Re: Wellness promotion

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I think of stress as something that could be cured if I were important enough to tell more people to go fuck themselves and depression as a maladaptive response to not being powerful enough to tell more people to go fuck themselves. Fortunately, as near as I can tell, cynicism and sarcasm seem to be more adaptive responses.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 8:18 AM
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People have written about depression since time immemorial. Sometimes at truly enormous length:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Anatomy_of_Melancholy


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 8:25 AM
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Mmm. I think of 'stress' as brought about by people, or circumstances, treating you badly -- it never struck me as particularly blaming to attribute health consequences to it. I suppose it gets blaming if you think someone's bringing the bad treatment on themselves unnecessarily, I've certainly nagged friends not to work so hard.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 8:29 AM
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2: That doesn't contradict that the mainstream belief was that you could snap out of it, if you wanted to.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 8:31 AM
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3 is what I should have said. Everybody is dumping work on me this week.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 8:31 AM
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3/5:
I think of stress as having two pathways:
1. Are you living in poverty or under war conditions or under an inhumane set of expectations?
2. Are you the type of person who finds life stressful, in ways that other people don't necessarily find stressful?

I suppose I was mostly addressing the experience of chronically stressed people of category 2.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 8:34 AM
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re: 4

Historically, I don't think it was seen as something you could just snap out of, either, so much as part of a set of character traits or something to which certain people were disposed to by their nature.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 8:35 AM
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1: You can tell me to go fuck myself if it helps. I might even do it, 'coz I'm all compassionate and helpful and shit.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 8:35 AM
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6: I think you're confusing "stress" and "anxiety". I don't think studies addressing the health effects of one are applicable to the other.

(Note, however, that real, deleterious stress occurs in situations far less "stressful" than war.)


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 8:36 AM
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6: Under that scheme, I would fall into category 2*. But, I do think there is something inherently stressful when the backlog of work never goes down.

* I like my stress like my hurricanes.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 8:37 AM
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Paradoxically, people who go around telling lots of other people to go fuck themselves appear to be quite stressed out.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 8:38 AM
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(9 cont.): It's entirely possible, or even likely, of course, that generally anxious people are more adversely affected than other people by stressful situations.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 8:38 AM
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I blame my stress and anxiety at least partially on my fear of cancer and the chronic not-smoking that has resulted from it.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 8:39 AM
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4: I think there's a fair amount of subclinical depression around, which before the current level of depression awareness acted to reduce sympathy for the depressed. I get gloomy and down fairly often, and the subjective experience is very similar to what people talking about depression describe, except that for me, it's just not that bad -- it doesn't keep me from keeping up with day to day life (significantly, anyway), I don't actually end up spending the day in bed, I just sort of wish I could, telling myself to snap out of it works. Now, what that means is that I'm not clinically depressed -- if I were, pulling my socks up and soldiering through wouldn't work. But without what I know, from current medical thinking, about real depression, I could easily hear a depressed person talking about how they feel and condemn them because if I can snap out of it, they should be able to.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 8:40 AM
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re: 14

The medical term for that is 'dysthymia', but yer olden dudes just called it melancholia.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 8:42 AM
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Stress and depression both happen in the body, and they're both things that can be, in various cases and to various degrees, caused by the interaction of genetic or other biological causes, mental habits, issues in one's personal life past or present, and larger-scale social pressures (economic insecurity, for example). That either one might have health consequences is unsurprising.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 8:42 AM
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That either one might have health consequences is unsurprising.

Well, yeah, I was taking this as given. No one here has differing filters by which they read articles about health consequences of stress vs. those of depression?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 8:45 AM
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Melancholy, the subject of our present discourse, is either in disposition or in habit. In disposition, is that transitory Melancholy which goes and comes upon every small occasion of sorrow, need, sickness, trouble, fear, grief, passion, or perturbation of the mind, any manner of care, discontent, or thought, which causes anguish, dulness, heaviness and vexation of spirit, any ways opposite to pleasure, mirth, joy, delight, causing frowardness in us, or a dislike. In which equivocal and improper sense, we call him melancholy, that is dull, sad, sour, lumpish, ill-disposed, solitary, any way moved, or displeased. And from these melancholy dispositions no man living is free, no Stoick, none so wise, none so happy, none so patient, so generous, so godly, so divine, that can vindicate himself; so well-composed, but more or less, some time or other, he feels the smart of it. Melancholy in this sense is the character of Mortality. . . . This Melancholy of which we are to treat, is a habit, a serious ailment, a settled humour, as Aurelianus and others call it, not errant, but fixed: and as it was long increasing, so, now being (pleasant or painful) grown to a habit, it will hardly be removed.

Posted by: Robert Burton | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 8:47 AM
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17: I guess I don't read a lot of popular articles about either, and I confess I was a bit mystified by the post.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 8:50 AM
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17: I see depression as having a basis in perception and this leads me into the "biological underpinnings"* camp. That is, depression is a state of hopelessness such that your brain is unable to recognize or process information that runs counter to that hopelessness. Depression therefore outside assistance--professional or not, pharmaceutical or otherwise. Depression is, in itself, a health consequence. Stress can relate to depression and can have health consequences, but neither is necessary since stress says nothing about how your brain is perceiving things.

*Which is not to say that I think depression does not involve life events and other non-biological factors.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 8:51 AM
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6: Category 2 seems like just an anxiety disorder. Those run in my family, as does depression. I think the underlying neurological bases of the disorders are probably closely related. Neither one is something you just snap out of, but both can be mitigated with adjustments in behavior as well as drugs.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 8:51 AM
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I confess I was a bit mystified by the post.

I'm also having a hard time understanding what distinction heebie's making between stress and depression. Maybe I should go re-read the post.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 8:57 AM
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Further to 20: Obviously, arguing that depression is grounded or defined by perceptual difficulties requires a positivist or strong constructivist epistemological framework that can be difficult to defend and leads to the questions about culture-limited mental illnesses that were mentioned in the post.

These questions become difficult because on the one side you have concerns that a dominant culture or group can construct things so that the otherwise unremarkable behavior of non-dominant groups becomes pathological and on the other side you have people who honestly cannot see a reason to get out of bed in the morning when nearly everybody else would think their life is just fine.

Which is why I usually make comments like:

2: Sometimes at truly enormous length:

Laydeez.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:00 AM
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News round-up venues often have a Health and Wellness column, which have these tidbits on reducing your stress, or longterm health consequences of stress, and that's why you ought to do A, B, and C in your life. I feel like I see these all the time.

The other day I read a two-sentence blurb on depression. While I've read plenty of longer stuff, this stuck out to me as unusual for making it into a health tidbits column, and I gave it more credibility, accordingly.

No one has any idea what I'm talking about, apparently.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:00 AM
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No one here has differing filters by which they read articles about health consequences of stress vs. those of depression?

I think my filter works in the opposite fashion of yours. I'm not prone to depression, and it's harder for me to comprehend that other people are.

On the other hand, I would never say this:

I think of stress as having two pathways:
1. Are you living in poverty or under war conditions or under an inhumane set of expectations?
2. Are you the type of person who finds life stressful, in ways that other people don't necessarily find stressful?

This seems almost Republican-like* in its privileged dismissal of natural human feelings/behavior. (You experience stress and you're not a starving child in the Third World? You're just a whiner.)

*okay, okay, I know. I'm just being mean.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:00 AM
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Stress, like weight loss, is one of those things that we're all supposed to keep under control and get admonished about constantly (in, say, women's magazines),

This is the part that rings funny on my ears. I don't feel I get admonished about stress. Is this possibly be one of those "Women get catcalls? Oh." things?


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:01 AM
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24: No, I understand what you are saying and I always discount the stress stuff in the news.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:02 AM
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*okay, okay, I know. I'm just being mean.

Yes. Fuck you.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:02 AM
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No one has any idea what I'm talking about, apparently.

I think it's an interesting framing. I'm just trying to wrap my head around it, is all. I hope I don't sound dismissive.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:04 AM
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I don't feel I get admonished about stress.

Seriously? I feel like there is tons of reading material which I can't avoid - sidebars of websites, magazines in waiting rooms, whatever - constantly telling me that I must be incredibly stressed out, and here's how to juggle, and don't forget about taking me-time! And don't feel guilty about your me-time! And some people use their me-time to get stuff accomplished, and if that makes you feel better, don't feel guilty about that!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:05 AM
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30: Yeah, I'm serious. I feel like the closest thing to that sort of thing is language about being really busy.

"How's your week?"
"Oh, super busy, but you know, I'm gettin' by."


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:09 AM
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This Melancholy of which we are to treat, is a habit, a serious ailment, a settled humour, as Aurelianus and others call it, not errant, but fixed: and as it was long increasing, so, now being (pleasant or painful) grown to a habit, it will hardly be removed.

I go back to my Berne (read after Perls/Hufferline). Depression is the parent/superego beating on the child/id, and the first step is to stop feeling guilty (or angry) about feeling sad.

your brain is unable to recognize or process information that runs counter to that hopelessness.

And what is so wrong, so wicked, about the hopelessness? Buddha gave up and sat under a tree. This wasn't really therapy. Why can't I?

All this is just the way I seem to frame it, I am not offering advice or judgement, and I could be very wrong. And I am not the most productive, responsible person in the world. Fuck that.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:10 AM
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I don't understand the stress/anxiety distinction some people are drawing. I see them as slightly different things but I can't quite disentangle them or imagine experiencing one without the other.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:12 AM
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31: When I think of my own stress, I'm always thankful that I don't have the responsibilities of 20-something drummer.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:13 AM
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This seems almost Republican-like* in its privileged dismissal of natural human feelings/behavior. (You experience stress and you're not a starving child in the Third World? You're just a whiner.)

More completely, you're assuming I'm an asshole in where I draw the "inhumane" line. Shockingly, I don't draw that line where Republicans draw that line. Shockingly, I think we have tons of inhumane work conditions, family situations, and poverty levels right here in the United States. But feel free to dismiss me.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:13 AM
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The stress stuff is all about consumer goods. If you can be convinced that you have "stress," magazines can sell you everything from spa days to aromatherapy candles. What can anyone sell a depressed person other than drugs, or other things you don't want associated with depression?

Depression has far greater social stigma. If you're depressed, people mostly know not to tell you to "cheer up" or "go do something just for you!" Most people don't even want to interact with you. If you have a great amount of stress, people assume you're virtuously working hard and stuff, and it's totally cool to step in and say, "How about some 'me time'?"

And yes to the need for a distinction between stress and anxiety. It's not that they can't often be the same thing or confused for one another, but "stress" implies that you're reacting normally to pressure, and "anxiety" that your brain is working wrong. I'm inclined to believe that most people claiming they have "stress," given their unstressful circumstances, are actually experiencing serious anxiety, but, as with depression, that would mean there is something wrong with you and you are crazy. Stress means it's time to go shopping.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:14 AM
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The "pleasant" in 32.1 quote was supposed to be emphasized, but some style prigs have inhibited me from using bold.

No More


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:15 AM
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I think I probably pay more attention to depression-related news tidbits than stress-related ones, because I'm prone to depression/dysthymia. And maybe because I'm a man -- it's plausible that advice/hectoring about stress is more common in women's magazines. Women are definitely expected to have more complex lives than men (with career, bearing and primarily raising children, "homemaking," doing the primary emotional work in relationships, all the stuff we've talked about here). So it's not surprising that middle-class American women feel more stress than their male counterparts and are a bigger market for advice on how to keep juggling all those responsibilities and magically reduce their stress.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:16 AM
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Stress means it's time to go shopping dog walking in the park.

Shopping stresses me out.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:18 AM
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Count me among those who were somewhat mystified. Stress and depression are two very different things that interact with each other in complex ways. They aren't really comparable except in the broadest sense.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:20 AM
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The stress stuff is all about consumer goods.

This is definitely a large component of it.

But it's more widespread than that. If I'm perusing blogs, it's a common theme for (women, I suppose) to offer their list of de-stressing tidbits. If I go looking up some medical issue X, stress figures in their answer somewhere. Even if it's a serious publication saying "This condition is not linked to stress levels or personal lifestyle, so don't beat yourself up further."


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:20 AM
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I do think stress is a real problem, and it is a big issue in women's magazines because there really is a lot of pressure, especially on women who work and have kids and spouses, to be everything to everyone. The command to reduce stress through consumption becomes another set of pressures because it's usually marketed as a way to be more beautiful. Stress is making you ugly and there's a lot you need to do about that.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:20 AM
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I think of stress as a high cortisol level, which has adverse physiological consequences if it's chronic.

I don't know about the physiology of unhappiness vs clinical depression. But clinical anxiety (bouts of racing heartbeat, intermittent inability to cope with daily tasks) as well as just feeling harried will elevate cortisol levels. So as far as your heart is concerned, it doesn't matter much whether your stress is clinical or not.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:21 AM
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121/79

What, me worry?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:22 AM
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If I had to hazard a guess as to why people are totally mystified, I'd bet that I'm thinking of much more mainstream websites and magazines than they generally see.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:22 AM
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43 is apt, as is the first part of 1.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:23 AM
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I think of stress as a high cortisol level, which has adverse physiological consequences if it's chronic.

How does anxiety show up?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:25 AM
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There's a huge difference between stress derived from controllable situations and those from uncontrollable situations. The latter seem to be detrimental, while the controllable ones can be beneficial.


Posted by: ultramoderate | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:26 AM
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Perceiving the world around me is making me ugly, and there's not a lot I can do about that. I could retreat into a fantasy land where everything is beautiful, but eating lotus doesn't seem to have worked out too well for others who have tried it.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:26 AM
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47: Mostly through e-mails.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:26 AM
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I feel like there is tons of reading material which I can't avoid - sidebars of websites, magazines in waiting rooms, whatever - constantly telling me that I must be incredibly stressed out

As well as dozens of TV ads for aspirational products. Sometimes it seems as if every ad on TV promises to relieve stress by making you believe you're on a beach or in a soothing bath or swinging on your hotel curtains.


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:26 AM
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I think this might be a women's issue - I don't feel it, myself, but I know the articles Heebie's talking about: how to reduce stress, with a distinct overtone of "You wouldn't be feeling stressed if you had the sense to take care of yourself properly, you stupid woman."

(And this is very multiply pwned on preview.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:29 AM
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anxiety

Psychologists have a checklist of symptoms. Perhaps this is too crude, but like depression, I remember physiological manifestations-- racing heartbeat, sleep problems, transient inability to function. My understanding is that clinical anxiety is not just a lot of uptightness, the same way that depression is not just a lot of unhappiness. But not my field.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:29 AM
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36.1 is smart.

The media environment we are pickled in is all about selling crap. If it can't be used to sell you something it won't show up with any prominence in the media. Free or low cost therapies don't make enough money to pay for advertizing, so they won't get prominent placement or any placement at all.

I have a crude theory that the development of society under the influence if unrestrained capitalism is in the direction of having all social interactions mediated by buying stuff. Positive things that do not generate money for third parties will be edged out by those that can be mediated by some financial transaction or other. Love itself cannot be commoditized, but its expressions can, and that is where we are headed. This is important because the best cure for both stress and depression is positive connections to other people.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:31 AM
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Psychologists have a checklist of symptoms.

But:
I like your heuristic that stress is identifiable by increased cortisol levels. Everyone is saying to separate out stress from anxiety, and if anxiety also shows up as increased cortisol levels, than I assert the difference is hard to tease apart , or is semantic, or something.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:32 AM
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I am stressed out because a student sent me this email last night: "Hello. I just realized that I didnt make to the class last week for the test... I wonder if I can take the test this week?" and I can't decide how to respond. That's basically an inhumane set of expectations, right? I won't beat myself up about it.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:34 AM
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More completely, you're assuming I'm an asshole in where I draw the "inhumane" line.

I'm sorry. I meant my little asterisk disclaimer to indicate that I knew I was being a bit over-the-top. I also was talking about my own need to think a little harder about other peoples' problems sometimes.

But yeah, I guess the word "inhumane" was where I lost you. I think I've been subject to a lot of real-no-kidding-serious stress that I wouldn't describe as "inhumane," though I can see that the word, broadly construed, might reasonably apply.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:34 AM
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... the best cure for both stress and depression is positive connections to other people.

Where do I buy these?


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:35 AM
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Seriously? I feel like there is tons of reading material which I can't avoid - sidebars of websites, magazines in waiting rooms, whatever - constantly telling me that I must be incredibly stressed out, and here's how to juggle, and don't forget about taking me-time! And don't feel guilty about your me-time! And some people use their me-time to get stuff accomplished, and if that makes you feel better, don't feel guilty about that!

This must be one of those female-specific things.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:36 AM
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56: I did that to a grad-student instructor in a Latin class once as an undergrad, and he scheduled me a makeup. I thought he was a chump, and was almost offended that he didn't flunk me. On the other hand, I'm a productive citizen now, and having failed the class would have been annoying, so six of one, half a dozen of the other.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:36 AM
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8: For some time there was a fellow sitting on the floor of the passageway between the Q/N/R/W trains and the IRT holding a sign that said "Tell me Off: Two Dollars" or words to that effect. I found it horrifying and somehow poignant.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:38 AM
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I wonder if Will will concur with this, but this kind of stress advice is huge in talking about parenting children with special needs and yet I see a lot of it as specifically directed at mothers. Almost a whole class period in our 10-week therapeutic fostering class (which we dropped out of, for somewhat related reasons) was spent on stress relief and self-care. The men in the room mostly looked mystified or said that they deal with stress by riding motorcycles and smoking and avoiding their families. The women largely looked like having to talk about stress was one more thing that stressed them out.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:38 AM
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I like your heuristic that stress is identifiable by increased cortisol levels. Everyone is saying to separate out stress from anxiety, and if anxiety also shows up as increased cortisol levels, than I assert the difference is hard to tease apart , or is semantic, or something.

I've always thought that anxiety became stress when it started having physical effects on other parts of the body besides the mind.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:38 AM
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In the past two years, what with pregnancy and parenting, it is incredibly common for me to find myself in gendered websites that purport to be general information but know perfectly well their readers are mostly women. So maybe that's why I'm feeling so sensitized to it.

Also, obviously, pregnancy and parenting are assumed to be big stressful changes, so the websites are especially keen to address stress for that reason.

But I don't want to over-attribute my "Don't be stressed!" radar just to pregnancy/parenting. It really does seem completely pervasive. Maybe it is part of what you're sold more generally, as a woman.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:39 AM
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I don't have any experience with the special needs end of it, but I do think of hectoring stress advice as often being pointed at working mothers: your job is making you mean and crazy, and that's not fair to your family, so this is how to return to the blissful mother goddess state that you owe them. Get blissful now, maggot!


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:41 AM
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but this kind of stress advice is huge in talking about parenting children with special needs and yet I see a lot of it as specifically directed at mothers.

Do you mean that there's a huge need to address stress levels in the kids, and it's being redirected as stress levels of mothers? Or that raising special needs kids is hard, but fathers do not get targeted as needing stress-reduction (and mothers add it to their to-do list)?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:42 AM
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Actually, the latter is clearly what you meant. Never mind.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:43 AM
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I guess I'd like to separate stress out from anxiety in that external pressures on one's life can be a good thing. In my life, I've always responded really well to "stress" in the sense that having a lot to do and a lot of obligations makes me feel purposeful and capable. I like feeling necessary and needed.

Anxiety is new for me, as a physiological problem. When it started, a little less than a year ago, it was baffling. It's similar to my experiences with depression, in that there seems to be nothing I can do about it, and it prevents me from living my life normally. Even minor obligations and interactions can result in sleeplessness, fainting, shaking, inability to interact, disruptions in sensory perception, etc. I can say it's maybe because of my job or my ABD status, but I've had bigger problems in my life than this that I reacted to with some grace or presence of mind. In terms of "stress," as in external pressures to be or do a certain thing, I'd say my stress is very low right now.

In my case, I think an increase in stress correlates with the lessening of anxiety. But when you're experiencing anxiety, the last thing you want to do is find more obligations.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:44 AM
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The description in 68 makes me stand by my choice of "stress" and not "anxiety" in the original post. Hypothesis: feeling stress does not inhibit your ability to complete the task, but feeling anxious does.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:47 AM
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Also there's a mini-industry of consultants who are taking a spoonful of truth (chronic stress is hard on people and makes them less productive) and rebottling it as "Hire us and your employees will work harder and/or cost you less in health insurance!"

Municipal governments and the like seem to be prone to hiring these people. I know I've gotten my share of cheerleading newsletters exhorting me to "take time for myself" and "de-stress" via various Employee Assistant Program-esque tactics.

I'm torn between feeling terribly sad for the people for whom these are really life-improving tips,* and irritated that there are basically snake-oil salespeople making money off of this stuff.

*I'm glad that getting the suggestion "When having a dispute with your teenager, try taking some time away from each other to write down your key thoughts and then express them when you are feeling more calm" is useful to people, but it sees so fundamentally sad that parents needs to be told that enraged screaming is not an effective communication tool.

Also, these pamphlets seem to not-usefully blur the distinction between seriously life-threatening issues and general quality-of-life issues -- e.g. "I am a not-functional alcoholic and my family is at their wits' end," vs. "I don't really like my job and often call out sick for stupid reasons."


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:48 AM
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How does anxiety show up?

Stress is ontic; anxiety is ontological.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:48 AM
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||

Hold the autoeroticism with regard to Lynn Redgrave.

|>


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:49 AM
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Employee Assistance Programs, I mean.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:49 AM
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55: they do show the same response. The point about the distinction was going back to your comment 6. Anyone living in a chronically stressful situation (i.e., a situation in which most humans would experience elevated cortisol levels) will be at risk for health problems long term. That's well documented in medical literature, and it was your 6.1. If someone is experiencing elevated cortisol level in response to situations that would not bother most people, then they have issues with anxiety. That was your 6.2. The health effects of either are going to be similar, but diagnosis isn't (necessarily): if you have issues with anxiety, there are ways you can treat the anxiety (including drugs), so that you don't find everyday life so cortisol-elevating. Whereas if you're in a genuinely stressful situation, the diagnosis is basically to try to get out of the sitaution. (Or do other things to counteract it--which is where all the massages and mediation and other "stress-relieving tips" come from.)


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:49 AM
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For example, the only times I've felt really calm and happy and smart in the past year have been things like conferences where I have to present my research, usually after staying up all the night before finishing the draft of my paper. Stressful! But I felt so good doing it, super-sharp and witty and responsive. Teaching also makes me feel really smoothed-out and focused. Not-hard "relaxing" things make me want to stab my eyes out.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:50 AM
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67: Yes, I meant that I'm doing a lot of reading about parenting children with special needs and I always seem to see that kind of advice about why it's necessary for parents to do stress relief whenever they can, but I'm not sure if it's disproportionately pointed at mothers because so many of these sites/books/etc. are written by/for mothers or because there's a gendered aspect to the way we tend to think of stress or probably both plus effects of the ways we gender parenting.

Heebie, I just found this article because this conversation's making me think about it. I'm not sure if you'd consider it to be about stress as you see it but it's about a genetic influence to the differences people from the same background can have in their resilience. I've never read any follow-up or actually looked up the study and so it could all be bogus, but I think kids who live through abuse and being bounced around the foster care system are definitely in category 1 on your stress breakdown, and yet even that legitimate stress affects people very differently.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:50 AM
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Further to 67 I didn't just find that article but merely found a link to it after having that memory sparked by this discussion. Maybe once I've eaten I'll be able to write halfway sensibly.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:53 AM
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76, I mean, not 67. Fuck. I quit.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:53 AM
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I'm baffled on heebie's behalf by anyone who's claiming to be unfamiliar with articles offering stress-relief tips, and warning about the consequences of stress, etc. But I'm also somewhat baffled by whatever heebie was trying to say in the post, or the connection she was trying to draw to depression.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:54 AM
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79: Both stress and depression make you fat. I think.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:55 AM
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80: Oh--was that the point of the post?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:56 AM
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That's why I always park far away from the entrance of the grocery store. Every little step counts.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 9:57 AM
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82: I think you're kidding, but the people who drive around trying to find the absolute closest spot at the store or the mall crack me up. Dude! You're gonna walk like ten times as far inside that building! Let it go!


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 10:02 AM
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70: Huh, I never thought of EAPs as corporate tools for turning the concept of mental health to the service of productivity, but you're probably right.

From the perspective of someone who at one time wanted to work as a therapist, EAPs are the brass ring: counseling, albeit short-term, that isn't driven by paperwork.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 10:03 AM
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75: Is that really still stress, then? I think I know exactly the feeling you're talking about, but I think of it as responding to something that ordinarily would be stressful in the way that people who don't get stressed out as easily as I do would.

God it's strange how I ought to have a dozen things to say about depression and anxiety and the DS fucking M IV-TR, but my brain sidles up to it and refuses to have any thoughts about it. Oh well. Bloviation averted.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 10:08 AM
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I really hate parking-lot driving. Being stuck waiting for some boob to cap a drink and find reverse to back out, so the idiot in front of me can get this excellent spot-- grrr. Always taking the first distant spot is the best way.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 10:09 AM
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So far, the article in 76 is fascinating.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 10:12 AM
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85: It feels like stress. There's the stress of traveling (which I find genuinely stressful) and the stress of leaving things to the last minute (which I always do) and there is tons of worry involved (will everyone hate me?), but under those conditions, all the adrenaline-emergency parts of me come into blossom and I perform beautifully.

However, in not-stressful circumstances, like carrying on small talk or hanging out, I often get so anxious I lose vision. Like I literally go blind from anxiety for a few seconds at a time.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 10:17 AM
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If stress is seen as self-curable; well, 'stress' more often names a situation or an environment more than it does a physiological or mental state of a person. People get stressed, but they're not necessarily seen as owning their stress. 'Depression', on the other hand; well that's definitely a state of yours. So you could see 'stress' as analogous to a source of injury such as heat; supposedly you can always move away from heat. On the same analogy, 'depression' is more of your actual burn; something you're going to need help with.

Of course, most people can't control the stressors that surround them; they just have to develop ways to cope. Much as with depression, come to that.

I see a case for reform of the terminology.


Posted by: Charlie | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 10:18 AM
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Also: blind dates in the past year were not anxiety-producing, even if they made me nervous, and even if they were awful. Hanging out with people I know well and like does not make me nervous, but does make me anxious. It's good for me to do it, and I do often enjoy myself, but it's almost impossible for me to be charming or interesting (or to feel charming and interesting) around people I know these days.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 10:21 AM
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Haven't read the thread, but if you'd like to see the physical effects of stress, you're welcome to look at my arms, which have suddenly broken out into small spots because of eczema. Woo. Itchy, and I kind of look like I have chicken pox!


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 10:30 AM
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And I wouldn't spend much time wondering whether I could differentiate anxiety and depression as felt moods; both are something I do not want. In practice, do psychiatrists think they can prescribe differently depending on which they think a person has?


Posted by: Charlie | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 10:37 AM
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[t]the only times I've felt really calm and happy and smart in the past year have been things like conferences where I have to present my research, usually after staying up all the night before finishing the draft of my paper. Stressful! But I felt so good doing it, super-sharp and witty and responsive.

all the adrenaline-emergency parts of me come into blossom and I perform beautifully.

Oh, gosh. My experience doesn't precisely mirror yours but at some point I learned how to both trigger adrenaline responses in work situations and use that response to be more productive.

The problem is that, while both the elevated stress levels before and the recovery period afterward are unpleasant, the actual feeling of riding that wave of adrenaline and being intense and productive is very satisfying.

So, even though I know it's unhealthy, it's easy to keep repeating that cycle just because the productive bursts serve as a respite from the feelings of being run down and haggard that they themselves produce.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 10:40 AM
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What's physically bad for you about stress is mostly the same thing that's physically bad for you about depression: elevated levels of glucocorticoids (of which cortisol is one). When you're depressed, your stress response is left constantly turned on in the background. If you're "stressed," then you're constantly allowing environmental stressors to turn your stress response on. I have nothing to say about the value of spa days, etc., but learning to cope with stress basically amounts to learning how to tell your hypothalamus to chill the fuck out, excepting those occasions when a fight-or-flight response would actually do you some good.

For anybody really interested in this subject, I recommend a perusal through the google video results for "Robert Sapolsky," who both has very interesting things to say on the subject, and a lot of skill at saying them entertainingly.


Posted by: piminnowcheez | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 10:42 AM
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I've definitely noticed this trend of everything everywhere telling us to reduce stress. Particularly at the doctor's office, when they say, you know, you might be getting sick more often because stress lowers your immune system. You should work on that. (And then I think, how, exactly? Change career paths?) I probably also read more mainstream media than most.

As someone who experiences both a great deal of stress and a great deal of anxiety (and sees different physical responses to both), I'm not sure where I come down on this other debate that's going on. AWB's 68 feels familiar, but I don't think I react to stress as positively as she does.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 10:45 AM
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I can sort-of relate to 90. For me it's tied to not wanting people to get too close emotionally. Acquaintances can't hurt you the way friends and family can.


Posted by: Smoke Monkey | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 10:47 AM
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Particularly at the doctor's office, when they say, you know, you might be getting sick more often because stress lowers your immune system. You should work on that. (And then I think, how, exactly? Change career paths?)

You haven't been reading the articles closely enough. You don't need to change careers, just buy the newest stress-relieving products and servces.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 10:49 AM
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80: Oh--was that the point of the post?

So my point was:
1 (from 94): What's physically bad for you about stress is mostly the same thing that's physically bad for you about depression: elevated levels of glucocorticoids (of which cortisol is one).

2. Both are a combination of individual variation plus environment

3. Stress and depression are treated wildly differently in the hectoring I get from mainstream media.

4. So I respond to medical claims of detriments of each in very different ways, because of this percieved agenda.

5. Then hopefully everyone will be completely mystified as to what I'm posting about.

I think I've accomplished it!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 10:51 AM
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learning how to tell your hypothalamus to chill the fuck out

Tell me more.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 10:51 AM
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You should work on that. (And then I think, how, exactly? Change career paths?)

I've often found the 'avoid getting stressed' advice darkly hilarious. You can do certain things, but I'd say that learning to do them counts as a major life skill, long and hard in the acquiring. Making the right career moves; also far from easy, obviously.


Posted by: Charlie | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 10:52 AM
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I second Heebie's and LB's noting that this stress stuff is mainly directed at women, specifically mothers. Remember that "Calgon, take me away commercial"? I also believe this was why Miltown was invented. And alcohol. Now that people are so uptight about moms tranquilizing themselves into a stupor or drinking a bottle of wine during the day, we are supposed to make do with stupid candles, yoga, and whatnot.


Posted by: Miranda | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 10:52 AM
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For anybody really interested in this subject, I recommend a perusal through the google video results for "Robert Sapolsky," who both has very interesting things to say on the subject, and a lot of skill at saying them entertainingly.

I can't easily watch videos at work, but this guy has some amazing facial hair, so I'm inclined to trust his advice. Although, with facial hair like that, it's hard for anything you say to fail to be entertaining, so I'm not sure that should necessarily be chalked up as a "skill".


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 10:55 AM
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98: According to my mom, a ton of her female acquaintances have been diagnosed with depression, such that they have been put on medication. The problem cannot possibly be that they're actually unhappy with their lives or disappointed by circumstances. That seems troubling to me, especially in the case of middle-aged Christian housewives whose children aren't around anymore, whose husbands are boors, and who have given up any hope for getting an education or a career. Might there possibly be environmental factors, or something to be discussed in therapy? I'm not saying one shouldn't take medication for depression--if you're suffering, you're suffering--but if the overdiagnosis of depression as a biological problem results into medicating yourself into not responding to the circumstances of your life proactively, so as to fit better into the Christian model of the happy subservient housewife, I think it can be a problem.

Is that related to what you meant?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 11:01 AM
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Probably that is related.

Mostly the post arose from an observation of myself - I heard a depression-medical-tidbit, noticed that I didn't write it off as skeptically as I write off stress-medical-tidbits, and was musing about why.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 11:07 AM
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92: In practice, do psychiatrists think they can prescribe differently depending on which they think a person has?

I want to say, and I acknowledge the cynicism here, that they act as if they do because there's money in it. Drugs get approved to say they treat some really specific symptom, and then drug reps from that company go around to clinics and bring food and tchochkes (I cherish my Risperdal clock) and give a spiel over catered lunch about how Paxil is now the only SSRI approved for social anxiety, as if social anxiety were this very precise thing conditioned by one thing happening in the brain that is treated only by one drug. The goal, of course, is for the psychiatrists to change how they prescribe.

Whether psychiatrists believe (rightly or wrongly--they have a lot more nuanced understanding of this stuff than I, who haven't gone to med school, have) and act on this stuff is doubtless an individual matter of ethics and intellect, but I can't imagine the drug companies would pour the money into making my light-up Lamictal pen and hiring pretty people to distribute them with a smile and a suggestion if it weren't working.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 11:08 AM
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The problem cannot possibly be that they're actually unhappy with their lives or disappointed by circumstances.

But - as with every other situation where this is said - how could you know this?


Posted by: Charlie | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 11:08 AM
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I wonder if Will will concur with this, but this kind of stress advice is huge in talking about parenting children with special needs and yet I see a lot of it as specifically directed at mothers. Almost a whole class period in our 10-week therapeutic fostering class (which we dropped out of, for somewhat related reasons) was spent on stress relief and self-care. The men in the room mostly looked mystified or said that they deal with stress by riding motorcycles and smoking and avoiding their families. The women largely looked like having to talk about stress was one more thing that stressed them out.

I cant really discuss whether there are gender differences.

For me, my autistic daughter stressed me out a lot less than my son (not-autistic) does. I know what I expect of her, and she generally meets my range of expectations.

With my son, I feel like he is capable of so much more and I get stressed about my inability to draw it out of him.

With regard to Witt mentioning the advice given to parents: Like all relationships, it is really easy to get caught in patterns that dont work. It is so incredibly frustrating to suddenly recognize that you have been locked into a bad pattern with your child after months and months. Parents dont want to get stuck in unhealthy patterns, but we get blinded and somehow get such narrow vision.



Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 11:08 AM
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I would take anything Robert Sapolsky says to a popular audience with a heaping portion of salt. I watched most of his The Teaching Company course and concluded he was bullshitting constantly (e.g. "Amygdala activation in response to sexual situations in men suggests that they associate sex with fear."). I'm only a graduate student, but in a conversation I had with a senior researcher in neuroscience the same course came up and he said the same thing--that much of what Sapolsky said was just false. I think some academics just like to bullshit to popular audiences. I don't know why. Maybe for the pleasure of being smug, maybe because it's a release from and overcompensation for the everyday pressure to be very qualified in one's communication.


Posted by: Poppet | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 11:10 AM
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68: I can say it's maybe because of my job or my ABD status...

I'm an expert on ABD status and I have to say that after ten years, the stress-level of being ABD really starts to drop. However, that might not be the case if you really want the Ph.D.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 11:12 AM
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106: That's what I'm saying, that doctors don't know, and it's a lot easier to send someone out of your office with meds than it is to refer to an appropriate therapist, especially when the person in question may be saying "I don't know what's wrong with me! I have two beautiful children..."


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 11:13 AM
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I think some academics just like to bullshit to popular audiences. I don't know why. Maybe for the pleasure of being smug, maybe because it's a release from and overcompensation for the everyday pressure to be very qualified in one's communication.

Everyone we hear in mass media is either
A) saying what they believe to be true,
or worse,
B) saying what they've been paid to say while being aware that it's probably not true.

As one of the people in the A group, Robert Sapolsky isn't really a bullshitter. We just hold him to a higher standard because in his actual job, unlike the political scientist or the sports pundit or the sexpert, he is limited to making pronouncements that not only does he believe to be true, but he can actually prove.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 11:14 AM
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This is nice to see.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 11:16 AM
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112: Very good, but not a single "Under Construction" sign.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 11:21 AM
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The problem cannot possibly be that they're actually unhappy with their lives or disappointed by circumstances. That seems troubling to me

What I like is when all my doctors are all "Well, you're really fucked up! this seems very stressful and upsetting! We'd better give you some more antidepressants, sedatives, and anti-anxiety pills, since we can't fix any of the actual problems. Then you'll feel better, for at least some sense of the word 'feel'"

I mean, not that I say no to the pills.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 11:26 AM
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Back to a non-gendered version of what I think is irritating about the 'reduce your stress' narrative; it can come off as blaming the victim: what's causing you stress are the choices you have freely made in your own life, and if that's making you unhappy, make different choices. It draws attention away from real systemic problems that cause stress; inhumane (in the broad sense) working conditions, inequality, and so on.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 11:27 AM
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Oh, I see - sorry.

I don't know what it is that involves right-wingers in an ongoing failure to concede that environments and situations make a difference. Neurotic fear for their own impoverishment, maybe. It's what Orwell says they have, anyhow.


Posted by: Charlie | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 11:31 AM
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102: He's also like 4 feet tall; I guess I'd have to grant your point that actually being a gnome gives one an advantage in the entertaining dispensation of information. But do, when you can, watch a video: I promise, there is skill behind that beard.

108: I haven't heard this about Sapolsky before, but it's true that the amygdala comment does sound like bullshit. I'm inclined to accept his authority in his primary field (the hpa axis and socially-mediated stress) but I think often academics who reach both a certain level in their field and popularity outside of it get tempted to wade into areas they don't actually know about. Only, they've gotten so used to being experts, they've forgotten how to be vigilant against their own bullshittery.


Posted by: piminnowcheez | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 11:32 AM
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drug reps from that company go around to clinics and bring food and tchochkes

One of the more enraging experiences one can have under the current US healthcare system is to be sitting, sick and miserable, in a doctor's waiting room, when a bubbly drug rep strides in rolling his or her suitcase full of free samples and pens and shit and is waved right on through while you continue to wait.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 11:47 AM
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106, 110: When my mean grandma was in her early nineties, the doctor asked her how she was. She replied that she was terrible. Her husband was dead; her children hated her; she'd outlived her sisters; she'd alienated everyone else. She was alone and miserable. The doctor said she was depressed and gave her drugs, but my Dad thought it was a remarkably astute description of her situation. She really had been vicious enough to drive everyone away, and now she was sad and lonely that they'd gone.

I have no idea whether the drugs made her less depressed, but a couple people remarked that they turned her nice. Not as nasty, nor relentless. It would have made a big difference to my family if they'd come sixty years ago.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 11:47 AM
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118: It was also enraging when, working for a medical billing company in a doctor's office, I overheard the docs asking each other how long it had been since any of them had paid for lunch. Ha ha!

Interesting fact: the three diagnoses I keyed in most often were (1) Sebaceous cyst, lance, (2) Urinary tract infection, and (3) Depression.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 11:53 AM
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What I like is when all my doctors are all "Well, you're really fucked up! this seems very stressful and upsetting! We'd better give you some more antidepressants, sedatives, and anti-anxiety pills, since we can't fix any of the actual problems. Then you'll feel better, for at least some sense of the word 'feel'"

Pills

It was on a Monday morning, I was tired, my head was turning,
And I couldn't face the thought of going back to work and so,
I paid a visit to my doctor and he gave me the once over,
Said 'don't worry, we'll soon have you on the go'

(Chorus:)


You need pills, pills, pills and pills, pills to take the pain away,
Just swallow two three times a day; you'll be as good as new,
And we've got pills to make you happy, pills to pep you up and calm you down,
It's magic what a pill can do
...


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 11:56 AM
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118: They've cut-off doctors from the give-aways here, not that the free samples are gone. I used get a free lunch every Friday and I'm very far removed from prescribing drugs, but not anymore.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 11:56 AM
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I mean, I think the psychiatrists got taken to nice dinners while we non-prescribing sorts put in brief face time over the tin foil tubs of ziti. Surely nobody is swayed by a light-up pen and some ziti. I collected some of the drug kitsch for a while. Some of it is funny if you can separate it from its dark associations. At home I have one of those double-sided door hangers that usually says "Do Not Disturb" on one side and...I forget what on the other. "Disturb!" I guess. Anyway this one has the positive symptoms* of schizophrenia on one side and the negative ones on the other.

*term of art, of course. Not positive in the sense of delightful.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 12:01 PM
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119: This has been a big problem in my mom's family. No one believes in doctors at all, much less mental health professionals, so they just all yell at each other all the time for not "acting right." Without any kind of diagnosis or treatment, Uncle #1 needs to stop being screamy, twitchy, and controlling, Uncle #2 needs to learn that meth and vodka are not the answer, Uncle #3 needs to stop speaking exclusively in quotations from The Wild Bunch, and Aunt should give up some of her 25 cats, stop buying things at Target, wake up before 5pm, and try getting a job already.

How do you spend 50 years with a group of people and continuously judge them for not changing their ways? It's got to be exhausting. My mom thinks I'm insulting them when I suggest our family might have some untreated and unacknowledged disorders. I think it's a bit better (and less stressful) than hectoring them all the time.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 12:02 PM
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111: I'm not sure that exhausts the possibilities, CN. You can (and I think he did) also say things with total disregard for whether they're true, or say things in much sloppier way than you know how to, even in a long format where you have plenty of freedom to be precise. To continue the previous example, I doubt he really believed at more than 49% probability that the activation of the amygdala in response to sexual stimuli had anything to do with fear; plenty of papers on amygdala and positive stimuli had come out by the time the paper I think he must have been referring to did--papers by the same author. The sense I got was that he just enjoyed saying it.

And frankly, it seems psychologically implausible that a molecular neuroscientist would so cheerily treat an fMRI finding as if it had no interpretive ambiguities and believe what he was saying; I would think molecular people would be pretty sensitive to the fact that it is very hard to say mechanistically what an fMRI finding means. The fMRI people will usually say that, and they have presumably drunk more kool-aid.

That was just one thing I remember as part of a stream of false or extremely low-information utterances--it's a few years since I saw this thing. It bothers me that he condescended so much to the audience.

As long as I'm qualifying things in this thread, I'll point out that depression is associated with either hyper or hypoactive glucocorticoid response in different studies (and probably normal gc reponse in some). Meanwhile, the molecular physiology of depression is *really* not well-understood right now (but there's lots of exciting research), so I don't think it's possible to identify the one set of chemicals that are "bad for you about depression."

Also, although GC elevation is the canonical physiological stress response, you can get people to report the subjective feeling of stress even without measurable GC elevation. If nothing else, stress may have consequences for other health behaviors and might change people's beliefs or feelings about their environment in unhelpful ways (like, making them believe some aspect of their life is uncontrollable) that could have downstream physical consequences.


Posted by: Poppet | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 12:02 PM
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Surely nobody is swayed by a light-up pen and some ziti.

Damn.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 12:05 PM
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We sometimes got Chinese food or pizza. And the ziti was pretty good.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 12:08 PM
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123: Surely nobody is swayed by a light-up pen and some ziti.

Nice, but it's the tip of the iceberg, of course. The practices are embedded at a deeply structural level. And if the ziti and light pen are associated with an in-season conference at Vail ...


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 12:13 PM
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light pen

Not as clumsy or random as a ballpoint. An elegant weapon for a more civilized prescription.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 12:15 PM
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I don't think my grandma went in to that appointment searching for mental help, and I also think the doctor misdiagnosed her accurate summary of her life conditions (although she may also have been depressed). But she was willing to take the drugs, and they took away her nastiness, years too late.

That's got to be frustrating, if your folks aren't willing to go to the doctor for anything.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 12:20 PM
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Smearcase, your social work blog is excellent.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 12:31 PM
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In rats, at least, it's fairly well established that maternal stress gets passed from generation to generation: fearful dams raise fearful pups that show generally elevated levels of activity in the HPA (stress-response) axis. I'm not aware of companion studies on paternal stress, but I'm not sure whether that says more about the biases of the people running the studies or about the family structure of rats. (Or about how little I've read in this field in the last decade.)

Although I find it hard to imagine that the presence of 17 Hot New Ways To Reduce Stress in every women's magazine every month (and their corresponding absence from Maxim) is driven by a particularly nuanced reading of the relevant primary literature, it's not impossible that women's stress levels actually have a bigger public health impact than men's. That possibility doesn't rely on gender essentialism; it could easily follow from the disparity in parenting roles. I.e., a stressed-out stay-at-home dad has the same influence on his kids' stress responses as a stressed-out stay-at-home mom, but the dad is so much less common than the mom that, on balance in the population, it's women's stress levels that tune the next generation's physiological proclivity to stress. In which case, sure, target women for stress-reduction messages. Just don't forget to blame the patriarchy for the necessity of doing so.


Posted by: Gabardine Bathyscaphe | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 12:47 PM
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Put the lime in the coconut and drink it all up.
Put the lime in the coconut and call me in the morning.

Sorry I can't contribute more to this thread. I just can't seem to worry and mope about this. That probably is a symptom of my certified wackness. Sooner or later it will catch up me, after 60 years I have to be on borrowed time. When I keel over or jump off something at 65 y'all can say:"See, shoulda done the talk therapy and taken the drugs."

Drug free house.

Hey, you're all drinkers! I'll bet...


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 12:49 PM
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131 Thank you so much. Your opinion is valued hereabouts.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 12:53 PM
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OT: I think there's some sort of bomb scare happening outside. I've gotten 3 emails from DPS in the last 30 minutes, first a suspicious package was near an entrance, now they're closing some street to evacuate the elementary school on campus and something else is happening "due to police activity" and people in one of the dorms are supposed to stay away from windows. I can see flashing lights over there, and some campus security people waving at cars...

Exciting? Irritating? Time wil tell...


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 12:57 PM
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Jeez, EM. Is the shit going down today?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 1:00 PM
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I can't really tell if it's a serious thing or not. But they are actually evacuating the elementary school. And telling people in some buildings to stay away from windows. I can't find any other information (actually I don't know how one would go about finding other information. A police scanner? or something?)

I also can't find any hearing people around to tell me if anything is blowing up. So I'm assuming, uh, that it isn't?


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 1:03 PM
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I have to say, I don't think this email message:

Due to the police activity at West Virginia Gate residents of Carlin Hall are asked to stay away from all windows until the situation is clear

does a very great job of being informative OR calming. But I guess I wouldn't expect anything better from these people.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 1:05 PM
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You would probably feel tremors if it was close, right?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 1:06 PM
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Now I am trying to see if anyone outside is explaining to anyone else what is happening. Eavesdropping is so much easier in ASL.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 1:06 PM
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Does your school not have one of those emergency text-messaging alert services, Espesh? I was under the impression that pretty much all colleges instituted them after the Virginia Tech shootings.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 1:10 PM
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I've wondered about that before, the part about the eavesdropping. But don't you have to look out a window to do so? Doesn't that bring you close to the window and DANGER?!


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 1:11 PM
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Yeah. I mean, I've been getting emails. They just don't include very much information. Also this school is run by people who are extraordinarily stupid and incompetent, so.

They seem to be letting people (including small children) walk past the building that you are supposed to stay away from the windows of. There are a lot more cop cars now though, on campus as well as off.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 1:13 PM
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I'm in a different building. Next door. So, totally safe, I'm sure.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 1:14 PM
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125: I agree that talking down to one's audience and bullshitting just for the fun of it are regrettable. But the kind of sloppiness you're (rightly) criticizing is extremely common, unfortunately. Really engaging popular communicators of science are rare enough that I'd hate for otherwise interested readers of this thread to dismiss Sapolsky as a result of your criticism. I think he's a legitimate authority in his own field, and not a pathological liar. I also think that non-scientists or people new to the subject would come away from one of his talks knowing a lot more about it than they did before, and having enjoyed the experience. Do you disagree?


Posted by: piminnowcheez | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 1:20 PM
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Another email:

Metropolitan Police Department would like the person who reported the suspicious package at West Virginia gate to make contact with The Department of Pubic Safety as soon as possible.

Huh.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 1:29 PM
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Have they tried "Missed Connections" on Craigslist?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 2:03 PM
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Or perhaps they should just recommend consistent condom use.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 2:09 PM
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34: When I think of my own stress, I'm always thankful that I don't have the responsibilities of 20-something drummer.

I was at a restaurant where a friend bartends recently, and I told her that old chestnut "Q: What do you call a drummer without a girlfriend? A: Homeless." She immediately rushed back to tell the cook, who replied: "Yeah, that's funny, but it's also true. The drummer in our band broke up with his girlfriend and he's been sleeping on my couch for the last six weeks, it's getting kind of annoying."


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 2:21 PM
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sure, target women for stress-reduction messages

I am skeptical that stress-reduction messages result in reduced stress.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 2:24 PM
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Actually, I'd been feeling bad for insulting Stanley, who seems more focused than I was at his age.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 2:24 PM
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118: If I'd been writing HCR drug company freebies would be banned. No pens, clocks, clipboards, and most certainly no big sponsored conferences in exotic locales, with all expenses paid and only half the day taken up with sessions.

People really are swayed by that stuff - simply getting the name of the drug in front of the doctor's eyes on a regular basis will increase the chances it will be prescribed. Advertizers know that the decision model implicit in economics is bullshit, and that people make choices for irrational reasons all the time. It's ironic that the leading funders of the research that proves Homo Economicus is a subspecies of Sasquatch are advertizers, doing so in pursuit of profit.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 2:25 PM
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151 to 149.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 2:25 PM
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I am skeptical that stress-reduction messages result in reduced stress.

What? Of course they work. Almost as well as being told you need to lose weight.


Posted by: heebie | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 2:26 PM
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When I target women for stress-reduction massages it doesn't seem to reduce stress either.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 2:27 PM
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Actually, I'd been feeling bad for insulting Stanley, who seems more focused than I was at his age.

I have you fooled! But anyway, don't feel bad. I missed 34 the first time past it, but reading it just now I laughed.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 2:28 PM
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Well, who really knows how much stress anybody else is under?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 2:34 PM
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Except the guy with the E-meter.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 2:34 PM
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127, 152: Well, who knows--if I'd had a prescription pad, maybe I'd have been subtly influenced. Maybe they do know the needs of their audience...social workers in a clinic, making what they make, are deeply grateful for a free lunch. I always was.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 2:37 PM
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Well, the crisis seems to have dissipated. I didn't get any more emails telling me so, but I can't see any more emergency vehicles (and there were a lot. Like, 20 or 30, including fire trucks and everything). So I'm assuming everything is safe now. I'm going out to the truck and home. Wish me luck.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 2:37 PM
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Also, to further rip on drug reps, I used to deliver food for a barbecue place in Richmond, and those toads were absotutely terrible tippers when I delivered the free lunch they were buying for the hospital office staff. Bastards.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 2:39 PM
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150, 154: fair enough. My point is just that, given the rat data, it's not inherently ridiculous (or sinister) that women are on the receiving end of most of these messages.

Is this point worth making, if, as stipulated above, public health concerns about the next generation's baseline stress are not what drives the continued publication of stress-reduction articles in women's magazines? Probably not. But if I can't make a loosely science-based yet largely irrelevant point a hundred and fifty comments into a blog thread, I don't know what the internet is for anymore.


Posted by: Gabardine Bathyscaphe | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 2:49 PM
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One last student! Working on her exam! Sheesh kids! There were three students here for the past hour - all other 24 long done - and the last two just broke. TURN IN YOUR TEST! You know you want to. Let's go home.


Posted by: heebie | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 2:53 PM
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You're going to make that kid stress.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 2:54 PM
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I don't really have a lot to add, especially since Sapolsky has already been mentioned (his baboon endocrinology stuff is really good!). But I felt i had to address this:
I feel like there is tons of reading material which I can't avoid - sidebars of websites, magazines in waiting rooms, whatever

These things are really easy to avoid! Ignore sidebars (seriously, you find those unavoidable?) and always take a newspaper into waiting rooms. This may even reduce your stress levels!


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 2:58 PM
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She is impenetrable by my ESP.


Posted by: heebie | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 2:58 PM
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I'm not actually a very stressed out person. But taking apart my examples does not actually mean there aren't fifty more examples out there.


Posted by: heebie | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 2:59 PM
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166: If you stare hard enough, her head will explode. Try it.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 3:00 PM
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I'm stressed out because my taxes are due and the !"##¤%#¤% server is down...


Posted by: David | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 3:01 PM
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Look at her. Just sitting there, smugly working on her calculus exam. What an asshole.


Posted by: heebie | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 3:01 PM
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HOORAY! Bye, Calculus!


Posted by: heebie | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 3:05 PM
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Bye Professor Geebie! Have a good summer!


Posted by: Calculus students | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 3:06 PM
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I actually finished 45 minutes, but you were looking stressed so I thought you might want company.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 3:23 PM
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45 minutes ago


Posted by: Last Calculus Student | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 3:23 PM
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I think it's safe to say you botched that joke, JP.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 3:28 PM
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Yes. I don't even know why I tried to fucking recover.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 3:29 PM
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God, a few years ago I had a student who showed up 30 minutes late for the two-hour exam, and not only did she stay until the last minute (45 minutes after the last person finished), but she threw a fit about me not giving her half an hour extra to finish. Later another student from that class told me she was in class with that girl again and she was talking shit about how I was the stupidest, meanest teacher in the world.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 3:32 PM
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165: his baboon endocrinology stuff is really good

Man, if I had a nickel for every time I hear someone say that!


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 3:37 PM
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I feel like there is tons of reading material which I can't avoid - sidebars of websites, magazines in waiting rooms, whatever - constantly telling me that I must be incredibly stressed out, and here's how to juggle, and don't forget about taking me-time! And don't feel guilty about your me-time! And some people use their me-time to get stuff accomplished, and if that makes you feel better, don't feel guilty about that!

Heebie needs to work on not getting stressed out about all the bullshit pop culture throws at her.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 3:43 PM
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Update:

Metropolitan Police EOD responded and rendered the area safe at this time. Kendal School and West Virginia gate area is clear.

You can resume your normal daily activities at this time, no further details are available from Metropolitan Police Department.

WTF, is my main feeling about all this.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 3:52 PM
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Oh man oh man oh man. I was at a Women Attorneys Network lunch where the keynote speaker spent an hour telling us about how would could fight stress and keep those dreaded pounds off by eating healthy and working exercise into our schedules. You know what would help me combat stress, lady? If the fucktards in my fucking profession could learn to stop treating me like a girl and start treating me like their goddamned professional peer. Also, it would help if you fed me more than a sorry excuse for a 300 calorie side salad, thanks.

Okay, now that I got that off my chest, I'll read the thread, which probably has nothing to do with stress and depression anymore.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 3:54 PM
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There should be more blockquoting happening in 180. But I'm trying to to be stressed out about it.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 3:55 PM
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uh. Trying NOT to.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 3:55 PM
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180: In that kind of situation, the powers that be (a) are working with messy, incomplete information themselves, (b) are focusing more on the emergency itself than on the nuances of what they tell people in the area, and (c) don't want to say anything that may later turn out to be wrong and bite them on the ass; so they communicate in cryptic, overbroad warnings and uninformative all-clears.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 3:58 PM
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this is a good review of 'stress' hormones in depression
http://neurotransmitter.net/Gold.pdf


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 5:41 PM
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That is, depression is a state of hopelessness such that your brain is unable to recognize or process information that runs counter to that hopelessness.

What the hell does this mean? It sounds like psychobabble to me. I don't want to hear an epistemological framework, I just want to know what exactly the recognition and processing in question are and how they fail. I hear people talk like this and it sounds like they're trying to minimize the validity of the depressed feelings, as if they're not based in reality. But, in my case at the very least, they do process all of the information. Perhaps they just give the negative a little more weight than the positive than others do, and it adds up to a lot over time. But "giving the negative a little more weight" can't be described as being "unable to recognize or process information".


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 10:41 PM
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On taking my daughter to the pediatric gastroenterologist for the nth time, and explaining about how she's in terrible pain all the time, he said "well, children often have unexplained stomach pain. She should try to relax." yeah, fucking thanks mycroft, I'll work on that.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 10:47 PM
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14: I get gloomy and down fairly often, and the subjective experience is very similar to what people talking about depression describe, except that for me, it's just not that bad -- it doesn't keep me from keeping up with day to day life (significantly, anyway), I don't actually end up spending the day in bed, I just sort of wish I could, telling myself to snap out of it works.

The technical term for that is Dysthymia - the term for chronic, low-grade depression. (There are only three emotions (mad, sad and glad) and three urges (fear, shame and guilt), and if you ain't one, you're the one of the others.)

Stress could be any extreme forms of the above, but the most common is fear (anxiety, dread, panic, apprehension, worry, tension, and so on). So if you you were clinically 'stress out' so to speak, you'd had PTSD or Anxiety disorder or some such. Depression is a distinct independent pole. One that, if you get close enough it, can induce psychosis.

m, six of one, half dozen of the other


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 05- 3-10 11:36 PM
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What the hell does this mean? It sounds like psychobabble to me. I don't want to hear an epistemological framework, I just want to know what exactly the recognition and processing in question are and how they fail. I hear people talk like this and it sounds like they're trying to minimize the validity of the depressed feelings, as if they're not based in reality. But, in my case at the very least, they do process all of the information. Perhaps they just give the negative a little more weight than the positive than others do, and it adds up to a lot over time. But "giving the negative a little more weight" can't be described as being "unable to recognize or process information".

if i knew more about baysian information systems or somesuch, maybe i could explain it. i don't really believe in 'free' will or soul or what have you, so maybe thats the difference.

here, this is search that will give you lots of papers on this topic http://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&q=serotonin+%28%22Peter+Dayan%22+OR+%22Quentin+JM+Huys%22+OR+%22quentin+Huys%22%29&btnG=Search&as_sdt=100000000000&as_ylo=&as_vis=0


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 05- 4-10 1:11 AM
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if i knew more about baysian information systems or somesuch, maybe i could explain it. Huh?

i don't really believe in 'free' will or soul or what have you, so maybe thats the difference. Neither do I. ... ?

Thanks for the link.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 05- 4-10 1:13 AM
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i'm going to post this study, just because it has ludicris amounts of math and its a topic heebie started, and it was relevant to the 'stress' topic, http://www.tbiomed.com/content/3/1/33


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 05- 4-10 1:25 AM
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A lot of serious depression treatment involves education about cognition and the like, and all psychotherapy is a kind of re-education. It's teaching you to take control of your own life.

There are similar things, mostly in the forms of classes, aimed at stress reduction, and they definitely count as professional intervention.

U Mass Medical Center has a well regarded one developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn that was developed at the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare and Society.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05- 4-10 5:17 AM
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A few weeks ago when I was talking about a problem at work, someone here defined "stress" for me as responsibility without authority. I can't find a link to the thread. I blame Google. Anyway though, that seems really accurate to me.

It occurs to me just now that another way to put it is, stress is generally (very generally) a by-product of doing too much stuff or too difficult stuff or whatever, while depression seems to be caused by not doing enough. Doing stuff is good but once one has started doing so one is often pushed to continue - accomplishment, furthering your career or making money or volunteering, helping family members, blah blah blah - while not doing stuff is bad and generally admits to a simple explanation: get out there and do stuff. Of course, both of these explanations are in addition to rather than instead of the medical, gendered and commercialized parts of the problem, but it does seem to me that that might be part of why stress and depression are thought of differently.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 05- 4-10 9:14 AM
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I take strong exception to your theory that depression is caused by not doing enough. And double strong exception to the proposition that the remedy is to just get out there and do stuff.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 4-10 10:12 AM
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194: Oh, I didn't mean it like that, although I see how what I wrote is unclear. I know that depression is more likely to be a cause of not doing much with yourself than to really cause it, but surface appearances. I just meant that that might be part of why people think of them differently.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 05- 4-10 12:51 PM
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A few weeks ago when I was talking about a problem at work, someone here defined "stress" for me as responsibility without authority.

That may have been me. That line is one that I like.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05- 4-10 12:56 PM
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A roundup of discrimination ~ depression:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100502080240.htm

and a URL that speaks for itself:

http://jezebel.com/5529743/attractive-ladies-make-men-stressed+out


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 05- 4-10 2:58 PM
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Another possible explanation for heebie's distrust of claims about the negative impact of stress on your health.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 5-10 12:39 PM
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Trying to organize your life around advice gleaned from the sort of magazines found in checkout lanes, hair salons, and optometrists' offices, or the online equivalent thereof, is bad for your health.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 05- 5-10 12:57 PM
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199: That could be the premise for one of those stunt books, like the Year of Living Biblically. Spend a year doing whatever Cosmo says, then write a book about it.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 05- 5-10 1:05 PM
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200: I read a magazine article -- two actually! -- about someone following all the lifestyle advice given by Gwyneth Paltrow in her (completely insane) blog. In each case, the person spent thousands of dollars in just a week or two.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 05- 5-10 1:08 PM
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Spend a year doing whatever Cosmo says

How many ways to please your man in bed, total, do you think they're at now, cumulatively? A billion? A trillion?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05- 5-10 1:13 PM
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I miss Ogged.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 05- 5-10 1:23 PM
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But she's so old now.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 5-10 1:29 PM
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If you say so, Derb.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 05- 5-10 1:30 PM
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(Actually I know nothing about her other that what I've gleaned from here. And that she wants to climb Everest.)


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 05- 5-10 1:31 PM
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How many ways to please your man in bed, total, do you think they're at now, cumulatively? A billion? A trillion?

No way, it only comes out once a month. I would guess they average about one way to please your man per day.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05- 5-10 1:31 PM
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And that she wants to climb Everest

Actually she just wants to hike to the base camp. Which seems like an odd goal, but whatever.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 05- 5-10 1:33 PM
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Presumably Cosmo told her she could please her man that way.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 05- 5-10 1:58 PM
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