Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Were They Awarded Tenure for These Studies?

It’s once again time to discuss some brand new psychiatric studies that would be just perfect for my two favorite journals, “Duh!” and “No Sh*t, Sherlock.”
As we all know, our collective experiences are nothing more than anecdotal evidence for anything, and what appears obvious to almost everyone cannot be considered true unless subjected to a randomized controlled or epidemiological study. 
Research dollars are very limited and therefore precious.  Why waste good money trying to study new, cutting edge or controversial ideas that might turn out to be wrong, when we can study things that that are already thought to be true but have yet to be "proven"?  Such an approach increases the success rate of studies almost astronomically.
And studies with positive results are always far more likely to get published than negative ones, so why should an academic take that risk?
Here are some of my favorite recent headlines reported by psychiatric news gathering organizations:
“Body dissatisfaction appears to be the major factor propelling young people on the road to eating disorders.”  Really? I though most people do not complain about being too fat or too thin.  I mean, especially women.
“Sleep disorders are prevalent with mental illnesses.”  And here I was under the impression that depressed, anxious, and paranoid patients slept more soundly than anyone.
“Youngsters with depressed fathers are more likely than other kids to have emotional and behavioral problems, according to a new study of more than 20,000 U.S. families.”  This is so good to know.  I had no idea that having unhappy, miserable adult family members might affect a child’s mood.
"A new analysis released by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that tough economic times have led to a downturn in doctor visits."  That can’t be true in the United States, where as we all know, everyone gets free healthcare.
"Receiving a diagnosis of dementia increases a person's risk for suicide, particularly if symptoms of depression and anxiety are present," according to a studyresearch published in the November issue of the journal Alzheimer's & Dementia.”  Now come on!  The prospect of becoming senile and a financial and emotional burden on one’s family might cause an already depressed or anxious person to despair?  No way!

“Long-Term US Unemployment Taking Psychological Toll." Now this is really surprising, since we all know money cannot buy happiness.  I was just positive that not having enough food to eat and a roof over your head would hardly matter.

“A history of maltreatment during childhood increases the risk for depression in adulthood and poor treatment outcomes, new research suggests.” Another amazing discovery.  This had never been noticed by either psychiatrists or psychotherapists before now.

And finally, "Violence against women is significantly associated with mood, anxiety, and substance use disorders throughout the victim's lifetime."  Since we already know these psychiatric disorders all have purely genetic causes, we now know that these very same genes also cause women to get beaten up.


  1. Good stuff. I also like the "beer goggles" study...
    "Effects of Acute Alcohol Consumption on Ratings of Attractiveness of Facial Stimuli," in Alcohol and Alcoholism, 2008. Major finding: "Alcohol consumption increases ratings of attractiveness. (It) can persist up to 24 hours after consumption, but only in male participants when rating female faces."

  2. Next they're going to do a study telling us kids from divorced families have parents who live in different houses!

  3. A question for you, Dr. Allen: why are these subjects approved and financed in the first place?

  4. Anna,

    Good question! For exactly the reasons I was being snide about in paragraphs 2 and 3 of the post.

  5. Well, once in a while our "isn't it obvious?" assumptions turn out to be wrong.

  6. Let's see if this posts.

    Likely, the reason these studies are financed, is because someone proposed them and the studies must have looked like they were not done before in quite the same way.

    Honestly, though, it is likely they had to be done because frankly, psychiatry has lost its common sense. It was fragmented by an over-reliance on medications, disregard of patient narrative. Disregard of how the individual stories have been disregarded. Those 40 % of us whose bodies "talk back" to meds have been ignored as a minority.

    My "schizophrenia" diagnosis demonstrates how inadequate the models are, in addressing brain malfunction. It does not exist solely in the brain. The medications tell us that.

    The so-called brain disorder of schizophrenia can, and does, result from the interplay of hormonal fluctuations, reactive hypoglycemia, and simple lack of sleep.

    Lord, I can hardly wait for common sense to prevail in taking a more gentle, tactical approach in mental health care, that looks at the entire person~

  7. Rats, I did not edit and check!

    .." I feel psychiatry has lost its common sense. That thing called common sense has been fragmented by an over-reliance on medications, and a near complete disregard of patient narrative.

    The 40 % of us whose bodies "talk back" to meds continue to be ill-served as psychiatry pretends the medications are the STILL the main answer to the mental health equation. "

    When we "contrary ones" ask what the meds actually do, the answers we get are slippery and misleading. An example. Those of us with psychosis, have been told (up until very recently) that we have a dopamine excess, yet I've never had a doctor prove this to me.

    In fact, now that I know that dopamine is involved in will and enthusiasm, I suspect that i actually have an acute sensitivity to dopamine and use it up very efficiently. I say this because I've found that one tiny tiny seroquel pretty much zaps my will, which is why I can only take it at bedtime. Ah but they tell me that seroquel affects more than dopamine!

    When we are stable and ask questions and read more carefully and widely, and pay attention to the truth in our own bodies, we find out that things are not as they seem. Our understandings can be markedly changed by research that at first seems pretty bizarre.

    It caught my attention a few years back, that in experiments with female rats in Israel, they find that the antipsychotic medications don't relieve psychosis in rats, when the rats are deprived of estrogen. Interesting indeed. That had me wondering if that might be part of the reason young men are so vulnerable to so-called schizophrenia, and if there is a subclass of women who are sensitive to psychosis in the onset of menopause. I found one such well-written story and others, in the book Menopause and Madness.

    Before I found this book, I had suddenly noticed my own pattern of ending up in the hospital during PMS, with my period starting the day after admission. (We did not know I was going through menopause at the time.) I asked my psychiatrist about my coincidences, and he simply told me what he thought was obvious. "Stress brings on periods."

    Thank God I had a woman psychotherapist who encouraged me to think long and harder on this. She helped me "get real" when she rolled her eyes at my innocence. Not long after this, I discovered Robert Whitaker's Mad in America. An important expose that helped me understand why certain medications had been used on me, and the doctors at work in my own state to turn those drugs into a money making machine off the university campus. Real market forces were limiting my chances of anyone even looking for a solution that would get to the real root of my problem! I got pissed off at the collusion.

    By then, I had discerned that there was a real connection between my hormones and my vulnerability to psychosis. But for me to find medical validation for my hunch would have me looking like a loon, given the state of endocrinology in my community. I learned more about myself from first hand observation. I watched how I was prone to blood sugar problems in PMS and saw my anxiety as part of the constellation of PMS symptoms. Those, along with PMS's lack of sleep, set my chain-reaction towards psychosis in motion.

    So I listened when a friend told me about Marcia Lawrence's book. I was scared to read it, too, but again, validated by this author's courageous attempt to de-stigmatize psychosis.

    Thanks for hearing these details. My story is tough to summarize in a few words.

  8. thank you for this post

    like a breath of fresh air

  9. Long time follower here and most appreciative of your common sense approach. I serve on a board for research in mental health. I am the only serving member with an MI and not an MD. I have a recognizable name in certain circles so must remain annoymous, however, when I read the CV of many of the highly visible pychiatrists on our board that neglet to mention their membership as board members in their bio and seem to pay more lip-service than function it just astounds me. The one good thing about this board is all funds are raised in the private sector (no pharma, no universities (although we fund certain projects in academia), no government dough, etc.). What makes me nuts is how difficult it is in this economy to raise money and the amount of a$$ kissing it takes to get donations. So, when I read of this nonsense getting funding, it is rather discouraging. As a previous poster on this topic mentioned, it is very important to listen to the narrative of each of your patients. As a bipolar, you certainly can sit back and let them dope you into oblivion or you can apply yourself when you are healthy. I am always reminded of the children's poem...."There was a little girl with a little curl,right in the middle of her forehead, and when she good, she was very good indeed, and when she was bad she was horrid" (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 1807-82). This is bipolar in a nutshell (sorry stupid pun). Dr. Allen your opinions on family dysfunction have helped me deal with my family and for that you have my sincere thanks.