Mental Health Community Blog
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As the semester draws to a close, many college students are starting to feel the pressure of completing projects, writing final papers, giving presentations, and of course, studying for finals. Add to that holding down a job and you’ve got a perfect storm of stress. How to calm your mind? Meditation may be the answer.
Scientific studies are increasingly revealing some pretty amazing benefits of regular meditation practice, both for the general public and students in particular. Meditation can help you better deal with stress and may make your life as a student healthier and happier overall, a great tradeoff for just a few minutes of mindful thinking a day. Read on to learn about some of the latest and most telling studies on student meditation to learn the amazing benefits it can offer you this finals season and beyond.
1. MEDITATION IMPROVES STANDARDIZED ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT
A 2009 study of 189 students in California who were performing below proficiency levels in English and math found that meditation actually helped to improve their test scores on the California Standards Tests. Students were asked to practice transcendental meditation twice a day over a three-month period. At the end of that period, 41% of students participating in the study showed improvement in both math and English scores, sometimes moving up an entire performance level, compared with just 15% who didn’t participate in the program showing improvement.
2. MEDITATION IMPROVES BRAIN FUNCTIONING IN ADHD STUDENTS
Those who have ADHD may find meditation an effective method for improving concentration and brain function, at least according to one study published in The Journal of Psychology. A paper called “ADHD, Brain Functioning, and Transcendental Meditation Practice” appeared in the journal just last year, showcasing the results of a study that followed a group of middle school students with ADHD as they participated in a program that asked them to meditate twice a day for three months. At the end of the three-month period, students reported 50% reductions in stress, anxiety, and ADHD symptoms. Researchers also found improved brain functioning, increased brain processing, and improved language-based skills among ADHD students who practiced transcendental meditation.
3. MEDITATION CAN REDUCE ACADEMIC STRESS
Several studies have been conducted on the effect of meditative practices on reducing academic stress, all with a similar finding: it works. In 2007 researchers at SIU in Carbondale, Ill. released a multi-year study on 64 post-baccalaureate medical students who participated in a deep breathing meditation program. Students in the study were found to have reduced perceptions of test anxiety, nervousness, self-doubt, and concentration loss. Another study of students at American University had similar results, finding that students who participated in three months of transcendental meditation practice reported lower levels of stress (as well as increased concentration, more alertness, and greater resistance to the physical effects of stress, as well as brain function changes) during finals, often the most stressful part of the academic year.
4. MEDITATING MAY IMPROVE THE INTEGRITY AND EFFICIENCY OF CERTAIN CONNECTIONS IN THE BRAIN
It should come as no surprise that meditation practice can cause physical changes in the structure of the brain; monks have been saying this for years. Yet a surprisingly small amount of meditation can have an impact, even with as little as 11 hours of meditating. A 2010 study looked at 45 University of Oregon students, having 22 of them participate in an integrative body-mind meditation training program while the control group simply completed a relaxation program. The IBMT students were found to have changes in the fibers in the brain area related to regulating emotions and behavior, changes which became clear via brain imaging equipment with just 11 hours of practice. The same changes were not seen in the control group. Researchers believe that meditation may help students to better control their actions, resolve conflict, and manage stress by actually physically changing the brain connections that regulate these functions.
5. MEDITATION REDUCES DRUG AND ALCOHOL ABUSE
It’s no secret that many college students go overboard with drugs and alcohol, many binging on potentially dangerous substances multiple nights a week. Yet meditation practice may help limit the desire to engage in these activities, a study in Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly reveals. Looking at both students and adults, the study found that daily transcendental meditation practice greatly reduced both substance abuse problems and antisocial behaviors. The results held true for all classes of drugs including illegal substances, alcohol, cigarettes, and prescription medications, with meditation being in many cases two or three times more effective than traditional drug prevention and education programs.
6. MEDITATION REDUCES BEHAVIOR INCIDENTS AND ABSENTEEISM IN HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS
In 2003, researchers Vernon Barnes, Lynnette Bauza, and Frank Treiber set out to study the effects of meditation on adolescents, specifically looking at the way it could potentially reduce stress and affect school infractions. Their results were pretty striking. Forty-five high school-aged African-American students were studied, some in a control group and others practicing transcendental meditation on a daily basis for four months. At the end of the study, the researchers found that the meditation group had lower levels of absenteeism, lower levels of behavior incidents at school, and lower levels of suspension. On the flip side, these behaviors actually increased in the group that didn’t meditate, suggesting that the meditation helped reduce the psychological stress, emotional instability, or hostility that was leading to negative and often self-destructive behaviors in these teens.
7. MEDITATION MAY MAKE STUDENTS HAPPIER AND BOOST SELF-ESTEEM
Meditation might not just help your studies, it might also help you be happier and more satisfied as well. Researchers at the University of Michigan found 60 sixth-graders to participate in a study, asking a group of them to take part in daily practice of transcendental meditation over a four-month period. At the end of the study, researchers reported that students had undergone some positive changes in emotional development, with students getting higher scores on affectivity, self-esteem, and emotional competence than when they started the program and when compared to their peers who did not meditate.
8. MEDITATION HAS HEART HEALTH BENEFITS
Meditation is as good for your body as it is for your mind, a study at American University reports. A study published by the university in conjunction with the Maharishi University of Management found that regular transcendental meditation helps to reduce blood pressure, anxiety, and depression among college students. The study chose 298 students at random to either be part of the meditation group or a control group, with a subset of students at risk for hypertension also analyzed. After three months, students were measured on blood pressure, psychological distress, and coping ability. Students who were formerly at-risk of hypertension showed a major change in blood pressure, associated with a 52% lower risk of developing hypertension in later years.
9. MEDITATION REDUCES DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY
Feeling a little overwhelmed with college life? You’re not alone. Studies are demonstrating that meditation may offer one solution to better coping with the stress, anxiety, and even depression that many college students experience. Research at Charles Drew University in LA and the University of Hawaii in Kohala found that adults who participated in a transcendental meditation program showed significant reductions in depressive symptoms (an average of 48% lower than the control group), even those who had indications of clinically significant depression. Similar results have been found in students, with decreases in depression and anxiety symptoms at significant levels after participating in a meditation program.
10. MEDITATION MAY INCREASE INTELLIGENCE
A study done by the Maharishi University of Management suggests that meditation is a great way to work out your brain and that it might even have positive effects on intelligence when practiced regularly. Looking at three different studies, the university found that high school students who participated in a transcendental meditation program had significant increases in creativity and intelligence levels, compared to those who took part in a napping or contemplative meditation program. Students in the transcendental meditation group saw increases in brain function across the board, but most dramatically in measurements of creative thinking, practical intelligence, and IQ.
Not for nothing is chess known as “the game of kings.” No doubt the rulers of empires and kingdoms saw in the game fitting practice for the strategizing and forecasting they themselves were required to do when dealing with other monarchs and challengers. As we learn more about the brain, some are beginning to push for chess to be reintroduced as a tool in the public’s education. With benefits like these, they have a strong case.
1. It can raise your IQ
Chess has always had an image problem, being seen as a game for brainiacs and people with already high IQs. So there has been a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation: do smart people gravitate towards chess, or does playing chess make them smart? At least one study has shown that moving those knights and rooks around can in fact raise a person’s intelligence quotient. A study of 4,000 Venezuelan students produced significant rises in the IQ scores of both boys and girls after 4 months of chess instruction.
2. It helps prevent Alzheimer’s
Because the brain works like a muscle, it needs exercise like any bicep or quad to be healthy and ward off injury. A recent study featured in The New England Journal of Medicine found that people over 75 who engage in brain-stretching activities like chess are less likely to develop dementia than their non-board-game-playing peers. Just like an un-exercised muscle loses strength, Dr. Robert Freidland, the study’s author, found that unused brain tissue leads to a loss of brain power. So that’s all the more reason to play chess before you turn 75.
3. It exercises both sides of the brain
In a German study, researchers showed chess experts and novices simple geometric shapes and chess positions and measured the subjects’ reactions in identifying them. They expected to find the experts’ left brains being much more active, but they did not expect the right hemisphere of the brain to do so as well. Their reaction times to the simple shapes were the same, but the experts were using both sides of their brains to more quickly respond to the chess position questions.
4. It increases your creativity
Since the right hemisphere of the brain is responsible for creativity, it should come as no surprise that activating the right side of your brain helps develop your creative side. Specifically, chess greatly increases originality. One four-year study had students from grades 7 to 9 play chess, use computers, or do other activities once a week for 32 weeks to see which activity fostered the most growth in creative thinking. The chess group scored higher in all measures of creativity, with originality being their biggest area of gain.
5. It improves your memory
Chess players know — as an anecdote — that playing chess improves your memory. Being a good player means remembering how your opponent has operated in the past and recalling moves that have helped you win before. But there’s hard evidence also. In a two-year study in 1985, young students who were given regular opportunities to play chess improved their grades in all subjects, and their teachers noticed better memory and better organizational skills in the kids. A similar study of Pennsylvania sixth-graders found similar results. Students who had never before played chess improved their memories and verbal skills after playing.
6. It increases problem-solving skills
A chess match is like one big puzzle that needs solving, and solving on the fly, because your opponent is constantly changing the parameters. Nearly 450 fifth-grade students were split into three groups in a 1992 study in New Brunswick. Group A was the control group and went through the traditional math curriculum. Group B supplemented the math with chess instruction after first grade, and Group C began the chess in first grade. On a standardized test, Group C’s grades went up to 81.2% from 62% and outpaced Group A by 21.46%.
7. It improves reading skills
In an oft-cited 1991 study, Dr. Stuart Margulies studied the reading performance of 53 elementary school students who participated in a chess program and evaluated them compared to non-chess-playing students in the district and around the country. He found definitive results that playing chess caused increased performance in reading. In a district where the average students tested below the national average, kids from the district who played the game tested above it.
8. It improves concentration
Chess masters might come off like scattered nutty professors, but the truth is their antics during games are usually the result of intense concentration that the game demands and improves in its players. Looking away or thinking about something else for even a moment can result in the loss of a match, as an opponent is not required to tell you how he moved if you didn’t pay attention. Numerous studies of students in the U.S., Russia, China, and elsewhere have proven time and again that young people’s ability to focus is sharpened with chess.
9. It grows dendrites
Dendrites are the tree-like branches that conduct signals from other neural cells into the neurons they are attached to. Think of them like antennas picking up signals from other brain cells. The more antennas you have and the bigger they are, the more signals you’ll pick up. Learning a new skill like chess-playing causes dendrites to grow. But that growth doesn’t stop once you’ve learned the game; interaction with people in challenging activities also fuels dendrite growth, and chess is a perfect example.
10. It teaches planning and foresight
Having teenagers play chess might just save their lives. It goes like this: one of the last parts of the brain to develop is the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for planning, judgment, and self-control. So adolescents are scientifically immature until this part develops. Strategy games like chess can promote prefrontal cortex development and help them make better decisions in all areas of life, perhaps keeping them from making a stupid, risky choice of the kind associated with being a teenager.
As one of the most painful and heart-wrenching of human experiences, addiction inherently provides a wealth of narratives creative types can constantly visit and revisit. Whether through film, writing, song, art, or other medium, the serious medical condition always comes bundled with swirling emotions for the affected and their loved ones alike. Even though the details inevitably differ from individual to individual, the agony and the ecstasy almost always remain the same.
1. The Lost Weekend (1945) dir. Billy Wilder
Because the addiction (and, sometimes, recovery) narrative arc has become so familiar to moviegoers, the beats legendary director Billy Wilder might seem clichéd to modern audiences. Considering its age, that does not dilute The Lost Weekend‘s power any. Ray Milland’s Don Birnam’s alcoholism drives wedges between him and his loved ones, and brief flirtations with sobriety only give way to more substance abuse.
2. Bigger Than Life (1956) dir. Nicholas Ray
Drug addiction as a result of chronic illness doesn’t always receive the same attention as the more “glamorous” habits, but this film covers how miracle cures might harm as much as they heal. Here, a family man with a most uncommon diagnosis grows dependent on the cortisone used to eradicate it, mirroring many of the real-life struggles painkiller addicts have to contend with. Even factoring out the physiological component, Bigger Than Life explores how easy it can be to grow psychologically dependent on a substance when it so successfully curbs horrendous physical torment. And, of course, the resultant isolation and other intense personal and interpersonal emotions.
3. Days of Wine and Roses (1962) dir. Blake Edwards
In the real world, many individuals wind up addicted to various substances because a friend, family member, or lover introduces them. In this tragic classic, the phenomenon receives a pretty thorough dissection through the narrative of an alcoholic slickster and his youthful paramour. Blending her love of sweets with his love of alcohol results in the two succumbing to mutually destructive decisions – even after marriage and birthing a daughter. Despite comedic moments, the movie quite explicitly details with everything from withdrawal to what 12-step programs entail.
4. Barfly (1987) dir. Barbet Schroeder
Based loosely on the life of author Charles Bukowski, Barfly also frankly depicts dysfunctional romantic relationships that sometimes coalesce around a mutual addiction. Alcoholism forms the core of central characters Henry and Wanda’s connection, and it lubricates their conversations as well as initiates their liaisons. A small thread of dark comedy weaves in and out of the story, particularly when a cat fight erupts over the male protagonist’s affections near the end. Neither main character wind up seeking help for their dependency, however, which adds an entirely different layer of tragedy to the story.
5. Less Than Zero (1987) dir. Marek Kanievska
More of an anti-drug PSA than fully objective glimpse into drug addiction, this film still receives plenty of accolades for its hardlined message. Following his first semester, a college boy returns home to discover his best friend screwing his ex-girlfriend and crippled beneath a serious cocaine dependency. A very broad adaptation of the Bret Easton Ellis novel ensues, delving deeply into the upper middle class entitlement that once inspired kids to consider narcotics a sign of status and luxury rather than an honest physiological wrecker. Interestingly enough, many recovery programs show to enrollees as a springboard to getting them to analyze their own thoughts and behaviors.
6. Drugstore Cowboy (1989) dir. Gus Van Sant
Matt Dillon plays a desperate addict whose fixes come courtesy of drugstore and hospital holdups. A small, strange family forms as more join him and his wife on their heists, but a series of increasingly horrific scenarios leads him to try and kick the lifestyle once and for all. This obviously proves near impossible, as he already ingrained himself far too into it to just cut and run. Gus Van Sant never shies away from peeling away the grim and gritty reality of addiction and the desperation and tragedy that so often accompanies it.
7. Huozhe (1994) dir. Yimou Zhang
Addiction doesn’t just happen with substances, although the vast majority of movies on the subject emphasize alcohol and drugs. Huozhe, however, chooses to look into the destructive potential of growing a little (or a lot) too fond of gambling. China’s entire social, political, and economic structure shifts while a family loses everything to the patriarch’s obsession with betting everything – eventually forcing him and his wife to make some backbreaking choices.
8. Kids (1995) dir. Larry Clark
Name something, and the eponymous youth at the center of this controversial film are probably addicted to it. Based on the director’s photographic research about excessive drugs, alcohol, and sex amongst hedonistic teens, the brutal Kids explicitly looks at what happens when sociopaths grow too dependent on their own power. Most notably, one character with HIV delights in acting as virgins’ first times, eventually spreading the disease to innocent others. Because of the heavy adrenaline rush abuse and lying imbues him with, that’s why.
9. Leaving Las Vegas (1995) dir. Mike Figgis
In one of Nicolas Cage’s more down-to-earth roles, an alcoholic whose life entirely unraveled thanks to his habit heads off to Vegas with suicidal intentions. Wanting to drink until he dies of alcohol poisoning (or related complications associated with excess), the protagonist hooks up with a prostitute, with whom he forges a friendship of mutually assured destruction. Neither is allowed to criticize the other’s habit, which provides emotional comfort as well as no real incentive to get healthy or get out of danger.
10. Trainspotting (1996) dir. Danny Boyle
Fans of pitch-black comedy and punk sensibilities wanting to see the venerable device applied to drug usage might want to pick up Danny Boyle’s well-received contemporary classic of Scottish cinema. A simultaneous glimpse into heroin abuse and urban poverty, it follows one addict’s attempts to clean up his life, and the ugliness that inspires him to try and starts holding him back. Throughout, Ewan McGregor’s Renton proffers some insight into how ideologies railing against suburban conformity might pique addictive behaviors in some instances.
11. Requiem for a Dream (2000) dir. Darren Aronofsky
Requiem for a Dream is often touted as THE drug addiction movie – one parents want to show their kids about why shooting heroin and popping diet pills might not end up as glamorous or healing as they think. Alternating between four different individuals with four different motivations, Darren Aronofsky’s intense drama doesn’t end well, but it ends realistically, albeit at the grimmest possible ends. A much more effective (though, sadly, far less campy) deterrent than Reefer Madness, anyways.
12. Traffic (2000) dir. Steven Soderbergh
Unlike most movies covering the ins and outs of drug addiction, this one also analyzes the complexities behind producing and distributing in addition to how such substances impact the end user. Suffice to say, the way drugs land at their final destination is far, far more egregious than what happens to the people who actually consume them. More socially-conscious viewing audiences will appreciate how explicitly the human rights violations between shuttling cocaine, heroin, and the like back and forth come to light here.
13. Candy (2006) dir. Neil Armfield
An adaptation of the semi-autobiographical novel of the same name by Luke Davies, Candy relays a romance where both partners love one another (almost) as much as they love heroin. Everything goes predictably awry, however, when the opiate eventually transubstantiates into the very core of their lives, forcing the both of them to resort to criminal activity. Only one winds up walking away, while the other continues nursing a neverending lust for fix after fix after heavenly hellacious fix.
14. A Scanner Darkly (2006) dir. Richard Linklater
Beloved cyberpunk author Philip K. Dick penned A Scanner Darkly as a reflection on the drug culture which absorbed him and the erratic mental illness what took him there. Although science-fiction, the book and the surrealistically rotoscoped film alike remain thematically grounded thanks to the writer’s personal experiences. The dystopian setting takes a grim look at the direction the failed drug war might very well go in if things do not change for the better.
15. Shame (2011) dir. Steve McQueen
David Duchovney’s and Tiger Woods’ dual sex addiction scandals brought the condition to the forefront, challenging how American society perceived the promiscuity it so often derides. The condition is, of course, nothing new – though it certainly seems that way considering the amount of current attention – but remains mostly uncharted territory in the cinematic world. With the amount of acclaim the explicit Shame and its boiling family drama has been receiving lately, that might not stay the trend for too much longer.
You can also read the article at: www.medicalbillingandcoding.org
130th session EB130.R8
Agenda item 6.2 20 January 2012
Global burden of mental disorders and the need for a comprehensive, coordinated response from health and social sectors at the country level
Noted science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov predicted that one day, we’d “have computer outlets in every home, each of them hooked up to enormous libraries where anyone can ask any question and be given answers, be given reference materials, be something you’re interested in knowing, from an early age, however silly it might seem to someone else,” and with this appliance, be able to truly enjoy learning instead of being forced to learn mundane facts and figures. His insight has proven to be amazingly accurate, as we now live in a world with the Internet, where nearly the entire wealth of human knowledge can live at our fingertips or even in our pockets. Such an amazing feat, of course, doesn’t happen without impacting our lives, and scientists have begun to note that the Internet has not only served to fulfill our brains’ curiosities, but also rewired them. So what exactly is the Internet doing to our brains? Read on to find out.
1. THE INTERNET IS OUR EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE
We don’t have to remember phone numbers or addresses anymore. Instead, we can just hop on our email or Google to look it up. According to a study by Science Magazine, “the Internet has become a primary form of external or transactive memory, where information is stored collectively outside ourselves,” and our brains have become reliant on the availability of information.
2. CHILDREN ARE LEARNING DIFFERENTLY
Remember all of the history lessons that required you to remember dates, names, and finite details? Kids don’t do that nearly as much as they used to. With online libraries, “rote memorization is no longer a necessary part of education” according to Read Write Web. Educators are beginning to understand that information is now coming at us through a fire hose, quicker and faster than we can digest it, and memorizing facts wastes valuable brain power that could be used to keep up with more important information that can’t be quickly Googled.
3. WE HARDLY EVER GIVE TASKS OUR FULL ATTENTION
Have you ever updated your Facebook while listening to music and texting a friend? If so, you’ve experienced the phenomenon of continuous partial attention and its impact on your brain. It remains to be seen if partial attention is a distraction as most believe, or an adaptation of the brain to the constant flow of stimuli.
4. WE DON’T BOTHER TO REMEMBER
In a study by Science Magazine, students were asked to type in pieces of trivia, and depending on their group were told that their information would either be erased or saved. The group that was told their data would be saved were less likely to remember. This study indicates that people have lower rates of recall when they can expect to be able to access information in the future.
5. WE’RE GETTING BETTER AT FINDING INFORMATION
Although we can’t remember it all, we’re getting better at finding the information we need. It seems that the brainpower previously used to retain facts and information is now being used to remember how to look it up. Professor Betsy Sparrow reports, “We remember less through knowing information itself than by knowing where the information can be found.” She indicates that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and may even be “kind of amazing,” as we’re adapting to new technology and becoming highly skilled in remembering where to find things.
6. DIFFICULT QUESTIONS MAKE US THINK ABOUT COMPUTERS
When faced with a difficult question, people rarely consider the encyclopedia or history books, but rather, think about computers. It’s a brand new impulse that exists in our brains. For many, this means we don’t have to trek to the library, or, with the ubiquity of smartphones, even go much farther than our own pockets. It’s no longer a big deal to find an old classmate or remember the name of an actor in a movie — all you have to do is Google it.
7. IQ IS INCREASING OVER TIME
In the age of MTV and video games, parents and experts worried that the new and flashy technologies would fry our poor brains into oblivion. But the exact opposite has happened: after MTV, after video games, after Twitter, Facebook, and Google, we’re getting smarter. Are we smarter because of technology, or in spite of it? No one’s answered that question yet, but it’s interesting to think about.
8. OUR CONCENTRATION IS SUFFERING
In an article for The Atlantic, Nicholas Carr relates his growing difficulty in deep reading. Like so many others, he finds that “deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.” It’s not hard to figure out why. Our time online is often spent scanning headlines and posts and quickly surfing links, never spending much time on any one thing. So of course, when it comes to reading more than a few minutes, or even moments, of information, your mind will often begin to wander.
9. WE’RE GETTING BETTER AT DETERMINING RELEVANCE
With so much information, it’s only natural that some of it is junk. After all, we’re no longer in a world bound by printing presses and editors: just about anyone can put information out there and promote the heck out of it. It’s up to us as readers and consumers of information to determine what’s relevant and reliable, and with so much practice, our brains are getting better at this task every day.
10. WE’RE BECOMING PHYSICALLY ADDICTED TO TECHNOLOGY
Even after unplugging, many Internet users feel a craving for the stimulation received from gadgets. The culprit is dopamine, which is delivered as a response to the stimulation — without it, you feel bored. The wife of a heavy technology user notes that her husband is ”crotchety until he gets his fix.”After spending time online, your brain wants to get back on for more, making it difficult to concentrate on other tasks and “unplug.”
11. THE MORE YOU USE THE INTERNET, THE MORE IT LIGHTS UP YOUR BRAIN
In 2007, UCLA professor Gary Small tested experienced surfers and newbie Internet users, asking them to Google a variety of preselected topics. In his experiment, he monitored brain activity, noting that experienced surfers showed much more activity than novice users, especially in the areas typically devoted to decisions and problem solving. He brought them all back six days later, this time having the newbies spend an hour each day searching online in the period before they came back. In the second test, the novice surfers’ brains looked more like the intermediate Internet users. “Five hours on the Internet and the naive subjects had already rewired their brains,” noted Small, suggesting that over time, Internet use changes neural pathways.
12. OUR BRAINS CONSTANTLY SEEK OUT INCOMING INFORMATION
Tests at Stanford indicate that multitaskers, such as heavy Internet users, often tend to overlook older, valuable information, instead choosing to seek out new information. Clifford Nass of Stanford observes, “we’ve got a large and growing group of people who think the slightest hint that something interesting might be going on is like catnip. They can’t ignore it.” Instead of focusing on important tasks, or putting information to good use, we’re distracted by incoming email.
13. WE’VE BECOME POWER BROWSERS
Online browsing has created a new form of “reading,” in which users aren’t really reading online, but rather power browsing through sites. Instead of left to right, up to down reading, we seem to scan through titles, bullet points, and information that stands out. Comprehension and attention are certainly at risk here.
14. ONLINE THINKING PERSISTS EVEN OFFLINE
When you’re online, you’re frequently attacked by bursts of information, which is highly stimulating and even overwhelming. Too much, and you can become extremely distracted and unfocused. Even after you log off (if you ever do), your brain remains rewired. A lack of focus and fractured thinking can persist, interrupting work, family, and offline time.
15. CREATIVE THINKING MAY SUFFER
Some experts believe that memorization is critical to creativity. William Klemm, a neuroscience professor at Texas A&M University insists that “Creativity comes from a mind that knows, and remembers, a lot.” Although creativity seems to have grown with the use of technology, it’s certainly being done in new and different ways. And Klemm’s assertion is certainly true for creative thinking and brainstorming born out of memorized knowledge, which so many of us now store online.
You can also read the article at: www.onlinecollege.org
Both serious academics and pop psychologists appear preoccupied over finding definitive links between mental illness and influential, brilliant creative output, with floods of studies attempting to make sense of it all. Whether or not such a connection genuinely exists, of course, will probably remain in the theoretical realm for the foreseeable future. One can certainly alter the course of human achievement without any sign of mental illness or distress. And, despite unfortunate, prevailing stigmas often painting those with psychiatric concerns as incompetent or incapable of accomplishing much of anything to their fullest potential, it is entirely possible to exist as both a genius and a troubled individual. Without the following thinkers, mankind would end up denied some incredible insight into the elations and despairs inherent to existence. To condemn them for the pain so many were both with — or conditioned into by external circumstances — is, in some ways, to condemn the species itself.
Probably more than any other influential, creative mind in history, renowned painter Vincent van Gogh is so often cited as the quintessential troubled artist. His tragic life ended in suicide at age 37, and experts continue debating what diagnosis afflicted him; bipolar disorder, complications from epilepsy, or schizophrenia remain the most popular candidates. According to his correspondence, van Gogh experienced at least two major depressive episodes, followed by intensely innovative periods.
Lauded for her deeply personal writings, much of this great American poet’s oeuvre illustrated the very real suffering she experienced as a result of bipolar disorder. Semi-autobiographical novel The Bell Jarpulled from Sylvia Plath’s own personal experiences with self-mutilation, suicide attempts, depression, insomnia, paranoia, and other manifestations of her diagnosis. Following a grim suicide, her work eventually became integral in helping mainstream readers better understand how mental illness impacts patients.
Psychology was not exactly a cohesive discipline in Ludwig van Beethoven’s time, of course, but that doesn’t stop contemporary professionals from analyzing his personal letters and other writings. The brilliant composer admitted to harboring suicidal thoughts, and some experts believe his cycles between crippling depression and wildly fertile creativity signaled bipolar disorder. Other theories posit that a history of physical abuse at the hands of his alcoholic father, which may have instigated his eventual deafness, left him traumatized and troubled in perpetuity.
Fans of art history and The New York Times both consider Martin Ramirez’s collages and drawings some of the most essential examples of Art Brut (or “outsider art”) ever. During his three decades in a California mental health facility, he produced hundreds of pieces, attracting attention for particularly showstopping line work. The completely self-taught Ramirez lived with schizophrenia, although debates continue waging over whether or not it held any significant influence over his eventual oeuvre.
Virginia Woolf likely experienced bipolar disorder during an era when medical professionals proved poorly equipped to deal with the symptoms and presentations. Writing offered one of her only solaces for channeling the transitions between suicidal depression and overwhelming elation, as her doctors preferred isolationist bed rest worsening the condition. Unfortunately, the solution eventually drove the modernist author to drown herself as a means of quelling the emotional and physical torment stemming from both her diagnosis and the loneliness of the main treatment option.
A history of abuse as a child — details of which neither friends nor family will disclose — drove this influential, introspective singer-songwriter to depression, substance abuse, and suicide. In all likelihood, his heavy heroin usage acted as a means of alleviating both the lingering trauma and resulting descent into despair; even after jettisoning the habit, though, Elliott Smith’s music garnered acclaim for its honest depiction of wrenching emotional (and physiological) pain. From a Basement on a Hill currently stands as one of the scene’s most earnest albums exploring the internal struggles of the not-so-willingly alienated.
Depression ran in this Pulitzer and Nobel-winning playwright’s family, afflicting at least both parents, a brother, and even his children, two of whom eventually killed themselves. Eugene O’Neill himself grappled against alcoholism in response to the condition, to the point he attempted suicide and spent a stint in the hospital. Adding to the tragedy, a misdiagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease (which was more than likely late-onset cerebellar cortical atrophy in reality) meant he ended up ingesting drugs that did nothing for his increasing physiological pain, including tremors and brain shrinkage, which exacerbated his mental health in turn.
Literal Renaissance man Michelangelo Buonarroti garnered almost as much fame for his nasty temper and antisocial tendencies as his genuinely breathtaking sculptures, paintings/frescoes, architecture, and (to a lesser extent) poetry. Along with severe knee, kidney, and bladder issues plaguing him for much of his existence, the brilliant artist’s output features a common melancholic, sometimes defeatist or fatalistic, theme. Obviously, at this point one cannot present a definitive diagnosis, though mental health professionals believe first-person accounts of his erratic behavior reveal a man with bipolar disorder, clinical depression, or both.
Regardless of one’s opinion regarding surf, pop, and psychedelic rock, nobody will deny that The Beach Boys left a significant impression on the music industry; frontman Brian Wilson typically earns most of the credit for their widespread success. A mélange of drug use, depression, and schizoaffective disorder plagued him with hallucinations, paranoia, bouts of overeating, and stints in bed sometimes lasting months on end. These days, Wilson does not shy away from detailing his experiences, hoping that the honesty will help others come to terms with their own mental health struggles.
The Joy Luck Club still sits on English class syllabi across the nation, and for good reason; few novels delve so deeply into the oft-marginalized experiences of Chinese-American women with such deft insight. Author Amy Tan hails from a family plagued with depression and suicide, and when symptoms of the former started creeping in, she panicked to the point she denied herself valuable treatment. But once everything grew almost entirely unbearable, Tan courageously entered psychotherapy and started on a Zoloft regimen that met her personal needs.
Even individuals largely uninterested in the art world still know expressionist masterpiece “The Scream” through pop cultural osmosis (or, at least, news regarding a plethora of thefts and theft attempts!); artist Edvard Munch’s entire body of work encompasses some truly amazing paintings, drawings, prints, and etchings beyond that, of course. Growing increasingly hermitic as time ticked forward, he oftentimes found himself crunched beneath despair due to his own poor health, losing his mother and sister at an early age, an emotionally estranged father, frustration with the art scene, and a mounting obsession with death. Anxiety and depression, as one can imagine, fueled some of his most powerful, memorable images — including his most famous piece.
One of America’s most beloved 20th century wits fell into such a heavy state of depression for a time — to the point he ditched his celebrated writing career almost entirely. Breakfast of Champions marked his emergence from the period, and Kurt Vonnegut also followed it up by openly talking about everything the experience entailed with the hopes of promoting mental illness de-stigmatization. Part of him, however, always thought that some degree of melancholia was absolutely essential in cobbling together literary masterpieces.
For much of her troubled life, Frida Kahlo found herself forced to live with a staggering array of neurological, physical, and mental conditions; almost all ended up depicted in her art with the raw honesty that landed her a laudable spot in history. Decades-long battles with immense physiological pain eventually led her to start relying on increasingly heavy painkillers to dull the depression, which in turn stoked suicidal thoughts, especially after her art began declining in quality. She died of a pulmonary embolism instead of her own hand, but her masterpieces remain among the world’s most effective, evocative creative depictions of pain ever produced.
Anyone who’s ever sat down with a Woody Allen film probably wouldn’t be surprised to find out about his ongoing fight against depression, nor the fact that he uses comedy as a coping mechanism. The roles he assigns himself grow organically from his own perspectives, flaws, and experiences, serving as both self-assessment and an effective glimpse into how anxiety comes to shape a patient’s life. Movies, however, do not offer the only creative solace — he has also written extensively about depression and anxiety, usually with a splash of his signature humor.
Drug abuse, particularly hallucinogens, and mental illness involving visions (more than likely schizophrenia exacerbated by rampant LSD usage) almost singlehandedly kickstarted the entire cyberpunk genre. One of pioneer Philip K. Dick’s seminal novels, VALIS, exists solely because of the visual and auditory experiences resulting from this mix. His depression, nervous breakdowns, and anxiety over a dead twin sister receive less attention than the other conditions, but still left a major mark on the science fiction classics he published.
Mark Rothko, the genius abstract expressionist, only started garnering his current acclaim after committing suicide in 1970. Episodes of crushing despair pockmarked most of his life, costing him his first marriage and requiring medication (which, tragically, he voluntarily overdosed on) to curb. Because Rothko also dealt with almost manic periods of lush creativity, leading some contemporaries and mental health experts to postulate that he may have experienced bipolar disorder comorbid with his depression.
For most of his life, this acclaimed outsider artist and singer-songwriter has grappled with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, though none of that prevents him from enjoying a sizable fanbase. After moving to Austin, he earned attention by giving demo tapes to those falling within his orbit, quickly garnering enthusiastic listeners eager for his next live performance or art show. Many of Daniel Johnston’s drawings feature pop culture fixtures like Captain America as well as his own imagined creations, such as Jeremiah the Innocent — of whom a very famous mural sits in his adopted Texas home.
When renowned postmodernist author David Foster Wallace took his own life in 2008, friends, family, and fans reacted with both shock and understanding. For 20 years, he received both therapy and medication for severe depression, and an improperly coordinated switch between prescriptions may have very well triggered his unfortunate passing. The experiment ended up inspiring a far darker period than Wallace had ever encountered, sadly reflecting the realities of many individuals whose medications damage their brain chemistry beyond repair.
Joy Division vocalist Ian Curtis, one of the most iconic frontmen of post-punk, committed suicide at age 23 and launched a maelstrom of speculation which almost rivals that surrounding Kurt Cobain. Some blame his epileptic seizures, others his regular difficulties with woman (and, according to his family, everything else) for the debilitating depression encompassing his entire life — though nobody suspected it would end so tragically. Even before Curtis’ death, Joy Division defined the British post-punk sound almost singlehandedly, and musicians today still consider them a major influence.
A history of substance abuse and bipolar disorder ravaged one of the premiere (and obviously controversial!) abstract expressionists; in all likelihood, the former existed as a means of coping with the latter. A brilliant painter whose splattered works even now elicit either frothing mouths or enthusiastic hosannas, both conditions instigated major gulfs between his friends, family, and lovers alike. Evidence exists suggesting that Jackson Pollock struggled immensely with the extreme reactions to his art and mounting fame, which may have very well worsened his already stressful mental state.
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