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Mental Exercise

Thomas Webster suggests that because programmers learn computer languages with no spoken component, they may not be benefiting from the mental workout you get from choosing the correct expression in a spoken language (21 June, p 30).

But with programming you still have to choose the "correct expression", in that you write statements and functions to achieve your objective. Computer languages, in common with spoken ones, share characteristics and fall into linguistic families. This makes it possible to switch quickly between similar computing languages.

There is a continual flow of information between those who are learning a new language and those who are more experienced in the idioms of that language, be it a human or computer one.

This flow, combined with the mental stimulation and daily puzzle-solving needed to communicate, are guaranteed to keep one mentally fit.

Memories Are What We Are

Celia Berrell has it the wrong way round when she says she will have finished with her body when she dies (17 May, p 30). As I see it, it is this body's amazing ability to store memories that makes me. I am my body's creation.

When the support system for memories breaks down, then we go. We no longer have a say. My wife has Alzheimer's, I know of what I write.

Cognitive Decline

Michael Ramscar and Harald Baayen believe that cognitive decline is not an inevitable part of growing older (22 March, p 28). But in order to build up their case, they are using the wrong tests and thus reaching the wrong conclusions.

I have played chess keenly for 80 years, and have watched my rating decline steadily with age until I dropped out of the bottom of club chess. I gave up playing because it clearly underlined my own cognitive decline. I can still analyse the possible development of a position, but I cannot compare the current analysis with an alternative I calculated five minutes earlier.

My aunt, a language teacher, could still converse with me in French, German or English in her old age but she could not remember the first chapter of a book, even after reading it half a dozen times.

Words go deep into the mind. Ramscar and Baayen should try testing cognitive ability with short-term memory and decision-making, not just with word games.

Our Biases

Bent Flyvbjerg makes a valid criticism of the political mindset behind many megaprojects, with favourable bias applying to both costs and benefits (30 November, p 28). This applies not just to megaprojects, however, but to any project, large or small. There seems to be an ingrained unwillingness to look at issues rationally and make decisions based on evidence, rather than optimistic instincts.

Maybe this is an inherently human trait, and one we apply to personal relationships as well. No one conducts a cost-benefit analysis before embarking on a fresh relationship; there is always a presumption that it will be successful, previous experience notwithstanding.

Monks and Aspergers

In her look at the prevalence of "modern" diseases in ancient populations, Young included researchers who speculate on the extent of disorders such as autism. I'd like to add my own speculation. It seems possible that those with Asperger's syndrome could have proved crucial to the rise of monastic life in earlier eras.

Such religious retreats would have provided a place for anyone who had difficulty with social contact and had a taste for detailed study. The rigid schedule and structure of such life would also have suited them well.

Jobs For Autistics

You report that employers are now actively recruiting people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) (1 June, p 8). The thinking is that they may make more rational decisions – possibly because they are less likely to fall prey to heuristics and bias – and may also excel in areas such as recall, spatial awareness and manipulating large amounts of information. These skills might suit air traffic control, for which spatial awareness and the ability to quickly manipulate detailed information are highly desirable.

Learning Languages To Keep Mind

In making comparisons to computer language, perhaps both Thomas Webster (21 June, p 31) and Ian Lewis (12 July, p 27), underestimate the complexity of learning a foreign language, and thereby its positive effects in arresting mental decline.

Both types of language have vocabulary and grammar, but a spoken language also has auditory input and verbal output. These are more or less irrelevant in computer languages. Learning to identify "words" in a string of spoken sounds is a high-level skill that takes an adult years to develop. And reproducing those sounds in an understandable manner is a kinaesthetic activity involving numerous muscles, which also takes time and practice.

It would be beneficial to ask whether it is the mental stimulation and problem-solving associated with learning a language that slows mental decline, or if it is one or more of the features that spoken languages alone have.

A final possibility would be the benefits of human interaction: to learn a language one has to associate with a teacher and, usually, other learners.

Dementia As An Excuse

(story about an 87 yo man let off charge of soliciting)

Old Man: "So how about we go back to my place and-"
cops storm in
Cops: "Freeze! You are under arrest!"
Old Man: "Uh, uh... Where am I? How did I get here? Is Roosevelt still President?"

"You look just like my late wife."
"That'll be $200."
"You sound just like my late wife too."

They always pull the dementia card when it fits them, unless they forget again, that they have dementia.

Reminds me of Uncle Leo in Seinfeld - "I'm an old man, I'm confused!"

That's how he did it. They offered him a deal in exchange for learning his secret

Doctors hate him

This actually works well on prostitutes too. Just ask them if they'd mind posing fully nude while you paint them, which isn't a crime. Undercover female officers don't exactly want to do that, which is a pretty big giveaway you're going to get arrested if you ask for much more.

That's not candy.
And at that age, it's probably not too hard, either. Unless it's delicious taffy we're talking about. mmmmmm... taffy.

Are you trying to stall us, or are you just senile?
A bit of column A, a bit of column B

Well! I'm outraged! How can you misrepresent women like that?!
Prostitutes are a bargain compared to girlfriends.

What kind of expensive ass sex-free relationships do you people have?
I see this comment all the time.
If your girlfriend is 'costing' you more than a hooker you're dating shitty women.
If you're paying 100s of dollars a week for your relationship you're already with a prostitute..

Aww c'mon, man! You don't pay prostitutes for sex. You pay them to leave and not talk to you in public.

Relationships cost money, whether or not you have sex. Go out for dinner? Money. Movies? Money. Weekend getaway? Money.
Visit parents? Money. Now
that's not to hate on relationships, I don't regret a dollar of it. But of your end goal is just sex, relationships are by far the more expensive option. Especially once you get out of college.
You could go and try to pick up chicks at the bar, but I'm pretty sure the cost of drinks and the success rate still make it a second to a hooker.
Though the ultimate solution is FWB. Not only is it free, its easy, and can even include things like Netflix+cuddling.

People who say this are counting EVERYTHING Against the girlfriend. They're used to sitting around playing video games where their only expense is weed, and they compare that to going out on a lot of dates and then whine about it. They forget that they're responsible for he cost of 1/2 of all that fun shit they've been doing, that they were miserable on the couch and that happiness has value, and that they're spending 1/4 as much on weed as they used to.

Here is how my dad's friend described marriage:
Buy a house and a car and don't jerk off for a year. After a year find yourself a hooker and give her the house and the car and have her kick you in the nuts as hard as she can.
That would be cheaper and less painful than marriage.

A Youtuber once put it pretty well. If he lived in the Netherlands, he'd never go on dates to try and get laid. He'd go to make a connection. If he wanted to get laid he'd just take about the same amount of money he was about to drop to show that girl a good time and spend it on a prostitute.
If it was a bad date he'd just go 'ok. I'm done. I'm just going to get a prostitute.'

Mental Illness - Patients' Explain

All schizophrenia breaks my damn heart. It's usually a pretty smart or at least self aware person, and yet their entire existence is bridled and limited by their condition. I can't believe we really haven't been able to figure out the underlying cause and cure.

that's because the human brain is a wonderful clockwork engine that runs on a weird mixture of chemistry and magic. also, some of the cogwheels seem to spin in the wrong direction, some exist only in the 3rd and 7th dimension, some don't exist at all but keep spinning, and, for some unknown reason, some actually are parsnips.

I... Is this a reference to something, or did you make this up? Because if it's a reference to something, I'm now quite interested in whatever it is.

I made it up, but I used to read Pratchett a lot and I guess I got inspired.

Everyone is a slave to neurotransmitters and neural pathways. Some people have the right blend of chemicals. Some 'kinda' have the right blend. Some don't at all. When you don't, there is nothing to limit parts of the brain from connecting that really shouldn't be talking to each other. (Dead relative brain file + auditory processing file = hear dead relatives, or something like that.) People who exhibit 'abnormal behavior' shouldn't be labeled as strange and marginalized. They are a victim of a sick DNA joke that evolution has dropped in their lap. If you want to get religious about it.....God dropped it in their lap and said 'deal with it'.

When you are young, no one thinks it is weird when you pretend things or see things that arent there. (Although honestly, most kids realize they are pretending) the same behavior as an adult result in a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

To be fair the ground is still lava.

I've been having a sort of nervous breakdown lately. I've always been anxious, and I guess I've always had ocd as well, but it was never unmanageable, just unpleasant. Recently, however, it's like a switch has flipped and small things make me feel like the world is ending. I feel guilty, like I've made some horrible mistake. Each worry, each potential mistake, feels like the thing that will destroy me. But I have these moments of clarity and think to myself, "You know, it's probably nothing. There isn't any objective proof you've made the mistake that will destroy you. Everything is fine." And that moment fades so fast and I'm back to feeling like my doom is upon me. But I still remember that moment of clarity and the correctness of it, and it makes me feel that much worse. Because it doesn't change anything, I still feel doomed, and I can't for the life of me imagine how a brain can be so broken, or how something so broken can ever be fixed.

You're not wrong, but the thing that sucks is that I am HYPERAWARE of this fact which only makes me feel more worthless and pathetic. Having depression for no reason and anxiety over stupid little things with the knowledge that none of those things really matter just feed into the illness and you get a healthy dose of self-loathing and shame to boot. I understand where you're coming from, but please be assured that we all know how silly and stupid and inconsequential the things we flip out about are and it just makes it worse. If logic helped, I wouldn't be in this situation.

People aren't understanding what Im getting at. It's not your fault. Nothing is wrong with you. In fact, your body is responding the way it should. We aren't designed to live in this weird ass society that is being forced upon us. That's why I thoughtfully suggested that the best treatment might be simply 'getting back to basics'.

Every day of my life! Normal people dont get it. They think you are acting crazy and irrational and treat you like you can just turn it on and off whenever you want, like its a choice. Its not. I've learned to "deal" with it and suppress it a bit but its always there. And then you pass it down to your children and watch them go through the same horrors that you did and there is nothing you can do about it. It makes you feel like a failure when your 6yo is refusing to go to school, in tears, because you put her in a shirt with a hood and she was convinced she would be made fun of. Most parents would scold their child and make them deal with it. I couldn't... I was heart broken, the day I realized my daughter is going to have it 10xs harder than normal kids.

I am great at chess. Does this mean I can be great at Life?:D

Life is your opponent. He is completely unreadable and his moves are all random. And sometimes he cheats.

"I don't want to die, I sometimes wish I'd never been born at all."

"Carry on, carry on, as if nothing really matters"

I really want to die, but I don't want to kill myself. I fantasize about getting cancer or getting into an accident.
This is exactly how I feel. I can't say that I want to die, I just don't want to be here. I don't want to live this life anymore.

When I started to make real progress against depression was when I started thinking of the depression as a separate entity that lived in my head, infecting me like a dark, sentient parasite. It gave me something to fight that wasn't me, and something to blame that wasn't me, in a much more concrete and tangible way than "mental illness nobody takes very seriously anyway".

That's exactly what I had to do. I read so many books and stories and did so much research while I was depressed. I was desperate to "fix" myself, but the simplest answer that I found was to detach myself. I'm not my illness, my illness doesn't make me, all that stuff. When you start consciously reminding yourself of the fact that it's a separate thing happening to you, even just in the moment, things become a little clearer. I hope I don't regret saying this but depression changed me for the better despite it being hell to endure. I learned so much and I've even taken up going to school for psychology. Who the hell wouldn't want to learn about their own brain and how to work with it? That's the source of everything, the brain. It's fascinating.

I'm curious to know, what helped you come to this conclusion? My boyfriend still refuses to understand this. I think because of his narcissism, he really believes that the things he thinks when he's really depressed are undeniably true. That he sees the truth that everyone else is too dumb or blissfully ignorant to see. This same thought process has crossed off therapy from a list of options; he really thinks every single person he talks to is an idiot, aside from me, his brothers, and a few close friends.
I myself am bipolar and eventually recognized my agency to fight against these feelings, but I'd like to know how other people did it since my telling him my experience doesn't seem to help. I know how difficult it is to dig yourself out when you're depressed, but he really just refuses to see it, even when he's feeling better.

Aye, I did the same. I changed my thinking from "I feel like crap because everything is crap" to "I feel like crap because depression makes it crap". Now I analyse things as rationally as I can when I feel down. Did I sleep enough, when did I start feeling this way, what triggered it, should I be feeling like I want to die because there's no toast or is it an overreaction?
When I determine it's the depression, I can explain it to my girlfriend. "Sorry, didn't mean to snap. Depression kicked in this afternoon, heading to bed in a bit, will be better in the morning." It's just a thing that happens, I just gotta ride out the dark wave when it hits.

"You aren't the voice in your head, you're the one who hears the voice in your head".

My daughter was experiencing 2 main hallucinations. The "dark man" and "Leo". The dark man told her to do bad things to herself and other people. He threatened her all the time. Even attacked Leo when she didn't do what he wanted her to do.
Leo was a teenage boy around her own age. He was very attractive and caring. He loved her and told her all the good things to make her feel better. She demanded I get her a larger bed so that Leo would have a place to lay down with her (I got her the bed) When offered medication to remove the hallucinations, she refused. She didn't want to let go of Leo. We tried to explain that allowing Leo also allowed the dark man. She still refused. She's much better now, around 3 years later. She been in therapy and does not take medications. She met a boy who, she says, looks remarkably like Leo. They both work with each other to help each other heal, though she does realize that she should not be relying on him. She no longer sees either hallucination.

With one of my family members, it's because they think they don't need it anymore. While on medications, they still aren't at 100% compared to somebody without schizophrenia, it just dulls a lot of the symptoms (at least for them, this is how it is). They still aren't thinking what most people would consider as "right," and you can tell something is a little off when you speak to them, medicated or not. So when things seem to get back to what they think is normal, they hope/assume that they are fixed, at least for the time being. They'll start skipping doses or stop cold turkey, and then suddenly they're in the middle of a breakdown again. It's probably different for everybody, but it's really sad. This happens every 4-5 years with this person, and they really just want to be normal, and even the pills have their own side effects that change mood and personality to some extent.

I have had "voices" in my head for as long as I can remember. almost 2 years ago I went to rehab because I snapped and my family was lead to believe that it was from Marijuana use by a psychiatrist at a Catholic hospital in Richmond, Va. while at rehab I was seen by more or less unbiased doctors (as the rehab was in california and they seemed more logical) and received multiple diagnosis regarding the party in my head.
they offered me 2 solutions: medication to suppress any other personalities, or I work with them to learn how to live and basically share my body. I chose the latter. Being someone who lacks real social skills, I do not have any friends after many frustrating attempts, and I really don't mind it. It's a full house sometimes but I don't see how an internal conversation is any different than having a friend over.

I don't experience voices like you are talking about. There are rarely conversations (and generally when conversations happen there is a visual hallucination present), more like a disembodied voice (there are several of them) yelling at me, whispering to me, usually negative things about myself and other people around me, sometimes I get "command" voices that tell me to do things (both good and bad things), the whispering voices usually are telling me things that spike my paranoia (talking about the things that live in the dark, control people/society) or try to convince me to do things, not outright command it, the shouting ones are usually the negative and commanding ones.
It's more complex than that, but really there isn't much conversation, so I don't really get another angle on things, at least not any one that makes sense. When I'm on my meds I can generally tell this is not "real", but when I'm not, I can't. It doesn't seem out of the ordinary or anything that there are voices talking to me. I guess when things get super bad I could have conversations, but I don't because the paranoia drives me to appear as normal as possible so aforementioned things don't steal my thoughts and control my actions... not sure if that gave you any answer to your pondering, but I hope it can give you some more insight.

There is a large movement right now to get professionals to STOP trying to get the voices to cease and to assist people to learn to live with them by doing exactly what this person did: make appointments with them. Tell them to shut up. MAKE them leave you alone sometimes.

As long as they are benign or beneficial I agree. Interestingly enough in Africa and India most of these hallucinations are seen as good and the voices themselves are usually nice. In the US they are more often adversarial. I wonder if it's due to Christianity and the adversarial mythogy of demons and even the old testament God. Whereas as the polytheism of India or the ancestor worship of Africa lets you ascribe more beneficial possibilities to these voices, such as multiple gods or ancestor spirits.

Can people do that? Make the voices leave them alone at times, and conduct follow-up appointments later? Does that work for a lot of people?

Not everyone, but some people can actually do it. If they are supported in doing so and FEEL supported in doing it, you'd be surprised at what people can do.

I'm glad that this movement is getting more attention. A huge number of voice-hearers stop feeling so antagonized by their voices when they stop antagonizing their voices.

This. I've got DID, but it's a very strange form of DID seeing as the other people are generally active while I'm active. They just chat along throughout the day. Sometimes we pass control of the meatbag when we feel like it.
I recently began treatment and I know that one of the consequences of the treatment are that the others, individuals whom I've known for as long as I can remember, are going to go away. And that terrifies me. But I want to be stable, and healthy. Even if it means I have to kill my only friends.

Curious, but who diagnosed you? Sounds more like schizophrenia, unless you are having lapses of memory impairment.

My psych thought the same thing at first. I don't have lapses of memory impairment. I have stretches of time where I'm observing my own body being controlled by someone else, be it Nebuchadnezzar, Horace or the Other. Often enough I'll just retreat into my own mind and let someone else go for a spin. I've spent up to a year like that. I don't think it's schizophrenia. I've met schizophrenics. I'm a lot more capable of acting "normal" than a lot of schizophrenics I've met. Note I'm not trying to put them down, some of the best and most stimulating conversations I've had were with schizophrenics. But there is generally a number of obvious signs that come with schizophrenia.

It's always interesting explaining what it is to people who consider themselves (not speaking about you here) to be knowledgeable about mental illness because they've "had that depression stuff" and "had a few moments of anxiety" and have done a lot of "research". I'm referring to people who are mentally healthy but I guess want to fit in or stick out by claiming to be mentally unwell as if it were some "cool kids club". It really isn't. I know that for me personally the going hasn't been that rough, but as I said, I've met people who have had incredibly hard lives because of it.

And I got off point. It's always interesting to explain my DID to people because it's just such a foreign idea for them. The response "Wait, wait, are you saying that you can hitch a ride in your own head while someone else drives the body?!" is incredibly common and very amusing.

You should watch Dr Strangelove together.

I get this feeling a lot too. I think a lot of the desire to end your own life is really the desire to end the current version of who you are. It's not that you want to kill your body. It's that you want to kill who you are and grow into something new. That's atleast how I view it when I feel suicidal but I've baked down enough to know I'll never do it. It's not out of fear. It's knowing at some level its not the right thing to do. It's some kind of weird confusion that comes with growing up in modern society.

Make a 2 year, 5 year, and 10 year plan/goal. Make it somewhat generic or broad. It takes like 5-10 minutes of asking yourself "What do I currently feel like I want my future to look like." Then figure out the basic steps you need. Always make sure you're taking those steps and that the plan is still viable. Anytime you start to feel down/trapped/useless etc. Just remind yourself, you're following the plan so it's ok. This helped me a lot in college during the times when it got slow, and I would see others getting out into the world doing things. Not sure if it will help you, but figured it couldn't hurt to mention it.

For three days over Christmas, I lay in bed with a high fever and hallucinated. For a while on Christmas Day itself I was convinced that I was back in my childhood home, and could have sworn that I heard my former economics teacher downstairs discussing my O-level result with my parents.

When I finally shook the virus, I found myself reflecting on the nature of sanity. Like most people, I like to think my grip on reality is vicelike. But this is clearly rather naive. If a three-degree rise in body temperature can send one over the edge, sanity must be an endlessly fragile and contingent thing.

Visual Hallucinations

I was interested to read about Charles Bonnet syndrome, in which people who are losing their vision experience hallucinations (5 November, p 28).

At 92, my father had been losing his sight due to macular degeneration for some time. Travelling on a train from Andover to visit us in Bristol he became convinced that the other passengers were growing green beards and had green hair and very ugly faces.

On entering our lounge he saw little fires all over the floor and tried to put them out with his walking stick. I too was, he said, sprouting green hair and a beard (and I am his daughter).

We took him to hospital, where the doctor initially thought he had a urinary tract infection: but his mind was clear. She looked up his symptoms and diagnosed Charles Bonnet syndrome, while he saw birds and monkeys flying through the hospital.

Having been assured he was not “mad” he was able to cope with the hallucinations. It is reassuring to know of this research, since the manifestations were frightening.