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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Step 3 to end military suicides: Reduce stigma

The stigma of mental illness poses a major barrier when it comes to individuals seeking help. As a society, we are much more comfortable admitting physical problems than psychological ones. Nowhere is this more true than in the military, where troops are trained to be tough and not acknowledge any weaknesses.

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Step 2 to end military suicides: Beyond combat exposure

According to a new study of nearly 4 million men and women who served in the military between 2001 and 2007, deploying to a war zone doesn’t increase a service member’s risk of suicide. The study was conducted by the military’s National Center for Telehealth and Technology, and its findings would seem to serve the military’s purpose. After all, if no causal connection is found between deployment and suicide, recruitment efforts aren’t affected.

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Step 1 to end military suicides

Fifteen years ago, the suicide rate among patients in a large behavioral care system in Detroit was seven times the national average. Then leaders there decided to tackle the problem. The first question asked was what should be the goal—to cut the rate in half, reduce it to the national level, or more? One employee said even a single suicide was unacceptable if it was your loved one, and that helped set the target: zero.

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Scrutinizing the script of the medieval ‘Tremulous Hand of Worcester’

How would we know if a medieval person had a neurological disorder? If we did know, would it be possible to pinpoint the type of condition? What insight can we gain about the practical impact of disorders on medieval life? Fortunately, a physical record survives that provides a reliable window into the health of medieval people—or, at least, those who were able to write.

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Sexual decision-making for older adults with dementia

Who decides with whom we are allowed to have sex? Generally, consenting adults are considered to have the ability to make decisions regarding sexual activity and are allowed to pursue a sexual relationship with whomever they choose, assuming appropriate criteria for consent are met.

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Creativity and mental health

I am constantly perplexed by the recurring tendency in western history to connect creativity with mental disability and illness. It cannot be denied that a number of well-known creative people, primarily in the arts, have been mentally ill—for example, Vincent Van Gogh, Virginia Woolf, Robert Schumann, Robert Lowell, and Sylvia Plath.

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A magical elixir for the mind

The brain is a product of its complex and multi-million year history of solving the problems of survival for its host, you, in an ever-changing environment. Overall, your brain is fairly fast but not too efficient, which is probably why so many of us utilize stimulants such as coffee and nicotine to perform tasks more efficiently. Thus far, no one has been able to design a therapy that can make a person truly smarter.

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Stanley Milgram: Life and legacy

Stanley Milgram was born on the 15 August 1933. In the early 1960s he carried out a series of experiments which had a not just a significant impact on the field of psychology, but had enormous influence in popular culture. These experiments touched on many profound philosophical questions concerning autonomy, authority, and the capacity of individuals to do the right thing in difficult circumstances.

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Introducing psychoanalysis

Daniel Pick, author of Psychoanalysis: A Very Short Introduction, introduces psychoanalysis, discusses its role within history and culture and tells us how psychoanalysis is used today. How has psychoanalysis developed from the late nineteenth century?

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Florence Nightingale’s syphilis that wasn’t

Nursing lore has long maintained that the mysterious illness that sent Florence Nightingale to bed for 30 years after her return from the Crimea was syphilis. At least that’s what many nursing students were told in the 1960s, when my wife was working on her BSN. Syphilis, however, would be difficult to reconcile with the fact that Nightingale was likely celibate her entire life and had not a single sign or symptom typical of that venereal infection.

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Hillary has a point: In defense of empathy and justice

Hillary Rodham Clinton had a point when she recently urged: “The most important thing each of us can do… is to try even harder to see the world through our neighbors’ eyes, to imagine what it is like to walk in their shoes, to share their pain and their hopes and their dreams.”

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Digital dating dynamics: age differences in online dating profiles

Online dating is becoming an increasingly prevalent context to begin a romantic relationship. Nearly 40% of single adults have used online dating websites or apps. Furthermore, the world of online dating is no longer confined to young adults; reports suggest adults aged 60 and older are the largest growing segment of online daters. Obviously, adults using these websites are motivated to find a partner, but we know little about why they want to date or how adults of different ages present themselves to potential partners.

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Cancer diagnosis response: Being hit by an existential Mack Truck

When I meet with patients newly diagnosed with cancer, they often find it difficult articulate the forbidding experience of being told for the first time they have cancer. All they hear is ‘die’-gnosis and immediately become overwhelmed by that dreadful feeling: “Oh my God, I’m gonna die!” I often try to meet them in that intimate and vulnerable moment of existential shock and disbelief by stating, “It’s like being hit by an existential Mack truck.”

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Get ready with Oxford for the 2015 APA Convention

We’re excited for the upcoming annual conference of the American Psychological Association in Toronto, Canada this year from 6-9 August 2015. The conference will be held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The annual convention of the American Psychological Association is the largest assembly of psychologists and psychology students in the world.

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A treatment for despair and loss of meaning

The Psychotherapy Laboratory within the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at MSKCC was established about 12 years ago. I have been the Director of the Lab from its establishment. In addition to developing interventions for anxiety, depression, and PTSD, we have studied a whole group of existential problems that had as yet no established interventions.

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Beauty and the brain

Can you imagine a concert hall full of chimpanzees sitting, concentrated, and feeling ‘transported’ by the beauty of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony? Even harder would be to imagine a chimpanzee feeling a certain pleasure when standing in front of a beautiful sculpture. The appreciation of beauty and its qualities, according to Aristotle’s definition, from his Poetics (order, symmetry, and clear delineation and definiteness), is uniquely human.

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