Monthly Archives: May 2013

‘Scandal’s’ Kerry Washington, Kate Mara From ‘House of Cards’ and 4 Other Actresses Dish in THR’s Emmy Roundtable


10 Gender Differences Backed Up by Science : Discovery News

10 Gender Differences Backed Up by Science : Discovery News –

Support for patients who need to take psychotropic drugs

What would you suggest we do as a society to support patients who genuinely need to take psychotropic medications?

This is a very difficult question, and if there were any easy answers, I’m sure that we would have come up with one by now. The most optimistic studies that I have seen suggest that cognitive therapy may be the key. Some in the field believe that cognitive therapy along with psychotropic medications are an effective treatment for psychotic behavior, however, I found a 2012 study done in the United Kingdom that showed promise in the area of providing cognitive therapy alone (Morrison, et al. 2012). In this study, 20 individuals who had, …”schizophrenia, schizo-affective disorder or delusional disorder or meeting entry criteria for an early intervention in psychosis,” (Morrison, et al. 2012, para 4) were studied for 9 months in which they received Cognitive Therapy (CT) alone. Each of these individuals had either taken psychotropic interventions in the past and refused to continue, and had been off of them for at least six months, or had never taken psychotropic drugs (Morrison, et al. 2012). The results were to me astounding. Of the individuals in the study, only one subject needed to be placed on psychotropic drugs during the study and two others were placed on psychotropic drugs during the follow up period after the study (Morrison, et al. 2012). All of the remaining participants displayed statistically significant reductions in the severity of both positive symptoms and negative symptoms of their disorder when compared to their condition at their entry into the study (Morrison, et al. 2012). The authors, rightfully, believe that a more comprehensive study is warranted, as they would like to see this applied to a larger sample. They would also like to see if the three individuals who did end up on psychotropic drugs were more willing to use them due to the cognitive therapy they received during the study(Morrison, et al. 2012).

I think that if we can find ways to treat the behaviors related to schizophrenia without the negative side effects of the currently available drugs, individuals may begin to make progress in coping with this disorder. We already know that, “[t]hanks to the absence of those undesirable side effects, the discontinuance rate (that is, the percentage of patients who no longer wish to take the drug) is only about 9 percent, a very low level when compared to the discontinuance rate for antipsychotic drugs in general” (Levinthal, 2012, p. 367). If the main reason that people are discontinuing the use of their drugs are the side effects, we can eliminate these side effects with cognitive therapy. We also have an advantage by using CT in that therapy is becoming more socially acceptable. If someone has a problem, but indicates to a friend or family member that, “I’m getting help for this,” the individual may be met with a more accepting and supportive attitude. People receive therapy for a variety of conditions from substance abuse, to depression, to anger management, and typically this type of behavior therapy is supported. I would definitely like to see where research into this type of solution leads for the future of treatment for individuals with these devastating disorders.

Maggie Morona


Levinthal, C. F. (2012). Drugs, behavior, and modern society. (6th ed.). Boston: Pearson College Div.

Morrison, A. P., Hutton, P., Wardle, M., Spencer, H., Barratt, S., Brabban, A., . . . Turkington, D. (2012). Cognitive therapy for people with a schizophrenia spectrum diagnosis not taking antipsychotic medication: An exploratory trial. Psychological Medicine, 42(5), 1049-56. doi:

Edited on Wednesday, April 17, 2013 – 11:58 PM

Should marijuana be legalized?

My personal opinion on whether any behavior should be legal is typically determined by the impact of that behavior on other members of society. In general, I don’t care if someone owns a gun, as long as that ownership does not infringe upon another persons ability to live. Have all the guns you want, just don’t shoot other people. Drink all the alcohol you want, just don’t hit others with a car. Eat all the chicken you want, just don’t beat your neighbor with one. Marry anyone that you want, just don’t make me marry your crazy ex-boyfriend, or ex-girlfriend. I think people should be free to make their own decisions, and that they should then be made to live with the consequences of those decisions.

All of that being said, there are a number of things that trouble me about marijuana. According to Levinthal (2012), “In men, marijuana reduces the level of testosterone, reduces sperm count in the semen, and increases the percentage of abnormally formed sperm” (p 178). If someone wants to take the chance that their child will be born with an abnormality, that is their decision. But the general public should also not have the burden of supporting children born with disabilities because of these bad decisions. So from a legal perspective, you should be able to smoke marijuana or drink alcohol, but you should be held criminally liable if you give birth to a child with fetal alcohol syndrome or a birth defect due to your marijuana use. I also believe that just as the government has the obligation to regulate the use of alcohol or tobacco as it relates to public safety, the government should be able to regulate the use of marijuana as it relates to public safety. You can’t smoke on a plane because of the dangers to others from second hand smoke. You can’t operate a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol because of the depressant effects of the drug upon the reaction time of the driver. You can’t use alcohol under the age of 21 and you can’t use tobacco under the age of 18. I believe that the state does have a compelling interest in regulating the use of marijuana in similar situations. No, you should not be able to show up for work under the influence of marijuana. If that means that this drug will be in your system for up to 28 days, then people should be prepared to not participate in brain surgery or the operation of heavy machinery for those periods of time. I will say that a friend of mine who is a police officer and has not used marijuana has said on a number of occasions that he would rather tangle with someone under the influence of marijuana than someone under the influence of anything else, including legal alcohol. Marijuana users, in his opinion, are less violent, and pose less of a physical threat to public order.

I also think that the government actually had it right with the Harrison Act of 1914. The government has an accepted ability to levy taxes. We tax alcohol, tobacco, gasoline, and I think we should tax marijuana as well. Our great nation has a long and distinguished history of taxing things to control consumption. Tobacco taxes are significantly higher than taxes on anything else, typically because municipalities can pass such laws relatively easily. By making tobacco more expensive, the government is exerting a small amount of control over the use of it, by making it more expensive. The opportunity exists for this level of control over marijuana as well.

I am also seriously against the classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug. In my opinion, there has been no scientific evidence that this particular drug is any more dangerous than the Schedule II drugs. The issue of marijuana being a “gateway drug” is concerning to me because similar claims can be made about tobacco and alcohol, but they are not similarly classified.

I will say that I was very surprised to read that, “[a]mong forty-five year-old Americans who have attained a least a high school education, approximately 75 percent have smoked marijuana at least once in their lives” (Levinthal, 2012, p. 182). As a 39 year old, I am quite surprised to see that 3 out of every 4 Americans my age have tried it at least once. When I look at my peers, without asking, I would daresay that is not an accurate estimate. I have never used marijuana, and I don’t think that my three closest friends have. I would guess that in a group of about 10 people I know my age, maybe 2 or 3 have. However, statistics being what they are, it is possible that there are social groups where that statistic would say that 4 out of 4 people have tried marijuana.

Maggie Morona


Levinthal, C. F. (2012). Drugs, behavior, and modern society. (6th ed.). Boston: Pearson College Div.

Edited on Wednesday, March 27, 2013 – 10:56 PM

Psychopath at 10?

Amy, Thank you for bringing up the large number of individuals who are prescribed psychotropic drugs by other than psychiatrists. There are serious consequences for patients who use these drugs, and I think that this kind of lack of knowledge can lead to dire consequences. I know that it is only fiction, but there was a recent episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit that addressed just this type of situation. There was a 10 year old boy who was hurting his younger sister. His school employed a grad student as their counselor, and she indicated that he had exhibited a variety of anti-social behaviors. She admitted to working with his pediatrician to prescribe a wide variety of drugs, and all adults involved felt that they just had to find the right drug that would improve his behavior. His parents were opposed to having him evaluated by a psychologist because they did not want to have him labeled. This reluctance from family and professionals eventually led to the boy attempting to murder his sister by fire, stabbing his mother, drowning his neighbors dog, and shooting a police officer. When a psychiatrist was finally allowed to evaluate the child, he was reluctantly diagnosed with anti-social personality disorder (reluctantly because of his age).

Again, I know that this is fiction, but this is a great way to illustrate the frustrations that families of individuals with mental disorders may have. Not only do they not understand what is going on, they may have fear of what it would mean to have it diagnosed. The parents on the show were generally surprised when told that after the boy’s last and most violent attacks, that they were not going to be able to take him home. They truly did not understand that they were incapable of handling the problems associated with this disorder. When confronted with the earlier of his escalating behaviors, the parents promised that they would take better care of him and give him more attention. Their promises sounded like a small child who says, “I promise I’ll walk and feed the dog everyday,” when you know that the small child is just not capable of making that kind of commitment. They also displayed an enormous amount of guilt, and often said that if they loved him enough things would get better.

If the main stream media continues to highlight the plight of individuals with some of these mental health disorders and their families, general public awareness will rise. I’m not sure that anyone who saw the episode would be unsympathetic to the pain that this family was going through, even if one did not agree with the choices that they made regarding care of their son.

Maggie Morona


Martin, J., Leight, W. (Writers) & Chapple, A. (Director). (2013). Born Psychopath [Television series episode]. In Leight, W. (Executive Producer), Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. New York: NY: Universal Television

Autism and changing attitudes about mental health

Hello Linnea,

I really liked how you brought up how autism has been gaining some positive publicity in recent decades. You are so right about that. The APA changing the diagnosis in the DSM 5 that is about to be published reflects the increased amount of awareness regarding exactly what the disorder is, how more prevalent in society it is than previously measured, and how better to diagnose the spectrum. I also think that you are correct about awareness. Most people directly know or know of someone who has been diagnosed as depressed or been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, so they know that it is nothing to fear. Celebrities are ok admitting to having one of these disorders or admitting that they have a child affected. Down’s syndrome has had a similar journey. We now see actors on TV on a regular basis with the syndrome. One might also add homosexuality to this list as well. The number of politicians who have recently changed their stance regarding same-sex marriage and attributing that fact to their personal knowledge of a gay or lesbian friend or family member is a clear indication of this. Awareness has increased acceptability. I am a huge believer that the more contact that individuals have with something, the less they fear it and the more acceptable it becomes.

How can we apply this to schizophrenia? That’s a tough one. Well thought and sensitive depictions in the media might be a good start. I am reminded of Detective Goren on Law & Order: Criminal Intent and the depiction of his schizophrenic mother played by Rita Moreno. Famous individuals starting public campaigns have helped some of the more accepted disorders. Floutie Flakes is a cereal created by Doug Floutie, a popular football player. A large portion of the proceeds goes toward his foundation for autism, founded in honor of his son born with the disorder.

Maggie Morona


Norman, M., Leight, W. (Writers), Girotti, K. (Director). (2007) Brother’s Keeper [Television Episode]. In Barba, N. (Executive Producer) Law & Order: Criminal Intent. New York, NY: Universal Television

My personal interactions with blue light…



Thanks for bringing up sleep and the domino effect that not getting enough of it has on caffeine use/over-use. You know, I really think that education is the key. I have also read about the study done on blue light and it’s effect on your sleep patterns. I saw it on the Huffington Postwhile I was checking Pulse for my daily news fix. It was such a wake-up (no pun intended) call to me, because my laptop and television both have blue lights, and both are in the bedroom with me. There was a time when I could not understand why I was always tired throughout the day, and after I read about this study, it made a lot more sense. We began unplugging the T.V. to put out the blue inactive light. I also no longer allow my laptop to go to sleep with the top open, as this caused the blue hard drive light to flicker all night. Now when I close the top, the light goes out soon after. I actually noticed that I was getting better sleep after making these changes to my sleeping environment.

I generally think that there are so many helpful studies going on that result in helpful information, but I’m not always sure that information is getting to the general public. I would be silly if I were to assume that there weren’t a large number of people in this country who are sleeping under the same conditions that I was, and have no idea why they don’t wake up feeling rested. Blue lights can definitely begin that cycle of needing increasing amounts of caffeine throughout the day. If we can find a way to make many of these important scientific studies more accessible to the general public, I’m sure that they will have a positive impact on society.

Maggie Morona


Huffington Post (2013, September 5). Tablet light may affect sleep by suppressing melatonin. Retrieved from

Edited on Sunday, April 14, 2013 – 7:52 PM

Alcohol as a social lubricant

When thinking of alcohol being used as a social lubricant, I am reminded of two very different young ladies, who have openly admitted to being on camera while under the influence of alcohol.


I found myself fascinated about a year ago by Jennifer Lawrence (pictured on the right) when I heard that she had been cast in The Hunger Games film. I watched and loved three of her previous films, enjoyed her portrayal of Katniss, and even went to see her in Silver Linings Playbook. I spent quite a bit of time watching her on the late night comedy shows as well. I must admit that I found her extremely down to earth and talented. I take the time to discuss this because, she said something surprising when interviewed by Jimmy Kimmel a few weeks ago. Jimmy asked her how she was doing, and she told him that she was drunk because his producer had given her two shots of Tequila before coming out because she was nervous.

Jennifer Lawrence did appear to have lost her nerves and was able to charm the audience, that included her mother, that evening. She was relaxed, and able to reply to her male interviewer in a manner that represented her as an attractive, talented young lady. Her interview went very well, she laughed at all the right times, had appropriate responses, wasn’t slurring her words, and seemed just as delightful as anywhere else I had seen her. However, I was surprised that an actress of her caliber, who since has been honored with a Best Actress Oscar, felt anxious enough to allow someone to talk her into two shots before a live studio audience and cameras.

In contrast to Jennifer, I would like to consider Snooki (pictured on the left) who was 21 when she began filming Jersey Shore. I admit that my exposure to the body of work that Snooki has contributed to is not as extensive as is my exposure to Jennifer’s. I have seen two, maybe three episodes of the show. However, I can say that Snooki and her peers have definitely shown the costs of using alcohol as a “social lubricant.”

Many times Snooki and friends begin drinking and appear witty and clever at first, just as Jennifer did. However, whether because of their age, or lack of control, the amount of alcohol used typically got way beyond the two tequila shot level. The social settings that these young people found themselves in fostered and encouraged binge drinking behavior. The young ladies oftentimes found themselves having to calm down their male companions. Sometimes, the girls were left on their own either due to the males fighting or getting arrested. The violent behavior was not limited to the guys, the girls routinely got in fights with other girls, and sometimes guys as well. While under the influence of significant amounts of alcohol, the girls are known for very flirtatious behavior, that oftentimes they regretted when once again sober. There were also examples of blackouts, when cast members claimed to not recall the events of the night before.

I know that these two examples of the costs and benefits of using alcohol as a “social lubricant” come from opposite ends of the spectrum, but I am left to wonder whether Jennifer Lawrence’s successful showing is an example of what starts young people on this track in the first place. Jennifer has a skilled team of handlers, that includes her parents, who pay attention to what is going on around her. She has given them the ability to assist her in setting boundaries. When she drinks, it is a relatively ‘safe’ environment. However, by sharing with us that she, at 22, was able to drink and then go on stage, maybe others, see her successful performance and think that if she can do so well with a few drinks, they can too. Unfortunately, they don’t always have the self or outside controls that an Oscar nominee does, and so their drinking gets out of control.

Maggie Morona

Should the DSM-IV or DSM-5 list abused substances?

There are a number of substances that come naturally to mind when one thinks about substance abuse or addiction. Bath Salts, Super Glue, the propellant from canned whipped cream, and prescription drugs are all examples of substances that a person could abuse or become addicted to. Individuals engaging in this type of behavior may have a difficult time distinguishing between a “good” drug such as penicillin, and a “harmful” drug such as alcohol. Because of this, many times when professionals attempt to assist someone with a drug-taking behavior, they are faced with an uphill battle regarding perception.


History has also shown us that over time, various types of substances have gone through periods of acceptance versus non-acceptance based upon community standards. Even the way that a substance is being consumed has influenced society’s opinion regarding the level of acceptability of a drug. Opium as a drug could be utilized in a variety of ways, including drinking a liquid form and smoking the substance. “The respectable way was to drink it, usually in a liquid form called laudanum. By contrast, the smoking of opium, as introduced by Chinese immigrants imported for manual labor in the American West, was considered degrading and immoral (Levinthal, 11). Over time, American society came to see that opium was a very dangerous drug, regardless of how it was consumed.

I believe that the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) accurately does not list any specific substances in order to guide professionals treating substance abuse. By not listing specific substances, the actual substance becomes irrelevant. “The position of the American Psychiatric Association is that a judgment of whether a person has a problem of dependence or abuse should depend on the behavior of that person, not on the chemical that is being consumed” (Levinthal, 42).

By not listing specific substances, the APA accomplishes a number of things. First, the temptation to argue over whether or not a substance is “bad” for an individual is removed. A professional does not have to waste valuable time convincing someone that canned whipped cream is a bad thing. The substance is irrelevant in the clinical setting, only the behavior of the person in treatment does. Second, the APA does not have to worry about the changing of societal norms. The use of many drugs including opium and cocaine have been accepted by society in the past. However, as doctors learned more about the dangers of these substances, the acceptability of them has waned. By not listing substances at all, the DSM becomes a more timeless resource that does not need to be updated to include nor exclude specific substances based on sometimes arbitrary attitudes.

In using this approach, the professional can focus on treating behaviors and utilize the increase or mitigation of the destructive fallout of the behavior as a way to mark progress in the person being treated. It’s really hard to convince someone to stop doing something that feels really good unless you can show them how the behaviors they are exhibiting while feeling good are worse for them than the feeling the substance induces.

Maggie Morona

Levinthal, C. F. (2012). Drugs, behavior, and modern society. (6th ed.). Boston: Pearson College Div.

What do Gestalt therapists believe?

Gestalt psychologists believe that people don’t look at objects as single lines, curves, shapes and other figures, they perceive them as whole objects. Because of this, they might see a table, on a floor, in a room. When you take it a step further, there are a number of principles that individuals use when perceiving those items as a whole. “The laws of perceptual organization, or laws of grouping-configuration, indicate the priority of perception in Gestalt theory and show how a perceiver groups together certain stimuli and, thereby, how one structures and interprets a visual field (cf., autochthonous laws – the innate understanding of perceptions or proper behavior that individuals obey without experience or instruction). A few of these subsidiary laws are: figure-ground, proximity, similarity, common direction/good continuation, continuity, inclusiveness, simplicity, and common fate” (GESTALT THEORY/LAWS, 6006.

Figure-ground would explain how individuals are able to differentiate between a figure located in the foreground, and separate them from the background. Proximity helps to explain how an individual might be considered a part of a group of individuals due to their physical proximity or closeness to one another. Similarity would explain grouping individuals or things together due to the similar nature of those individuals or things. An example of this would be grouping things based on the color of their skin, clothing, or other marks. Common direction, common good and continuation all deal with an individuals desire to complete a pattern or curve that has already been established. An example of this in in the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit when the Private Eye was trying to locate Roger, who was hiding at the time, tapped out the first few notes of Shave and a Haircut. Roger came flying out singing, “Twooooo Bitssssssssss!” thus, completing the pattern.

I would have to believe that for the most part, Gestaltists are correct about how individuals see things, however I do believe that there are individuals who based upon their upbringing and situational exposures that do not conform to some of the Gestalt assumptions. For instance, the similarity grouping does explain stereotypical assumptions that many in our society make. If someone were to only have negative experiences with young African-Americans, they may make the assumption that all young African-Americans create negative experiences. Gestalt would seem to make this an acceptable response, and I would definitely argue it is not an acceptable attitude to have.

Maggie Morona

GESTALT THEORY/LAWS. (2006). In Elsevier’s Dictionary of Psychological Theories. Retrieved from

Glicksohn, A., & Cohen, A. (2011). The role of gestalt grouping principles in visual statistical learning. Attention, Perception and Psychophysics, 73(3), 708-713. Retrieved from

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