Archive for April, 2016

In honor of my father.  As always.

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Since this isn’t a blog based on diagnosis, but more commentary and information, we won’t spend too much time talking about the validity of psychological diagnoses as a whole (though there are some incredible debates and thinkers who are great folks to follow).  However, I want to briefly touch on Delusional Disorder, the erotomanic type.

Delusions are thought processes and beliefs that do not fit with reality, and persist despite evidence that they’re untrue.  In the erotomanic type, (cribbed from the DSM-V), “the central theme of the delusion is that another person is in love with the individual.”

This is a terrifying concept, and one I think we often see represented in popular media.  One of my favorite bands, and one of the most problematic punk bands around, is Masked Intruder.  Many of their songs concern stalking and threats of bodily harm, and serve as great examples of how delusions form and have negative effects on the object of the delusion.  Imagine telling someone to get lost, and they don’t leave you alone. 

(There is also a terrific cultural argument to be made here, that men often disregard the rejection of women and continue to believe a woman is interested, despite clear evidence to the contrary, and get angry when the rejection continues.  Often, women are killed after rejecting men’s advances.  Coincidentally (surely), this is part of the criteria for Delusional Disorder.)

The song I’ve chosen, from the rich field of possibilities, is “Almost Like We’re Already in Love” (lyrics here).

Scary, right?!

Up da punx, yah?

One of the most important concepts, and one of the easiest to grasp, is how substance abuse (particularly, for our purposes today, alcohol use) impacts our ability to plan and organize our thoughts and behaviors.

Executive functions, including impulse control, planning, organization, moral judgments, and consequential thinking, are focused mainly in our brain’s frontal lobe.  Frequent readers will remember how this brain development isn’t finished until the early 20s (a great argument for juvenile justice reform).  This is the first part of our brain to really get drunk.

Because the frontal lobe is affected by alcohol so quickly, we lose our ability to properly plan and appreciate consequences of our behavior.  It’s the reason driving after a couple beers makes so much sense to the one drinking.  It’s the reason we have unprotected sex with people we don’t know after closing down the bar.  It’s the reason all those plans for calling our ride, or walking home, go out the window because it’s 1am and it’s cold and we’re tired and we could surely drive just this once, right?

Having a bit of alcohol in our system also impairs our ability to stop drinking.  It’s easy, when sober, to think that two beers will be where we’ll stop; it’s a lot harder after those beers to say no to the next drink.  (This is also due to alcohol’s biphasic effect – we’re feeling good, happy, relaxed after a few, but the depressant effect kicks in more strongly the more we drink.)

There are a million songs about bad decisions under the influence, but I think the most illustrative tune is this Flogging Molly classic, Drunken Lullabies (lyrics here).

The chorus – and we find ourselves in the same old mess, singing drunken lullabies.  We can’t learn when we’re drunk, and we can’t plan properly when we’re drunk, and when we’re drunk, we just want to keep drinking!

Actually an album, but who’s counting?  Enjoy with friends over euchre and beers for best results.

Part of my ongoing series exploring psychological concepts through a song, this week’s topic is narcissism.  Named after the Greek myth about Narcissus, a man who fell in love with his own reflection, then died because he couldn’t stop looking at himself (because the Greeks were pretty brutal), narcissism is found in folks who think they’re awesome.

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A little narcissism never hurt anyone, but on the far end of the spectrum is narcissistic personality disorder.  Hallmarks are an inability to accept any criticism, overly grandiose ideas, inflated sense of self-worth, arrogance, a short temper, and a pathological need for admiration, paired with a lack of empathy for others.

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As with any personality disorder, others tend to notice there is a problem before the person is aware or acknowledges a problem.

Say it with me, now: NARCISSISM IS NOT SELF-ESTEEM.  Narcissism tends to come from a feeling of being lacking, and any threat to this fragile self results in aggression, impulsive behavior, and increased frantic efforts to win admiration and personal recognition.

The best song I’ve found to represent this is a great tune by Guster called “Center of Attention” (lyrics here).

Happy Thursday!  We’re back this week with a classic from Walls of Jericho, one of my all time favorite hardcore bands (from Detroit!  with a lady singer!) and their great tune, Fixing Broken Hearts!

Lots of the problems we have as adults result from what we learned as children about how to deal with the world around us.  If we’re growing up in an abusive household, we learn that people are not to be trusted, and develop patterns of paranoia and watchfulness.  If we’re getting bullied in school, we develop armor, sarcasm, a ready defense, or learn to stay under the radar, be quiet, never speak up.

These patterns allow children to survive in hostile environments.  They are useful.  They are adaptive.

But what happens when these children grow up, and suddenly can’t make friends or build healthy romantic relationships?  When our patterns are no longer adaptive?  We have to recognize the use and purpose of how we were behaving, then begin to form new relationships with others and the world around us.

A great song about being stuck in an old, unhealthy, maladaptive pattern is “Happier” by the band Guster (lyrics here).

The song is deeply sad, concerning a person abandoning friends and relationships because he or she can’t trust others to stick around.

We’ll be back next week!  Have an idea or suggestion for a song or psychological concept?  Leave it in the comments!