Panic Attacks

Psychology

Guess who’s back, back again… I haven’t written in here for more than a month* now, but I have been writing. I’ve been working on some exciting projects, I’ve made new friends, reconnected with old ones, read many books (or as many as having a corneal ulcer for a while allowed… more on that later), had conversations so satisfying they felt like accomplishments and overall learned a lot. Today I want to talk about panic.

*plot twist- even this post is an old post

If you’re a real Panic at the Disco fan, name 5 discos they panicked in. Thought so…

Jokes aside, panic attacks can also happen at clubs. They can happen anywhere and be triggered by anything. However, most times, other people won’t be able to tell you’re having a panic attack unless they know you very very very very well.

What even are panic attacks though? Glad you asked. Yes, majoring in Psychology automatically means I’m granted the right to read minds.

Image result for deal with it gif

Referring to my handy dandy (I can’t believe I actually just said that) Oxford psychology dictionary, a panic attack is a period during which there’s a sudden onset of intense terror, fear, apprehension accompanied by signs and symptoms such as shortness of breath, fear of dying, increased heart rate, etc.

I find them extremely interesting to research, the reason being anxiety’s nature, anxiety isn’t inherently bad, it’s our bodies’ normal response to danger, however, panic attacks and anxiety disorders run on our disability to distinguish real danger apart from well, perceived danger. So, our bodies are having the same reaction they’d have if a bunch of wolves was chasing us down.

What’s up with that, body, huh? I thought we were friends?!

“But we are, I loooooooove you”, body replied.

Our bodies and minds really do love us and fight their hardest to keep us standing, case in point being eating disorders. Somehow, we manage to live through them and thrive, despite how much we might’ve fucked our bodies up at certain times of our lives. Similarly, depression, or any other mental health issue. Our insides are rooting for us!

Actually, a normal resting heart rate for adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats a minute our bodies could go on functioning normally for days, even weeks, at 200 bpm. You’re not going to have a heart attack, and you’re not going to die, even though that’s exactly what it feels like.

Remember, a panic attack in itself is harmless and a little bit of anxiety is completely normal and even healthy. It prepares us for important events and milestones, you can see how if we failed to differentiate between what’s important and what’s not, we’d be in trouble.

So the goal is to learn to live with them (and what we can do about it) rather than try to avoid panic reactions or anxiety.

Managing your panic attacks 

First of all (lol), there’s nothing you can do to avoid a panic attack because usually, it will feel like they came out of nowhere. It’s true that they usually coexist with a mental disorder, but they’re not caused by anxiety.

BEFORE

A technique that has proved very very very *contemplates whether I should add another very* effective is progressive relaxation, tensing and relaxing your muscles during the day for up to 30 minutes can significantly decrease the frequency of panic attacks.

DURING

When you are having a panic attack, it’s helpful to remember you’re not going to faint, or “go crazy”, or die. It’ll be over soon and whereas trying to breathe mindfully and relax help, remember, panic attacks aren’t dangerous. It doesn’t feel that way, but you’re not going to lose control, you can still leave your class, stop the car, get out of the supermarket,

YOU ARE IN CONTROL.

AFTER

Things that help are noting:
* When it happened * How the situation was and where you were and who you were with * Evaluating the fear from 0 to 100% *  What was happening in your mind and what were you thinking would happen. Exposure to triggers is helpful to build healthy reactions to them, for example, if going to a certain place causes you to panic, you can try going there for shorter periods of time and evaluating your fear each time, not overwhelming yourself and looking for quick progress is key.

Decatastrophizing also: yes, you thought the worse would happen, but did it happen?! What are the actual chances of it happening? Would it be very horrible if it did happen, for example, you stumbled upon your words when interacting with someone else, i.e. ordering a drink? As the name suggests, evaluating if it is a catastrophe. I have so much more helpful information to share on this, but patience, dear child, patience.

Other people having a panic attack

Someone who suffers from panic disorder, said: “I wished people would just hug me and tell me it’s going to okay, not it’s okay or are you okay”. Obviously, some people don’t like to be touched and respecting physical boundaries is very important, but the other part I think we could all agree on. For a lot of people, myself included, being asked whether we’re okay causes even more anxiety.

Like I mentioned, unless they know you very well, other people won’t be able to tell you’re having a panic attack (which I find particularly relieving). Reassurance and support are your weapons, just make sure you know what your loved ones would prefer you do if you notice or they tell you they’re having a panic attack. After all, you’re not lying to make them feel better in the moment.

IT WILL BE OKAY.

The Halo Effect

Psychology

When we’re kids, we learn that what’s beautiful is good and what’s ugly is bad. Cinderella, Prince Charming, Beauty and the Beast teach us that physical appearance and being kind/compassionate/smart go hand in hand. Every day we make judgments on other people based on looks, and vice versa. First impressions affect how we view the other person, especially knowing how humans are creatures of habit- we don’t enjoy being wrong. If my first impression of you is that you’re cool, I’ll subconsciously look for positive cues to prove my theory and dismiss the ones that tell me you’re a jerk. But I digress…

The halo effect is the tendency to make general assumptions about people based on appearance traits. Said in a slightly freaky way, I assume you’re friendly because of your face.

On average, we live for 78.3 years, most of us remember people after the age of 5 and communicate with 3 new people every day. So all those years (leap years included. Pet peeve of mine, when people completely dismiss the existence of leap years. They never did anything wrong for you to treat them like that!!!) and all those people, would equal 80000 people, enough to entirely fill the London Olympics stadium. Could I’ve found a more contemporary comparison, yes, would it make that much of a difference, no.

Also, did you know that the human brain is incapable of creating new faces, so that stunning girl in your dream last night? You didn’t make her up, you saw her somewhere, hopefully, at your favorite bar, realistically, on Instagram.

Shout out to Thorndike btw, who published A Constant Error in Psychological Ratings and was the one who discovered that a negative perception of ONE trait usually took ALL the others down with it.

So I showed people 4 photos, of two men and two women, where a couple was considered attractive and the other one wasn’t, at all.

I KNOW BEAUTY IS A SOCIAL CONSTRUCT, BUT RESEARCH HAS TO BE DONE, OKAY? *insert iconic tweet*

I won’t include the photos cuz that’s how I roll. 50 people had to rate them from 1 to 5 for their intelligence, kindness, honesty, and success.

And I mean, it makes sense ~cognitively~, it’s cost-effective time wise. You have the luxury to “know” the other person based on a simple overview and comparison to other people you know that look like them.

Well, the results are in. Apparently, the handsome guy was deemed the most trustworthy, then the other guy, then the chicas *cough fuck that shit cough*. The most intelligent were the not-so-handsome guy, the pretty girl, not-so-handsome guy and the not-so-pretty girl.

The most sincere? The pretty girl, then the not-so-handsome guy, handsome guy, and not-so-pretty girl. The pretty girl was also thought of as the most successful, again the not-so-pretty girl at the other side of the spectrum portrayed as the least successful. Same with self-confidence, where the pretty girl was the most self-confident one and not-so-pretty girl as the least confident.

Pretty when you cry. JK I never found out what that means, but I mean, these flowers are dying and they’re just standing here, oblivious, shining, LIVING.

As you might’ve already guessed, it’s worse for women. I mean, imagine, the pretty girl and the not-so-handsome guy have the same mode. However, the pretty girl took home 2 out of 5 positive qualities, and no one rated her as unintelligent so that’s cool.

By the way, I researched this with three other people and there’s even a cute/awkward video to prove it. Those were the days…when I actually emailed the study to the professor with a smiley face as the subject line and said, and I quote, GIRLS FTW, in the conclusions and I still got a perfect score #unreal

But yeah, the not-so-attractive group was thought of as less successful, less kind, less trustworthy, less this, less that.

What can you do? Realize the payoff that comes with being attractive. Stop judging people on looks. If you’re on the not-so group, remember, those that mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind mic drop

Thank you for reading.

 

References

Asch, S. E. (1946) Forming impressions of personality, Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 41, 258-290

Atkinson, C. The link between physical attractiveness and likeability.

Bargh, J. A., and Pietromonaco, P. (1982). Automatic information processing and social perception: the influence of trait information presented outside of conscious awareness on impression formation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 43, 437–449

Goldman, William, and Philip Lewis. Beautiful is good: Evidence that the physically attractive are more socially skillful." Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 13.2 (1977): 125-130.

Grcic, J. (2008). The halo effect fallacy. Electronic Journal for Philosophy, 2008, 1-6. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 35(4), Apr 1977, 250-256.

Regan, D. T. (1971). Effects of a favor and liking on compliance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 7,627-639.

Rosenzweig, P. (2007). The halo effect, and other managerial delusions. McKinsey Quarterly, 1, 76.

Rosenzweig, P. (2014). The halo effect:… and the eight other business delusions that deceive managers. Simon and Schuster. The halo effect: Evidence for unconscious alteration of judgments.

Thorndike, E. L. (1920). A constant error in psychological ratings. Journal of applied psychology, 4(1), 25-29.

Thorndike, E. L. (1920). A constant error in psychological ratings. Journal of Applied Psychology, 4, 469-477.

Timothy Coombs, W., & Holladay, S. J. (2006). Unpacking the halo effect: reputation and crisis management. Journal of Communication Management, 10(2), 123-137.

Toi, M. and Batson, C. D. (1972). More evidence that empathy is a source of altruistic motivation, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 43, 281-292.

Udry, J. Richard, and Bruce K. Eckland. Benefits of being attractive: Differential payoffs for men and women. Psychological Reports 54.1 (1984): 47-56.

ONE thing YOU can do to help people with psychological issues

Psychology

tw: ableist slurs

Remember the cool feature I talked about? You can now highlight and share your favorite excerpts (if you have any, of course, lol) yayy 🙂

Look, I’m not perfect- and according to Jay Z, nobody walking this earth’s surface is. A lot of people are more educated than me in a lot of subjects. Hell, there are thousands of people that are more educated than me in my areas, ones I’m quite familiar with, invested on, that I know a lot of, that I pour my heart and soul into, etc. There’s so much to learn and I’m eager to continue learning and developing all my life.

Today I’m talking (writing) about the stigma around mental health. Here’s to hoping my message comes across the way I intended it and at least one person reflects on their behavior and helps make the world a better, safer, nicer magical place. Or something like that.

Warning: no digressions/rants/going on a tangent ahead. I’ll keep it simple and sweet.

We need to FUCKING stop. Stop glamorizing and romanticizing mental health disorders. Not getting out of bed for days. Not eating. Anxiety. Suicidal thoughts.

It’s not ~cool~, edgy, and if you really are hearing voices, you need help.

Like, seriously, though. At least she’s now wearing the cute but psycho one.

 

Stop *jokingly* saying you are-or telling others they- are schizophrenic/bipolar/anorexic/PSYCHO/ in need of getting into a psychiatric ward.

There’s a literal expression for that in Albania, and that sucks, especially considering inpatient isn’t terrible or an experience that scars you for life, as the public thinks *cough cough* or mainstream media makes it to be. If anything, people with suicidal tendencies or ED-s SAVE their lives when they get hospitalized.

Straight up, I don’t understand the trend with captioning your photos with self-deprecating humor, or all kinds of fucked up shit, when you’re actually fine**. If you really have more issues than VOGUE (last time I checked, 2883) don’t you think you should talk to somebody?

I know people mean no harm (and also don’t believe words hold ANY kind of power, something I strongly disagree with but will talk about some other time*). Such phrases and patterns of thinking, especially when expressed so loudly, as in everyday conversations and/or social media refrain people with actual issues from seeking the help they need.

If you’re reading and wondering when is the right time to reach out (friends, family, online resources are helpful), thinking you need help usually means you do. You don’t have to be delusional, have a certain number of thoughts throughout the day or a certain weight (in your ED journey) or anything.

To the people reading with mental health issues: I love you, stay strong, get help. There’s nothing FUCKING wrong with you. Medication, therapy, reality testing, journaling, learning to live –and thrive- with your intrusive thoughts***- there’s so much that can be done! So much for you to experience. We’re all rooting for you.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy your weekend.

*I keep my promises OKAYYY!

**I know some people use humor as a coping mechanism. Whatever works for you, boo.

**Did you know: everyone has them? Yeahh, everyone. Nothing to be ashamed of.

 

Helping others, being good and other things you wonder about when stuck in traffic

Psychology

Prosocial behavior stands for everything we do for others without expecting anything in return, like helping our neighbors with groceries or helping someone cross the street. As with almost everything, though, people have different opinions on why this happens.

All children are born with empathetic "powers" that allow them to bond emotionally with others¹. Also, Wilson et al have documented prosocial behavior in animals too², so that's cool. So it'd make sense to think we do such actions because of empathy, our core values and a sense of responsibility towards other people we share the planet with (hi guys).

Sociobiologists say this is a genetic response we use to support our genes. However, sometimes, engaging in prosocial behavior can be financially costly, time-consuming, emotionally draining, you get the point...  

According to social exchange theory, people help only when rewards (recognition, fame, etc.) surpass costs, so there's no such thing as true altruism. Boo.

I hope by now you're hooked to know whether we actually help only when helping doesn't imply something we want being at stake. I know I was at the time, so I asked 80 people, ages 20 to 40 what would they do in the following scenario(s):

Today is a very important day for you, you have an interview for the job you really want. You just hopped on your car, when a friend comes and asks for your immediate help to take them to the ER. If you take them, you can/can't get to the interview on time. You ask them if they can return the favor in the future, they say they can/can't. Referring to the scale, to what extent would you help your friend?

So 4 scenarios, the verbs in bold are the interchanging ones. No, you can't call to reschedule. Yes, you lose the job if you don't show up. No, you can't call them a cab, will you stop it with the hypothetical questions already? Participants had to pick a number from 1 to 7, 1 being I wouldn't help them at all and 7 being I would so help them. They were encouraged to include a reason for their choice.

For the record, I know we don't go around interrogating people, who just asked us to drive them to the hospital, whether they can return the favor. But, everything for science and an objectively better study, am I right?!

If we can get to the interview, help our friend and get the hypothetical reward (high reward, low cost), everyone said they would give maximum help.

Second case scenario, low cost, no reward, 20 people (both genders* equally represented btw) said they'd greatly help, a medium of 6.4 out of 7 was found. Some said they'd help regardless of reward, others said they wouldn't help because of the lack of it.

Some said they'd help because friendship is more important than a job, others because a loyal friend can get you a good job. Not very selfless now, are we...

What when our friend promises to return the favor, but we can't make it to the interview? 5.6 out of 7. Someone said they'd only help if the person was terribly sick, if not, they wouldn't risk their (granted they get it) future job. Others said they believe everything happens for a reason, so if they miss the interview, something better is in store for them.

Someone said something I strongly agree with- if their friend was in a poor health state and they could help and the company wouldn't give a shit about that, that's a company they wouldn't want to work at. Same.

Someone said they'd take their friend to the ER and miss the interview no doubt, but they'd call to let them know why they had to miss it, so they'd make a good impression. Hey, whatever floats your boat.

We don't make it to the interview, lose our dream job and our friend says they can't really return the favor, sorry, bro

6.5 out of 7! We'd rather help another human being than get that reward or job. Now, that's good news. People are good, after all. Isn't that realization exciting? Go out there and make someone's day, not for any other reason other than, YOU CAN.

Thanks for reading.

Extra:

Something strange: 2 people could give the exact same explanation and choose different numbers on the scale. People enjoy thinking of themselves as good people, so they answer as such even though their reasoning might be different. Not saying people who wouldn't help are bad. No way. Just cuz you know what I'm talking about when I refer to things as good/bad. I dislike labeling actions as good or bad. You do you, boo.

*No one openly (even though anonymously) identifies as gender fluid/agender/genderqueer where the study was conducted. I probably should've included it as an option anyway. In other news, did you know asking students to confirm their gender before a test leads to lower scores for girls?

¹ Sagi & Hoffman, 1994

² Wilson, D. S., O'Brien, D. T., & Sesma, A. (2009). Human prosociality from an evolutionary perspective: Variation and correlations at a city-wide scale. Evolution and human behavior, 30(3), 190-200.

Why the placebo effect is the coolest thing ever

Psychology

1994. Lanza and some other cool people published an article about this new drug that would help cure ulcer, in this fancy AF medicine journal. People were like, gimme. Besides people given the actual drug, 44 patients got placebo that looked like the real thing. Same diagnosis, tested after 2 and 4 weeks, they were cured like the patients who got Prevacid (shoutout to Prevacid btw). Placebo is inert, meaning it's not supposed to do anything, but placebo is a rebel and breaks the rules.

A long time ago,  if a monk died (RIP), at 4 pm* the other monks would gather round and read psalm 116: "placebo domino in regione vivorum" aka "I shall be pleasing to the Lord in the land of the living". Physicians started using the term placebo for every medication given to calm the patient when the doc didn't know what else to do rather than to cure. Then, placebo got the meaning it has today, actual inert substances instead of no-good drugs. Including a large range of mental/physical symptoms/disorders, with no known external factors affecting them, patients get better. The placebo response rate in depression consistently falls between 30 and 40%¹. Now that's something, right?!

Placebo relies heavily on the mind-body relationship and the main theory claims the placebo effects depends on the patient's expectations. If the patient expects medication to produce change,  bodily chemical reactions work in such a way that they produce a similar effect to the actual drug. There was no significant difference between patients with asthma that used a placebo inhaler and the ones using the real thing (I love saying the real thing) and even when asked about perceptions, they reported the same feeling of liberation as the other group of patients. ²

You've probably heard of IBS. It's a common problem of a part of the body, with no physical abnormality per se. Patients received placebo treatment in the form of acupuncture, however, the needles used didn't pierce through the skin. 44% of them reported symptom relief, 62% if the acupuncturist was caring, engaging and empathetic.³

Even though we have powerful resources to handle the challenges life throws at us, we can't use them deliberately all the time. Weger asked 40 college freshmen to complete a general knowledge test, with 4 alternative answers to every question they had to pick from.
Half the students were told that the right answer appears on the screen for a fleeting moment and even though it was too quick for them to process it consciously, their brain would register it. Hint: that was a lie. If you guessed the placebo students scored higher than the control group, you guessed right. Feeling safe in the knowledge that your brain knows the answer, lowers your anxiety making what you already know more accessible.

To quote Daft Punk,  your brain works Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.

As you might've figured by now, placebo practitioners have to use deception as a tool sometimes, and in 2010 an avid lover and connoisseur of the placebo effect, Kaptchuk, had enough and he was like "let's just tell them they're getting placebo". Just like that. However, he did inform patients about the placebo effect and how lots get better after placebo treatment. If you guessed they got better, you're right (hopefully again). Human brains just want you to get better and seems like they're all in, even if you're not giving it much to work with in the first place.

As The Weeknd wouldn't put it, just trynna put you in the best mood.

Studies have shown that blocking endorphin release, the placebo effect would also stop; suggesting that it's similar to that of an active ingredient (API). Apparently, a lot of the present neurotransmitters follow the same neural pathways as marijuana or opium. Our brains are that mighty powerful!

Skeptics claim that people suffering from chronic illnesses don't go to the doctor right away, so there is a chance they get better naturally (for a short period of time). Many doctors have been among the skeptics, not very sure what to do with this (relatively new) information. Correlation doesn't mean causation, so they can't know for sure yet, but time (well, studies) will tell, hopefully soon enough.

There are two main points we can take away from this. First, that being supportive and providing (psychological and emotional, besides medical) care can't hurt. If there's the slightest chance you telling them they're badasses means they get 0.001% better, I'd say those odds look pretty good to me.

Reminder: kind words cost nothing, BUT they're invaluable.

Lastly, our brains, ladies and gents. You find snippets of the placebo effect in lots of self-help books, with good reason. I find it magical how our brains know no scientific boundaries when it comes to serving us. Today, I feel grateful for my brain and my body and every little organism inside me working non-stop to keep me here. Here's my new all-time favorite quote from Thích Nhất Hạnh:

Because you are alive, everything is possible.

 

 

 

*I don't know why exactly then, #justmonkthings ?

¹ L. Johnston, Sebastian. Asthma: Critical Debates. John Wiley & Sons, 2008.

² Brown, Walter A. "Placebo As A Treatment For Depression", Neuropsychopharmacology 10.4 (1994): 265-269. Web.

³Kaptchuk, T. J et al. "Components Of Placebo Effect: Randomised Controlled Trial In Patients With Irritable Bowel Syndrome". N.p., 2017.

Bombings and choosing life

Psychology

There was a bomb alarm at our school today. I had to google ' bomb alarm' because I wasn't sure that's the right way to put it. There are four first guesses, I notice only one of them is about building, and the three others are actually how-to-s for defusing bombs. That's a happy observation. I was sitting in the back row and it took a while to get to the door and during the entire way there (some seconds but time is oh so relative) I kept imagining the bomb exploding. I couldn't stop visualizing. I noticed my body obeying my orders to get ready, I felt it becoming stiff, compact, set as if preparing your body for a bomb explosion makes any sense at all. I thought of the noise it would make as it exploded, I imagined us -the students- dying, somehow being alive as well, but not quite: it was just that we hadn't really "had the real bomb yet", but the explosion was gonna "come upon us" any moment now. I kept rushing to the door. At school, we'd talked quite a few times about cultural background and how important it is when examining a patient's situation or dream... What that means right now is this; (legend says) our minister of defense received a message from isis- right after Paris' bombings -that said: you're next. Some other time I'd probably have thought it was a desperate student very desperate (or just very brave, depends on how you look at it) to not do a presentation exam or what have you, but *as Depeche Mode would put it* not tonight. There's this movie; someone -the Giver- guarded the memory of everyone since the beginning of time in an emotion-less ruleful worldwide community, in which memories were not open to the public except to the receiver, Jonas. The memories are transmitted by hand and the first memories are sled rides, snow, music, dancing, love; the latter, of terror and wars and hunger. Going against the rules which made the citizens experience neither pain nor happiness, he decides the bad part is worth it to enjoy life with the music and the dancing and the~love~ and gives this richness to the entire world, despite the (many) difficulties encountered. I'd do the same. I would take bombings and terrors, wars, accidents, life-taking diseases, deaths, for the sun, for love, for feelings of joy for no reason,or for huge reasons, for the sea, for climbing to the top of a mountain, for sunsets, for sunrises, to continue feeling what I feel for my loved ones, for flowers, for my cat, for videos of babies trying lemons for the first time... In a heartbeat.

Blue background

A promise of immediate happiness

Psychology
I came across this article by The Washington Post titled “Do these exercises for two minutes a day and you’ll immediately feel happier, researchers say”. Whereas I always have an internal laugh going on when I read such titles, I acknowledge some of them are actual studies and researches and there’s been lots of hard work to make sure these findings see the light of day.
*insert confetti here*
In the article, happiness researcher Shawn Achor shares 5 non-time-consuming habits everyone can do to increase their happiness levels- Shawn’s worked with Google, large financial companies, MS Society; has done studies in places like Harvard, UPS, KPMG; and has struggled with depression himself, something that makes the research more valid to me, somehow. He mentioned he used these positive habits to pull himself out, which is pretty amazing, isn’t it?!
My favorite is nr. 1, Three Acts of Gratitude. You scan the world around you for 21 days (hopefully more) to find three new things you’re grateful for every day. It doesn’t work if you choose similarly or same three things every day because you’re not scanning for anything new and it works if you don’t because you’re ~actively~ training your brain to look for positives.
I consider myself a pretty optimist person già, but I’m always willing to try new habits with scientifically proven benefits to my everyday life. Exercise worked. Meditation worked. So here goes…
I’m grateful:
that I had to buy something but didn’t have any money on me so I had to go upstairs to get some, downstairs then upstairs again and I thought I’d just do it later, but I did go and I found a dollar on the ground there!
that while the power went off for an hour or two this Sunday morning, my mother and I talked and talked over coffee I’d made, that she tried for the first time and loved
that calling me was the first thing my boyfriend did once he woke up