Posts Tagged ‘mental health’

Can you help with anxiety research?

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018 | Science

As part of my research at Leeds Beckett University, we’re recruiting people with anxiety to take part in a 4-week trial you can do from home using your mobile phone.

We’re giving people a range of different phone apps designed to reduce anxiety, to see which ones work and which ones don’t. As part of the research, you will need to complete some short questionnaires and use the app for four weeks. Or, you may be allocated to a waiting list in which case you will just need to complete the questionnaires.

To find out more information, and to see whether you are eligible, please see the project’s website.

Good reads for Mental Health Awareness Week

Sunday, May 20th, 2018 | Health & Wellbeing

Below, I’ve collated a bunch of my blog posts on mental health into a list of interesting stuff to read. It’s all been published here or over on the Worfolk Anxiety blog.

Does social media damage your mental health?

In May, Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) and Young Health Movement published a report on the impact of social media on mental health. The TL;DR is that yes, social media can be harmful. But it also has its uses, so when used in moderation, like most things in life, can be a useful tool.

Things you should know about antidepressants

This is a pretty old article now, and if I wrote it today I would probably say way more. But it highlights a few key things to think about when deciding to go down the antidepressant route or not, and more widely, what opinion you hold of them.

Things to do when you’re well, according to people with anxiety

Mental hygiene is the things you regularly do to keep yourself mentally healthy. Just like we have a daily routine for physical hygiene and dental hygiene, there are things we can do to keep our mental health on the right track. But what actually helps? We asked people who live with anxiety.

Things to tell yourself when you’re not well, according to people with anxiety

In last week’s blog post, we looked at some good things to do when you are feeling well. But what about when you are having a rough patch and can’t find the energy to do anything? What should you tell yourself?

Will suicide nets stop jumpers at the Golden Gate Bridge?

When it comes to stopping people throwing themselves off the bridge, the question is, can a one-time intervention really save lives? Turns out the answer is yes.

We don’t need more money for mental health

You regularly hear politicians talking about how the NHS needs more money for mental health. In today’s post, I want to challenge this idea and offer a very different explanation and very different solution.

What would a mental health workout look like?

If you want to improve your physical fitness, you might work out. Maybe you would eat a high protein breakfast, hit the gym, do a warm-up followed by some intervals and then take a warm bath to recover afterwards. But what about mental wellness? What would a training session look like? What specifically would you do?

Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Perfectionism

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017 | Books

Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Perfectionism is a book by Sarah J. Egan, Tracey D. Wade, Roz Shafran, and Martin M. Antony.

It’s written for therapists but is also useful for academics. And, as it turns out, for some introspection, too.

What exactly is perfectionism? There is no universal definition of clinical perfectionism but typically involves in a process of people setting unachievable standards for themselves and then feeling bad when they miss them. Treating it can have transdiagnostic benefits for a person’s mental health.

A key part is an over-reliance of self-feedback. It’s not enough that other people tell you that you are doing a good job: you need to meet your own high standards, not theirs.

How do you assess it? There is no single way, though a few inventories are emerging. And by “a few”, I mean loads:

  • Almost Perfect Scale-Revised (APS-R)
  • Behaviour Domains Questionaire (BDQ)
  • Burns Perfectionism Scale (BPS)
  • Clinical Perfectionism Questionaire (CPQ)
  • Consequences of Perfectionism Scale (COPS)
  • Frost et al. Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale (FMPS)
  • Hewitt and Flett Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale (HMPS)
  • Neurotic Perfectionism Qustionaire (NPQ)
  • Perfectionism Inventory (PI)
  • Perfectionistic Self-Presentation Scale (PSPS)
  • Positive and Negative Perfectionim Scale (PANPS)

The model

The standard model for perfectionism is that you set a standard and try to achieve it. These standards are typically inflexible, over-general (one mistake wipes off the entire report as failure) and filled with double-standards (it is okay for someone else to do that, but not me).

The height of the standard leads to avoidance.

You either then hit the standard, in which case you tell yourself it was too easy.

Or you miss the standard and beat yourself up.

The treatment

The book lays out a full treatment plan based on cognitive behaviourism. However, one thing I will point out for a quick win: merely monitoring your symptoms seems to improve things.

Ethlers and colleagues (2003) had people with PTSD perform daily monitoring of their symptoms. After three weeks, 12% had improved sufficiently to no longer meet the clinical level of PTSD.

Similarly, there is evidence that self-monitoring contributes to improvements in anxiety and depression (Coull & Morris, 2011).

Self-criticism

Perfectionists often see a value in self-criticism because they believe that if they accepted lower standards, they would be lazy and unproductive.

So, rather than eliminating self-criticism, we want to replace it with constructive feedback.

The authors suggest we think of it as the choice between two basketball coaches: do you want one who just calls you “stupid” and “a failure” when you make a mistake? Or do you want one that is encouraging, offers suggestions for improvements and guides you to the next level in performance? That is the difference between a self-critical inner voice and a compassionate but productive one.

This is important because of the Yerkes-Dodson Law. This states that there is an optimal level of arousal. Too little, and you will be lazy. Too much, though, and your performance starts to deteriorate as well. Moderation is the order of the day: gentle pressure produces optimal performance, not viciously beating yourself up.

Procrastination

One of the biggest problems for perfectionists is that they are often not productive because of procrastination. They put off tasks for a number of reasons:

  • The task is large, and therefore the time commitment to completing it perfectly is equally large
  • You feel overwhelmed by the idea of having to do it perfectly
  • Giving yourself too little time is an easy get-out: it’s okay for it to be imperfect because it is not a true reflection of your performance

So, they do nothing. Nothing pleasurable, either. There can be no enjoyable tasks because they “haven’t earned it”. So, the time simply goes to waste.

The motivation trap

A common reason for putting tasks off is “waiting for the motivation” to get it done. But the authors claim that this is a fundamental misunderstanding of causation.

We assume that motivation inspires action. But, in reality, action inspires motivation (Shafan et al 2010). If you want to feel motivated about a task, force yourself to start it and them motivation will follow.

This fits with my blog post on what comes first: thoughts or feelings? It is our behaviour that drives our feelings, not the other way around.

Summary

This is a really interesting read for anyone interested in perfectionism. It is aimed at clinicians, which means you don’t get all of the friendly hand-holding of popular science, and everything comes from a certain angle. However, it is written in a very engaging way, so doesn’t suffer from the stuffiness of academic texts.

Anxiety Leeds impact report

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017 | Foundation

Today, we’re launching the first Anxiety Leeds impact report.

We regularly take feedback from our group members and survey them to see what is working and what is not. However, this is the first time we have systematically reviewed the results and published a report about it.

Here are the headline figures:

  • We support a wide range of ages across both genders
  • We support a broad range of anxiety conditions, often compounded by depression and physical health issues
  • 71% feel less alone after attending our meetings
  • 29% feel a lot more positive about life
  • 40% even see a reduction in day-to-day anxiety, despite us not being a treatment group

This is set on a background of us working with people who have anxiety, and therefore have a negative outlook on the world, compounded by also suffering from depression, which is the case of 62% of our members.

Here is the headline graph:

It is clear that not everyone sees a benefit in attending our group. This is consistent with other mental health programmes, all of which typically experience high drop-out rates.

The majority of people who do attend do see a benefit. This benefit increases the more they attend. This result should be viewed with caution: although it is highly plausible that there is a causative effect here, it is not direct evidence of one.

We’re also delivering an internal plan to group members on how we can continue to improve the group as we go forward.

You can download the full report here.

Does social media damage your mental health?

Friday, July 28th, 2017 | Health & Wellbeing

In May, Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) and Young Health Movement published a report on the impact of social media on mental health. We wrote about it extensively on Worfolk Anxiety and you can read the full write-up over there.

The infographic was too good not to re-post, though. The TL;DR is that yes, social media can be harmful. But it also has its uses, so when used in moderation, like most things in life, can be a useful tool.

(more…)

Do More, Worry Less published

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017 | Books, News

I’m pleased to announce the launch of Do More, Worry Less: Small Steps to Reduce Your Anxiety. As of yesterday, it is available in the Worfolk Anxiety web store, as well as via Amazon and iTunes.

Like any book, it takes a long time to put together. Arguably, this was a quick one: it’s taken me over six months, but the restaurant guide took years. However, it has been a long time in the making. The research in the book has taken years to accumulate. And there is a lot of it. 291 footnotes and citations to be exact.

The book takes you on a journey, exploring what anxiety is, why it prevents us from reaching our goals and the proven strategies and tactics to overcome these problems and hit your targets. It then explores every aspect of lifestyle: exercise, diet, sleep, relaxation, personal growth, relationships and community to find the things that improve your mental health and what to do about them.

You can find out more about the book here.

WAM anxiety challenge launches

Friday, March 31st, 2017 | News

Over at Worfolk Anxiety, we’ve just launched our 30-day challenge to help people reduce anxiety. It’s a free month of coaching where people get a different challenge to complete every day and a private support community to share experiences and access encouragement.

Pretty cool. But will it work?

The science says it will. The challenges are based on the lifestyle changes that drive improvements to mental health. I wrote about these in my book Technical Anxiety and look at them in far more detail in my upcoming book Do More, Worry Less.

But, of course, the science can say one thing: whether you can translate into success for people in real life is another. We’re working on a small scale: a few hundred people have signed up for the challenge. That is still enough to make me nervous, though. It needs to deliver.

We’re measuring the success as best we can so I will be able to write about the results next month. Until then, wish me luck!

Will suicide nets stop jumpers at the Golden Gate Bridge?

Sunday, February 26th, 2017 | Health & Wellbeing

When it comes to stopping people throwing themselves off the bridge, the question is, can a one-time intervention really save lives?

When thinking of iconic places to take a suicidal jump from, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco has to come pretty high up that list. In fact, 1,6000 have jumped to their death from the bridge since it opened. It is a fairly reliable way to do it. In that time 26 people have survived, a 98.4% “success” rate.

Now the Golden Gate Bridge are spending nearly £60,000 on installing suicide prevention nets. These wire nets will hang below the bridge, in an attempt to mostly hide them from public view, and be made of steel. It is not going to be a pleasant fall, but should at least save the life of the jumper.

But will it actually work?

According to The Bridge Rail Foundation, a group that has long been campaigning for suicide deterrents to be installed, there is no question that they will help the situation.

They argue that it is simply not the case that once someone has decided to take their own life, nothing can be done to stop them. In fact, most people who fail to take their own life do not try again. 90% of those who are stopped before they can jump go on to live our their remaining lives without suicide. This is a high suicide rate compared with the general population but suggests that intervening once is overwhelmingly successful in keeping people alive.

Experience from around the world suggests they will be effective as well. A similar scheme in Bern, Switzerland was put into place for bridges and city cathedral. Since the nets were installed at the later, nobody has decided to risk the jump. Since 1998 the only creatures to be pulled out of the nets were two dogs. Presumably, they ran over the ledge by accident.

Men twice as likely to be without emotional support

Friday, February 24th, 2017 | Religion & Politics

Men have an almost one in ten chance of having nobody to turn to. Could peer support fill a much-needed gap?

In June, mental health charity Mind published research suggesting that men were twice as likely to have nobody to rely on for emotional support. 9% of men, compared with 5% of women, said that they have nobody to turn to in times of need. The research also suggested men are less likely to feel comfortable talking to the people close to them about their problems, with 52% agreeing.

This is a big problem for a number of reasons.

As Susan Pinker explains in her book _The Village Effect_, having a strong social network and close emotional support is critical to both good mental and physical health. When you eliminate the bias for women to have a stronger circle of close friends to rely on, you find that the disparity between men’s and women’s life expectancies closes dramatically.

Second, with men three times more likely to take their own lives than women, having someone to turn to at the crisis point could mean the difference between an intervention that saves someone’s life, and a successful suicide attempt.

The question is, that can be done about this problem?

To an extent, the problem could lie with our gender itself. If we built stronger relationships and invested more time in building those relationships, we would have a wider circle. However, many men feel like they simply don’t have the connections to do this, that it would not be viewed upon as socially acceptable in their circle, or simply that they feel too uncomfortable to do this.

Another option would be to increase the number of peer support groups available. The advantage of being able to talk to people going through similar problems, and therefore being able to bypass the chance of people not understanding, or judging, may provide a critical avenue for men to get the emotional support they need.

Crazy talk

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016 | News

chris-with-microphone

Crazy Talk would be an amazing name for a podcast about mental health. Sadly, I have not given my new podcast such a name. But I have launched one, and it is all about anxiety.

Earlier this month, I got down to some serious writing for the Worfolk Anxiety blog. Feedback has been better than I expected: the blog experiences an above-average bounce rate. This means that when people click on the link to the blog post, they actually read it. Sounds strange that that would be a thing, but it is actually super-common on the internet for people to click a link and never read the article they clicked on.

By the way, if you want to get updates from the blog, we have a MailChimp list you can subscribe to. It’s free, and there are goodies for signing up.

Alongside this, I am launching the Worfolk Anxiety Podcast. This will also feature advice and inspiration for controlling your anxiety and enjoying life more. The first three episodes are already available, and you can keep up-to-date with future episodes using your favourite podcasting app.