When things go wrong in life

He worked in an open-plan office with several others around, each with a desk and a computer. He was good at his job, although mildly stretched by it. His life outside work was not wonderful. He had recently experienced the break-up of a relationship and his flat was not all that he could wish. He was in his late twenties and vaguely wondered if life should actually be offering more than he seemed to be getting from it, but the thought did not stay with him all of...

Health and its enhancement

As mentioned in a previous chapter, any illness, disease or accident involves psychological factors at some or all of its stages. Health psychologists are interested in these relationships and in how people become ill, how they stop themselves from becoming ill, how they become well again once they have been ill, or how they deal with chronic illness, and finally what the relationships are between life circumstances (particularly stressful life circumstances) and illness. Leading a healthy life...

What is abnormal

To describe someone as abnormal depends on the circumstances. What is abnormal in one culture or at one time might not be abnormal in the next culture or a few years later. One way of looking at abnormality is statistically. This equates the abnormal with the rare. At first sight this might seem reasonable. In Western culture, the two types of reaction described at the start of this chapter are relatively rare. Fortunately, either for themselves or for those around them, not many people suffer...

Personality and health

A common belief is that stress increases the risk of various outcomes for health, or rather for ill-health, particularly in the area of heart disease and strokes. There is also some belief of a link between stress and proneness to cancer. Apart from being very much dependent on the definition of stress, there are large individual differences in any such relationships. The idea of individual differences brings personality into consideration. The interesting question then becomes what is the...

Emotions and health

Emotion always serves the function of giving information. It can be extreme, unusual, debilitating, painful, and so on, but information is always being provided. Emotional reactions are always simply emotional reactions they can never be abnormal. However, traditionally, emotions have been seen as contributing to the neuroses, the psychoses, to the affective disorders (such as bipolar disorder), to psychopathy and to excessive (or minimal) eating, alcoholism and drug abuse. But even in...

Social development

Although almost every aspect of development continues throughout the lifespan even though the pace of that development might vary from time to time, many capabilities reach their peak in late adolescence, after which their development might better be described as a decline of sorts. One very important exception to this is social behaviour, which tends to show improvement over the lifespan, even though, again, the rate of improvement might slow at times. Early on in childhood and then through...

Social influences on health

Social networks are very important in dealing with the type of stressful circumstances that might eventually have an impact on health or in dealing directly with ill-health and disease. There are a number of aspects to this, the first and most obvious of which is how many people that you might have in your network of social support. To some extent, the more the better. However, sheer numbers would not make up for a lack of any practical support from among them. In other words, the nature of the...

Humanistic therapies

One of the two therapeutic approaches briefly characterised in the scene-setting example at the start of the chapter is humanistic. Such types of therapy stress growth and self-actualisation and deal with the whole person rather than with some aspects of the person's behaviour or belief system. The idea is to help patients make some contact with their 'real' selves and find out what their basic goals and desires are. As part of this they are encouraged to bring their underlying emotions and...

Cognitive behaviour therapies

Behaviour therapies deal solely with behaviour this is their defining characteristic. So, they have nothing to do with thoughts and feelings. However, if one believes that thoughts and feelings influence or help to determine behaviour, then it might be useful to work on them as well as directly on the behaviour itself. This is certainly a widespread everyday belief. The various types of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) were developed as a -way of achieving this, aimed at dealing with both...

Homeostasis

A final word in this chapter on the basic motives or needs or drives is to do with balance. A homeostatic mechanism is one that keeps something in balance. Thus it is with the basic needs such as for food and drink and oxygen, and, perhaps, for sexual release as well. A homeostatic system is always based on negative feedback. So, for example, if we have not eaten for some time, this is reflected in various bodily and psychological mechanisms (negatively), the information goes to the controlling...

Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence and its potential impact on daily life at home and at work have been much discussed recently. It is to do with a set of skills that everyone possesses, to some degree in this it is similar to general intelligence. These skills concern how we deal with any information that is relevant to emotion. In more detail, our emotional intelligence is made up of how we judge emotion and express it, how we make use of whatever information we gain from emotion, and how we regulate...

Maturity

For many years, it was only children that were studied by developmental psychologists. Then, interest also began to centre on ageing and the elderly. Eventually, the entire lifespan began to feature, including the relatively quiescent middle years. Considering adult life as a whole, it is dotted with various milestones, transition points in life that occur for many, if not most, people. Such transitions points will vary, of course, from time to time, historically, and from culture to culture....

References

Ainsworth, N.D.S. (1979) Infant-mother attachment. American Psychologist, 34(10), 932-937. American Psychiatric Association (1994) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 4th edn. Washington, DC APA. Asch, S. (1956) Studies of independence and conformity a minority of one against a unanimous majority. Psychological Monographs General and Applied, 70, 1-70. Bowlby, J. (1973) Attachment and Loss, vol. 2. Separation. New York Basic Books. Bowlby, J. (1980) Attachment and Loss, vol. 3. Loss. New York...

Psychology in life

Jeff is a man in his forties, happily married with a growing family. Currently, he is in the neurological ward in a hospital, recovering from the effects of a particularly traumatic car accident. Driving home in murky conditions, he was sideswiped at great speed by a young man who had been banned from driving. He had stolen a car and simply lost control on a bend travelling much too fast for the road conditions. Jeff suffered a broken leg, a broken arm, several broken ribs, a punctured lung and...

The basics of emotion cognition

It is clear that emotion and cognition are intimately intertwined and that emotion and motivation are also connected. It is difficult to understand emotion without considering cognition. Imagine that you have just woken up on the morning when you are due to have root canal surgery. You have not experienced this before but many of your friends have and they all speak of it, wincing with expressions of mild horror. You get up and find that you are very tense, so much so that breakfast is an...

Old age and death

It begins at different times for different people, although what exactly 'it' is, is hard to say. Clearly it is a time of decline, although arguably every year from the early twenties onwards might be described similarly. It is also to some extent a matter of attitude. Some people reach a particular age, say 60, and regard themselves as officially old at that point and so start behaving in an 'old' way. There are stories of people of that age who are perfectly fit...

The placebo effect

As well as giving those who are in psychological pain drugs to help alleviate the pain, the effectiveness of any such drugs has to be assessed - as does the effectiveness of any psychological therapy as well. The major points that have to be established are, first, whether the person might have improved anyway, even if the drug (or the therapy) had not been administered. Second, it is important to find out whether any beneficial effect from a drug might simply have come from the administration...

A specific health problem smoking

In order to illustrate some of what has been discussed in this chapter, various health problems could be considered in more detail, but one that is frequently mentioned in the contemporary world is smoking. The illness-related effects of smoking have now been incontrovertibly established. Smoking has direct effects on all respiratory and heart and circulatory diseases, as well as lung cancer. In Western society, people of different ages typically smoke different amounts, becoming more...

The specific emotions

In everyday life, the specific emotions are very important to us. We don't just feel 'emotional', we experience anger or sadness or joy or guilt, or whatever it might be. Emotions exist in quite discrete ways although they can also appear in very complex mixtures. So, for example, we might well experience sadness in a very pure form if our dog has just died or we might experience a complex mixture of sadness, anger, anxiety, jealousy and even guilt and shame if our relationship has just ended....

Forming and maintaining relationships

Charles is a 23-year-old rather shy and inhibited man. He lives with a male flat-mate and has a good, steady job in an office. The prospects for career advancement are reasonable although not startling and Charles has a number of outside interests, all of which tend to be pursued alone -reading, running and hiking or walking in the countryside when time off allows. He gets on well with his parents and visits them quite regularly. Like him, they tend to be quiet people who keep themselves to...

Leadership

The weekly round-up meeting had started and the case managers were making their presentations about the patients. Quickly, the usual petty envies began to emerge between the various professional groups. The occupational therapists crossed swords with the physiotherapists, the social workers looked askance at the psychologists and the psychologists looked askance at everyone, particularly the doctors. The doctors looked down their noses, or so it seemed to the paramedics. The team leader sat...

Love and attachment

One of the most significant social developments for many people towards the end of adolescence (although for some it may not happen until a little later) is the formation of an attachment to or a close relationship with another person. People fall in love. Love itself is a huge and fascinating topic about which writers of fiction and poetry have probably done rather better than psychologists. Before talking a little about the attachments that make up romantic love, it is important to say that...

Communicating in groups

Imagine that you have agreed to take part in a psychological experiment. You were recruited by a rather formidable-looking middle-aged man of obvious maturity. He was wearing a white coat and you felt that he was clearly someone who was knowledgeable and expert, a person of some authority. You are invited into a psychological laboratory and find yourself surrounded by some surprising and interesting examples of electric and electronic equipment. He asks you to sit in front of some of this...

Work and play

Most of us work, usually, but not always for money. Other than to survive, why do we do it What are the links between motivation and work In general, work provides a way to satisfy various needs - for competence, for achievement, for affiliation, for power (these are discussed later). Self-determination is integral to how hard we work. Generally, if we can set our goals, set our own times of working, and change what we are doing from time to time, then we will tend to work harder than if no...

Hunger

We need to eat to live and for most people the feeling of hunger is a regular and very familiar occurrence. But the mechanisms that control hunger are a very complex mixture of the physiological and the psychological. There is the intake of necessary energy in the form of calories and there are fat deposits and general metabolic rate. There are also external, psychologically mediated factors such as the sight or the smell of a favourite food. This might well tempt us to eat even though we have...

Anxiety disorder 2 obsessivecompulsive disorders OCDs

These anxiety-driven disorders take the form of persistent (unwanted) thoughts or impulses to perform certain actions that cannot be resisted, usually in order to be rid of the thoughts. 'If I walk through this doorway 17 times, then I'll stop thinking over and over again that she doesn't love me.' The thoughts and actions involved in OCD are unwanted and not enjoyed at all. The person knows that the behaviour is foolish, nonsensical or pointless, but cannot desist from doing it. He or she...

Anxiety disorder 1 phobias

Anxiety and panic disorders were discussed in passing in Chapters 2 and 3 and stress will be considered in the next chapter. This leaves phobias and obsessive-compulsive disorders to mention here. Phobias are persistent irrational fears of something - it can be anything, an object, an event, a setting anything that upsets the individual. All that the word irrational means in this context is that the fear does not make sense to others who do not share it, and that there appears to be no clear...

Emotion in the arts and in sport

The regulation of emotion always occurs in some context or other - it has to. Many of these contexts involve either leisure or work (discussed earlier in this chapter). Other than family life (which might be regarded as a mixture of leisure and work), these two together characterise what can loosely be termed culture. In other words, this is a combination of the customs and achievements and style of a particular group of people. This section, then, is to do with how, in practice, people...

Piaget and cognition

It is impossible to read or think about children's development without considering the influence of Piaget on our understanding. His main contributions were in the area of how the child develops the capacity to think Piaget, 1952 . Of course, the ability must be there from the start, otherwise nothing would develop. However, it is clear that different modes or styles of thought characterise different ages. By the way, the ages and stages are not strict there is considerable individual...