Yo, any nonspeaking (mute/nonverbal/etc) peeps want to rant about ableism and the speaking world with me?

I have intermittent psychogenic aphonia, and my mom keeps trying to get me to speak. 

She doesn’t get that I literally have forgotten how. 

I don’t want to try to speak right now. 

It hurts my mind. It hurts my throat. It hurts my tongue. 

I normally speak fluently in English. No speech impediments, even. 

But randomly, especially when I’m stressed or excited, I forget how to speak and my larynx contracts slightly. 

It’s scary. But it’s a part of me. I wish my mom would learn to accept that… 

New research links anxiety to epilepsy-like seizures

New research by clinical psychologists from Arizona State University and the United Kingdom has revealed seizures that could be mistaken for epilepsy are linked to feelings of anxiety.

The team of researchers devised a new set of tests to determine whether there was a link between how people interpret and respond to anxiety, and incidences of psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNES).

Nicole Roberts, an associate professor in ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, collaborated with colleagues from the University of Lincoln, University of Nottingham and University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom. The team’s findings were published in the journal Epilepsy and Behavior.

The researchers used a series of questionnaires and computer tests to determine if a patient regularly avoids situations which might bring on anxiety.

These tests correctly predicted whether a patient had epilepsy or PNES – seizures that can be brought on by threatening situations, sensations, emotions, thoughts or memories – in 83 percent of study participants. Such seizures appear on the surface to be similar to epileptic fits, which are caused by abnormal brain activity.

“This research underscores the fact that PNES is a ‘real’ and disabling disorder with a potentially identifiable pathophysiology,” said Roberts, who directs New College’s Emotion, Culture, and Psychophysiology Laboratory, located on ASU’s West campus. “We need to continue to search for answers, not just in epilepsy clinics, but also in the realm of affective science and complex brain-behavior relationships.”

“PNES can be a very disabling condition, and it is important that we understand the triggers so that we provide the correct care and treatment,” said Lian Dimaro, a clinical psychologist based at Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, who served as lead researcher for the study.

“This study was one of the first to bring modern psychological tools of investigation to this problem,” Dimaro said. “The findings support the idea that increasing a person’s tolerance of unpleasant emotions and reducing avoidant behavior may help with treatment, suggesting that patients could benefit from a range of therapies, including acceptance and commitment therapy to help reduce the frequency of seizures, although more research is needed in this area.”

Participants completed questionnaires to determine the level to which they suffered from anxiety, their awareness of their experiences and if they would avoid situations which would make them feel anxious.

They then completed a computer task which required rapid responses to true or false statements. This test was designed to gather data on immediate, or implicit, beliefs about anxiety. Participants also answered questions about common physical complaints that may have no medical explanation, also called somatic symptoms. These can include things like gastrointestinal problems, tiredness and back pain.

Results showed that those with PNES reported significantly more somatic symptoms than others in the study, as well as avoidance of situations which might make them anxious. The group with PNES also scored significantly higher on a measure of how aware they were of their anxiety compared with the control group.

The test subjects were 30 adults with PNES, 25 with epilepsy and 31 with no reported history of seizures who served as a nonclinical control group.

The researchers suggest that including tests to determine levels of anxiety and avoidance behavior may enable health professionals to make earlier diagnosis, and develop more effective intervention plans.

“Epileptic seizures are caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain, while most PNES are thought to be a consequence of complex psychological processes that manifest in physical attacks,” said David Dawson, a research clinical psychologist from the University of Lincoln.

“It is believed that people suffering with PNES may have difficulty actively engaging with anxiety – a coping style known as experiential avoidance,” Dawson said. “We wanted to examine whether it was possible to make a clear link between seizure frequency and how people experience and manage anxiety. Our study is another step in understanding PNES, which could ultimately lead to better treatment and, therefore, patient outcomes in the future.”

Roberts, who received her doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of California, Berkeley, focuses her research on the study of emotion and on the cultural and biological forces that shape emotional responses. Examples include investigating how ethnicity and culture influence emotional displays and experiences; how the daily hassles of life, such as job stress and sleep deprivation, impact emotion regulation among individuals and couples; and how the emotion system breaks down in patients with psychopathology (such as PNES and post-traumatic stress disorder) or neurological dysfunction (such as epilepsy).

Oh life and it's little dramas

People seriously need to learn the difference between “psychosomatic” and “psychogenic” before they start diagnosing themselves or their friends.

They should also understand that neither of these terms means “Faking it.”

It’s amazing the lengths people will go through to judge each other.

The Tanganyika Laughter Epidemic was an outbreak of hysteria, generally considered to be a case of mass psychogenic illness, that in 1962 overtook the village of Kashasha and its surrounding areas in Tanganyika (now Tanzania), Africa. It lasted for around a year and effected thousands.

The outbreak began on January 30th in a girls’ boarding school when three students started to suffer from recurring episodes of uncontrollable laughter. Soon enough the fits spread throughout the school, ultimately afflicting 95 of its 159 students. For some the illness lasted only hours but others were plagued by it for weeks. In March the school shut down and the students were sent home.

From there, the previously isolated illness turned into a full-on plague. With the students now scattered all over the area, it spread like wildfire through Kashasha and its neighboring villages. Hundreds and eventually thousands of people began to suffer from the same recurring laughing fits, as well as from other symptoms like fainting, crying, screaming, respiratory issues, inexplicable rashes, and just general physical pain. No one could explain it — nor could they stop it.

In May the boarding school attempted to re-open its doors but was quickly forced to shut down again and ultimately sued because of how serious the epidemic had become. Supposedly, as many as 13 other schools in Tanganyika were forced to cease operations due to the illness.

After more than a year of hell for the people of Tanganyika, the nightmare suddenly ended. The epidemic died out and the laughing just stopped. Life went on as life does, as if it didn’t even happen.

What Witchcraft is Facebook?

“Eerie and remarkable.”

Those are the words that Robert Bartholomew used to describe this past winter’s outbreak of mass hysteria in Danvers, Massachusetts, a town also known as “Old Salem” and “Salem Village.”

Bartholomew, a sociologist in New Zealand who has been studying cases of mass hysteria for more than 20 years, was referring to the Salem Witch Trials of 1692-1693, the most widely recognized episode of mass hysteria in history, which ultimately saw the hanging deaths of 20 women.

Fast-forward about 300 years to January 2013, when a bizarre case of mass hysteria again struck Danvers. About two dozen teenagers at the Essex Agricultural and Technical School began having “mysterious” hiccups and vocal tics.

“The Massachusetts State Health Department refuses to say publicly,” Bartholomew wrote in an email in late August, “but I have heard from some of the parents privately who say that the symptoms are still persisting.”

The location might be eerie, but Bartholomew is not surprised by the outbreak in the slightest. He said that there has been a “sudden upsurge” in these types of outbreaks popping up in the U.S. over the past few years. It starts with conversion disorder, when psychological stressors, such as trauma or anxiety, manifest in physical symptoms. The conversion disorder becomes “contagious” due to a phenomenon called mass psychogenic illness (MPI), historically known as “mass hysteria,” in which exposure to cases of conversion disorder cause other people—who unconsciously believe they’ve been exposed to the same harmful toxin—to experience the same symptoms.

Read more. [Image: Wikimedia Commons]

Pain from the brain: Study reveals how people with a severe unexplained psychological illness have abnormal activity in the brain

Psychogenic diseases, formerly known as ‘hysterical’ illnesses, can have many severe symptoms such as painful cramps or paralysis but without any physical explanation. However, new research from the University of Cambridge and UCL (University College London) suggests that individuals with psychogenic disease, that is to say physical illness that stems from emotional or mental stresses, do have brains that function differently. The research was published today, 25 February, in the journal Brain.

Psychogenic diseases may look very similar to illnesses caused by damage to nerves, the brain or the muscles, or similar to genetic diseases of the nervous system. However, unlike organic diseases, psychogenic diseases do not have any apparent physical cause, making them difficult to diagnose and even more difficult to treat.

“The processes leading to these disorders are poorly understood, complex and highly variable. As a result, treatments are also complex, often lengthy and in many cases there is poor recovery. In order to improve treatment of these disorders, it is important to first understand the underlying mechanism,” said Dr James Rowe from the University of Cambridge.

The study looked at people with either psychogenic or organic dystonia, as well as healthy people with no dystonia. Both types of dystonia caused painful and disabling muscle contractions affecting the leg. The organic patient group had a gene mutation (the DYT1 gene) that caused their dystonia. The psychogenic patients had the symptoms of dystonia but did not have any physical explanation for the disease, even after extensive investigations.

The scientists performed PET brain scans on the volunteers at UCL, to measure the blood flow and brain activity of both of the groups, and healthy volunteers. The participants were scanned with three different foot positions: resting, moving their foot, and holding their leg in a dystonic position. The electrical activity of the leg muscles was measured at the same time to determine which muscles were engaged during the scans.

The researchers found that the brain function of individuals with the psychogenic illness was not normal. The changes were, however, very different from the brains of individuals with the organic (genetic) disease. 

Dr Anette Schrag, from UCL, said: “Finding abnormalities of brain function that are very different from those in the organic form of dystonia opens up a way for researchers to learn how psychological factors can, by changing brain function, lead to physical problems.”

Dr Rowe added: “What struck me was just how very different the abnormal brain function was in patients with the genetic and the psychogenic dystonia. Even more striking was that the differences were there all the time, whether the patients were resting or trying to move.”

Additionally, the researchers found that one part of the brain previously thought to indicate psychogenic disease is unreliable: abnormal activity of the prefrontal cortex was thought to be the hallmark of psychogenic diseases.  In this study, the scientists showed that this abnormality is not unique to psychogenic disease, since activity was also present in the patients with the genetic cause of dystonia when they tried to move their foot. 

Dr Arpan Mehta, from the University of Cambridge, said: “It is interesting that, despite the differences, both types of patient had one thing in common - a problem at the front of the brain. This area controls attention to our movements and although the abnormality is not unique to psychogenic dystonia, it is part of the problem.”

This type of illness is very common. Dr Schrag said: “One in six patients that see a neurologist has a psychogenic illness. They are as ill as someone with organic disease, but with a different cause and different treatment needs. Understanding these disorders, diagnosing them early and finding the right treatment are all clearly very important. We are hopeful that these results might help doctors and patients understand the mechanism leading to this disorder, and guide better treatments.”

This is fascinating.  It’s very similar to stereotype threat, except it produces physical symptoms.  

Stereotype threat occurs when a member of a stigmatized group is in a situation that is relevant to and makes them aware of the stereotypes associated with their group.  For instance, an African-American taking a difficult test after being asked about ethnicity.  When the stereotypes are made salient, this causes anxiety and worry, and takes a way precious cognitive resources from the task at hand.  This in turn leads to the confirmation of the very stereotypes they were trying to avoid.  

In the case of mass psychogenic illness, when disease or illness is salient and the details of what causes said illness or disease is unknown or questionable, the stress alone can cause anyone around to produce symptoms of the disease.  And the symptoms this stress can cause are varied, as stress affects nearly all of the body’s internal processes.  Anything from dizziness and nausea to a sensation of crawling bugs on the skin.  It was even reported to cause people to dance to death during the middle ages.  

However, there is one group that is especially prone to this particular illness:  teenage girls.  This is because a great deal of what causes mass psychogenic illness is being aware of what those around you are doing.  With the greater pressures placed on women to be socially aware coupled with the uncertainty of how to act during that age (and thus taking cues from one’s peers), it’s no wonder they are so susceptible.  

Watch on aonecomedy.tumblr.com

THAT AKWARD MOMENT WHEN SOMEBODY RIDE BY BUMPIN’ YA FAVORITE SONG By @_icaintstandwoo_ “😂😂😂 Before u “attack” me…her condition was #psychogenic (all in her mind) #WhoRememberThis #InsideEdition #Remix” via @PhotoRepost_app

Watch on kali-so-chilly.tumblr.com

😂😂😂 Before u “attack” me…her condition was #psychogenic (all in her mind) #WhoRememberThis #InsideEdition #Remix”

hey everyone, check out my post for the neuroethics blog!

“All possibilities considered (fainting, seizures, involuntary tics), why would the mass anxiety manifest itself as a dance? […] Perhaps the mere force of groups gathering and dancing together has something to do with it. Dancing within a group is a powerful phenomenon, allowing for individuals to basically lose themselves to the group and to the movement. At a certain point, the dance ‘just happens.’”