Link Miscellany: Unconvinced Edition

I’m back! And all of you who dropped off hugs on my last post are wonderful. It’s things like this that keep me convinced that everyone clamoring about how Teh Interwebs is ruining everything are entirely off base. I’ve got some posts planned and in the works, but for now, links and a brief rant! (Also, I’m still soliciting questions for a post on therapy–be sure to comment below).

Miri writes about exercise. I’m, unfortunately, not quite at the point she is in terms of attitude. But I’d like to be.

As an aside, I’d like to recommend an app/program called Fitocracy for low pressure exercising. Designed by two computer geeks (their own description!), it uses game mechanics (levels, quests, points) to track your exercise. I like it because the goal is doing a variety of activities, not losing weight. You can’t enter calories, which keeps me from getting obsessive, and you’re rewarded for doing a range of activities and building stamina, not for pounds lost. 

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

As many of my female peers are doing at the moment, I’m reading a book by Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg called Lean In. The first chapter asks: What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

My answer? I’d write this blog.

How not to be a dick to your anorexic friend. (My one qualm about this article is that it treats anorexia/starvation behaviors as only something thin people have. Otherwise it’s quite good.)

Well-intended remarks about how I look prettier with “some meat on my bones,” or even about how “healthy” I look, get twisted through my f’d up brain-synapses into a command to start restricting again. Yeah, I hate this too. Anorexia is like a cat-piss stain on my sofa of awesome-ness. (My original analogy involved weeds in a flower garden, but aren’t you glad I went this route instead?)

If you want to comment about my progress, mention that I seem to be flourishing, or tell me I seem to be returning to a person who is in love with the world vs. caught up in a battle with myself.

Confused about the Adria Richards kerfuffle? Ask an ethicist. Dr. Free-Ride has a fabulous examination of all points.

Recognize that the response that you expect will automatically follow from politely asking someone to stop engaging in a particular behavior may not be the response other people have gotten when they have tried the approach you take as obviously one that would work.

Recognize that, especially if you’re a man, you may not know the lived history women are using to update their Bayesian priors. Maybe also recognize, following up on #2 above, that you may not know that lived history on account of having told women who might otherwise have shared it with you that they were wrong to feel the way they told you they felt about particular situations, or that they couldn’t possibly feel that way because you never felt that way in analogous situations. In other words, you may have gappy information because of how your past behavior has influenced how the women you know update their priors about you.

Religious Trauma Syndrome–Is it real?
I am…unconvinced. Not unconvinced that there are mental health problems and suffering associated with leaving particularly harmful sects, but that this is a useful or accurate label.

Firstly, despite calling it “religious”, the article seems to only be specific to Christianity. This is cool if you’re talking about Christianity only, but then please don’t call it “religious” when you mean a specific kind of religion. If there’s research to suggest that this happens across religions in the most fundamental wings of each, isn’t it more likely the result of fundamentalist belief, rather than belief itself?

Jumping off of that, isn’t it far more likely that it’s more about a set of behaviors (external loci of control, infallibility of those in power, etc) that we already know cause mental health problems? Is it useful in any way to create a separate category of response to trauma, rather than just noting the ways in which this is a permutation of PTSD (and relatedly, acute stress disorder*)?

I’m not saying that specific branches and behaviors within religion can be bad (and sometimes very bad) for mental health, but it seems incredibly political to be naming a syndrome this way–and that’s a very bad habit.

Commenters! Please help me by posting your questions about therapy, mental illness, and/or psychology below. 

Link Miscellany: Unconvinced Edition
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7 thoughts on “Link Miscellany: Unconvinced Edition

  1. 1

    Hmm. I’m not sure that recognizing religious trauma syndrome as a thing precludes treating it as a subset of PTSD. We’ve been discussing rape trauma syndrome for decades with the explicit understanding that it’s a form of PTSD with unique features and implications for treatment/management. I don’t see a problem with doing the same for this, but I’m willing to be convinced otherwise.

    1. 1.1

      Hmm. I hadn’t considered the comparison to Rape Trauma Syndrome, which does make me more open to the idea. However, my objections to calling it “religion” still stand–I find the name inaccurate. (and of course, two things that can be called RTS would be awful confusing.)

  2. 2

    Religious trauma syndrome seems like a pure politicization of a subset of other problems. And I say this as someone who was traumatized by my religious upbringing.

    You asked for physchology questions. Could you do a post on Dissociative identity disorder? I know several multiples and would like to understand them better.

    1. 2.1

      So…this is a touchy one.

      Because really, the evidence has been saying for years that DID is not a diagnosis, that multiple personalities aren’t a phenomenon of actually possessing multiple personalities. Which isn’t to say that people *don’t* suffer, or that people are in some way “faking”. That’s not the case. But DID (when it was called Multiple Personality Disorder) was largely based off of faulty evidence, and the majority of the psych community would like the diagnosis removed, as it appears to be a cultural diagnosis combined with specific responses to severe trauma, rather than a mental phenomenon by itself.

      I’m hardly on the forefront of the research, but Eddy Cara over at The Heresy Club has been writing several great pieces on it.

  3. 3

    Religious Trauma Syndrome is not specific to Christianity, but because Marlene Winell coined the term, and she was a Christian, and because it’s originating in the West, most RTS victims came out of some form of Christianity. But RTS is applicable to Islam, Judaism, etc. Tarico’s article also focuses on Christianity for the same reasons. I agree that the term “religious” isn’t ideal, but “fundamentalism” isn’t either, because RTS could happen to anyone who has immersed themselves in a belief system that caused damage once they extricated themselves from the same. A cult might not be called fundamentalist, for example. Likewise, a person could still suffer form RTS after leaving a particularly non-fundamentalist branch of a religion. It’s not the religion that precipitates it, per se, but how deep the victim dove into it.

    I agree with some of your other concerns. All the symptoms of RTS might be found elsewhere in the DSM, but … they also might not. There are elements of RTS that might be entirely unique to religious belief. Also, I do think it might be useful to have such a term, because it offers a familiar gateway for people who are troubled to get help. Why would a person coming out of a religion feel like they were suffering from something commonly believed to be experienced by wartime vets? Most would not make the connection. So having RTS out there on the interwebs is a good thing–it’ll help people understand that they are suffering from something that is understood and treatable.

  4. 4

    Religious Trauma Syndrome isn’t real because it’s not scientific, and it’s not scientific because it’s not falsifiable. For the condition to be real, there would have to be empirically verifiable conditions under which it was unreal, and there would have to be empirically verifiable conditions under which any one person could be proven not to be afflicted by it.

    All the supporting arguments are non-falsifiable, so the condition isn’t real. Simple as that.

    All faiths create a dogma based around concepts of their own invention. Religious Trauma Syndrome is a bigoted parody of Salvation. This sort of psychobabble is a jealous effort by frustrated secularists to turn their bigotry into faith in the same ways that frustrated religious radicals do.

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