NBC: February

Possibly my favorite thing to do, professionally-speaking, is to share resources with others. So I'm having a ton of fun with these book club posts.


If anything catches your eye, or you love (or hate) any of these resources, or you have cool resources of your own to share, leave a comment!


Here are today's resources: (1) Recent articles, posts, and research on adolescence, (2) A book on societal causes of anxiety and depression, and (3) A deep dive in the form of a list of full-text research articles from the last decade of research on ADHD in girls.


Online:

The theme for this mini-collection of things I stumbled across recently online is adolescent mental health.

  • Long-Form Article The Lonely Burden of Today's Teenage Girls, Domenic Buggato, Wall Street Journal, January 30, 2020 Excerpt: "In conversation after conversation, adolescent girls describe themselves as particularly vulnerable to the banes of our increasingly digital culture, with many of them struggling to manage the constant connectedness of social media, their rising levels of anxiety and the intense emotions that have always been central to adolescence. Girls in 2019 tend to be risk-averse, focused on their studies and fond of their families. They are also experiencing high levels of depression and loneliness. A 2019 survey by the Pew Research Center found that 36% of girls report being extremely anxious every day." Bonus Research: Kiviruusu et al (2020). Outcome of depressive mood disorder among adolescent outpatients in an eight-year follow-up, Journal of Affective Disorders

  • Long-Form Article The Outsize Influence of Your Middle-School Friends: The intensity of feelings generated by friendship in childhood and adolescence is by design, Lydia Denworth, The Atlantic, January 28, 2020 Excerpt: "Dylan Gee, now at Yale University... studies how brain circuits mature, and she has found that puberty is a turning point for dealing with stress. In children up to the age of 10, mothers calmed down the amygdala by engaging prefrontal circuitry in children’s brains that works to control stress. In adolescents, who were 11 to 17 in this study, Mom’s presence no longer worked the same magic. The brain’s response to stress remained highly reactive. On the plus side for teenagers, the necessary brain circuitry for managing the stress—a network that connects the amygdala to the prefrontal cortex—is more fully developed, so they are on their way to mature responses. It seems logical that when parents no longer serve as social buffers, friends might take over, given how important friends are to teenagers. A 2011 study found evidence for exactly that in 11- and 12-year-olds.[...]But things get more complicated later in adolescence."

  • Advice Column Dear Christine: How Do I Motivate My Teen? Christine Carter, Ph.D., in Greater Good Magazine Excerpt: "The way to foster self-motivation in others is to support their autonomy, their competence, and their relatedness. These are the three core psychological needs that, when filled, lead to self-motivation. You can choose to refocus your attention on promoting [your son's] self-motivation. Here’s how."

  • TED Talk The Mysterious Workings of the Adolescent Brain, Sarah Jane Blakemore, Professor of Psychology at the University of Cambridge, UK Description from the TED Talk page: "Why do teenagers seem so much more impulsive, so much less self-aware than grown-ups? Cognitive neuroscientist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore compares the prefrontal cortex in adolescents to that of adults, to show us how typically "teenage" behavior is caused by the growing and developing brain." Bonuses: Here's a link to publications from the Blakemore Lab. I'll highlight an interesting very recent paper and a 'classic': 1. Social Exclusion Affects Working Memory Performance in Young Adolescent Girls (2019) 2. Development of the Social Brain in Adolescence (2012)

  • Research Article The Health of Adolescents in Detention: A Global Scoping Review, Borshmann et al, The Lancet, January 2020 From the Abstract: "A high lifetime prevalence of health problems, risks, and conditions was reported in detained adolescents, including mental disorders (0–95%), substance use disorders (22–96%), self-harm (12–65%), neurodevelopmental disabilities (2–47%), infectious diseases (0–34%), and sexual and reproductive conditions (pregnant by age 19 years 20–37%; abnormal cervical screening test result 16%). Various physical and mental health problems and health-risk behaviours are more common among adolescents in detention than among their peers who have not been detained." Pairing: A Systemic Review of Cognitive Functioning among Young People Who Have Experienced Homelessness, Foster Care, or Poverty, Fry, Langley & Shelton, Child Neuropsychology, 2016



Book:


Lost Connections: Why You're Depressed

and How to Find Hope, by Johann Hari Amazon link










Brief Summary with Some Excerpts

Johann Hari is a journalist – twice named Newspaper Journalist of the Year by Amnesty International UK – who writes about international conflicts and human rights abuses. He’s also the author of a bestselling book about addiction. He also has a long history of depression.


In the first part of this book, Hari recounts his journey unraveling the simple “serotonin deficiency” story he was told by psychiatrists starting from when he was a teen. This part of the book will be familiar to any psychologist or therapist, of course. Luckily Hari’s writing is vivid, easy to read, and peppered with compelling stories, and this section flies by.


In the second and third sections of the book, Hari details seven environmental factors that contribute to anxiety and depression, and seven ways to combat those factors. He calls his seven factors “lost connections.” His list includes:

  • Disconnection from Meaningful Work

  • Disconnection from Other People

  • Disconnection from Meaningful Values

  • Disconnection from Childhood Traumas

  • Disconnection from Status and Respect

  • Disconnection from the Natural World

  • Disconnection from a Hopeful or Secure Future


Hari doesn’t discount the roles of genes or neurobiology (caveat: if you read some 1-star ratings on Goodreads you’ll see many who strongly believe their anguish is caused solely by their biology and feel Hari discounts these factors, and it's worth at least considering their criticism).


Instead, Hari places biological causes of depression and anxiety within their proper context. He highlights that the genetic risk for anxiety and depression increases your risk for these disorders when these genes are activated by stressful environments (which you’ll recognize as the diathesis-stress model).


Unfortunately for those of us with high genetic risk for mental illness, our social and cultural environment is becoming increasingly toxic. Today’s modern Westernized culture grows ever hostile to emotional well-being, personal connectedness, and meaning. Most of us have become disconnected, and many of us in this environment have become anxious, depressed, or otherwise adrift.


Hari then concludes:

“If [depression] is primarily a brain problem, it makes sense to look for answers primarily in the brain. But if it is to a more significant degree a problem with how we live, we need to look primarily for answers our here, in our lives.

IHari notes that his solutions - that is, reconnecting with the things we have lost connection from - are not yet supported by extensive bodies of research. He says: "I quickly discovered that this question has been studied even less than the causes of depression and anxiety. You could fill aircraft hangers with studies of what happens in the brain of a depressed person. You could fill an aircraft with the research that’s been conducted into the social causes of depression and anxiety. And you could fill a toy airplane with the research into reconnection."


He continues, "But in time, I was able to discover seven kinds of reconnection the early evidence suggests can begin to heal depression and anxiety. I started to think of [these reconnections] as social or psychological antidepressants, in contrast to the chemical antidepressants we have been offered up to now. As I look back today at the seven solutions I have learned about, I’m conscious of two things – that they might seem too small, and that at the same time they might seem impossibly large.”


Hari is fully aware that the solutions to disconnection he advocates for are not solutions most individuals can effect on their own. He comes straight out and says as much:


“Once you understand that depression is to a significant degree a collective problem caused by something that’s gone wrong in our culture, it becomes obvious that the solutions have to be – to a significant degree – collective, too. We have to change the culture so that more people are freed up to change their lives.”

This book is a first step towards a blueprint for making these kinds of collective changes.


Ideal Reader

Assessment psychologists who sometimes find themselves overwhelmed by the weight of trying to support a child with anxiety, depression, grief, or trauma while the child is bound within a culture that does not support their well-being. Anyone who resonated with the article about the loneliness of today’s teen girls, or felt their eyes well up when reading about the psychological burden carried by youth in detention, homelessness, or poverty. And anyone who feels like Facebook is decaying us from the inside.


Perfect Pairings

I’ve been reading a lot of books lately focused on social causes of emotional distress, and Hari’s book fit perfectly within this theme. Examples include Eric Klinenberg’s Palaces for the People (also covered in this excellent 99% Invisible podcast), Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows, and Jenny Odell’s beautiful How to Do Nothing. Other good pairings would be Florence Williams’ The Nature Fix, Matthew Liberman’s Social, or Stuart Brown’s Play.




Deep Dive:


I had the delightful pleasure recently of being invited to a peer discussion on the topic of ADHD in girls. The conversation was lively, clinically-rich, and engaging. Or... I assume it was. I missed it, because I'm an idiot and wrote it on the wrong date on my calendar.


Anyway.


In preparation for the discussion I missed, I shared my stash of about 15 articles on this topic from the last 10 years with the other group members. Since all the articles in my collection are available free full-text, I thought I'd share them here, too.


Here are the articles for adding to your collection, in reverse chronological order:


Feeling overwhelmed by this list? Read just one or two that interests you, then save the rest in your Evernote file or bookmark this page for later.


The point of having a collection of books or journal articles is not to have read every single book or article in the collection. It's so you know where to find the info when you need it. And it's to remind you of all the things you already know, and all the things you still don't know. Think of Umberto Eco's antilibrary, the 30,000 books in his home that he hadn't read.


What's in your antilibrary?



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©2018 by Stephanie Nelson, Ph.D.