Category: Mental health

Rates Of Postnatal Depression Among New Mothers Rose Sharply During Lockdown

By Emily Reynolds

Having a new baby is never easy: it’s difficult to manage the stress of birth, sleepless nights, and juggling of childcare and domestic responsibilities, especially for first-time parents. Some also experience postnatal depression, which is estimated to affect 23% of women in Europe after the birth of a child (men also experience postnatal depression, though the numbers are not so clear).

Add to new parenting the impact of lockdown, and that figure could rise sharply, a new study published in Frontiers in Psychology suggests. Working with women with babies aged six months or younger in the UK during the first COVID-19 lockdown, UCL’s Sarah Myers and Emily H. Emmott found that almost half met the threshold for postnatal depression — double the average European rates.

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Good Time Management Seems To Have A Bigger Impact On Wellbeing Than Work Performance

By Emily Reynolds

As our lives have become busier, desire to do things quickly and efficiently has grown — something the rise of speed reading apps, lack of break-taking at work, and a general focus on “productivity” has shown. Good time management skills, therefore, are now highly prized both at work and at home.

But do such techniques actually work? In a meta-analysis published in PLOS One, Brad Aeon from Concordia University and colleagues find that they do — but perhaps not for the reasons you’d expect. While time management skills have become more important in evaluations of job performance since the 1990s, their biggest impact lies elsewhere: in personal wellbeing.

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People With Depression Show Hints Of Distorted Thinking In The Language They Use On Social Media

By Emily Reynolds

A key facet of cognitive behavioural therapy is challenging “cognitive distortions”, inaccurate thought patterns that often affect those with depression. Such distortions could include jumping to conclusions, catastrophising, black and white thinking, or self-blame — and can cause sincere distress to those experiencing them.

But how do we track cognitive distortion in those with depression outside of self-reporting? A new study, published in Nature Human Behaviour, explores cognitive distortions online, finding that those with depression have higher levels of distortion in the language they use on social media.

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The Experience Of Being “Tolerated”, Rather Than Accepted, Leads To Lower Wellbeing Among Ethnic Minority Groups

By Emily Reynolds

Tolerance is often touted as a progressive value, a way of ensuring that society offers equal opportunities to all. But it can also imply “putting up with” something or someone you fundamentally disagree with or dislike — being tolerated isn’t the same as being genuinely valued or respected, for example. As one writer puts it, tolerance has echoes “of at best grudging acceptance, and at worst ill-disguised hostility”.

Now a new study in the British Journal of Psychology has found that the experience of being tolerated takes its toll on the wellbeing of ethnic minorities in the United States. Sara Cvetkovska from Utrecht University and colleagues find that the experience of being tolerated is closer to discrimination than it is to acceptance — impacting overall wellbeing and increasing negative mood.

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In Times Of Anxiety and Low Mood, Focusing On Past Successes Could Improve Decision-Making

By Emily Reynolds

When you’re going through a period of anxiety or depression it can be difficult to make decisions, whether those are significant life changes or more mundane, everyday choices about prioritising tasks or time management. And those with generalised anxiety disorder or mood disorders often report feeling uncomfortable with or distressed by feelings of uncertainty — which doesn’t help when you need to make a decision, big or small.

Now in a new study in the journal eLife, Christopher Gagne from UC Berkeley and colleagues find that people with higher levels of anxiety and depression are less able to adapt to fast-changing situations. But the authors suggest that with the right intervention there may be ways to not only mitigate this distress, but to help those with anxiety or depression make better decisions in the moment.

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Supposed Benefits Of Psychedelic Microdosing To Mental Health May Actually Reflect Strong Placebo Response

By Matthew Warren

An increasingly large body of work suggests that many illicit psychoactive drugs could be useful as treatments for certain mental health problems. Studies have found, for instance, that the psychedelics psilocybin (from magic mushrooms) and LSD can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, while MDMA may be useful in treating PTSD.  

It’s a different story for a practice known as “microdosing”, however. This involves taking a small quantity of a psychedelic substance — normally too little to produce any perceptible effects — repeatedly over a period of time (every few days for several weeks, say). And as we reported in 2019, although results from some surveys or poorly-controlled trials suggest that microdosing can improve people’s mood or certain aspects of cognition, more rigorous placebo-controlled trials have failed to find any such effects.

A new study in Scientific Reports could explain why. The team, led by Laura Kartner from Imperial College London, finds that people who plan on microdosing do go on to experience a boost to wellbeing and a reduction in anxiety and depression. But the level of improvement depends on how much they expect to improve in the first place, suggesting that any effects on wellbeing may be the result of a strong placebo response.

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Liberal Americans’ Distress At 2016 Election Result Shouldn’t Be Labelled “Depression”, Study Argues

Photo: Supporters of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton react during election night 2016. Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images

By Emily Reynolds

Anyone who’s been invested in an election result will understand the close relationship between politics and emotion — something that is perhaps even more affecting when that result is disappointing. After the 2016 presidential election, for example, articles appeared in the US press describing a “national nervous breakdown” and offering tips to deal with so-called “political depression”, and empirical studies indicated that the same event had caused psychological distress.

But while it would be hard to deny that politics can have a serious impact on our mood, is it correct to call that “depression”? Almog Simchon at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and team ask this question in a new paper published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology — and while they find self-reported “Trump depression” in liberal Americans post-election, the empirical data suggests this isn’t an enduring or even clinically significant experience.

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Narcissism Can Have Both A Positive And Negative Impact On New Mothers’ Wellbeing, Longitudinal Study Finds

By Emma Young

What happens to a narcissistic woman when she becomes a mother? Can someone with an unmet desire for attention, love and recognition — which characterises all narcissists — adapt well to having a baby to care for? The answer, according to a new study in Personality Disorders: Theory, Research and Treatment, is that it really depends what type of narcissist the mother is. And even, then, the conclusions were based on self-reports, which should probably be received with caution.

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Coping With Remote Working During Covid-19: The Latest Research, Digested

By Emma Young

Covid-19 has changed our working lives, perhaps for good. Home-working is now common, and many of us have been doing it for months. With changing rules and guidelines, some of us have even gone from home-working to socially distanced office-working, to working back at home again. So what do we know about how these changes are affecting our mental health — and what can we do to make our new working lives better?

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The Process Of Psychological Recovery Begins While A Stressful Event Is Still Going On, According To Study Of Early Stages Of Coronavirus Pandemic

By Emma Young

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed all our lives. For those of us fortunate enough to avoid unemployment, our work lives have still changed drastically. So how long should it take employees to recover psychologically, and settle into a “new normal”? According to a new paper, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, this process actually began very early on. This is among the first work to show that psychological recovery can start during a stressful experience.

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