Posts tagged with "Psych Central"

Mommy dearest: Your current relationship with your parent can distort memories of love

June 10, 2019

If “there is no love lost” between you and your mother today, your current relationship actually may distort your recollections of how affectionate she was while you were growing up.

Indeed, as we grow older and our memories fade, we rely on our current assessment of a person to remember how we felt about them in the past, based on findings of research conducted at the University of Southern Mississippi and published by Psych Central. This extends to some of the most central figures in our lives — our parents.

“Memories of the love we felt in childhood toward our parents are among the most precious aspects of autobiographical memory we could think of,” said lead author Dr. Lawrence Patihis, an assistant professor at the university and head of the Memory in Life, Practice, and Law Laboratory there. “Yet our findings suggest that these memories of love are malleable, which is not something we would want to be true.”

He added, “If you change your evaluation of someone, you will likely also change your memory of your emotions towards them and this is true of memory of love towards mothers in childhood.”.

For the study’s first experiment, Patihis and coauthors Cristobal S. Cruz and Mario E. Herrera recruited 301 online participants. Some wrote about recent examples of their mother’s positive attributes, such as showing warmth, generosity, competence and giving good guidance. Others wrote about recent examples of their mother’s lack of these attributes. Participants in one comparison group wrote about a teacher and participants in another comparison group received no writing prompt at all.

The participants then completed a questionnaire—the “Memory of Love Towards Parents Questionnaire”—assessing how they currently thought about their mother’s attributes, including her warmth and generosity.

The survey was geared to assess ten measures of love that the respondents could recall experiencing toward their mothers at different ages. Questions included “During the whole year when you were in first grade, how often on average did you feel love toward your mother?” and “During the whole year when you were in first grade, how strong on average was your love toward your mother?”

The MLPQ also measured participants’ current feelings of love for their mothers, according to the researchers. The participants completed the questionnaires again two weeks and four weeks after the initial session.

The results showed that the writing prompts influenced participants’ current feelings and their memories of love. Specifically, participants who were prompted to write about their mother’s positive attributes tended to recall stronger feelings of love for their mother in first, sixth, and ninth grade compared with participants who wrote about their mother’s lack of positive attributes.

The researchers plan to expand this research to explore whether the same effects emerge for other emotions and target individuals. They’re also exploring whether successes in life might similarly alter childhood memories of emotion. In addition, the researchers hope to discover whether these effects might influence later behavior.

“The significance of this research lies in the new knowledge that our current evaluations of people can be lowered if we choose to focus on the negative, and this can have a side effect: The diminishing of positive aspects of childhood memories,” Patihis said. “We wonder if wide-ranging reappraisals of parents, perhaps in life or in therapy, could lead to intergenerational heartache and estrangement. Understanding this subtle type of memory distortion is necessary if we want to prevent it.”

The study was published in Clinical Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Research contact: l.patithis@usm.edu

To have and to hold: Why people hoard

July 16, 2018

Do you have a friend who will not let you inside his or her home? That person may not be trying to keep a distance, so much as trying to keep a guilty secret about what is lurking behind the front door—belongings and trash piled from floor to ceiling.

There is more awareness of this issue today, thanks in part to the popular television series, Hoarders (on A&E) and Hoarding: Buried Alive (on TLC).

Before that, many people had heard of the Collyer brothers, Homer and Langley, who lived like hermits in a Harlem, New York, brownstone, where the obsessively collected books and newspapers. The brothers were found dead in the home in 1947, surrounded by over 140 tons of hoarded items that eventually had trapped them and killed them.

It is not surprising that the brothers took to hoarding together: Compulsive hoarding is can be an extreme form of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which often is inherited among family members, according to Psych Central.

Today there are an estimated 700,000 to 1.4 million U.S. residents who hoard, based on findings by Gerald Nestadt, M.D., director of the OCD Clinic at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Between 18% and 42% of people with OCD experience some sort of compulsion to hoard, Netstadt says. Typically, the condition starts in childhood or adolescence, but does not advance to a severe state until adulthood.

However, there are other hoarders who do not have OCD. They may be affected by depression, bipolar disorder, or social anxiety that exhibits itself in symptoms of hoarding.

People who have the disorder typically become extremely anxious when they must discard anything, from trash to treasures. They also continue to acquire home goods, collectibles, and clothing, even when there is no room left to put them. Before long, every space inside the home—including the shower, the bed, the kitchen and the bathroom—is clogged and covered by belongings. Bugs and vermin flourish in this mess.

The Johns Hopkins researcher believes that many hoarders are perfectionists. They fear making the wrong decision about what to keep and what to throw out, so they keep everything.

Indeed, according to the website, Clutter Hoarding Cleanup, “Trust is key when approaching a hoarder about [his or her] condition. It is important to remember that majority of those in need of hoarding cleanup services have suffered from a trauma [ … or psychological distress] that triggered the condition.Often, the services of a psychologist who specializes in hoarding can help the sufferer to accept the cleanup process.

Finally, animal hoarding is a specific version of the problem that involves collecting dozens, if not hundreds, of cats or dogs to “save them” from shelters. While the hoarder loves the animals, it becomes impossible for him or her to clean up around them—leading to progressively deteriorating conditions in the home and rampant illness among the animals. About 1,500 new cases are discovered nationwide each year, according to Tufts University Professor Gary Patronek.

Research contact: @GeraldNestadt