September 26, 2006
Not Just Drops of Water: Here’s an interesting finding. Frey compared the chemical make-ups of tears caused by eye irritants such as sliced raw onions, and tears caused by emotions. Tears caused by emotions were found to have more protein and beta endorphins in them. These emotionally induced tears appear to contain high levels of cortisol, an important hormone released during times of stress. When we cry from emotional stimulation, we may actually be releasing toxins from our bodies, in the same way we do when we sweat or breathe out air. Through crying, we help ourselves heal.
The Gender Gap: Although all over the world, women are more likely than men to cry, the difference in frequency is not that great. American men, for example, have been found to cry about 1.8 times per month. American women cry about 3.5 times per month. Women may cry more often because they have naturally higher levels of prolactin, a hormone found in tears. Prolactin is also the hormone that triggers milk production.
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September 21, 2006
Evolving Definitions: Here’s an interesting psychology-related tidbit to think about. In their book, Deaf People: Evolving Perspectives from Psychology, Education, and Sociology, Andrews, Leigh & Weiner point out how we, as Deaf people, have changed in terms of how we define our self-esteem.
The Old Days: Back in 1974, a study (Sussman) found that Deaf adults who thought they did not speak well, had lower self-esteem levels than other Deaf adults who believed they were skilled in oral communication. These were the days before ASL was recognized as an official language, when Signed Exact English (SEE) and oralism were considered higher forms of communication than ASL.
And Now: Fast forward to the 1990′s and the first years of 2000. This is what several studies (Bat-Chava, 1993, 2000; Maxwell-McCaw,2001) found to be associated with higher self-esteem in Deaf adults: being able to communicate with family in sign language, using sign language in school, having Deaf parents, and having a culturally Deaf or bicultural identity. It is great to see how Deaf people’s self-perceptions are moving in a more positive direction!
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August 2, 2006
An Old Question: Once again up for debate is the seemingly age-old question: Can Deaf-hearing relationships work? Bloggers, including this one, have been weighing in with their opinions lately. A Deaf-hearing relationship can refer to a number of possible scenarios. It could be a signing, culturally Deaf person partnered with a fluent-signing CODA or hearing interpreter, or the same Deaf person partnered with a moderately fluent hearing person or with a nonsigning hearing person. It might be an oral Deaf person with a nonsigning hearing person, or any other combination of partner backgrounds.
The Communication Factor: Most people will say that the success of a Deaf-hearing relationship comes down to communication, just like it does in any other relationship. Communication, of course, is an extremely complicated matter for any couple. When it comes to listening and talking, couples may have differences based on gender (see Debra Tannen’s You Just Don’t Understand: Men and Women in Conversation or John Gray’s Men Are from Mars, Women Are From Venus), personality styles, or what they learned growing up in different families, each with their own unique communication dynamics. These differences in communication styles are difficult enough for most couples to deal with; when you have two different languages, and perhaps two different cultures, in a relationship, things can get even more complicated. In cases in which one partner is Deaf and the other hearing, what we have observed in our therapy work, is that the more “Deaf-centered” the relationship, the better the relationship seems to work.
Deaf-Centered vs. Hearing-Centered: A Deaf-centered relationship basically means that both partners sign to each other, take equal responsibility for communication issues, and are active members of the Deaf community. Couples with Deaf-centered relationships tend to socialize mostly with other Deaf and signing hearing friends, minimizing the number of social situations in which the hearing partner ends up interpreting for the Deaf partner. Hearing-centered relationships, in contrast, often find the Deaf person dependent upon the hearing partner for communication with nonsigning hearing friends, a situation that can create feelings of stress and frustration for both. A listing of characteristics of Deaf-centered versus hearing-centered relationships clearly shows the differences.
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June 22, 2006
The Big Book: Following up on this week’s earlier postings on labeling, today we thought we’d take a look at the DSM, the hefty 943-page widely used Diagnostic and Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association. The DSM is used by mental health professionals as a diagnostic tool. Every mental disorder, from autism to depression to ADHD to schizophrenia to paranoid personality disorder, is defined according to how long and how intense a specific list of symptoms has been present. Take a look at this definition of Intermittent Explosive Disorder to get an idea of a diagnosis that has become a popular way of labeling people with road rage.
The Politics Behind the DSM: A little bit of background on the DSM. The first edition was published in 1952; the latest version came out in 2000. The first edition had only 50 diagnoses. Today’s DSM lists 374 diagnoses, more than seven times the original book. Does this mean cases of mental illness have grown in leaps and bounds over the past half century? Not exactly. The increase in the number of diagnoses is more reflective of insurance companies’ demands for very detailed and specific diagnoses. It is also related to the increasing availability of medications that can only be prescribed for certain clusters of symptoms, thus making it necessary to invent names for these symptoms.
Diagnoses end up in the DSM as a result of votes by a panel of psychiatrists. Of course, the panel reviews research, listens to recommendations from mental health experts, and spends lots of time discussing each diagnosis. In the end, though, a diagnosis gets into the DSM if it is the panel’s opinion, or value judgment, that it is actually a mental disorder. Consider the diagnosis of Homosexuality. For years, the DSM counted it as a mental disorder, in spite of the fact that there was no research to support this. Thanks to the efforts of gay and lesbian mental health professionals to educate the public about this, the Homosexuality diagnosis was finally voted out of DSM in 1973.
More and more people who work in the mental health field have been writing about how unfair and harmful DSM diagnoses can be. Women, for example, have been labeled with psychiatric disorders just for having normal mood swings because of changes in hormones related to childbirth or their periods. African Americans and other minorities, including Deaf people, have often been labeled as paranoid even though their fears and anger make a lot of sense due to the oppression they experience.
One Deaf Woman’s Misdiagnosis: If you are looking for a book for your summer reading list, here is one worth checking out. I Was #87, by Anne Bolander and Adair Renning is a story that makes us glad that more and more Deaf professionals work in the mental health field today, making it less likely that Deaf people will be misdiagnosed.
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June 19, 2006
Identity and Privilege: Understanding White Privilege is a book that has made us think a lot about our own privileges and power as white people. Like the author says, white people don’t often realize how much we take for granted, how easy it is to overlook what it means to be white. We basically assume, for example, that the people we read about in books or magazines are white, unless their race is stated clearly or their picture is right there or they are famous and already known by us. Being white in the USA is like being fish in water, we don’t notice the water because it is just so “normal” and taken for granted.
This book also makes us think about hearing privileges in the Deaf community. There are many parallels in the power relationships between Black/white people and Deaf/hearing people. Just like many job announcements state “qualified minority candidates are encouraged to apply”, so do some announcements state “qualified Deaf candidates are encouraged to apply”. You never see a job announcement stating “qualified white candidates are encouraged to apply”. White people are assumed to be qualified, while minorities and Deaf people seem to be assumed not to be qualified. We see “qualified women candidates” but not “qualified men candidates”. What is this all about??!!!
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