Monday, 28 November 2011

Phobia - A Brief Layout


A phobia, coming from the Greek word ‘Phobos’ meaning “Fear” is one of the many types of anxiety disorder, usually defined as a persistent fear of an object or situation in which the person will go far lengths in avoiding, even though the situation is disproportional to the actual danger posed.
Psychologists classify Phobias into 3 categories:

1 – Social Phobia: Associated with social related factors such as speaking in public, or simply the fear of ‘embarrassing’ themselves. This type of phobia is difficult to treat without the use of therapy. It further classifies into two groups
A-    Generalized Social Phobia: Also known as Social Anxiety Disorder
B-    Specific Social Phobia: Anxiety is only triggered by specific situations. For example, some people have a fear of urinating in public if there is no privacy.
2- Specific Phobias: Fear of a single specific panic trigger such as spiders, water, dogs, height. Normally, people are afraid of these but to a lesser degree than those who are phobic.
3- 3. Agoraphobia: a generalized fear of leaving home or a small familiar 'safe' area, and of possible panic attacks that might follow. It may also be caused by various specific phobias such as fear of open spaces, social embarrassment (social agoraphobia), fear of contamination (fear of germs, possibly complicated by obsessive-compulsive disorder or PTSD post traumatic stress disorder  related to a trauma that occurred out of doors.
Specific Phobia Diagnosis, according to the DSM-IV-TR:
1.      Marked and persistent fear that is eXcessive or unreasonable, cued by the presence or anticipation of a specific object or situation (e.g., flying, heights, animals, receiving an injection, seeing blood).
2.      EXposure to the phobic stimulus almost invariably provokes an immediate anXiety response, which may take the form of a situationally bound or situationally predisposed panic attack. Note: In children, the anXiety may be expressed by crying, tantrums, freezing, or clinging.
3.      The person recognizes that the fear is eXcessive or unreasonable. Note: In children, this feature may be absent.
4.      The phobic situation(s) is avoided or else is endured with intense anXiety or distress.
5.      The avoidance, anXious anticipation or distress in the feared situation(s) interferes significantly with the person's normal routine, occupational (or academic) functioning, or social activities or relationships, or there is marked distress about having the phobia.
6.      In individuals under the age of 18, the duration is at least 6 months.
7.      The anXiety, panic attack, or phobic avoidance associated with the specific object or situation are not better accounted for by another mental disorder, such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (e.g., fear of dirt in someone with an obsession about contamination), Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (e.g., avoidance of stimuli associated with a severe stressor), Separation Anxiety Disorder (e.g., avoidance of school), Social Phobia (e.g., avoidance of social situations because of fear of embarrassment), Panic Disorder With Agoraphobia, or Agoraphobia Without History of Panic Disorder.

Social Phobia Diagnosis – DSM-IV-TR
The diagnostic criteria for 300.23 Social Phobia as outlined by the DSM-IV-TR:
1.      A marked and persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others. The individual fears that he or she will act in a way (or show anXiety symptoms) that will be humiliating or embarrassing. Note: In children there must be evidence of the capacity for age-appropriate social relationships with familiar people and the anXiety must occur in peer settings, not just in interactions with adults.
2.      EXposure to the feared social situation almost invariably provokes anXiety, which may take the form of a situationally bound or situationally predisposed Panic Attack. Note: In children the anXiety may be expressed by crying, tantrums, freezing, or shrinking from social situations with unfamiliar people.
3.      The person recognized that the fear is eXcessive or unreasonable. Note: In children this feature may be absent.
4.      The feared social or performance situations are avoided or else are endured with intense anXiety or distress.
5.      The avoidance, anXious anticipation, or distress in the feared social or performance situation(s) interferes significantly with the person's normal routine, occupational (academic) functioning, or social activities or relationships, or there is marked distress about having the phobia.
6.      In individuals under age 18, the duration is at least 6 months.
7.      The avoidance is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g. a drug of abuse, a medication) or a general medical condition and is not better accounted for by another mental disorder (e.g. Panic Disorder With or Without Agoraphobia, Separation AnXiety Disorder, Body Dysmorphic Disorder, a Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Schizoid Personality Disorder).
8.      If a general medical condition or another mental disorder is present, the fear in Criterion A (EXposure to the social or performance situation almost invariably provokes an immediate anXiety response) is unrelated to it, e.g., the fear is not of Stuttering, trembling in Parkinson's disease, or eXhibiting abnormal eating behavior in Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia Nervosa.

Environmental –
Much in understanding causes of Phobia and fear responses can be attributed to the Pavlovian Model of Classical Conditioning.  For example, a child who has had a traumatic event such as falling from a high place or experiencing a faulty accident on a roller coaster would develop a phobia to ‘height’ as though being conditioned.

Circumstances of being afraid of heights or spiders may be linked to evolutionary factors wired in the brain. For eXample, early man who lived in the savannas had to be wary of spiders that were secretive, stealthy and eXtremely deadly. The same with heights, being conscious that falling would lead to damage and even death, over a prolonged period of time became wired in the brain that these are code red situations. This view does not necessarily hold that phobias are genetically inevitable. Instead, there may be a genetic predisposition to learn to fear certain things more easily than other things
As mentioned, phobias are caused by an event where the amgydala and hippocampus labels it as ‘red zone dangerous’ so if the situation ever happens again, the body will react as if the event was acting repeatedly afterward. Therefore treatment works similarly the same way – the most effect therapy is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The therapy is to replace this recorded fear with a more rational accepted scenario. This can be achieved through eXposure therapy where the sufferer is exposed to the phobia from a far scale little by little. The amygdala is the region of the brain associated with emotions such as fear in this case. The amygdala triggers secretion of hormones that affect fear and aggression – this is what puts the body in an active state known as the fight or flight response.

There are many techniques used in treating phobias, the most successful of these techniques include:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – A clinical trial showed this therapy cured 95% if all sufferers of phobias.
EMDR – Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing – has been demonstrated to be successful in treating specific phobias but mainly in treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Antidepressant medications such SSRIs, MAOIs may be helpful in some cases of phobia. Benzodiazepines may be useful in acute treatment of severe symptoms but the risk benefit ratio is against their long-term use in phobic disorders
The Top Five Most Common Phobias:

Acrophobia – Fear of heights
As mentioned above, acrophobia is neurologically wired into us through evolution. It should not be confused with vertigo, which is a physical condition that causes dizziness or disorientation when one looks down from a great height.

Claustrophobia – Fear of Enclosed Spaces
The levels of claustrophobia differ from closing a room door to entering an elevator. Some people discover undiagnosed claustrophobia when undergoing an MRI.

Nyctophobia – Fear of the Dark
This fear is common and generally transient in children. If it persists for longer than six months and causes eXtreme anXiety, however, it may be diagnosed as a phobia. It is less common in adults.

Ophidiophobia - Fear of Snakes

People who are diagnosed with this phobia not only have a problem with seeing them or touching them, but will also have a problem talking about them.


Arachnophobia – Fear of Spiders

A very common animal phobia and most common insect phobia. People with this phobia will also react to spider webs or any other indication that a spider is near. The very thought of spiders to the sufferer makes them shiver. Severe cases go as far as having anXiety simply viewing a picture of a spider.


Top Five Most Bizarre Phobias


Ithyphallophobia – Fear of Erections

Though bizarre, this phobia is commonly growing amongst men. Most fear of erection therapies take months to years and sometimes even requires the patient to be eXposed to their fears. It can also lead to panic attacks.


 Ephebophobia – Fear of Youths

Categorized as a psychological social fear of youth.


Coulrophobia – Fear of Clowns

Quite common amongst children and even adults. This phobia can be traced to having a direct bad experience with a clown. Also, the red nose and overall face painting may appear bizarre and treacherous to some people who may perceive it as a threat. Batman’s nemesis Joker or Stephen King’s “IT” are good references.


Ergasiophobia – Fear of Work

A disorder in some people causing significantly psychological disability and dysfunction. These individuals may actually be suffering from other health problems such as clinical depression and/or ADHD.

Gymnophobia – Fear of Nudity

This phobia is a fear of being seen naked or seeing others naked. It is a social phobia usually associated with people who view their bodies as ‘inferior’ particularly due to comparison with idealized images portrayed in the media.



Sunday, 27 November 2011

How Weather Affects Your Mood

The most powerful attribute the human species has developed is the power to adapt and evolve to their surroundings. Depending on where you are in the world, some places are cold and some are hot. Human beings have learned to adapt and shape their culture around their environment. But what if the environment plays a primary role that kick starts both the biology and psychology of the human being? Is it possible the very weather and temperature can be a main cause and effect to some clinical disorders such as clinical depression that leads to disastrous results such as suicide?
If you ask a child in kindergarten to draw two pictures – one on a rainy day and the other on a sunny day, there’s an interesting point. The picture with rain falling all over the place has the stick-man figure ‘frowning’ usually holding an umbrella where as the picture with the sunny day has the stick figure man with a big smile and if that’s not enough, the child will also put the pet dogs and cats with big smiles.
So what’s this? Is it safe to label this as some sort of archetype? A child in kindergarten who barely has an idea of the basics has already projected his emotions unto his drawing paper. The rain is sadness and sunshine is happiness is more poetic and metaphorical than it is scientific but there are keys to the reality it plays.
A study in 2008 by a group of European researchers eXamined the impact of six different weather factors – temperature, wind, sunlight, precipitation, air pressure and the length of day on more than 1200 subjects in which most of them were women. The study showed that a boost of mood was minimal but the degradation of mood was major, with many going as far as suffering from episodic depression to others feeling ‘tired or sluggish’.
It is important to note that some people’s emotions are simply more vulnerable to the weather and its changes than others since every human being is unique in his or her own way. Someone who is prone to a negative mood on dark cold days will be going through a very depressive winter when there’s lack of sunlight and long nights. This is the basis of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
So where does the biology play a part? Surely the weather doesn’t have magical properties. Research in Seasonal Affective Disorder whereby the brain’s response was studied has shown that hormones play a big role in the change of mood. When our eyes detect darkness, a small glad in the brain known as the pineal releases melatonin which is a leading serum in establishing sleep cycles. When we detect light, melatonin produces its friendly subside known as serotonin. Serotonin helps in boosting aliveness and happiness which promotes mood positively.
Therefore if you look into suicide and depression, you’ll find out study shows there is a positive correlation between depression and suicide and weather. In Africa, even the most poverty stricken places, there is a minimal and tiny amount of suicide listings. However in Winter Europe, basic problems are exaggerated into levels of clinical depression.
In conclusion, what affects your biology will also affect your psychology. The best way to counter these symptoms is mind over matter. One should get off the computer and get out in the sun to get as much sunlight as possible. It is also advised to engage in sports and other health activities to keep the body and mind vigorous and working. Even reading a novel is preferred than to sitting around.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

How Media Influences the Human Psyche Part I

When you hear or come across the word 'media', your mind starts bringing up images from movies, news, cartoons, camera crew, advertisement etc We do live in a media world, at least the ones who are able to type this and print it out do. The media is everywhere and people label the media as 'Entertainment'. But is the media more than that? Studies in social psychology and history itself has shown that the media itself is a weapon as well as a religion. In this chapter, we'll discuss Subliminal Messages - most importantly, imprinted ideas in the human brain. 

To start with Subliminal Messages, these are messages you aren't conscious of - they are basically messages that jump into your unconscious without passing through any filters. The message is an idea and ideas are what the world is made of. These ideas could orient you to think about something and eventually do something. It is seen in advertising whereby hundreds of pictures are just being flashed at rapid rates and one of the picture has something to do with nudity, violence or food. If you're thinking, how was the person able to see that specific picture?! Well, the person didn't but the person's brain did. The human brain is powerful enough to easily skim through all those pictures and filter them so the person doesn't overload. Neuropsychological tests has proven that the brain can easily accomplish this task. 

So why do subliminal messages work? Well, tests have shown that subliminal messages work mostly on the human needs rather than the human wants. That is to say, if you flash a Pepsi bottle as a subliminal message doesn't necessarily mean the person is going to break into a liquor store to drink Pepsi. Rather, the human brain lights up with its neurons when a 'need' is within its grasp. Do an fMRI scan of the human brain while orgasm and drinking Pepsi - you'll notice there's a big difference. So the human brain is naturally wired to accept its biological needs. 

So how does the media play a role with subliminal messages? Power, control? They all work. A study showed that children eXposed to Disney Cartoons were more eager to engage in seXual activity than those that didn't watch Disney Cartoons. Conspiracy theories of how Disney Cartoons have subliminal messages that promote seXual activity in children just turned out to have a sparkle of truth. But then what do you think is wrong with the act overall? Well, you are influenced to lead a certain lifestyle and that alone can change your life drastically. 

But what about the media as it is? Does it require subliminal messages to implant an idea? Certainly not. Sometimes the Medic can just display a billboard with the message right there and that can be enough to change someone's way of living. Some starving children in Africa were brought up in a world that they've never seen beyond what their eyes can see. But then although in poverty, you still see African children laughing hysterically just chasing a ball. Now how can the media influence the child? Well, the child has never seen a television before - doesn't know the life outside here or if there is life at that moment. So then if the child sees on TV that some kids are having an entire table of food that they just can't get enough and end up throwing half of the uneaten food to garbage, imagine what goes on in the poor child's mind. The child is now 'conscious' of his reality and his stomach hurts more than he previously ever felt. So you see a media image broadcasted from half way across the world can have powerful effects. 

As a weapon, it is known as Propaganda. During the Soviet Communism Era, the allies used the same tactic as above to influence the people against their government. When there were people all waiting in line to get a pound of chicken, right besides them was a billboard that read


An entire house for mom and dad, son has his brand new car, daughter is cooking three large turkeys.

The amygdala and the frontal lobe went on fire because it touched the human need - the unsatisfied taste to have everything. Propaganda is one of the reasons that Political Systems end up working or failing. In fact, it's beginning to backfire as a domino effect. In the United States, one state created a riot known as the Occupy Movement and as it was broadcasted on TV, other states watched and ended up doing the same and now pretty much the entire world is joining this movement. 

What about the internet? The highest paid media industry is actually the Porno Industry. After all, it is a human need. So how does porno change a person's life? Well, besides getting addicted to porn and people developing SeXual Compulsive Disorders, there's always a more harsh eXample. 
In Saudi Arabia, porn and everything that has to do with nudity is forbidden by law. You have a better chance of hacking into NASA rather than trying to break the firewall to porn in Saudi Arabia. So then think about it, human males start getting erections at the age of five and from that and beyond up even into adolescence, they never get to see a woman's ankle. The repression can eventually cause someone to be a rapist or a seXual compulsive. Now imagine a giant video billboard on the city streets advertising the latest Mercedes Benz or whatever. Imagine what would happen if you just uploaded a pornographic video even for a few seconds. Men, who've never seen an ankle before talk less of an entire naked female body in the state of intercourse, would go insane with all the neurons blasting in his brain. The same goes for females - that is, if they don't pull their eyes out. In my opinion, that's the best way to start a riot in Saudi Arabia. 

[Will stop here for now, continue later -] 

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

NDU Kombat Elections: Debate VS Social - Haballity.

Well, fellow Wolf Runners, I've been contemplating for sometime what I should write for my neXt blog. Believe me, I've got alot of ideas ranging from Psychology, Political Science and Astronomy BUT I just can't seem to find the proper start and time for them. So, anyways, I decided to write about something local based that's more of a 'comic relief'

So, welcome to my University - Notre Dame Louaize. 

This used to be the coolest University when I got in a few years ago because it's made up of people that are just going with the flow. For eXample, in AUB - GEEKS GEEKS GEEKS (And not the good type of geeks) In LAU, FAKE FAKE FAKE (and not the good type of fake...there are no good types of fake) Well, in NDU, you've got some dumb people but there are some people who make it worthwhile. 

So what's the problem? Well, every fall there's the elections. The winner gets to run the university in a sad illusion. These clubs that participate work very hard to win. Now you may think that what's wrong with clubs that try to help out the University. Well, NOTHING. 

Then what's the problem? The problem is that--here it comes- Stinking Motherfucking Lebanese Politics. These clubs hide behind a mirage of their politics. The Debate standing with the Ouwait, Samir Geagea, Saint Charbel, Holy Bread etc The Social club stand with the General Michel Aoun, bipolarity disorder, aggression, Parkinson's disease. 

These clubs are always at war with one another, every single time the elections draws close, there are rounds like Chelsea fans going into a Manchester United pub--okay that's a bad eXample since Chelsea fans kick ass. Well, you get the point! I feel sad I'm walking through a fight just trying to head into class. Now you may be thinking what is the main goal that these guys are just causing bloodbaths - logically, there should be a goal. Well, last year when Debate won (as usual) the cafeteria got couches that lasted two weeks, the price of the coffee went down by like 50 cents (yeah unh) and some book prices got cheaper. Overall, property destruction outweighed the benefits we received. The University didn't get a new telescope, it still doesn't have a giant conference hall, it still doesn't have cranberry flavored ice tea. By the way you guys should see our cafeteria, I'd rather eat my dead grandmother. 

So today I got news when the elections started in LAU Beirut, there was a blood bath. I chuckled until my friend showed me a picture and I shit you not - there was blood on the walls I almost got an erection. It was something out of a martial arts movie with blood on the walls, broken boards that looked like someone got face planted, etc all for the sake of my religion and my belief is better than yours. 

Another point I'd like to put out is how some newcomers are suddenly joining these clubs. As a Psychology major, I can just tell you some people were lonely all their lives in high school and now needed a clean sheet to become popular so they find out these clubs promote attention whoring. They may deny this, but for those of you who know me, this is the case. So incase one of your new comer friends join to become an active member, just give him or her hugs and hot chocolate. 

So for those of ya'll who are new to the elections,  you're free to choose who you wish to vote for it's all good. I personally think in the end, it's not worth it. I mean, if Debate or Social could give the kids at the orphanage some blankets to keep warm this coming winter, my heart and my eyes as appreciation. Instead, they raise money and go clubbing in Skybar to celebrate their "success" and if you happen to be in these parties, watch how they just get drunk and the club chicks end up sucking cock in the bathroom and their boyfriends go bang other chicks and there's an entire highschool drama afterward.  

So now for the elections day, if you want to remain neutral, it's best you don't come because it's going to be a riot and people are going to be kissing your ass left and right it's not worth the trouble. So anyways, I'll leave this a small blog - remember, you're smarter than your political leaders. If they were so good, we'd all be living lives like its Sweden but instead we're going backwards and we're just too pathetic that we blame other parties for this downfall. Cheers and I'll see you guys sooner than later with a more interesting topic.