Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve and Thus Chill Out: Simple, Natural, Uninvasive Methods

The Low Histamine Chef published a post yesterday: The vagus nerve inflammation connection. I was tickled to get a list of various self-hacks on how to stimulate the vagus nerve. Once the vagus nerve is stimulated we calm down! It’s like magic. The vagus nerve is implicated in all sorts of stress.
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Revised UN Prison Rules

While the outcome is disappointing, the revised UN prison rules reflect the stage we are currently in with regard to the incorporation of the CRPD standards elsewhere in the UN system. Some premises derived from the CRPD are brought forward, but the bottom line remains the same, to the detriment of people labeled with psychiatric diagnoses.
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ADHD: A Destructive and Disempowering Label; Not an Illness

In recent years, we’ve seen an increasing number of articles and papers from psychiatrists in which they seem to be accepting at least some of the antipsychiatry criticisms, and appear interested in reforms. It is tempting to see this development as an indication of progress, but as in many aspects of life, things aren’t always what they seem.
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The Sweet Spot Between Ignorance and Certainty: A Place Where Dialogue and Healing Can Happen

It’s now widely known that a good relationship between helper and person to be helped is one of the very most important factors determining the outcome from many different types of mental health treatment. But when people are in an extreme state such as the kind we call “psychosis,” forming a good relationship is not an easy thing to do. And unfortunately, the typical interaction between professionals and clients seen as psychotic in our current mental health system has characteristics which make a positive human relationship almost impossible.
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Benzodiazepines: Miracle Drugs?

The first benzodiazepine – chlordiazepoxide – became available, from Hoffman-La Roche, in 1960. Benzodiazepines largely replaced the earlier barbiturates, which had received a great deal of negative publicity because of their much-publicized role in lethal overdoses, both accidental and intentional. Initially, there was a good measure of skepticism among the general public with regards to benzos, and indeed, with regards to psychotropic drugs generally. The dominant philosophy in those days was that transient, drug-induced states of consciousness were not only ineffective in addressing human problems, but were also dangerous. But pharma-psychiatry systematically, deliberately, and self-servingly undermined this skepticism.
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The Lonely Way: Reflections from a Young Psychologist

Psychotherapy (I’m still searching for a better term, since the word ‘therapy’ involves thinking that there is sickness somewhere) is not about knowing everything. It’s about humanity, doubts and uncertainty. It’s about reaching out and reaching in, authenticity and honesty. It’s the most demanding thing I have ever done, because I’ve fully involved myself in this work; I use my own feelings, scratch away at my existential issues and try to care as deeply as I can for people who choose to enter my office. Sometimes, I know exactly what helps and what doesn’t. Sometimes, I have no idea. In a very odd way, it’s the most professional attitude I can think of. But it is also the lonely way.
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The Disease Loop – Mental Health Infographics

I have been creating graphics to explain some of the work we do. Infographics have a lot of power. This one is a rough draft, there are still too many words on it. It needs more pictures and less words, …
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Women, ECT, and Memory

Imagine you wake up tomorrow with your past missing… You may not be able to recognize your home or know where your banks accounts are….You can’t remember your wedding or your college education. Eventually you realize that years of your life have been erased, never to return. Worse, you find that your daily memory and mental abilities aren’t what they were before. Now generally the memory loss that besets ECT recipients is spoken of with little or no explicit reference made to gender. In this article as in certain of the literature, on the other hand, gender is highlighted. My intent in this article is to hone in on gender per se; more specifically to shed light on how ECT, memory loss, and women’s lives come together.
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Tearing Apart the DSM-5 in Social Work Class

I’m currently a student at the Silberman School of Social Work. This was the final paper for “Human Behavior 3.” HB3 is a required class which is basically a crash course in understanding and using the DSM-5 (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). In Human Behavior 1 and 2 they cover all kinds of ideas from psychodynamics to systems theory, and have the students practice writing biopsychosocial evaluations. I’m not sure what it looked like in the past but in recent years HB3 has become a DSM memorization class, so much so that we did most of the 5 week class online with modules that looked like the image I’m posting below. I don’t know what other people’s papers looked like, but here is what I turned in to my professor last week.
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Tell PCORI What Research Funding We Really Need

So, at this national conference, Partnership with Patients, I met a bunch of “e-patient advocates,” which are civil rights fighters in all the other “medical” areas. One thing I learned at that conference was that there are many “patient” advocacy opportunities. One of them is PCORI, the “Patient” Centered Outcomes Research Institute. This is theoretically an organization that funds research that people with lived experience ask for. However, the problem is that they aren’t really talking to our community and we aren’t talking to them. So they did this big splashy launch about “mental health as a major focus,” and they said what they had figured out that mental health needed was.
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Lessons from Soteria-Alaska

Yes, Soteria-Alaska is closing. And its sister organization, CHOICES, Inc., has lost its way. As the person who conceived of both of these and got them going, I have some thoughts that might be worthwhile about what went wrong; what should or might have been done differently; and most importantly, what lessons might have been learned.
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It’s as Bad as You Think: The Gap Between the Rich and the Poor is an Unbridgeable Chasm

Many of us in the U.K. are mad – mad with anger at the injustice and cynicism of a political system that is turning the gap between rich and poor into an unbridgeable chasm. Mad with anger because the most vulnerable in society are now paying the price for a political ideology – neoliberalism – with their lives. We are mad and angry because they are blamed for failings that are not of their making, but which originate in the system under which we live. ‘Psychological’ assessments, online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and other forms of ‘therapy’ are being used to force unemployed people with common mental health problems back to work. Mental health professionals responsible for IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) have been relocated to help ‘assess’ and ‘treat’ claimants.
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Mistakes Were Made (by all of us)

After reading Psychiatry Under the Influence I turned to Mistakes Were Made (but not by me). by the cognitive psychologists Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson to get a better understanding of cognitive dissonance and how it has influenced my own thinking and behavior. It offers a cautionary tale for all of us.
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Are DSM Psychiatric Disorders “Heritable”?

A key psychiatric genetic concept is heritability. The concept was originally developed as a tool to help predict the results of selective breeding programs of farm animals,1 but has been extended in the past few decades as an indicator of the strength or magnitude of genetic influences on various psychiatric disorders and behavioral characteristics. Numerical heritability estimates have been a mainstay of the field of behavioral genetics, but here I would like to focus on problems with the heritability concept in psychiatry, while keeping in mind that most of the points made here and by previous critics apply to the use of heritability estimates in all areas of human behavior.
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CBT: Part of the Solution, Part of the Problem, an Illusion, or All of the Above?

Cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT has been pretty heavily criticized by a number of Mad in America (MIA) bloggers and commenters in the past few years. In a way that isn’t surprising, because most MIA bloggers are looking for radical change, and CBT often appears to be part of the establishment, especially within the therapy world. But while I’m all for criticizing what’s wrong with CBT, especially with bad CBT, I think there’s also a danger in getting so caught up in pointing out real or imagined flaws that we fail to notice where CBT can be part of the solution, helping us move toward more humanistic and effective methods of helping.
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When the Tail Wags the Dog, Eventually the Dog Bites

International events related to emotional health issues continue to shock the world, and call into question the value of the mental health industry. Recently, many people around the globe have felt devastated by the suicide of Robin Williams and shocked by the downing of the plane by Andreas Lubitz. Numerous incidents of violence have been shown to involve the mental health industry with some link to mental disorders or psychiatric medication. The important issue to understand is what do these connections mean.
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Men on Hooks: The Origin of Modern Psychiatric Diagnostic Systems

How did modern systems of psychiatric diagnosis come into being? I will tell you, because it came to me in a dream. There were these men, hanging from hooks, looking down into a pit of unwashed humanity. Above them was a golden globe, containing the ideal person, someone mentally healthy, sane, and normal in every way. The men on hooks, having only vaguely examined the ideal man floating above, looked down on all that lay beneath. They scowled. They laughed. They were appalled.
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Decision-Making and Moral Injury

Oppression and abuse have effects on a person’s sense of self and experience of agency, or lack thereof; on one’s ability to know one’s self in the world as actor, and not only acted-upon. Some (and maybe all) aspects of oppression and abuse specifically entail moral injury and violation of moral integrity. This is particularly interesting to explore because it links psychological trauma as a result of oppression and abuse with an aspect of decision-making difficulty that some of us experience as psychiatrically-labeled people. There is something to be gained by reclaiming ownership of the truths of our own lives, and ownership over making decisions about where to take the discussion: in philosophy, psychology, law, politics, art or anywhere else.
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What Do Dreams Mean? Dreams Provide a Window Into Our Character

Dreams have fascinated people from the beginning of time. People believe dreams foretell the future; that they have psychological meanings; that we commune with spirits and the dead; that they are visitations from ancestors; that dreams make prophesies and are filled with omens and auguries. It’s always important to keep in mind that dreams, and our lives, are a human story. Our psychiatric treatments must always appreciate our stories. We do not need destructive pharmaceuticals. We need to appreciate the full scope of the human story.
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National Survey for US Peer Support Specialists – Deadline June 26, 2015

  My last conversation with Dr. Allen Daniels was a good one. I had been having a shit fit about Question #2 which is a demographics one asking for M/F Gender. A few of my colleagues and I who care …
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The Mind-Body Connection: The Correlation between Stress and Inflammation

  In their book, Psychiatry Under the Influence (2015), Whitaker and Cosgrove suggest that researchers of the human condition might improve the integrity of their investigations by foregoing connections to marketing interests.  The research examining the ways in which depressive/anxious …
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To Function or Not to Function?

A lot of mental health (and addiction) conversations have a bottom line question: Is the person functional? Can they go to work? That is the fundamental question, coming out of the industrial revolution where the Western world was told we …
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