Monday, August 21, 2006

A Slow Summer

This is a slow summer, and I've had little to blog about. That's not to say I haven't been busy. I've been running up my contact hours like crazy.

Normally, August is a slow month for clinicians. My take on the pattern is that people are taking vacations, and with good weather, people are out, doing enjoyable things, and lifting their moods. During the winter, in contrast, people stay inside, gradually going stir crazy. By February and March, they're calling for help.

This August, however, has been anything but slow. I wonder if it's because it's been so hot, people are staying inside, in the air conditioning, going stir crazy. I keep praying for a cancellation or no-show so I can catch up on my paperwork.

So what makes this summer slow? Mostly, it's the absence of news. The research presses have slowed down for the summer. They'll gear back up for the new academic year.

There have been only two interesting stories this month. A new research study on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) challenges a previous estimate of the risk of PTSD. A previous study estimated that 30.9% of Viet Nam veterans experienced symptoms of PTSD. The new study, which is apparently much more rigorous, concluded that the number should be 18.7%.

I've heard no complaints about the methodology in the study, and from what I've seen, it does look pretty solid. Still, dropping the risk factors from just under 1 in 3 to just under 1 in 5 is nothing to write home about. War is still a pretty scarring business.

Despite this data, veterans returning from Iraq seem to be reporting symptoms at a 1 in 3 rate. Apparently, it's because a greater percentage of soldiers are serving in combat roles, compared to the Viet Nam war. Now, support jobs going to soldiers are going instead to civilian contractors. And, by the way, we don't have data on the contractor's risk of PTSD.

I really wish we would never again have to do research on the risks of PTSD in combat.

Another story, which just popped up today in the New York Times concerns pedophilia. Using conversations from chat rooms, the Times was able to draw a very convincing portrait of the rationalizations and defenses pedophiles use to explain away their own behavior.

Psychological defenses are amazing things. Drunks create chaos in the family, and everybody looks the other way, insisting their family is perfectly normal. The old substance abuse counseling line that "Denial is not just a river in Egypt," is equally applicable to pedophiles themselves.


MIA said...

I think most people will deny bad behavior and try to justify it. I lked your writing.

Free Operant said...

True, but rationalizing why you cheated on your math test is one thing. Rationalizing why you assaulted a child is another. The power of psychological defenses is truly amazing.