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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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Early indicators of dementia: 5 behaviour changes to look for after age 50

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/daniella-vellone-1425451">Daniella Vellone</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-calgary-1318">University of Calgary</a> </em></p> <p>Dementia is often thought of as a memory problem, like when an elderly person asks the same questions or misplaces things. In reality, individuals with dementia will not only experience issues in other areas of cognition like learning, thinking, comprehension and judgement, but they may also experience <a href="https://www.alzint.org/u/World-Alzheimer-Report-2021.pdf">changes in behaviour</a>.</p> <p>It’s important to understand what dementia is and how it manifests. I didn’t imagine my grandmother’s strange behaviours were an early warning sign of a far more serious condition.</p> <p>She would become easily agitated if she wasn’t successful at completing tasks such as cooking or baking. She would claim to see a woman around the house even though no woman was really there. She also became distrustful of others and hid things in odd places.</p> <p>These behaviours persisted for some time before she eventually received a dementia diagnosis.</p> <h2>Cognitive and behavioural impairment</h2> <p>When cognitive and behavioural changes interfere with an individual’s functional independence, that person is considered to have dementia. However, when cognitive and behavioural changes don’t interfere with an individual’s independence, yet still negatively affect relationships and workplace performance, they are referred to as <a href="https://alzheimer.ca/sites/default/files/documents/other-dementias_mild-cognitive-impairment.pdf">mild cognitive impairment (MCI)</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1186/s13195-021-00949-7">mild behavioural impairment (MBI)</a>, respectively.</p> <p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9169943/">MCI and MBI can occur together</a>, but in one-third of people who develop Alzheimer’s dementia, the behavioural symptoms come <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jagp.2019.01.215">before cognitive decline</a>.</p> <p>Spotting these behavioural changes, which emerge in later life (ages 50 and over) and represent a persistent change from longstanding patterns, can be helpful for implementing preventive treatments before more severe symptoms arise. As a medical science PhD candidate, my research focuses on problem behaviours that arise later in life and indicate increased risk for dementia.</p> <h2>Five behavioural signs to look for</h2> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/551071/original/file-20230928-17-jmy46j.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=1000&fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/551071/original/file-20230928-17-jmy46j.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=754&fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/551071/original/file-20230928-17-jmy46j.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=600&h=525&fit=crop&dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/551071/original/file-20230928-17-jmy46j.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=600&h=525&fit=crop&dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/551071/original/file-20230928-17-jmy46j.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=600&h=525&fit=crop&dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/551071/original/file-20230928-17-jmy46j.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=754&h=659&fit=crop&dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/551071/original/file-20230928-17-jmy46j.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=754&h=659&fit=crop&dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/551071/original/file-20230928-17-jmy46j.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=754&h=659&fit=crop&dpr=3 2262w" alt="Illustration of five behaviour changes that may indicate risk of dementia" /></a><figcaption><span class="caption">Spotting behavioural changes can be helpful for implementing preventive treatments before more severe symptoms arise.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">(Daniella Vellone)</span></span></figcaption></figure> <p>There are <a href="https://doi.org/10.3233%2FJAD-160979">five primary behaviours</a> we can look for in friends and family who are over the age of 50 that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1186/s13024-023-00631-6">might warrant further attention</a>.</p> <h2>1. Apathy</h2> <p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1002%2Ftrc2.12370">Apathy</a> is a decline in interest, motivation and drive.</p> <p>An apathetic person might lose interest in friends, family or activities. They may lack curiosity in topics that normally would have interested them, lose the motivation to act on their obligations or become less spontaneous and active. They may also appear to lack emotions compared to their usual selves and seem like they no longer care about anything.</p> <h2>2. Affective dysregulation</h2> <p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2023.03.074">Affective dysregulation</a> includes mood or anxiety symptoms. Someone who shows affective dysregulation may develop sadness or mood instability or become more anxious or worried about routine things such as events or visits.</p> <h2>3. Lack of impulse control</h2> <p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1002%2Ftrc2.12016">Impulse dyscontrol</a> is the inability to delay gratification and control behaviour or impulses.</p> <p>Someone who has impulse dyscontrol may become agitated, aggressive, irritable, temperamental, argumentative or easily frustrated. They may become more stubborn or rigid such that they are unwilling to see other views and are insistent on having their way. Sometimes they may develop sexually disinhibited or intrusive behaviours, exhibit repetitive behaviours or compulsions, start gambling or shoplifting, or experience difficulties regulating their consumption of substances like tobacco or alcohol.</p> <h2>4. Social inappropriateness</h2> <p><a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1041610217001260">Social inappropriateness</a> includes difficulties adhering to societal norms in interactions with others.</p> <p>Someone who is socially inappropriate may lose the social judgement they previously had about what to say or how to behave. They may become less concerned about how their words or actions affect others, discuss private matters openly, talk to strangers as if familiar, say rude things or lack empathy in interactions with others.</p> <h2>5. Abnormal perceptions or thoughts</h2> <p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s44220-023-00043-x">Abnormal perception or thought content</a> refers to strongly held beliefs and sensory experiences.</p> <p>Someone with abnormal perceptions or thoughts may become suspicious of other people’s intentions or think that others are planning to harm them or steal their belongings. They may also describe hearing voices or talk to imaginary people and/or act like they are seeing things that aren’t there.</p> <p>Before considering any of these behaviours as a sign of a more serious problem, it’s important to rule out other potential causes of behavioural change such as drugs or medications, other medical conditions or infections, interpersonal conflict or stress, or a recurrence of psychiatric symptoms associated with a previous psychiatric diagnosis. If in doubt, it may be time for a doctor’s visit.</p> <h2>The impact of dementia</h2> <p>Many of us know someone who has either experienced dementia or cared for someone with dementia. This isn’t surprising, given that dementia is predicted to affect <a href="https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/nearly-one-million-canadians-will-live-with-dementia-by-2030-alzheimer-society-predicts-1.6056849#:">one million Canadians by 2030</a>.</p> <p>While people between the ages of 20 and 40 may think that they have decades before dementia affects them, it’s important to realize that dementia isn’t an individual journey. In 2020, care partners — including family members, friends or neighbours — spent <a href="https://alzheimer.ca/sites/default/files/documents/Landmark-Study-1-Path-Forward-Alzheimer-Society-of-Canada-2022-wb.pdf">26 hours per week</a> assisting older Canadians living with dementia. This is equivalent to 235,000 full-time jobs or $7.3 billion annually.</p> <p>These numbers are expected to triple by 2050, so it’s important to look for ways to offset these predicted trajectories by preventing or delaying the progression of dementia.</p> <h2>Identifying those at risk</h2> <p>While there is currently no cure for dementia, there has been progress towards <a href="https://alzheimer.ca/en/about-dementia/dementia-treatment-options-developments">developing effective treatments</a>, which <a href="https://alzheimer.ca/en/about-dementia/do-i-have-dementia/how-get-tested-dementia-tips-individuals-families-friends/10">may work better earlier in the disease course</a>.</p> <p>More research is needed to understand dementia symptoms over time; for example, the online <a href="https://www.can-protect.ca/">CAN-PROTECT study</a> assesses many contributors to brain aging.</p> <p>Identifying those at risk for dementia by recognizing later-life changes in cognition, function as well as behaviour is a step towards not only preventing consequences of those changes, but also potentially preventing the disease or its progression.<!-- 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/213954/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/daniella-vellone-1425451"><em>Daniella Vellone</em></a><em>, Medical Science and Imaging PhD Candidate, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-calgary-1318">University of Calgary</a></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/early-indicators-of-dementia-5-behaviour-changes-to-look-for-after-age-50-213954">original article</a>.</em></p>

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It’s normal for your mind to wander. Here’s how to maximise the benefits

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/dr-anchal-garg-1491247">Dr Anchal Garg</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/bond-university-863">Bond University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/bruce-watt-1486350">Bruce Watt</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/bond-university-863">Bond University</a></em></p> <p>Have you ever found yourself thinking about loved ones during a boring meeting? Or going over the plot of a movie you recently watched during a drive to the supermarket?</p> <p>This is the cognitive phenomenon known as “<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.actpsy.2011.01.002">mind wandering</a>”. Research suggests it can account for <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0044423">up to 50%</a> of our waking cognition (our mental processes when awake) in both <a href="https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1192439">western and non-western societies</a>.</p> <p>So what can help make this time productive and beneficial?</p> <h2>Mind wandering is not daydreaming</h2> <p>Mind wandering is often used interchangeably with daydreaming. They are both considered types of inattention but are not the same thing.</p> <p>Mind wandering is related to a primary task, such as reading a book, listening to a lecture, or attending a meeting. The mind <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00560/full">withdraws</a> from that task and focuses on internally generated, unrelated thoughts.</p> <p>On the other hand, daydreaming does not involve a primary, active task. For example, daydreaming would be thinking about an ex-partner while travelling on a bus and gazing out the window. Or lying in bed and thinking about what it might be like to go on a holiday overseas.</p> <p>If you were driving the bus or making the bed and your thoughts diverted from the primary task, this would be classed as mind wandering.</p> <h2>The benefits of mind wandering</h2> <p>Mind wandering is believed to play an important role in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797612446024">generating new ideas</a>, conclusions or insights (also known as “aha! moments”). This is because it can give your mind a break and free it up to think more creatively.</p> <p>This type of creativity does not always have to be related to creative pursuits (such as writing a song or making an artwork). It could include a new way to approach a university or school assignment or a project at work.<br />Another benefit of mind wandering is relief from boredom, providing the opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1037/a0031569">mentally retreat</a> from a monotonous task.</p> <p>For example, someone who does not enjoy washing dishes could think about their upcoming weekend plans while doing the chore. In this instance, mind wandering assists in “passing the time” during an uninteresting task.</p> <p>Mind wandering also tends to be future-oriented. This can provide an opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2011.08.007">reflect upon and plan</a> future goals, big or small. For example, what steps do I need to take to get a job after graduation? Or, what am I going to make for dinner tomorrow?</p> <h2>What are the risks?</h2> <p>Mind wandering is not always beneficial, however. It can mean you miss out on crucial information. For example, there could be disruptions in learning if a student engages in mind wandering during a lesson that covers exam details. Or an important building block for learning.</p> <p>Some tasks also require a lot of concentration in order to be safe. If you’re thinking about a recent argument with a partner while driving, you run the risk of having an accident.</p> <p>That being said, it can be more difficult for some people to control their mind wandering. For example, mind wandering is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2020.112901">more prevalent</a> in people with ADHD.</p> <h2>What can you do to maximise the benefits?</h2> <p>There are several things you can do to maximise the benefits of mind wandering.</p> <ul> <li><strong>be aware</strong>: awareness of mind wandering allows you to take note of and make use of any productive thoughts. Alternatively, if it is not a good time to mind wander it can help bring your attention back to the task at hand</li> </ul> <ul> <li> <p><strong>context matters</strong>: try to keep mind wandering to non-demanding tasks rather than demanding tasks. Otherwise, mind wandering <a href="https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00441">could be unproductive</a> or unsafe. For example, try think about that big presentation during a car wash rather than when driving to and from the car wash</p> </li> <li> <p><strong>content matters</strong>: if possible, try to keep the content positive. Research <a href="https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00900">has found</a>, keeping your thoughts more positive, specific and concrete (and less about “you”), is associated with better wellbeing. For example, thinking about tasks to meet upcoming work deadlines could be more productive than ruminating about how you felt stressed or failed to meet past deadlines.<!-- 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/219490/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> </li> </ul> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/dr-anchal-garg-1491247"><em>Dr Anchal Garg</em></a><em>, Psychology researcher, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/bond-university-863">Bond University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/bruce-watt-1486350">Bruce Watt</a>, Associate Professor in Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/bond-university-863">Bond University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty </em><em>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/its-normal-for-your-mind-to-wander-heres-how-to-maximise-the-benefits-219490">original article</a>.</em></p>

Mind

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How to stop self-criticising and build yourself up instead

<p><strong>Stop the self-harm</strong></p> <p>It won’t hurt as much when you say something mean about me if I say it about myself first. For decades, this had been my mantra, a type of self-defence mechanism I developed as a kid against those who would criticise, bully or belittle me. On one hand, it made me humble, aware of my flaws and open to improving myself. On the other, self-criticising stunted my ability to be confident and trust my gut.</p> <p>The self-criticism quickly took on a life of its own – to the point where I was constantly trying to anticipate what people might not like about me and then beat them to the punchline. “I know I can be too much, and you’re probably sick of me,” I’d tell friends, which was a statement born less out of self-awareness and more out of fear. That sort of self-deprecating remark made it impossible to love myself, put others in an awkward position and backfired on quite a few occasions. A new friend once quipped, “If that were true, why would I be friends with you? Are you saying I have bad taste in friends?”</p> <p>That hit hard. For people who didn’t have good intentions, well, I’d just handed them a laundry list of all my insecurities. What I was really saying was I’m afraid you’ll hurt me, so I’ll hurt myself first. That’s a pretty harsh way to live life. Luckily, there’s a path out of the self-criticising trap. I talked to the experts to find out why we’re so good at putting ourselves down – and how to stop.</p> <p><strong>Why do we criticise ourselves so much?</strong></p> <p>I’m not the only one who made self-criticising a personality trait. In fact, a lot of women are conditioned to be this way, says psychologist Dr Traci Stein, who is also an author and creator of a series of programs to fight critical self-talk and build self-compassion.</p> <p>“Having negative thoughts about ourselves is human nature. We all want to fit in, be accepted and not be ostracised,” she explains. “We are all under a lot of pressure to measure ourselves according to other people’s evaluations and expectations. So we subconsciously fixate on something to ‘fix’ so we will feel loved and accepted.”</p> <p>The irony of these thoughts is that while they’re based on a desire to fit in and feel accepted in our community, they often have the opposite result, says Latasha Blackmond, author of Be You, No Filter: How to Love Yourself and Stay #SocialMediaStrong. “Over time, self-criticism does the very thing you’re afraid of: It isolates you by making you very self-centred and, yes, selfish. You’re too busy worrying about yourself to love and help others,” she says.</p> <p>Ouch.</p> <p><strong>What is self-criticism and how do you spot it?</strong></p> <p>Self-criticism is any thought that highlights a flaw or problem you have – or think you have (as Stein points out, critical thoughts are often untrue). These negative thoughts can become ingrained so deeply in your inner voice that they become hard to recognise in the moment.</p> <p>You can identify these thoughts, she says, because they are often self-defeating and repetitive, leading to feelings of insecurity, confusion, self-doubt, sadness and anger. The connection between self-criticising thoughts and negative emotions is so strong that many people with chronic depression find that a habit of severe self-criticism is at the core of their mental illness.</p> <p>Often tell yourself you’re a massive failure? That’s self-criticism. Other examples of self-critical thoughts include:</p> <ul> <li>I’ll never be good enough. I’ve always failed at everything I try.</li> <li>I don’t deserve to be loved.</li> <li>I hate myself.</li> <li>If only I were richer, thinner, prettier or smarter. Then people would like me.</li> <li>I don’t deserve good things, but I deserve all the bad things.</li> <li>I’m so annoying. Everyone must hate me.</li> </ul> <p>These are just the tip of the garbage iceberg. Self-criticism can cover any area of your life, including your body, relationships, sexual encounters, career, finances, goals, hobbies, family and education – even your life in general, Stein says.</p> <p><strong>What is the harm in self-criticising?</strong></p> <p>On a basic level, being able to recognise our own faults benefits us because it gives us a chance to correct them and improve. But this is different from the type of malignant self-criticising many people engage in, Blackmond says. “Self-criticism is rarely productive and often impedes growth,” she says. “You start to believe all the bad things you are saying about yourself, which can then turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. This, in turn, leads to anxiety and depression, creating a vicious cycle of negativity.”</p> <p>Case in point: You tell yourself you’re too dumb to get the promotion at work, so you don’t even try. When you don’t get the promotion, you tell yourself that proves you were right. You beat yourself up for your “failure,” which reinforces the belief that you are dumb, starting the whole cycle over again.</p> <p>“People who are very self-critical lack the confidence to make mistakes they can learn from. Fearing they aren’t good enough can lead to struggles at school, work and in general, and can lead someone to avoid any situation that generates more worry and self-doubt,” Stein says, adding that these people are also more likely to end up in toxic or abusive relationships.</p> <p>Another issue arises when self-criticism framed as self-improvement turns into excessive worrying, Stein says. “So someone might wind up worrying about an awful lot of things, from whether they are ‘good enough’ in some way to excessive worrying about their health, safety or competence – even if there is no objective evidence suggesting they have something to worry about,” she explains. “These worries take up a lot of time and energy.”</p> <p><strong>How to stop self-criticising once and for all</strong></p> <p>The good news about these negative thoughts is they are just that: thoughts. And you can change your thoughts, Blackmond says. It starts by cultivating a positive mindset through self-compassion. “Be aware of the negative thoughts and interrupt that internal dialogue,” she says. “Change them into something positive. Speak to yourself kindly, like you would to someone you love and care about. You’d never tell your child that they are stupid and ugly, so don’t speak to yourself that way either.”</p> <p>Easier said than done? Here are 12 tips from our experts that will help you cultivate self-compassion and nix harmful critical thoughts.</p> <p><strong>1. Celebrate imperfections </strong></p> <p>Kintsugi is a Japanese art form that repairs broken pottery with gold, highlighting the “flaws” and showing the beauty in breaking down and repairing. Look for kintsugi in your life, metaphorically and physically. “Look to art, music, poetry and prose, drama and [other areas] that celebrate imperfection and see it as a gift, not a flaw to be hidden,” Blackmond says.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Try this:</em></span> Start by reading body-positivity quotes and confidence quotes. For a hands-on lesson in the beauty of imperfections, get a kintsugi craft kit. Or watch a play, read a book or listen to a song that celebrates our flaws.</p> <p><strong>2. Be less judgemental of others</strong></p> <p>People who are harshly critical of others are usually harshly critical of themselves as well, so learning to offer others grace and compassion can open the door to doing the same for yourself, Blackmond says. “It’s about not seeing the world as black or white, good or bad,” she says.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Try this:</em></span> Whenever you catch yourself thinking negatively of someone else – from your sister to a celebrity to a terrible driver – stop the thought and offer a more compassionate take. Let’s say your mind automatically thinks What kind of idiot can’t park between the lines? Replace the thought with a kinder take: This person must have been in a big hurry or having a bad day. I hope things get better for them.</p> <p><strong>3. Delete your social media apps</strong></p> <p>Or at least lessen the amount of time you spend on them. “Social media can have this immense impact on our self-esteem because it encourages us to compare our worst selves to other people’s best selves,” Blackmond says. Besides, what you see is often photoshopped or cherry-picked.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Try this:</em></span> Stop comparing yourself to others. Limit your time on social media to one hour or less per day. Curate your feed, and unfollow anyone who makes you feel bad about yourself.</p> <p><strong>4. Get therapy</strong></p> <p>Self-critical thoughts can be really sticky, especially if you’ve made a habit of them, Stein says. “A good therapist will help you learn to recognise these thoughts, challenge them and come up with anxiety-management strategies,” she says. “They can also act as a mirror, helping you see yourself in a more accurate light.”</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Try this:</em></span> Find a therapist who specialises in self-compassion or read a book about self-compassion.</p> <p><strong>5. Do a mindfulness meditation</strong></p> <p>Mindfulness is simply the practice of being present in the here and now, and when you’re focused on this moment, you can’t beat yourself up by looking to the past with regret or looking to the future with worry, Stein says. “Mindfulness meditation is a powerful tool for learning to reframe or stop self-critical thoughts,” she says.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Try this:</em></span> Download a meditation app like Calm, Headspace or The Mindfulness App, and do a daily guided mindfulness meditation. Don’t worry about acing the practice on day one. Being mindful is a learned skill, and mindfulness meditation is useful even at the beginner stage.</p> <p><strong>6. Use self-deprecating humour sparingly </strong></p> <p>Making other people the butt of your jokes is cruel… and so is making yourself the butt of the joke. “A little self-deprecating humour in the right situation can help defuse tension and build relationships, but a little goes a long way,” Blackmond says. Heavy-handed self-deprecating humour makes others uncomfortable, and it can affect how you see yourself.</p> <p>“Be very careful with how you speak about yourself, even in a joking way,” she says. “Better yet, pick a different type of humour to bond over.”</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Try this:</em></span> Brush up on your public speaking, and if you’re going to crack a joke, pick one that has nothing to do with you.</p> <p><strong>7. Go outside </strong></p> <p>Self-criticism makes your world get smaller and smaller as you limit yourself. The antidote? Make your world bigger. “When you find yourself getting trapped in a cycle of negativity, go outside and take a walk,” Blackmond says. Breathe the fresh air, look at the sunset, say hi to your neighbours, pick up a little trash along the way – all these things will help you instantly feel better about yourself and the world.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Try this:</em></span> Take a walk outdoors each day and boost both your mental and physical health. Listen to some confidence-boosting songs in the process to really break your negative mindset.</p> <p><strong>8. Learn a new hobby</strong></p> <p>From painting to computer coding to rock climbing, trying new things helps you focus on the positive while “proving” the negative thoughts wrong. The trick, Blackmond says, is to go into it with a positive attitude. Be open to new things and accept that failing is a part of the learning process. “It’s OK to fail,” she says. “Expect mistakes as part of the learning process – celebrate them.”</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Try this:</em></span> Sign up for a class, find a new hobby or go back to an activity you used to love.</p> <p><strong>9. End toxic relationships </strong></p> <p>“A lot of us are self-critical because we were criticised early on by parents or other loved ones,” Stein says, adding that people often see this type of criticism as good because it’s “done out of love.” But this is not loving behaviour.</p> <p>“Go where you’re celebrated,” Blackmond says. “Everyone deserves to be celebrated and lifted up by their loved ones.”</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Try this:</em></span> Break the cycle by keeping relationships with only those people who build you up and encourage you to grow. Avoid people who use “brutal honesty” or “tough love” to show their care. Stand up for yourself and kick those toxic relationships to the curb.</p> <p><strong>10. Try cognitive behavioural therapy</strong></p> <p>Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and its companion, dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT), are powerful psychological tools for reframing negative thoughts and learning how to think more positively, Stein says. “CBT helps people become more aware of the specific, core beliefs behind all of these in-the-moment worries and identify what is triggering the negative self-talk,” she explains. They sound technical, but the concepts are simple, and anyone can implement them with practice.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Try this:</em></span> Even if you have to get out of your comfort zone a little, it’s worth signing up for a course of CBT. Not ready for that? Do a CBT workbook at home.</p> <p><strong>11. Help other people</strong></p> <p>The fastest way to feel more positively about yourself is to do something positive in the world, Blackmond says. “Self-criticism is inherently selfish. Serving others is selfless,” she says. “Pure altruism sparks a cascade of love and positivity that fills you and radiates outwards.”</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Try this:</em></span> Do something for someone who can’t do anything for you, she suggests. For instance, volunteer at a local school or food bank. Not only will you be doing some good in the world, but you’ll reap the many benefits of volunteering.</p> <p><strong>12. Use self-reflection instead of self-criticism </strong></p> <p>No one is saying that you need to think you’re perfect exactly the way you are, or there’s no room for improvement. Rather, Blackmond says, you should be looking honestly and realistically at your flaws. The trick is to do it in a positive way. Self-reflection encourages insight and action based on self-love and a desire to do better and be better, she explains. Self-criticism stops that process, trapping you in a cycle of negativity and stunting your growth.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Try this:</em></span> Keep a journal of the things you like about yourself and the things you can improve on. Practice gratitude for yourself and others. Make positive goals to help you progress in those areas, track your progress and celebrate your successes.</p> <p><strong>Stop the self-criticising cycle </strong></p> <p>“At the core of every self-critical belief is the question ‘Am I lovable and worthy of love the way I am?’ And the answer is yes, you are,” Stein says. Too many people, like me, use self-criticism as a self-defence tool, and it cuts us off from the very love and acceptance we crave.</p> <p>Learning how to build emotional strength and quiet that critical self-talk through self-compassion is the key to stronger relationships and a happier life. “You’ve only got this one life, so don’t waste it on regret and worry,” she says.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/healthsmart/conditions/mental-health/how-to-stop-self-criticising-and-build-yourself-up-instead?pages=1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>. </em></p>

Mind

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Are catnip and treats like it safe for cats? Here’s how they affect their minds and moods

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mia-cobb-15211">Mia Cobb</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/anne-quain-12802">Anne Quain</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p>Cats kept indoors can <a href="https://safeandhappycats.com.au/">live a good life</a> when they get access to a variety of positive experiences. Examples include performing natural behaviours, feeling safe at home and using their full sensory capabilities, including their sense of smell.</p> <p>Plants such as catnip, cat thyme and silver vine are potent smelly stimulants that can affect cat minds and moods.</p> <p>Ever wondered if these mind-altering substances are safe gifts for our feline friends? And importantly, is it OK to provide these, or is offering catnip to a cat like offering alcohol to a child?</p> <h2>Catnip, cat thyme and silver vine, oh my!</h2> <p>Owners who are concerned about their cats feeling bored and frustrated might offer them fresh or dried catnip (<em>Nepeta cataria</em>), silver vine (<em>Actinidia polygama</em>), cat thyme (<em>Teucrium marum</em>) or other plant materials such as valerian (<em>Valeriana officinalis</em>) and Tatarian honeysuckle (<em>Lonicera tatarica</em>). These last couple <a href="https://bmcvetres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12917-017-0987-6">could offer an alternative</a> if your cat doesn’t respond to catnip.</p> <p>Toys filled with the leaves or extracts of these plants can cause apparently euphoric behaviour in domestic cats (as well as big cats like leopards and jaguars). Not all cats respond this way to these smells, which is <a href="https://bmcbiol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12915-022-01369-1">believed to have a genetic basis</a>.</p> <h2>Are these treats safe for cats?</h2> <p>Cats have a highly developed sense of smell. Some plants release chemical compounds to deter insects or to attract predators of insects that might otherwise destroy them. This includes <a href="https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.aba0721">nepetalactone</a>, an ingredient isolated from catnip and silver vine.</p> <p>Indeed, <a href="https://www.science.org/content/article/why-cats-are-crazy-catnip">it has been argued </a> that exposure to nepetalactone leads to an increase in feel-good hormones in cats. It may also act as a <a href="https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.abd9135">natural mosquito repellent</a> (note that it does not repel all mosquitoes and is not effective for flea or tick control).</p> <p>This may be why sniffing catnip, silver vine and some other plants causes cats to roll on their backs and rub their chins, cheeks and bodies on the plants. Other <a href="https://bmcvetres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12917-017-0987-6">observed behaviours</a> include: licking, shaking their head while carrying plant material in their mouth, drooling, kicking the plant material with their hind feet, and a “wavelike” motion of the skin over their backs as muscles contract and relax.</p> <p>These responses <a href="https://bmcvetres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12917-017-0987-6">generally don’t last long</a>, usually seconds to minutes, before cats relax or resume their normal behaviour.</p> <p>Rather than becoming addicted to these substances, cats are more likely to become habituated and desensitised, with the plants having less effect over time. When sniffed, these plants <a href="https://www.cell.com/iscience/fulltext/S2589-0042(23)01925-9">appear</a> to have <a href="https://bmcbiol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12915-022-01369-1">no adverse effects</a> on cats.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/yNUz4zQTA1E?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe><figcaption><span class="caption">Cats (and a dog!) react to the active compound in catnip and silver vine, nepetalactone.</span></figcaption></figure> <h2>Is it ethical to alter the minds of our cats?</h2> <p>When considering how to improve the lives of animals we care for, we tend to focus on whether the benefits outweigh the potential harms.</p> <p>Despite some marketing claims that these plants activates the brain’s opioid system, delivering a “natural high” for cats, there is no evidence these substances actually alter the minds of cats in the same way as alcohol or other drugs alter the minds of humans.</p> <p>The marketing of these cat treats as “kitty crack” or “<a href="https://www.meowijuana.com/">meowijuana</a>” and silver vine sticks as “<a href="https://www.nekopiapets.com.au/product-page/joycat-cat-cigarettes-silvervine-stick">kitty cigarettes</a>” is likely to deter some people from offering their cats <a href="https://bmcbiol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12915-022-01369-1">this kind of olfactory stimulation</a>.</p> <p>Unlike offering alcohol to a child, though, the evidence suggests our cats are OK when given access to these treats. These items won’t induce psychosis and won’t lead to addiction or withdrawal symptoms. And we don’t need to worry about our cats operating heavy machinery or making important decisions under the influence of mind-altering substances!</p> <p>Provided they can walk away at any time, it seems reasonable to let them opt in to a fun time.</p> <p>In fact, we harness the power of cats’ sense of smell in other ways by using <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6435919/">synthetic feline facial pheromones</a>. This can help reduce fear, anxiety and distress in cats. These substances can come in useful in settings such as multi-cat households or when moving house.</p> <h2>How to make sure your cat has the purr-fect time</h2> <p>Offering a range of smells (olfactory stimulation) is just one way to ensure your cat has a varied and interesting life. Here are some tips:</p> <ul> <li> <p>offer cats choices to interact with treats and toys – don’t force them</p> </li> <li> <p>rotate the toys and experiences on offer, so every day offers something fresh</p> </li> <li> <p>offer items that cats can scratch – scratching posts and corrugated cardboard are popular items</p> </li> <li> <p>if you are concerned your cat has swallowed part of a toy or seems unwell, check in with your vet.</p> </li> </ul> <p>Given the short-lived effects of these plant-based olfactory stimulants on cats, it is important that we <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0168159119301054">optimise their environment, lifestyle and interactions</a> with humans to improve their welfare. We can’t just rely on catnip or silver vine to give our cats a good life indoors – it’s really up to us!<!-- 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/214947/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/mia-cobb-15211"><em>Mia Cobb</em></a><em>, Research Fellow, Animal Welfare Science Centre, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/anne-quain-12802">Anne Quain</a>, Senior Lecturer, Sydney School of Veterinary Science, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of 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/are-catnip-and-treats-like-it-safe-for-cats-heres-how-they-affect-their-minds-and-moods-214947">original article</a>.</em></p>

Family & Pets

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Nostradamus’ 2024 predictions revealed

<p>Nostradamus, a 16th-century French astrologer known as “the prophet of doom,” has a warning about the potential upcoming events of 2024. </p> <p>The astrologer's visions and predictions in the past have credited with foreseeing the rise of Adolf Hitler, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the September 11 attacks and Covid, to name a few. </p> <p>Now, according to his 1555 text Les Propheties (The Prophecies), 2024 is set to bring continued global strife, including war on the seas, royal turmoil and humanitarian disaster.</p> <p>One of the passages in the text mentions that a “King of the Isles” will be “driven out by force”, with many taking this to mean King Charles III will be ousted from the throne. </p> <p>A following passage reads “soon afterwards [a disastrous war] a new King shall be anointed / Who, for a long time, will appease the earth,” with British author and Nostradamus commentator Mario Reading deciphering this to mean Prince Harry will become King. </p> <p>According to the <em>Daily Mail</em>, Reading analysed that King Charles III would be abdicating due to “persistent attacks on both himself and his second wife,” and Harry would replace him instead of William because he — the “Spare” heir — has “no mark of a king.”</p> <p>Nostradamus predicted “combat and naval battle” and said that a “red adversary will become pale with fear, putting the great ocean in dread”.</p> <p>Many have guessed the "red adversary" is in reference to China, with suggestions the global superpower could wage war on the rest of the world, given the growing tensions between China and Taiwan. </p> <p>For many years, climate change has been a topic at the front of people's mind, with Nostradamus predicting global warming will get worse over the next 12 months. </p> <p>“The dry earth will grow more parched, and there will be great floods when it is seen,” he wrote.</p> <p>He also predicted extreme weather events and world hunger, writing about a “Very great famine through pestiferous wave”.</p> <p>While some of Nostradamus’ doomsday predictions seem bleak, fear not, for his most terrifying 2023 predictions have yet to come true with just a few weeks left before the new year. </p> <p>This year, Nostradamus predicted the coming of the antichrist as well as a full-blown World War III.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p>

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"It was a relief": Rebecca Gibney opens up on mental health struggles

<p>Rebecca Gibney has revealed what a "relief" it was to finally open up about the mental health struggles she faced from 14 to 30-years-old. </p> <p>The New Zealand actress, 58, said she spent a lot of that time "pretending" she was okay despite growing up around domestic violence, as her mother suffered from abuse in the hands of Gibney's late father, Austin. </p> <p>In an interview with <em>Stellar</em> on Saturday, the <em>Packed to the Rafters </em>star shared that she is "loving" how mental health is now being framed. </p> <p>“When I started talking about my mental health struggles and anxiety ... it was a relief,” she told the publication. </p> <p>“I could drop the mask of pretending that I was OK. What I’m loving seeing is that more and more people are now going, ‘I’m not OK’”.</p> <p>Gibney first opened up about her struggles in 2017, when she opened up about the abuse her mother faced and how she was “beaten so badly she had bruises for six months on her legs.</p> <p>“She’d always shut the doors ... you’d hear the yelling and the shouting and the slapping, but you’d never actually see it," she told <em>Women's Day</em>, at the time. </p> <p>After Gibney's father died in 1982, the actress began seeing a therapist, but was "on Valium and in a dark place for quite a while”.</p> <p>In her latest interview with <em>Stellar</em>, Gibney also added that more needed to be done to prevent domestic violence and help survivors. </p> <p>“We still don’t want to talk about it. We need to really drill down (and question), ‘Why is this happening?’ We need more education, more centres," she said. </p> <p>“We need people to be able to get the help they need.”</p> <p><em>Images: Instagram</em></p> <p> </p>

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Sweet secrets – the science of keeping good news hush hush

<p>Most people keep secrets, and staying hush about good news – like pregnancy, presents, proposals and promotions – tends to be freely chosen, enjoyable and energising according to new research.</p> <div class="copy"> <p>Conventional wisdom holds that secrecy is a burden, and good news is <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/health/body-and-mind/seeing-emotions/">meant to be shared</a>. But Australian and United States researchers <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pspa0000352" target="_blank" rel="noopener">publishing</a> in the <em>Journal of Personality and Social Psychology</em> investigated the effects of keeping positive news to one’s self, finding the motivations and effects are quite different to other types of secrets.</p> <p>Associate Professor Katharine Greenaway researches <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/people/society/are-sciences-equal/">social psychology</a> at the University of Melbourne and is an author of the paper. She tells <em>Cosmos</em>: “secrecy is extremely common – on average, 97% of people are keeping a secret right now.” </p> <p>“It’s obviously fascinating to know, people’s secrets, and why they keep them,” she says. </p> <p>Greenaway adds studying secrecy is “really interesting theoretically because we’re social creatures. From our evolutionary past, we’ve always had to be social, we’ve had to communicate in order to co-operate. So, from that perspective it’s really interesting, why would we ever want to keep information from other people? […] It’s particularly interesting why we would keep positive information from others.” </p> <p>Across 5 different experiments involving 2,500 participants the researchers tested different elements of positive secrecy: the effect of secret and non-secret good news; deliberately keeping news secret for personal reasons compared to external reasons ; and the effects of positive secrets compared to other kinds of secrets.</p> <p>“Positive secrets, we’ve found, tend to be the types of secrets people choose freely, and they actually quite enjoy keeping,” Greenaway says.</p> <p>In one study, involving 194 people, participants were provided with a list of 38 common categories of good news, such as: pregnancy; won something; new possession; financial windfall; family news; and self-development. They were asked to indicate which items were relevant, and any they were keeping secret.</p> <p>On average, participants held 14 to 15 pieces of good news, keeping 5 to 6 positive items to themselves.</p> <p>A second study tested motivation. A new group of 600 participants in committed relationships were asked to imagine a plausible piece of good news (from the list of common good news). </p> <p>They were randomly assigned to imagine either: deciding to keep the news secret until they chose share it with their partner, or the information remaining unknown due to external factors like being in meetings all day. For a further group, no reason was specified for not sharing the news. Participants were then asked about how “tired, depleted, weak, passive, active, invigorated, strong, energized, awake and alert, and alive they felt” on a scale from not at all ‘1’ to very much ‘7’.</p> <p>When people elected to keep a piece of good news private, they felt energised. But when external factors got in the way of sharing information, they felt fatigued.</p> <p><iframe title="People are Seriously becoming Friends with their Robotic Vacuums" src="https://omny.fm/shows/huh-science-explained/people-are-seriously-becoming-friends-with-their-r/embed?in_playlist=podcast&amp;style=Cover" width="100%" height="180" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p>Three further experiments tested the effect of positive or negative secrets. Finding positive secrets were more likely to be kept for personal reasons, freely chosen, generating greater feelings of energy.</p> <p>“When people keep a positive secret as opposed to a different type of secret, they tend to have relatively more intrinsic motivation for doing so. Intrinsic motivation is associated with feeling like something is really important, personally valuable to you. And also enjoyable,” says Greenaway.</p> <p>“If you’ve kept a negative secret, often you’re worried about what would happen if that secret got out […] you feel as though that’s something that’s being imposed on you, as opposed to something that you’re freely choosing to keep secret from others.”</p> <p>Prior research has mostly focused on negative secrets, suggesting secrecy can be harmful.</p> <p>In contrast, this new research suggests holding on to positive news is more likely to be freely chosen, for personal reasons, and can be more energising than sharing the information.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <div> <p align="center"><noscript data-spai="1"><em>&amp;lt;img decoding="async" fetchpriority="high" class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-198773" src="https://cdn.shortpixel.ai/spai/q_lossy+ret_img+to_auto/cosmosmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/Cosmos-Catch-Up-embed_728x150-1.jpg" data-spai-egr="1" alt="Sign up to our weekly newsletter" width="600" height="154" title="sweet secrets - the science of keeping good news hush hush 2"&amp;gt;</em></noscript></p> </div> <p><em><!-- Start of tracking content syndication. Please do not remove this section as it allows us to keep track of republished articles --> <img id="cosmos-post-tracker" style="opacity: 0; height: 1px!important; width: 1px!important; border: 0!important; position: absolute!important; z-index: -1!important;" src="https://syndication.cosmosmagazine.com/?id=288402&amp;title=Sweet+secrets+%26%238211%3B+the+science+of+keeping+good+news+hush+hush" width="1" height="1" loading="lazy" aria-label="Syndication Tracker" data-spai-target="src" data-spai-orig="" data-spai-exclude="nocdn" /></em><em><a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/people/social-sciences/sweet-secrets-science/">This article</a> was originally published on <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com">Cosmos Magazine</a> and was written by <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/contributor/petra-stock/">Petra Stock</a>. </em></div>

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5 reasons why climate change may see more of us turn to alcohol and other drugs

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/helen-louise-berry-8608">Helen Louise Berry</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/macquarie-university-1174">Macquarie University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/francis-vergunst-230743">Francis Vergunst</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-oslo-934">University of Oslo</a></em></p> <p>Climate change will affect every aspect of our <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(23)01859-7/fulltext">health and wellbeing</a>. But its potential harms go beyond the body’s ability to handle extreme heat, important as this is.</p> <p>Extreme weather events, such as floods, droughts, storms and wildfires, are becoming more frequent and severe. These affect our <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36165756/">mental health</a> in a multitude of <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-018-0102-4">ways</a>.</p> <p>Coping with climate change can be overwhelming. Sometimes, the best someone can do is to seek refuge in alcohol, tobacco, over-the-counter and prescription drugs, or other psychoactive substances. This is understandable, but dangerous, and can have serious consequences.</p> <p>We outline <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/17456916221132739">five ways</a> climate change could increase the risk of harmful substance use.</p> <h2>1. Mental health is harmed</h2> <p>Perhaps the most obvious way climate change can be linked to harmful substance use is by damaging mental health. This <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/dar.12448">increases the risk</a> of new or worsened substance use.</p> <p>People with a mental disorder are <a href="https://www.hindawi.com/journals/psychiatry/2018/5697103/">at high risk</a> of also having a <a href="https://bmcpsychiatry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-244X-11-25#:%7E:text=Prevalence%20of%20comorbidity%20in%20epidemiological%20studies&amp;text=Among%20subjects%20with%20an%20alcohol,a%20comorbid%20SUD%20%5B39%5D.">substance-use disorder</a>. This often precedes their mental health problems. Climate change-related increases in the number and nature of extreme events, in turn, are escalating risks to mental health.</p> <p>For example, extreme heat is linked to increased <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27727320/">distress</a> across the whole population. In extreme heat, more people go to the <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/2789481">emergency department</a> for psychiatric problems, including for <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0048969720338249">alcohol</a> and <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s43856-023-00346-1">substance use</a> generally. This is even true for <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969720325572">a single very hot day</a>.</p> <p>Post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.5694/mja13.10307">other mental health</a> problems are <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpubh.2019.00367/full">common</a> at the time of extreme weather events and can persist for months, even years afterwards, especially if people are exposed to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9116266/">multiple events</a>. This can <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6101235/">increase</a> the likelihood of using substances as a way to cope.</p> <h2>2. Worry increases</h2> <p>With <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/climate-change-in-the-american-mind-beliefs-attitudes-december-2022/">increasing public awareness</a> of how climate change is endangering wellbeing, people are <a href="https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/wellbeing/articles/worriesaboutclimatechangegreatbritain/septembertooctober2022#:%7E:text=The%20level%20of%20worry%20about,lives%20right%20now%20(29%25).">increasingly worried</a> about what will happen if it remains unchecked.</p> <p>Worrying isn’t the same as meeting the criteria for a mental disorder. But <a href="https://www.undp.org/publications/peoples-climate-vote">surveys</a> show climate change generates complex emotional responses, <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanplh/article/PIIS2542-5196(21)00278-3/fulltext">especially in children</a>. As well as feelings of worry, there is anxiety, fear, guilt, anger, grief and helplessness.</p> <p>Some <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2904966/">emotional states</a>, such as <a href="https://www.pnas.org/doi/full/10.1073/pnas.1909888116">sadness</a>, are linked with long-term tobacco use and also make substance use <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16011392/">relapse</a> more likely.</p> <h2>3. Physical injuries hurt us in many ways</h2> <p>Physical injuries caused by extreme weather events – such as smoke inhalation, burns and flood-related cuts and infections – increase the risk of harmful substance use. That’s partly because they <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20033251/">increase</a> the risk of psychological distress. If injuries cause long-term illness or disability, consequent feelings of hopelessness and depression can dispose some people to self-medicate with alcohol or other drugs.</p> <p>Substance use itself can also generate long-term physiological harm, disabilities or other chronic health problems. These are <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/00952999609001655">linked with</a> higher rates of harmful substance use.</p> <h2>4. Our day-to-day lives change</h2> <p>A single catastrophic event, such as a storm or flood, can devastate lives overnight and change the way we live. So, too, can the more subtle changes in climate and day-to-day weather. Both can disrupt behaviour and routines in ways that risk new or worsened substance use, for example, using stimulants to cope with fatigue.</p> <p>Take, for example, hotter temperatures, which disrupt <a href="https://www.cell.com/one-earth/fulltext/S2590-3322(22)00209-3?_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS2590332222002093%3Fshowall%3Dtrue">sleep</a>, undermine <a href="https://jhr.uwpress.org/content/57/2/400">academic performance</a>, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41562-017-0097">reduce physical activity</a>, and promote <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanplh/article/PIIS2542-5196(22)00173-5/fulltext">hostile language</a> and <a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/elements/abs/climate-change-and-human-behavior/F64471FA47B8A6F5524E7DDDDE571D57">violent behaviour</a>.</p> <h2>5. It destabilises communities</h2> <p>Finally, climate change is destabilising the socioeconomic, natural, built and geopolitical <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-018-0102-4">systems</a> on which human wellbeing – <a href="https://theconversation.com/climate-change-and-health-ipcc-reports-emerging-risks-emerging-consensus-24213">indeed survival</a> – depends.</p> <p>Damaged infrastructure, agricultural losses, school closures, homelessness and displacement are significant <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-018-0102-4">sources of psychosocial distress</a> that prompt acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term) stress responses.</p> <p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1196/annals.1441.030">Stress</a>, in turn, can <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s002130100917">increase</a> the risk of <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s002130100917">harmful substance use</a> and make people more likely to relapse.</p> <h2>Why are we so concerned?</h2> <p>Substance-use disorders are economically and socially <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpsy/article/PIIS2215-0366(18)30337-7/fulltext">very costly</a>. Risky substance use that doesn’t meet the criteria for a formal diagnosis <a href="https://digitalcommons.fiu.edu/srhreports/health/health/32/">can also harm</a>.</p> <p>Aside from its direct physical harm, harmful substance use disrupts <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3843305/">education</a> and <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3234116/">employment</a>. It increases the risk of <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6676144/">accidents</a> and <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09595230600944479">crime</a>, and it undermines social relationships, intimate <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4795906/#:%7E:text=Results%20indicated%20that%20alcohol%20use,drinkers%20with%20low%20relationship%20satisfaction.">partnerships</a> and <a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/development-and-psychopathology/article/abs/longitudinal-relations-between-parental-drinking-problems-family-functioning-and-child-adjustment/CE508589A9E799FD6DC9E23DF364FB8F">family functioning</a>.</p> <h2>Politicians take note</h2> <p>As we head towards the <a href="https://www.cop28.com">COP28 global climate talks</a> in Dubai, climate change is set to hit the headlines once more. Politicians know climate change is undermining human health and wellbeing. It’s well past time to insist they act.</p> <p>As we have seen for populations as a whole, there are multiple possible ways for climate change to cause a rise in harmful substance use. This means multidimensional <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-018-0102-4">prevention strategies</a> are needed. As well as addressing climate change more broadly, we need strategies including:</p> <ul> <li> <p>supporting vulnerable individuals, especially <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/21677026211040787">young people</a>, and marginalised commmunities, who are <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-018-0102-4">hit hardest</a> by extreme weather-related events</p> </li> <li> <p>focusing health-related policies more on broadscale health promotion, for example, healthier eating, active transport and community-led mental health support</p> </li> <li> <p>investing in climate-resilient infrastructure, such as heat-proofing buildings and greening cities, to prevent more of the destabilising effects and stress we know contributes to mental health problems and harmful substance use.</p> </li> </ul> <p>There is now <a href="https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/10/1129912">no credible pathway</a> to avoiding dangerous climate change. However, if <a href="https://carnegieendowment.org/2023/01/12/climate-protests-tracking-growing-unrest-pub-88778#:%7E:text=These%20are%20just%20a%20few,even%20more%20numerous%20and%20influential.">increasing rates</a> of climate protests are anything to go by, the world may finally be ready for radical change – and perhaps for reduced harmful substance use.<!-- 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/217894/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/helen-louise-berry-8608">Helen Louise Berry</a>, Honorary Professor, Centre for Health Systems and Safety Research, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/macquarie-university-1174">Macquarie University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/francis-vergunst-230743">Francis Vergunst</a>, Associate Professor, Psychosocial Difficulties, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-oslo-934">University of Oslo</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/5-reasons-why-climate-change-may-see-more-of-us-turn-to-alcohol-and-other-drugs-217894">original article</a>.</em></p>

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How do stimulants actually work to reduce ADHD symptoms?

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mary-bushell-919262">Mary Bushell</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-canberra-865">University of Canberra</a></em></p> <p>Stimulants are <a href="https://adhdguideline.aadpa.com.au/">first-line drugs</a> for children and adults diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But how do they actually work?</p> <h2>First, let’s look at the brain</h2> <p>ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition, which means it affects how the brain functions.</p> <p>Medical imaging indicates people with ADHD may have slight differences in their brain’s <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/195386">structure</a>, the way their brain regions work together to perform tasks, and how their brain’s chemical messengers, called neurotransmitters, pass on information.</p> <p>These brain differences are associated with the symptoms of ADHD, including inattention, impulse control and problems with memory.</p> <h2>What stimulants are prescribed in Australia?</h2> <p>The three main stimulants prescribed for ADHD in Australia are dexamfetamine, methylphenidate (sold under the brand names Ritalin and Concerta) and lisdexamfetamine (sold as Vyvanse).</p> <p>Dexamfetamine and methylphenidate have been around <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3666194/">since</a> the 1930s and 1940s respectively. Lisdexamfetamine is a newer stimulant that has been around <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2873712/">since</a> the late 2000s.</p> <p>Dexamfetamine and lisdexamfetamine are amphetamines. <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2873712/">Lisdexamfetamine</a> is inactive when it’s taken and actually changes into active dexamfetamine in the red blood cells. This is what’s known as a “prodrug”.</p> <h2>So how do they work for ADHD?</h2> <p>Stimulant drugs are thought to alter the activity of key neuotransmitters, dopamine and noradrenaline, in the brain. These neurotransmitters help with attention and focus, among other things.</p> <p>Stimulants increase the amount of dopamine and noradrenaline in the tiny gaps between neurons, known as synapses. They do this by predominantly blocking a transporter that then prevents their re-uptake back into the neuron that released them.</p> <p>This means more dopamine and noradrenaline can bind to their respective receptors. This <a href="https://www.tga.gov.au/sites/default/files/auspar-lisdexamfetamine-dimesilate-180515-pi.pdf">helps</a> connected neurons in the brain talk to one another.</p> <p>Amphetamines also increase the amount of dopamine the neuron releases into the synapse (the tiny gaps between neurons). And it stops the enzymes that break down dopamine. This results in an increase of dopamine in the synapse.</p> <h2>What effect do they have on ADHD symptoms?</h2> <p>We still don’t fully understand the underlying brain mechanisms that change behaviour in people with ADHD.</p> <p>But <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6109107/">research shows</a> stimulants that modulate noradrenaline and dopamine can improve brain processes such as:</p> <ul> <li>attention</li> <li>memory</li> <li>decision-making</li> <li>task completion</li> <li>hyperactivity.</li> </ul> <p>They can also improve general behaviour, such as self-control, not talking over the top of others, and concentration. These behaviours are important for social interactions.</p> <p>Stimulants <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15737659/">reduce ADHD symptoms</a> in about 70% to 80% of children and adults who take them.</p> <p>Some people will notice their symptoms improve right away. Other times, these improvements will be more noticeable to parents, carers, teachers, colleagues and partners.</p> <h2>Not everyone gets the same dose</h2> <p>The optimal stimulant dose varies between individuals, with multiple dosage options available.</p> <p>This enables a “start low, go slow” approach, where the stimulant can be gradually increased to the most effective dose for the individual.</p> <p>There are also different delivery options.</p> <p>Dexamfetamine and methylphenidate are available in immediate-release preparations. As these have short half-lives (meaning they act quickly and wear off rapidly), they are often taken multiple times a day – usually in the morning, lunch and afternoon.</p> <p>Methylphenidate is also <a href="https://www.ebs.tga.gov.au/ebs/picmi/picmirepository.nsf/pdf?OpenAgent&amp;id=CP-2010-PI-03175-3&amp;d=20231023172310101">available</a> in long-acting tablets (Concerta) and capsules (Ritalin LA). They are released into the body over the day.</p> <p>Lisdexamfetamine is a long-acting drug and is not available in a short-acting formulation.</p> <p>The long-acting stimulants are generally taken once in the morning. This avoids the need to take tablets during school or work hours (and the need to store a “controlled drug”, which has the potential for abuse, outside the home).</p> <h2>What are the side effects?</h2> <p>The most common side effects are sleep problems and decreased appetite. A <a href="https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD012069.pub2/full">recent study</a> showed children and young people taking methylphenidate for ADHD were around 2.6 times more likely to have sleep problems and 15 times more likely to have a decreased appetite than those not taking methylphenidate.</p> <p>Headache and abdominal pain are also relatively common.</p> <h2>Can someone without ADHD take a stimulant to improve productivity?</h2> <p>Stimulants are tightly controlled because of their potential for abuse. In Australia, only paediatricians, psychiatrists or neurologists (and GPs in special circumstances) can prescribe them. This follows a long assessment process.</p> <p>As stimulants increase dopamine, they can cause euphoria and a heightened sense of wellbeing. They can also cause <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK576548/#:%7E:text=The%20immediate%20psychological%20effects%20of,and%20may%20result%20in%20insomnia.">weight loss</a>.</p> <p>A common myth about stimulant medicines is they can improve the concentration and productivity of people without ADHD. A <a href="https://www.science.org/doi/full/10.1126/sciadv.add4165">recent study shows</a> the opposite is true.</p> <p>This study gave a group of 40 people online arithmetic tasks to complete across four sessions. At each of the sessions, participants were given either a placebo or a stimulant before completing the task.</p> <p>The results showed that while stimulants did not impact getting the correct answer, it increased the number of moves and time to solve the problems compared to a placebo. This indicates a reduction in productivity.</p> <p>However, the myth that stimulants improve study prevails. It’s likely that users feel different – after all, they are taking a medicine that speeds up messages between the brain and body. It may make them “feel” more alert and productive, even if they’re not.<!-- 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/215801/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-bushell-919262"><em>Mary Bushell</em></a><em>, Clinical Assistant Professor in Pharmacy, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-canberra-865">University of Canberra</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-do-stimulants-actually-work-to-reduce-adhd-symptoms-215801">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Why do people with hoarding disorder hoard, and how can we help?

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/jessica-grisham-37825">Jessica Grisham</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-sydney-1414">UNSW Sydney</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/keong-yap-1468967">Keong Yap</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/australian-catholic-university-747">Australian Catholic University</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/melissa-norberg-493004">Melissa Norberg</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/macquarie-university-1174">Macquarie University</a></em></p> <p>Hoarding disorder is an under-recognised serious mental illness that <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25909628/">worsens with age</a>. It affects <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31200169/">2.5% of the working-age population</a> and <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27939851/">7% of older adults</a>. That’s about 715,000 Australians.</p> <p>People who hoard and their families often feel ashamed and don’t get the support they need. Clutter can make it hard to do things most of us take for granted, such as eating at the table or sleeping in bed.</p> <p>In the gravest cases, homes are completely unsanitary, either because it has become impossible to clean or because the person <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23482436/">saves garbage</a>. The <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18275935/">strain on the family</a> can be extreme – couples get divorced, and children grow up feeling unloved.</p> <p>So why do people with hoarding disorder hoard? And how can we help?</p> <h2>What causes hoarding disorder?</h2> <p>Saving millions of objects, many worthless by objective standards, often makes little sense to those unfamiliar with the condition.</p> <p>However, most of us<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352250X21000282?via%3Dihub"> become attached to at least a few possessions</a>. Perhaps we love the way they look, or they trigger fond memories.</p> <p>Hoarding involves this same type of object attachment, as well over-reliance on possessions and <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32402421/">difficulty being away from them</a>.</p> <p>Research has shown genetic factors play a role but there is no one <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27445875/">single gene that causes hoarding disorder</a>. Instead, a range of psychological, neurobiological, and social factors can be at play.</p> <p>Although some who hoard report being deprived of material things in childhood, emotional deprivation may play a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20934847/">stronger role</a>.</p> <p>People with hoarding problems often report excessively cold parenting, difficulty connecting with others, and more <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34717158/">traumatic experiences</a>.</p> <p>They may end up believing people are unreliable and untrustworthy, and that it’s better to rely on objects for comfort and safety.</p> <p>People with hoarding disorder are often as attached or perhaps <a href="https://akjournals.com/view/journals/2006/11/3/article-p941.xml">more attached to possessions</a> than to the people in their life.</p> <p>Their experiences have taught them their self-identity is tangled up in what they own; that if they part with their possessions, they will lose themselves.</p> <p>Research shows <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0005789421000253?via%3Dihub">interpersonal problems</a>, such as loneliness, are linked to greater <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32853881/">attachment to objects</a>.</p> <p>Hoarding disorder is also associated with high rates of <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34923357/">attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder</a>. Difficulties with <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30907337/">decision-making</a>, planning, <a href="https://akjournals.com/view/journals/2006/12/3/article-p827.xml">attention</a> and categorising can make it hard to organise and <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20542489/">discard possessions</a>.</p> <p>The person ends up avoiding these tasks, which leads to unmanageable levels of clutter.</p> <h2>Not everyone takes the same path to hoarding</h2> <p>Most people with hoarding disorder also have strong beliefs about their possessions. For example, they are more likely to see beauty or usefulness in things and believe objects possess <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A:1025428631552">human-like qualities</a> such as intentions, emotions, or free will.</p> <p>Many also feel responsible for objects and for the environment. While others may not think twice about discarding broken or disposable things, people with hoarding disorder can <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30041077/">anguish over their fate</a>.</p> <p>This need to control, rescue, and protect objects is often at odds with the beliefs of friends and family, which can lead to conflict and <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32853881/">social isolation</a>.</p> <p>Not everyone with hoarding disorder describes the same pathway to overwhelming clutter.</p> <p>Some report more cognitive difficulties while others may have experienced more emotional deprivation. So it’s important to take an individualised approach to treatment.</p> <h2>How can we treat hoarding disorder?</h2> <p>There is specialised cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) tailored for hoarding disorder. <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edited-volume/46862/chapter-abstract/413932715?redirectedFrom=fulltext">Different strategies</a> are used to address the different factors contributing to a person’s hoarding.</p> <p>Cognitive-behavioural therapy can also help people understand and gradually challenge their beliefs about possessions.</p> <p>They may begin to consider how to remember, connect, feel safe, or express their identity in ways other via inanimate objects.</p> <p>Treatment can also help people learn the skills needed to organise, plan, and discard.</p> <p>Regardless of their path to hoarding, most people with hoarding disorder will benefit from a degree of exposure therapy.</p> <p>This helps people gradually learn to let go of possessions and resist acquiring more.</p> <p>Exposure to triggering situations (such as visiting shopping centres, op-shops or mounds of clutter without collecting new items) can help people learn to tolerate their urges and distress.</p> <p>Treatment can happen in an individual or group setting, and/or via <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35640322/">telehealth</a>.</p> <p>Research is underway on ways to <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34409679/">improve</a> the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2666915322001421">treatment</a> options further through, for example, learning different emotional regulation strategies.</p> <h2>Sometimes, a harm-avoidance approach is best</h2> <p>Addressing the emotional and behavioural drivers of hoarding through cognitive behavioural therapy is crucial.</p> <p>But hoarding is different to most other psychological disorders. Complex cases may require lots of different agencies to work together.</p> <p>For example, health-care workers may work with fire and housing officers to ensure the person can <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31984612/">live safely at home</a>.</p> <p>When people have severe hoarding problems but are reluctant to engage in treatment, a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21360706/">harm-avoidance approach</a> may be best. This means working with the person with hoarding disorder to identify the most pressing safety hazards and come up with a practical plan to address them.</p> <p>We must continue to improve our understanding and treatment of this complex disorder and address barriers to accessing help.</p> <p>This will ultimately help reduce the devastating impact of hoarding disorder on individuals, their families, and the community.<!-- 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/208102/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/jessica-grisham-37825">Jessica Grisham</a>, Professor in Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-sydney-1414">UNSW Sydney</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/keong-yap-1468967">Keong Yap</a>, Associate Professor of Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/australian-catholic-university-747">Australian Catholic University</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/melissa-norberg-493004">Melissa Norberg</a>, Professor in Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/macquarie-university-1174">Macquarie 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/why-do-people-with-hoarding-disorder-hoard-and-how-can-we-help-208102">original article</a>.</em></p>

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