Psych Lounge

Capturing the science of the mind

The Science of Panic Attacks

Introductory psychology classes often discuss panic disorders in terms of extreme trauma such as war or abuse—but students should also be aware that anxiety attacks can be related to much smaller stressors.

NBC's Rock Center produced this 10-minute video about panic attacks, including U.S. statistics (animation at 3:00), information about what's happening in the brain (animation at 4:14) and possible triggers. They interview pro-golfer Charlie Beljan, as well as author Daniel Smith and Men's Health writer Mike Zimmerman about their experiences.

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Tribute to Camille Claudel

Photo: Véronique PagnierThere's long been a suspected connection between creativity and mental illness—but it's not often that mental hospitals publicly recognize their famous residents. 

Camille Claudel (1864-1943) was a French sculptor whose work is often overshadowed by the long and tumultuous affair she had with her mentor Auguste Rodin. Several years the relationship ended,  and just more than a week after Camille's father passed away in 1913, her family had her committed to an asylum, then called Montdevergues, where she spent the last 30 years of her life. She was diagnosed as schizophrenic.

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The Lives They Left Behind

LivesTheyLeftBehindI recently finished reading a fascinating book a fellow Soomoan recommended to me, called The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic . In 1995, after the Willard Psychiatric Center in upstate New York closed, more than 400 suitcases belonging to former patients were discovered in the attic. The authors spent a decade researching just 10 of these patients and chronicled what they could of their lives.

The accompanying museum exhibit has a Flash website with a brief bio of the patients and the Facebook page includes historic photos as well as color images from the book's photographer, Lisa Rinzler. The most heartbreaking, to me, of the patients is Herman, a man who developed a love for photography at a colony for epileptics but was transferred to Willard and disallowed access to his cameras for his remaining 35 years.

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Portrait of Schizophrenia

While researching an assignment on schizophrenia, we came across this poignant two-part documentary. In it, the late photojournalist Gary Wolfe and his brother, Roger, created a sensitive portrait of Lone Star Swan, a homeless man in San Francisco who was formerly a news reporter himself.

Less than 20 minutes in length, it shows Swan's current existence as well as a glimpse into his past, including interviews with his children and former wife. We highly recommend it, especially for showing the complexities of the illness for both the sufferers and their families.

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Rosenhan's Pseudopatient Study

Photo: Ed Souza/Stanford News ServiceForty years ago today, Science published David Rosenhan's "On Being Sane in Insane Places."

The article recounts an experiment where Rosenhan and seven others (including psychologist Martin Seligman when he was a graduate student), were admitted to 12 psychiatric hospitals over a three year period. 

Their only symptom being that they heard voices saying, "empty," "hollow," "thud." After admittance, they acted normally and waited for doctors and staff to detect their sanity, but no one did. The average stay was 19 days. Everyone was released with diagnoses "in remission," rather than a clean bill of health.

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