Category Archives: College

Who do we attribute mental health stigma to?

Misguided Madness

It’s quite common to find ourselves explaining why we do what we do or why someone else did something for that matter. You may have wondered why someone failed in class and came to the conclusion that she or he must not have studied. You could have thought that the reason your dance performance went well was because you put in a lot of hours rehearsing. The way in which people explain the causes of their own behaviour and that of others is described in what is known as attribution theory.

This theory is especially relevant in understanding mental health stigma. When it comes to making attributions about people with mental illness, an important factor to take into consideration is controllability. If the cause of someone’s behaviour is within their control then they are blamed or held responsible for that behaviour. This means we tend to ascribe blame and responsibility to…

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Discrimination against the mentally ill- A social cognitive perspective

Misguided Madness

Imagine you board a crowded bus to get to college. There are no empty seats so you end up standing along with some other passengers. You can hear a man behind you muttering incoherently through out the ride. Other passengers around you also notice him talking to himself. They distance themselves from the man. Finally, when a seat empties and he tries to sit down, a frightened looking woman places her handbag on the seat and the man went back to standing on the bus. The woman sighs in relief.

Why was this man talking to himself? What made people back away from him or refuse to let him sit down?

One way of answering these questions is through the social cognitive model of stigma. To put it simply, the model states that signals in our social environment activate stereotypes that we have which then result in our discriminatory behaviour.

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Call me crazy- Labelling and stigma in schizophrenia

My classmates and I started a blog on mental health, check out some of my posts on it 🙂

Misguided Madness

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Diagnostic labels are beneficial in psychiatric and psychological treatment of mental illnesses yet they also have negative consequences. Labelling theory states that psychiatric labelling perpetuates negative stereotypes about the mentally ill which will in turn lead to discrimination. This may be particularly true for people who are diagnosed with certain disorders over others.

For instance, research has identified that labelling someone as having a mental illness does have an impact on public attitude towards people with schizophrenia and the negative effects far outweigh the positive effects. By labelling as mental illness, the negative stereotype that such individuals are dangerous was endorsed and this has a negative effect on the way people react emotionally towards someone diagnosed with schizophrenia. It also increases their need for social distance from them. However, the label also endorsed another stereotype that those with mental illness are dependent. Perceiving someone with schizophrenia as someone in need…

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The Psychological Relevance of ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’

The motto of Holocaust literature, in its horrifying but electrifyingly necessary recount of the suffering of Jews particularly in concentration camps, is ‘never forget’. Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist and psychotherapist, wrote his book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ in the spirit of not only remembering the Holocaust but also in moving on, with his philosophical musing and discussion regarding his own form of existential analysis called logotherapy.

Essentially, the purpose of this book is describe and analyse the psychological reactions of the average concentration camp prisoner as well as to elucidate the development of logotherapy stemming from Frankl’s own experiences in such concentration camps where he was separated from and lost his father, mother, brother and wife, having been ‘stripped to naked existence’ (Frankl, 1984 pp.7). These experiences influenced Frankl’s philosophical thoughts which were the foundation upon which logotherapy was developed as a means of therapeutic intervention.

The book is divided into two parts i.e. ‘Experiences in a Concentration Camp’ and ‘Logotherapy in a Nutshell’. In the first part, Frankl narrates various experiences as he was transported from different concentration camps including the daunting Auschwitz to less perilous rest camps. One of Frankl’s major arguments in this part of the book is that the psychological reactions to life in a concentration camp are summarily divided into three distinct phases.

In the period following an inmate’s formal admission to the camp, the characteristic symptom is that of shock in this first phase and under certain circumstances it may even precede the formal admission. The second phase, when a prisoner is entrenched in camp life, is that of apathy or the blunting of one’s emotions which are primarily centred on preserving one’s life. Apathy, notes Frankl, acts as a protective shell for the inmate who was constantly surrounded by an environment characterised by perpetual illness, violence and maltreatment. Finally, the third phase is that of depersonalisation, upon liberation from the death camps, which is described as ‘unreal, unlikely, as in a dream’ (Frankl, 1984, p. 96).

The second part of the book focuses on the concepts and principles of logotherapy.  According to Alport (1984), Dr. Frankl asks patients who have suffered from torment why they do not commit suicide and based on their responses he identifies something worth tying their lives to. For a widow, her life could be tied to her children or for a struggling artist it could be his or her especial talent. Hence the object and challenge of logotherapy is ‘to weave these slender threads of a broken life into a pattern of meaning and responsibility’ (Frankl, 1984 pp.7).

While Man’s Search for Meaning was written in a different historical period with a climate quite different from that of the modern world today, it still remains relevant and can be connecting to various fields including health psychology, clinical psychology and social psychology.

The impact of hope for the future on one’s survival was described in the novel where it was described that a senior warden had a dream that the Second World War would end on March 30th, 1945 and this dream gave him hope that he would be free. Yet, when the date drew closer it became apparent that the war would not end and they would not be liberated. This was a devastating blow to the senior warden’s hope and belief, making him vulnerable to illness and unfortunately he succumbed and passed away on March 31st, 1945. The same ramifications of mental strength and hope can be seen in the fight against cancer. In health psychology studies, it has been found that chemotherapy is only effective in a certain portion of cancer patients since their psychological makeup such as depression and hopelessness affect their fight against the disease. This is how Frankl’s experience is reminiscent of the biopsychosocial model in health psychology where health is determined by not merely biological factors but also psychological factors of an individual.

Frankl also made keen observations regarding prisoner identity. He wrote, “The authorities were interested only in the captives’ numbers. These numbers were often tattooed on their skin, and also had to be sewn to a certain spot on the trousers, jacket, or coat. Any guard who wanted to make a charge against a prisoner just glanced at his number; he never asked for his name.” (Frankl, 1984, p. 19). This observation is relevant to the study of identity transformation among prisoners, applicable to the modern world. In fact, this has been a studied in the famous Stanford Prison Experiment by Philip Zimbardo wherein the jailers would command the prisoners to repeat their respective numbers, drilling it until the number was synonymous to their selves and some prisoners equated their numbers to their identity so quickly that they even began to sign their letters using their numbers as opposed to their names (Alvarez, 2015). This synonymy is not necessarily only in prison set ups but also in large educational institutions such as universities where students are assigned roll numbers for official purposes and on spending significant time identifying themselves through these roll numbers, there may be identity suspension.

Frankl maintains that one can remain true to his or herself and find meaning within their life. However, he contradicts this by writing, “…I saw the plain truth and did what marked the culminating point of the first phase of my psychological reaction: I struck out my whole former life.” (Frankl, 1984, p.27). Can it not be the case that there are dual lives and respective identities at play and that meaning in pre-prison life can be different to post prison meaning? Schmid and Jones (1991) studied prison identity and found that there indeed was a duality of selves i.e the coexistence and conflict between an individual’s ‘true identity’ prior to being admitted into a maximum security facility and the prisoner’s ‘false identity’ within the prison. Hence the stability of meaning is not guaranteed since even the concept of self is not a single stable entity.

Suffice to say, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ is an interesting read for psychology majors because of the plethora of connections that can be made to other theories and phenomena in the field and in understanding how  Viktor Frankl’s harrowing experiences have been transformed into a means of therapy, perhaps his own sublimation of personal trauma for the betterment of society through his existential philosophy.

Please fill these Research Study Surveys!

Hello, so my friend and I are collecting data for our psychology research dissertations and would really (and I mean REALLY) appreciate it if you could take some time to fill out our surveys!

My study is on the preferences and personality traits of those who watch Game of Thrones (those who have watched all 5 seasons without skipping any episodes) and the link to my survey is below. Anyone across the world can fill it!

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1E9-v5bIHrD-0RylM5fkiMVZh4juxHcXET859psm7444/viewform?usp=send_form

My friend is studying viewers of Indian youth shows like the ones on Channel V and the link to her survey is given below:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1bwwAG-3VdPjM01G0x5_NURj3bYttf__FKW9Xe2o2k48/viewform

Thanks for your time!

p.s Please forward our links to other people who might be interested! Thanks.

Fill out a survey for Game of Thrones Research, please?

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Hi everyone! I’m in my final year of college and am currently working on my research dissertation in psychology. My research is on the personality traits and and preferences of the viewers of Game of Throne between the ages of 18-30. Anyone across the world can take it by opening the link below which will take you to a survey I prepared to collect data. If you could spare some time to fill out the survey, I would really appreciate it! Also, feel free to pass the link along to other people who might be interested! Thanks for your time!

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1E9-v5bIHrD-0RylM5fkiMVZh4juxHcXET859psm7444/viewform

If anyone has any queries, please feel free to email me at veda.dandamudi@cep.christuniversity.in 🙂

What your personality has to do with blogging

Ever wonder why some people are so drawn to cyberspace by maintaining a blog while others don’t understand the appeal of it? While social media is considered the one-size-fits-all corner of the internet, blogging, on the other hand, has become a dedicated art and crafted by very interesting individuals. Blogs have even been utilised in the education system, engaging students with various assignments. As you can imagine, there are a great host of reasons as to why people blog. Whether you started a blog for cathartic, self reflections or to demonstrate to the world that you have something to show them, research has found that your personality has a say in your blogging habits.

The NEO Personality Inventory developed by Costa and McCrae measures five basic personality traits known as the ‘The Big Five personality factors’ i.e. neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness and studies have linked these five personality factors with blogging.

According to a study conducted by Guadagno, Okdie and Eno (2013), those who are high in openness to new experience as well as in neuroticism are more likely to become bloggers. This makes sense as those who are high in openness are characterised as imaginative, artistically talented and possess a wide range of interests. Blogs can be a convenient and simple outlet for their self expression. Those who rank high in neuroticism may, however, blog for different reasons. Characterised by feelings of anxiety, tension and nervousness, they could be blogging to branch out and form social connections with fellow bloggers in order to combat feelings of loneliness.

Also, in the case of the relationship between neuroticism and blogging it was found that gender is a moderating factor for women, with those higher in neuroticism more likely to blog than women lower in this personality factor yet for men there was no difference in this regard. This highlights the gender differences in personality and its impact on this form of online behaviour.

Gill, Nowson and Oberlander (2009) found that bloggers who are highly extraverted tend to use their blogs to engage directly with readers, just as they would with people in real life, as well as document their lives. They vent both negative and positive emotions. However, highly agreeable individuals focus on expressing positive emotions while highly neurotic bloggers mostly dwell on negative ones. Highly open bloggers blog about leisure activities while highly conscientious bloggers tend to report more on their daily life and work.

Not only do your personality factors predict the maintenance and content of your blog, they also play a role in how much you enjoy blogging. Agreeableness and extraversion have been positively associated with levels of perceived enjoyment in blogging while conscientiousness has a negative impact on the very same. Factors like neuroticism and openness to experience proved to be insignificant (Wang, Lin & Lian, 2010).

So, it looks like your personality manifests and transforms your blogging space to tailor its needs and mirror itself instead of morphing into an unknown person to display an online facade. Fascinating, isn’t it?

If you’re interested in reading the full studies, check them out here:

Investigating the Individual Difference Antecedents of Perceived Enjoyment in the Acceptance of Blogging

What are they blogging about?Personality, Topic and Motivation in Blogs

Who Blogs? Personality Predictors of Blogging

Taijin Kyofusho and The Role of Japanese Culture

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Ever heard of a culture-bound syndrome? Apart from known psychiatric and psychological disorders, there are certain disorders which are closely associated with a certain population and require cultural context to understand its diagnostic dimensions and treatment methods. The occurrence of these disorders really draw attention to the role of cultural factors in the onset and prevalence of various disorders.

One particular culture-bound disorder I found out about is called taijin kyofusho (TKS) which is a social anxiety or phobia manifested in the Japanese cultural context.   TKS patients suffer from an intense fear that his or her body or its parts will offend, humiliate or displease other people. This form of anxiety is characterised by a fear of social contact, extreme self-consciousness in terms o body odour, blushing and physical appearance and the contraction of disease.

Feelings of emotional distress in the form of shame, embarrassment, fear and tense feelings when in social conditions are characteristic symptoms of TKS. Those who worry about the maintenance of healthy interpersonal relationships can also be diagnosed with the disorder. Its somatic symptoms include insomnia, fatigue, head, body and stomach aches. Physical symptoms include blushing, inappropriate eye contact & facial expressions, shaking of the hands, gastrointestinal distress, profuse sweating, body odour and dishevelled appearance.

Cultural influences play an integral role in the development of taijin kyofusho which explains why this disorder occurs in Japanese populations.  As an Eastern collectivistic society, people in Japan are concerned with adherence to group norms, family loyalty and harmonious social relations. Emphasis lies in the promotion of selflessness and putting others needs, such as family or community, ahead of one’s own needs. It is encouraged to behave in a way that betters society. Individualistic societies typically seen in the West, are by contrast, concerned with personal identity with the individuals needs put before the one’s of others.

The fundamental differences among these cultures explains the distinction that can be made between social phobia disorder (SAD) and taijin kyofusho (TKS).

At first glance it may seem that social phobia and TKS are similar but there exists an essential difference between the two. Not to be mistaken or grouped under social anxiety which is the fear of embarrassment in the presence of others, those suffering from taijin kyofusho fear that others will be embarrassed in his or her presence. Primarily, social phobia disorder (SAD) is based on an individual’s reactions while taijin kyofusho is based on the perceived reactions of a group of others. This explains why the former commonly occurs in Western individualistic cultures and the latter commonly occurs in the Japanese collectivistic culture.

Furthermore, self reliance in the case of collectivistic cultures is viewed as not being a burden to others. This explains why the Japanese do not wish to humiliate others with their presence and the induced fear that this can bring shame to their loved ones i.e family and friends.

Socialisation of children is also another perspective from which this syndrome can be viewed. Children learn about the norms, values, beliefs and attitudes of their culture through this process yet it can have adverse negative effects in extremes. According to the ICD-10, Japanese cultural values encourage “over-socialisation” of some children which could lead to the development of feelings of inferiority and anxiety when in social situations.

Also, one of the phobias comprised of TKS called Jikoshisen-kyofu can be explained in a cultural context in the sense that Japanese children are taught that making direct eye contact with another person is considered rude whereas by contrast, in the West it is not. The fear of direct eye contact offending others may stem from such an embedded expectation within Japanese culture. Shame is culturally pervasive and has well defined norms for which the violations are instantly recognised and together with embarrassment is  conceptualised as haji. For the Japanase, gaze is seen as a stressor that can result in physiological reactions. Japanese feel stress when subjected to gaze and this in turn is processed into haji. Even imaginary gaze is sufficient to generate the same response. The tendency for this to occur lies in the fact that the Japanese have allocentric empathy which allows them to take on the role of the audience and view their actions as a spectator. This explains why TKS patients feel so concerned about the embarrassment of others rather than of their own selves and why they may have a phobia of eye-to-eye contact.

Also, perfectionism is a common trait of TKS patients and that is because of the high standards of self presentation that exist within Japanese culture. What is known as exposure sensitivity makes Japanese individuals feel as if they are actors on a stage and hence feel the need to display perfection which involves impeccable self presentation. Codes of formal communication both verbal and nonverbal are meant to facilitate this self presentation such as extremely conventional forms of greetings and facial expressions, gestures, postures that are occasion appropriate, coordinated group activities like sports and singing. Japanese readily conform to these rigid codes. The Japanese tea ceremony is an example of a formal art that reflects the cultures embedded perfectionism. The participant of this ceremony must follow elaborate rules in preparing the tea, utilising utensils and dressing accordingly etc.

Hence, perfectionism on display and exposure sensitivity can cause a morbid fear of self-exposure wherein the self is considered to be localised in different body parts like the face, eyes and mouth. This self-exposure fear can manifest as what is called hitomishiri which is the Japanese conception of stranger anxiety. Hitomishiri has been attributed to the Japanese characteristic of shyness. This abounds from the clear line that is drawn between two domains i.e the socially internal domain referred to as uchi and the external domain called soto. In other words, there is a dilemma in which the individual fears self exposure to the audience and thus tends to become socially withdrawn but is aware of the fact that this behaviour is odd. Knowing this, he or she feels driven to overcome this tendency and present him or herself in a perfectionist way. Hence TKS can be viewed as a part of the shame complex or conflict.

Together, all of these factors can explain why a culture bound social anxiety such as TKS has developed among the Japanese population. However, a case of Jikoshisen-kyofu has been reported in Korea which a study suggests as meaning that TKS is not only specific to the Japanese culture but also to those countries with similar cultures. It has been found that China, Korea and Japan in East Asia give a great deal of importance to social etiquette and appropriate interpersonal relations so it is possible that Jikoshisen-kyofu may not necessarily be ‘bound’ to Japan but can be viewed as an East Asian specific syndrome. Further research exploring TKS in the broader East Asian cultural context can shed light on this matter as there is still so much left to investigate. (Iwata et. al).

References

Cherry, K. (n.d.). What Are Collectivistic Cultures? Retrieved July 7, 2015, from http://psychology.about.com/od/cindex/fl/What-Are-Collectivistic-Cultures.htm

Fritscher, L. (2013). Taijin Kyofusho – Japanese Social Phobia. Retrieved July 7, 2015, from http://phobias.about.com/od/phobiaslist/a/Taijin-Kyofusho.htm

Iwata, Y., Suzuki, K., Takei, N., Toulopoulou, T., Tsuchiya, K., Matsumoto, K., . . . Mori, N. (2011). Jiko-shisen-kyofu (fear of one’s own glance), but not taijin-kyofusho (fear of interpersonal relations), is an east Asian culture-related specific syndrome. Aust NZ J Psychiatry Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 148-152.

Lebra, T. (1983). Shame and Guilt: A Psychocultural View of the Japanese Self. Ethos, 192-209.

Nagata, T., Wada, A., Yamada, H., Iketani, T., & Kiriike, O. (2005). Effect of milnacipran on insight and stress coping strategy in patients with Taijin Kyofusho. Int J Psych Clin Pract International Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice, 193-198. Retrieved July 7, 2015.

The ICD-10 classification of mental and behavioural disorders: Clinical descriptions and diagnostic guidelines. (1992). Geneva: World Health Organization.

Saunders, D. (n.d.). Taijin Kyofusho. Retrieved July 7, 2015, from http://www.brainphysics.com/taijin-kyofusho.php

Stites, L. (2014, April 24). Taijin Kyofusho – A Particularly “Japanese” Social Anxiety – Tofugu. Retrieved July 7, 2015, from http://www.tofugu.com/2014/04/24/taijin-kyofusho-a-particularly-japanese-social-anxiety/