Sunday, February 6, 2011

Cognitive Dissonance

Last Sunday I went to youth group and Shannon asked me to speak about how sin is a conflict for my relationship with God. She asked me last minute so I only had fifteen or so minutes to really prepare. I am a spiritual person you could say, but I'm also a practical person. I believe in a God, and a Jesus who saved us. I also believe that our very existence is a miracle. The complexity of our bodies and minds is incredible. The psychology of the mind can be applied to any aspect of one's life.

So psychologically, how does sin conflict us with our relationship with God? Cognitive Dissonance. When out behavior doesn't math our beliefs, there is a psychological conflict. This can also occur if we hold two conflicting beliefs simultaneously. This caused stress stress to the person experiencing the conflict. The only way that this stress can be relieved is if the belief or the behavior changes. This is why over time beliefs can change.

For example, in most Christian religions it us taught not to drink alcohol. From a young age a Christian would be taught this. They would most likely grow to hold this value true. As a Christian reaches high school and college and is exposed to alcohol and starts to drink, they will experience guilt. To reduce this guilt, they will start to think differently about alcohol.

Another example of this seeing an apple high in a tree and trying to pick it. Once realizing the apple is to high and there is no way of reaching it, we justify our decision by thinking the apple was probably not ripe or not worth eating anyway.

Knowing how cognitive dissonance works in a normally functioning person helps us understand how someone with a mental illness would process the information. In a psychological disorder, if these logical connections are not apparent, it can cause a psychotic episode from the stress of conflicting beliefs.

Criminal Minds- Extreme Aggressor

The episode itself had a weak plot and wasn't all too great, but a lot of thought-provoking material made the show worthwhile. The “unsub” (unknown subject) was labeled psychopathic and suffered from paranoid psychosis. The diagnosis struck me as peculiar because according to the DSM-IV-TR, American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Text Revision, the psychopathic conditions are more commonly referred to as antisocial personality disorder. Psychopathy was first systematically described by psychiatrist Hervey M. Cleckley in 1941. Psychopaths can be manipulative, superficial, and appear remarkably normal. However, they are without remorse, egoistic, dishonest, irresponsible and impulsive. Shows like Criminal Minds love this definition because it is the perfect basis on which to create a violent killer.
The Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) was developed by psychologist Robert D. Hare and measures psychopathy in three areas: interpersonal deficits (such as grandiosity, arrogance and deceitfulness), affective deficits (lack of guilt and empathy), and impulsive and criminal behaviors (including sexual promiscuity and stealing).
Interestingly enough, antisocial personality disorder is comprised of many, if not all if the traits of psychopathy. There seems to be a fine line between what is considered psychopathy and what is antisocial personality disorder. states,

“About 80-85% of incarcerated criminals have Antisocial Personality Disorder. However, only about 20% of these criminals would qualify for a diagnosis of being a psychopath. Most psychopaths meet the criteria for Antisocial Personality Disorder, but most individuals with Antisocial Personality Disorder are not psychopaths. Psychopaths account for 50 percent of all the most serious crimes committed, including half of all serial killers and repeat rapists.”

The source seems credible, but because the words are so interchangeable, more research is definitely needed to support this conclusion.
Psychopathy is not psychosis. Nor are psychopaths psychotic. Psychosis is most commonly seen in schizophrenic patients who lose touch with reality and become irrational. Psychopaths are known to be logical and are well aware that their actions are wrong and unacceptable in society, but because they do not feel guilt there is no harm in completing these actions.
Treatment is said to be effective is psychopathy. Psychologist Jennifer Skeem of the University of California Irvine, and her colleagues suggests that psychopaths may benefit as much as nonpsychopaths from psychological treatment. However, considering that antisocial personality disorder and psychopathy are so similar, treatment may not be that easy. Personality disorders have been known to be hardest to treat and have a significantly lower treatment rate than that of other psychological disorders. This is because personality is so complex and an intricate part of identity that it becomes intangible.
If anyone has any feedback regarding this issue, I would be interested to hear what the difference is between these two diagnoses.

Anxiety Disorders

Psychological Disorders Debrief

  1. abnormal in a person's culture
  2. causes personal distress to the subject
  3. prevents functional living in society (maladaptive behavior)
  4. makes the person a danger to self or others
  5. calls into question a person's legal responsibility for actions

Anxiety Disorders:
  1. Phobias
  • Specific phobias: disruptive and intense irrational fear caused by particular object or event
  • Social Phobia: constant, irrational fear of specific or general situations that involve other people
  1. Panic Disorder
  • Panic Attacks: episodes of intense fear and four or more symptoms such as heart palpitations, nausea, chest pain, dizziness, sweating, trembling, choking sensation, difficulty breathing, terror, intense apprehension. Attacks tend to be brief but are recurrent and unexpected
  • Depersonalization: state of feeling estranged from one's body
  • Derealization: state of feeling as if the world or surroundings are not real
  1. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: sufferer is compelled to repeat acts (compulsions) and/or is flooded with uncontrollable and persistent thoughts (obsessions), which cause distress and interfere with daily functioning.
  • Obsessions: Uncontrollable, intrusive, and repetitive thoughts, images, and impulses that cause anxiety
  • repetitive behavior or mental act that is performed to counteract the anxiety caused by the obsession.
  1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Uncontrollable, chronic, and pervasive low-level anxiety and worry. Symptoms include: difficulty concentrating and sleeping, irritability, muscle tension, pounding heart, sweating, restlessness, and upset stomach.
  1. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Intense fear in reaction to a traumatic event. Suffers can experience re-experiencing the event through intrusive memories, nightmares, or flashbacks, avoidance of reminders of the event or other unrelated people and activity, or persistently increased arousal.