Depressed Men Often Trade Places with Spouse Per New Study

From ScienceDaily.com…

Depressed Man Depression in Men

‘Trading Places’ Most Common Pattern for Couples Dealing With Male Depression

ScienceDaily (Oct. 21, 2011) — University of British Columbia researchers have identified three major patterns that emerge among couples dealing with male depression. These can be described as “trading places,” “business as usual” and “edgy tensions.”

Published in the Social Science & Medicine journal and led by UBC researcher John Oliffe, the paper details how heterosexual couples’ gender roles undergo radical shifts and strain when the male partner is depressed and the female partner seeks to help. Depression, a disorder often thought of as a women’s health issue, is underreported in men, and little is known about how heterosexual couples respond when the male partner is depressed.

“Overall, our study underscores how women play a key role in helping their male partners manage their depression,” says Oliffe, an associate professor in the School of Nursing whose work investigates masculinities and men’s health with a focus on men’s depression.

“Our findings suggest that gender relations are pivotal in how health decisions are made in families and for that reason, it’s important to understand couple dynamics if we want to have effective interventions.”

Oliffe and his UBC colleagues found that “trading places” is the most common pattern. In these relationships, the partners took on atypical masculine and feminine roles to cope with challenges caused by the men’s depression. For instance, men assumed the role of homemaker while the women became the family breadwinner.

Oliffe says, “Here, women partners also broke with feminine ideals in how they provided partner support by employing tough love strategies for self-protection and a means of prompting the men’s self-management of their depression.”

The second most common pattern is “business as usual,” when couples sought to downplay or mask any problems caused by the men’s depression. Holding firm to idealized heterosexual gender roles, the women continued to support and nurture their partners. Despite their ongoing struggles with depression, the men continued to work hard to maintain their careers in typically masculine arenas, which in the study included engineering, science, law enforcement, forestry and coaching.

The third pattern, “edgy tensions,” describes men and women caught in dysfunctional relationships. Each holding ideas of gender roles that differed from those of their partner, these couples grappled with resentment. The men resisted medical treatment. Instead, they used alcohol and illicit drugs, at least in part, to self-manage their depression. The women expressed ambivalence about conforming to the feminine ideal of being a “selfless nurturer,” especially for men who were volatile and unpredictable. The men in turn espoused a view of themselves as head of the household.

The study conducted qualitative analysis through in-depth interviews with 26 men, diagnosed or self identified as depressed, and their 26 partners, from Prince George, Kelowna and Vancouver. The study participants ranged in age from 20 to 53 years old. The duration of the couples’ relationships ranged from two months to 18 years; seven couples had children living at home.

The men self-identified as Anglo-Canadian, First Nations, European, Asian and Middle Eastern. Seven couples were in mixed ethnicity relationships. The men had varying levels of education ranging from some high school to graduate degrees; 14 of the 26 men were unemployed at the time of interview, and self-identified as being of low socio-economic status as a consequence.

This research received support through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Institute of Gender and Health.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by University of British Columbia.

Journal Reference:

John L. Oliffe, Mary T. Kelly, Joan L. Bottorff, Joy L. Johnson, Sabrina T. Wong. “He’s more typically female because he’s not afraid to cry”: Connecting heterosexual gender relations and men’s depression. Social Science & Medicine, 2011; 73 (5): 775 DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2011.06.034

Positive Emotions Unlock Anger, Boost Innovation and Improve Physical Health

The evidence is mounting…

evidence that positive emotions exist for a reason…

evidence that evolution has selected positive emotions for specific reasons that help our species – reasons that help you in every area of your life.

Positive emotions include feelings such as awe, curiosity, gratitude, compassion, calm, love, joy, interest, passion and happiness.

Evidence is mounting to support the importance of cultivating positive emotions for success in a variety of areas in your life.

Creativity, Innovation via positive emotions

A comfy nesting bed with egg pillows

At the beginning of every session with a new client, I make a point of sharing a short, humorous video clip. One of my personal favorites is the popular Mother’s Day video by Barats and Bereta (www.BaratsAndBereta.com)…

The reason for sharing a humorous video with new clients is three-fold.

First, the funny video unlocks any negative emotions the client may be holding onto such as anger, irritability, anxiety or sadness (Fredrickson, The Broaden-and-Build Theory of Positive Emotions, 2004, The Royal Society).

Second, those few, fleeting moments of laughter, mirth and smiling  reduce depressive symptoms and improve your well-being and  satisfaction with life (Sin & Lyubomirsky, Enhancing Well-Being and Alleviating Depressive Symptoms With Positive Psychology Interventions: Practice-Friendly Meta-Analysis, JOURNAL OF CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGY: IN SESSION, 2009).

Positive psychology of innovation

Combination stairs and slide for young ones

Third, science has known for over a decade that chronic anger, anxiety and depression put you at an elevated risk for cardiovascular disease (Suls & Bunde, Anger, Anxiety, and Depression as Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease, Psychological Bulletin, 2005). Most people go through life with the sympathetic branch of the ANS stuck in the ‘on’ position. The sympathetic branch is similar to the gas pedal in a car. Negative emotions (along with stress, exhaustion, and lack of exercise) activate the sympathetic nervous system which leads to increased heart rate, pulse and higher levels of cortisol into the blood stream. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response.

On the flip side, positive emotions activate the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) which acts like the brakes on a car.  The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is in charge of calming the body, reducing heart rate and pulse, and bringing the body back to a resting state. The extent to which you can activate your PNS predicts your emotional and physical health. It is intimately related to how well you can self-regulate your own emotions.

Lower levels of PNS activity are related to higher levels of depression (Chambers and Allen, 2002), anxiety (Friedman and Thayer, 1993), aggression (Beauchaine and others, 2007), and hostility (Virtanen and others, 2003).

On the other side, higher levels of PNS activity are associated with better psychological flexibility, health and resiliency. Individuals with higher levels of PNS activity are related to more resiliency to stress (Britton and others, 2008) as well as greater mental health in children in the face of chronic conflict between parents at home.

Gum shoe - outside the box thinking

How do you come up with such an idea? Start with passion and curiosity

Importantly, the frequency with which you experience positive emotions is related to a more active PNS. Individuals who were shown humorous video clips demonstrated faster heart rate recover after experiencing intense negative emotions (Fredrickson & Levenson, 1998). In addition, simply asking people to think about a time when they felt grateful activated the PNS.

Other ways to ‘turn on’ the PNS include exercise, laughter, mindfulness, massage, yoga, walking your dog and taking fish oil.

Positive psychology John Schinnerer PhD

You’ve gotta’ be inspired to come up with a bedroom like this! 

The success I’ve experienced with clients in my private practice is directly related to how well I can make them laugh. With laughter comes opportunity…

opportunity to unlock stale old anger,

opportunity to teach critical new skills,

opportunity to think outside the box, and

opportunity to transform your life for the better.

How do you proceed from here?

Begin to become more aware of the percentage of time you spend in a positive emotional state as compared to a negative state. This simple realization, this basic level of awareness will begin to produce massive tectonic shifts in your life. And you will reap the benefits…on a number of levels…physical, relational, and emotional.

To life, love and laughter,

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Founder, Guide to Self, Inc.

Award-winning author of Guide to Self: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing Emotion and Thought (for a free PDF version, visit http://www.GuidetoSelf.com and enter your name and email address)

Award-winning author of The Shrunken Mind – the blog on positive psychology

Free online anger management classes which incorporate humor and positive psychology at WebAngerManagement.com

Are You Rational When It Comes to Money?

I just read a great blog post by Ben Hayden on Psychology Today. I tried leaving a comment but was enable to due to website difficulties. Instead I’ve reprinted the post here with my comment below. Click on the article title below to go to the original blog post on Psychology Today…

The Decision Tree

Decision-making from all perspectives.

by Ben Hayden, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the University of Rochester.

Are you rational?

What do economists mean by rational and irrational?

Published on June 26, 2011 by Ben Y. Hayden, Ph.D. in The Decision Tree

My last post raised a lot of questions about rationality. Rather than reply to them individually, I decided to devote this column to the topic.

I talk to the public a lot about economic discoveries that violate assumptions of rationality. And one thing that always surprises me is just how pleased people are to hear about these violations of rationality. Gleeful even. Relieved to not be the only dummy out there.

It’s surprising that people are so excited because, when it comes to economics, violations of rationality are pretty darn recondite.

An economically rational individual is someone whose preferences obey certain formal rules that insulate them from economists’ bugbear: intransitive preferences. Intransitive preferences means I prefer an apple to an orange, an orange to a pear, and a pear to an apple. This pattern of preferences is distressing to economists because some opportunistic evildoer could come along and offer to trade me an apple for my orange plus a small fee, and then offer me a pear for that same apple plus an additional fee, and then offer me an orange for the pear plus another small fee. Then that evildoer winds up with a free lunch from me. And there’s nothing economists hate more than a free lunch. (Economists would say that this evildoer has turned me into a ‘money pump’).

Bottom of Form

But the real reason this bothers economists goes much deeper than their annoying perennial reminders about free lunches. In the early 20th century, economics struggled to establish itself as a formal and rigorous science. Economists craved respect. (Anyone who has heard economics called the dismal science knows it’s been an uphill battle). Many brilliant economists built the field a solid foundation that was axiomatic – based on a few simple and obvious rules – the same way Euclid did with geometry and Peano did with arithmetic. And to make these axioms, economists had to come up with an economist’s equivalent of mathematically true and false. And they chose the terms rational and irrational.

Aristotle and Plato

Aristotle and Plato Discussing Reason and Emotion

These words were not intended to describe what people do. Humans are not robots; most (but not all) economists know that. Even if we were, our brains are finite. We have to take mental shortcuts. We are approximately rational and even that only sometimes. We economic psychologists love the phase ‘bounded rationality’.

Economics 101 is one of the most popular undergraduate courses in the United States, and it often gives rationality a central place. But we all have money anxieties, so we are predisposed to hear personal judgment coming from our economics professors. Every year, a new crop of students thinks their teachers are criticizing them about how they manage their personal finances.

But that’s not it at all.

Violations of rationality are nothing to be ashamed of. They are like optical illusions in vision: they are universal and they provide clues to how the visual system works. We study irrationality because it gives us essential clues to help us learn how the brain makes economic decisions. And we do that because it leads us to solutions for the real irrationalities: depression, addiction, schizophrenia, and so on.

Invite your local economists to the bar, buy them a round of beer and ask them about it. They’ll admit (in my experience, cheerfully) that when they go to the store, they make the exact same mistakes as the rest of us do. Because we are all human. We are all irrational.

          Ben

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Dear Ben:

Thanks for the insightful blog post! I have this difficulty with clients frequently – they want to believe the illusion that they are primarily, if not solely, rational individuals. This would be great if it were so, but as you point out, it’s not the case. And I find individuals vary on a spectrum as to how much of the time they spend being rational vs. emotional. My challenge, for years, has been to decipher how to become aware of and train the emotional mind.

 

Different emotions can increase or decrease our rationality, reasoning and focus. Anger, for example, makes us more focused and rational – to a point. Think of anger on a 1 through 10 scale with 1 being calm and 10 be enraged.  Anger can  be useful below a 5. Once you go above a 5, the emotional mind is in charge, rationality goes out the window and we become atavistic and primal.

 

Thank you for pointing out our ubiquitous illusion of rationality.

Best regards,

John L. Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Founder Guide to Self

Award-winning author, blogger and anger management coach

For a free copy of John’s award-winning book on reason and emotion, visit GuideToSelf.com, click on the yellow book icon and enter your name and email.

Call of Duty & Mortal Kombat 9 Linked to Greater Aggression & Anger Management Problems

  

Mike’s fist explodes in the teenager’s face like a car bomb detonating in the middle of Times Square. He has heavy, brick hands that smack right through the skin and skull of his opponent. Hit after hit rain down – head, body, head, head. His opponent’s knees wobble from sledgehammer blows, the brain temporarily ceasing to defend the body. Sensing the opening, Mike grabs the shoulders of his adversary and yanks the boy’s head straight down onto his rapidly rising knee. The jolt snaps the boy’s head back as a thick spray of metallic-tasting, black blood spurts from his mouth and nose. Barely conscious, the boy’s head cracks against the pavement. Blood leaks onto the concrete. He is no longer a threat, yet Mike continues to kick his torso and stomp on his head. Mike picks up the limp, lifeless body and slams the other boy’s head against the hood of a 2008 Dodge Charger, leaving a dent in the hood and head. As he lifts his fist to continue the carnage, Mike’s friends grab his arm, saying “I think you’ve done enough. He’s finished.” Mike drops the boy on the ground, unconscious, bleeding, concussed and injured for life.

This fight and countless others occurred at Snake Park in Blackhawk, CA.  I see clients with anger management problems daily. My clients tell me all about the frequent fights that occur in the San Ramon Valley. My sense is that, over the past two decades, fighting among adolescent males has increased in aggression, violence and desensitization. Every adolescent male client that I see plays highly violent video games on a daily basis. Games such as Call of Duty (COD), KillZone, and Mortal Kombat 9. This is on top of playing realistic and painful war games with Air Soft guns.

And just to give you a little taste of what gamers are repeatedly seeing, here is a sample fatality from the latest Mortal Kombat…

So you can imagine my concern when the following study came out today…

Violent Video Games Reduce Brain Response to Violence and Increase Aggressive Behavior, Study Suggests

 

ScienceDaily (May 25, 2011) — Scientists have known for years that playing violent video games causes players to become more aggressive. The findings of a new University of Missouri (MU) study provide one explanation for why this occurs: the brains of violent video game players become less responsive to violence, and this diminished brain response predicts an increase in aggression.

 

“Many researchers have believed that becoming desensitized to violence leads to increased human aggression. Until our study, however, this causal association had never been demonstrated experimentally,” said Bruce Bartholow, associate professor of psychology in the MU College of Arts and Science.

 

During the study, 70 young adult participants were randomly assigned to play either a nonviolent or a violent video game for 25 minutes. Immediately afterwards, the researchers measured brain responses as participants viewed a series of neutral photos, such as a man on a bike, and violent photos, such as a man holding a gun in another man’s mouth. Finally, participants competed against an opponent in a task that allowed them to give their opponent a controllable blast of loud noise. The level of noise blast the participants set for their opponent was the measure of aggression.

 

The researchers found that participants who played one of several popular violent games, such as “Call of Duty,” “Hitman,” “Killzone” and “Grand Theft Auto,” set louder noise blasts for their opponents during the competitive task — that is, they were more aggressive — than participants who played a nonviolent game. In addition, for participants that had not played many violent video games before completing the study, playing a violent game in the lab caused a reduced brain response to the photos of violence — an indicator of desensitization. Moreover, this reduced brain response predicted participants’ aggression levels: the smaller the brain response to violent photos, the more aggressive participants were.

 

Participants who had already spent a lot of time playing violent video games before the study showed small brain response to the violent photos, regardless of which type of game they played in the lab.

 

“The fact that video game exposure did not affect the brain activity of participants who already had been highly exposed to violent games is interesting and suggests a number of possibilities,” Bartholow said. “It could be that those individuals are already so desensitized to violence from habitually playing violent video games that an additional exposure in the lab has very little effect on their brain responses. There also could be an unmeasured factor that causes both a preference for violent video games and a smaller brain response to violence. In either case, there are additional measures to consider.”

 

Bartholow said that future research should focus on ways to moderate media violence effects, especially among individuals who are habitually exposed. He cites surveys that indicate that the average elementary school child spends more than 40 hours a week playing video games — more than any other activity besides sleeping. As young children spend more time with video games than any other forms of media, the researchers say children could become accustomed to violent behavior as their brains are forming.

 

“More than any other media, these video games encourage active participation in violence,” said Bartholow. “From a psychological perspective, video games are excellent teaching tools because they reward players for engaging in certain types of behavior. Unfortunately, in many popular video games, the behavior is violence.”

 

The journal article, “This Is Your Brain on Violent Video Games: Neural Desensitization to Violence Predicts Increased Aggression Following Violent Video Game Exposure,” will be published in a forthcoming edition of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

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This spiraling trend of increasing glorification of violence has got to stop if we want to reduce aggression and violence in our teenagers. Today’s culture, replete with MMA, UFC, Air Soft guns, COD, street fights and dehumanization of others threatens the very fabric of our society. Where does it end?

What are your thoughts? What do you think? Have we gone too far when we paint a picture of victory as ripping out your opponent’s spine and beating him to death with his own skull as in the new Mortal Kombat 9? At what point are we oversaturating our children with the message that violence is an acceptable solution to disagreement? I’d love to hear your opinion!

All the best,

John Schinnerer Ph.D.

Founder of Guide to Self

Anger management geek

For a free PDF copy of John’s award-winning book on anger, anxiety and depression, simply visit www.GuideToSelf.com click on the yellow book icon and enter your name and email address on the following page. You will be sent an email to verify your email address and then receive instant access to your book!  

University of Missouri-Columbia (2011, May 25). Violent video games reduce brain response to violence and increase aggressive behavior, study suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 26, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com¬ /releases/2011/05/110525151059.htm