Tech of the day: Star Trek tricorder becomes a reality.
It can measure your:
This looks awesome.
Tech of the day: Star Trek tricorder becomes a reality.
It can measure your:
This looks awesome.
I’m sticking with a hard “G” (like “gift”}
Its soft G yo
You can’t make this stuff up. As a sidenote, Dr. Jay has yet to be arrested for jaywalking.
Are mental illnesses such as PMS and depression culturally determined?
A growing number of psychiatrists suspect mental conditions are ‘culture-bound syndromes’ rather than exclusively biological
The latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – DSM 5 – was published over the weekend. Produced by the American Psychiatric Association, it describes the symptoms of a vast range of mental illnesses and is intended as a guide to diagnosis.
Why should we in the UK care? Simple: the political dominance of the US means that as soon as a mental disorder is named in the DSM, that disorder becomes valid in the eyes of many.
But not everyone is a fan. The DSM committee has been accused of continually expanding the categories of mental illness, resulting in”diagnostic inflation” – with the result that increasing numbers of us are diagnosed with one condition or another.
The committee has also fallen foul of the US National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH), which dislikes the DSM’s symptom-based approach. The NIMH argues that laboratory tests for biomarkers are the only rational way to diagnose mental illness.
And two weeks ago the British Psychological Society released astatement claiming that there is no scientific validity to diagnostic labels such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Indeed, the DSM’s fondness for the categorisation of mental illness is a major reason for its unpopularity in many quarters. According to Gary Greenberg in the New Yorker, frustrated scientists believe its beloved categories “don’t correspond to biological reality”.
Is that a fair criticism? I would argue that the categorisation of mental illness based on symptoms can be useful. But – and it’s a big, fat, hairy but – we must accept that those diagnostic categories are cultural constructions, not global certainties.
Culture-bound syndromes are most often the preoccupation of anthropologists. Typically, the patient displays symptoms that are recognised as indicating a particular illness only by other members of that patient’s cultural group. The dhat syndrome observed in parts of India, characterised by fatigue, anxiety and guilt and usually experienced by men, is a well-documented example of a psychological culture-bound syndrome, as is the susto, or fright sickness, of Latin America.
In a recent editorial in the British Journal of General Practice, Professor Christopher Dowrick argues that depression could be a western culture-bound syndrome, rather than a universal disorder. In support of his case, Prof Dowrick notes the lack of consensus in psychiatry over what even constitutes depression: the endless shifting of diagnostic goalposts.
He points out that there is no discrete genetic variation known to cause depression. Rather, there is genetic overlap across a range of mental illness, including depressive disorder, autism and schizophrenia.
Prof Dowrick’s point is that as China and India become politically dominant, spreading different concepts of what constitutes mental illness, we will have to be more sceptical of our cherished diagnostic categories. “In western anglophone societies we have developed an ethic of happiness, in which aberrations … are assumed to indicate illness,” he writes.
Others have argued that pre-menstrual syndrome, too, is a Western culture-bound syndrome. In 1987, Thomas S Johnson claimed that the symptoms were an expression of ”conflicting societal expectations” on women. In 2012, a meta-analysis of published research failed to find evidence that negative mood correlates to the pre-menstrual phase of the menstrual cycle. And earlier this year, a qualitative study found that a “cognitive reframing” of the symptoms could reduce self-reported pre-menstrual distress.
Could depression and PMS really be culture-bound syndromes rather than biological entities? For sure, no one is arguing than they are not genuine illnesses – to the patient, the symptoms are real and painful. I used to be convinced by the biomedical model of depression, but now I’m not so sure. Could depression, and other familiar mental conditions, be interpreted as a kind of local language – our culturally established way of expressing distress and asking for help?
A DSM-style categorisation of illness based on symptoms could still be useful, provided we bear in mind that our local diagnostic categories are no more universal than our local language. We may also need to accept that treatments for mental disorder are not universally applicable. Culture-bound syndromes need culture-bound treatments: interventions recognised as “medicine” by both patient and practitioner.
It’s a very complex subject – not least because there may be crossover between the cultural and the biological; between the BPS’s dismissal of diagnostic labels and the NIMH’s desire to find a biomarker for every illness.
“I think the distinction between ‘biological’ and ‘social’ causes can get tricky. Lots of human practices that are clearly culturally patterned – child-rearing practices, diet, and sleep patterns, for example – affect our biology,” Dr Rachel Cooper, author of Classifying Madness, tells me in response to an email. “You could have cases where a ‘core’ biological disturbance is expressed differently in different cultures. Some have suggested that this might be the case with western-style depression and Chinese neurasthenia.”
And in the end, as Dr Cooper concludes, “A biomarker can only tell you that a person is different – not whether that difference should be considered pathological.” Much of mental pathology could be a consequence of culture.
guaranteed to make your friends shit themselves
I need this.
Beautifully shot video of Reckoner from Nimes show. The end part breaks my heart because you see Ed keep turning around to see when Scott Johnson’s photo was there. (This was the 1st show after his death and Thom dedicates the song to him).
I love this song.
oh man :’(
People are taking the piss out of you everyday. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are The Advertisers and they are laughing at you.
You, however, are forbidden to touch them. Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say what they like wherever they like with total impunity.
Fuck that. Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head.
You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don’t owe them any courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t even start asking for theirs.
FUCKING THANK YOU.
Sex: Intelligent Intercourse
Why smarties have less sex
Tina Fey and scholar James Franco are some of the hottest names in Hollywood—and they’re as smart as they are eye-catching. But for ordinary eggheads, the intellect that serves so well in the boardroom might need an assist in the bedroom.
“Intelligence is negatively associated with sex frequency,” says Rosemary Hopcroft, a sociologist at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. “It’s a bit dismaying.”
And people with higher education levels generally have lower numbers of sexual partners. The latest National Survey of Family Growth shows that, for example, men with college degrees are half as likely to have had four or more partners in the last year as men with a high school education alone. (Or at least, they’re half as likely to admit it, points out Anjani Chandra, a health scientist and demographer at the Centers for Disease Control.)
Why? “It’s hard to pick apart,” Chandra says. But the sexual habits of teens might offer a clue. Carolyn Halpern, a professor at the UNC School of Public Health, found a high concentration of teen virgins at the top of the intelligence scale. She thinks the smartest kids might hold off on sex because they’re thinking through its potential consequences.
But that doesn’t tell the whole story: The same bright teens are just as likely to postpone relatively innocuous activities like kissing. “It’s hard to imagine a 15-year-old wouldn’t kiss a boy because she’s worried about getting pregnant,” she admits. “You have to ask: Are these choices or questions of opportunity?”
She’s not implying that gifted kids are homely rejects—Halpern, along with other researchers analyzing the link between sex and intelligence, controls for attractiveness, personal grooming, and affability, and the observed effect still holds. It might be a question of priorities: “Pursuing education takes up a lot of time,” Chandra says.
That’s fine for scholarly teens, but why are the brightest adults still getting the least action? Life history theory, which examines how species have evolved different reproductive strategies to survive, offers a possible explanation.
People with high executive functioning—in judgment, decision-making, and impulse control—usually have what’s called a slow life history strategy, notes Aurelio José Figueredo, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Arizona: They tend to have fewer partners and less sex but more resources (such as money and status) to invest in potential offspring.
Geniuses hoping to lead lives of passion and promiscuity might be disappointed, but it’s not all bad news—at least for men. “Money, not intelligence, helps men have more sex,” Hopcroft says. “In and of itself, intellect won’t do the trick. But intelligence helps them get money.”
What does that tell us? “Don’t be an academic!” she says with a laugh.