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Author: Justin Mckibben
If there are any other nerds out there like me, you may have come across an abstract animated series called Psycho-pass that rose in popularity a few years back in 2012. The show’s name fits firmly into the primary premise of the show, an authoritarian future dystopia, where omnipresent public sensors ceaselessly scan the mental states of every passing citizen. In the TV show, collected data on both present mentality and aggregated personality data is used to gauge the probability of an individual committing a crime, the rating referred to as that citizen’s Psycho-Pass. Law enforcement and public security utilizes technology tracking mental health of citizens in order to premeditate possible threats. The characters chase criminals who the system deems emotionally or psychologically at risk, and the show adds a few good twists of suspense and philosophical paradox.
Needless to say, I am a big fan of the series.
So of course, seeing a headline explaining a new research project that could make this kind of system a reality, it stirs up some curiosity. This abstract concept of machines reading the psychological profiles of everyday people as a security measure has jumped right out of the world of scifi-fantasy and could soon be another innovation that changes our world.
Could a mental health security system for the future of public safety?
How the Mental Health Security System Works
According to a new piece of research, published in the International Journal of Advanced Intelligence Paradigms, a mental health security system is being developed that gives an analyses of the user’s brainwaves.
Most modern security systems require a PIN or password. Other biometric-based systems require a fingerprint or scans of an iris or retina. We have already seen this kind of stuff in the movies; voice-activated locks, palm-print thermal safes and other cool high-tech gadgets. Now, Violeta Tulceanu of the University of Iasi is adding a truly unique aspect to security; the emotion detector.
Upon reading the brainwaves the system is designed to automatically determine whether the user is in a fit mental state. After the test is complete the system will grant access to resources, but only if deemed appropriate.
Violeta Tulceanu states:
“The true engine of motivation is our capacity to perceive pleasure and fear pain, and thus, reward and punishment,”
“Our ability to react to dangerous situations is directly related to our capacity to relate to our environment, and our sense of self-preservation.”
In the new approach, Tulceanu trains the system to recognize a user’s “emotional fingerprint” using the patterns of electrical brainwaves. The system measures the brainwaves they generate in the presence of specific, evocative stimuli. The system has to have a baseline mental signature to cross-reference. Each emotional response is matched to a given pattern and these are then associated with particular configurations of the mental health security system. So someone mentally stable will set the standard for their future readings.
Once the profile is complete it can allow or preclude access to given resources. So the next time someone tries to get access, the system simply measures the current electrical brain activity and if the result of processing the credentials matches the “emotional fingerprint” access is granted or refused accordingly.
This is amazing because it not just recognizes brainwaves to allow authorized access, but it also determines whether or not someone’s current mental health should keep them from having access.
Why a Mental Health Security System Could Matter
Based on the core concept, this could all matter a great deal to public safety. If someone is in a well-balanced emotional state, when faced with external factors they probably react according to:
- Group expectations
- Cultural background
- Social norms
- Personal inclinations
However, humans are emotional. We feel. Some of us more intensely, but all of us included. So our decisions can be subject to:
- Our wants/desires
We can even be influenced by psychoactive chemicals that might make particular resources inappropriate or hazardous. Perhaps a safe with a gun locked inside should only be accessible by someone of a stable mental and emotional state.
With this kind of mental health security system there could be another step to control:
- Entry to a building
- Access to computer resources
- Even the withdrawal of money from ATMs
The research actually indicates this mental health security system could also have applications in:
- Electronic learning
What Could the Mental Health Security System Change?
Many may not notice at first, but this is a huge deal and if it gained momentum it could change a lot about our world. Thinking about it, anyone can suffer from depression, stress, or anxiety, as well as substance abuse. Some of us may not even be aware of our own issues with mental health until something devastating has happened. We all have the capacity to make detrimental decisions, and sometimes we also have the capacity to do so while accessing sensitive resources.
Let us look at just a few ways this could be a really big deal.
In the interest of public safety, we could consider access to an airport or a school. With the history of shootings and other attacks on citizens being perpetrated by people deemed to be in the grips of mental illness, could this new technology have the capacity to save lives by blocking off those who it perceives to be a threat?
Tulceanu suggests this mental health security system could ensure the safety and security of individuals and those around them that might be at risk if access is granted to particular resources.
The mental health security system might be able to assess whether a person is acting responsibly and of their own accord. So if someone is being forced to access something, the security system could measure this emotional response as well and act further on the behalf of someone who could be being robbed or held hostage.
Is a Mental Health Security System Morally Just?
Here comes the philosophical debate. When looking at the possibilities of this technology, we also have to ask ourselves the same questions that crop up in the scifi stories; is this moral? Specifically, if it became a government tool, does it violate privacy or civil rights? Really ask yourself- is this a brighter, safer future? Or could it be misused for subliminal, psychological oppression?
Seriously, this is a tough call. It does sound like it could save a lot of lives. But some would ask- who has the right to say whether or not I’m mentally or emotionally stable enough to get my own money from the bank? Or to get on a plane? Who decides when you are too emotionally or mentally compromised to go to work? What if years from now you aren’t allowed to live in a certain neighborhood because of your place on the brainwave scale?
Would this kind of restriction on people based on an analyses of mental health be reinforcing the stigmas attached to mental health? If so, would people be discriminated against for mental health issues? In the TV show I referenced earlier, people with moderately risky mental health ratings were lawfully mandated to therapy; would that become part of the normal practice if a more comprehensive mental health security system was put into place?
These days, modern research techniques show that far from being indefinable, emotion is completely neurological. Emotion lives at the core of all learning mechanisms. This makes it possible to treat emotion more objectively. All this new research is extremely fascinating. Without being too sure which way to lean, I simply wonder what the world would think of a mental health security system.
The importance of mental health care and substance abuse treatment is paramount. As technology grows so does our understanding of how complex and critical these issues are. There is help for those who are struggling with dual diagnosis, and holistic healing is an empowering way to make a transformation that could change everything.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
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Author: Shernide Delva
Depression is a serious medical condition, and the decision to take antidepressants is a personal choice. The stigma behind mental illness often prevents those struggling with mental illness to seek help for their condition. Many people feel they can tackle their depression on their own, without the use of medication. While this may be true for some, for others, medication is a very real option.
If you are unsure whether or not you need medication for your depression, it may be a good idea for you to ask yourself a few questions before going on them. Also, you may want to explore options that do not require medication like seeing a therapist, changing sleeping and exercising habits, socializing and joining groups. All of these options should be a part of your long-term plan to fight depression.
Still, for some people, even after doing all of these things, their depression symptoms seem to linger. It is important to consider and understand what you need to feel better. Here are eight questions you should ask yourself before going on medication:
- Could my depression be the result of a medical condition?
It is important to consult with your doctor so you rule out the possibility that your depression could be due to pre-existing medical conditions. Many health conditions can contribute to feelings of depression. Thyroid conditions and heart disease are some examples of conditions that result in depressive symptoms. Also, get a blood test done to monitor your vitamin levels. Deficiencies in iron, magnesium and B vitamins can make you feel sluggish and down.
- Could my depression be a side effect of another medication?
Depression can be the side effect of prescription medications. If you recently added a new prescription around the time you felt depressed, make sure to talk to a doctor to see if there is a possibility you are affected by your medications.
- Have you suffered a recent loss?
It is normal to feel intense emotions following a death, divorce, relocation, or retirement. Therefore, if you have become depressed following events like this, it is only natural. Learning coping methods through cognitive behavior therapy should be the first step when dealing with situational depression.
“It’s important to remember that antidepressants treat symptoms and not root causes,” says Ramani Durvasula, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist, and author of You Are WHY You Eat.
Ask yourself how long you have been depressed. Depression lasting less than six months may not require medication if treated with therapy and other methods.
- Am I exercising enough?
Exercise boosts serotonin levels in our body which improves our overall mood and energy level. As hard as it is sometimes, it is important to move around. Aerobic exercise can be effective in preventing and treating depression. Aerobic exercise releases feel-good brain chemicals like neurotransmitters and endorphins. Lack of exercise can worsen depression. Try changing your exercise routine to see if you notice a decrease in your symptoms.
- Are you eating a healthy, well-balanced diet?
A sugar-heavy diet can severely affect blood sugar levels which lead to feelings of low energy and depression. Also, issues in the gastrointestinal tract can lead to mood problems, including depression. Complex carbs have been found to boost levels of serotonin in your Try boosting levels of omega-3 fatty acids, as well as vitamin B12. Increasing your intake of nutritionally balanced meals can be the right step to reducing your symptoms.
- Am I socializing on a regular basis?
As tempting as it may be to isolate yourself, being alone does not help with dealing with depression. Try to connect with friends and family. Join a local group in your community. Try joining a support group for depression like the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. They have support groups throughout the country to help those in need.
- Have you tried changing your behaviors?
The best way to treat depression is to fight against it. When you feel like staying in bed all day, those are the times you need to get busy. When you feel the least social, that is a crucial time to call a friend. Some other positive ways to combat depression is to engage in mindfulness practices such as meditation or yoga. Talk to a therapist to come up with a plan to change your behavior. Take baby steps and try not to do too much at once.
- Are you drinking too much?
Abuse of alcohol has been proven to make depression symptoms worse in various clinical studies. Alcohol can interfere with sleep, and further worsen problems of anxiety and depression. Alcohol also makes people prone to anger, aggression and violence. The occasional drink may be okay for some, but for others drinking is not worth the risk.
If you find you have addressed all of these issues and still struggle with depression, you may want to consider seriously talking to a professional about taking medication. This is especially true if you find depression inhibiting your daily functions.
Taking antidepressants is a very personal decision. It is up to you to decide, and you should not feel shame if you decide to go that route. Many people take medication, and it has helped them tremendously. If you are struggling to handle it all, give us a call. We can help. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
By Cheryl Steinberg
If you have anxiety disorder and have ever experienced a panic attack, then you know that those things are no joke. People who have had a panic attack before will tell you: it feels like you’re going to die. Perhaps you have ways of calming yourself down when a pang of anxiety hits. If you need more ideas, here are 15 ways to quiet your anxiety:
#1. Accept how you’re feeling
When you start to feel anxious and panicky, say to yourself, “You are feeling anxious.” By just acknowledging that this is a feeling, just like sadness and happiness, many say that this helps ground them in reality and keep perspective on the situation.
#2. Don’t let it define you
Be aware that you’re not labelling yourself in such a way that there is no separation between you and your anxiety. That is, don’t let it define you. If you lose your sense of self – all the other things that make up YOU – then all of your attention and energy will go into being an anxious person. Kind of like a self-fulfilling prophecy. So, when feeling anxious or like a panic attack is about to strike, talk to your anxiety – in your head or aloud – and tell t to calm the eff down.
#3. Get out of your head
In other words, distract yourself. Read a book, do a crossword puzzle, draw or even color in a coloring book (there are actual coloring books for adults)
#4. Blow bubbles
It can help slow down your breathing, forcing you to take deep breaths, and gives me something to focus on.
#5. Meditate (see #11)
Sitting still and being calm and quiet are probably the hardest things to do when experiencing a wave of anxiety but, meditating on the regular can help your anxiety disorder, in general. Also, getting into the habit and practice of it makes it easier and easier to plop down and quiet your mind. Try guided meditation to begin with. There’s a Youtube channel dedicated to it.
#6. Get some fresh air
Go for a walk or bike ride or do some work in your garden – whatever it is that you like to do outdoors. Getting fresh air and sunlight can help your mood right away.
#7. Straighten up
Clean or organize that junk drawer in the kitchen or that cluttered bookcase or that stack of mail that’s been accumulating. The way this strategy works is two-fold. You will be distracting yourself from the panic and anxiety you are feeling as well as be doing something productive, which usually makes anyone feel better. And, by the end of it, you will have finally tackled that one mess that you’ve been meaning to, which will also cut down on your overall, general anxiety because you’ll have one less thing weighing on you.
#8. Cuddle up with a furry friend
Need I really explain? Spending time with a pet is immensely beneficial to your well-being, which is why pet therapy in many different settings is becoming so popular. It calms the nerves, slows the heartrate as well as reminds us that there is such a thing as unconditional love. GAH!
#9. Remind yourself that this is nothing new
When anxiety strikes, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and tell yourself that you’ve felt this way before and, most importantly, you survived it. Reminding yourself that you’ve gotten through it before will help you realize that you can get through it again. It can be a comforting thought.
#10. Remind yourself that you’re safe
Sometimes, the simplest thing can make all the difference. Everyone wants to feel safe, whether they realize it or not, you just might be surprised at just how comforting it is to say (and hear yourself say) that you’re safe.
#11. Download an app
Check out phone apps that can track your anxiety and more. For example, there’s an app called “Self-help Anxiety Management” or “SAM,” which is a free app that helps users with tracking, understanding, and overcoming anxiety. It helps you examine the sources of your anxiety, and give you tips and exercises to overcome them. There are also discreet activities and games in-app that can pull you out of an anxiety attack during times when you can’t find a quiet place to relax.
#12. Listen to good music
Whatever “good” music is to you. Music truly speaks to us and there have been numerous times that simply listening to my favorite songs has soothed my anxiety.
#13. Pamper yourself
Sometimes doing things that make you feel good on the outside will help change how you’re feeling on the inside. This could be anything from getting a massage to a fresh haircut.
#14. Drink water
Drinking water could help calm you down from anxiety. It forces you to regulate your breathing, gives you something to focus on, as well as hydrates you – which may be part of the reason you’re feeling icky in the moment. Also, drinking cold water might help shock your system and draw you out of your anxiety.
#15. Schedule your ‘worry time’
People with anxiety disorders tend to overthink everything. Schedule a couple of times during the week that you can dedicate 30 minutes to allowing yourself to worry and think (and overthink) to your heart’s content. Having designated worry time can help you let stuff go for the rest of the week.
If your anxiety disorder is interfering with your life and you feel like you need more support with getting it under control, please consider seeing a therapist. Medication may also be an option for you. Anxiety and other psychological disorders are common to those who also struggle with substance abuse. If you or someone you love is struggling, help is available. Palm Partners offers dual diagnosis treatment to help people with mental illness and addiction issues to heal and recover. Please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 today.
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Author: Justin Mckibben
Virtual reality is becoming less and less a piece of science fiction and more of a reality over the horizon. The graphics for video games have continued to get better and better over the years, and now tech companies have put out and continue to develop headsets that enable us to totally immerse ourselves into the pixelated construct of an alternate reality.
What some have showed some concern for is that the longer the illusion continues, the more you start to forget that it’s an illusion at all, but others think this could help with treating mental health issues. Neurologist Olaf Blanke of the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland is just one researcher who believes in the healing power of virtual reality, stating:
“Two minutes of simulation can override an entire lifelong experience when it comes to what your body is and where it is,”
Next, what happens in virtual reality (VR) could change your behavior for hours, days or even months to come.
Virtual Reality in Theory
Researchers like Olaf Blanke have started to reveal how the brain responds to simulated realities, and something that has been discovered is that taking off the headset doesn’t end the effects of the technology. Unplugging yourself from the system doesn’t eliminate its impact on a person.
In theory watching an avatar (digital representation) of yourself exercise makes you more confident in your ability to work out , and as a result more likely to exercise. Seeing your avatar quickly gain weight after overeating can curb your appetite. That avatar can also lessen physical pain or treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
So how does VR impact mental health? Is it only the newest inventions that will work? Most would guess you need top-of-the-line technology, but actually for psychological impact by VR therapy it probably won’t hinge on the advanced capabilities of the upcoming projects like Sony’s Project Morpheus or Microsoft’s HoloLens. Even the most basic ’90s-era virtual environment is often enough to trick your brain into new patterns of thought.
Still, the price and overall bulkiness of these devices eventually decrease enough that VR will become a more commonplace tool for soothing bruised psyches or improving well-being. Blanke stated,
“These technologies could start to merge with what is already becoming another big field: wearable health.”
Virtual Reality Research
Researchers first turned to simple studies on video gaming when inquiring how virtual settings might affect our offline lives. That specific area of study continues to inform VR work as it remains easier and cheaper. The true VR requires things like:
- Headsets to surround a subject with an alternate reality
- Sensors to track their motions
- Faster software to translate their gestures to an avatar without a big time lag
Any gamer knows with just a monitor and a handheld controller you can be partially immersed in another world, and research on video game play has implied that you don’t have to be aware of the technology for it to have an effect.
Gunwoo Yoon is a doctoral student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign conducted a study was published in 2014 in the journalPsychological Science, where he gave undergraduates a choice to play as either superman or Voldemort in a computer game. After 5 minutes of gameplay the students were asked to stop playing and help with what they claimed was an unrelated experiment: portioning out chocolate and hot chili sauce for the next volunteer to eat. There were 3 important factors:
- The participants said they did not relate specifically to either character
- Those who had played superman generously served up more chocolate than did either those people who had played Voldemort or a control group
- Those who played as Voldemort doled out the most hot sauce
These discoveries are leading Yoon to pursue more practical applications of virtual reality and gaming for therapeutic value. He’s planning virtual realities that let patients with autism or social anxieties interact with avatars in everyday settings. And he’s curious about how to use virtual realities to boost healthy habits.
Associating with the Avatars
When asked Blanke explained what the difference is between seeing a character that you identify as another person, and seeing an avatar that you view as yourself by crediting the temporo-parietal cortex. This area of the brain, where the temporal and parietal lobes meet, is thought to integrate all sorts of information from different sources.
So what this means is when you look at an avatar that’s meant to be someone other than you, the temporo-parietal cortex stays quiet. But when the avatar starts mirroring your movements, showing your heart rate or speaking your words, this is all tricking your brain into thinking the avatar is your own body and then the temporo-parietal cortex reacts, like when you watch yourself in a mirror.
In 2010, Stanford researchers determined that when people watched an avatar of themselves run on a treadmill they became more likely to work out. Virtual realities with avatar gameplay are already being utilized in psychiatric clinics that specialize in the treatment of phobias and anxieties, where people are exposed to their fears in a safe manner through the VR program until they can build a new association with that fear.
At the Virtual Reality Medical Center in San Diego, these kinds of therapies are an active part of the treatment program that is used on patients every day, and since the 1990’s the Executive director Brenda Wiederhold, says she’s been using the technology on patients. Wiederhold herself is also a researcher at UC San Diego.
The Proteus Effect
The Proteus Effect, part of another school of thought concerning the use of avatars and virtual reality in a therapeutic setting, was developed by researchers and is essentially the idea that someone’s behavior can be affected by the actual appearance of their avatar in a virtual setting.
The appearance aspect of the avatar is where Yoon’s idea we evaluated earlier are actually rooted. Yoon’s thought is that those who identify with a villainous avatar will act slightly more nefariously, and in turn those who identify with a healthy avatar and will naturally want to be healthier. It has less do with the virtual environment and more to do with that other-you. Somehow the mind makes that connection between itself and the virtual representation of the individual, and influences behavior.
Because both the environment and the “self” can be so easily manipulated in a virtual reality, most experts suspect that virtual reality can be used to study the effects of numerous aspects of the world on our thoughts. For instance, there is currently a lab study exploring how virtual reality can modify people’s empathy or prejudices toward one another, and with that there are surely other aspects of social and personalize development that can all stem from whether or not we harness the power of virtual reality in the field of therapy and mental health treatment.
The more time that passes it seems the more we learn about how technology has the capacity to influence mental illness, compulsive behavior, and even addiction. But now we are also seeing where technology can help us make change for the better. Innovations in treatment and holistic healing are constantly making new and exciting improvements in recovery. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder in which a person has repeated attacks of intense fear that something bad will happen to the point of being affected physically. Panic disorder is an extremely unpleasant type of condition that causes the individuals who have it tons of suffering. This is because of the panic attacks which are characterized by a sudden and unexpected overpowering feeling of fear. Panic attacks due to a panic disorder can happen at any time and in any place. They can happen due to a reason or no reason at all and they can come with warning and without warning. Depending on the individual, panic attacks can last from one minute to several hours. Overwhelming anxiety can also develop in between panic attacks since they are so unpredictable and can happen at any time. Because of this panic disorder can really impact a person’s ability to function in day to day life.
- The cause of panic disorder is unknown although genes may play a role. For instance, if one identical twin has panic disorder the other twin is likely to develop it to, almost 40% of the time. Panic disorder often occurs although when there is no family history.
- Panic disorder is actually quite common and it is estimated that around 2.4 million or 1 in 113 American suffer from it. Each year, an estimated 1.7% or 1 in 58 adult Americans aged 18 to 54 experiences a panic attack. It is also estimated that 15% of all American are very likely to experience from a panic attack at least once at some point in their lives.
- Panic disorder is more common in women than it is in men. This may be because it is a fear based disorder. Women are twice as likely to have panic disorder. Women are always two times more likely to have a recurrence of their panic disorder after treatment.
- Panic disorder can begin at any point during a person’s life but is more prevalent in early adulthood and mid-teens. People aged between, 25-44 are at the highest risk of developing a panic disorder. It has statistically been shown that those individuals who are well-educated, married, have families, and a steady job are less likely to develop a panic disorder than those with minimal or no education.
If a person does have a panic disorder there are different types of treatment available. The goal of treatment for those with panic disorder is to help them function in everyday life. A combination of medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy has been shown to work best. Antidepressant medications are usually the most common forms of medicines for panic disorder.
There are also some lifestyle changes that someone with a panic disorder can make that include holistic remedies. These treatments for panic disorder, for instance are:
- Limiting caffeine intake
- Avoiding alcohol and drugs
- Meeting with a therapist
- Using breathing techniques
- Massage Therapy
All of these treatments help to relax someone with a panic disorder which may help to relieve some of the suffering due to anxiety. Some people may never be cured of their panic disorder but they can live to function better in their day to day lives with a mixture of medication, therapy, and holistic remedies or maybe just different parts of the three treatments. Panic disorder does not have to ruin someone’s life it can be arrested and disappear almost entirely with the right tools to treat it.
If your loved one is in need of drug or alcohol addiction treatment please give us a call at 800-951-6135.