Remember to Exercise … and Don’t Forget!

Exercise is good for you. I think we’ve all heard that often enough. But some new research adds yet another factor to the many benefits offered by exercise.

Researchers at the University of Nottingham Medical School have found a mechanism by which healthy physical activity might protect against alzheimer’s disease (Corticotropin-Releasing Factor Receptor 1 Activation During Exposure to Novelty Stress Protects Against Alzheimer’s Disease-Like Cognitive Decline in AβPP/PS1 Mice). It has been known from past research that physical and mental activity may reduce the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s Disease. However, why these are beneficial is still being investigated. In their recently published paper, authors Scullion, Hewitt & Pardon note an apparent paradox (emphasis mine):

Susceptibility to stress is a risk factor for AD but positive lifestyle factors effective in delaying AD progression in mouse models (e.g., exercise, environmental enrichment) improve stress resistance despite inducing a number of markers of chronic stress

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You Want Cute? You Can’t Handle Cute!

Apparently, witnessing cuteness is the Achilles heel of humankind. We can’t handle it. Or so evidence arising from some new research might seem to suggest.

Cute, cuddly koala eating a gum leaf

Why We Go Crazy for Cute reports on research at Yale University investigating some seemingly contradictory, but common reactions to cuteness. Past research has generally suggested “cuteness” is a cluster of features associated with human infants that inspire us to be gentle and caring. Continue reading

It Has to be Perfect

You are reading an article online and you come across the following sentence:

Sometimes when your driving you may notice your car does not seem to be performing at it’s best.

Do you cringe? Do you immediately scroll to the bottom of the article to find the comments section and fire off this reply:

Cutting costs on editors now? The sentence should read: “Sometimes when you’re driving you may notice your car does not seem to be performing at its best.”

You frequently berate yourself for not having made progress on a mental list of tasks that need to be done. You have piles of unread mail to go through; there is that assignment due next week and you keep telling yourself that this time you aren’t going to leave it until the last minute and then stay up until 2am completing it; your lawn is getting long and you are worrying about what the neighbours will think about the fact you haven’t mown yet.

You are driving at 100km/h in a 100km/h zone. Someone overtakes you; you estimate he is doing 106km/h. You secretly hope he gets pulled over for speeding. If you do see him pulled over, you feel secretly pleased.

You are given a project to work on with a team of colleagues. You do most of the work yourself because you’re sure the others wouldn’t do it right.

You don’t like anyone to help you clean up at home because they always put things in the wrong place, or they wipe the benches with the dish cloth and the dishes with the bench cloth.

You have trouble throwing things away – you never know when they might come in handy.

You finding yourself spending more time developing a more efficient way to complete a one-off task than it would have taken you to just do the task with the tools you already had.

Your friends tell you that you work too much … or you don’t have time for friends.

Someone at work is collecting money for yet another birthday or farewell cake. You try to avoid contributing.

You have an eye for detail and always complete tasks to a very high standard. But, at the same time, you find it hard to get the motivation to start something and you are never happy with the end result. Nothing ever feels good enough.

You are in a waiting room and the urge to straighten a crooked painting on the wall is becoming almost overwhelming.

Annoyingly crooked square in a set of neatly arranged squares

If more than a few of the above scenarios sound familiar to you, it might be fair to say you are a bit of a perfectionist. If quite a lot of the above sound familiar to you but you are thinking, “Me? A perfectionist?! No way! You should see the mess in my garden shed/bedroom/kitchen/office …!” then you most likely are a perfectionist (who, like most perfectionists, is incessantly bothered by your inability to meet your own standard of perfection). Does this mean you have a problem? Not necessarily.
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Retail Therapy – what does shopping have to do with mood?

Clothes on mannequin in store window
I’ve written in a previous post about when “retail therapy” can become an addiction-like problem known as Compulsive Buying. This month, as a result of the efforts of my past academic supervisor and his colleague, I have been fortunate enough to see published some of the results of research on Compulsive Buying that I conducted for my DPsych thesis. The paper, Experimental analysis of the relationship between depressed mood and compulsive buying, will be in the June 2013 issue of the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry.

The paper reports results of two studies we conducted examining interaction between depressed mood and compulsive buying behaviour. Past research, largely using self-report questionnaires, has established that there is a relationship between depressed mood and compulsive buying. For example, a study by Faber and Christenson in 1996 found that 96% of people who buy compulsively thought that buying could alter their mood, in contrast to this belief being held among only 25% of the general population.

We wanted to see what we could find out about the relationship between mood and compulsive buying by using an experiment involving buying-related conditions, instead of simply asking people questions about their buying beliefs and behaviour.
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What is the difference between a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist?

Following on from my last post, answering the question “What is a psychologist?” I will now briefly answer what is probably the question I am most commonly asked in relation to being a psychologist: “What is the differences between a psychologist and a psychiatrist?”
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What is a psychologist?

Therapy chairs
There is no shortage of questions about what a psychologist is, what a psychologist does and how a psychologist is different from other professionals. I am commonly asked questions such as:

  • Are psychologists the same as psychiatrists?
  • What is the difference between a psychologist and a clinical psychologist?
  • What is the difference between a psychologist and a counsellor?
  • What is a sports/ health/ forensic/ educational/ organisational/ counselling/ community/ neuro-psychologist?
  • How does a person become a psychologist?
  • Can a psychologist help me with _____?
  • Isn’t psychology all just common sense?
  • Are you analysing me right now?
  • … and, of course …
  • What is a psychologist?

To answer all of these questions would make for a tediously long post. So I would like to start with that final question, and the title of this post – “what is a psychologist?” Perhaps at some point I will expand this to a series of posts addressing the other questions.
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The Unrelenting Society


  1. Not yielding in strength, severity, or determination: “the heat was unrelenting”
  2. (of a person or their behaviour) Not giving way to kindness or compassion.

I am increasingly troubled by the endless expectations for perfection imposed upon people by their social environment. I perceive a long-standing trend of criticism permeating a wide range of our social and cultural influences. It has long been fed to us by advertising, entertainment, newspapers, television, books and radio. But with the growth of social media I am concerned by the impact of this voice entering the innermost circle of our social influences.

Before I write in detail about unrelenting standards and why their emergence in social media is troubling, let me give an example.

A coming social apocalypse?

Following are excerpts from a post I saw distributed on facebook some weeks ago – “These Photos are Proof Albert Einstein was Correct About Technology“:

… It looks as if Albert Einstein was right. Albert Einstein was fearful of the growth of technology and its effect on the human race. Here is Albert Einstein’s quote:

“I fear the day when the technology overlaps with our humanity. The world will only have a generation of idiots.”

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The pain inside

“She’s just doing it for attention.” This is a phrase I have often heard from people trying to understand why a patient, a friend or a loved-one has been deliberately hurting themselves. It can seem almost impossible to understand such behaviour for anyone who hasn’t personally experienced the urge to deliberately cut yourself, burn yourself or inflict harm in some other way. It goes against all our natural instincts of survival and self-protection. Unfortunately, though understandably, the assumption often ends up being that a person who does such a thing must be either attention-seeking or “crazy”. But, most often, neither is the case.
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