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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Dispelling the Myths Surrounding Mental Health

There haven’t been any new posts on PsyOWA recently, but we are back and planning a new series of posts entitled “Myths about Mental Health.” In this series of posts we will be discussing some common myths surrounding psychology and mental health. Because of the stigma surrounding there is a lot of inaccurate information out there. One of the best ways to combat stigma and get people the help that they need is giving them good information. Information really can be powerful.

To kick off the series in this post, I want to talk about the myth that “everything you read on the internet is true.” This myth is especially important right now with all the talk of “fake news” and the potential for social media to spread inaccurate information. I have lost count of how many times I have seen a news story on Facebook, only to find out that it was untrue or inaccurate. There also have been many times I have seen posts about mental health or people with mental health issues that are not true or accurate. It is important to make sure the information that you are getting is accurate, especially when it concerns your health and/or mental health.  It can be dangerous to follow recommendations that are not supported by evidence and getting bad information about your healthcare can prevent you from getting the care you may really need.

Here are some tips to make sure that information you are reading on the internet is true and accurate:

  • Look in the article for sources. Articles that present recommendations, research, or facts should cite their sources. This might be a link to another website, the citation for an article, or the name of a trusted professional that was interviewed. Look for these things when you read an article.
  • When you see a post check the source. Many articles cite their sources. Sources like medical journals and reliable news outlets are more likely to have accurate information that websites that are based on opinion or not linked to a reliable source.  And even if an article cites the source, don’t assume it is correct. Follow up for yourself to make sure the source is real and cited correctly.
  • If possible, read the original source of information. Sometimes when blogs cite sources the author did not fully read the original source and is only providing you with some of the information. Sometimes important facts can get lost when authors summarize other sources.
  • Remember there is a difference between opinion and fact and check to make sure when you are reading something if it is based on one or the other. For example, if a blog was promoting a natural herb for the treatment of depression because the author or a TV doctor thinks it is a great treatment, that is an opinion and may not be true. Differently, if a blog cites a study from a reputable source that tested the herb on 1,000 patients with depression and found a reliable improvement, the information may be more factual.
  • Ask questions. If you aren’t sure if something is accurate ask the author of the post what their sources are or what resources they utilized. Many times when people are posting inaccurate information they cannot answer these types of questions.
  • Don’t repost or share information unless you have checked the validity of it yourself. Just like you don’t want to be reading stories or information that are untrue neither do your friends, loved ones, or followers. Be an advocate for quality information.
  • When in doubt “Google it!” If a headline sounds unbelievable or outrageous type the headline into Google. Chances are other people have noticed this too and there may be a news story or fact checking website that can tell you if the article is true or not.

If you follow these tips it is more likely that you will get accurate and helpful information. Follow PsyOWA for more helpful articles on the myths surrounding mental health and psychology, and other great public information.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

10 Tips to Deal with the Stress of the Holiday Season

Stressed? Anxious? Depressed? Frustrated? Overwhelmed? If one of these words describes how you are feeling this holiday season, you’re not alone. The holidays are difficult for many people. This can be the case for many reasons. Sometimes financial stress is at its highest when people are trying to figure out how to buy Christmas presents, pay higher utility bills, or pay for travel. For others, coming together with family can be a big stressor. People often have dysfunctional or complicated relationships with their families and during the holidays they feel pressured to attend events or spend time with them. Another reason many people struggle is that they have lost friends or family and the holidays make the loss feel even more present and intense. The good news is that there are ways to manage the stress associated with the holidays and improve your holiday season.
  1. Practice good self-care. When we aren’t taking care of our basic needs (sleep, food, hydration, and exercise/physical activity) we are more vulnerable to stress and mood issues. The holidays can make it more difficult to eat healthy, get enough sleep, or get enough physical activity but you can get creative. For example, try healthier recipes for holiday dinners or bring a relish tray with fresh veggies or fruits. You can even park further away when doing your holiday shopping that also removes the stress of finding a good parking spot!
  2. Consider avoiding alcohol. Alcohol can cause impairments to our judgements and cause us to do things we later regret at holiday parties. It can also cause dehydration and impact our sleep quality. If you do choose to imbibe, drink in moderation.
  3. Give yourself permission to skip some things. You don’t have to attend every holiday event. Choose the events that you want to attend and that are most important to you and make sure to leave plenty of time for rest and to recharge. It is better to do a few things really well and enjoy them than trying to do too many.
  4. Make new traditions. If any holiday traditions contribute to your stress, you can create new ones to do instead. For example, if spending large amounts on gifts is a stress consider hand making gifts or donating to charity in someone’s name instead.
  5. Choose the people you spend time with. Despite the pressure to attend family events or work parties, you are an adult and can choose who you spend time with. If there are people in your life that are toxic or unhealthy, give yourself permission to set healthy boundaries. One of the great joys of being an adult is creating your own supportive community by choice.
  6. Give back. Sometimes it can be distressing for people during the holidays to see all of the need and despair in the world. If this has you down find some way to volunteer or give back. That could mean serving food at a community meal, donating canned goods, or volunteering at an after school program to read to children.
  7. Schedule some things after the holidays. Try not to overschedule. If there are routine appointments, activities, or meetings you can schedule after the holidays are over consider scheduling or rescheduling them after the holiday season. You can even schedule a holiday party after Christmas! Some people welcome the fact that not all their holiday parties are in the same month.
  8. Focus on the things you are thankful for. Instead of focusing on those things that you don’t have try to focus on the things you do have. The things we have to be grateful for are often more numerous than we realize. It can range from being thankful for shelter, people in our lives, all the way to something like chocolate chip cookies! One exercise that can be particularly helpful is getting a notebook and trying to write in it something each day that we are thankful for.
  9. Talk about it. If you are stressed during the holiday season chances are there are friends are family that are too. Sometimes just talking about it can help us feel less isolated and come up with some creative solutions for dealing with the stress.
  10. Remember “this too shall pass”. The holiday season is only a temporary time frame. Eventually the holidays will be over and we will be onto another year. When things feel very overwhelming remember that nothing is permanent and something new is just around the corner.
For more tips and articles about the stresses of the holiday season stay tuned to the PSYowa blog. Our next post will include tips about navigating holiday gatherings.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Media and Mental Health Stigma

Here is another great post from our student contributor, Samantha Ege: Think about all the different kinds of media you consume a day; this includes the Internet, television, music, movies, social media, magazines, newspapers, etc. When I think about it, I probably consume way too much media, I mean being a college student Netflix tends to always be in the background. Even though it might just be background noise, how much does the media influence us exactly? How much does mass media shape society? The media industry has a very wide range of influence, especially when you see it through psychology’s eyes. I’ve seen a lot of movies and television shows in my day, a lot that take some sort of stance on mental health. Some are good representations of the reality of suffering from a mental illness, others, not so much. Many people have seen crime shows on TV like NCIS and Law & Order, great shows, but far too often the murders, thieves, and other criminals suffer from some sort of mental illness. There is no doubt some criminals do suffer from mental illnesses, but this disproportionate representation of criminals who suffer from mental illnesses contributes to stigma against those who suffer from mental illness and are not criminals. There have been countless studies that show that the feeling of dangerousness is a major contributor to mental health stigma, for example Silke, C., Swords, L., &; Heary, C. (2016).

Furthermore, I’m sure most people in the United States have seen a preview for an upcoming movie. This year I saw the preview for “Split” and dramatic movie that focuses on an unstable man with multiple personality disorder, however, the more psychologists I speak to about it, the more I hear that there is insufficient evidence that such disorder exists, not to mention how unrealistic that individual case is. This kind of representation of mental illness distorts society’s view of those who suffer from mental illnesses. According to cultivation theory, the more media one consumes, the more he/she believes that media mirrors reality. This theory explains why people associate people who suffer from mental illness with negative attributes like dangerousness, instability, and impulsivity. Even though these things can happen, they do not occur as often as the media makes it seem. The more one watches television shows and movies that misrepresent those who suffer from mental illness, the more they will internalize that stigma and act on it in the real world.

The media industry should make it a priority to represent people who happen to suffer from mental illness as normal, regular people who happen to struggle with something, because that is more accurate than portraying them as serial killers, bad-guys, and unstable “psychos”. But this is a cycle, we must be more diligent in shaping our perception of those who suffer from mental illness to a more accurate perception; we must be aware of how much influence the media industry has on us everyday.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Kurt Cobain and the Day the Music Died

“The Day the Music Died” is often used to refer to February 13, 1959 when a plane carrying musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson crashed in Northern Iowa. There is another day that the music suffered a terrible loss, April 5th. On April 5th, 1994 the lead singer of Nirvana died of an apparent drug overdose and on April 5th, 2002 Lane Staley the lead singer of Alice in Chains also died of an apparent drug overdose. Both men struggled with mental health and addiction issues up until their deaths. They were both very talented musicians and their deaths had a definite impact on the music industry and on their fans.

 As we reflect back on April 5th it is important not to forget the issues that contributed to those terrible losses. So today I want to talk a little bit about addiction in hopes that it may help others to understand what may have happened there. Many people who have not struggled with addiction think that quitting is as easy as just “having self-control”. The graphic below from the National Institute on Drug Abuse shows that the brains of addicts and non-addicts function differently. After a period of use the part of the brain responsible for self-control becomes less active and the part of the brain responsible for “drive” or motivation to do something gets stronger. An addict’s drive to use their substance(s) of choice is often stronger than their control. This isn’t something that is changed quickly or easily. Often, drug treatment is required in order to help addicts “retrain their brains” and build new neural (brain) pathways. Drug treatment often takes multiple tries in order to be successful.
Depression can make these issues worse. Most people who turn to drugs are trying to self-medicate a mental or emotional issue. Even if temporarily drugs allow people to escape from emotional and psychological pain. Unfortunately, when people come down from their high the emotional pain and dysfunction in their lives is still there. They become addicted because their bodies build a tolerance to the drugs and they need to use more and more to get the same escape from their problems. After a period of use, often addicts don’t even get the high anymore. They have built such a tolerance that drug use is required to even feel “normal”. Quitting cold turkey can cause severe withdrawal symptoms like headaches, vomiting, seizures, blackouts, and in some cases even death.

 Kurt Cobain and Lane Staley had both been in rehab previously. They had tried to fight their addictions and unfortunately were unable to overcome them. Both men also had histories of depression and were under a lot of stress. They were both very famous, and as glamorous as it may seem being famous comes with a lot of stress. They often have grueling schedules, don’t get to see their loved ones regularly, are constantly being watched and publicized, and are exposed to drugs and parties very regularly.

 Some of the important lessons to learn here are that drug addiction is a very complicated problem. Addicts need more support than being told to “just quit”. Often they also need mental health treatment to help them deal with the underlying reasons for their addictions first. They have to learn new coping skills and tools before the unhealthy coping tool of drugs is taken away. You also don’t have to be famous to be under a lot of stress. Many average people struggle with financial issues, relationship problems, depression, and many other things that make life hard. Stress relief and stress management should be an important part of everyone’s lives. If not, unhealthy coping like drug use, overeating, and impulsive behaviors like gambling can cause more stress in the long run than help.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Getting To Know Iowa Psychologists...

An interview with prior Iowa Psychological Association Director Dr. Kevin Krumvieda

When learning about psychology on the surface level, you usually hear about the older influential figures that shaped the field, Sigmund Freud, Carl Rogers, Albert Bandura, but you don’t get to explore psychologists who are making a difference in the present day. The Iowa Psychological Association is an esteemed group of Psychologists around the state of Iowa that is dedicated to furthering its knowledge and skill in psychological practices and theories while pushing for legislative action in favor of those who benefit from the services that psychology provides. Dr. Kevin Krumvieda, 2016’s IPA President, was kind enough to discuss with me his journey through Psychology and what he’s learned.

Dr. Krumvieda first became interested in Psychology in 1971 when he met Rev. Michael Cooney, a Methodist minister in Imperial Beach, California, at a group therapy sessions at Rogers’ Center for the Study of the Person that Rev. Michael had led. However, Dr. Krumvieda received a degree in English and a minor in Sociology from San Diego State University, although he would later dive into the field of psychology, and later moved to Montana with his family teaching school for two years. He continued working in a shelter for neglected and abused children for three years and the Montana Department of Corrections in the Youth Evaluation Program (YEP) for another three years. During the time he spent at YEP he met Dr. Tom Kraisich, a well known and highly skilled forensic psychologist who conducted psychology evaluations for YEP. Dr. Krumvieda, after reading some of his evaluations, invited him to lunch. Dr. Kraisich has asked Dr. Krumvieda about his interest in psychology and if he had taken any statistics courses. Dr. Krumvieda explained how he has always been interested in helping people and psychological testing; he further explained how he had done incredibly well in statistics, even earning the top grade in the class. He caught Dr. Kraisich’s attention with that response and was directed to the California School of Professional Psychology, Dr. Kraisich’s alma mater. Dr. Krumvieda later on earned his doctorate degree from the CSPP in September of 1994.

Throughout the years, Dr. Krumvieda has mainly used psychology to treat emotional disorders and conduct psychological evaluations; he’s doing what we aspired to do when going into the work world, to help other people. When I asked Dr. Krumvieda how psychology affects everyday life and how learning about it can help someone, he replied,

“As a Clinical Psychologist I am witness to, on a daily basis, how evidence-based practices alleviate suffering…As an individual becomes more aware of how their behavior is influenced by mental experiencing they can gain greater psychological flexibility to address ineffective mental experiencing that leads to suffering.”

Psychology is a profession for those who wish to help others with the stresses of day-to-day life and can draw anyone into it. Dr. Krumvieda shows us that Psychology works its way into everyone’s lives one way or another and that it’s very prevalent in our everyday lies. It takes skill, intelligence, compassion, and humanity. Dr. Krumvieda stated, “I have always thought that the bets definition of psychology is the scientific study of human behavior. I would ass that this science will continue to advance the knowledge of human behavior for the betterment of humanity”. Psychology does just that, and so does all the psychologists in the field. We work to help better humanity and Dr. Krumvieda is an excellent example of someone in the field who is making a difference.

I would like to thank Dr. Krumvieda for taking the time in answering my questions. It’s been wonderful getting to know your story and I am looking forward to what you continue to do in the field of psychology.

Psyowa turns 3!

In December the PSYowa blog turned 3 years old! We have had a wonderful time sharing psychology information with all of you and hope to keep doing so. We hope that PSYowa continues to be a place where psychology and psychologists can connect with the public. Our mission is to continue to improve and bring you more public education and quality information about the world of psychology.

We would like to thank our guest contributors and our student contributor Samantha Ege for all of the wonderful contributions. In celebration of our upcoming 4th year Samantha will be working on a series of posts about real Iowa Psychologists. She will be talking to some of our great psychologists and sharing with all of you about what they do. Her first post in the series will be coming today. She interviewed Dr. Kevin Krumvieda, a wonderful Iowa psychologist with a lot of wisdom to share.

Thank you for supporting PSYowa and psychology!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The ABCs to Changing Bad Attitudes

Another great post from our student contributor Samantha Ege...

We’ve all heard that phrase, “I’m sick and tired of your attitude!” I know I did growing up; it’s not pleasant to hear when sometimes you can’t control your own attitudes. Sometimes we all get into that place where everything in our life seems a bit bleak, overwhelming, or just negative; however, we all have tools that can help us change our bad attitudes into positive ones! I keep using this word, “attitude”, but what really is an attitude? Well, “attitude” is a little hard to define in the world of Psychology, since so many variables contribute to it, but a general definition is that an attitude is a way of thinking/feelings/behaving about a person. A common way to explain what an attitude includes is by using ABCs, Affect, Behavior, and Cognition; the ABCs factor in emotion, behavior, and mental processes. Attitudes can be affected by one’s emotion towards an object, how one has behaved towards the object previously, or one’s thoughts about an object. Along with attitudes including behavior, attitudes can predict future behavior as well; behavior is multiply determined by personality, motivation, habit, and ability. Emotions and thoughts guide our behavior, as we probably have all seen in our decisions, but we can also control our behavior, we can control our attitude.

There are a few ways that make it easier to control our attitudes:

  1. The first step is the acknowledge that your attitudes are controlled by you; giving yourself power to control your own attitudes puts it in perspective.
  2. Redirecting your thoughts, this one is a bit difficult at times; it’s hard to pay attention to everything we think about vigilantly. Keeping yourself vigilant in noticing what you’re thinking is key to this technique. If you find yourself thinking too much about the negative things that are around you, try to acknowledge it and look for at least one positive aspect. Just a tip, keep telling yourself “You don’t lose, you either win or learn”.
  3. Be thankful for what you have right now. This technique goes hand in hand with redirecting your thoughts, but sharing your gratitude about things in your life helps you keep your attention on the positive things and in turn changing your attitude.
  4. Surround yourself with positivity. Surrounding yourself with positive aspects in life can affect your attitude; by surrounding yourself with positivity can influence you to behave positively. Take a moment and think about the five people you spend most of your time with, now evaluate whether or not they are positive influences on you, and do they help you see the bright side of life? If not, you might want to reconsider whom you spend your time with.
  5. Work backwards; since behavior and attitudes can affect each other, changing your behavior consciously can form healthy and positive habits, which will result in a change in attitudes.
  6. And finally, setting goals for yourself. Goal setting is a common tool in bettering yourself. Setting a goal to change your behavior or to acknowledge your attitudes can help you change your negative attitudes into positive ones.
We can all develop our negative attitudes into positive ones! It might be difficult at first, but overtime it gets easier. Attitudes are very important in social interactions and self-esteem! Anyone can change his or her attitude; it’s easier than ABC! For some more information about attitudes and behavior check out this article: