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Archive for the ‘Mental Health’ Category

Trump wasn’t always so linguistically challenged. What could explain the change?

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Sharon Begley writes at STAT, a national publication focused on finding and telling compelling stories about health, medicine, and scientific discovery:

It was the kind of utterance that makes professional transcribers question their career choice:

“ … there is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign, but I can always speak for myself — and the Russians, zero.”

When President Trump offered that response to a question at a press conference last week, it was the latest example of his tortured syntax, mid-thought changes of subject, and apparent trouble formulating complete sentences, let alone a coherent paragraph, in unscripted speech.

He was not always so linguistically challenged.

STAT reviewed decades of Trump’s on-air interviews and compared them to Q&A sessions since his inauguration. The differences are striking and unmistakable.

Research has shown that changes in speaking style can result from cognitive decline. STAT therefore asked experts in neurolinguistics and cognitive assessment, as well as psychologists and psychiatrists, to compare Trump’s speech from decades ago to that in 2017; they all agreed there had been a deterioration, and some said it could reflect changes in the health of Trump’s brain.

In interviews Trump gave in the 1980s and 1990s (with Tom Brokaw, David Letterman, Oprah Winfrey, Charlie Rose, and others), he spoke articulately, used sophisticated vocabulary, inserted dependent clauses into his sentences without losing his train of thought, and strung together sentences into a polished paragraph, which — and this is no mean feat — would have scanned just fine in print. This was so even when reporters asked tough questions about, for instance, his divorce, his brush with bankruptcy, and why he doesn’t build housing for working-class Americans.

Trump fluently peppered his answers with words and phrases such as “subsided,” “inclination,” “discredited,” “sparring session,” and “a certain innate intelligence.” He tossed off well-turned sentences such as, “It could have been a contentious route,” and, “These are the only casinos in the United States that are so rated.” He even offered thoughtful, articulate aphorisms: “If you get into what’s missing, you don’t appreciate what you have,” and, “Adversity is a very funny thing.”

Now, Trump’s vocabulary is simpler. He repeats himself over and over, and lurches from one subject to an unrelated one, as in this answer during an interview with the Associated Press last month:

“People want the border wall. My base definitely wants the border wall, my base really wants it — you’ve been to many of the rallies. OK, the thing they want more than anything is the wall. My base, which is a big base; I think my base is 45 percent. You know, it’s funny. The Democrats, they have a big advantage in the Electoral College. Big, big, big advantage. … The Electoral College is very difficult for a Republican to win, and I will tell you, the people want to see it. They want to see the wall.”

For decades, studies have found that deterioration in the fluency, complexity, and vocabulary level of spontaneous speech can indicate slipping brain function due to normal aging or neurodegenerative disease. STAT and the experts therefore considered only unscripted utterances, not planned speeches and statements, since only the former tap the neural networks that offer a window into brain function. . .

Continue reading.

Videos of Trump speaking, then and now, at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 May 2017 at 11:40 am

Does this checklist of signs of gaslighting remind of anything in particular?

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Stephanie Sarkis, PhD, has an article in Psychology Today, 11 signs of gaslighting in a relationship.” It begins:

Gaslighting is a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality. It works much better than you may think. Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn’t realize how much they’ve been brainwashed. For example, in the movie Gaslight (1944), a man manipulates his wife to the point where she thinks she is losing her mind.

People who gaslight typically use the following techniques:

1. They tell blatant lies.

You know it’s an outright lie. Yet they are telling you this lie with a straight face. Why are they so blatant? Because they’re setting up a precedent. Once they tell you a huge lie, you’re not sure if anything they say is true. Keeping you unsteady and off-kilter is the goal.

2. They deny they ever said something, even though you have proof. 

You know they said they would do something; you know you heard it. But they out and out deny it. It makes you start questioning your reality—maybe they never said that thing. And the more they do this, the more you question your reality and start accepting theirs.

3. They use what is near and dear to you as ammunition. 

They know how important your kids are to you, and they know how important your identityis to you. So those may be one of the first things they attack. If you have kids, they tell you that you should not have had those children. They will tell you’d be a worthy person if only you didn’t have a long list of negative traits. They attack the foundation of your being.

4. They wear you down over time.

This is one of the insidious things about gaslighting—it is done gradually, over time. A lie here, a lie there, a snide comment every so often…and then it starts ramping up. Even the brightest, most self-aware people can be sucked into gaslighting—it is that effective. It’s the “frog in the frying pan” analogy: The heat is turned up slowly, so the frog never realizes what’s happening to it.

5. Their actions do not match their words. . .

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If you read the article and then free-associate, what name comes to mind?

Written by LeisureGuy

18 May 2017 at 11:13 am

A Public Service Announcement from Kevin Drum

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In all seriousness. Kevin Drum posts at Mother Jones:

Do you have a friend or relative who’s having a lot more “senior moments” than they used to? Your doctor has ways to diagnose what’s really going on. She can perform neurological exams, mental status tests, mood assessments, and, in cases where the patient has unusually heavy responsibilities that make it especially important to get a firm diagnosis, brain imaging scans that distinguish between healthy neurons and diseased neurons:

In patients who are showing signs of dementia, brains scans will show a buildup of amyloid plaque that destroys the tau proteins that keep the brain’s messaging system running smoothly. The result is disintegrating microtubules and tangled nerve cells.

Don’t worry: insurance will cover the cost of these tests if you work for a large employer like the federal government. So keep an eye out for the warning signs: isolation from friends,1 irritability and unpredictable fits of temper,2 poor judgment,3difficulty speaking plainly,4 trouble understanding visual images like maps,5 difficulty planning things,6 and memory lapses.7

Written by LeisureGuy

16 May 2017 at 8:53 am

Unleaded Gasoline Reduces Violent Crime in Sweden Too

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Kevin Drum reports the latest findings on the lead/crime hypothesis (which grows ever less hypothetical and more established:

I try to keep everyone up to date on the latest research into lead poisoning and crime, but I missed a paper earlier this year from three researchers in Sweden. At first glance, it’s just a routine test of the lead-crime hypothesis for yet another country. The researchers follow the usual path of (a) measuring atmospheric lead levels in various regions at various times, (b) showing that these levels correspond to blood lead levels, and (c) performing correlations with all the usual controls between lead poisoning in infants and later outcomes in life. Not to keep you in suspense, the researchers find exactly what you’d expect: childhood exposure to lead predicts lower IQs and higher crime rates later in life.

But there are several interesting aspects to this paper—and that’s not even counting the fact that Sweden’s EPA measures heavy metal concentrations in the atmosphere via a nationwide grid of moss samples. Moss! Those Swedes are pretty clever. The Swedes also keep good records of their citizens on a variety of measures, which allows the researchers to test outcomes all the way into adulthood with a pretty large sample size (800,000 subjects).

Anyway: Just as in the US, Sweden phased out leaded gasoline in the 70s and 80s, which caused lead poisoning in infants to decrease. Unlike the US, however, lead levels were already fairly low, so the Swedish team was able to measure the effect of changes not just from 30 ug/dl to 20 to 10, but from 10 to 5 to 2. What they found was that the impact of lead reduction does eventually flatten out, but it happens at very low levels. There are gains to be made by reducing blood lead levels all the way down to 2-3 ug/dl.

At the risk of some slight irresponsibility, however, I want to reproduce their chart for violent crime. Here it is: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 May 2017 at 12:18 pm

How to deal with narcissistic co-workers: A survival guide

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Jody Foster writes in Quartz:

Throughout my career as a psychiatrist, I’ve worked with a personality type that I call Narcissus. One such person was Richard, a successful executive chef whom I was asked to see after he threw a knife at a sous chef in the kitchen. During a seemingly uneventful food preparation demonstration, he asked his assistant for a particular knife, but was presented with a different one. In a dramatic episode of screaming and yelling, he threw the knife back toward the horrified chef and stormed out of the kitchen, swearing about how incompetent she was.

Thankfully, most of us do not have to deal with knife-throwing at work. But a lot of us encounter narcissistic types in the office—people who try to inflate their sense of self-worth by exaggerating their accomplishments, overestimating their abilities, and blaming others for shortcomings. This tendency is rooted in an underlying, deeply entrenched sense of insecurity. (In everyday conversation, we tend to think of a narcissistic person as having too high an opinion of himself, when in fact the Narcissus just appears self-absorbed in order to protect himself from low self-esteem.) It is never fun to work with someone who behaves this way. But if you have a narcissistic co-worker, there are strategies you can employ to soften their ego-driven blows.

On a day-to-day basis, appealing to this person’s egocentricity can be very effective. The occasional recognition of the person’s achievement, strengths, or values may go a long way in avoiding anger or demeaning comments; in some instances, you may simply want to remark upon a person’s good efforts. Fanning the embers of narcissism is particularly effective in avoiding unwanted conflict. Particularly if the Narcissus is your boss, you have to let them think that you perceive them as important. No matter how difficult it may be to do this, the Narcissus boss can make the workplace a living hell for anyone who they think is not on board with their success. Give them compliments, and try to do so without mocking them.

Remember that the only commentary that the Narcissus will be able to actually hear will contain some degree of praise in it. So when asking for a favor or for some type of change that could be perceived as an insult, definitely attempt the route of first praising him in some way. Even a simple statement like a reminder about a deadline might need some positive reinforcement embedded in it: “I can’t wait to see your draft of the proposal on Friday.” Remember that the Narcissus has special techniques for avoiding hearing criticism and can interpret even a simple suggestion or reminder as an insult if it doesn’t contain anything positive.

Another strategy is paying attention to the Narcissus. If enough attention is not paid, he will perceive criticism. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 May 2017 at 3:49 pm

Shame theory and the GOP in Congress

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One wonders why Mitch McConnell is so invested in defending Donald Trump. Shame theory might offer an answer.

See also extinction burst.

UPDATE: Content from the first link, by @David_Rees

RE: #ComeyFiring, I think the GOP will now go along with anything Trump does. I mean literally anything. It’s TIME FOR SOME SHAME THEORY!

I believed GOP was going along with DJT because they thought he could get them their precious policy outcomes: tax cuts, etc. —

— and, that if DJT’s malfeasance ever decreased their chances of enacting those policies, they would jettison him.

I now think this political calculus has been replaced by a deeper, darker, calculus: a psychological survival strategy.

GOP will agree to anything – I mean anything – because they can no longer afford a moral reckoning with what who and what they’ve enabled.

Once you’ve gone so far that checking in with yourself would shatter your belief in your own humanity/decency, there are no limits.

At this point, there are probably GOPers who wish Trump would suspend the constitution outright. Really just GO FOR IT …

… so that we leave this liminal, sorta-not-quite-authoritarian space with its semi-sorta-functional institutions behind …

… and enter a new American era, where their collusion/treason(?) can’t be judged by old norms.

If you’ve ever had an affair, or drug issues, etc, you probably know the feeling. The bender/lost weekend/flirtation with hitting bottom.

At some point, your shame at your behavior, at the norms you’ve violated, leads you to double down, go ALL IN, obliterate your old self.

I used to be a bully in middle school, so I know this amazing, complex feeling of exhilaration and revulsion …

… the poison rush of living your worst self, resenting *the part of you that knows better.* Not enough to ignore it; you must destroy it.

Congress had to enter DJT’s orbit in order to pass their sacred tax cuts/repeal the hated ACA. They thought they could contain him.

But DJT poisons everyone he touches. The price for working with him is pretty hefty: your humanity and dignity (h/t @joshtpm).

Healthy people (and banks!) learned to avoid DJT decades ago. He surrounds himself with damaged goods: Stone, Flynn, other freaks/losers.

We are watching that community of damaged psyches expand to include an entire political party.

GOP pols must avoid a moral reckoning at all costs. But not just a public reckoning — a private one. Can’t admit to moral suicide.

If #TrumpTrain stopped, GOP would have to answer for putting up with PussyGate, deranged tweets, lies, damaged institutions …

… all the Russia stuff, etc. etc. The list is overwhelming, unprecedented, debilitating. That reckoning absolutely cannot happen.

Trump, an experienced abuser, knows this on some lizard-brain level. He has captured the GOP. His transgressions will increase.

“Comey was irresponsible about HRC” is deliberately absurd; a power move by Trump to see if GOP will agree to any reality he proposes.

Answer: YES. #winning

Back to the bender analogy. We’re in the middle of a crazy bender. What would bottoming out look like, when GOP says: ENOUGH?

My theory: As of yesterday’s preposterous justification for Comey firing, there is no bottom. The GOP will never call Trump out. In fact…

… GOP pols must now encourage further transgressions, to destroy the current context in which feeling shame re: DJT is appropriate.

Maybe I’m wrong! But my prediction is GOP would agree with DJT if/when he says he’s canceling the 2018 midterms. THE END

tl;dr: Problem isn’t that GOP has no shame; problem is they are now overwhelmed with shame and cannot bear facing it.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 May 2017 at 12:56 pm

Trump is losing it bigly: Read the TIME interview

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Read the interview. “Stunning” doesn’t touch it.

Kevin Drum points out some choice bits from the interview.

It may be that Trump suffers from dementia. Jonah Goldberg writes at the National Review, a conservative publication:

The Donald Trump interview with The Economist is . . . interesting. There’s one exchange in particular I find fascinating:

But beyond that it’s OK if the tax plan increases the deficit?
It is OK, because it won’t increase it for long. You may have two years where you’ll . . . you understand the expression “prime the pump”?

We have to prime the pump.

It’s very Keynesian.
We’re the highest-taxed nation in the world. Have you heard that expression before, for this particular type of an event?

Priming the pump?
Yeah, have you heard it?

Have you heard that expression used before? Because I haven’t heard it. I mean, I just . . . I came up with it a couple of days ago and I thought it was good. It’s what you have to do.

It’s . . .
Yeah, what you have to do is you have to put something in before you can get something out.

Now, where to begin? It would be a bit dismaying if the president of the United States, who prides himself as something of an expert on matters economic, had never heard the expression “prime the pump” before, never mind believed he coined it. The phrase has been a standard Keynesian refrain for nearly a century.

But fear not. Donald Trump has heard the phrase before – from his own lips. For instance, he used the phrase with Time magazine last year:

And he has little patience for the organizing principle of the Tea Party: the idea that the federal government must live within its means and lower its debts. Instead, he seems to favor expensive new infrastructure spending and tax cuts as economic stimulus, much like Obama did in 2009. “Well, sometimes you have to prime the pump,” he says. “So sometimes in order to get jobs going and the country going, because, look, we’re at 1% growth.” The next day, the third-quarter gross-domestic-product estimates would be released, showing an increase of 3.2%, up from 1.4% earlier in the year.

At a rally in Iowa in December of 2016 he said:

We are also going to lower our business tax rate from 35 percent all the way down to 15 percent. That’s going to be big. Going to prime the pump. Got to prime the pump. Got to get the jobs. Got 96 million people out there. We got to get them going.

A Lexis-Nexis search finds other examples from him and a great many of his surrogates as well. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 May 2017 at 10:49 am

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