest about the Stanford Prison Experiment. That was the 1971 experiment in which a group of students was divided into jailers and inmates. The ‘jailers’ eventually became so brutal in their treatment of their ‘inmate’ peers that the experiment had to be abandoned. The lead investigator, Philip Zimbardo, used this result to argue that even good people will turn bad in certain situations.

I’d always accepted the results of this experiment at face value and it’s been used to explain, amongst other things, the atrocities at Abu Ghraib. What I hadn’t realised was the range of criticisms leveled at the experiment’s methodology and conclusions. These culminated in the 2002 BBC Prison Study, in which a similar experiment led to a far more nuanced and interesting outcome. Read more ‘Stanford Prison’ and our capacity for cruelty

Brain activity shows babies rehearsing speech months before first words

Geoff Ferguson – July 19th 2014

Brain activity in babies as young as seven months show that they are preparing to begin to speak.

Researchers from the University of Washington found that areas of the brain responsible for planning the motor movements associated with speech were activated when 7- and 11-month old babies heard speech sounds.

“Most babies babble by 7 months, but don’t utter their first words until after their first birthdays,” said lead author Patricia Kuhl, who is the co-director of the UW’s Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences. “Finding activation in motor areas of the brain when infants are simply listening is significant, because it means the baby brain is engaged in trying to talk back right from the start and suggests that 7-month-olds’ brains are already trying to figure out how to make the right movements that will produce words.”

Read more Brain activity shows babies rehearsing speech months before first words

Hearing violent voices in America and in India

Interesting piece in the New York Times about a study that compares voices heard by schizophrenics in the US and in India. The researchers wanted to see if people who heard voices in India heard the same exhortations to violence as those in the US. How influenced by culture were these voices?

‘The two groups of patients have much in common. Neither particularly likes hearing voices. Both report hearing mean and sometimes violent commands. But in our sample of 20 comparable cases from each country, the voices heard by patients in Chennai are considerably less violent than those heard by patients in San Mateo, Calif.’

Read more Hearing violent voices in America and in India