Psychology in the News

January 23, 2013

Banging toward depression

Filed under: brain damage, depression, health — Tags: , , , — intro2psych @ 11:49 am

Eddy donc by Éole Wind

by Luka Laden

From mysterious condition to hot-button medical issue, concussions have moved into the forefront of the conversation when sports and athletes are involved. Now that more and more young people are choosing to play football, basketball, and soccer, embracing the status of being a dedicated athlete, more and more young people are also at risk of sustaining a blow to the head and suffering from subsequent brain trauma, more commonly known as a concussion. While some of the symptoms usually associated with concussions, like dizziness, blurry vision, and nausea are well-known, the long-term impact of head trauma is the topic of many new studies, which attempt to clear up the true significance of brain trauma for young athletes. We know that migraines, ranging from mild and infrequent to severe and persistent, can result from head injuries, for obvious reasons, but are there more serious problems when a concussion is sustained?Compared to other injuries, such as a torn ankle ligament or sprained wrist, concussions are very unique in that the symptoms, as well as the duration of these symptoms, are so unpredictable and wide-ranging. Full recovery may take a few days, but it may also take several months. Some athletes never fully recover. We already know what’s common, but how bad can things get? Unfortunately, the indications aren’t very promising.

Several studies have shown that people who have sustained one or more concussions may experience greater difficulties involving emotion. Three studies in particular, documented by Jennie Ponsford, Rosemarie Scolaro Moser, and Robert J. Ferguson (among others), tracked symptom reports submitted by large groups of patients suffering from post-concussion syndrome (PCS), as well as reports of expected PCS symptoms submitted by non-injured participants in contact sports, who made up the control group. The specific focus of these studies was the emotional toll of brain injuries, as the injured subjects reported on their altered feelings and tendencies following their concussions. In fact, most of the injured subjects reported that they had noticed a negative effect on their respective personalities and emotional traits because of brain trauma, ranging from moodiness and irritability to sadness and a lack of enthusiasm. The symptom reports showed a common pessimism among the injured subjects, in terms of their changed emotional states of mind. As a result of these reports, emotional symptoms of irritability, moodiness, and depression were linked to head trauma among athletes (Moser, 2007). The subjects in these studies demonstrated that there appears to be a tangible connection between brain injuries and symptoms that resemble depression and emotional instability. If indeed true, these findings are far more worrisome than a minor headache or a little bit of lightheadedness. When sustaining a concussion, being at risk for some form of depression down the road must be an important consideration for an athlete deciding when and whether to return to the playing field or court. It has been found that, only three months after the injury, a concussed athlete tends to suffer from concurrent anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress, all of which may lead to prolonged depression (Ponsford, 2012). In the short run, concussions can carry severe emotional consequences and the threat of a snowballing downward spiral of persistent depression is rather ominous and scary. Even worse, the greater problem with concussions revolves around the fact that symptoms may linger for years, which means that PCS can result in heightened, sustained emotional distress that lasts for a decade, or maybe even longer (Ferguson, 1999). Emotional imbalance and instability may not go away after three months, for instance, which opens up the possibility of lifelong depression and connected emotional problems that never seem to subside. As these studies show us, it’s clearly not an understatement to say that sustaining a concussion can wreak havoc in the long run.


April 2, 2010

Anxiety, depression and grades

Filed under: anxiety, depression — Tags: , , , — intro2psych @ 1:32 pm

by 105 student

Skinner Hall by Josh de Leeuw

Skinner Hall by Josh de Leeuw

Have anxiety and depression affected your college experience? Of course, most of us have felt a tinge of ennui on a cloudy winter day, moped after a breakup, or cried and pulled out a few hairs studying for finals. But the effects of depression and anxiety disorders can be a serious detriment to college performance.

In the year 2000, 76% of college students reportedly felt “overwhelmed” and 22% were unable to function as a result of their depression (American College Health Association, 2001). Major depressive disorder is characterized by extremely low moods, a sense of worthlessness and lack of interest or enjoyment in typically pleasurable or rewarding activities (Myers, 2006).

Recent studies connecting decreased cravings for pleasure to loss of interest or pleasure in rewarding activities could help to explain poor academic performance of depressed college students. Depressed college students may be less likely to work for grade-oriented rewards.


September 19, 2009

OK, so you haven’t been sleeping much. How bad could that be?

Filed under: anxiety, depression, health, sleep — Tags: , , , — intro2psych @ 6:27 am

By Leksi Kolanko

Dr. Insomnias, #2 by Thomas Hawk

Dr. Insomnia's, #2 by Thomas Hawk

We all suffer an occasional restless night of sleep here and there, whether it is the result of stressful events occurring in our lives, jetlag, pain due to a physical injury, or simply the overuse of caffeine.  For some people, however, insomnia, a sleep disorder in which an individual has recurring problems in falling or staying asleep, can become chronic.  Multiple studies have been conducted showing a strong relationship between insomnia, depression, and anxiety.  For instance, a longitudinal study conducted by Dag Neckelmann of Haukeland University Hospital in Bergen, Norway, surveyed 25,130 adults.  The results of the general health surveys showed that the group of participants with chronic insomnia had increased depression and anxiety, as compared to the group without chronic insomnia.  Another study, carried out by Daniel Taylor, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of North Texas in Denton, and his colleagues, sampled 722 adults of age 20 to 89.  This cross-sectional and retrospective study reported that people with insomnia were 10 times more likely to have clinically significant depression and 17 times more likely to have clinically significant anxiety. (more…)

November 6, 2008

When exercise beats meds

Filed under: antidepressants, depression, SSRI — Tags: , , — intro2psych @ 3:25 pm

by Jonathan Brummer

Photo by Darren Waters

Photo by Darren Waters

As a college athlete in an extremely physically demanding sport, a great deal of my life centers around exercise.  I have always known that exercise is an activity which promotes physical health and for that reason alone, was enough motivation to partake in it.  Who in their right mind does not want to ward of diseases like diabetes or maintain strong and healthy heart functions?  With a formerly weak immune system and terrible asthma, exercise has improved the quality of my life in ways that I could not have imagined.

This lack of imagination has once again gotten the better of me.   It turns out there are surprising psychological benefits of exercise.   A  study performed at Duke University which studied the levels of depression among subjects divided into three specific treatment groups.  These included a group being treated with SSRI’s (Serotonin Specific Reuptake Inhibitors), one with an exercise regime and the final one with a combination of both SSRI’s and exercise.  Not surprisingly, all formerly depressed patients showed a significant decrease in depression levels at the end of the study, with two thirds of the group having eradicated it all together.  What is surprising however, is the fact that six months after the conclusion of the study, participants in the exercise only group were in better shape, psychologically, than members of either of the other groups.  Specifically, the were more likely to have experienced full or partial recovery, even when compared to the exercise plus medication groups.

As a rower, I am intimately familiar with one of the brain’s responses under prolonged physical exertion.  The release of endorphin neurotransmitters under such conditions lessen pain and boost mood in what is often called a “runner’s high.”  This “high” has very short term effects however, ending shortly after or even during the workout (Myers, 2007).   While the sense of accomplishment from achieving a physical goal may also stimulate endorphin release, even this fades within a relatively short time span.  This begs the question of how exercise actually affects us in the long run.  Does habitual exercise physiologically remap our brains in some way that we naturally maintain higher levels of serotonin or have neurons that are more receptive to these pleasurable neurotransmitters?  Or maybe positive changes in one’s self-image through weight loss or an increase in one’s perceived health eventually leads to a physiological change in the brain.  If this is the case, then just how necessary are SSRI’s like Prozac and Zoloft, especially given a slew of negative and potentially dangerous side effects that can arise from frequent use?

American Psychological Association (May 28, 2004).  Exercise Helps Keep Your Psyche Fit.  Retrieved October 10, 2008 from

Mayo Clinic Staff (2006). Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).  Retrieved November 6, 208 from

Myers, David G. (2007).  Psychology (8th ed.  in Modules).  New York: Worth.

April 21, 2008

College and depression: Catch 22?

Filed under: depression — Tags: , — intro2psych @ 9:00 am

by Nick Katz

Colleges have recently been faced with a dilemma concerning depressed students. They must try to help the depressed students, yet are wary of being responsible if things don’t go well. This article describes the issues NYU has had with this problem. According to the article, depressed students who came in for counseling have been forced to take a leave of absence, sometimes against their wishes. At Cornell University, students have the option of either six months of voluntary leave, or 12 months of involuntary leave. Schools fear suicides, and the potential of lawsuits that could result. Forcing the student to leave the campus lessens the responsibility of the school, but increases the danger to the student, as they are often leaving the place where they can get the best help. The article raises the question of whether students who return home are more likely to receive the help they need, and decides they’re not. The director of student counseling service at Texas A&M University says that it isn’t the college’s responsibility to take care of depressed students.

This article shows that depression among college students is rising dramatically, meaning that this problem is only going to become more of an issue. It also suggests that returning home could only make the problem worse, as home could be the place causing their problems. This situation puts depressed students in a bad position, since they may be reluctant to go get counseling, for fear of being sent home. Thus, sending students home can put even more students at risk of going unhelped. A possible alternative would be mandating counseling sessions, as used at The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, described in the first article.

March 17, 2008

The rationality of anger

Filed under: depression, emotions — Tags: , , — intro2psych @ 9:17 pm

by Jonathan Rahardjo
Oftentimes we think of anger as something that causes one to be irrational. However, according to a report published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, when angry, individuals are generally more rational than when they are calm. During the experiment, which was performed at the University of California, two separate groups of college students were persuaded to consider unpopular sides of various arguments. One group, however, was asked beforehand to write about an experience that angered them. The group that had written about these experiences was deemed to have viewed the arguments more rationally than the the group that did not write about this experience.

Hulk HoganWhy, then, does this idea of anger as a cause of irrationality? Perpetual anger has many adverse effects on the individual. For instance, according to an article in Psychology Today, those who are constantly angry are more likely to suffer from depression. Depression, in turn, has an effect on the way in which individuals process ideas. According to psychologist Albert Ellis, people are more likely to hold irrational beliefs when they are depressed. Perhaps, irrationality is generally not caused by brief episodes of anger, but manifests itself in long term bouts of anger.

December 19, 2007

Depressing crime

Filed under: depression — Tags: , — intro2psych @ 9:59 pm

by Alex Seife

When you leave your house at night do you immediately think, “Oh God, I’m going to get mugged”? If this is the case then you might be suffering from depression. A recent study found a positive correlation between people who are afraid of crime and people who are depressed. These types of people will often go to great lengths to prevent experiencing a crime first hand. By staying at home more often, exercising less and seldom seeing friends, these individuals fuel their depression.

crime scene

This study instantly struck a chord with me. Several years ago my close friend was robbed at night in the city. He wasn’t injured, but the whole event gave him quite a scare. For a long time after that (perhaps several months) he was extremely hesitant to go out with the rest of his friends at night, fearing that another robbery was right around the corner. He would stay home by himself, often watching television all night until he went to bed. It became very clear when I saw him in school that a change had occurred within him. He seemed to be generally down and expressed many of the typical depressed behaviors that we have learned in class: General sadness, negative thoughts, and a reduced interest in many of his previous activities. After some time he was able to overcome this apprehension, but it was quite evident that a strong link existed between his fear of crime and his depression.

November 13, 2007

Will Tatoos make you happy?

Filed under: depression, social influence — Tags: , , , — intro2psych @ 5:22 am

by Psych 105 Student
Tattoos, body piercings, and other forms of body modification have existed among different cultures since humans have walked the earth. While these body alterations may have been looked favorably upon in ancient societies, in our current culture there is a social stigma associated with those who partake in tattoos and piercings.

my name is scott tatoo

In an study conducted at a German university, information was gathered by observing the incidence and relationship of psychological factors to tattoos and piercings in a large group of German citizens. In the experiment, 2043 citizens chosen at random were questioned in their homes. The data collected involved sociodemographic data, as well as self-reported mental health and quality of life questionnaires. (more…)

November 6, 2007

Depression, serotonin, and sex differences

Filed under: brain wiring, depression, SSRI, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — intro2psych @ 10:14 pm

by Emily Chao

Girls stress and get depressed. Boys can’t control themselves. And it’s not their fault.

In a study conducted by Dr. Espen Walderhaug and his colleagues, women and men are found to behave differently when serotonin levels were lowered. When given a treatment of acute tryptophan depletion, men became more impulsive and displayed such effects usually demonstrated in impulse control disorders and alcoholism. Surprisingly, they did not appear to demonstrate mood changes. Women, however, reported a worsening of their mood, and became more cautious. Both responses are characteristic of and associated with MDD (Major depressive disorder, commonly known as depression).

What the researchers also discovered was that the women’s moods were influenced by variation in the promoter region of the serotonin transporter gene (5-HTTLPR). The 5-HTTLPR gene is an important part of the serotonin system, which helps to regulate mood in men and women.  It has been shown to control overall response to SSRIs in patients with MDD.

So if men and women have the same brain areas for our serotonergic systems, what makes the result so drastic? Dr. Walderhaug hypothesizes that men and women may use serotonin differently. He hopes the study’s findings will help us understand why women risk a higher chance of mood and anxiety disorders while men have a higher probability of abusing alcohol and suffering from impulse control disorders.

October 28, 2007

Bad Marriages, Bad Jobs, and Heart Attacks

Filed under: depression, health — Tags: , , , , , — intro2psych @ 2:22 pm

by Nick Katz

Think fighting with your partner isn’t a big deal? This article suggests otherwise. According to the article, those who are in a close relationship with multiple negative aspects are at an increased risk of heart disease compared to those in more positive relationships. Negative aspects include conflict and lack of emotional support. The article is based on a study conducted in England, the setup of which can be found here. The authors of the study suggested that the increased risk of heart disease was due to increased rates of depression, low self-esteem, and higher levels of anger. It is these factors that are assumed to have the negative effect on the body itself. Thus, negative things in life that strongly affect us can also have a strong effect on our body. This conclusion can then be applied to all other aspects of life. A stressful job could thus have the same negative effect. In fact, studies have shown this to also be the case. These articles show that negative emotional stress caused by our daily lives can negatively influence our health. More on the mind/body connection can be found here. This stresses the importance of finding a job and a relationship that one is happy in. If you find yourself in an unhappy job or relationship, you should definitely get out as soon as possible; Your life may depend on it

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