A New Skin

How often in life do we get to trade in our skin for a new one? Come new year, I’ll be trading in the external face of this blog for a new one. With blogs that is easy, more like a change of clothes than a re-design. Yet as we spend more and more time on the internet the places we visit become ‘environments’. And the smallest change affects us. Anyone that has visited a favorite website to find it redesigned can attest to the jarring effect this can have.

This is something that might fall under that domain of environmental psychology. The American Psychological Association’s Division 34 is devoted to the impact of environments on our psyche. The division divides their focus into three areas: population, built environments, and natural environments.

A change to a website design might fall under ‘built environments’. In any case, that’s what’s happening here January 1. A new skin.


‘Tis the Season to Buy Drugs: Are You a Shopaholic?

Found this mention of oniomania, purported new entrants into DSM-V. Said article has the following tempting title: “Getting the Id to Go Shopping: Psychoanalysis, Advertising, Barbie Dolls, and the Invention of the Consumer Unconscious.” The digest version is:

  1. Big Pharma creates both supply and demand. Once a diagnosis is in the DSM marketing can begin in earnest.
  2. Research on oinomania funded by Forest Laboratories, Inc.
  3. That research found drugs they manufacture, Celexa and Lexapro, were pharmaceutical “cure” for oinomania.
  4. No mention of potential sources of shopping mania, finding a meaning. That would be the realm of talk therapy.

Here’s some of the text:

Following the news that oniomania, otherwise known as compulsive spending or shopaholism, will be recognized as a clinical disorder in the next diagnostic manual of the American Psychiatric Association, watchdogs of the mind-control industries have been quick to note the “coincidence” that a Stanford University research team’s recent discovery of a pharmaceutical “cure” for oniomania was funded by a pharmaceutical company. Compulsive shoppers, it seems, will be encouraged to make one more purchase: a daily pill to make it all better.

Continue reading ‘Tis the Season to Buy Drugs: Are You a Shopaholic?

APA Task Force Takes Big Pharma to Task

This month’s American Psychologist features a compelling advisory to the American Psychological Association (APA) regarding what it sees as potential threats to the integrity of the profession. The article, “Corporate Funding and Conflicts of Interest” includes these recommendations:

  1. External funds (i.e., drug money) should not be a part of APA’s core budget
  2. Exhibitors at APA conventions should not pimp their wares in bizarre manners (see the American Psychiatric Association convention for examples of marketing gone awry)
  3. APA should consider not allowing continuing education credits for industry-sponsored courses
  4. No drug pens or other branded material on display where psychologists work
  5. Psychologists should not accept gifts from corporations (including meals)

This summary courtesy of the blog Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry: A Closer Look.

The task force recommendations are a shift. APA has remained relatively silent on the issue of marketing by powerful, extremely well-endowed corporations. It remains to be seen if or how the recommendations will be implemented.

Again, the pdf of the American Psychologist article:
Corporate Funding and Conflicts of Interest

Kalea Chapman, Psy.D.

Does Therapy Work?

Guest post.
Here’s an article written by Paul G. Mattiuzzi, Ph.D. on the question of whether therapy works. Dr. Mattiuzzi was kind enough to allow me to quote the article in full. His website, the psychological resource information system, can be found here.

Does Therapy Work?

Countless studies have shown that psychotherapeutic treatment works.
The effects have been measured in terms of improved social
functioning, relief from anxiety, reductions in depression, and in
just about every other way that improvement and effectiveness can be

According to the U.S. Surgeon General: “Mental disorders are treatable
… the evidence for treatment being effective is overwhelming … the
inescapable point is that studies demonstrate conclusively that
treatment is effective.”

Continue reading Does Therapy Work?

Biobabble and the SSRI Mechanism

A bill of goods.
In Let Them Eat Prozac: The Unhealthy Relationship Between the Pharmaceutical Industry and Depression, David Healy, M.D. notes that the big pharma version of depression we are being sold is simplistic and, to some degree, without evidence.

As a psychopharmacologist, however, he saw from the outset that the drug firms were pushing a simplistic “biobabble” myth whereby depression supposedly results straightforwardly from a shortfall of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain. No such causation has been established, and the proposal is no more reasonable than claiming that headaches arise from aspirin deprivation. But by insistently urging this idea upon physicians and the public, Big Pharma widened its net for recruiting patients, who could be counted upon to reason as follows: “I feel bad; I must lack serotonin in my brain; these serotonin-boosting pills will surely do the trick.” Thus millions of people who might have needed only counseling were exposed to incompletely explained risks.

(As quoted in the New York Review of Books.)

Certainly no one would dispute than antidepressants can be effective for treating the symptoms of depression. But the idea that we understand the mechanism involved is false — and any psychiatrist will tell you that. As the above asserts, the assumptions that are fostered by the billion dollar pharmaceutical industry (and now largely accepted as gospel) are questionable and self-serving.

If the standard of research, “what is the evidence for that?”, were applied to these assertions — they would not pass muster.

Kalea Chapman, Psy.D.

Freud in Academe: Another View

What follows is another opinion on the recent New York Times article about Freud as taught in academe. The post from a colleague on a professional listserv. Thanks to Dr. Rhinewine for allowing me to quote it.

Post from a guest:
In my opinion: the handling of psychoanalysis is just short of preposterous in many psych departments. I think there’s a fundamental mismatch between the current empirical zeitgeist and psychoanalysis, and it’s not going to change swiftly. Psychoanalysis will not, however, “die” as many academics blithely declare. (Note: people say that about radical behaviorism as well, and it’s also totally false. Radical behaviorism as well as psychoanalysis are both alive and well, thankfully).

Continue reading Freud in Academe: Another View

Obsessive Compulsive? High Achieving?

The scourge of perfectionism.
We call it perfectionism. Nice article in the New York Times today about the way the culture encourages both obsessive attention to detail and compulsive behavior. Much of what therapists do is dealing with the damaging results of people stuck in the mindset of “black-and-white thinking”, a sad by-product of perfectionism (either it’s perfect or not).

What it looks like.
Perfection’s a good credo for knife throwers but quickly become unmanageable in day-to-day life, leading to paralysis — a tremendous inefficiency in completing tasks, and a tremendous indecisiveness for fear of less-than-optimal outcome. Moreover, there’s the depression that so often results when one doesn’t measure up to exacting standards. (As one joke has it: Is there a hyphen in obsessive compulsive?) When one’s identity is wrapped up in perfection it’s a sure recipe for misery. Continue reading Obsessive Compulsive? High Achieving?