Below are some sample PsychLogs from my PSY100 and PSY250 classes, all posted with permission of the students who wrote them. Some of these were written a number of years ago, when students wrote more logs during the semester, with each worth fewer points than under the current system. Thus, the first several logs here are fairly skimpy relative to how I've described they should be now. While they merited most or all of the 8-10 points they were worth at the time (keeping in mind that there were eight logs written throughout the semester), they would definitely not be thorough enough to merit the full 25 points under the current system. The ones closer to the end of this page were turned in using the current system and are thus more along the lines of what you're trying to do now.
As an example of how these were scored: The first one is from PSY250, and is a good example for the most part of the kind of thing one might write about. It describes in considerable detail the outside event/situation about which she is writing. The sections reviewing the course material and applying it to the example are the weakest ones, although she does clearly refer to the criteria for and one associated feature of ADHD described in the textbook, although without reviewing all the criteria and showing whether her cousin does in fact meet the full criteria for the diagnosis. She integrates these by noting which her cousin does and does not meet, and gives her own comments on what it is like for her to interact with her cousin. Under the current scoring system, the relative lack of course material review would lead to a fairly poor score for that section and for the integration section, which suffers from not having enough material to integrate (the lack of review and integration of material on etiology and treatment automatically means the highest score for each section is a 3, and the lack of detail of features of the disorder would lead to a score of 1 or 2 for each of these sections, for a max of 4 instead of the possible max of 14, leading to a max total score of 15/25). However, it is otherwise a good example of one way to approach a PsychLog, as a general idea. The others included here also would receive varying scores as current assignments, but are included here to give you an idea of other ways to approach the PsychLog assignment. For the Psy250 logs, look at the scoring guidelines and try scoring them yourself to get a better idea of exactly how each writer did or didn't earn points for the various components of the log.
Sample Psychlog - PSY250:
I found the topic of ADHD to be particularly interesting because one of my younger cousins was diagnosed with it. While reading the section about ADHD in chapter 15, I could identify so much of the information to what I have observed in my cousin’s actions. Although I have limited contact with her, I think that it is even more easily observed because usually when I do come into contact with her she is not on her medication.
My cousin is very hyperactive, she fidgets, moves around constantly, and especially has trouble sitting still or maintaining herself in situations where it is needed. This fits into many of the descriptions given in the book. She is however a very friendly child who can be very gentle and sociable at times.
Her behavior is especially evident when she is in an environment with my other younger cousins. Unfortunately, they tend to view her in a negative perspective. The cause of this is that she is so bossy while playing with them and is unable to understand when enough is enough. My other cousins try to maintain a distance from her, so as to not offend her I suppose, whenever we are at family gatherings. You can tell that she really is trying to have fun with them and get along with them but to them her actions are unusual. One particular instance happened between my cousin and me. My mother and I had gone to visit my grandparents one weekend. What made this visit different from most others was the fact that I had hurt my ankle badly the night before during a basketball game; it was swollen, hurt a lot, and I really could not even walk on it correctly. When we got to my grandparents, my cousin and my aunt were there. She asked why I was walking funny. My grandparents then told her that I had hurt my ankle and to be careful not to bump into it. The first thing my cousin did after hearing this was to bump into my ankle, as she had just specifically been told to be careful of it. Also, at family gatherings such as weddings or showers, she really tries everybody’s patience. It has come to the point where we now give a specific job to do at the event as soon as possible. This seems to be the most productive strategy as of yet.
Although in chapter 15 it says that children with ADHD are more likely to be in a special education setting, my cousin is not. This seems to be the only criterion she really does not meet. She actually does quite well in school and is a very bright girl. She did however have some problems earlier in school that led one of her teachers to believe she had ADHD. The teacher could tell that she was in fact a smart child but her hyper behavior was preventing her from doing as well as she could on her academics. Since being put on Ritalin however, she is able to override her behavior problems and do better in school.
I feel for my cousin because of her ADHD, but at the same time it is difficult to observe and accept her behavior. This is especially true when she creates a scene or acts out for special family occasions like weddings or showers or holidays. I do hope that she will gain more control over her behavior and will adapt better as she grows.
My future roommates, J, B, R, K, and G, (pseudonyms) are smart, funny, kind, wonderful people. They love Magic (a card game), fantasy role-playing, Monty Python movies, Richard Adams novels . . . and pot. Yes, my best friends are hooked on weed! J and G have been using it since high school; B, R, and K never used weed till college, but they’ve become pretty fond of it.
Marijuana is related to other drugs, such as nicotine, alcohol, sedatives, stimulants, and hallucinogens. Focus 12.1 in the book talks about marijuana possibly being a "gateway" drug, a drug that start people on the path to abusing harder drugs such as heroin or cocaine. Although J has tried cocaine, none of my friends regularly use anything harder than marijuana. The book also talks about marijuana’s medicinal properties, such as its ability to stimulate appetite and reduce nausea. K’s father, who suffers from Crohn’s disease (and is responsible for K’s introduction to marijuana) uses it for this purpose.
The book says that marijuana makes its users feel more sociable. This especially true for K, who flirts with me constantly when he’s high. The book also says it brings "rapid shifts in emotion" and dulls attention. I have seen J. giggle endlessly and then just as suddenly burst into tears after a bowl or two. Also, it is very difficult talk to J or G when they’re high. Little things, like broken glass or the foil of a cigarette pack, will catch their eye and it becomes impossible to get them to listen to you. The text made a reference to hallucinations occurring with high doses, and I don’t think that has ever happened to any of my friends, although B said that he experiences sensory things more intensely while high – colors are brighter, sounds are clearer, "everything just gets prettier". The book is also right about the effects of marijuana being delayed – once I was outside with J and he smoked a couple of bowls, but the giggles didn’t start until about fifteen or twenty minutes after he was finished. J also has reverse tolerance; he smoked pot considerably throughout high school and his first two years of college, and he will get way more high than B 9 who has only smoked about five or six times in his life) when they have both had the same amount. I have also seen the eyes of my friends become bloodshot and their pupils become black basketballs after smoking pot – the book mentions that – and of course, I’ve seen the inevitable "munchies" hit. Sometimes R and J will go through whole boxes of donuts and bags of chips after a "visit with Mary Jane."
The book is right about memory impairments too. J can’t remember anything for very long, and we all blame it on his long history of marijuana use. You have to tell him everything at least a couple of times before it sinks in. G takes pills for high blood pressure, even though he’s only twenty. Although he is overweight, I think the large amount of marijuana he smokes may also be a contributing factor.
I have tried marijuana, although I don’t use regularly. I try to be open-minded about my friend’s marijuana use; I thin pot should be legal and I think it’s less harmful than a lot of other things people do, but I worry about my friends sometimes. G’s allergic to marijuana, and sometimes using it makes him pretty sick. Also, like I said, he has high blood pressure. And G, K, and R find it hard to enjoy marijuana without a few cigarettes (something I disapprove of more than I do marijuana). Mostly, though I think they put too much time and effort into trying to acquire marijuana and then trying to find a place and time to smoke it. And of course once they find marijuana it’s pretty expensive. Being college students, none of them have much money. G is not proud of this, but he has been known to steal it from his roommates, and B has sold it just to get it cheaper for himself. Plus, I’m dating B, and I’ve kind of found it harder than I thought to deal with his smoking pot and selling it since we’ve been going out. I’ve found out that it’s one thing if my friends smoke pot, but quite another if someone I care about on another level smokes it too.
Sample PsychLog - PSY100
Last year in
my psychology class, our teacher
conducted an experiment with us concerning obedience. She
split the room into two groups. One group became the
teachers and one group became the students. She handed out
an explanation on what the teachers were to do and a set of
activities that the students were going to do. I, as a
teacher, was not told to boss the students around or
implement any kind of punishment. All we were ordered to do
was for us to “teach” them some science-related items that
we were given instructions for. Throughout the experiment
though, the teachers sometimes implemented absolutely silly punishments to their students. One example is when a “student” talked without raising her hand: the teacher made the student put tape on her mouth. This example of unusual punishment was very evident through the power of the
teachers and the submission of the students.
In the book titled Psychology by Carole Wade and Carol Tavris, Zimbardo’s prison study was discussed. Young men volunteered to be in this study and were assigned either prisoners or guards. They were given no behavioral instructions. The roles that these people played were
dramatic though. The guards quickly became the dominant powerful type, some following the rules while others became more like tyrants. For example, one guard tried unusual cruel punishment by putting a prisoner in solitary confinement. They may have been following blind obedience.
That is when people obey whatever they are told no matter if it is wrong or right, even if they don’t know why. This concept stemmed from the Holocaust where the German guards were killing Jewish people and others of different ethnicities even if they thought it was wrong, which was the
case. In the case of Zimbardo’s study the prisoners played their role accurate just like the guards. They became very
submissive, often becoming panicky and scared by the actions of the guards.
The study was not clear-cut research; it did not have empirical evidence with facts and statistics and “the
researchers did not investigate relationships between factors”(Tavris/Wade 273). The two designers of the prison
study said that it showed the power of roles, even in a fictitious set-up. This study can show that no matter what
a person’s character may be, they may respond to an uncomfortable situation by putting their personality traits
and private values aside. The obedience shown in this study is not always bad. If there were no obedience according to
the book, the world would be a crazy place. Most people follow orders because of fear of the consequences, but they
try to justify with many things. One way they justify it is when participants just simply believe they should do
something because authority told them to do it. The prisoners did something because the guards told them to do
it. Another way they justify their actions is because of the routine of the task. It is routine for guards to order
around prisoners so it is nothing new to them. The prisoners and guards also want to be polite to the designers of the
study so they try to obey. Lastly, people felt like they were becoming entrapped. They already committed to doing
something small, so now they feel as though they need to keep making steps toward something greater to justify their investment.
When you look at the study that I did in my psychology class with the teachers and the students it
directly relates to Zimbardo’s prison study. The teachers can be related to the powerful guards, while the students
can be related to the submissive prisoners. The teachers, like the guards, were given no real instructions but they
still played their role of the ones in charge. The students, like the prisoners, were not told to take
punishment and be submissive, but they followed the typical role of society. They followed these things because the
authority figure of the guards and teachers told them to do certain things.
In my reaction to this study, along with my study in high school, I think this is such a weird phenomenon. I
believe that if I was in the guard role, just like I was in the teacher role, I would like to become dominant because I
am a person who likes power. The thing that really surprises me is the more quiet submissive people were
playing the role of the teacher with much power. Many of my friends who were very shy and quiet in class soon became
loud and ordered the students around. This seems very weird to me, but I am sure it also happened in Zimbardo’s study.
I believe this study with the teacher/student and the guard/prisoner cases, shows a lot about people. This shows
that no matter what a person is like, we take into consideration the roles that we hold in society and act according.
Sample Psychlog - Psy100
On July 12th, 19xx Gary and Susan N. were blessed with fraternal twin daughters named Rebecca and Rachael. Rebecca was born with bright red hair, while Rachael was born with her mother’s dishwater blonde hair. Both Rachael and Rebecca were raised in a small rural town just an hour south west of Pt. Huron called xx. Their parents made the decision that, although they were twins, Rachael and Rebecca would be encouraged to pursue their own interests instead of conforming to the twin stereotype. As time progressed both Rachael and Rebecca took a common interest in soccer. They played AYSO soccer for many years, and were always on the same team, by their mother’s request. Rachael began piano lessons in fifth grade, and Rebecca began learning trombone in sixth grade, so music was also a common interest among the twins. As the girls entered middle school, their personalities began to take on unique characteristics. In school, Rebecca was a shy, studious, observant student while Rachael was an active, outgoing student leader. However, at home the roles were reversed, Rebecca became the dominant twin and Rachael became studious and reserved. Rachael and Rebecca were born with the same eye color and have also developed similar body types. However, Rachael and Becky do not share the same hair color. The ultimate question scientists are asking is whether their similar interests, personality traits, and body types are due to their genes or a combination of factors.
Heritability is defined as an estimate of the “proportion of the total variance in a trait that is attributable to genetic variation within a group (Wade & Tarvis, 2006, p.87).” For example, physical traits such as eye color among a group of healthy adults are highly heritable because the variance in color is due to the genetic code that person has inherited from their biological parents. On the other hand, someone’s etiquette or social behavior may be contributed solely to the environment in which they were raised. Perhaps that person was abused as a child and thus avoids physical contact. The harmful environment that that child was exposed to is what caused their fear of physical contact, not their genetics. Therefore etiquette and social behavior have a low heritability rate. Heritability is an inconsistent statistic that applies to a specific group of people living in a specific environment (Wade & Tarvis, 2006, p.87). If a group of people all live in the same type of environment, in terms of receiving proper nourishment, education and family support, then the differences in intelligence measured among those people will be mainly due to genetics because the environment is held constant for everyone. Also, heritability statistics can not be applied to individual people because each person has their own unique genetic code and life experiences that contribute to their personal traits. Excelling in one subject doesn’t necessarily mean that you were genetically predestined to excel in that subject. It may just be the result of inspiration from your past. Additionally, even highly heritable traits can be affected by an unfavorable environment. For example, children in Africa that are starving for food may never grow up to be full bodied adults because although genetically they may be capable of achieving an average height, their environment prevents them from receiving the proper nutrition to do so.
In order to study heritability, it is surprisingly inaccurate to use biological relatives within families. Although biological parents contribute to the genetic makeup of a child, not all of that child’s traits can be attributed to genetics because many members of that immediate family often share a home environment which may also contribute to that child’s personality traits. For instance, a child in a family of people who like to eat lots of sweets will most likely develop a taste for sweets, but that cannot be contributed directly to their inherent genetics because the sweets were made available by people in his or her environment. Therefore, a better approach is the study of adopted children (Wade & Tarvis, 2006, p.89). The adopted child has one set of genes from their biological parents, yet they’re raised by two adoptive parents who contribute to their environment (Wade & Tarvis, 2006, p.89). The correlation between the traits the child exhibits compared to their biological and adoptive relatives help produce an estimate of heritability as the result of genetics or environment (Wade & Tarvis, 2006, p.89). Alternately, the third approach of comparing identical and fraternal twins also proves sufficient. The difference between fraternal and identical twins is that identical twins develop from one fertilized egg (monozygotic), while fraternal twins develop from two separately fertilized eggs (dizygotic) (Wade & Tarvis, 2006, p.89). The identical twins are born with an identical genetic code, and conversely the fraternal twins are no more similar then any other siblings in that family (Wade & Tarvis, 2006, p.89). Often in research, groups of same sex fraternal twins are compared to groups of identical twins. The assumed theory is that identical twins will respond similarly because they share a genetic code. To combat this assumption, identical twins that have been separated in infancy and raised separately are used in most heritability studies. When the twins are separated at an early age, any similarities in the traits of the identical twins may be contributed to heritability because their environments are different, so any commonalities are probably due to genetic heritability (Wade & Tarvis, 2006, p. 90).
Rebecca and Rachael are fraternal twins, and consequently should not be any more similar then any other siblings, yet it is not clear whether their similar personality traits and interests can be attributed to their genetic predispositions or the environment in which they exist. Is it the result of genetics that both twins enjoy soccer and music? In this scenario, heritability is harder to determine because the twins live in the same home and share an environment. They may both be genetically inclined to excel at both music and soccer. However, those skills may have been developed through practice and inspiration in their environment as well. Ideally, to test the heritability of this situation, Rachael and Rebecca should have been separated at birth as in the previously mentioned study with same sex identical twins to determine which character traits were inherited. Any distinct similarities in personality would most likely be the result of genetics if they were raised separately. Yet there is no scientifically accurate method for determining whether a person’s interests are the result of genetics or environmental cues. In the reality of this situation, heritability cannot be applied effectively because Rachael, Rebecca and their family all live in the same environment that promotes or discourages the same things, and because of the fact that heritability can not be applied to individuals.In my opinion, I believe that the similar personality traits that Rachael and Rebecca exhibit, such as their social behaviors, are due to the healthy, loving, supportive, and social family environment in which both girls were raised. Perhaps a small portion of their personalities are due to “good genes”, but for the most part I believe that environment is crucial to the development of social behaviors. Physically, Rachael and Rebecca have very similar body types and the same color eyes. Yet, Rebecca has red hair, while Rachael has dishwater blonde. This is a direct result of genetics because your eye color and natural hair color can not be changed by your environment. However, the fact that the girls have inherited the same body type is debatable, because they both grew up in an environment with plenty of nourishment and the proper health care. Their bodies were able to fully mature into their genetically preset height; however that does not necessarily mean that their current height was heritable. In relation to their common interests, I believe that Rachael and Rebecca’s interests are a result mainly of the environmental support for those activities such as soccer and music, and thus have a very low heritability rate. In conclusion, I believe that most traits found in human beings can not be contributed completely to heritability because environmental cues have such an overwhelming effect on us.
Sample PsychLog - PSY250
This psychlog entry is about a friend of mine named Nicole. Nicole and I had been very close throughout grade school and high school. Soon after graduation, Nicole started acting very strange and withdrew from all of her friends. Several times Nicole would take off on foot without telling anybody and not return home for days or weeks. This behavior eventually led to her being put into a halfway house for girls. It was there that she was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I’ve tried to stay in touch with Nicole as best as I can, but it has been difficult since she doesn’t seem to want to be involved with others. Despite Nicole’s retreat from society, I have managed to keep up on how she is doing through contact with her family. I found the chapter and discussion in class on schizophrenia to be very interesting because it has helped me to better understand what happened to Nicole.
In chapter 11 of our book, schizophrenia is discussed in detail. The
symptoms of this disorder can be classified as either positive or negative. The
positive symptoms include formal thought disorder, hallucinations, and
delusions. The negative symptoms are characterized by changes in behavior such
as lack of energy (avolition), reduced quantity and quality of speech (alogia),
and withdrawal from society (asociality). Schizophrenia is also divided into the
following categories: disorganized, catatonic, and paranoid. The fact that
people with schizophrenia can differ greatly from one another can make
classification of subtype difficult.
The first symptom that I noticed in Nicole was her lack of interest in
being with her friends. I now know that this was the negative symptom,
asociality. Nicole lived with her sister for several months and would just lay
around and rarely leave her bedroom. She would often go several days without
showering or fixing up. This was most likely a sign of avolition. One time when
I went to visit Nicole, she continuously questioned my purpose for visiting her.
I think this was due to paranoia. She also seemed to make many loose
associations when we were talking. She often jumped from one topic to another
quite quickly. This could all be a sign of disorganized speech. One
hallucination that I remember her talking about was that she had bugs crawling
on her. Another very disturbing incident that I was told about by some of her
other friends was that she accused them of bringing a video camera to her place
to tape her. She then attacked one of her friends and pushed her through the
screen door. I think Nicole could probably be best classified at this time as a
paranoid schizophrenic. Nicole refused to attend her sister’s wedding because
she thought that everyone would be talking about her. I would expect that Nicole
also heard voices since our book describes this as a very common symptom, but I
don’t know this for sure.
Nicole didn’t tell anybody very much about what was going on with her, I
don’t know what other kinds of symptoms she had. When she took off for several
days, it was discovered that she went to a nearby campground and would hide out
in the woods. One time while she was out walking she passed out from lack of
food and water and the police picked her up. Nicole refused to give the police
her real name, and it was after this that she was put into the halfway house. I
think this was the best thing that could happen to her because it meant that she
finally got the help that she needed. Nicole was put on medication and released
from the halfway after being there for about a month.
last time that I saw Nicole, I excitedly went up to her to talk to her, but she
showed no emotion toward me. She said “hi” to me but that was about it. The
book says that this blunted affect could be either a symptom of the
schizophrenia or a side effect of the medication. Nicole’s mother contacted me
a few weeks later to let me know that Nicole was receiving social security,
living with her sister, and doing fine.
book mentions several high-risk factors that are associated with schizophrenia,
and Nicole did fit a lot of those descriptions. Nicole’s mother had
psychological problems so that could have resulted in a genetic predisposition.
I know that her mother had to take lithium, but I don’t know whether her mom
had bipolar disorder, or if she too had schizophrenia. Consistent with the
book’s description, Nicole was not a very good student, very passive, and
withdrawn prior to the onset of the schizophrenia. Her family life was not very
stable. Nicole’s father left them when she was little. Her family would be
considered of a low socioeconomic status. The book mentioned that substance
abuse is often comorbid with schizophrenia. Nicole’s family often drank and
Despite all of her hardships, I always thought that Nicole would be able to rise above it and succeed. It was very surprising to me when Nicole suddenly stated acting different, but the book mentions that the onset often occurs in early adulthood. It is hard to see the terrible effects that schizophrenia can have on a person and to know that it is not curable. Nicole is no longer the same person that I remember as being one of my closest friends. I wish that there were more that I could do to help her. My parents told me just last week that her mother called and wanted to know how to reach me because Nicole would like to talk to me. I am hoping that her wanting to reach out to me is a sign that she is doing better.
Logs below this point generally received grades of 23 or up out of 25:
Sample Psychlog - Psy250
It is common for a child to feel attached to her parents or caregivers, but when separating from that parent or caregiver becomes difficult, it needs to be addressed. Listed in DSM-IV-TR, separation anxiety disorder is the phrase used to describe this phenomenon and it is something that I was diagnosed with in the sixth grade.
As a fifth and sixth grade student, I frequently refused to go to school. Upon arriving at school, I would get physically ill and then call home to my parents. I missed 17 days of school in a very short period, because my parents and the doctors initially assumed I was ill. I also slept with my parents or on their bedroom floor for fear of being separated from them. The doctor ran a complete battery of tests to ensure that there was not a physical explanation for my illness. Upon completion of these tests, he recommended that I see a psychologist for further analysis. The psychologist then diagnosed me with Separation Anxiety Disorder. After several appointments with her, she began coaching my parents in how to get me to sleep in my bedroom again and how to get me to stay in school. After a period of time, I was able to get through the issues, return to my own bedroom, and return to school without experiencing any physical symptoms.
Separation Anxiety Disorder is a condition that can affect people of all ages, but according to DSM-IV-TR, must be evident before the age of eighteen. It must last for at least 4 weeks, and must also cause harm to the child in at least one part of their life. The final requirement is that the issues are not part of Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Schizophrenia, panic disorder, or any other mental disorder.
Finally, the DSM provides a list of eight separate characteristics and requires three of them for a diagnosis. I demonstrated the first one, “recurrent excessive distress when separation from home or major attachment figures occurs or is anticipated,” in the form of crying and just general emotional discomfort whenever I would be away from my parents, but most of this issue is actually more specific issues that are characterized in other pieces of the disorder.
“Persistent reluctance or refusal to go to school or elsewhere because of fear of separation,” was one of the most obvious issues. In the first few days of sixth grade, I attended so little school that teachers and counselors were noticing.
“Persistent reluctance or refusal to go to sleep without being near a major attachment figure or to sleep away from home,” was evident in my need to sleep near my parents. It is abnormal for a 12-year-old to insist on sleeping with her parents because she is afraid they will leave.
Next, “repeated complaints of physical symptoms (such as headaches, stomachaches, nausea, or vomiting) when separation from major attachment figures occurs or is anticipated,” was one of the most crippling symptoms. Upon separation, whether at night or school, I would begin vomiting. I believe this can be explained through unwanted operant conditioning. I discovered that physically getting sick allowed me to leave school and return home. So, it acted as a reinforcer to my getting sick, and although probably the result of an actual illness, my body discovered that it got me what I wanted. My parents unknowingly granted me the reinforcer.
Finally, “persistently and excessively fearful or reluctant to be alone or without major attachment figures at home or without significant adults in other settings,” was part of my diagnosis. At a time when most kids my age were begging to stay home alone, I would not do it, and there was a very short list of adults I would stay with, all of whom were close family.
There are three specific criteria that I cannot be sure if I experienced; “persistent and excessive worry about losing, or about possible harm befalling, and major attachment figures, persistent and excessive worry that an untoward event will lead to separation from a major attachment figure (e.g., getting lost or being kidnapped) and repeated nightmares involving the theme of separation.” It would not surprise me if I did experience these things, but I do not remember the time in my life well enough to know if this was actually the case. Most specifically, I remember being physically ill and uncomfortable, but I do not remember the cause of my worrying or if the nightmares existed. Because I met enough of the other symptoms, I could be diagnosed without these things.
The etiology of separation anxiety is very similar to that of most other anxiety disorders. One of the main biological aspects is the general vulnerability factor, or the idea that all people are prone to some degree of anxiety, suggests that I may be on the high end. I would suspect that my mother is on the high end of anxiety levels, so it is very likely this is inherited. `Although some disorders are finding changes in there neuroanatomy, there are no specifics on separation anxiety in children to relate to my issues, but it is hypothesized that anxiety disorders are caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. Behavioral inhibition can explain some childhood anxiety disorders because it is an issue that causes children to not participate in the society around them. I do not believe this was my problem, because I have never had a problem participating in the people and things around me.
The psychologist I saw used a behavioral and cognitive treatment called exposure to treat my condition. Because someone has been exposed to his fear, they can then overcome it. Specially, in my situation, in vivo exposure was used. She simply insisted that I do the things I was fighting. My parents left me in my bedroom and left me the necessities to care for myself should I get sick. They then ignored me for the night. They then did this for a period of nights until I was able to sleep alone. They also worked with a school counselor and arranged for me to go to his office when I felt I was about to get ill. I would then stay there until I could return to class, instead of going to the office where they would allow me to call home. This is in vivo exposure because they forced me to face my specific fear and problems. Leaving me in school or in my own room showed me that it would not seriously harm me in any way, and as much as I could be told this, I need the in vivo exposure to show me this. It is also possible to use imaginal exposure. In this situation the person simply imagines that the event or situation is occurring. This is most useful when it is a fear rooted in the past, such as in the case of a rape victim. Finally, relaxation techniques can be taught to help the patient deal with their anxieties.
There are other possible treatments. A psychoanalytic perspective could be taken, and a psychologist could try to talk to the patient to try to understand what the base of the problem at hand is. They spend a large number of sessions trying to uncover the roots of the issue at hand. This can be effective, but it takes a long period of time. There are also biological ways to treat conditions such as separation anxiety disorder, such as medication. Although anti panic medication can be given to anxiety patients, it has been found that anti depressants actually help to treat the base of the problem. Anxiety medications simply treat the panic in the moment. There are also psychosurgeries that can do away with some anxiety disorders, specifically obsessive compulsive disorder. Cognitive and behavioral theories often have the best long term success, but medication has also proven to be very useful.
I selected this topic because it was a trying time in my life and it is comforting to know that something I felt alone in is actually a legitimate psychological condition. It is also interesting to reflect on something that happened many years ago and look at it from a different perspective. At the time, I was young and scared. I can now examine the symptoms more objectively and consider the effect this could have on my life. Although this was not a positive time in my life, I feel as if it is what is driving me to be a psychologist because of my experiences, both positive and negative, at that time.
This knowledge is also important, because it is speculated by psychologists that there are connections between separation anxiety disorder and other panic and anxiety disorders. If a connection is found, it would then be easier to focus on prevention of later psychological conditions of people who experienced separation anxiety as young children. By better understanding this topic I may be able to help myself in the future.
Sample PsychLog - Psy250
This PsychLog entry is about my personal experience with cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. I have had two different therapists over the past three years of my life that have used the cognitive approach to help treat my generalized anxiety disorder and depression. The hopes of my therapists were to help me prevent panic attacks by thinking more logically through a situation and restructuring my anxious thought processes.
In the cognitive model of psychology, the interpretations of the events, not the events themselves, are what matter in the treatment of psychological disorders and how they begin. Psychiatrist Aaron Beck felt that negative schemas, or world views, led to cognitive distortions. There are ten common cognitive distortions found in the cognitive model. One is all-or-nothing thinking, where the person with this distortion tends to not see any middle ground in a situation. For example, a person who uses all-or-nothing thinking would say something like “If I don’t get a job, I’ll be a failure.” Another distortion is overgeneralizing, which is when a person makes a very broad generalization using minimal evidence. An overgeneralization would be assuming everyone hates you if one person says something rude to you. Mental filtering is when someone only focuses on the negative aspect of a situation. This would be focusing on a person saying they didn’t like one line of a poem their friend wrote but liked it overall and the friend only focusing on that criticism and thinking that that person didn’t like the whole poem. Disqualifying the positive is a cognitive distortion as well. In disqualifying the positive, a person will downgrade their accomplishments. For example, if a person got a large promotion at work, they would attribute it to chance as opposed to their strong work ethic. In the distortion of jumping to conclusions, a person makes faulty assumptions using a single piece of evidence. An example would be if a girl waves to a friend and her friends fails to notice her, the girl would assume that her friend does not like her, instead of thinking she may have just not noticed her. When a person has the cognitive distortion of magnifying, they focus on one particular mistake and make it a very large deal. An example would be someone being stuck on how stupid it was of them to fall on the sidewalk on the way to class. In minimizing, the person will take focus off of an achievement and put it on something they cannot do well. If someone were to minimize a compliment of being a good singer, they would say something like “Yes, but I can’t read sheet music very well and that’s a large component of vocal music.” When someone catastrophizes, they jump to the worst possible scenario. For example, a girl who realizes her school bus is late will think that it has gotten into a horrible accident. When people reason emotionally, they feel their negative feelings are accurate depictions of situations. A situation that show reasoning emotionally would be thinking all dogs are dangerous due to a personal fear of them. When a person makes “should” statements, they expect everyone around them to do what they feel is right at all times. For example, if a person values being on time and their therapist calls them in for an appointment late after dealing with an emergency, they will feel angry, even though the circumstances were out of the therapist’s control. In the cognitive distortion of labeling, a person will think their mistakes make big reflections on their character. A person who labels would call themselves a loser after getting a parking ticket. In mislabeling, events are described using mostly that person’s personal feelings about them. If someone values elders, they may feel placing an elderly family member in a nursing home is an abomination. The final common cognitive distortion is personalizing. In personalizing, a person takes blame for things that they have no control over. For example, a mother would take blame in the event her son dies in an accident. In cognitive behavioral therapy, maladaptive behaviors that may result from these distortions are modified and restructured. This is done in a multitude of ways. One way is using counterconditioning. Counterconditioning is creating a wanted response by attaching positive associations to a stimulus to replace an unwanted response. An example would be systematic desensitization, where a person is exposed to a fear or anxiety inducing agent while using relaxation exercises to cope with the resulting anxieties. Counterconditioning helps by causing the unwanted behavior to become extinct and replaced with a behavior that is more productive, such as someone with OCD taking deep breaths in times of stress as opposed to turning to a ritual. Rearranging contingencies, which is where the environment of the person is changed to produce a wanted result, is also used in CBT. An example of rearranging contingencies is token economics, where symbols, like stars on a star chart, are used to enforce positive behavior by having these symbols be exchanged for a material reward. Rearranging contingencies is helpful in areas such as child rearing. For example, if a child is rewarded for cleaning their room, they will eventually do that behavior without reward and it will become habit. CBT can also use modeling, where a person learns by imitating the positive behavior. An example of this is role-playing, where the person being treated mimics the desired behavior being displayed by another person. This is also useful for children. For example, if a parent or guardian models to a child that yelling is not an acceptable response to conflict, the child will follow suit and have a better temperament. Exposure therapy, which is being exposed to an anxiety causing situation, place, or object and allowing the anxiety to lower naturally to show there is no danger, is also used in CBT frequently for anxiety disorders and PTSD. Exposure therapy can help those that have issues with the cognitive distortions of overgeneralizing, catastrophizing and jumping to conclusions by showing them that thoughts do not equal actions or events, allowing the anxiety associated with the distortions to decrease. Cognitive challenging directly deals with cognitive distortions by teaching a person to identify them in their thoughts and use reasoning to refute their thoughts. Talk therapy is usually used in addition to these, where a client talks freely about their issues in their life. Talk therapy has roots in psychoanalysis theory, but is used as part of the CBT treatment. CBT methods are well studied and supported by several psychiatrists, but yield criticism. CBT ignores individual differences in behavior, such as the temperament of an individual in treatment. It tends to use a one-size-fits-all approach that may not work for everyone. There also times where learning history cannot be found. For example, a person with a fear of dogs is assumed to have had a negative experience with a dog, but sometimes this is simply not the case.
In my personal experience, my therapists helped me
discover that I display quite a few of the cognitive distortions. The ones I
display are all-or-nothing thinking, jumping to conclusions, magnifying,
catastrophizing, and personalizing. In regards to all-or-nothing thinking, I
rarely feel neutral towards people: I either adore them or hate them and feel I
cannot have a neutral feeling towards people. For instance, I feel I cannot have
neutral feelings towards my aunt because of tension in our relationship. My
thought is “since she has wronged me at one, I have to hate her.” I jump to
conclusions by assuming someone dislikes me if they don’t give me a definitive
positive response. I magnify by focusing on every point lost on an assignment.
When I catastrophize, I tend to think people have gotten into accidents if
they’re late. When I personalize, I feel that people laughing around me are
laughing at me because I’ve done something wrong. To help treat my cognitive
distortions, cognitive challenging was used. For my all-or-nothing thinking, my
therapist and I would break down the pros and the cons about a specific person
and see how I felt about them at the end of the process. It allowed me to see
that people are not one dimensional and it is okay if I find them average,
thanks to the reassurance from my therapist. In regards to my aunt, however, I
have used talk therapy to work through my issues with here since they were more
deep rooted than a cognitive distortion so the challenging was not effective for
me. My aunt often would demean me and hurt my feelings in front of the rest of
my family, so I had resentment towards her. Her awful treatment of my
grandmother, such as yelling at her when she couldn’t remember something in the
early onset of her Alzheimer’s, also caused resentment because of the close bond
I have with my grandmother. The resentment was deep and ran years back, so I
would talk about everything my aunt had done in the past that I could never tell
my mom, her sister, so I could feel relieved and have an easier time having an
outlook towards her not filled with hatred. Cognitive challenging was used to
help combat my jumping to conclusions, personalizing, and catastrophizing. When
an event causes me to feel anxious or panic, I have been taught to think of all
of the other possible outcomes in the situation that are different from my
negative interpretation. Almost always, I realize that my negative
interpretation is probably not what is occurring. This has been extremely
effective when I can catch a panic attack before it’s coming, but it does not
work in the midst of a panic attack because I cannot talk myself down from one;
I am too wrapped up in my own mind. Cognitive challenging has also been
effective in helping my issue with magnifying by helping me focus on all of my
other accomplishments. If I would talk about how I messed up on a paper, my
therapist would challenge me to think of the positive comments on my drafts and
that the teacher had made about me throughout the semester. When I was very deep
in my depression, I would overgeneralize and tend to feel I was a waste of time
and space. The way my former therapist tried to combat this was through
cognitive challenging, but it was absolutely not effective because she did not
have unconditional positive regard with me. Unconditional positive regard is
when a therapist is accepting of their client and does not judge them. It is
important because it helps a client feel comfortable sharing with their
therapist. It is not really a part of cognitive challenging, but is important in
talk therapy and therapy in general. She reinforced my generalizations by
telling me she felt I did not want to improve because I wouldn’t follow any of
her suggestions I promptly decided to switch; she was not realizing that I was
too depressed to do some of the things she was suggesting. I ended up having to
do intensive outpatient therapy. Intensive outpatient therapy, or IOP, at my
place of care is group therapy that was three hours a day and ten consecutive
days. In this group therapy, everyone had a chance to talk about their
self-image, how they coped with life events, and focused on specifics such as
coping with grief and domestic abuse. IOP was very helpful for me and that is
where I met my current therapist, who I have an incredible bond with and has
been nothing but helpful. It took me attending IOP for my former therapist to
realize how badly my disorders had gotten out of control. My new therapist, with
her unconditional positive regard, has had success with cognitive challenging
eliminating my overgeneralizations.
Overall, I find CBT to be an effective form of therapy. I can only truly speak for how it works in regards to anxiety and depression. I feel that CBT somehow manages to place logical thought in a place where it has been abandoned. If someone with an anxiety disorder participates in CBT, they could find improvements in controlling their panic attacks by nipping their anxious thoughts in the bud before they bloom into huge, scary panic flowers. For those with depression, thinking of things logically can help alleviate some of the negativity and poor self-image found in those with depression. However, I feel CBT can only be effective if used with unconditional positive regard. If the therapist does not work by this philosophy, their patient may not benefit from any CBT due to a possibility of them feeling invalidated and not supported by their therapist. I find that feeling comfortable and supported is very important in any therapy situation, but for CBT it is more important to me. CBT, in my opinion, comes off very cold due to its disregard of historical factors, so having positive feelings already in place helped my CBT experience be warm and effective.
Sample PsychLog - Psy250
While thinking about the concepts we have covered thus far in Abnormal Psychology there are plenty of examples of how I can apply these examples to things I have seen outside of the classroom. While watching the television show, “The Office”, there is a scene that perfectly exhibits the concept of classical conditioning. One episode begins with two of the main characters Jim and Dwight. Jim is always finding new, and creative ways to prank his desk mate Dwight. The scene opens up with Jim rebooting his computer. When he reboots it, the computer makes a very distinct sound when shutting down. Every time that sound plays Jim offers Dwight an altoid mint. Jim plays this sound over and over each time offering Dwight a mint which he reaches out to grab from across his desk. After several times of Jim repeating this action he plays the sound of the rebooting computer but does not offer Dwight an altoid this time. However, Dwight reaches out his hand to accept the mint without even looking up from his work. When Jim asks Dwight what he is doing Dwight is confused and has no idea why his hand is extended. He makes a comment about how he has a bad taste in his mouth all of a sudden.
Classical conditioning is a learning process that involves learning by association. In this process, two different stimuli are paired over and over again to elicit a response. Eventually, having repeated this process several times, when taking away one of the stimuli the same response is given to the second stimuli. In simpler terms, the two different stimuli are paired together as to elicit a new learned response to the stimuli in which you have no natural reaction. This type of experiment falls into the Behaviorism view of psychology. In behaviorism any response, whether it be normal or abnormal, is considered to be learned as a result of one’s environment as opposed to being born with that response. The responses that we develop toward any and all stimulus is based on observation and what we are taught in our social environment.
For example, we are not born being afraid of spiders, however when we are young and see someone have a bad reaction to spiders being scared, screaming, or running away, we learn that this is an appropriate reaction to spiders and therefore develop a fear of these insects. Ivan Pavlov is famous for his experiment which led to the understanding of classical conditioning. In his experiment using dogs, Pavlov found a way to train a dog to salivate every time it hear a bell. To fully comprehend his experiment it is important to gain a great understanding of the four major elements; unconditioned stimulus, conditioned stimulus, unconditioned response, and conditioned response. An unconditioned stimulus is the stimulus that produces a naturally occurring response or reaction from someone. The conditioned stimulus is the stimulus that is originally neutral and does not produce any type of reaction from a person. The unconditioned response is the reaction that would be produced by the unconditioned stimulus; it is the response that is automatic that occurs naturally and does not have to be learned. Finally, the conditioned response refers to the response that was originally automatic and now it is an established response to the conditioned stimulus. In Pavlov’s classical conditioning experiment with the dog, the unconditioned stimulus was the food because it produced a response naturally, meaning the food produces the reaction of salivation naturally. Therefore, the unconditioned response is salivation because it is a natural occurring response to food. The conditioned stimulus was the bell that Pavlov rang whenever giving the dog food because before when he rang the bell the dog had no response but after conditioning when the bell was paired with food it led the dog to associate the ringing of the bell to the receiving of the food. Finally, after conditioning has taken place the conditioned response is the salivation of the dog. This reaction is produced by the conditioned stimulus because salivation at the sound of a bell is not natural and not a hard-wired response. When the dog heard the bell every time it was to be fed it eventually associated the ringing of that bell with the receiving of the food. Therefore, even when the dog heard the bell without being fed the food his mouth still salivated. This experiment helped Pavlov develop his theory on classical conditioning.
For this type of associative learning to take place the stimulus must be paired with the other stimulus very close together in time, as well as very often, the action but occur several times. Just how this process is key is learning behavior, people can also be taught to unlearn behaviors; this is called counterconditioning. This is commonly used to help people get over phobias which were learned through classical conditioning in the first place. In this process, to unlearn reactions such as salivating when hearing the ring of a bell, you will use a technique called extinction. Extinction is repeatedly pairing the conditioned stimulus without the unconditioned stimulus. After a while of being exposed to the conditioned stimulus without the presence of the unconditioned stimulus the behavior will eventually decline until it stops completely. As for the salivation example, if you repeatedly exposed the dogs to the conditioned stimulus, the bell, by ringing it and then not supplying the dog with the unconditioned stimulus, the food, eventually after being repeated several times the dog will no longer salivate when hearing the bell and the association will be extinct. For extinction to occur the conditioned stimulus must be presented alone for the conditioned response, the salivation, to gradually stop. All of this information about classical conditioning is relevant to this class because abnormal psychology is about the study of unusual patterns of behavior including mental disorders, phobias, and other behaviors that may fall under the broad category of abnormal. When studying some of these behaviors it has been found that some conditions such as phobias, or mental illnesses such as eating disorders can be learned through classical conditioning, as well as unlearned through a similar process. For example, phobias such as fears of mice can be learned through this process by pairing a rat, the conditioned stimulus with making a loud banging noise, the unconditioned stimulus, and this will elicit the fear in a child which they will associate with mice after being associated and being repeated several times. As the fear of mice has developed, to reverse the fear you would expose the child to the mice without the loud banging noises repeatedly until they get comfortable and the fear will become less and less until extinction. This is why classical conditioning is related to abnormal psychology. This is a component of behavioral therapy which falls under the scope of abnormal psychology.
In the television show, The Office, where I derived the example of classical conditioning the scene which I had described is an exact model of Pavlov’s experiment. It is a very obvious example the only thing in the scene that is different that the experiment performed on the dogs was that the main character Jim tried the experiment on his coworker Dwight, and instead of dog food he used altoid mints. In the show, Jim was trying to make Dwight salivate at the sound of a bell, or the rebooting of the computer more specifically, just like the original experiment. In this version, the unconditioned stimulus was the altoid mint because even without the sound of the computer he would still want the mint either way. The unconditioned response was the reaching out of his hand and the salivation when receiving and consuming the mints because it a natural and hard-wired reaction when eating mints, it is not manipulated by any other stimulus. The conditioned stimulus would be the sound of the computer rebooting. Every time he reboots the computer the same distinct sound plays that otherwise would only be related to the computer and elicit no other reaction. Lastly, the conditioned response is reaching out of his hand and salivation. After the experiment was repeated several times in a close amount of time Dwight associated the sound of the computer rebooting with the receiving of a mint, and therefore the salivation. After repeating this process so many times it became habitual and I could tell that Dwight wasn’t even consciously aware of what was happening and the fact that he was being “trained” because when he heard the sound he would not even lift his head up from his work or look at Jim he would just reach his hand out to accept the mint. When Jim eventually stopped handing Dwight the mints but then still played the sound of the computer rebooting Dwight reached his hand out and then stated that his mouth had a bad taste to it all of a sudden. Dwight paired the conditioned stimulus with the unconditioned stimulus because he was used to hearing the sound and receiving the mint at the same exact time. This fits classical conditioning because it follows the exact same method that was used in the original experiment by Pavlov and all of the four major elements were used meaning the criteria was met and the same associative process happened when Jim stopped giving Dwight the mints but rebooted his computer and Dwight still salivated. The scene was not any longer or did not go in to any more detail however, if it had and Jim did not continue this process pairing the rebooting sound of the computer with a mint Dwight would eventually go into the extinction phase and the salivation would eventually stop. For the conditioned response to continue, Jim would have to keep a continuous flow of mints and rebooting sounds otherwise the pattern would stop just like in any classical conditioning case.
The concept of classical conditioning really fascinates me not only because there is a way to possibly manipulate people without really any of their knowledge of what is happening. I find psychology so interesting whenever I learn something new I always look for examples in everyday life and it is really intriguing to think about all of our behaviors that are socialized and a result of our environment yet we have no idea why we behave in such ways for the most part. I like to make an attempt at trying to understand why people are the way that they are and what factors have contributed to their personality and their behaviors. Classical conditioning is a common way that we learn to associate two things and link them together, and that is one way to find an explanation to figure out people’s behaviors. For example, just about everyone has some type of fear such as heights or snakes or even dogs. I like having a better understanding as to how these phobias may have developed. Such as when we were younger we saw our parents react fearfully to a spider and perhaps scream or run away, and when we see this action we associate that reaction with spiders and therefore develop that fear ourselves. It is also very interesting to me that people have the ability to reverse the fear through a similar process, counterconditioning. These things are on such an unconscious level that we rarely even notice or understand that we are interacting in this type of learning, it is just one of the things that I like about psychology that I have a better understanding of the way we learn, and behave as well as why we behave this way.
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