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|Clinician's Digest Mar/Apr - Page 2|
On one such site, www.gangstalkingworld.com, people report that their neighbors, their children, and the government are continually monitoring them. They claim that their cell phones, under the remote control of others, take pictures of them and listen in on their conversations, even when the phones are turned off. They report mysterious scars on their skulls where listening devices were secretly implanted. Mind-control sites like this also offer survival tips, such as lining certain rooms of your house with reflective materials, or shining headlights or flashlights directly at anyone who's watching you.
Are such sites helpful or harmful? In an article in the November 13 New York Times, Yale psychiatrist Ralph Hoffman, an expert in delusional thinking, says that delusional belief systems are "like a shark that has to be constantly fed. If you don't feed the delusion, sooner or later it will . . . diminish on its own accord." But though such sites reinforce delusions, they provide a comforting community and greater sense of empowerment for people whose tormented thoughts would normally drive them deeper into isolation and despair. Of course, they might be better off seeking treatment, but people with paranoia don't generally seek out therapists.
In our scary post-9/11 world, paranoid thinking is increasing so fast that British psychologist Daniel Freeman, who's written several books on it, says we may be entering the "age of paranoia." He insists that one in four Londoners now have regular paranoid thoughts. Dennis Combs, a psychologist and paranoia researcher from the University of Texas, Tyler, says the number of college students reporting paranoid thoughts has tripled, from 5 to 15 percent, in the last decade. While no one claims that the websites are responsible for increasing the general incidence of paranoid thinking, like so much else going on in the world, they're probably part of the amplifying feedback loop.
The Cancer Group Support Debate Continues
For some time, psychologist James Coyne, of the University of Pennsylvania, has been arguing that psychosocial support groups and other psychological interventions don't prolong the survival of people diagnosed with cancer (see Clinician's Digest, May/June 2008). But now, a new study by psychologist Barbara Andersen of Ohio State University claims that 11 years after a psychological intervention, women who'd been treated for breast cancer and attended 26 sessions of support groups over a one-year period had fewer recurrences and longer survival rates than the control group. Andersen's study seems especially significant because, like Coyne, she'd originally been skeptical about such claims. Her 2002 review of the research in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology concluded that survival studies of psychological interventions for cancer survivors were riddled with methodological problems (see Clinician's Digest, May/June 2003).