Internet Mental Health





(Separation Anxiety Disorder = Negative Emotion)





Explanation of Pictures


  • Starting from before age 18, displayed excessive anxiety when away from home or from significant others.

  • Must last at least 4 weeks in children and adolescents and 6 months or more in adults.

  • Not due to a more serious mental disorder.

Prediction

    Childhood onset; sometimes lasts years but most grow out of it.

Problems

    Occupational-Economic Problems:

    • Causes significant social or academic functioning (e.g., school refusal).

    • School refusal may lead to academic difficulties and social avoidance.

    Reserved, Quiet (Detachment):

    • Social withdrawal, apathy when separated from major attachment figures.

    Distressed, Easily Upset (Negative Emotion):

    • Developmentally inappropriate and excessive anxiety on separation from home or major attachment figures (e.g., extreme homesickness).

    • Demanding, intrusive, and in need of constant attention which can cause parental frustration and conflict in the family.

    • Depressed mood may develop into Persistent Depressive Disorder or Major Depressive Disorder.

    • Sadness, inability to concentrate when separated from major attachment figures.

    • Anger at the person who is forcing the separation.

    • Separation Anxiety Disorder may precede the development of Panic Disorder.

    • Increased rates of other Anxiety Disorders.

    Medical:

    • Fear of separation causes stomachaches, headaches, nausea, and vomiting; adolescents and adults may develop palpitations, dizziness, and feeling faint.



Explanation Of Terms And Symbols

Internet Mental Health Quality of Life Scale

Fear, Phobia, Obsession, Compulsion

Fearful avoidance is part of our instinctual "flight" response to adversity.

Our ancestors learned to fear dangerous things (e.g., snakes), and this harm avoidance saved their lives.

However, fear can spiral out of control. For example, an individual can develop a phobia to snakes in which the fear becomes excessive. This phobia can develop into an obsession in which the individual spends much of the time thinking about snakes, and how to avoid them. The obsession can develop into a compulsion in which the individual spends much of the time doing superstitious, compulsive, ritual behaviors aimed at avoiding snakes.

There are stages in the escalation of fear:

  • Fear:
    Fear is normal if it is in proportion to the actual danger posed by the specific object or situation, and this fear doesn't cause significant distress or disability.

  • Phobia:
    If fear about about a specific object or situation becomes excessive, it is defined as a phobia. This phobic fear is out of proportion to the actual danger posed by the specific object or situation, and this phobic fear causes significant distress or disability. In separation anxiety disorder, there is developmentally inappropriate and excessive anxiety when away from home or from loved ones. This excessive separation anxiety is the equivalent of a phobia.

  • Obsession:
    If the individual develops persistent, unwanted thoughts about the phobia; this is defined as an obsession. An obsession is a fear-provoking intrusive thought. In severe cases of separation anxiety disorder, the persistent and excessive worry about losing loved ones or about possible harm to them can actually reach obsessional proportions.

  • Compulsion:
    If the individual develops a superstitious ritual aimed at reducing the anxiety associated with the obsession; this is defined as a compulsion. A compulsion is a fear-relieving avoidance behavior. The individual feels driven to perform these compulsions. Unlike in obsessive-compulsive disorder, individuals with separation anxiety disorder do not develop a compulsion in response to their phobic separation anxiety.

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Separation Anxiety Disorder of Childhood F93.0 - ICD10 Description, World Health Organization

Should be diagnosed when fear of separation constitutes the focus of the anxiety and when such anxiety first arose during the early years of childhood. It is differentiated from normal separation anxiety when it is of a degree (severity) that is statistically unusual (including an abnormal persistence beyond the usual age period), and when it is associated with significant problems in social functioning.
Separation Anxiety Disorder - Diagnostic Criteria, American Psychiatric Association

An individual diagnosed with separation anxiety disorder needs to meet all of the following criteria:

  • Developmentally inappropriate and excessive fear or anxiety concerning separation from those to whom the individual is attached, as evidenced by at least three of the following:

    • Recurrent excessive distress when anticipating or experiencing separation from home or from major attachment figures.

    • Persistent and excessive worry about losing major attachment figures or about possible harm to them, such as illness, injury, disasters, or death.

    • Persistent and excessive worry about experiencing an untoward event (e.g., getting lost, being kidnapped, having an accident, becoming ill) that causes separation from a major attachment figure.

    • Persistent reluctance or refusal to go out, away from home, to school, to work, or elsewhere because of fear of separation.

    • Persistent and excessive fear of or reluctance about being alone or without major attachment figures at home or in other settings.

    • Persistent reluctance or refusal to sleep away from home or to go to sleep without being near a major attachment figure.

    • Repeated nightmares involving the theme of separation.

    • Repeated complaints of physical symptoms (such as headaches, stomachaches, nausea, or vomiting) when separation from major attachment figures occurs or is anticipated.

  • The fear, anxiety, or avoidance is persistent, lasting at least 4 weeks in children and adolescents and typically 6 months or more in adults.

  • The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, academic, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

  • The disturbance is not better explained by another mental disorder, such as refusing to leave home because of excessive resistance to change in autism spectrum disorder; delusions or hallucinations concerning separation in psychotic disorders; refusal to go outside without a trusted companion in agoraphobia; worries about ill health or other harm befalling significant others in generalized anxiety disorder; or concerns about having an illness in illness anxiety disorder.


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Diagnostic Features

In this disorder, individuals display excessive anxiety when away from home or from those to whom they are emotionally attached. This separation anxiety has to be developmentally inappropriate and excessive; with onset before age 18. It must last at least 4 weeks in children and adolescents and 6 months or more in adults. This disorder must cause significant distress or life impairment. This disorder does not occur exclusively during the course of a more serious disorder like autistic spectrum disorder, schizophrenia, other psychotic disorder, agoraphobia, generalized anxiety disorder, or illness anxiety disorder.

Effective Therapies

The first-line treatment for this disorder is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) [exposure with prevention of avoidance behavior]. If this fails, treatment with SSRI antidepressant medication is often effective.

Ineffective therapies

Tricyclic antidepressants and benzodiazepines are ineffective. Vitamins and dietary supplements are ineffective for this disorder.

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Videos

Stories

Which Behavioral Dimensions Are Involved?

Research has shown that there are 5 major dimensions (the "Big 5 Factors") of personality disorders and other mental disorders. There are two free online personality tests that assess your personality in terms of the "Big 5 dimensions of personality.

This website uses these 5 major dimensions of human behavior to describe all mental disorders. (This website adds one more dimension, "Physical Health", but our discussion will focus on the first 5 major dimensions.)

These 5 major dimensions of human behavior seem to represent 5 major dimensions whereby our early ancestors chose their hunting companions or spouse. To maximize their chance for survival, our ancestors wanted companions who were agreeable, conscientious, intelligent, enthusiastic, and calm.

Which Dimensions of Human Behavior are Impaired in Separation Anxiety Disorder?

THE POSITIVE SIDE OF THE "BIG 5" PERSONALITY DIMENSIONS THE NEGATIVE SIDE OF THE "BIG 5" PERSONALITY DIMENSIONS DESCRIPTION (Where red = this disorder)
Agreeableness Antagonism       Sympathetic, Kind vs. Critical, Quarrelsome
Conscientiousness Disinhibition       Industrious, Orderly vs. Impulsive, Disorderly
Openness To Experience Closed To Experience       Open-Minded, Creative vs. Easily Distracted
Sociability (Extraversion) Detachment       Enthusiastic, Assertive vs. Reserved, Quiet
Emotional Stability Negative Emotion       Calm, Emotionally Stable vs. Distressed, Easily Upset


The 5 Major Dimensions of Mental Illness

Our website uses pictures from the International Space Station to illustrate the 5 major dimensions of mental disorder. Future space exploration will require that astronauts learn how to maintain peace, health and happiness - and especially good mental health.

On earth, we must learn these same lessons if our species is to survive.



AGREEABLENESS VS. ANTAGONISM
.
Agreeableness (Sympathetic, Kind)
.
Description: Degree to which people value cooperation and social harmony.
Descriptors: Sympathetic, kind, appreciative, affectionate, soft-hearted, warm, generous, trusting, helpful, forgiving, pleasant, good-natured, friendly, cooperative, gentle, unselfish, praising, sensitive
Ask yourself: "Today, who will I help? (How will I show justice - to neither harm nor allow harm?)"
MRI Research*: Agreeableness was associated with increased volume in regions that process information about the intentions and mental states of other individuals.
"I am helpful and unselfish with others."
"I have a forgiving nature."
"I am generally trusting."
"I am considerate and kind to almost everyone."
"I like to cooperate with others."
"I don't find fault with others."
"I don't start quarrels with others."
"I am not cold and aloof."
"I am not rude to others."
"I feel other's emotions."
"I inquire about others' well-being."
"I sympathize with others' feelings."
"I take an interest in other people's lives."
"I like to do things for others."
"I respect authority."
"I hate to seem pushy."
"I avoid imposing my will on others."
"I rarely put people under pressure."
.
Antagonism (Critical, Quarrelsome)
.

* Callousness:
"I don’t care if my actions hurt others."
"Being rude and unfriendly is just a part of who I am."
"I often get into physical fights."
"I enjoy making people in control look stupid."
"I am not interested in other people's problems."
"I can't be bothered with other's needs."
"I am indifferent to the feelings of others."
"I don't have a soft side."
"I take no time for others."
.
* Deceitfulness:
"I don't hesitate to cheat if it gets me ahead."
"Lying comes easily to me."
"I use people to get what I want."
"People don't realize that I'm flattering them to get something."
.
* Manipulativeness:
"Sweet-talking others helps me get what I want."
"It is easy for me to take advantage of others."
"I'm good at conning people."
"I am out for my own personal gain."
.
* Grandiosity:
"I'm better than almost everyone else."
"I often have to deal with people who are less important than me."
"To be honest, I'm just more important than other people."
"I deserve special treatment."
.
* Suspiciousness:
"It seems like I'm always getting a “raw deal” from others."
"I suspect that even my so-called 'friends' betray me a lot."
"Others would take advantage of me if they could."
"Plenty of people are out to get me."
"I'm always on my guard for someone trying to trick or harm me."
.
* Hostility:
"I am easily angered."
"I get irritated easily by all sorts of things."
"I am usually pretty hostile."
"I always make sure I get back at people who wrong me."
"I resent being told what to do, even by people in charge."
"I insult people."
"I seek conflict."
"I love a good fight."
.
("Agreeableness vs. Antagonism" modified from "PID-5" by Kreuger RF, Derringer J, Markon KE, Watson D, Skodol AE and Between facets and domains: 10 aspects of the Big Five)
*MRI Research: Testing predictions from personality neuroscience. Brain structure and the big five.




CONSCIENTIOUSNESS VS. DISINHIBITION
.
Conscientiousness (Industrious, Orderly)
.
Description: Degree to which people are industrious, well-organized, and cautious.
Descriptors: Organized, thorough, planful, efficient, responsible, reliable, dependable, conscientious, precise, practical, deliberate
Ask yourself: "Today, what duties must I do? (How will I show good self-control?)"
MRI Research*: Conscientiousness was associated with increased volume in the lateral prefrontal cortex, a region involved in planning and the voluntary control of behavior.
"I do a thorough job. I want everything to be 'just right'. I want every detail taken care of."
"I am careful."
"I am a reliable hard-worker."
"I am organized. I follow a schedule and always know what I am doing."
"I like order. I keep things tidy."
"I see that rules are observed."
"I do things efficiently. I get things done quickly."
"I carry out my plans and finish what I start."
"I am not easily distracted."
.
Rigid Perfectionism (Excessive Conscientiousness)
.
"Even though it drives other people crazy, I insist on absolute perfection in everything I do."
"I simply won't put up with things being out of their proper places."
"People complain about my need to have everything all arranged."
"People tell me that I focus too much on minor details."
"I have a strict way of doing things."
"I postpone decisions."
.
Disinhibition (Impulsive, Disorderly)
.

* Irresponsibility:
"I've skipped town to avoid responsibilities."
"I just skip appointments or meetings if I'm not in the mood."
"I'm often pretty careless with my own and others' things."
"Others see me as irresponsible."
"I make promises that I don't really intend to keep."
"I often forget to pay my bills."
.
* Impulsivity:
"I usually do things on impulse without thinking about what might happen as a result."
"Even though I know better, I can't stop making rash decisions."
"I feel like I act totally on impulse."
.
* Distractibility:
"I can't focus on things for very long."
"I am easily distracted."
"I have trouble pursuing specific goals even for short periods of time."
"I can't achieve goals because other things capture my attention."
"I often make mistakes because I don't pay close attention."
"I waste my time ."
"I find it difficult to get down to work."
"I mess things up."
"I don't put my mind on the task at hand."
.
* Risk Taking:
"I like to take risks."
"I have no limits when it comes to doing dangerous things."
"People would describe me as reckless."
"I don't think about getting hurt when I'm doing things that might be dangerous."
.
* Hyperactivity:
"I move excessively (e.g., can't sit still; restless; always on the go)."
"I'm starting lots more projects than usual or doing more risky things than usual."
.
* Over-Talkativeness:
"I talk excessively (e.g., I butt into conversations; I complete people's sentences)."
"Often I talk constantly and cannot be interrupted."
.
* Elation:
"I feel much more happy, cheerful, or self-confident than usual."
"I'm sleeping a lot less than usual, but I still have a lot of energy."
.
("Conscientiousness vs. Disinhibition" modified from "PID-5" by Kreuger RF, Derringer J, Markon KE, Watson D, Skodol AE and Between facets and domains: 10 aspects of the Big Five)
*MRI Research: Testing predictions from personality neuroscience. Brain structure and the big five.




OPENNESS TO EXPERIENCE vs. CLOSED TO EXPERIENCE
.
Openness To Experience (Open-Minded, Creative)
.
Description: Degree to which people show intelligence and creativity.
Descriptors: Wide interests, imaginative, intelligent, original, insightful, curious, sophisticated, artistic, clever, inventive, sharp-witted, ingenious, wise
Ask yourself: "Today, how will I learn and act wisely? (How will I show wisdom?)"
MRI Research*: Openness To Experience did not have any significant correlation with the volume of any brain structures. (This could suggest that "Openness To Experience", as defined here, is more a function of culture rather than of brain neurobiology.)
"I am original, and come up with new ideas."
"I am curious about many different things."
"I am quick to understand things."
"I can handle a lot of information."
"I like to solve complex problems."
"I have a rich vocabulary."
"I think quickly and formulate ideas clearly."
"I enjoy the beauty of nature."
"I believe in the importance of art."
"I love to reflect on things."
"I get deeply immersed in music."
"I see beauty in things that others might not notice."
"I need a creative outlet."
.
Closed To Experience (Closed-Minded, Uncreative)
.

"I prefer work that is routine."
"I have difficulty understanding abstract ideas."
"I avoid philosophical discussions."
"I avoid difficult reading material."
"I learn things slowly."
"I have few artistic interests."
"I seldom notice the emotional aspects of paintings and pictures."
"I do not like poetry."
"I seldom get lost in thought."
"I seldom daydream."
.
Cognitive Impairment
.
* Memory Impairment:
"I have difficulty learning new things, or remembering things that happened a few days ago."
"I often forget a conversation I had the day before."
"I often forget to take my medications, or to keep my appointments."
.
.
* Impaired Reasoning or Problem-Solving:
"My judgment, planning, or problem-solving isn't good."
"I lack creativity or curiosity."
.
Psychoticism
.
* Eccentricity:
"Others seem to think I'm quite odd or unusual."
"My thoughts are strange and unpredictable."
"My thoughts often don’t make sense to others."
"Other people seem to think my behavior is weird."
"I have several habits that others find eccentric or strange."
"My thoughts often go off in odd or unusual directions."
.
* Unusual Beliefs and Experiences:
"I often have unusual experiences, such as sensing the presence of someone who isn't actually there."
"I've had some really weird experiences that are very difficult to explain."
"I have seen things that weren’t really there."
"I have some unusual abilities, like sometimes knowing exactly what someone is thinking."
"I sometimes have heard things that others couldn’t hear."
"Sometimes I can influence other people just by sending my thoughts to them."
"I often see unusual connections between things that most people miss."
.
* Perceptual Dysregulation:
"Things around me often feel unreal, or more real than usual."
"Sometimes I get this weird feeling that parts of my body feel like they're dead or not really me."
"It's weird, but sometimes ordinary objects seem to be a different shape than usual."
"Sometimes I feel 'controlled' by thoughts that belong to someone else."
"Sometimes I think someone else is removing thoughts from my head."
"I have periods in which I feel disconnected from the world or from myself."
"I can have trouble telling the difference between dreams and waking life."
"I often 'zone out' and then suddenly come to and realize that a lot of time has passed."
"Sometimes when I look at a familiar object, it's somehow like I'm seeing it for the first time."
"People often talk about me doing things I don't remember at all."
"I often can't control what I think about."
"I often see vivid dream-like images when I’m falling asleep or waking up."
.
("Openness To Experience vs. Closed To Experience" modified from "PID-5" by Kreuger RF, Derringer J, Markon KE, Watson D, Skodol AE and Between facets and domains: 10 aspects of the Big Five)
*MRI Research: Testing predictions from personality neuroscience. Brain structure and the big five.




SOCIABILITY (EXTRAVERSION) vs. DETACHMENT
.
Sociability (Enthusiastic, Assertive)
.
Description: Degree to which people are sociable, outgoing, enthusiastic and assertive.
Descriptors: Enthusiastic, assertive, active, energetic, outgoing, outspoken, dominant, forceful, show-off, sociable, spunky, adventurous, noisy, bossy
Ask yourself: "Today, how will I be enthusiastic and assertive? (How will I show drive and initiative?)"
MRI Research*: Sociability (extraversion) was associated with increased volume of medial orbitofrontal cortex, a region involved in processing reward information.
"I'm talkative"
"I'm not reserved."
"I'm full of energy."
"I generate a lot of enthusiasm."
"I'm not quiet."
"I have an assertive personality."
"I'm not shy or inhibited."
"I am outgoing and sociable."
"I make friends easily."
"I warm up quickly to others."
"I show my feelings when I'm happy."
"I have a lot of fun."
"I laugh a lot."
"I take charge."
"I have a strong personality."
"I know how to captivate people."
"I see myself as a good leader."
"I can talk others into doing things."
"I am the first to act."
.
Attention Seeking (Excessive Sociability)
.
"I like to draw attention to myself."
"I crave attention."
"I do things to make sure people notice me."
"I do things so that people just have to admire me."
"My behavior is often bold and grabs peoples' attention."
.
Detachment (Reserved, Quiet)
.

* Social Withdrawal:
"I don’t like to get too close to people."
"I don't deal with people unless I have to."
"I'm not interested in making friends."
"I don’t like spending time with others."
"I say as little as possible when dealing with people."
"I keep to myself."
"I am hard to get to know."
"I reveal little about myself."
"I do not have an assertive personality."
"I lack the talent for influencing people."
"I wait for others to lead the way."
"I hold back my opinions."
.
* Intimacy Avoidance:
"I steer clear of romantic relationships."
"I prefer to keep romance out of my life."
"I prefer being alone to having a close romantic partner."
"I'm just not very interested in having sexual relationships."
"II break off relationships if they start to get close."
.
* Anhedonia (Lack of Pleasure):
"I almost never enjoy life."
"Nothing seems to make me feel good."
"Nothing seems to interest me very much."
"I almost never feel happy about my day-to-day activities."
"I rarely get enthusiastic about anything."
"I don't get as much pleasure out of things as others seem to."
.
* Restricted Affectivity:
"I don't show emotions strongly."
"I don't get emotional."
"I never show emotions to others."
"I don't have very long-lasting emotional reactions to things."
"People tell me it's difficult to know what I'm feeling."
"I am not a very enthusiastic person."
.
("Sociability vs. Detachment" modified from "PID-5" by Kreuger RF, Derringer J, Markon KE, Watson D, Skodol AE and Between facets and domains: 10 aspects of the Big Five)
*MRI Research: Testing predictions from personality neuroscience. Brain structure and the big five.




EMOTIONAL STABILITY VS. NEGATIVE EMOTION
.
Emotional Stability (Calm, Emotionally Stable)
.
Description: Degree to which people are calm, emotionally stable, and free from persistent negative emotions.
Descriptors: Stable, calm, relaxed, contented
Ask yourself: "Today, how will I remain calm, peaceful and positive? (How will I show courage?)"
"I am relaxed, and I handle stress well."
"I am emotionally stable, and not easily upset."
"I remain calm in tense situations."
"I rarely get irritated."
"I keep my emotions under control."
"I rarely lose my composure."
"I am not easily annoyed."
"I seldom feel blue."
"I feel comfortable with myself."
"I rarely feel depressed."
"I am not embarrassed easily."
.
Negative Emotion (Distressed, Easily Upset)
.
Description: Degree to which people experience persistent negative emotions (anxiety, anger, or depression) and are easily upset. (This could be thought of as high threat sensitivity or low stress tolerance.)
Descriptors: Emotional instability, anxiety, irritability, depression, rumination-compulsiveness, self-consciousness, vulnerability
MRI Research*: Negative Emotion was associated with increased volume of brain regions associated with threat, punishment, and negative emotions.
.

* Emotional Instability:
"I get emotional easily, often for very little reason."
"I get emotional over every little thing."
"My emotions are unpredictable."
"I never know where my emotions will go from moment to moment."
"I am a highly emotional person."
"I have much stronger emotional reactions than almost everyone else."
"My emotions sometimes change for no good reason."
"I get angry easily."
"I get upset easily."
"I change my mood a lot."
"I am a person whose moods go up and down easily."
"I get easily agitated."
"I can be stirred up easily."
.
* Anxiousness:
"I worry about almost everything."
"I'm always fearful or on edge about bad things that might happen."
"I always expect the worst to happen."
"I am a very anxious person."
"I get very nervous when I think about the future."
"I often worry that something bad will happen due to mistakes I made in the past."
"I am filled with doubts about things."
"I feel threatened easily."
"I am afraid of many things."
.
* Separation Insecurity:
"I fear being alone in life more than anything else."
"I can't stand being left alone, even for a few hours."
"I’d rather be in a bad relationship than be alone."
"I'll do just about anything to keep someone from abandoning me."
"I dread being without someone to love me."
.
* Submissiveness:
"I usually do what others think I should do."
"I do what other people tell me to do."
"I change what I do depending on what others want."
.
* Perseveration:
"I get stuck on one way of doing things, even when it's clear it won't work."
"I get stuck on things a lot."
"It is hard for me to shift from one activity to another."
"I get fixated on certain things and can’t stop."
"I feel compelled to go on with things even when it makes little sense to do so."
"I keep approaching things the same way, even when it isn’t working."
.
* Depression:
"I have no worth as a person."
"Everything seems pointless to me."
"I often feel like a failure."
"The world would be better off if I were dead."
"The future looks really hopeless to me."
"I often feel just miserable."
"I'm very dissatisfied with myself."
"I often feel like nothing I do really matters."
"I know I'll commit suicide sooner or later."
"I talk about suicide a lot."
"I feel guilty much of the time."
"I'm so ashamed by how I've let people down in lots of little ways."
"I am easily discouraged."
"I become overwhelmed by events."
.
("Emotional Stability vs. Negative Emotion" modified from "PID-5" by Kreuger RF, Derringer J, Markon KE, Watson D, Skodol AE and Between facets and domains: 10 aspects of the Big Five)
*MRI Research: Testing predictions from personality neuroscience. Brain structure and the big five.


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Improving Positive Behavior

Philosophers for the past 2,500 years have taught that it is very beneficial to start the day with goal-setting, and end the day with a brief review.

This habit of planning the day in the morning, then assessing these plans in the evening has been shown to increase health and happiness. There is an additional benefit from doing a weekly review of your life satisfaction.

Note: When each of the following videos finishes; you must exit YouTube (by manually closing the window) in order to return to this webpage.



International Space Station (For Meditation)



Planning Your Day: Morning Meditation (Video)



Reviewing Your Day: Evening Meditation (Video)



Life Satisfaction Scale (Video)



Healthy Social Behaviors Scale (Video)



Mental Health Scale (Video)



The Philosophy Of Stoicism (5 minute video)

Stoicism 101 (52 minute video)



The Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius ruled from 161 to 180 A.D.

An Example Of Mindfulness Meditation (10 minute video)

In the 5th century BCE, Buddha spent 6 years of his life mastering mindfulness meditation. He then decided to look beyond meditation. Buddha concluded that simply emptying the mind of thought is calming, but otherwise it accomplishes little - since "You return to the same world". Instead, Buddha taught that we should change our world by seeking enlightenment through practicing compassion, and living a calm, peaceful, happy life.

Click Here For More Self-Help



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  • Criteria For High Quality Research Studies

  • It is imperative that medical researchers conduct high quality research studies, otherwise the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) refuses to licence their new drug or therapy. In 2009, the cost of successfully licensing one new drug or therapy under the FDA scheme was estimated to be US$1,000 million. Thus psychiatric research which leads to FDA approval of a new drug or therapy has to be of the highest quality; however the majority of psychological research studies on new therapies fail to reach these high standards for research. This could explain why two-thirds of psychological research studies can't be replicated. High quality research must meet the following criteria:

    • Randomized Controlled Trial:
      Ask: Was the trial randomized? Was the randomization procedure described and was it appropriate? The best research design is to have research subjects randomly assigned to an experimental or control group. It is essential that confounding factors be controlled for by having a control group or comparator condition (no intervention, placebo, care as usual etc.).

    • Representative Sample:
      Ask: Do the research subjects represent a normal cross-section of the population being studied? Many psychological research studies using university students are flawed because their subjects are not representative of the normal population since they are all W.E.I.R.D. (White, Educated, Intelligent, Rich, and living in a Democracy).

    • Single Blind Trial:
      Ask: Was the treatment allocation concealed? It is essential that the research subjects are kept "blind" as to whether they are in the experimental or control group (in order to control for any placebo effects).

    • Double Blind Trial (Better Than Single Blind Trial):
      Ask: Were blind outcome assessments conducted? In a double blind study, neither the research subjects nor the outcome assessors know if the research subject is in the experimental or control group. This controls for both the placebo effect and assessor bias.

    • Baseline Comparability:
      Ask: Were groups similar at baseline on prognostic indicators? The experimental and control groups must be shown to be comparable at the beginning of the study.

    • Confounding Factors:
      Ask: Were there factors, that weren't controlled for, that could have seriously distorted the study's results? For example, research studies on the effectiveness of mindfulness cognitive therapy in preventing depressive relapse forgot to control for whether the research subjects were also simultaneously receiving antidepressant medication or other psychological treatments for depression.

    • Intervention Integrity:
      Ask: Was the research study protocal strictly followed? The research subjects must be shown to be compliant (e.g., taking their pills, attending therapy) and the therapists must be shown to be reliably delivering the intervention (e.g., staying on the research protocol).

    • Statistical analysis:
      Ask: Was a statistical power calculation described? The study should discuss its statistical power analysis; that is whether the study size is large enough to statistically detect a difference between the experimental and control group (should it occur) and usually this requires at least 50 research subjects in the study.

      Ask: Are the results both statistically significant and clinically significant? The results should be both statistically significant (with a p-value <0.05) and clinically significant using some measure of Effect Size such as Standardized Mean Difference (e.g., Cohen's d >= 0.33). The summary statistics should report what percentage of the total variance of the dependent variable (e.g., outcome) can be explained by the independent variable (e.g., intervention). In clinical studies, the study should report the number needed to treat for an additional beneficial outcome (NNTB), and the number needed to treat for an additional harmful outcome (NNTH).

        Number Needed To Benefit (NNTB): This is defined as the number of patients that need to be treated for one of them to benefit compared with a control in a clinical trial. (It is defined as the inverse of the absolute risk reduction.) Note: Statistically, the NNTB depends on which control group is used for comparison - e.g., active treatment vs. placebo treatment, or active treatment vs. no treatment.

        Number Needed To Harm (NNTH): This is defined as the number of patients that need to be treated for one of them to be harmed compared with a control in a clinical trial. (It is defined as the inverse of the absolute increase in risk of harm.)

        Tomlinson found “an NNTB of 5 or less was probably associated with a meaningful health benefit,” while “an NNTB of 15 or more was quite certain to be associated with at most a small net health benefit.”

      Ask: Does the researcher accept full responsibility for the study's statistical analysis? The researcher should not just hand over the study's raw data to a corporation (that may have $1,000 million invested in the study) to do the statistical analysis.

    • Completeness of follow-up data:
      Ask: Was the number of withdrawals or dropouts in each group mentioned, and were reasons given for these withdrawals or dropouts? Less than 20% of the research subjects should drop out of the study. The intervention effect should persist over an adequate length of time.

    • Handling of missing data:
      Ask: Was the statistical analysis conducted on the intention-to-treat sample? There must be use of intention-to-treat analysis (as opposed to a completers-only analysis). In this way, all of the research subjects that started the study are included in the final statistical analysis. A completers-only analysis would disregard those research subjects that dropped out.

    • Replication of Findings:
      Ask: Can other researchers replicate this study's results? The research study's methodology should be clearly described so that the study can be easily replicated. The researcher's raw data should be available to other researchers to review (in order to detect errors or fraud).

    • Fraud:
      Ask: Is there a suspicion of fraud? In a research study, examine the independent and dependent variables that are always measured as a positive whole number (e.g., a variable measured on a 5-point Likert-type scale ranging from "1 = definitely false to 5 = definitely true" etc.). For each of these variables, look at their sample size (n), mean (M) and standard deviation (SD) before they undergo statistical analysis. There is a high suspicion of fraud in a study's statistics:

      • If the M is mathematically impossible (online calculator): This is one of the easiest ways to mathematically detect fraud. The mean (M) is defined as "the sum (Sum) of the values of each observation divided by the total number (n) of observations". So: M = Sum/n. Thus: (Sum) = (M) multiplied by (n). We know that, if a variable is always measured as a positive whole number, the sum of these observations always has to be a whole number. For these variables to test for fraud: calculate (M) multiplied by (n). This calculates the Sum which MUST be a positive whole number. If the calculated Sum isn't a positive whole number; the reported mean (M) is mathematically impossible - thus the researcher either cooked the data or made a mistake. A recent study of 260 research papers published in highly reputable psychological journals found that 1 in 2 of these research papers reported at least one impossible value, and 1 in 5 of these research papers reported multiple impossible values. When the authors of the 21 worst offending research papers were asked for their raw data (so that its reliability could be checked) - 57% angrily refused. Yet such release of raw data to other researchers is required by most scientific journals. (Here is an example of a research paper filled with mathematically impossible means.)

      • If the SD is mathematically impossible (online calculator): When researchers fraudulently "cook" their data, they may accidently give their data a mean and standard deviation that is mathematically impossible for a (normally distributed) strictly positive variable (because the "cooked" M and SD would mathematically require the strictly positive variable's range of data to include negative numbers). For a normally distributed sample of size of 25-70, this occurs when the SD is greater than one-half of the M; for a sample size of 70+, this occurs when the SD is greater than one-third of the M [using these formulas].

      • If the SD/M is very small (i.e., the variable's standard deviation is very small compared to the mean suggesting data smoothing).

      • If the SD's are almost identical (i.e., the variables have different means but almost identical standard deviations).

      • If the 4th digit of the values of the variables aren't uniformly distributed - since each should occur 10% of the time (Benford's Law).

      • If the researcher is legally prevented from publishing negative findings about a drug or therapy because that would violate the "nondisclosure of trade secrets" clause in the research contract (i.e., it is a "trade secret" that the drug or therapy is ineffective - hence this can not be "disclosed"). Approximately half of all registered clinical trials fail to publish their results.

      • If the researcher refuses to release his raw data to fellow researchers (so that they can check its validity). In order to be published in most scientific journals, a researcher must promise to share his raw data with fellow researchers. Thus a researcher's refusal to do so is almost a sure indicator of fraud.

      • If the research study's data contradicts the study's own conclusions - surprisingly, this often occurs.

  • Calling Bullshit In The Age of Big Data - "Bullshit is language, statistical figures, data graphics, and other forms of presentation intended to persuade by impressing and overwhelming a reader or listener, with a blatant disregard for truth and logical coherence." Reading the syllabus of this university course should be required reading for every student of mental health. This syllabus is absolutely fantastic!

  • Statistical Methods in Psychology Journals: Guidelines and Explanations - American Psychologist 1999

  • Not All Scientific Studies Are Created Equal - video

  • The efficacy of psychological, educational, and behavioral treatment

  • Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science

  • Psychologists grapple with validity of research

  • Industry sponsorship and research outcome (Review) - Cochrane Library

  • 'We've been deceived': Many clinical trial results are never published - (text and video)

  • Junk science misleading doctors and researchers

  • Junk science under spotlight after controversial firm buys Canadian journals

  • Medicine with a side of mysticism: Top hospitals promote unproven therapies - Are some doctors becoming modern witchdoctors?

  • When Evidence Says No, But Doctors Say Yes


  • Cochrane Reviews (the best evidence-based, standardized reviews available)

Research Topics

Separation Anxiety Disorder - Latest Research (2016-2017)


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