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How music is changing the way dementia patients think

<p dir="ltr">New research has proven that music truly is the universal language, with experts discovering how the power of music is helping those suffering with dementia. </p> <p dir="ltr">Music therapists have shown that music brings dementia patients back to the present, with some even finding their voice thanks to the nostalgic memories of the past. </p> <p dir="ltr">According to Registered Music Therapist and Managing Director of music therapy company Music Beat, Dr Vicky Abad, the power of music is not to be overlooked when it comes to degenerative diseases.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Music is a window into people’s pasts,” she said. “It builds on strengths and abilities against a disease that can strip a person of their dignity, abilities and quality of life.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The team at <a href="https://www.tricare.com.au/">TriCare Aged Care and Retirement</a>, who see the devastating impact of dementia each and every day,  also experience first-hand the impact music has on residents, with many noticing “unrecognisable” changes in personality when a nostalgic tune is played.</p> <p dir="ltr">Louis Rose, an 80-year-old dementia patient and TriCare resident, was diagnosed with dementia six years ago, and requires assistance with many aspects of day to day life. </p> <p dir="ltr">However, listening to music is one thing he can enjoy on his own.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I grew up in Mauritius and while we didn’t have a lot, we certainly had music. Listening to music has always been an escape for me and a way to relax,” Mr Rose said.</p> <p dir="ltr">“When your brain starts to slow down and you find yourself forgetting things, it can be quite frustrating and confusing. Listening to music has been a way to distract myself from what’s going on in my head, it has helped me so much.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Tamsin Sutherland is a regular live music performer at TriCare facilities across Queensland, and has been able to witness incredible moments with the residents as they come alive as soon as she starts to play. </p> <p dir="ltr">“Watching residents who are often non-verbal sing along to the words is incredible,” she said “It really is like they are coming back to life and reconnecting with who they once were. To be part of that is quite emotional for me.”</p> <p dir="ltr">According to Dr Abad, music can help prevent the restless behaviour that often leads to pacing and wandering, especially in the evenings, which are often difficult times for those battling the disease. </p> <p dir="ltr">“Sundowning usually occurs in the late afternoon as dusk approaches, a time that is also associated with what used to be a busy time period in people’s lives,” she noted. </p> <p dir="ltr">“Personalised music is a simple and effective tool to help residents feel validated in their emotions during this time and provides them an opportunity to experience a calmer state of mind”.</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p>

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10 ways to sneak in meditation into your everyday life

<p><em>Health experts share their tips and tricks on how to sneak meditation into your daily life without going on a yoga retreat.</em></p> <p><strong>Ways to meditate every day</strong></p> <p>Meeting deadlines at work, keeping up with friends, and trying to make time to exercise can be stressful – throw in a global pandemic and all its repercussions and it’s no wonder the majority of Australians feel that stress impacts their physical health (72%) and mental health (64%). But whatever the source of your stress, daily meditation can help you cope without having to change your schedule.</p> <p><strong>1. Try eating a meal without distractions</strong></p> <p><img src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/2024/04/1-lunch-mindful-eating-GettyImages-1263611134-770.jpg" alt="" width="1280" height="720" /></p> <p>When was the last time you did this? According to Rebecca Weible, founder of Yo Yoga!, eating without your phone, tablet or a book creates real awareness. “Take the time to notice each bite, including the taste and texture of your food,” she says. “This is also great for digestion and portion control.”</p> <p><strong>2. Unplug and take a walk</strong></p> <p><img src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/2024/04/2-walk-scooter-kids-parents-GettyImages-932349458-770.jpg" alt="" width="1280" height="720" /></p> <p>Sometimes slowing down is as easy as unplugging from the digital world, including your phone, social media and email and taking in your surroundings. Weible says to take notice of each step: “The first and last part of your foot to hit the ground with each step, your stride and your pace. See how long you can stay present.” Running is also a great way to unplug.</p> <p><strong>3. Try out some yoga moves</strong></p> <p><strong><img src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/2024/04/3-yoga-GettyImages-1051753046-770.jpg" alt="" width="1280" height="720" /></strong></p> <p>Anyone can do yoga, trust us! “Yoga is a moving meditation as you are encouraged to be mindful of each part of your body in every pose and how you are moving from pose to pose,” says Weible. In yoga, you are forced to focus on your breathing and muscle control, which makes you totally present in the moment – a key to good meditation.</p> <p><em>Ensure you have the yoga mat best suited to your needs, <a href="http://gaiam.innovations.com.au/p/gaiam-yoga/mats?affiliate=GAIAM60" target="_blank" rel="noopener">starting with this extensive range from Gaiam</a>.</em></p> <p><strong>4. Really wake up in the morning</strong></p> <p><img src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/2024/04/4-waking-up-stretch-GettyImages-552008811-770.jpg" alt="" width="1280" height="720" /></p> <p>Sure, we all wake up in the morning, but before you hop out of bed for that shower or cup of coffee, Scott Rogers, principal advisor at Innergy Meditation, suggests you really wake before getting out of bed, which means sitting up and taking in your surroundings. “Notice the lighting, the temperature, how you feel,” says Rogers, “Close or lower your eyes for a few breaths – for a few minutes – and rest your attention on the sensations of your body breathing.”</p> <p><strong>5. Whenever you walk through a door, take a deep breath</strong></p> <p><strong><img src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/2024/04/5-walking-through-a-door-GettyImages-1063759498-770.jpg" alt="" width="1280" height="720" /></strong></p> <p>Another way to bring focus and calm is to take a deep breath every time you walk through a doorway. This forces you to look around, see where you are, and again bring focus into your daily life. “Such moments insert an important wedge of awareness that helps reduce stress and steady the mind,” says Rogers.</p> <p><strong>6. Use Post-It notes</strong></p> <p><strong><img src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/2024/04/6-post-it-note-GettyImages-85007668-770.jpg" alt="" width="1280" height="720" /></strong></p> <p>There is no wrong way or right way to meditate. A super-easy way is using Post-It notes. suggests Jackie Itzkowitz and Joel Granik, co-founders of Floating Lotus. “Put a Post-It note on your mirror in your bathroom to remind yourself to think about something you are grateful for,” explain Itzkowitz and Granik. “The fact you can walk, the exciting day you have ahead of you, or even the fact you are alive and well. Taking a moment to be mindful and aware of yourself and the things around you counts as meditating.”</p> <p><strong>7. Check your breathing</strong></p> <p><strong><img src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/2024/04/7-breathing-exercise-GettyImages-1143696586-770.jpg" alt="" width="1280" height="720" /></strong></p> <p>This is a really easy one. “Take a moment to sit up tall with both feet on the floor, hands in your lap. You can close the eyes or leave them open,” suggests Weible. “Take a deep breath in through your nose counting to three, then let it out through your nose counting to three. Take another breath in counting to four, let it out counting to four. Repeat this pattern using a five-count. You can take as many breaths as you like, but three mindful breaths can go a long way towards making you feel less stressed and more at ease.”</p> <p>Add the healing benefits of aromatherapy to your breathing exercises <a href="https://gaiam.innovations.com.au/p/gaiam-wellness/relax/27-73273-gaiam-wellness-usb-mini-diffuser?affiliate=GAIAM60" target="_blank" rel="noopener">with the help of a Gaiam Wellness Mini Diffuser</a>.</p> <p><strong>8. Practise mindfulness</strong></p> <p><strong><img src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/2024/04/8-smelling-flowers-roses-GettyImages-455252101-770.jpg" alt="" width="1280" height="720" /></strong></p> <p>This another meditation practice you can try anywhere. “Mindfulness meditation involves paying attention to our present moment experience and there is no time when we cannot be practising,” says Rogers. “But, we tend to forget or feel too busy to do so” So literally, slow down and smell the roses.</p> <p><strong>9. Try switching hands</strong></p> <p><strong><img src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/2024/04/9-yoghurt-spoon-GettyImages-1226825261-770.jpg" alt="" width="1280" height="720" /></strong></p> <p>Most people have one dominant hand so Rogers suggests switching it up. “When you are ready to eat, place your fork or spoon in your non-dominant hand for your first bite,” he says, “This will slow down the process and engage attention. As you take your first bite, notice the sensory richness of sight, smell and touch.”</p> <p><strong>10. Forget about worrying</strong></p> <p><strong><img src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/2024/04/10-meditation-GettyImages-1157178955-770.jpg" alt="" width="1280" height="720" /></strong></p> <p>This one is easier said than done but Itzkowitz and Granik say worrying is the one thing that can bring your meditating down. “Actually worrying about doing meditation wrong is the only thing you can do wrong,” they advise. “Be compassionate with yourself and let yourself relax.”</p> <p style="box-sizing: border-box; margin-top: 0px; margin-bottom: 1rem; background-color: #ffffff;"><span style="box-sizing: border-box;"><span style="color: #212529; font-family: -apple-system, system-ui, Segoe UI, Roboto, Helvetica Neue, Arial, sans-serif, Apple Color Emoji, Segoe UI Emoji, Segoe UI Symbol, Noto Color Emoji;"><span style="font-weight: bolder;">This article, written by </span><strong>Felissa Benjamin Allard</strong><span style="font-weight: bolder;">, originally appeared on</span></span></span><span style="color: #212529; font-family: -apple-system, 'system-ui', 'Segoe UI', Roboto, 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, sans-serif, 'Apple Color Emoji', 'Segoe UI Emoji', 'Segoe UI Symbol', 'Noto Color Emoji'; font-size: 16px; box-sizing: border-box; font-weight: bolder;"> <a style="box-sizing: border-box; color: #258440; text-decoration-line: none; background-color: transparent; transition: all 0.2s ease-in-out 0s;" href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/healthsmart/conditions/mental-health/10-ways-to-sneak-in-meditation-into-your-everyday-life" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>.</span></p> <p style="box-sizing: border-box; margin-top: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; color: #212529; font-family: -apple-system, 'system-ui', 'Segoe UI', Roboto, 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, sans-serif, 'Apple Color Emoji', 'Segoe UI Emoji', 'Segoe UI Symbol', 'Noto Color Emoji'; font-size: 16px; background-color: #ffffff;"><em style="box-sizing: border-box;">Images: Shutterstock | Getty</em></p>

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How much stress is too much? A psychiatrist explains the links between toxic stress and poor health − and how to get help

<p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lawson-r-wulsin-1493655">La<em>wson R. Wulsin</em></a><em>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-cincinnati-1717">University of Cincinnati </a></em></p> <p>COVID-19 taught most people that the line between tolerable and toxic stress – defined as persistent demands that lead to disease – varies widely. But some people will age faster and die younger from toxic stressors than others.</p> <p>So how much stress is too much, and what can you do about it?</p> <p>I’m a <a href="https://researchdirectory.uc.edu/p/wulsinlr">psychiatrist specializing in psychosomatic medicine</a>, which is the study and treatment of people who have physical and mental illnesses. My research is focused on people who have psychological conditions and medical illnesses as well as those whose stress exacerbates their health issues.</p> <p>I’ve spent my career studying mind-body questions and training physicians to treat mental illness in primary care settings. My <a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/toxic-stress/677FA62B741540DBDB53E2F0A52A74B1">forthcoming book</a> is titled “Toxic Stress: How Stress is Killing Us and What We Can Do About It.”</p> <p>A 2023 study of stress and aging over the life span – one of the first studies to confirm this piece of common wisdom – found that four measures of stress all speed up the pace of biological aging in midlife. It also found that persistent high stress ages people in a comparable way to the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1097/PSY.0000000000001197">effects of smoking and low socioeconomic status</a>, two well-established risk factors for accelerated aging.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/yiglpsqv5ik?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe><figcaption><span class="caption">Children with alcoholic or drug-addicted parents have a greater risk of developing toxic stress.</span></figcaption></figure> <h2>The difference between good stress and the toxic kind</h2> <p>Good stress – a demand or challenge you readily cope with – is good for your health. In fact, the rhythm of these daily challenges, including feeding yourself, cleaning up messes, communicating with one another and carrying out your job, helps to regulate your stress response system and keep you fit.</p> <p>Toxic stress, on the other hand, wears down your stress response system in ways that have lasting effects, as psychiatrist and trauma expert Bessel van der Kolk explains in his bestselling book “<a href="https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/313183/the-body-%20keeps-the-score-by-bessel-van-der-kolk-md/">The Body Keeps the Score</a>.”</p> <p>The earliest effects of toxic stress are often persistent symptoms such as headache, fatigue or abdominal pain that interfere with overall functioning. After months of initial symptoms, a full-blown illness with a life of its own – such as migraine headaches, asthma, diabetes or ulcerative colitis – may surface.</p> <p>When we are healthy, our stress response systems are like an orchestra of organs that miraculously tune themselves and play in unison without our conscious effort – a process called self-regulation. But when we are sick, some parts of this orchestra struggle to regulate themselves, which causes a cascade of stress-related dysregulation that contributes to other conditions.</p> <p>For instance, in the case of diabetes, the hormonal system struggles to regulate sugar. With obesity, the metabolic system has a difficult time regulating energy intake and consumption. With depression, the central nervous system develops an imbalance in its circuits and neurotransmitters that makes it difficult to regulate mood, thoughts and behaviors.</p> <h2>‘Treating’ stress</h2> <p>Though stress neuroscience in recent years has given researchers like me <a href="https://doi.org/10.1097/PSY.0000000000001051">new ways to measure and understand stress</a>, you may have noticed that in your doctor’s office, the management of stress isn’t typically part of your treatment plan.</p> <p>Most doctors don’t assess the contribution of stress to a patient’s common chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity, partly because stress is complicated to measure and partly because it is difficult to treat. In general, doctors don’t treat what they can’t measure.</p> <p>Stress neuroscience and epidemiology have also taught researchers recently that the chances of developing serious mental and physical illnesses in midlife rise dramatically when people are exposed to trauma or adverse events, especially during <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/aces/ace-brfss.html">vulnerable periods such as childhood</a>.</p> <p>Over the past 40 years in the U.S., the alarming rise in <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/health-equity/diabetes-by-the-numbers.html">rates of diabetes</a>, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/obesity-child-17-18/overweight-obesity-child-H.pdf">obesity</a>, depression, PTSD, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db433.htm">suicide</a> and addictions points to one contributing factor that these different illnesses share: toxic stress.</p> <p>Toxic stress increases the risk for the onset, progression, complications or early death from these illnesses.</p> <h2>Suffering from toxic stress</h2> <p>Because the definition of toxic stress varies from one person to another, it’s hard to know how many people struggle with it. One starting point is the fact that about 16% of adults report having been exposed to <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/aces/fastfact.html">four or more adverse events in childhood</a>. This is the threshold for higher risk for illnesses in adulthood.</p> <p>Research dating back to before the COVID-19 pandemic also shows that about 19% of adults in the U.S. have <a href="https://doi.org/10.7249/TL221">four or more chronic illnesses</a>. If you have even one chronic illness, you can imagine how stressful four must be.</p> <p>And about 12% of the U.S. population <a href="https://blogs.worldbank.org/opendata/introducing-second-edition-world-banks-global-subnational-atlas-poverty">lives in poverty</a>, the epitome of a life in which demands exceed resources every day. For instance, if a person doesn’t know how they will get to work each day, or doesn’t have a way to fix a leaking water pipe or resolve a conflict with their partner, their stress response system can never rest. One or any combination of threats may keep them on high alert or shut them down in a way that prevents them from trying to cope at all.</p> <p>Add to these overlapping groups all those who struggle with harassing relationships, homelessness, captivity, severe loneliness, living in high-crime neighborhoods or working in or around noise or air pollution. It seems conservative to estimate that about 20% of people in the U.S. live with the effects of toxic stress.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/WuyPuH9ojCE?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe><figcaption><span class="caption">Exercise, meditation and a healthy diet help fight toxic stress.</span></figcaption></figure> <h2>Recognizing and managing stress and its associated conditions</h2> <p>The first step to managing stress is to recognize it and talk to your primary care clinician about it. The clinician may do an assessment involving a <a href="https://doi.org/10.1097/PSY.0000000000001051">self-reported measure of stress</a>.</p> <p>The next step is treatment. Research shows that it is possible to retrain a dysregulated stress response system. This approach, <a href="https://lifestylemedicine.org/">called “lifestyle medicine</a>,” focuses on improving health outcomes through changing high-risk health behaviors and adopting daily habits that help the stress response system self-regulate.</p> <p>Adopting these lifestyle changes is not quick or easy, but it works.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/prevention/index.html">National Diabetes Prevention Program</a>, the <a href="https://www.ornish.com/">Ornish “UnDo” heart disease program</a> and the <a href="https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand_tx/tx_basics.asp">U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs PTSD program</a>, for example, all achieve a slowing or reversal of stress-related chronic conditions through weekly support groups and guided daily practice over six to nine months. These programs help teach people how to practice personal regimens of stress management, diet and exercise in ways that build and sustain their new habits.</p> <p>There is now strong evidence that it is possible to treat toxic stress in ways that improve health outcomes for people with stress-related conditions. The next steps include finding ways to expand the recognition of toxic stress and, for those affected, to expand access to these new and effective approaches to treatment.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/222245/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lawson-r-wulsin-1493655"><em>Lawson R. Wulsin</em></a><em>, Professor of Psychiatry and Family Medicine, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-cincinnati-1717">University of Cincinnati</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-much-stress-is-too-much-a-psychiatrist-explains-the-links-between-toxic-stress-and-poor-health-and-how-to-get-help-222245">original article</a>.</em></p>

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What’s the difference between autism and Asperger’s disorder?

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/andrew-cashin-458270">Andrew Cashin</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/southern-cross-university-1160">Southern Cross University</a></em></p> <p>Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg describes herself as having <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/sep/02/greta-thunberg-responds-to-aspergers-critics-its-a-superpower">Asperger’s</a> while others on the autism spectrum, such as Australian comedian Hannah Gatsby, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2022/mar/19/hannah-gadsby-autism-diagnosis-little-out-of-whack">describe</a> themselves as “autistic”. But what’s the difference?</p> <p>Today, the previous diagnoses of “Asperger’s disorder” and “autistic disorder” both fall within the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, or ASD.</p> <p>Autism describes a “neurotype” – a person’s thinking and information-processing style. Autism is one of the forms of diversity in human thinking, which comes with strengths and challenges.</p> <p>When these challenges become overwhelming and impact how a person learns, plays, works or socialises, a diagnosis of <a href="https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/autism/what-is-autism-spectrum-disorder">autism spectrum disorder</a> is made.</p> <h2>Where do the definitions come from?</h2> <p>The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) outlines the criteria clinicians use to diagnose mental illnesses and behavioural disorders.</p> <p>Between 1994 and 2013, autistic disorder and Asperger’s disorder were the two primary diagnoses related to autism in the fourth edition of the manual, the DSM-4.</p> <p>In 2013, the DSM-5 collapsed both diagnoses into one <a href="https://dsm.psychiatryonline.org/doi/book/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596">autism spectrum disorder</a>.</p> <h2>How did we used to think about autism?</h2> <p>The two thinkers behind the DSM-4 diagnostic categories were Baltimore psychiatrist Leo Kanner and Viennese paediatrician Hans Asperger. They described the challenges faced by people who were later diagnosed with autistic disorder and Asperger’s disorder.</p> <p>Kanner and Asperger observed patterns of behaviour that differed to typical thinkers in the domains of communication, social interaction and flexibility of behaviour and thinking. The variance was associated with challenges in adaptation and distress.</p> <p>Between the 1940s and 1994, the majority of those diagnosed with autism also had an intellectual disability. Clinicians became focused on the accompanying intellectual disability as a necessary part of autism.</p> <p>The introduction of Asperger’s disorder shifted this focus and acknowledged the diversity in autism. In the DSM-4 it superficially looked like autistic disorder and Asperger’s disorder were different things, with the Asperger’s criteria stating there could be no intellectual disability or delay in the development of speech.</p> <p>Today, as a legacy of the recognition of the autism itself, the <a href="https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/disability/autism-in-australia/contents/autism">majority of people</a> diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder – the new term from the DSM-5 – don’t a have an accompanying intellectual disability.</p> <h2>What changed with ‘autism spectrum disorder’?</h2> <p>The move to autism spectrum disorder brought the previously diagnosed autistic disorder and Asperger’s disorder under the one new diagnostic umbrella term.</p> <p>It made clear that other diagnostic groups – such as intellectual disability – can co-exist with autism, but are separate things.</p> <p>The other major change was acknowledging communication and social skills are intimately linked and not separable. Rather than separating “impaired communication” and “impaired social skills”, the diagnostic criteria changed to “impaired social communication”.</p> <p>The introduction of the spectrum in the diagnostic term further clarified that people have varied capabilities in the flexibility of their thinking, behaviour and social communication – and this can change in response to the context the person is in.</p> <h2>Why do some people prefer the old terminology?</h2> <p>Some people feel the clinical label of Asperger’s allowed a much more refined understanding of autism. This included recognising the achievements and great societal contributions of people with known or presumed autism.</p> <p>The contraction “Aspie” played an enormous part in the shift to positive identity formation. In the time up to the release of the DSM-5, <a href="https://xminds.org/resources/Documents/Web%20files/Aspie%20Criteria%20by%20Attwood.pdf">Tony Attwood and Carol Gray</a>, two well known thinkers in the area of autism, highlighted the strengths associated with “being Aspie” as something to be proud of. But they also raised awareness of the challenges.</p> <h2>What about identity-based language?</h2> <p>A more recent shift in language has been the reclamation of what was once viewed as a slur – “autistic”. This was a shift from person-first language to identity-based language, from “person with autism spectrum disorder” to “autistic”.</p> <p>The neurodiversity rights movement describes its aim to <a href="https://researchonline.jcu.edu.au/71531/1/JCU_71531_AAM.pdf">push back</a> against a breach of human rights resulting from the wish to cure, or fundamentally change, people with autism.</p> <p>The movement uses a “social model of disability”. This views disability as arising from societies’ response to individuals and the failure to adjust to enable full participation. The inherent challenges in autism are seen as only a problem if not accommodated through reasonable adjustments.</p> <p>However the social model contrasts itself against a very outdated medical or clinical model.</p> <p>Current clinical thinking and practice focuses on <a href="https://www.collegianjournal.com/article/S1322-7696(22)00122-6/fulltext">targeted</a> supports to reduce distress, promote thriving and enable optimum individual participation in school, work, community and social activities. It doesn’t aim to cure or fundamentally change people with autism.</p> <p>A diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder signals there are challenges beyond what will be solved by adjustments alone; individual supports are also needed. So it’s important to combine the best of the social model and contemporary clinical model.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/223643/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/andrew-cashin-458270">Andrew Cashin</a>, Professor of Nursing, School of Health and Human Sciences, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/southern-cross-university-1160">Southern Cross University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/whats-the-difference-between-autism-and-aspergers-disorder-223643">original article</a>.</em></p>

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World's oldest woman turns 117

<p>One of the world's oldest living person has turned 117. </p> <p>Maria Branyas Morera born on March 4, 1907 in San Francisco, lived through the 1918 pandemic, the two World Wars, Spain’s civil war and fully recovered after contracting Covid just days before her 113th birthday. </p> <p>She was one of the world's oldest Covid survivor's in 2020 and is now the 12th oldest verified person in history. </p> <p>Maria, who moved to Catalonia, Spain when she was eight, proudly announced her age on X, formerly known as Twitter in a post that read:  “Good morning, world. Today I turn 117 years old. I’ve come this far.”</p> <p>Maria, who has lived in a nursing home for the past 23 years, is healthier than ever aside from hearing difficulties and mobility issues, and scientists are studying her to find out the secrets to a long life. </p> <p>“She remembers with impressive clarity events from when she was only four years old, and she does not present any cardiovascular disease, common in elderly people," Scientist Manel Esteller told Spanish outlet <em>ABC</em>.</p> <p>“It is clear that there is a genetic component because there are several members of her family who are over 90 years old.”</p> <p>Scientists and Maria are working together to gain further insights into living longer, and researchers hope that studying Maria’s genes will help with the development of drugs which could combat diseases associated with ageing.</p> <p>Maria had three children with her husband  a Catalan doctor named Joan Moret.</p> <p>Her husband passed away 1976, and Maria also outlived her only son, August who tragically passed away in a tractor accident when he was 86. </p> <p>Maria now has two daughters, 11 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.</p> <p>The oldest person ever established was a Frenchwoman named Jeanne Calment, who lived to the age of 122 years and 164 days.</p> <p><em>Image: news.com.au/ Guiness Book of Records</em></p>

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How can I stop overthinking everything? A clinical psychologist offers solutions

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kirsty-ross-1513078">Kirsty Ross</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/massey-university-806">Massey University</a></em></p> <p>As a clinical psychologist, I often have clients say they are having trouble with thoughts “on a loop” in their head, which they find difficult to manage.</p> <p>While rumination and overthinking are often considered the same thing, they are slightly different (though linked). <a href="https://www.apa.org/monitor/nov05/cycle">Rumination</a> is having thoughts on repeat in our minds. This can lead to overthinking – analysing those thoughts without finding solutions or solving the problem.</p> <p>It’s like a vinyl record playing the same part of the song over and over. With a record, this is usually because of a scratch. Why we overthink is a little more complicated.</p> <h2>We’re on the lookout for threats</h2> <p>Our brains are hardwired to look for threats, to make a plan to address those threats and keep us safe. Those perceived threats may be based on past experiences, or may be the “what ifs” we imagine could happen in the future.</p> <p>Our “what ifs” are usually negative outcomes. These are what we call “<a href="https://ccbhc.org/hot-thoughts-what-are-they-and-how-can-you-handle-them/">hot thoughts</a>” – they bring up a lot of emotion (particularly sadness, worry or anger), which means we can easily get stuck on those thoughts and keep going over them.</p> <p>However, because they are about things that have either already happened or might happen in the future (but are not happening now), we cannot fix the problem, so we keep going over the same thoughts.</p> <h2>Who overthinks?</h2> <p>Most people find themselves in situations at one time or another when they overthink.</p> <p>Some people are <a href="https://www.apa.org/monitor/nov05/cycle">more likely</a> to ruminate. People who have had prior challenges or experienced trauma may have come to expect threats and look for them more than people who have not had adversities.</p> <p>Deep thinkers, people who are prone to anxiety or low mood, and those who are sensitive or feel emotions deeply are also more likely to ruminate and overthink.</p> <p>Also, when we are stressed, our emotions tend to be stronger and last longer, and our thoughts can be less accurate, which means we can get stuck on thoughts more than we would usually.</p> <p>Being run down or physically unwell can also mean our thoughts are <a href="https://healthify.nz/hauora-wellbeing/m/mental-health-and-your-body/">harder to tackle</a> and manage.</p> <h2>Acknowledge your feelings</h2> <p>When thoughts go on repeat, it is helpful to use both emotion-focused and problem-focused <a href="https://link.springer.com/referencework/10.1007/978-1-4419-1005-9">strategies</a>.</p> <p>Being emotion-focused means figuring out how we feel about something and addressing those feelings. For example, we might feel regret, anger or sadness about something that has happened, or worry about something that might happen.</p> <p>Acknowledging those emotions, using self-care techniques and accessing social support to talk about and manage your feelings will be helpful.</p> <p>The second part is being problem-focused. Looking at what you would do differently (if the thoughts are about something from your past) and making a plan for dealing with future possibilities your thoughts are raising.</p> <p>But it is difficult to plan for all eventualities, so this strategy has limited usefulness.</p> <p>What is more helpful is to make a plan for one or two of the more likely possibilities and accept there may be things that happen you haven’t thought of.</p> <h2>Think about why these thoughts are showing up</h2> <p>Our feelings and experiences are information; it is important to ask what this information is telling you and why these thoughts are showing up now.</p> <p>For example, university has just started again. Parents of high school leavers might be lying awake at night (which is when rumination and overthinking is common) worrying about their young person.</p> <p>Knowing how you would respond to some more likely possibilities (such as they will need money, they might be lonely or homesick) might be helpful.</p> <p>But overthinking is also a sign of a new stage in both your lives, and needing to accept less control over your child’s choices and lives, while wanting the best for them. Recognising this means you can also talk about those feelings with others.</p> <h2>Let the thoughts go</h2> <p>A useful way to manage rumination or overthinking is “<a href="https://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/docs/Options.pdf">change, accept, and let go</a>”.</p> <p>Challenge and change aspects of your thoughts where you can. For example, the chance that your young person will run out of money and have no food and starve (overthinking tends to lead to your brain coming up with catastrophic outcomes!) is not likely.</p> <p>You could plan to check in with your child regularly about how they are coping financially and encourage them to access budgeting support from university services.</p> <p>Your thoughts are just ideas. They are not necessarily true or accurate, but when we overthink and have them on repeat, they can start to feel true because they become familiar. Coming up with a more realistic thought can help stop the loop of the unhelpful thought.</p> <p>Accepting your emotions and finding ways to manage those (good self-care, social support, communication with those close to you) will also be helpful. As will accepting that life inevitably involves a lack of complete control over outcomes and possibilities life may throw at us. What we do have control over is our reactions and behaviours.</p> <p>Remember, you have a 100% success rate of getting through challenges up until this point. You might have wanted to do things differently (and can plan to do that) but nevertheless, you coped and got through.</p> <p>So, the last part is letting go of the need to know exactly how things will turn out, and believing in your ability (and sometimes others’) to cope.</p> <h2>What else can you do?</h2> <p>A stressed out and tired brain will be <a href="https://mentalhealth.org.nz/resources/resource/stress-and-how-to-manage-it">more likely</a> to overthink, leading to more stress and creating a cycle that can affect your wellbeing.</p> <p>So it’s important to manage your stress levels by eating and sleeping well, moving your body, doing things you enjoy, seeing people you care about, and doing things that fuel your soul and spirit.</p> <p>Distraction – with pleasurable activities and people who bring you joy – can also get your thoughts off repeat.</p> <p>If you do find overthinking is affecting your life, and your levels of anxiety are rising or your mood is dropping (your sleep, appetite and enjoyment of life and people is being negatively affected), it might be time to talk to someone and get some strategies to manage.</p> <p>When things become too difficult to manage yourself (or with the help of those close to you), a therapist can provide tools that have been proven to be helpful. Some helpful tools to manage worry and your thoughts can also be found <a href="https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/Resources/Looking-After-Yourself/Anxiety">here</a>.</p> <p>When you find yourself overthinking, think about why you are having “hot thoughts”, acknowledge your feelings and do some future-focused problem solving. But also accept life can be unpredictable and focus on having faith in your ability to cope. <!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/223973/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kirsty-ross-1513078"><em>Kirsty Ross</em></a><em>, Associate Professor and Senior Clinical Psychologist, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/massey-university-806">Massey University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-can-i-stop-overthinking-everything-a-clinical-psychologist-offers-solutions-223973">original article</a>.</em></p>

Mind

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War in Ukraine affected wellbeing worldwide, but people’s speed of recovery depended on their personality

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/luke-smillie-7502">Luke Smillie</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a></em></p> <p>The war in Ukraine has had impacts around the world. <a href="https://mitsloan.mit.edu/ideas-made-to-matter/ripple-effects-russia-ukraine-war-test-global-economies">Supply chains</a> have been disrupted, the <a href="https://news.un.org/pages/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/GCRG_2nd-Brief_Jun8_2022_FINAL.pdf?utm_source=United+Nations&amp;utm_medium=Brief&amp;utm_campaign=Global+Crisis+Response">cost of living</a> has soared and we’ve seen the <a href="https://www.unhcr.org/hk/en/73141-ukraine-fastest-growing-refugee-crisis-in-europe-since-wwii.html">fastest-growing refugee crisis since World War II</a>. All of these are in addition to the devastating humanitarian and economic impacts within Ukraine.</p> <p>Our international team was conducting a global study on wellbeing in the lead up to and after the Russian invasion. This provided a unique opportunity to examine the psychological impact of the outbreak of war.</p> <p>As we explain in a new study published in <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-024-44693-6">Nature Communications</a>, we learned the toll on people’s wellbeing was evident across nations, not just <a href="https://ijmhs.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13033-023-00598-3">in Ukraine</a>. These effects appear to have been temporary – at least for the average person.</p> <p>But people with certain psychological vulnerabilities struggled to recover from the shock of the war.</p> <h2>Tracking wellbeing during the outbreak of war</h2> <p>People who took part in our study completed a rigorous “<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2773515/">experience-sampling</a>” protocol. Specifically, we asked them to report their momentary wellbeing four times per day for a whole month.</p> <p>Data collection began in October 2021 and continued throughout 2022. So we had been tracking wellbeing around the world during the weeks surrounding the outbreak of war in February 2022.</p> <p>We also collected measures of personality, along with various sociodemographic variables (including age, gender, political views). This enabled us to assess whether different people responded differently to the crisis. We could also compare these effects across countries.</p> <p>Our analyses focused primarily on 1,341 participants living in 17 European countries, excluding Ukraine itself (44,894 experience-sampling reports in total). We also expanded these analyses to capture the experiences of 1,735 people living in 43 countries around the world (54,851 experience-sampling reports) – including in Australia.</p> <h2>A global dip in wellbeing</h2> <p>On February 24 2022, the day Russia invaded Ukraine, there was a sharp decline in wellbeing around the world. There was no decline in the month leading up to the outbreak of war, suggesting the change in wellbeing was not already occurring for some other reason.</p> <p>However, there was a gradual increase in wellbeing during the month <em>after</em> the Russian invasion, suggestive of a “return to baseline” effect. Such effects are commonly reported in psychological research: situations and events that impact our wellbeing often (<a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/237535630_Adaptation_and_the_Set-Point_Model_of_Subjective_Well-BeingDoes_Happiness_Change_After_Major_Life_Events">though not always</a>) do so <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/7062343_Beyond_the_Hedonic_Treadmill_Revising_the_Adaptation_Theory_of_Well-Being">temporarily</a>.</p> <p>Unsurprisingly, people in Europe experienced a sharper dip in wellbeing compared to people living elsewhere around the world. Presumably the war was much more salient for those closest to the conflict, compared to those living on an entirely different continent.</p> <p>Interestingly, day-to-day fluctuations in wellbeing mirrored the salience of the war on social media as events unfolded. Specifically, wellbeing was lower on days when there were more tweets mentioning Ukraine on Twitter/X.</p> <p>Our results indicate that, on average, it took around two months for people to return to their baseline levels of wellbeing after the invasion.</p> <h2>Different people, different recoveries</h2> <p>There are <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31944795/">strong links</a> between our wellbeing and our individual personalities.</p> <p>However, the dip in wellbeing following the Russian invasion was fairly uniform across individuals. None of the individual factors assessed in our study, including personality and sociodemographic factors, predicted people’s response to the outbreak of war.</p> <p>On the other hand, personality did play a role in how quickly people recovered. Individual differences in people’s recovery were linked to a personality trait called “stability”. Stability is a broad dimension of personality that combines low neuroticism with high agreeableness and conscientiousness (three traits from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/social-sciences/big-five">Big Five</a> personality framework).</p> <p>Stability is so named because it reflects the stability of one’s overall psychological functioning. This can be illustrated by breaking stability down into its three components:</p> <ol> <li> <p>low neuroticism describes <a href="https://www.pnas.org/doi/full/10.1073/pnas.2212154120">emotional stability</a>. People low in this trait experience less intense negative emotions such as anxiety, fear or anger, in response to negative events</p> </li> <li> <p>high agreeableness describes <a href="https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2018-63285-010">social stability</a>. People high in this trait are generally more cooperative, kind, and motivated to maintain social harmony</p> </li> <li> <p>high conscientiousness describes <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2023.112331">motivational stability</a>. People high in this trait show more effective patterns of goal-directed self-regulation.</p> </li> </ol> <p>So, our data show that people with less stable personalities fared worse in terms of recovering from the impact the war in Ukraine had on wellbeing.</p> <p>In a supplementary analysis, we found the effect of stability was driven specifically by neuroticism and agreeableness. The fact that people higher in neuroticism recovered more slowly accords with a wealth of research linking this trait with <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10573882/">coping difficulties</a> and <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5428182/">poor mental health</a>.</p> <p>These effects of personality on recovery were stronger than those of sociodemographic factors, such as age, gender or political views, which were not statistically significant.</p> <p>Overall, our findings suggest that people with certain psychological vulnerabilities will often struggle to recover from the shock of global events such as the outbreak of war in Ukraine.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/224147/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/luke-smillie-7502">Luke Smillie</a>, Professor in Personality Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/war-in-ukraine-affected-wellbeing-worldwide-but-peoples-speed-of-recovery-depended-on-their-personality-224147">original article</a>.</em></p>

Mind

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Mothers’ dieting habits and self-talk have profound impact on daughters − 2 psychologists explain how to cultivate healthy behaviors and body image

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/janet-j-boseovski-451496">Janet J. Boseovski</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-north-carolina-greensboro-2069">University of North Carolina – Greensboro</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ashleigh-gallagher-1505989">Ashleigh Gallagher</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-north-carolina-greensboro-2069">University of North Carolina – Greensboro</a></em></p> <p>Weight loss is one of the most common health and appearance-related goals.</p> <p>Women and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db340.htm">teen girls</a> are <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db313.htm">especially likely to pursue dieting</a> to achieve weight loss goals even though a great deal of research shows that <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-thin-people-dont-understand-about-dieting-86604">dieting doesn’t work over the long term</a>.</p> <p>We are a <a href="https://www.duck-lab.com/people">developmental psychologist</a> and a <a href="https://psy.uncg.edu/directory/ashleigh-gallagher/">social psychologist</a> who together wrote a forthcoming book, “Beyond Body Positive: A Mother’s Evidence-Based Guide for Helping Girls Build a Healthy Body Image.”</p> <p>In the book, we address topics such as the effects of maternal dieting behaviors on daughters’ health and well-being. We provide information on how to build a foundation for healthy body image beginning in girlhood.</p> <h2>Culturally defined body ideals</h2> <p>Given the strong influence of social media and other cultural influences on body ideals, it’s understandable that so many people pursue diets aimed at weight loss. <a href="https://communityhealth.mayoclinic.org/featured-stories/tiktok-diets">TikTok</a>, YouTube, Instagram and celebrity websites feature slim influencers and “how-tos” for achieving those same results in no time.</p> <p>For example, women and teens are engaging in rigid and extreme forms of exercise such as 54D, a program to <a href="https://54d.com/">achieve body transformation in 54 days</a>, or the <a href="https://health.clevelandclinic.org/75-hard-challenge-and-rules">75 Hard Challenge</a>, which is to follow five strict rules for 75 days.</p> <p>For teens, these pursuits are likely fueled by trendy body preoccupations such as the desire for “<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/06/well/move/tiktok-legging-legs-eating-disorders.html">legging legs</a>.”</p> <p>Women and teens have also been been inundated with recent messaging around <a href="https://theconversation.com/drugs-that-melt-away-pounds-still-present-more-questions-than-answers-but-ozempic-wegovy-and-mounjaro-could-be-key-tools-in-reducing-the-obesity-epidemic-205549">quick-fix weight loss drugs</a>, which come with a lot of caveats.</p> <p>Dieting and weight loss goals are highly individual, and when people are intensely self-focused, it is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1521/jscp.2000.19.1.70">possible to lose sight of the bigger picture</a>. Although women might wonder what the harm is in trying the latest diet, science shows that dieting behavior doesn’t just affect the dieter. In particular, for women who are mothers or who have other girls in their lives, these behaviors affect girls’ emerging body image and their health and well-being.</p> <h2>The profound effect of maternal role models</h2> <p>Research shows that mothers and maternal figures <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2017.11.001">have a profound influence on their daughters’ body image</a>.</p> <p>The opportunity to influence girls’ body image comes far earlier than adolescence. In fact, research shows that these influences on body image <a href="https://www.teenvogue.com/story/how-toxic-diet-culture-is-passed-from-moms-to-daughters">begin very early in life</a> – <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/bs.acdb.2016.10.006">during the preschool years</a>.</p> <p>Mothers may feel that they are being discreet about their dieting behavior, but little girls are watching and listening, and they are far more observant of us than many might think.</p> <p>For example, one study revealed that compared with daughters of nondieting women, 5-year-old girls whose mothers dieted <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/S0002-8223(00)00339-4">were aware of the connection between dieting and thinness</a>.</p> <p>Mothers’ eating behavior does not just affect girls’ ideas about dieting, but also their daughters’ eating behavior. The amount of food that mothers eat <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2018.04.018">predicts how much their daughters will eat</a>. In addition, daughters whose mothers are dieters are <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2018.04.018">more likely to become dieters themselves</a> and are also <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eatbeh.2007.03.001">more likely to have a negative body image</a>.</p> <p>Negative body image is <a href="https://theconversation.com/mounting-research-documents-the-harmful-effects-of-social-media-use-on-mental-health-including-body-image-and-development-of-eating-disorders-206170">not a trivial matter</a>. It affects girls’ and women’s mental and physical well-being in a <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/1359105317710815">host of ways</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2011.06.009">can predict the emergence of eating disorders</a>.</p> <h2>Avoiding ‘fat talk’</h2> <p>What can moms do, then, to serve their daughters’ and their own health?</p> <p>They can focus on small steps. And although it is best to begin these efforts early in life – in girlhood – it is never too late to do so.</p> <p>For example, mothers can consider how they think about and talk about themselves around their daughters. Engaging in “fat talk” may inadvertently send their daughters the message that larger bodies are bad, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2020.07.004">contributing to weight bias</a> and negative self-image. Mothers’ fat talk also <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/15267431.2021.1908294">predicts later body dissatisfaction in daughters</a>.</p> <p>And negative self-talk isn’t good for mothers, either; it is associated with <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/1359105318781943">lower motivation and unhealthful eating</a>. Mothers can instead practice and model self-compassion, which involves treating oneself the way <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2016.03.003">a loving friend might treat you</a>.</p> <p>In discussions about food and eating behavior, it is important to avoid moralizing certain kinds of food by labeling them as “good” or “bad,” as girls may extend these labels to their personal worth. For example, a young girl may feel that she is being “bad” if she eats dessert, if that is what she has learned from observing the women around her. In contrast, she may feel that she has to eat a salad to be “good.”</p> <p>Moms and other female role models can make sure that the dinner plate sends a healthy message to their daughters by showing instead that all foods can fit into a balanced diet when the time is right. Intuitive eating, which emphasizes paying attention to hunger and satiety and allows flexibility in eating behavior, is associated with <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s40519-020-00852-4">better physical and mental health in adolescence</a>.</p> <p>Another way that women and especially moms can buffer girls’ body image is by helping their daughters <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2021.12.009">to develop media literacy</a> and to think critically about the nature and purpose of media. For example, moms can discuss the misrepresentation and distortion of bodies, such as the use of filters to enhance physical appearance, on social media.</p> <h2>Focusing on healthful behaviors</h2> <p>One way to begin to focus on health behaviors rather than dieting behaviors is to develop respect for the body and to <a href="https://theconversation.com/body-neutrality-what-it-is-and-how-it-can-help-lead-to-more-positive-body-image-191799">consider body neutrality</a>. In other words, prize body function rather than appearance and spend less time thinking about your body’s appearance. Accept that there are times when you may not feel great about your body, and that this is OK.</p> <p>To feel and look their best, mothers can aim to stick to a <a href="https://theconversation.com/whats-the-best-diet-for-healthy-sleep-a-nutritional-epidemiologist-explains-what-food-choices-will-help-you-get-more-restful-zs-219955">healthy sleep schedule</a>, manage their stress levels, <a href="https://theconversation.com/fiber-is-your-bodys-natural-guide-to-weight-management-rather-than-cutting-carbs-out-of-your-diet-eat-them-in-their-original-fiber-packaging-instead-205159">eat a varied diet</a> that includes all of the foods that they enjoy, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-runners-high-may-result-from-molecules-called-cannabinoids-the-bodys-own-version-of-thc-and-cbd-170796">move and exercise their bodies regularly</a> as lifelong practices, rather than engaging in quick-fix trends.</p> <p>Although many of these tips sound familiar, and perhaps even simple, they become effective when we recognize their importance and begin acting on them. Mothers can work toward modeling these behaviors and tailor each of them to their daughter’s developmental level. It’s never too early to start.</p> <h2>Promoting healthy body image</h2> <p>Science shows that several personal characteristics are associated with body image concerns among women.</p> <p>For example, research shows that women who are <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2020.02.001">higher in neuroticism</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1186/2050-2974-1-2">and perfectionism</a>, <a href="https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.983534">lower in self-compassion</a> or <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2013.08.001">lower in self-efficacy</a> are all more likely to struggle with negative body image.</p> <p>Personality is frequently defined as a person’s characteristic pattern of thoughts, feelings and behaviors. But if they wish, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/per.1945">mothers can change personality characteristics</a> that they feel aren’t serving them well.</p> <p>For example, perfectionist tendencies – such as setting unrealistic, inflexible goals – can be examined, challenged and replaced with more rational thoughts and behaviors. A woman who believes she must work out every day can practice being more flexible in her thinking. One who thinks of dessert as “cheating” can practice resisting moral judgments about food.</p> <p>Changing habitual ways of thinking, feeling and behaving certainly takes effort and time, but it is far more likely than diet trends to bring about sustainable, long-term change. And taking the first steps to modify even a few of these habits can positively affect daughters.</p> <p>In spite of all the noise from media and other cultural influences, mothers can feel empowered knowing that they have a significant influence on their daughters’ feelings about, and treatment of, their bodies.</p> <p>In this way, mothers’ modeling of healthier attitudes and behaviors is a sound investment – for both their own body image and that of the girls they love.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/221968/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/janet-j-boseovski-451496"><em>Janet J. Boseovski</em></a><em>, Professor of Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-north-carolina-greensboro-2069">University of North Carolina – Greensboro</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ashleigh-gallagher-1505989">Ashleigh Gallagher</a>, Senior Lecturer, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-north-carolina-greensboro-2069">University of North Carolina – Greensboro</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/mothers-dieting-habits-and-self-talk-have-profound-impact-on-daughters-2-psychologists-explain-how-to-cultivate-healthy-behaviors-and-body-image-221968">original article</a>.</em></p>

Mind

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How people get sucked into misinformation rabbit holes – and how to get them out

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/emily-booth-715018">Emily Booth</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-technology-sydney-936">University of Technology Sydney</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/marian-andrei-rizoiu-850922">Marian-Andrei Rizoiu</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-technology-sydney-936">University of Technology Sydney</a></em></p> <p>As misinformation and radicalisation rise, it’s tempting to look for something to blame: the internet, social media personalities, sensationalised political campaigns, religion, or conspiracy theories. And once we’ve settled on a cause, solutions usually follow: do more fact-checking, regulate advertising, ban YouTubers deemed to have “gone too far”.</p> <p>However, if these strategies were the whole answer, we should already be seeing a decrease in people being drawn into fringe communities and beliefs, and less misinformation in the online environment. We’re not.</p> <p>In new research <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/14407833241231756">published in the Journal of Sociology</a>, we and our colleagues found radicalisation is a process of increasingly intense stages, and only a small number of people progress to the point where they commit violent acts.</p> <p>Our work shows the misinformation radicalisation process is a pathway driven by human emotions rather than the information itself – and this understanding may be a first step in finding solutions.</p> <h2>A feeling of control</h2> <p>We analysed dozens of public statements from newspapers and online in which former radicalised people described their experiences. We identified different levels of intensity in misinformation and its online communities, associated with common recurring behaviours.</p> <p>In the early stages, we found people either encountered misinformation about an anxiety-inducing topic through algorithms or friends, or they went looking for an explanation for something that gave them a “bad feeling”.</p> <p>Regardless, they often reported finding the same things: a new sense of certainty, a new community they could talk to, and feeling they had regained some control of their lives.</p> <p>Once people reached the middle stages of our proposed radicalisation pathway, we considered them to be invested in the new community, its goals, and its values.</p> <h2>Growing intensity</h2> <p>It was during these more intense stages that people began to report more negative impacts on their own lives. This could include the loss of friends and family, health issues caused by too much time spent on screens and too little sleep, and feelings of stress and paranoia. To soothe these pains, they turned again to their fringe communities for support.</p> <p>Most people in our dataset didn’t progress past these middle stages. However, their continued activity in these spaces kept the misinformation ecosystem alive.</p> <p>When people did move further and reach the extreme final stages in our model, they were doing active harm.</p> <p>In their recounting of their experiences at these high levels of intensity, individuals spoke of choosing to break ties with loved ones, participating in public acts of disruption and, in some cases, engaging in violence against other people in the name of their cause.</p> <p>Once people reached this stage, it took pretty strong interventions to get them out of it. The challenge, then, is how to intervene safely and effectively when people are in the earlier stages of being drawn into a fringe community.</p> <h2>Respond with empathy, not shame</h2> <p>We have a few suggestions. For people who are still in the earlier stages, friends and trusted advisers, like a doctor or a nurse, can have a big impact by simply responding with empathy.</p> <p>If a loved one starts voicing possible fringe views, like a fear of vaccines, or animosity against women or other marginalised groups, a calm response that seeks to understand the person’s underlying concern can go a long way.</p> <p>The worst response is one that might leave them feeling ashamed or upset. It may drive them back to their fringe community and accelerate their radicalisation.</p> <p>Even if the person’s views intensify, maintaining your connection with them can turn you into a lifeline that will see them get out sooner rather than later.</p> <p>Once people reached the middle stages, we found third-party online content – not produced by government, but regular users – could reach people without backfiring. Considering that many people in our research sample had their radicalisation instigated by social media, we also suggest the private companies behind such platforms should be held responsible for the effects of their automated tools on society.</p> <p>By the middle stages, arguments on the basis of logic or fact are ineffective. It doesn’t matter whether they are delivered by a friend, a news anchor, or a platform-affiliated fact-checking tool.</p> <p>At the most extreme final stages, we found that only heavy-handed interventions worked, such as family members forcibly hospitalising their radicalised relative, or individuals undergoing government-supported deradicalisation programs.</p> <h2>How not to be radicalised</h2> <p>After all this, you might be wondering: how do you protect <em>yourself</em> from being radicalised?</p> <p>As much of society becomes more dependent on digital technologies, we’re going to get exposed to even more misinformation, and our world is likely going to get smaller through online echo chambers.</p> <p>One strategy is to foster your critical thinking skills by <a href="https://www.cell.com/trends/cognitive-sciences/abstract/S1364-6613(23)00198-5">reading long-form texts from paper books</a>.</p> <p>Another is to protect yourself from the emotional manipulation of platform algorithms by <a href="https://guilfordjournals.com/doi/10.1521/jscp.2018.37.10.751">limiting your social media use</a> to small, infrequent, purposefully-directed pockets of time.</p> <p>And a third is to sustain connections with other humans, and lead a more analogue life – which has other benefits as well.</p> <p>So in short: log off, read a book, and spend time with people you care about. <!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/223717/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/emily-booth-715018">Emily Booth</a>, Research assistant, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-technology-sydney-936">University of Technology Sydney</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/marian-andrei-rizoiu-850922">Marian-Andrei Rizoiu</a>, Associate Professor in Behavioral Data Science, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-technology-sydney-936">University of Technology Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-people-get-sucked-into-misinformation-rabbit-holes-and-how-to-get-them-out-223717">original article</a>.</em></p>

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"What a life I’ve had": Author announces own death after years of battling dementia

<p>Wendy Mitchell has died aged 68 after documenting her brave battle with dementia. </p> <p>The author from Walkington, East Yorkshire, became the best-selling writer after she was diagnosed with early onset vascular dementia and Alzheimer's in July 2014. </p> <p>She shared her philosophical outlook on living with the condition in her acclaimed 2018 memoir <em>Somebody I Used To Know </em>and in her 2022 book <em>What I Wish I Knew About Dementia</em>.</p> <p>In an <a href="https://whichmeamitoday.wordpress.com/2024/02/22/my-final-hug-in-a-mug/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">open letter</a> shared online, the author announced her death and revealed that she had refused to eat or drink towards the end of her battle. </p> <p>"If you’re reading this, it means this has probably been posted by my daughters as I’ve sadly died," she began. </p> <p>"Sorry to break the news to you this way, but if I hadn’t, my inbox would eventually have been full of emails asking if I’m OK, which would have been hard for my daughters to answer… </p> <p>"In the end I died simply by deciding not to eat or drink any more," she wrote. </p> <p>She added that the last cup of tea she had, her "final hug in a mug" was "the hardest thing to let go of". </p> <p>"Dementia is a cruel disease that plays tricks on your very existence. I’ve always been a glass half full person, trying to turn the negatives of life around and creating positives, because that’s how I cope." </p> <p>Mitchell said that the language used by doctors can "make or break" how someone copes with dementia, and instead of saying there's "nothing they can do" it is better to tell them they will have to "adapt to a new way of living". </p> <p>"Well I suppose dementia was the ultimate challenge. Yes, dementia is a bummer, but oh what a life I’ve had playing games with this adversary of mine to try and stay one step ahead," she wrote in her final blog post. </p> <p>She also said that she had always been resilient, which has helped her cope with whatever life throws in her way. </p> <p>Mitchell has been an advocate for assisted dying in the UK, and said that "the only legal choice we shouldn’t have in life is when to be born; for everything else, we, as humans, should have a choice; a choice of how we live and a choice of how we die." </p> <p>She added that the way she died was an active choice as she doesn't want "to be an inpatient in a hospital, or a resident in a Care Home," as "it’s just not the place I want to end my years."</p> <p>"My girls have always been the two most important people in my life. I didn’t take this decision lightly, without countless conversations. They were the hardest conversations I’ve ever had to put them through. </p> <p>"This was all MY CHOICE, my decision. So please respect my daughters' privacy, as they didn’t choose the life I chose, of standing up to and speaking out against dementia." </p> <p>She then thanked everyone for their support and left with a touching final message. </p> <p>"So, enjoy this knowing that dementia didn’t play the winning card – I did."</p> <p><em>Images: Daily Mail</em></p>

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Out of the rabbit hole: new research shows people can change their minds about conspiracy theories

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/matt-williams-666794">Matt Williams</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/massey-university-806">Massey University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/john-kerr-1073102">John Kerr</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-otago-1304">University of Otago</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mathew-marques-14884">Mathew Marques</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/la-trobe-university-842">La Trobe University</a></em></p> <p>Many people <a href="https://theconversation.com/was-phar-lap-killed-by-gangsters-new-research-shows-which-conspiracies-people-believe-in-and-why-158610">believe at least one</a> conspiracy theory. And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing – conspiracies <em>do</em> happen.</p> <p>To take just one example, the CIA really did engage in <a href="https://www.politico.com/story/2019/04/13/cia-mind-control-1266649">illegal experiments</a> in the 1950s to identify drugs and procedures that might produce confessions from captured spies.</p> <p>However, many conspiracy theories are not supported by evidence, yet still attract believers.</p> <p>For example, in a <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/pops.12746">previous study</a>, we found about 7% of New Zealanders and Australians agreed with the theory that <a href="https://www.earthdata.nasa.gov/learn/sensing-our-planet/on-the-trail-of-contrails">visible trails behind aircraft</a> are “chemtrails” of chemical agents sprayed as part of a secret government program. That’s despite the theory being <a href="https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/11/8/084011">roundly rejected</a> by the scientific community.</p> <p>The fact that conspiracy theories attract believers despite a lack of credible evidence remains a puzzle for researchers in psychology and other academic disciplines.</p> <p>Indeed, there has been a great deal of research on conspiracy theories published in the past few years. We now know more about how many people believe them, as well as the psychological and political factors that <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-022-25617-0">correlate with that belief</a>.</p> <p>But we know much less about how often people change their minds. Do they do so frequently, or do they to stick tenaciously to their beliefs, regardless of what evidence they come across?</p> <h2>From 9/11 to COVID</h2> <p>We set out to answer this question using a <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-024-51653-z">longitudinal survey</a>. We recruited 498 Australians and New Zealanders (using the <a href="http://prolific.com">Prolific</a> website, which recruits people to take part in paid research).</p> <p>Each month from March to September 2021, we presented our sample group with a survey, including ten conspiracy theories, and asked them how much they agreed with each one.</p> <p>All of these theories related to claims about events that are either ongoing, or occurred this millennium: the September 11 attacks, the rollout of 5G telecommunications technology, and COVID-19, among others.</p> <p>While there were definitely some believers in our sample, most participants disagreed with each of the theories.</p> <p>The most popular theory was that “pharmaceutical companies (‘Big Pharma’) have suppressed a cure for cancer to protect their profits”. Some 18% of the sample group agreed when first asked.</p> <p>The least popular was the theory that “COVID-19 ‘vaccines’ contain microchips to monitor and control people”. Only 2% agreed.</p> <h2>Conspiracy beliefs probably aren’t increasing</h2> <p>Despite contemporary concerns about a “<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7320252/">pandemic of misinformation</a>” or “<a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30461-X/fulltext">infodemic</a>”, we found no evidence that individual beliefs in conspiracy theories increased on average over time.</p> <p>This was despite our data collection happening during the tumultuous second year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lockdowns were still happening occasionally in both <a href="https://www.timeout.com/melbourne/things-to-do/a-timeline-of-covid-19-in-australia-two-years-on">Australia</a> and <a href="https://covid19.govt.nz/about-our-covid-19-response/history-of-the-covid-19-alert-system/">New Zealand</a>, and anti-government sentiment was building.</p> <p>While we only tracked participants for six months, <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0270429">other studies</a> over much longer time frames have also found little evidence that beliefs in conspiracy theories are increasing over time.</p> <hr /> <p><iframe class="flourish-embed-iframe" style="width: 100%; height: 600px;" title="Interactive or visual content" src="https://flo.uri.sh/visualisation/16665395/embed" width="100%" height="400" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" sandbox="allow-same-origin allow-forms allow-scripts allow-downloads allow-popups allow-popups-to-escape-sandbox allow-top-navigation-by-user-activation"></iframe></p> <div style="width: 100%!; margin-top: 4px!important; text-align: right!important;"><a class="flourish-credit" href="https://public.flourish.studio/visualisation/16665395/?utm_source=embed&amp;utm_campaign=visualisation/16665395" target="_top"><img src="https://public.flourish.studio/resources/made_with_flourish.svg" alt="Made with Flourish" /></a></div> <hr /> <p>Finally, we found that beliefs (or non-beliefs) in conspiracy theories were stable – but not completely fixed. For any given theory, the vast majority of participants were “consistent sceptics” – not agreeing with the theory at any point.</p> <p>There were also some “consistent believers” who agreed at every point in the survey they responded to. For most theories, this was the second-largest group.</p> <p>Yet for every conspiracy theory, there was also a small proportion of converts. They disagreed with the theory at the start of the study, but agreed with it by the end. There was also a small proportion of “apostates” who agreed with the theory at the start, but disagreed by the end.</p> <p>Nevertheless, the percentages of converts and apostates tended to balance each other pretty closely, leaving the percentage of believers fairly stable over time.</p> <h2>Inside the ‘rabbit hole’</h2> <p>This relative stability is interesting, because <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/2564659">one criticism</a> of conspiracy theories is that they may not be “<a href="https://www.britannica.com/topic/criterion-of-falsifiability">falsifiable</a>”: what seems like evidence against a conspiracy theory can just be written off by believers as part of the cover up.</p> <p>Yet people clearly <em>do</em> sometimes decide to reject conspiracy theories they previously believed.</p> <p>Our findings bring into question the popular notion of the “rabbit hole” – that people rapidly develop beliefs in a succession of conspiracy theories, much as Alice tumbles down into Wonderland in Lewis Carroll’s <a href="https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/11">famous story</a>.</p> <p>While it’s possible this does happen for a small number of people, our results suggest it isn’t a typical experience.</p> <p>For most, the <a href="https://www.latrobe.edu.au/news/articles/2023/opinion/how-to-talk-to-someone-about-conspiracy-theories">journey into</a> conspiracy theory belief might involve a more gradual slope – a bit like a <a href="https://zslpublications.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdfdirect/10.1111/j.1469-7998.1985.tb05649.x">real rabbit burrow</a>, from which one can also emerge.</p> <hr /> <p><em>Mathew Ling (<a href="https://www.neaminational.org.au/">Neami National</a>), Stephen Hill (Massey University) and Edward Clarke (Philipps-Universität Marburg) contributed to the research referred to in this article.</em><!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/222507/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <hr /> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/matt-williams-666794">Matt Williams</a>, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/massey-university-806">Massey University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/john-kerr-1073102">John Kerr</a>, Senior Research Fellow, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-otago-1304">University of Otago</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mathew-marques-14884">Mathew Marques</a>, Senior Lecturer in Social Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/la-trobe-university-842">La Trobe University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/out-of-the-rabbit-hole-new-research-shows-people-can-change-their-minds-about-conspiracy-theories-222507">original article</a>.</em></p>

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‘Self-love’ might seem selfish. But done right, it’s the opposite of narcissism

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ian-robertson-1372650">Ian Robertson</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-wollongong-711">University of Wollongong</a></em></p> <p>“To love what you are, the thing that is yourself, is just as if you were embracing a glowing red-hot iron” <a href="https://archive.org/details/jungsseminaronni0000jung">said psychonalyst Carl Jung</a>.</p> <p>Some may argue this social media generation does not seem to struggle with loving themselves. But is the look-at-me-ism so easily found on TikTok and Instagram the kind of self-love we need in order to flourish?</p> <p>The language of <a href="https://theconversation.com/teaching-positive-psychology-skills-at-school-may-be-one-way-to-help-student-mental-health-and-happiness-217173">positive psychology</a> can be – and often is – appropriated for all kinds of self-importance, as well as cynical marketing strategies.</p> <p>Loving yourself, though, psychological experts stress, is not the same as behaving selfishly. There’s a firm line between healthy and appropriate forms of loving yourself, and malignant or <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-many-types-of-narcissist-are-there-a-psychology-expert-sets-the-record-straight-207610">narcissistic</a> forms. But how do we distinguish between them?</p> <p>In 2023, researchers Eva Henschke and Peter Sedlmeier conducted <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/355152846_What_is_self-love_Redefinition_of_a_controversial_construct">a series of interviews</a> with psychotherapists and other experts on what self-love is. They’ve concluded it has three main features: self-care, self-acceptance and self-contact (devoting attention to yourself).</p> <p>But as an increasingly individualistic society, are we already devoting too much attention to ourselves?</p> <h2>Philosophy and self-love</h2> <p>Philosophers and psychology experts alike have considered the ethics of self-love.</p> <p>Psychology researcher Li Ming Xue and her colleagues, <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.585719/full">exploring the notion of self-love in Chinese culture</a>, claim “Western philosophers believe that self-love is a virtue”. But this is a very broad generalisation.</p> <p>In the Christian tradition and in much European philosophy, <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10848770.2020.1839209">says philosopher Razvan Ioan</a>, self-love is condemned as a profoundly damaging trait.</p> <p>On the other hand, <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/2107991">many of the great Christian philosophers</a>, attempting to make sense of the instruction to love one’s neighbour as oneself, admitted certain forms of self-love were virtuous. In order to love your neighbour as yourself, you must, it would seem, love yourself.</p> <p>In the Western philosophical context, claim Xue and her colleagues, self-love is concerned with individual rights – “society as a whole only serves to promote an individual’s happiness”.</p> <p>This individualistic, self-concerned notion of self-love, they suggest, might come from the Ancient Greek philosophers. In particular, Aristotle. But <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/philosophy-stirred-not-shaken/201502/love-yourself-love-your-character">Aristotle thought only the most virtuous</a>, who benefited the society around them, should love themselves. By making this connection, he avoided equating self-love with self-centredness.</p> <p>We should love ourselves not out of vanity, he argued, but in virtue of our capacity for good. Does Aristotle, then, provide principled grounds for distinguishing between proper and improper forms of self-love?</p> <h2>Bar too high?</h2> <p>Aristotle might set the bar too high. If only the most virtuous should try to love themselves, this collides head-on with the idea loving yourself can help us improve and become more virtuous – as <a href="https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1057/9781137383310_6">philosophers Kate Abramson and Adam Leite have argued</a>.</p> <p>Many psychologists claim self-love is important for adopting the kind and compassionate self-perception crucial for overcoming conditions that weaponise self-criticism, like <a href="https://theconversation.com/clinical-perfectionism-when-striving-for-excellence-gets-you-down-43704">clinical perfectionism</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-many-people-have-eating-disorders-we-dont-really-know-and-thats-a-worry-121938">eating disorders</a>.</p> <p>More broadly, some argue compassion for oneself is necessary to support honest insights into your own behaviour. They believe we need warm and compassionate self-reflection to avoid the defensiveness that comes with the fear of judgement – even if we’re standing as our own judge.</p> <p>For this reason, a compassionate form of self-love is often necessary to follow Socrates’ advice to “know thyself”, says <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10677-015-9578-4">philosopher Jan Bransen</a>. Positive self-love, by these lights, can help us grow as people.</p> <h2>Self-love ‘misguided and silly’</h2> <p>But not everyone agrees you need self-love to grow. The late philosopher <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2005/nov/29/guardianobituaries.obituaries">Oswald Hanfling</a> was deeply sceptical of this idea. In fact, he argued the notion of loving oneself was misguided and silly. His ideas are mostly rejected by philosophers of love, but pointing out where they go wrong can be useful.</p> <p>When you love someone, he said, you’re prepared to sacrifice your own interests for those of your beloved. But he thought the idea of sacrificing your own interests made no sense – which shows, he concluded, we can’t love ourselves.</p> <p><a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/3751159">He wrote</a>: "I may sacrifice an immediate satisfaction for the sake of my welfare in the future, as in the case of giving up smoking. In this case, however, my motive is not love but self-interest. What I reveal in giving up smoking is not the extent of my love for myself, but an understanding that the long-term benefits of giving it up are likely to exceed the present satisfaction of going on with it."</p> <p>We often have conflicting interests (think of someone who is agonising over two different career paths) – and it’s not at all strange to sacrifice certain interests for the sake of others.</p> <p>This is not just a question of sacrificing short-term desires in favour of a long-term good, but a matter of sacrificing something of value for your ultimate benefit (or, so you hope).</p> <h2>Self-compassion</h2> <p>Hanfling fails to consider the role of compassionate self-love. While we might understand it’s in our interests to do something (for instance, repair bridges with someone we’ve fallen out with), it might take a compassionate and open disposition towards ourselves to recognise what’s in our best interests.</p> <p>We might need this self-compassion, too, in order to admit our failures – so we can overcome our defensiveness and see clearly how we’re failing to fulfil <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10677-015-9578-4">these interests</a>.</p> <p>Self-acceptance in this context does not mean giving ourselves licence to run roughshod over the interests of those around us, nor to justify our flaws as “valid” rather than work on them.</p> <p>Self-love, as promoted by contemporary psychologists, means standing in a compassionate relationship to ourselves. And there’s nothing contradictory about this idea.</p> <p>Just as we strive to develop a supportive, kind relationship to the people we care about – and just as this doesn’t involve uncritical approval of everything they do – compassionate self-love doesn’t mean abandoning valid self-criticism.</p> <p>In fact, self-compassion has the opposite effect. It promotes comfort with the kind of critical self-assessment that helps us grow – which leads to resilience. It breeds the opposite of narcissistic self-absorption.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/205938/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ian-robertson-1372650">Ian Robertson</a>, PhD Candidate (Teaching roles at Macquarie &amp; Wollongong), <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-wollongong-711">University of Wollongong</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/self-love-might-seem-selfish-but-done-right-its-the-opposite-of-narcissism-205938">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Anger, sadness, boredom, anxiety – emotions that feel bad can be useful

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/heather-lench-1349234">Heather Lench</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/texas-aandm-university-1672">Texas A&amp;M University</a></em></p> <p>Remember the sadness that came with the last time you failed miserably at something? Or the last time you were so anxious about an upcoming event that you couldn’t concentrate for days?</p> <p>These types of emotions are unpleasant to experience and can even feel overwhelming. People often try to avoid them, suppress them or ignore them. In fact, in psychology experiments, people will <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-012-9394-7">pay money to not feel many negative emotions</a>. But recent research is revealing that emotions can be useful, and even negative emotions can bring benefits.</p> <p><a href="https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=fzHtrJIAAAAJ&amp;hl=en&amp;oi=ao">In my</a> <a href="https://emotionsciencelab.com">emotion science lab</a> at Texas A&amp;M University, we study how emotions like anger and boredom affect people, and we explore ways that these feelings can be beneficial. We share the results so people can learn how to use their emotions to build the lives they want.</p> <p>Our studies and many others have shown that emotions aren’t uniformly good or bad for people. Instead, different emotions can result in better outcomes in particular types of situations. Emotions seem to function like a Swiss army knife – different emotional tools are helpful in specific situations.</p> <h2>Sadness can help you recover from a failure</h2> <p>Sadness occurs when people perceive that they’ve lost a goal or a desired outcome, and there’s nothing they can do to improve the situation. It could be getting creamed in a game or failing a class or work project, or it can be losing a relationship with a family member. Once evoked, sadness is associated with what psychologists call a deactivation state of doing little, without much behavior or <a href="https://dictionary.apa.org/arousal">physical arousal</a>. Sadness also brings <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/ap.12232">thinking that is more detailed and analytical</a>. It makes you stop <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/0963721412474458">and think</a>.</p> <p>The benefit of the stopping and thinking that comes with sadness is that it <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-77619-4_4">helps people recover from failure</a>. When you fail, that typically means the situation you’re in is not conducive to success. Instead of just charging ahead in this type of scenario, sadness prompts people to step back and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1037/a0016242">evaluate what is happening</a>.</p> <p>When people are sad, they process information in a deliberative, analytical way and want to avoid risk. This mode comes with <a href="https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.75.2.318">more accurate memory</a>, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/02699939108411048">judgment that is less influenced</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2004.11.005">by irrelevant assumptions or information</a>, and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2008.04.010">better detection of other people lying</a>. These cognitive changes can encourage people to understand past failures and possibly prevent future ones.</p> <p>Sadness can function differently when there’s the possibility that the failure could be avoided if other people help. In these situations, people tend to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-8986.1994.tb01049.x">cry and can experience</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s10286-018-0526-y">increased physiological arousal</a>, such as quicker heart and breathing rates. Expressing sadness, through tears or verbally, has the benefit of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/147470491301100114">potentially recruiting other people to help you</a> achieve your goals. This behavior appears to start in infants, with <a href="https://doi.org/10.2307/1127506">tears and cries signaling caregivers to help</a>.</p> <h2>Anger prepares you to overcome an obstacle</h2> <p>Anger occurs when people perceive they’re losing a goal or desired outcome, but that they could improve the situation by removing something that’s in their way. The obstacle could be an injustice committed by another person, or it could be a computer that repeatedly crashes while you’re trying to get work done. Once evoked, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1037/a0024244">anger is associated with a “readiness for action,”</a> and your <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/S0191-8869(02)00313-6">thinking focuses on the obstacle</a>.</p> <p>The benefit of being prepared for action and focused on what’s in your way is that it motivates you to overcome what’s standing between you and your goal. <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/1754073913512003">When people are angry</a>, they <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.2420240104">process information and make judgments rapidly</a>, want to take action, and are <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsycho.2010.03.010">physiologically aroused</a>. In experiments, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2010.04.017">anger actually increases the force of people’s kicks</a>, which can be helpful in physical encounters. Anger results in better outcomes in situations that involve challenges to goals, including confrontational games, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1037/pspa0000350">tricky puzzles</a>, video games with obstacles, and responding quickly on tasks.</p> <p>Expressing anger, facially or verbally, has the benefit of <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pspp0000292">prompting other people to clear the way</a>. People are <a href="https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.86.1.57">more likely to concede in negotiations</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2012.12.015">give in on issues</a> when their adversary looks or says they are angry.</p> <h2>Anxiety helps you prepare for danger</h2> <p>Anxiety occurs when people <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/070674371105601202">perceive a potential threat</a>. This could be giving a speech to a large audience where failure would put your self-esteem on the line, or it could be a physical threat to yourself or loved ones. Once evoked, anxiety is associated with being prepared to respond to danger, including increased physical arousal and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2006.01701.x">attention to threats and risk</a>.</p> <p>Being prepared for danger means that if trouble brews, you can respond quickly to prevent or avoid it. When anxious, people detect threats rapidly, have fast reaction times and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2006.01701.x">are on heightened alert</a>. The eye-widening that often comes with fear and anxiety even <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.2138">gives people a wider field of vision</a> and improves threat detection.</p> <p>Anxiety prepares the body for action, which improves performance on a number of tasks that involve motivation and attention. It motivates people to prepare for upcoming events, such as devoting time to study for an exam. Anxiety also prompts protective behavior, which can help prevent the potential threat from becoming a reality.</p> <h2>Boredom can jolt you out of a rut</h2> <p>There is less research on boredom than many other emotions, so it is not as well understood. Researchers debate <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2023.02.002">what it is</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.3390/bs3030459">what it does</a>.</p> <p>Boredom appears to occur when someone’s current situation is <a href="https://doi.org/10.3390/bs3030459">not causing any other emotional response</a>. There are three situations <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-011-9234-9">where this lack can occur</a>: when emotions fade, such as the happiness of a new car fading to neutral; when people don’t care about anything in their current situation, such as being at a large party where nothing interesting is happening; or when people have no goals. Boredom does not necessarily set in just because nothing is happening – someone with a goal of relaxation might feel quite content sitting quietly with no stimulation.</p> <p>Psychology researchers think that the benefit of boredom in situations where people are not responding emotionally is that it <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/emo0000433">prompts making a change</a>. If nothing in your current situation is worth responding to, the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/jocb.154">aversive experience of boredom can motivate you</a> to seek new situations or change the way you’re thinking. Boredom has been related to more risk seeking, a desire for novelty, and creative thinking. It seems to function like an emotional stick, nudging people out of their current situation to explore and create.</p> <h2>Using the toolkit of emotion</h2> <p>People want to be happy. But research is finding that a satisfying and productive life includes a <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pspp0000292">mix of positive and negative emotions</a>. Negative emotions, even though they feel bad to experience, can motivate and prepare people for failure, challenges, threats and exploration.</p> <p>Pleasant or not, your emotions can help guide you toward better outcomes. Maybe understanding how they prepare you to handle various situations will help you feel better about feeling bad.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/217654/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/heather-lench-1349234">Heather Lench</a>, Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/texas-aandm-university-1672">Texas A&amp;M University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/anger-sadness-boredom-anxiety-emotions-that-feel-bad-can-be-useful-217654">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Why are so many Australians taking antidepressants?

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/jon-jureidini-1609">Jon Jureidini</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-adelaide-1119">University of Adelaide</a></em></p> <p>Around <a href="https://australia.cochrane.org/news/new-cochrane-review-explores-latest-evidence-approaches-stopping-long-term-antidepressants">one in seven Australians</a> take antidepressants; more than <a href="https://www.aihw.gov.au/mental-health/topic-areas/mental-health-prescriptions">3.5 million</a> of us had them dispensed in 2021–22. This is <a href="https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2016/204/9/unfulfilled-promise-antidepressant-medications#:%7E:text=Summary,is%20lower%20than%20previously%20thought.">one of the highest</a> antidepressant prescribing rates in the world.</p> <p>Guidelines mostly recommend antidepressants for <a href="https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng222">more severe depression</a> and <a href="https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg113/resources/generalised-anxiety-disorder-and-panic-disorder-in-adults-management-pdf-35109387756997">anxiety</a> but not as first-line treatment for less severe depression. Less commonly, antidepressants may be <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538182/">prescribed for</a> conditions such as chronic pain and migraine.</p> <p>Yet prescription rates continue to increase. Between 2013 and 2021, the antidepressant prescription rate in Australia <a href="https://www.publish.csiro.au/PY/pdf/PY23168">steadily increased</a> by 4.5% per year. So why are so many Australians taking antidepressants and why are prescriptions rising?</p> <p>The evidence suggests they’re over-prescribed. So how did we get here?</p> <h2>Enter the antidepressant ‘blockbusters’</h2> <p>In the 1990s, pharmaceutical companies <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/d41573-022-00213-z">heavily promoted</a> new selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants, including Prozac (fluoxetine), Zoloft (sertraline) and Lexapro (escitalopram).</p> <p>These drugs were thought to be less dangerous in overdoses and seemed to have <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC181155/">fewer side effects</a> than the tricyclic antidepressants they replaced.</p> <p>Pharmaceutical companies marketed SSRIs energetically and often exaggerated their benefits, including by paying “key opinion leaders” – <a href="https://www.bmj.com/content/336/7658/1402">high-status clinicians</a> to promote them. This prompted <a href="https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2004/181/7/making-new-choices-about-antidepressants-australia-long-view-1975-2002">substantial growth</a> in the market.</p> <p>SSRIs earned billions of dollars for their manufacturers when on patent. While now relatively cheap, they still prove <a href="https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/antidepressant-drugs-market-to-reach-15-98-bn-by-2023-globally-at-2-1-cagr-says-allied-market-research-873540700.html">lucrative</a> because of high prescribing levels.</p> <h2>Why are antidepressants prescribed?</h2> <p>The majority (85%) of antidepressants are prescribed in <a href="https://www.aihw.gov.au/mental-health/topic-areas/mental-health-prescriptions">general practice</a>. Some are prescribed for more severe depression and anxiety. But contrary to clinical guidelines, GPs also <a href="https://www1.racgp.org.au/ajgp/2021/december/antidepressant-prescribing-in-general-practice">prescribe</a> them as a first-line treatment for less severe depression.</p> <p>GPs also prescribe antidepressants to patients experiencing distress but who don’t have a <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4504011/#:%7E:text=Among%20antidepressant%20users%2C%2069%25%20never,current%20physical%20problems%20(e.g.%2C%20loss">psychiatric diagnosis</a>. A friend dealing with her husband’s terminal illness, for example, was encouraged to take antidepressants by her long-term GP, even though her caring capacity wasn’t impaired. Another, who cried when informed she had breast cancer, was immediately offered a prescription for antidepressants.</p> <p>There are several reasons why someone may take antidepressants when they’re not needed. A busy GP might be looking for a convenient solution to a complex and sometimes intractable problem. Other times, patients request a prescription. They may be encouraged by an <a href="https://www.theaustralian.com.au/inquirer/seratonin-theory-of-depression-under-attack-amid-to-push-to-deprescribe-antidepressants/news-story/f74ca1a6018110e3d680b8d5ce01bc2c">acquaintance’s good experience</a> or looking for other ways to <a href="https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/321259/listening-to-prozac-by-peter-d-kramer/">improve their mental health</a>.</p> <p>Most patients believe antidepressants restore a chemical imbalance that underpins depression. This is <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41380-022-01661-0">not true</a>. Antidepressants are emotional (and sexual) <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC181155/">numbing agents</a> – sometimes sedating, sometimes energising. Those effects suit some people, for example, if their emotions are too raw or they lack energy.</p> <p>For others, they come with <a href="https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/antidepressants">troubling side effects</a> such as insomnia, restlessness, nausea, weight gain. Around half of users have <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6007725/">impaired sexual function</a> and for some, this <a href="https://annals-general-psychiatry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12991-023-00447-0">sexual dysfunction persists</a> after stopping antidepressants.</p> <h2>How long do people take antidepressants?</h2> <p>Most experts and <a href="https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng222">guidelines</a> recommend specific prescribing regimes of antidepressants, varying from months to two years.</p> <p>However, most antidepressants are consumed by two categories of people. Around half of patients who start antidepressants don’t like them and <a href="https://bmcpsychiatry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-244X-9-38#:%7E:text=Medication%20possession%20rates&amp;text=Although%20the%20mean%20MPR%20of,group%20difference%20(Table%203).">stop within weeks</a>. Of those who do take them for months, many continue to use them indefinitely, often for many years. <a href="https://www1.racgp.org.au/ajgp/2021/december/antidepressant-prescribing-in-general-practice">Long-term use</a> (beyond 12 months) is driving much of the increase in antidepressant prescribing.</p> <p>Some people try to stop taking antidepressants but are prevented from doing so by <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S221503661930032X">withdrawal symptoms</a>. Withdrawal symptoms – including “<a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35144325/">brain zaps</a>”, dizziness, restlessness, vertigo and vomiting – can cause significant distress, impaired work function and relationship breakdown.</p> <p>Across 14 studies that examined antidepressant withdrawal, around 50% of users <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S221503661930032X">experienced withdrawal symptoms</a> when coming off antidepressants, which can be mistaken for recurrence of the initial problem. We are conducting a <a href="https://adelaideuniwide.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_3QqWrY5TBNUP1YO">survey</a> to better understand the experience in Australia of withdrawing from antidepressants.</p> <p>Antidepressants should not be stopped abruptly but gradually tapered off, with smaller and smaller doses. The recent release in Australia of the <a href="https://www.wiley.com/en-ca/The+Maudsley+Deprescribing+Guidelines%3A+Antidepressants%2C+Benzodiazepines%2C+Gabapentinoids+and+Z+drugs-p-9781119823025">Maudsley Deprescribing Guidelines</a> provides guidance for the complex regimes required for the tapering of antidepressants.</p> <h2>We need to adjust how we view mental distress</h2> <p>Overprescribing antidepressants is a symptom of our lack of attention to the <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/wps.21160">social determinants of mental health</a>. It’s depressing to be poor (especially when your neighbours seem rich), unemployed or in an awful workplace, inadequately housed or fearful of family violence. It’s wrong to locate the problem in the individual when it belongs to society.</p> <p>Overprescribing is also symptomatic of medicalisation of distress. Most diagnoses of depression and anxiety are <a href="https://karger.com/psp/article-pdf/37/6/259/3489408/000081981.pdf">descriptions masquerading as explanations</a>. For each distressed person who fits the pattern of anxiety or depression, the meaning of their presentation is different. There may be a medical explanation, but most often meaning may be found in the person’s struggle with difficult feelings, their relationships and other life circumstances such as terrible disappointments or grief.</p> <p>GPs’ overprescribing reflects the pressures they experience from workload, unrealistic expectations of their capacity and misinformation from pharmaceutical companies and key opinion leaders. They need better support, resources and <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4822978/">evidence</a> about the limited <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/article/S0140-6736(17)32802-7/fulltext">benefits</a> of antidepressants.</p> <p>GPs also need to ensure they discuss with their patients the potential adverse effects of antidepressants, and when and how to safely stop them.</p> <p>But the fundamental problem is social and can only be properly addressed by meaningfully addressing inequality and changing community attitudes to distress.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/221857/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/jon-jureidini-1609"><em>Jon Jureidini</em></a><em>, Research Leader, Critical and Ethical Mental Health research group, Robinson Research Institute, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-adelaide-1119">University of Adelaide</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-are-so-many-australians-taking-antidepressants-221857">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Alzheimer’s may have once spread from person to person, but the risk of that happening today is incredibly low

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/steve-macfarlane-4722">Steve Macfarlane</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a></em></p> <p>An article published this week in the prestigious journal <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-023-02729-2">Nature Medicine</a> documents what is believed to be the first evidence that Alzheimer’s disease can be transmitted from person to person.</p> <p>The finding arose from long-term follow up of patients who received human growth hormone (hGH) that was taken from brain tissue of deceased donors.</p> <p>Preparations of donated hGH were used in medicine to treat a variety of conditions from 1959 onwards – including in Australia from the mid 60s.</p> <p>The practice stopped in 1985 when it was discovered around 200 patients worldwide who had received these donations went on to develop <a href="https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/epidemiology/epidemiology-fact-sheets/creutzfeldt-jakob-disease-cjd/">Creuztfeldt-Jakob disease</a> (CJD), which causes a rapidly progressive dementia. This is an otherwise extremely rare condition, affecting roughly one person in a million.</p> <h2>What’s CJD got to do with Alzehimer’s?</h2> <p>CJD is caused by prions: infective particles that are neither bacterial or viral, but consist of abnormally folded proteins that can be transmitted from cell to cell.</p> <p>Other prion diseases include kuru, a dementia seen in New Guinea tribespeople caused by eating human tissue, scrapie (a disease of sheep) and variant CJD or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, otherwise known as mad cow disease. This raised <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom_BSE_outbreak">public health concerns</a> over the eating of beef products in the United Kingdom in the 1980s.</p> <h2>Human growth hormone used to come from donated organs</h2> <p>Human growth hormone (hGH) is produced in the brain by the pituitary gland. Treatments were originally prepared from purified human pituitary tissue.</p> <p>But because the amount of hGH contained in a single gland is extremely small, any single dose given to any one patient could contain material from around <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00000563.htm">16,000 donated glands</a>.</p> <p>An average course of hGH treatment lasts around four years, so the chances of receiving contaminated material – even for a very rare condition such as CJD – became quite high for such people.</p> <p>hGH is now manufactured synthetically in a laboratory, rather than from human tissue. So this particular mode of CJD transmission is no longer a risk.</p> <h2>What are the latest findings about Alzheimer’s disease?</h2> <p>The Nature Medicine paper provides the first evidence that transmission of Alzheimer’s disease can occur via human-to-human transmission.</p> <p>The authors examined the outcomes of people who received donated hGH until 1985. They found five such recipients had developed early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.</p> <p>They considered other explanations for the findings but concluded donated hGH was the likely cause.</p> <p>Given Alzheimer’s disease is a much more common illness than CJD, the authors presume those who received donated hGH before 1985 may be at higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.</p> <p>Alzheimer’s disease is caused by presence of two abnormally folded proteins: amyloid and tau. There is <a href="https://actaneurocomms.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40478-017-0488-7">increasing evidence</a> these proteins spread in the brain in a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8086126/">similar way to prion diseases</a>. So the mode of transmission the authors propose is certainly plausible.</p> <p>However, given the amyloid protein deposits in the brain <a href="https://www.nia.nih.gov/news/estimates-amyloid-onset-may-predict-alzheimers-progression">at least 20 years</a> before clinical Alzheimer’s disease develops, there is likely to be a considerable time lag before cases that might arise from the receipt of donated hGH become evident.</p> <h2>When was this process used in Australia?</h2> <p>In Australia, donated pituitary material <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2022/07/the-cjd-review-final-report.pdf">was used</a> from 1967 to 1985 to treat people with short stature and infertility.</p> <p><a href="https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2022/07/the-cjd-review-final-report.pdf">More than 2,000 people</a> received such treatment. Four developed CJD, the last case identified in 1991. All four cases were likely linked to a single contaminated batch.</p> <p>The risks of any other cases of CJD developing now in pituitary material recipients, so long after the occurrence of the last identified case in Australia, are <a href="https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2010/193/6/iatrogenic-creutzfeldt-jakob-disease-australia-time-amend-infection-control">considered to be</a> incredibly small.</p> <p>Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease (defined as occurring before the age of 65) is uncommon, accounting for <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4356853/">around 5%</a> of all cases. Below the age of 50 it’s rare and likely to have a genetic contribution.</p> <h2>The risk is very low – and you can’t ‘catch’ it like a virus</h2> <p>The Nature Medicine paper identified five cases which were diagnosed in people aged 38 to 55. This is more than could be expected by chance, but still very low in comparison to the total number of patients treated worldwide.</p> <p>Although the long “incubation period” of Alzheimer’s disease may mean more similar cases may be identified in the future, the absolute risk remains very low. The main scientific interest of the article lies in the fact it’s first to demonstrate that Alzheimer’s disease can be transmitted from person to person in a similar way to prion diseases, rather than in any public health risk.</p> <p>The authors were keen to emphasise, as I will, that Alzheimer’s cannot be contracted via contact with or providing care to people with Alzheimer’s disease.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/222374/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/steve-macfarlane-4722"><em>Steve Macfarlane</em></a><em>, Head of Clinical Services, Dementia Support Australia, &amp; Associate Professor of Psychiatry, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/alzheimers-may-have-once-spread-from-person-to-person-but-the-risk-of-that-happening-today-is-incredibly-low-222374">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Bruce Willis' heartwarming reaction to granddaughter amid dementia battle

<p>Bruce Willis' daughter Rumer has shared what the actor is like as a grandfather, amid his battle with frontotemporal dementia.</p> <p>Rumer candidly revealed that the now-retired actor is “incredibly loving and kind” and despite his FTD, his face “lights up” whenever he sees his granddaughter Louetta. </p> <p>“His face lights up when he sees Louetta,” Rumer told <a href="https://nypost.com/2024/02/01/entertainment/bruce-willis-face-lights-up-with-granddaughter-amid-dementia-battle/?utm_medium=browser_notifications&amp;utm_source=pushly&amp;utm_content=Entertainment/Living%20Audience&amp;utm_campaign=4164834" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>The New York Post</em></a>.</p> <p>“And I’m just so grateful to have that kind of spark of mischief and fun and and play no matter what age I am.”</p> <p>Louetta is Rumer’s 9-month-old baby girl with partner, Derek Richard Thomas. </p> <p>Rumer also shared that her father is most like David Addison Jr, a character he played on the hit 80s show <em>Moonlighting</em>.</p> <p>“So charming, so funny, so silly … kind of mischievous glint in his eye, kind and sweet,” she said. </p> <p>“And so I feel like that’s really the epitome of who my dad is.</p> <p>“And that is so true to this day.”</p> <p>Despite his dementia diagnosis, Rumer said that her father has not lost any of his trademark silliness and sense of humour.</p> <p>“He’s so incredibly loving and kind,” she said. </p> <p>“My dad is absolutely the reason I (have) my taste in music (and) some of my humour.</p> <p>“Both of my parents are so silly.”</p> <p>In 2022 Bruce's family announced that the <em>Die Hard</em> star was going to retire, as he was diagnosed with <a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/news/news/bruce-willis-forced-to-retire-after-medical-diagnosis" target="_blank" rel="noopener">aphasia</a>, a disorder that affects a person’s ability to communicate. </p> <p>A year later it was revealed that it had progressed to <a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/health/caring/cruel-disease-bruce-willis-given-heartbreaking-new-diagnosis" target="_blank" rel="noopener">frontotemporal dementia</a>.</p> <p>His family have since kept fans updated on the star's health. </p> <p><em>Images: Instagram</em></p> <p> </p>

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What’s the difference between memory loss and dementia?

<p dir="ltr">When it comes to memory loss, it's normal to become a little more forgetful as we age. </p> <p dir="ltr">However, it’s important to know the difference between a standard level of memory loss, and the early signs of dementia. </p> <p dir="ltr">Researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) say it is crucially important to distinguish between the physical decline of ageing, and the more sinister reality of cognitive decline. </p> <p dir="ltr">Associate Professor Simone Reppermund from the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing says, “As we age, we get more frail, and it may be difficult to walk longer distances or to have the range of motion to drive a car.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“But that's unrelated to cognitive decline, and this is where dementia or cognitive impairment comes in. A person with dementia at some point will not be able to do the things they once could do without thinking, such as drive a car, because they get confused and are no longer able to process the sensory information required to do this.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Prof. Brodaty went on to say that some cognitive decline is part of normal ageing.</p> <p dir="ltr">“As we age, we become slower in our processing speed. We’re not as good at remembering things, particularly when they’re not able to be logically sorted and connected.”</p> <p dir="ltr">But it’s not all bad for older folks, as some things are known to improve with age.</p> <p dir="ltr">“As we age our vocabulary improves, our judgement improves, our ability to organise things improves. In everyday tests where we can sort, say, 10 grocery items into different categories, we do just as well as the younger person because we can use those strategies to compensate. There is also evidence that we become wiser as we get older.”</p> <p dir="ltr">According to <a href="https://www.dementia.org.au" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Dementia Australia</a>, it’s when people encounter difficulties with the following on a regular basis that there could be some underlying cognitive cause worth investigating. </p> <p dir="ltr">These difficulties include:</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">Trouble remembering recent events</p> </li> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">Trouble finding the right word</p> </li> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">Trouble remembering the day and date</p> </li> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">Forgetting where things are usually kept</p> </li> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">Difficulty adjusting to changes in routine</p> </li> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">Trouble understanding written content or a story on television</p> </li> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">Difficulty following conversations in groups</p> </li> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">Problems handling finances</p> </li> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">Difficulty with everyday activities</p> </li> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">Losing interest in activities that were previously enjoyable</p> </li> </ul> <p dir="ltr">Researchers and medical experts say that even if encountering these difficulties has not become a huge hurdle, it is important to be assessed by a doctor. </p> <p dir="ltr">Some conditions can cause symptoms similar to illnesses of cognitive decline, and can be reversed and prevented if caught early enough. </p> <p dir="ltr">While Professor Brodaty says there is no cure for most types of dementia and no known way to prevent it, we can certainly delay the onset of it. </p> <p dir="ltr">“There are certain risk factors that make it more or less likely to develop cognitive decline and dementia, including physical and social inactivity. Being inactive, not engaging in social activities, a poor diet and too much alcohol are all risk factors.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Even then, Professor Brodaty says, “it’s never too late to start, and never too early to start” making changes that maintain and protect your brain health into old age.</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p> </p>

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Storytelling allows elders to transfer values and meaning to younger generations

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mary-ann-mccoll-704728">Mary Ann McColl</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/queens-university-ontario-1154">Queen's University, Ontario</a></em></p> <p>If you spent time over the holidays with elderly relatives or friends, you may have heard many of the same stories repeated — perhaps stories you’d heard over the years, or even over the past few hours.</p> <p>Repeated storytelling can sometimes be unnerving for friends and families, raising concerns about a loved one’s potential cognitive decline, memory loss or perhaps even the onset of dementia.</p> <p><a href="https://tenstories.ca/">Our research</a> at Queen’s University suggests there is another way to think about repeated storytelling that makes it easier to listen and engage with the stories. We interviewed 20 middle-aged adults who felt they had heard the same stories over and over from their aging parent. We asked them to tell us those stories and we recorded and transcribed them.</p> <p>We used a <a href="https://doi.org/10.1108/14439881211248356">narrative inquiry approach</a> to discover that repeated storytelling is a key method for elders to communicate what they believe to be important to their children and loved ones. Narrative inquiry uses the text of stories as research data to explore how people create meaning in their lives.</p> <h2>Transmitting values</h2> <p>Based on nearly 200 collected stories, we found that there are approximately <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/scs.13121">10 stories</a> that older parents repeatedly tell to their adult children.</p> <p>The hypothesis was that repeated storytelling was about inter-generational transmission of values. By exploring the themes of those repeated stories, we could uncover the meaning and messages elders were communicating to their loved ones.</p> <p>The ultimate purpose was to offer a new and more constructive way of thinking about stories that we’ve heard many times before, and that can be otherwise perceived as alarming.</p> <h2>Here’s what we have learned:</h2> <ol> <li> <p>There are typically just 10 stories that people tell repeatedly. While 10 is not a magic number, it does seem to be about the right number to capture the stories that are told over and over. Interviewees felt that a set of approximately 10 allowed them to do justice to their parent’s stories.</p> </li> <li> <p>Among our interviewees, a significant number of their parents’ stories – 87 per cent — took place when they were in their teens or twenties. A person’s second and third decades are a time when they make many of the decisions that shape the rest of their lives; a time when values are consolidated and the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/09658211.2013.863358">adult identity is formed</a></p> </li> <li> <p>What’s important about the 10 stories is not the factual details, but the lesson that was learned, or the value that was reinforced — values like loyalty toward friends, putting family first, maintaining a sense of humour even in hard times, getting an education, speaking up against injustice, and doing what’s right.</p> </li> <li> <p>Key themes in the stories reflected the significant events and prevailing values of the early to mid-20th century. Many of the stories revolved around the war, and both domestic and overseas experiences that were formative. Many of our interviewees heard stories about immigrating to Canada, starting out with very little, seeking a better life and working hard. Stories often reflected a more formal time when it was important to uphold standards, make a good impression, know one’s place and adhere to the rules.</p> </li> <li> <p>The stories elders tell appear to be curated for the individual receiving them. They would be different if told to another child, a spouse or a friend.</p> </li> </ol> <h2>Tips for listening</h2> <p>Our research offers some tips for listening to stories from elders:</p> <ul> <li> <p>Focus on just 10 stories. It can make the listening seem less overwhelming.</p> </li> <li> <p>Write them down. Writing challenges us to get the story straight.</p> </li> <li> <p>Notice your loved one’s role in the story, as the message is often contained in that role.</p> </li> <li> <p>Be attentive to feelings, sensations, tension and discomfort. These can be signals or clues to the meaning of a story.</p> </li> <li> <p>Finally, remember these stories are for you — selected and told in the context of your relationship with your loved one. As such, they are a gift from a loved one who is running out of time.</p> </li> </ul> <h2>The importance of receiving stories</h2> <p>Storytelling is an <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/cad.20067">essential human process</a> and a universal experience associated with aging. Neuroscientists suggest that storytelling has practical survival value for individuals and communities, <a href="https://www.jonathangottschall.com/storytelling-animal">as well as social and psychological benefits</a>.</p> <p>It may be as powerful as medication or therapy for <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/gps.1018">overcoming depression among elders</a>. Storytelling becomes especially important <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/13607863.2017.1396581">when people become aware of their mortality</a> — when they are ill, suffering or facing death.</p> <p>People don’t necessarily tell the same stories over and over again because they’re losing cognitive function, but because the stories are important, and they feel we need to know them. Telling stories repeatedly isn’t about forgetfulness or dementia. It’s an effort to share what’s important.</p> <p>Our hope is that by better understanding elderly storytelling, caregivers may be able to listen in a different way to those repeated stories and understand the messages they contain. Those 10 stories can help us to know our loved one at a deeper level and assist our parent or grandparent with an important developmental task of old age.</p> <p>This research offers a constructive way for caregivers to hear the repeated stories told by their aging parents, and to offer their loved one the gift of knowing they have been seen and heard.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/197766/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mary-ann-mccoll-704728"><em>Mary Ann McColl</em></a><em>, Professor, School of Rehabilitation Therapy, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/queens-university-ontario-1154">Queen's University, Ontario</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/storytelling-allows-elders-to-transfer-values-and-meaning-to-younger-generations-197766">original article</a>.</em></p>

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The power of positivity: Starting the year with a positive mindset

<p>As we step into the New Year, many of us are hitting the reset button and focusing enthusiastically on achieving our resolutions. By harnessing this welcome surge in positivity, we can begin to direct our attention towards tackling our goals and embracing a shift in mindset, even after the glitter on New Year’s has settled. But how can we achieve this? Jacqui Manning, the resident psychologist at Connected Women, a female-founded organisation dedicated to cultivating friendships in women in their midlife, shares her tips on how to foster a more positive mindset, year-round. </p> <p>“Developing a positive mindset is all about being intentional, and it begins with a good routine. Carving out time within your week for activities that fill your cup and encourage a more optimistic outlook is key to embracing age with positivity,” Jacqui says. </p> <p>“Set realistic expectations – if you have a New Year’s resolution to make more time for yourself, pencilling time in the diary for self-care is going to be essential. Or, if your goal is to build new connections this year, be sure to set time aside at least once a week for networking. Whether it’s joining a local tennis club, attending a community event, or simply striking up a conversation at your local café, enriching your social circle can bring new perspectives, enhance feelings of optimism, and boost overall well-being,” Jacqui explains. </p> <p><strong>Don’t skimp on self-care!</strong></p> <p>Self-care involves dedicating the time to engage in activities that help to enhance overall well-being. As we age, it becomes increasingly important to develop an adequate self-care routine to support both our mental and physical health.   </p> <p>“Remember that taking time for yourself is essential. Small indulgences such as enjoying a quiet evening at home, book in hand, or heading outside for a leisurely evening stroll can quiet the mind and recharge your emotional batteries.”</p> <p>“As the year progresses, our self-care practices can tend to fall by the wayside. It’s essential to invest in ourselves, which includes prioritising sleep, regular exercise, remaining engaged in hobbies or preferred activities, and maintaining social connections,” Jacqui says. </p> <p>“Dedicating time for yourself helps to create the space necessary to support mental recharge. Goal setting, implementing boundaries to avoid overwhelm, or integrating wellness practices like meditation or mindfulness exercises act as stress-relievers and boost energy levels,” Jacqui explains. </p> <p><strong>Cultivating your crew</strong></p> <p>Research suggests that our social circle holds a meaningful influence over our mood and disposition. Friends have been found to act as a buffer against ageing, positively supporting both our health and overall cognitive function. </p> <p>“The first step to finding friendship is assessing – how supported do you feel within your relationships? Remember, friends exert significant influence over our feelings and behaviours, so finding a tribe that fulfils your emotional needs is essential,” Jacqui explains. </p> <p>“Nurturing successful relationships begins with finding individuals with shared values and interests. Actively engaging in open conversation is a magnet for developing authentic and emotionally fulfilling connections with others.” </p> <p>“Be open-minded – discussing topics like hobbies, future goals, anxieties, and challenges can encourage openness and conceive opportunities to offer support to one another. Openness also lays the foundations for more meaningful friendships to blossom,” Jacqui says. </p> <p>Friendships in adulthood are well worth the investment, and curating your immediate network could be the masterstroke in ageing with positivity (and boosts overall health and cognitive function to boot!). </p> <p>If forming new bonds heads up your list of New Year's resolutions, then joining a vibrant community group like Connected Women could be the ideal place to start. </p> <p><strong>Practice positive self-talk</strong></p> <p>Take a few minutes each day to reflect on the aspects of life that you’re grateful for – whether that be your health, family, friendships, or a stellar career. By focusing on the positive, it encourages a mental shift away from the negative and toward a more optimistic outlook on life (and age for that matter!). </p> <p>“Practicing techniques such as meditation, gentle movement, and journaling regularly can help to cultivate a more relaxed mind, boost serotonin levels in the brain, and decrease feelings of anxiety or depression,” Jacqui says. </p> <p>Jacqui suggests another technique for fostering a mental shift is to incorporate regular gratitude practices.</p> <p>“Reflecting on and recording the things you’re thankful for can be a valuable outlet. Expressing gratitude regularly serves as a reminder of the positive aspects in your current life and can be a useful tool on low days,” Jacqui says. </p> <p>By incorporating these tips, not only will you be working to foster a more optimistic mindset year-round, but you’ll also be laying the groundwork to build and nurture more meaningful relationships with others. </p> <p><em><strong>For more information visit <a href="https://www.connectedwomen.net" target="_blank" rel="noopener">connectedwomen.net</a> </strong></em></p> <p><em><strong>About Connected Women </strong></em></p> <p><em><strong>Jacqui Manning is the resident psychologist at Connected Women, bringing with her over two decades of experience. Founded in 2022, Connected Women facilitates friendships for women over 50 through a range of online and in-person events. With the rising epidemic of loneliness impacting Australians now more than ever - Connected Women aims to provide a community in which women can feel free to be themselves, connect with like-minded women and build life-long friendships. Launched in Perth, Western Australia, Connected Women now also operates in NSW and Victoria, with plans to grow its network to QLD, ACT and SA in the coming year. With a small monthly membership fee, women can join Connected Women events, share and connect over areas of interest, and connect with women in their local areas to arrange meet ups. Whether members prefer big events with lots of action and adventure, or quiet meet ups and walks around the local neighbourhood, Connected Women is committed to providing a safe and inclusive space for women to find their feet and build new friendships in a space that feels most comfortable to them. </strong></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

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More than a third of people with dementia don’t know they have it – what to do if you suspect your partner has the condition

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kate-irving-1493654">Kate Irving</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/dublin-city-university-1528">Dublin City University</a></em></p> <p>Around <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-67613465">36% of people</a> in England with dementia are unaware they have the condition, according to a new report from the Dementia Commission.</p> <p><a href="https://chamberuk.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/231127-Dementia-Commission-Report-Embargoed.pdf">The report</a> suggests things health and care professionals can do to improve spotting early signs of dementia. But what can you do if you think your partner has the condition? And how can you broach the topic with them?</p> <p>If you are worried about your partner having dementia, here are some useful things to know.</p> <p>Dementia is a term for a range of diseases (for example, Alzheimer’s) which develop over time (months and years) and cause problems with memory and reasoning, communication, changes in personality and a reduction in a person’s ability to carry out daily activities, such as shopping, washing, paying bills or cooking.</p> <p>Dementia can present very differently in each person, so it’s about knowing what’s normal for your loved one. A person who has always been conscientious and organised starting to unravel is very different from a scatterbrained person just being slightly more scatterbrained.</p> <p>Grief and stress can affect memory yet not be the start of dementia. But they can also mask the start of dementia: we call this “diagnostic over-shadowing”.</p> <p>There are also age-related changes to cognition. For example, we take longer to learn when we get older. But a one-off event – no matter how dramatic – is not necessarily dementia. It’s about looking for a pattern of decline.</p> <p>If you see these changes happen in a short space of time (weeks or days) it is unlikely to be dementia and could be something more serious. This requires urgent investigation by a doctor.</p> <h2>Greatest fear</h2> <p>Dementia is one of the greatest fears of our age. The horror of perceived loss of self can cause people to avoid discussing the issue, discussing it in an unhelpful way (such as criticising or inadvertently humiliating) or discussing it with other relatives, but not the person they are noticing changes in.</p> <p>Over time, this can cause a lack of trust to develop. Discussing memory problems openly with the person at the point of a memory failure or if they raise the concern is best. Of course, it takes courage and makes us face our own vulnerability.</p> <p>Sometimes the person will be in denial or lack insight into the memory problems (this can be a symptom of dementia, but isn’t always). If someone raises a concern about their memory issues, I would urge you not to minimise this, as it probably took courage to admit their concerns.</p> <p>I heard a relative say to my mother: “Oh, you left the pot on the stove. I lost the car in the multistory the other day.” My mother had dementia – the relative did not.</p> <p>If they are adamant that they do not have concerns, this is harder to deal with. One approach is to say: “I know you are not concerned, but I am concerned and I wonder if you would see a doctor to ease my worries?”</p> <p>Also explaining that memory problems can at least to some extent have reversible causes means a visit to the doctor to at least rule these out is an important step. It may also be encouraging to say to the person: “If there is something with your memory that will get worse over time, would you want to know?” (Most people <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2408568/">answer yes</a> to this).</p> <h2>Seeing a GP</h2> <p>If your partner agrees to visit a GP, it is helpful to prepare by filling in a diary for a week with the kind of memory (or other) problems experienced, what was happening at the time and the effect of the memory failure. This can be shared with a GP to help them to understand the issues.</p> <p>When people hear even the suggestion of the word dementia, they are faced with the uncertainties of what will become of them, of what they will lose, what they can keep up and where they will end up. These uncertainties are often shared with family members. But research shows that positive aspects of timely diagnosis <a href="https://www.scie.org.uk/dementia/symptoms/diagnosis/early-diagnosis.asp">outweigh fears</a> over time.</p> <p>At the same time, there are often ongoing stresses to do with memory impairments or confusion. With these stresses, everyday life can be troublesome, family relationships can suffer, and people can find it difficult to be supportive of each other.</p> <p>Being honest and open is the best policy. Stating that we are in this together, I want to help, let’s meet whatever happens head on, can help. If a person becomes resistant, it may be there is another family member who might better assist the person.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/219172/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kate-irving-1493654"><em>Kate Irving</em></a><em>, Professor of Clinical Nursing, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/dublin-city-university-1528">Dublin City University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/more-than-a-third-of-people-with-dementia-dont-know-they-have-it-what-to-do-if-you-suspect-your-partner-has-the-condition-219172">original article</a>.</em></p>

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