January 28, 2023

Desperate for uplifting news, look for advances in medicine. Here's one about treating depression.

 Desperate for uplifting news, look for advances in medicine. Here's one about treating depression
By Hal Brown, MSW,
retired psychotherapist and mental health center director

The photo used in the article had a stone wall as a background. I changed it for an illustration used in another article for this blog.

Most, perhaps all, of the readers of my political stories, have to cope with varying levels of anxiety and depression over the future of our country. I don't have to spell out what we are afraid of. 

One article in the website NeuroscienceNews.com tells us what we already know:

When Chronic Stress Activates These Neurons, Behavioral Problems Like Loss of Pleasure and Depression Result

To use a non-scientific word, this is a bummer.

When there's another revelation that makes you want to scream in outrage or hide your head under a blanket, for just one example, this story from yesterday's HUFFPOST:

Right-Wing Media, Top Republican Team Up To Push Racist Conspiracy Theory About Ex-Biden Aide, if you look for them you will find inspiring news that has nothing to do with politics.

I've been writing about the pleasure in the misfortune of other, or schadenfreude, I feel when MAGA's like Trump, Taylor Greene, Devolder-Santos, and hapless Kevin McCarthy who has to sleep on the spiky mattress bed he's made for himself, and find they've stepped in either a bear-trap or a pile of shit.

There is perverse pleasure in following the misfortune of these despicable characters. The German word for this experience is schadenfreude. I've used this word in two recent blogs: More Schadenfreude: John Bolton, Trump, and DeSantis for President and  Santos leads the GOP in eliciting Schadenfreude, no doubt more to come.

There's all kinds of good news in addition to political news eliciting a feeling of schadenfreude. I follow news about advances in other kinds of science besides medicine. Our knowledge of psychics and the cosmos is increasing at a furious rate but while this often fascinates it doesn't directly effect my life or the lives of the people I care about.

It is what we are learning about medicine that affects each of us most directly. We all know about the advances which hopefully be coming within a year for developing better vaccines and treatments to fight against Covid, a disease those lucky enough not have had it know any day we could have a symptom that prompts us to take the test and discover we have been infected. 

Those of us who follow medical news closely know advances are being made treating or slowing the progress of demential and Alzheimer's. There are early promising clinical trials being started for cancer treatments.

The ailment that is the most closely related to politics is depression, often associated with anxiety. 

If someone already has clinical depression they could be living in the glory days of the Obama administration or JFK's Camelot and they'd still be depressed.
For someone who already struggles with depression dealing with the news about what the GOP is hellbent of turning the government and the country into causes anxiety. Anxiety is always stressful. It leads to worry and worry easily worsens existing clinical depression and for those not already clinically depressed it can be the cause of clinical depression.

There are a number of old treatments for depression that have proved effective including a number of anti-depressant medications, newer medications, and cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy. A treatment that has gained in popularity since it was introduced in 2008 is Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).

Studies show that almost 15 million Americans over the age of 18 suffer from severe depression. I don't have numbers for how many suffer from mild to moderate depression but even periods of mild depression can lead to a drastic change in how someone experiences their life.

Consider the dates on the following chart and note that happened in 2016 when Trump was elected:

Now for the good news that led me to write this.
You can say this isn't breaking news in that it comes from October, 2022. However, it is really new news because I haven't seen it reported in the mainstream media. It tells us that a promising avenue of research has been opened. It is also new news if it is new to you.

A Drug That Increases Dopamine Can Reverse the Effects of Inflammation on the Brain in Depression - Neuroscience News

The drug being studied for depression in Levodopa, often called L-DOPA. To say it has been around for a long time is an understatement. If you saw the Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro movie "Awakenings" (based on a 1970 book with the same name by Oliver Sacks) this was the drug used to "awaken" the patient played by DeNiro.

The drug was first studied in the 1950's. Two Nobel Prizes were awarded to the scientists who developed it. (Read more on Wiki)

There are lots of ways to deal with our anxiety and depression and the tole it takes on our quality of life. Recognizing that there is help available and not feeling stigma if you consider seeking it is certainly crucial. Since you're reading this blog you're not likely to be a macho MAGA asswipe who calls liberals who get counseling and therapy snowflakes

If liberals are snowflakes, or overly sensitive, the MAGA's who call them that are insensitive bullies throwing iceballs with rocks in them. (I remember one snowball fight at the school playground where some kids who thought they were tough guys put rocks in their snowballs.)

Dear fellow snowflakes, please be proud that you have feelings and empathy and all the other traits that make you a decent person. Take care of yourself. And when things are really looking dismal - whether from the world of politics to mass shootings to police violence, do what works for you to lessen your stress.

If taking a time out from the news words, do that. Take time to appreciate your family, nature, and indulge yourself in uplifting streaming video like one of our favorites, the Canadian series Heartland. Try something new that you've been putting off doing like joining a yoga group or exercising more. I'm lucky enough to have a pool where I live so I am trying to get into a swimming routine.

Try to remember that there are talented dedicated people, heroes really, who are working their damnedest to help us make our lives better. Those who come to mind most frequently make the news. 

While a few scientists like Dr. Fauci make the news there are countless researchers like those referenced in the article about L-DOPA who also are working tirelessly to benefit not only us, but humanity.

You can following breaking news in various areas in medicine by subscribing to or looking at Neuroscience News, Medscape, Psychiatric Times, and PLOS.

Some of these articles have technical titles like

Functional connectivity in reward circuitry and symptoms of anhedonia as therapeutic targets in depression with high inflammation: evidence from a dopamine challenge study. This may account for the reason that the mainstream media doesn't report on them. They may include terms like anhedonia which basically means reduced motivation, reduced anticipatory pleasure (wanting), reduced consummatory pleasure (liking).  This includes eating, touching a loved one, and engaging in sexual interactions. It happens to be the name of a movie.

January 27, 2023

Trump's secret plan for easily ending the war in Ukraine, Santos, and other schadenfreude tidbits

 Trump's secret plan for easily ending the war in Ukraine, Santos, and other schadenfreude tidbits
By Hal Brown

A link to this was in my email this morning:

Click above to read article
The article leads with these points:

  • Donald Trump appeared to criticize a decision by the US and Germany to provide tanks to Ukraine.
  • "FIRST COME THE TANKS, THEN COME THE NUKES," Trump said on his social media platform.
  • Trump also suggested ending the war in Ukraine would be "easy," without elaborating.

    At first blush on reading this I wondered what easy plan the man with the biggest brain had for ending the war which he was withholding, perhaps figuring he could sell it to President Zelensky or his pal Putin or even the fake president, Joe Biden.

    Then it occurred to me. What a dummy I was. Of course the easy way to end the war would be for Ukraine to unconditionally surrender.

    This would no doubt make Marjorie Taylor Greene happy:
    Her tweet led to these replies:

    In case you read my blog about Greene's aspirations before I tweaked my original illustration which just depicted her inside of the presidential seal, here's the new improved photoshop.

    Back to Trump:

    I wrote a few days ago that Trump's having Truth Social is a gift to prosecutors. I wrote that Trump behaves like a child who has problems with impulse control who is having a temper tantrum when he doesn't get his way. Once a tantrum starts there's a point of no return where the child, or adult in people like Trump, is no longer considering the negative consequences. 

    Trump can't restrain himself and perhaps with no-one around to vent to or make ridiculous self-aggrandizing claims to he takes to Truth Social where what he expresses can't be erased. From journalists tasked to monitor Truth Social to ordinary citizens there are many people making screen grabs of whatever he posts there.

    Here's an example. He posted this on Truth Social:

     “Does Coco Chow have anything to do with Joe Biden’s Classified Documents being sent and stored in Chinatown?” Trump wrote. “Her husband, the Old Broken Crow, is VERY close to Biden, the Democrats, and, of course, China.”


    Former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao fired back at former President Donald Trump for his racist remarks about her — insisting his attacks reveal “a whole lot more about him than it will ever say about Asian Americans.” 

    Chao, 69 — who has frequently been referred to by the former president as “Coco Chow” — issued the rare rebuke on Tuesday.

    Yesterday's National Review article referencing Truth Social was just reported on again on Morning Joe:

    And then there's George, or whatever his name is:

    This offers a lot of schadenfreude: 

    Kevin McCarthy "stands by" George Santos: Now the MAGA caucus owns his lies

    The Republican Party's illicit affair with a con man has already gone south. But Kevin McCarthy can't let go

    It is unusual, if not unprecedented, for a freshman member of Congress to make the top of the Washington Post website the way Santos has.
    Here's another story from the Post:

    This is breaking news Friday evening - I did add something to the photo:

    I thought it was interesting that website of The New York Times (see image) didn't have a single article about Santos.

    I blogged about George Santos yesterday and by this morning couldn't keep up with the new revelations about him to add to that story.

    Click above to read article

    The Wiki entry, last edited in 2011, appears to match up with biographical information currently provided by Santos, including his birth date and being born to a Brazilian family with a European background, Politico reported Friday.

    It also claims “Devolder” acted in a movie starring Uma Thurman and appeared in the TV series “Hanna Montana,” an apparent misspelled reference to a Disney show that starred Miley Cyrus, noted The New York Post.

    Any appearances as a drag queen by Santos could cause a meltdown within the Republican Party, whose members have very specifically attacked drag performances as part of their anti-LGBTQ hate campaign.

    On Jan. 11th I wrote Santos leads the GOP in eliciting Schadenfreude, no doubt more to come. No doubt, indeed, here it is Jan. 27th and he has been a gift that keeps on giving me pleasure, or schadenfreude if you prefer: 

    Schadenfreude is the experience of pleasure, joy, or self-satisfaction that comes from learning of or witnessing the troubles, failures, or humiliation of another. It is a borrowed word from German, with no direct translation, that originated in the 18th century. . Wikipedia

    There's more schadenfreude eliciting news. 

    While the report that John Eastman seems likely to get disbarred, and that Marjorie Taylor Greene had an amendment about releasing oil from the reserves defeated in the House 418 to 14

    The most promising pleasure I am hesitant to let reach the level of schadenfreude is the news reported here:

    Click above to read article

    Also read: 

    Bill Barr asked Italian officials to discredit Russia probe — they responded with evidence linking Trump to crimes

    I am hesitant to let myself feel too optimistic about this. It could lead once and for all to proving that the dots are clearly connected proving Putin attempted to get Trump reelected. Ideally we may learn that the attempt to prove that the there was no effort by Putin to influence the election could prove the very opposite.

    I just don't want to get my hopes up since Trump seems to have the most tenacious Teflon in the world. Not only that, whenever I indulge in schadenfreude in excess I come across articles like this: 

    The quiet takeover of the Tea Party: GOP establishment is now full MAGA

    Click above to read

    Meanwhile, the MAGA movement, under Trump, took up what was once the undercurrent of the Tea Party movement, the culture war, and brought it to center stage. No longer did anyone have to pretend that all they cared about was spending cuts. They could hate on immigrants and Black people and gays and liberals right out in the open and could do it in the crudest terms possible. Conspiracy theories were encouraged to flourish and loyalty to Trump was the only "issue" they needed to care about.

    This new Congress finally brings it all to the fore. It's all come together. The anti-tax, government-slashing extremists are one with the revolutionary MAGA culture warriors. Today Speaker Kevin McCarthy embraces Freedom Caucus member and MAGA heroine Marjorie Taylor Greene while Freedom Caucus founder and MAGA leader Jim Jordan leads a crusade to "take down the deep state" and Freedom Caucus member and MAGA superstar Matt Gaetz plots ways to destroy the economy if they don't get their way. They are all one. These former gadflies and bomb throwers are the establishment now. They are the Republican Party. The metamorphosis is finally complete.

    File these under semi-schadenfreude:

    Trump slapped down by judge in bid to avoid Jan. 6 Capitol cop trial

    McCarthy allies scrambling after leadership fight eroded his power: report


    January 26, 2023

    Medical Mysteries: Diagnose Trump and Santos

     Medical Mysteries: Diagnose Trump and Santos
    By Hal Brown, MSW, Retired psychotherapist and mental health center director

    I subscribe to a medical newsletter which regularly has a "medical mystery" article which has a quiz of sorts where a patient is described with a list of presenting problems and symptoms. Then the reader goes through a number of pages which asks questions as to what the reader thinks the diagnosis is. The New Yorker may not be publishing these anymore, but they used to have articles about medical mysteries where a  patient presented with unusual symptoms and the quest to determine the rare disorder was described.

    Now we have two politicians who present a psychiatric diagnostic conundrum. 

    Trump was the easiest until recently. Numerous mental health professionals went public explaining how he fit the (unofficial) diagnostic criteria for being a malignant narcissist. By now I should have the link to this Wikipedia entry memorized having posted it so often in my articles.

    Today we have two Raw Story articles related to Trump's mental health:

    Click above to read

    George Conway isn't a mental health professional and may or may not be using the reference to losing touch with reality colloquially or clinically. Perhaps he means them both way since he has demonstrated that he's psychologically very well informed. Not being in touch with reality, that is being able to differentiate what is real from what isn't real (called "reality testing") is a hallmark of someone who is on the verge of having a psychotic episode or already being psychotic. 

    This summarized an article in the conservative National Review:

    Click above to read

    Consider this excerpt:

    National Review columnist Charles C.W. Cooke believes that former President Donald Trump has been more unhinged than usual, and his latest essay examines what he describes as Trump's "deterioration" as observed through his Truth Social posts.

    Cooke describes Trump as "ranting like a deranged hobo in a dilapidated public park" and he notes that his Truth Social posts are loaded with esoteric references that only his diehard fans can even begin to understand.

    Note the words unhinged and deranged both of which are slang for someone who is be psychotic. The message being conveyed here is that his behavior has worsened to the point he may be veering into psychosis.

    HUFFPOST had this article about the Cooke piece in The Wall Street Journal and offered this excerpt:

    “There was a point in time at which Trump’s unusual verbal affect and singular nose for underutilized wedge issues gave him a competitive edge. Now? Now, he’s morphing into one of the three witches from Macbeth. To peruse Trump’s account on Truth Social is to meet a cast of characters about whom nobody who lives beyond the Trump Extended Universe could possibly care one whit.”

    I used up my last free Wall Street Journal click to read the article and noted the first sentence: "The former president’s deterioration is on full display in the Truth Social asylum he built for himself." The word deterioration is often used in psychiatry and in the same sentence with asylum it seems the writer is making the case that Trump is ready for the rubber room.

    Here's how the WSJ article ends:

    Throughout his public career, Trump has resembled nothing so much as a drunken talk-radio caller from Queens, and, on Truth Social, readers get the treat of watching him at the zenith of his rhetorical powers. Nobody — and I mean nobody — can shift gears as fast as Donald J. Trump. One moment he’s proposing that the solution to the Supreme Court leak is to “arrest the reporter, publisher, editor—you’ll get your answer fast,” or, if that fails, “put whoever in jail.” The next, he’s describing the prosecution of his business associate, Allen Weisselberg, as “the greatest Witch Hunt of all time.” His repertoire is unmatched — and unmatchable. He can do edgy insult comedy for the people listening in at the bar: “The reporter was a shaky & unattractive wack job, known as ‘tough’ but dumb as a rock.” He can make numbers up off the top of his head: “The change in the Election was Complete & Total, with Millions of votes switched, at least 17%.” He can use hyperbolic analogies: “Our Country is SICK inside, very much like a person dying of Cancer.” He can even do angry: “May he Rot In Hell!” He can do anything.

    Anything, that is, except focus on the world outside — where the problems that Donald Trump once used to propel himself into the White House remain real and pressing, whether or not he chooses to engage with them.

    Several times a week it seems there are news reports of Trump lying with no regard for, or not caring about, the bad publicity it will generate. For example: 

    Click above for MSNBC story.

    We know Trump is impulsive. We don't know if he has an impulse control disorder, or whether his impulsivity is part of another disorder.

    In this age of QAnon and election denial there are so many people who believe things that are both irrational and false that researchers have looked into and discovered that the rates of people suffering from mental illness are much higher. than previously thought. Consider this article in The Conversation: 

    Many QAnon followers report having mental health diagnoses

    Back in 2020 I wrote 

    What psychotherapists can't tell us about Donald Trump. Why does he lie? Will be become psychotic?

    Hardly a day goes by that one or more Trump Truth Social posts make the news. Many of them are rants that come close to or cross the border between rationality and irrationality. 

    As far as George Santos goes, just this morning there are the following articles on Raw Story:

    Clockwise from left by first words in title: Bizarre, Complete Chaos, Man Listed, Critics rip.

    Since putting together this story collage another Santos story went up on Raw Story:
    Click above to read

    George Santos made 'offensive' past joke about Hitler and 'The Jews': report

    Posted Fri. Jan. 27:

    George Santos appears to admit drag queen past in Wiki post

    A user with the name Anthony Devolder wrote in 2011 that they won several drag pageants. Anthony Devolder is a Santos alias.

    All of these articles paint a somewhat different picture of Santos but what they have in common is that they describe someone who, to be trite, just isn't normal.

    Over my 40 years as a psychotherapist diagnosing uncountable patients I find Santos to be presenting a medical, or psychiatric if you prefer, mystery. Diagnostically the question about Trump and his diagnosis is easier because he has, probably since early adulthood, been a malignant narcissist. 

    Currently the question, the mystery, is whether or not he is either becoming irrational because he is having narcissistic rage episodes (read article) or is becoming psychotic.

    Santos may just be a stupid sociopath (now called anti-social personality):

    Antisocial personality disorder, sometimes called sociopathy, is a mental disorder in which a person consistently shows no regard for right and wrong and ignores the rights and feelings of others. People with antisocial personality disorder tend to antagonize, manipulate or treat others harshly or with callous indifference. They show no guilt or remorse for their behavior. Reference
    Most addressing this in the general media seem to believe this is the case and don't go deeper by delving into other possible explanations for his behavior.

    There are other possibilities. 

    The first that comes to mind may be the least plausible but I think of it because of Hershel Walker. Walker wrote a book (probably ghost written) about how he overcame having a dissociative identity disorder, commonly called multiple personality disorder. I am skeptical about the truth of this but it does explain some of Walker's behavior. It also could explain some of Santos's behavior. While most common in women who were sexually abused as children, it conceivable that Santos actually has different personalities (called alters) some of who have amnesia for that the others do.

    We do know that Santos, on the surface at least, is a serial liar since it isn't telling a lie if you don't remember doing something you really did. There's no official psychiatric diagnosis for being a serial liar. Like Trump, Santos has lied many times and paid no heed to the fact that his lies could easily be exposed as such. Of course if it was a horse race Trump would cross the finish line while Santos was just leaving the starting gate.

    Santos could have a borderline personality disorder, also known as emotionally unstable personality disorder. This is a personality disorder characterized by a long-term pattern of unstable interpersonal relationships, distorted sense of self, and strong emotional reactions.Wikipedia

    My sense is that there is evidence he has histrionic personality disorder. It is defined as a personality disorder characterized by a pattern of excessive attention-seeking behaviors, usually beginning in early childhood, including inappropriate seduction and an excessive desire for approval.Wikipedia

    No matter what one might deign to diagnose either of these individuals as having Trump is exponentially more dangerous since his cult doesn't care whether he's batshit crazy or not.  Santos is a gift to Democrats. Read  Santos leads the GOP in eliciting Schadenfreude, no doubt more to come.

     Watch satire of supporters of George Santos from his home district explain why they support him:

    January 25, 2023

    Anybody think Marjorie Taylor Greene doesn't want to be president?

     Anybody think Marjorie Taylor Greene doesn't want to be president?
    By Hal Brown

    Two days ago I also wrote about Marjorie Taylor Greene: 
    Kevin and Marjorie, sitting in a tree, K I S S I N G

    Newsweek article shown above 

    Donald Trump and Kevin McCarthy Share Love-In After 'Crazy' Speaker Race

    NBC News article shown above

    Marjorie Taylor Greene aims to be Trump's VP pick in 2024 -- "She sees herself on the short list for Trump's VP," said former Trump aide Steve Bannon, who has spoken with Greene.

    What a no-brainer question my title is. 

    I have no doubt that MT Greene aspires to higher office. In her dreams I think she sees herself;f as the first woman president.

    She has only three options for higher office unless you count being appointed to be a Supreme Court Justice (one doesn't have to be a lawyer). 

    She could run for governor. 
    She could run for the Senate. 

    She could be Trump's choice as his VP running mate, no inference meant by using the term "mate" intended. This would be her most likely ladder to the presidency since  Trump might not live to complete a term should he be elected. 

    Considering her narcissism and need to be the center of attention I think if she had a choice she'd want to run with Trump. If Trump won or lost the primary  she would be thrust into the spotlight in ways that only ever happened when she was featured at a Trump rally.

    If horror upon horror Trump won I have little doubt she would be even less in the news than Kamala Harris. Trump doesn't want anybody upstaging him.

    Unless Greene has some plans to hasten his demise - not to say she'd take active steps - but stress can be a big factor in life expectancy, she would be advised to consider the fact that he, like Biden, may be what is called a super-ager. Research suggests that both of them are very likely to life our another term if they are elected.

    The key findings of the study:

    • Biden and Trump are likely to be "super-agers," a subgroup of people that maintain their mental and physical functioning and tend to live longer than the  their age.
    • Both candidates have a higher than average probability of surviving a four-year term in office, relative to other men their age. For Biden, the probability of surviving the next four years is 95.2% (vs. 82.2%). For Trump, this is 90.3% (vs. 86.2%).
    • Biden is expected to outlive Trump, even though he is three years older. In the paper, the researchers note Biden's "nearly perfect health profile for a man his age," compared with Trump's "significant but modifiable" negative risk factors.
    • While Trump is noted to have an elevated familial risk of late-onset Alzheimer's disease, neither candidate is expected to have major cognitive functioning challenges now or during the next four years.

    What she has to be careful of if she wants to be Trump's VP selection is that for the present she serves two masters, Kevin McCarthy and Donald Trump. If these two have a falling out she will have to chose sides. 

    That might not be easy. McCarthy has the power to derail her ambitions to be the unofficial Speaker of the House calling the shots whenever she thinks it will accrue to her benefit. On the other hand if she crossed Trump he would never select her to run with him.

    If Trump won and became president then Greene, like Harris, wouldn't be a particularly viable national presidential candidate, although I think Harris would be a much better candidate since, well, she's both very smart and sane.

    Comment below:

    Trumps "Truth" posts add up to the only psychological test you need to diagnose Donald Trump as a dangerous maniac. All the leaders of our allies need to do to be terrifed that he'll be the next president is to read them, by Hal Brown, MSW

    In 2017 Dr. John Gartner, the founder of Duty to Warn, wrote  All I Ever Wanted to Know about Donald Trump I Learned From His Tweets: A Psyc...