Why You Should Pay Attention to Your Dreams

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Dreams have been viewed as a key to the unconscious mind ever since 1899, when Sigmund Freud wrote his canonical text The Interpretation of Dreams. Freud theorized that dreams act as a mental safety valve, allowing individuals to experiment with what it might feel like to act out negative emotions, fantasies, or impulses in a “safe” space, not the waking world.

While Freud’s dream theory has been an important contribution in the history of psychology and psychoanalysis, it has since been discredited as unscientific — along with his idea that analyzing dreams can uncover the root cause of a patient’s neurosis, usually a repressed traumatic event experienced as a child.

But the purpose of dreams, and their possible connection to both our subconscious and conscious minds, continues to fascinate neuroscientists and psychologists alike.

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The Surprising New Connection between Sleep and Mental Health

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Sleep research is gradually establishing itself as an important field, and a recent study focusing on the relationship between insomnia and depression may have useful implications for mental health practitioners.

Insomnia is generally regarded as a core symptom of depression, but new research shows that it may actually be a cause of it. The study, which was conducted by sleep researchers at the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, found that “sleep disruption is a driving factor in the occurrence of paranoia, hallucinatory experiences, and other mental health problems in young adults with an average age of 25.”

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Neuroscience and Psychology: Unlocking the Mysteries of the Mind

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Discovering the relationship between the brain and the mind is one of greatest challenges that scientists face in the 21st century. The implications of such a discovery will radically change our conception of what it means to be a conscious being, and will have radical effects on neuroscience, metaphysics, judicial law — and psychology. Even the concept that humans act with free will, an idea that is central to our conception of who we are, may turn out be false.

The relationship between mind and brain is currently the subject of great debate. The conventional view dates back to 17th-century French philosopher René Descartes and his major work, Discourse on the Method, and is known as Cartesian Dualism in his honor. Descartes separated the mind from the body with his famous statement “I think, therefore I am,” a phrase known as “the cogito” after the Latin translation “Cogito, ergo sum.” Descartes laid the foundation for the way that we usually think of ourselves, today — that our mind is separate from the matter of our bodies, and it’s the source of our feelings, decision making capabilities, and all of the aspects that make us who we are. Our mind, a kind of indefinable “ghost in the machine,” gives the orders, and the subservient brain simply makes our bodies carry them out. Continue reading Neuroscience and Psychology: Unlocking the Mysteries of the Mind

What Is Schizophrenia?

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Although the popular perceptions of schizophrenia have changed, the mental health disorder — it’s not classified as a disease, as it can’t be verified as a physical condition — is still not clearly understood outside of the medical profession. This is largely due to the fact that schizophrenia is a complex condition that can manifest as a wide variety of symptoms in different people. To complicate things further, symptoms can also differ in individuals at different stages of the disorder.

The cause of schizophrenia is unknown. Although there are various theories, it’s generally diagnosed when symptoms meet the standard definition of the disorder, and when other similar conditions — such as bipolar disorder — have been rejected. Continue reading What Is Schizophrenia?

The US Versus UK: Comparing Mental Health Care and Stigma

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When I was a child growing up in the UK, much of my knowledge of the US came from reading comic strips like Peanuts, which were published in the Sunday newspapers. I remember reading the series in which Lucy, the female nemesis of the insecure Charlie Brown, set up a makeshift shack offering psychiatric counseling for five cents a session (no insurance accepted, presumably). Having no clue what a psychiatrist was, I asked a friend’s elder brother, who often knew about adult things, for an explanation.

“I think that’s the person they send you to see if you’ve gone completely nuts,” he said.

Although the UK’s awareness of mental health care has improved radically since back then, there is still an associated stigma that would surprise most Americans. For instance, a visit to a psychologist in the US is perceived as somewhat routine, but that’s not so in Britain, where seeking therapy is a big step – it’s an admission of an illness that is considered shameful, so therapy sessions would probably be kept secret. Continue reading The US Versus UK: Comparing Mental Health Care and Stigma

The Global Refugee Mental Health Crisis

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Even when refugees remove themselves from the imminent physical dangers of war zones, their problems are far from over. If refugees relocate to camps within their own country, they often face issues like poverty, and physical and sexual abuse. If they flee abroad, racial and religious discrimination, along with cultural isolation, are often added to their list of woes.

Less talked about than physical and social issues, mental health problems are extremely prevalent in refugee populations, whether they are located in their home country or abroad. Civilian experiences in a war zone can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and physical manifestations of stress like the loss of the ability to move parts of the body. According to a report by the German Federal Chamber of Psychotherapists, more than half the number of refugees from war zones suffer from some kind of mental illness.

The Syrian Civil War, which began in 2011 and has so far displaced over 12 million people, with 4 million seeking refuge abroad in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt, has brought about a greater awareness of the mental issues experienced by refugees, especially children. Around half of Syrian refugees are under 18 years old, and around 40 percent are under 12. Three major reports — Save The Children’s March 2017 report, “Invisible Wounds,” the Migration Policy Institute’s (MPI) 2015 report,  and a 2015 UNHCR report focus on the mental health issues of Syrian refugees. Continue reading The Global Refugee Mental Health Crisis