Social Psychology

As mentioned elsewhere in other posts, psychology is a social science subdivided into many branches, each studying the human mind and behavior from different perspectives. While neuroscientistists study brain anatomy (or neuroanatomy), social psychologists look at the interpersonal and interactive psychology of social events.

The Constitution of the United States of America, secures, among other things, the right to pursue happiness for individuals. But what is happiness? Clearly, the subject matter has constantly been debated by philosophers and artists alike, but medicine has also its take on the subject. The medical specialization related most closely to psychology is psychiatry. Unlike psychologists, who are usually required to have earned a doctoral degree and are thus Ph.D.s, psychiatrists are doctors in the sense that they are physicians, whereas psychologists are mental health professionals who treat conditions with psychotherapy, but tend to be forbidden from prescribing medication in most jurisdictions.

Both the American Psychiatric Association and the World Health Organization publish manuals designed to help diagnose mental illnesses and other psychological disorders for practitioners. Perhaps one of the better known such diseases is depression (depressive symptoms can manifest in a number of disturbances, including Major Depressive Disorder, Seasonal Affective Disorder, Dysthymic Disorder, Bipolar Disorder and Schizoaffective Disorder).

But what causes depression? Academic and institutional research on the issue in abundant. However, on the unscientific side, many people feel depressed or sad occasionally, it is the recurrence, persistence, intensity and duration of the symptomatology which may lead to a professional diagnosis. Clearly, if one suffers from dysfunctionality, there are a variety of sources of help, including family doctors, general practitioners, psychiatrists, hospitals, clinics, group support centres and other therapeutic establishments.

Several simple steps seem to contribute to good mood in general, in most individuals. To illustrate, a healthy lifestyle, eating a balanced diet and exercising, as well as a fulfilling vocational, in addition to a social and personal life, contribute to an end result of happiness. Still, even though physical activity releases endorphins (the body's natural feel good chemicals) and a spirit free from either eating disorders or health concerns associated with obesity appear to be good predictors of sustained contentment, other factors, such as quitting smoking or extensive stress (due to even positive changes!) may negatively impact one's disposition and mood.

People often turn to others in times of trouble, but depression is different in that respect. For example, while having a trusted circle of close friends and a large network of acquaintances facilitates social and emotional support from peers, persons with depression withdraw as a coping mechanism, which paradoxically, could then further exacerbate symptoms. As an extraverted but disappointed loner suggested - after using the "How to pick up girls in bars?" tips from a non-Scandinavian attraction schemes artist - loneliness acts as a downer… However, social psychologists argue that loneliness and solitude are two different concepts, with only loneliness implying dissatisfaction with the state of being alone.

human mind

“The human mind is not a terribly logical or consistent place.” (Jim Butcher, Turn Coat). Illustration: Megan Jorgensen

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