Category: Mental health

Moon mission simulation explores how isolation affects astronauts’ wellbeing

By Matthew Warren

The next decade promises to be an exciting one for space travel. With the Artemis missions, NASA plans to send a crewed mission to the moon in a few years’ time, and will eventually establish a base camp at the lunar South Pole for longer expeditions. Meanwhile, Elon Musk claims that SpaceX will send a crew to Mars in 2029.

But any long-term space mission will face numerous challenges — not just technical, but also psychological. Astronauts will have to spend weeks or months in small confines with just a few fellow crew members, isolated from the rest of humanity. So it will be important to predict how this experience might affect astronauts’ mental health — and whether there are particular activities that could protect against any negative effects.

Continue reading “Moon mission simulation explores how isolation affects astronauts’ wellbeing”

People in on-again, off-again relationships experience more psychological distress

By Emily Reynolds

Some romantic relationships slot into place easily: we meet, we get together, and we stay together, at least for a while. Others are far more tumultuous, as we break up and get back together over and over again — often to the frustration and annoyance of those we confide in.

It’s no surprise that such relationships can cause us distress, and this is the subject of a new study, published in Family Relations. It looks at the impact of on-off relationships, finding not only short-term harm but longer-term implications too.

Continue reading “People in on-again, off-again relationships experience more psychological distress”

Can memes help people cope with pandemic-induced anxiety?

By Emily Reynolds

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on our collective mental health, from its effects on the experience of postnatal depression among new mothers to the ongoing impact of post-Covid brain fog. Research has also looked at what might remedy some of these negative effects — engaging in meaningful activity, for example, or making changes in our lives to feel more in control.

Umair Akram and colleagues explore another potential technique in their paper in Scientific Reports —looking at memes. They find that pandemic-related memes could provide one coping mechanism for people experiencing anxiety, with anxious people more likely to find them funny, relatable, and shareable. 

Continue reading “Can memes help people cope with pandemic-induced anxiety?”

Calls To Mental Health Helplines Increased Early In The Pandemic

By Emily Reynolds

From early 2020, concerns were raised about the impact of the pandemic on mental health. The stresses of lockdown, social isolation, financial precarity, and widespread grief were all considered to be potential triggers for poor mental health, along with issues such as increased domestic violence.

A new study, published in Nature, looks at what helpline calls can reveal about mental health during this period. It finds an increase in calls to helplines during the early days of the pandemic, largely driven by fear, loneliness, and worries about physical health.

Continue reading “Calls To Mental Health Helplines Increased Early In The Pandemic”

Body Maps Reveal The Range Of Sensations And Feelings Experienced During Hallucinations

By Emma L. Barratt

Most research into hallucinations focuses on unimodal hallucinations — hallucinatory experiences that only affect one sensory modality, such as hearing or touch. But for decades there has been evidence that multimodal hallucinations (which affect more than one sense at once) may be quite common. One of the main challenges in investigating them, however, has been capturing and communicating the wide array of features that comprise multimodal experiences.

However, thanks to new research in EClinicalMedicine from Katie Melvin and colleagues at the University of Leicester, this may be about to change. To improve our understanding of the feelings and sensations associated with hallucinations, the team gathered a group of participants to create what they dubbed MUSE maps — visual and written representations of what hallucinations feel like throughout (and around) the body. Not only do their findings suggest that most hallucinations seem to have emotional and multisensory components, but their new method offers a more intuitive way to communicate and understand hallucinatory experiences.

Continue reading “Body Maps Reveal The Range Of Sensations And Feelings Experienced During Hallucinations”

Early Symptoms Of Psychosis Can Identify Particularly At-Risk Individuals

By Emma Young

The number of people referred in the UK to mental health services for a suspected first ever episode of psychosis rose by nearly a third between April 2019 and April 2021. The stresses of COVID-19 have been blamed. Ideally, these people would have been identified as being at-risk before they first experienced the hallucinations and/or delusions that characterise the condition. That’s because early treatment can work to delay or even prevent a first episode from occurring.

Research has revealed a suite of symptoms that can occur in this preceding period. These include odd or eccentric behaviours and ideas, unusual perceptual experiences, and suspiciousness — as well as hallucinations and delusions, but not at the level required for a diagnosis of psychosis. Non-psychotic early symptoms have been identified, too, such as anxiety, self-harm, sleep disturbance, depression and memory problems. Now a new paper in Psychological Medicine reveals which early symptoms, exactly, are associated with a faster than average progression to a first episode of psychosis — and also more symptoms later — and which are not.

Continue reading “Early Symptoms Of Psychosis Can Identify Particularly At-Risk Individuals”

Massive Study Finds No Link Between Time Spent Playing Video Games And Wellbeing

By Emma L. Barratt

Video games are perhaps one of the most politicised forms of entertainment media out there. In the decades since they were first created, governments, politicians, health bodies and beyond have voiced concerns that the amount of time some players spend in these virtual worlds could be detrimental to their mental health.

Despite all this concern, there’s been a lack of high-quality research into the effect of video games on player wellbeing. To remedy this situation, Matti Vuorre and colleagues at the University of Oxford, in collaboration with several large game publishers such as Nintendo and Square Enix, conducted an ambitious longitudinal study. These fears, they conclude in their recent preprint on PsyArXiv, are unfounded.

Continue reading “Massive Study Finds No Link Between Time Spent Playing Video Games And Wellbeing”

Young People Around The World Report High Levels Of Climate Anxiety

By Emma L. Barratt

In the past few years, the effects of climate change have become undeniably apparent. In the last two years alone, headlines have been full of climate disasters — from forest fire smoke turning San Francisco’s sky luminous red, to torrential flooding in Germany and China.

In the face of events like this, anxiety and fear about climate change is undoubtedly increasing. Far from being indicative of mental illness, climate anxiety (also known as eco-anxiety or climate distress) more neatly fits under the banner of “practical anxiety”: fear that motivates change to help us respond to threats. Even though this in itself is useful, the experiences of fear can be unrelenting, and have serious consequences for mental health and functioning.

Young people are more at risk than those from older generations; an uncertain and dangerous climate situation poses the most risk to their futures, after all.

It’s with this in mind that Caroline Hickman and colleagues at the University of Bath set out to investigate the extent of young people’s feelings and thoughts on climate change, and the functional impact associated with them. In their global study, posted as a preprint at SSRN, they look how the threats of climate change, as well as government response to these threats, affect the emotions and day to day functioning of young people.

Continue reading “Young People Around The World Report High Levels Of Climate Anxiety”

Ruminating About Symptoms Can Maintain Distress In Those With OCD

By Emily Reynolds

Rumination is a key feature of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. According to the charity OCD UK, rumination is a “train of prolonged thinking about a question or theme that is undirected and unproductive” — worrying incessantly about a particular issue or question, in other words. Those with OCD may also ruminate on their symptoms themselves: rather than just dwelling on their fears of harming someone or on existential worries, for example, they will also worry about having these thoughts in the first place.

It’s this rumination about symptoms that a team of researchers explore in a new study in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology. They find that this kind of rumination can prolong depression in those with OCD, suggesting interventions focusing on ruminative patterns could be one way of addressing the distress of such experiences.

Continue reading “Ruminating About Symptoms Can Maintain Distress In Those With OCD”

Study Explores Personalities Of People With Adult Separation Anxiety, A “Neglected Clinical Syndrome”

By Emma Young

Most parents will be very familiar with the concept of separation anxiety. It’s hardly rare for babies and toddlers to become anxious when separated from a parent. But I have to confess, I hadn’t heard of Adult Separation Anxiety (ASA) until I came across this new paper in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology. For adults, it can manifest as extreme distress at being separated from a partner, or another loved one — even a pet. And it’s thought that 7% of people suffer from it at some point in their lifetimes.

Partly because ASA has been so neglected by researchers, Megan Finsaas at Columbia University and Daniel Klein at Stony Brook University set out to better understand it — and specifically, to explore links with aspects of personality.

Continue reading “Study Explores Personalities Of People With Adult Separation Anxiety, A “Neglected Clinical Syndrome””