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June 14, 2009 at 6:59 am #1121
not the first study or the last, i am sureǃ sdpolar expeditions linked to ʹmadnessʹmental troubles grip workers, research findsby will dunham, reuters 丨 july 26, 2007washington — working for long periods in the harsh and unforgiving conditions near the north pole and south pole often causes people to suffer a stew of psychological symptoms dubbed “polar madness,” scientists said yesterday.the researchers studied the psychological effects on people from toiling in remote polar outposts, often for a year at a time, gleaning lessons they say might help prepare for lengthy human space missions, such as a trip to mars.while some people on polar expeditions savor a gratifying sense of achievement, the researchers said, 40 percent to 60 percent of them may suffer negative effects such as depression, sleep disruption, anger, irritability, and conflict with co-workers.about 5 percent of these people endure psychological disturbances severe enough to merit treatment with medication or therapy, the researchers said.”polar madness can take a variety of shapes,” lawrence palinkas, a university of southern california anthropologist who wrote the paper in the lancet medical journal along with peter suedfeld of the university of british columbia in canada, said in a telephone interview.”some people may have difficulty adjusting to the light-dark cycles, and so they can never get a decent night sleep and experience a sleep disorder,” he said. “some people can get clinically depressed. some people just canʹt handle the confinement, with seeing the same people day in and day out for extended periods of time.”the researchers interviewed people on polar expeditions, reviewed diaries of early polar explorers, and examined data from countries maintaining permanent polar-research stations.apart from anecdotal reports of “polar madness” and cabin fever, they said, little was documented about the psychological demands that people on polar expeditions face as they work in frigid and dangerous conditions surrounded by the same small group of people and isolated from family and friends.depending on the time of year, these places can remain in darkness or light for months.”say thereʹs somebody you go to lunch with and you donʹt notice the way that they eat. but if you ate with that same person day in and day out for six months, suddenly the way they chew their food is enough to drive you crazy,” said palinkas, who has ventured to the antarctic seven times.the lancet paper detailed past cases of polar expeditions gone wrong, including an arctic scientific expedition in the 1880s that descended into mutiny, lunacy, suicide, and cannibalism, leaving only six survivors from a crew of 25 men.palinkas cited more recent examples of “polar madness” at research stations, including one staffer clubbing another with a claw hammer and another beating a co-worker with a pipe.”there was a saying at the station for the remainder of the winter that, ʹif youʹve got a gripe, use a pipe,ʹ ” he said.the researchers mentioned several other symptoms among people on polar expeditions such as memory impairment, anxiety, reduced alertness, headaches, boredom, fatigue, inattention to personal hygiene, intellectual inertia, and overeating.in antarctica, 20 nations, including the united states, operate 47 permanent stations for the entire year, with hundreds of people staying for months.June 14, 2009 at 6:59 am #9547
yeah, i read that… i have so many criticisms regarding that story itʹs hard to know where to start. hereʹs just a few:> working for long periods in the harsh and unforgiving conditions> near the north pole and south pole often causes people to suffer> a stew of psychological symptoms dubbed “polar madness,”something isnʹt real unless you create a name for it. “polar madness” makes it a fact, doesnʹt itʔ> the researchers said, 40 percent to 60 percent of them may suffer> negative effects such as depression, sleep disruption, anger,> irritability, and conflict with co-workers.letʹs see… working 6-7 days a week, crammed in to tight quarters, no vacations. would people get irritableʔ you bet. polar madnessʔ oh puhleese.> about 5 percent of these people endure psychological disturbances > severe enough to merit treatment with medication or therapy, the > researchers said.*ahem*. please compare and contrast this with the number of people not working in polar environments who also require medication and therapy. are the statistics much differentʔ this article does not say.> the lancet paper detailed past cases of polar expeditions gone wrong, > including an arctic scientific expedition in the 1880s that descended into > mutiny, lunacy, suicide, and cannibalism, leaving only six survivors from > a crew of 25 men.letʹs take a closer look at this. during the so-called heroic age of exploration, expedition managers had a financial interest in ʹplaying-upʹ the difficulties: they needed funding to pay for the expeditions. so while many of the old anecdotes may be true, there is definitely a bias. these days people are not starving, and there is no cannibalism. is this evidence for contemporary ʹpolar madnessʹʔ> palinkas cited more recent examples of “polar madness” at research > stations, including one staffer clubbing another with a claw hammer again, letʹs look at the facts. the hammer attacker was very drunk, and also provoked. this is one anecdote, not evidence for a syndrome.> the researchers mentioned several other symptoms among people on > polar expeditions such as memory impairment, anxiety, reduced > alertness, headaches, boredom, fatigue, inattention to personal hygiene, > intellectual inertia, and overeating.never mind the effects of long working hours. pay no attention to the work schedule, blame it all on the polar environment.okay, thatʹs enough. if you canʹt tell, this kind of ʹstudyʹ drives me to a kind of polar madness. <ǃ-- s:mrgreen: --><ǃ-- s:mrgreen: --> glennJune 14, 2009 at 6:59 am #9548
glenn: that was an excellent rebuttal. first, i tend to be suspicious of “studies” that donʹt name the “scientists” who did them. second, the conclusions from this so-called study are ludicrous. you have spent more time on the ice than i, but in my one-year winter-over i found the experience to be very relaxing. we worked hard and slept well. and, above all, we didnʹt have the kind of stress that employees are normally subject to in the corporate environment here in the states.June 14, 2009 at 6:59 am #9549
since i have had more than a bit to do with the recent incidents discussed i completely support glenʹs comments. but i also know larry p and i think he has been taken out of context. those of us “lucky” enough todeal with the media know you never can control what comes out in the press.some years ago a reporter from one of the major new york papers visited the program. he clearly had a story already written before he arrived about what it was like to winter. when you spoke with individuals they told him “cold, dark and boring” which did not fit his story of “sex, booze and drugs”. i think he finally found several people that gave him what he wanted, in the barǃbottom line, tose of us that have been around the program for some time find most media coverage totally off base.been thereJune 14, 2009 at 6:59 am #9550
glenn,i concur, that was a good rebuttal but…just having been offered (and accepted) my very first w/o contract, at pole no less, what about t3…does it really exist and are the rumored effects for realʔJune 14, 2009 at 6:59 am #9551
hmm. iʹll avoid commenting on t3. what youʹre really asking, i think, is what kind of changes to expect when wintering, rightʔiʹm with mirage, winters are relaxing (if everything is going well).there do appear to be some physiological changes that occur in response to the darkness. it seems to me that most people get an urge to become couch potatoes. itʹs like nature is telling your body to conserve energy. people go to bed earlier, reduce their social schedules, and generally move a lot slower. actually, itʹs kinda nice.one drawback, however, is that it takes a lot more effort to get up and be active. that, and the lack of time cues sometimes bothered me (but thatʹs mostly because iʹm anal about my job).if youʹre concerned about it, just plan on doing a few miles on the treadmill every morning. follow it up with a couple cups of good coffee and youʹll be on top of it.oh, and pack a good alarm clock.June 14, 2009 at 6:59 am #9552
i agree with glenn. there is plenty of time to do things during the winter…. you never have a decent amount of time to accomplish in your off-winter-over life. i found having a daly shedule of work events that you had to perform really helped during the sp winter. getting outside for a walk everyday is essential. getting some light from the hydroponics lab/garden was nice. the lack of sun during the winter did not bother me at all.
iʹm with mirage, winters are relaxing (if everything is going well). there do appear to be some physiological changes that occur in response to the darkness. it seems to me that most people get an urge to become couch potatoes. itʹs like nature is telling your body to conserve energy. people go to bed earlier, reduce their social schedules, and generally move a lot slower. actually, itʹs kinda nice. one drawback, however, is that it takes a lot more effort to get up and be active. that, and the lack of time cues sometimes bothered me (but thatʹs mostly because iʹm anal about my job).
i did not like the article due to the sensational labeling of metal condtions that are pretty much very common in the fast paced and somewhat impersonal society that is in the modern world. sometimes i think people put on the label to make something out of nothing…to get more attention and money for more studies. they (suedfeld and palinkas) certainly can not compare anything today to the heroic age of exploration. this statement makes no sense to me…
“say thereʹs somebody you go to lunch with and you donʹt notice the way that they eat. but if you ate with that same person day in and day out for six months, suddenly the way they chew their food is enough to drive you crazy,” said palinkas, who has ventured to the antarctic seven times.
last time i checked there are plenty of places on station you could eat lunch..duh. i wonder how many weeks each summer season palinkas visited ʔwonder how much the study cost in the long run. (who pays for them, taxpayersʔ) who needs these studies and what forʔJune 14, 2009 at 6:59 am #9553
@sun dog wrote:
getting some light from the hydroponics lab/garden was nice.
i agree. like you, the darkness didnʹt bother me, but it sure was nice to visit the greenhouse (at mcmurdo in my case).as you and bt point out, the media wants to sensationalize everything. the main points of palinkasʹ study may have been lost in the articleʹs fluff. iʹd like to read the whole thing but you have to be a subscriber to the lancet journal. however, hereʹs a summary:
polar expeditions include treks and stays at summer camps oryear-round research stations. people on such expeditions generally undergo psychological changes resulting from exposure to long periods of isolation and confinement, and the extreme physical environment. symptoms include disturbed sleep, impaired cognitive ability, negative affect, and interpersonal tension and conflict. seasonal occurrence of these symptoms suggests the existence of three overlapping syndromes: the winter-over syndrome, the polar t3 syndrome, and subsyndromal seasonal affective disorder. about 5% of people on expeditions meet dsm-iv or icd criteria for psychiatric disorders. however, they also experience positive or so-called salutogenic outcomes resulting from successfully coping with stress and enhanced self-sufficiency, improved health, and personal growth. prevention of pathogenic psychological outcomes is best accomplished by psychological and psychiatric screening procedures to select out unsuitable candidates, and by providing access to psychological support, including telephone counselling. promotion of salutogenic experiences is best accomplished by screening for suitable personality traits, and training participants in individual coping strategies, group interaction, and team leadership.
obviously itʹs impossible to fully assess the study based on that summary. not mentioned are the sample sizes, error rates, and other potentially confounding information. i think what bothers me most about this sort of thing — aside from the media distortions — is that, imho, the medical/psychiatric community often approaches antarctic service with a preconceived notion of what results they expect to see. this is not intended as a criticism of the palinkas paper per se, especially since i havenʹt read it, but just the general approach iʹve seen to such studies. the attribution of many of the psychological effects to the polar environment, isolation, and hormonal changes seems to disregard other factors.the study iʹd really like to see is where they interview and screen people just after theyʹve come off the ice after a long stint. working in antarctica for a year and then popping right back into “civilization” is a real shock.June 14, 2009 at 6:59 am #9554
glenn wrote: the medical/psychiatric community often approaches antarctic service with a preconceived notion of what results they expect to see.you know itǃ this is the sort of thing that richard feynman referred to as cargo cult science.June 14, 2009 at 6:59 am #9555
folks,i would just like to say that you are all providing outstanding imputs and i hope that all new winter folks are able to read and share your coments. think rpsc or nsf/opp would be interested in diresting new winter candidates to this siteʔ doubtful.been thereJune 14, 2009 at 6:59 am #9556
hey there….what are the incidents that you guys remember in the iceʔ people wigging out, someone turns into a mole-man, catfights, clawhammers, someone starting their own ʹbotanyʹ department in a closet, billeting/hr on the warpath. stuff like that.i remember hearing about the hammer one. on another board or blog, there was an almost passable comment about this past summer having a lot of ʹbad boyʹ types and a lot of people kicked off the ice. i would assume thats at mcmurdo but no one commented or elaborated.these are the things i find interesting…i donʹt want to ask this on mikes board since its a lot more, erm…i guess you would say sanitized with a ton of newbies and they might not be keen to discuss that sort of thing over there.June 14, 2009 at 6:59 am #9557
hiya jim, long time no see. welcome back.mole-manʔ hadnʹt heard about that one. sounds like fun. <ǃ-- s:wink: --><ǃ-- s:wink: --> the media — especially stuff.co.nz — kind of blew things out of proportion this past year. there were not lots of problems, just a few that caught the attention of the press. the altercation at the pole was probably the biggest ado, and it was only two drunks that ʹhad it outʹ. a few words, a little shoving, and a single hit that caused both to be evicted, one with a broken jaw. wheee. too bad it had to happen over the christmas holiday and ruin the day off for a lot of people.i wouldnʹt say hr is on the warpath. more like lost in space. the advertising for this yearʹs job fair is a case in point.i just got out of the pole a few weeks ago… ready to take a break from the ice for a while, assuming i can find something else to do with myself for the next year or two.gJune 14, 2009 at 6:59 am #9558
hey allfound this site again. i hate it when you leave the ice and forget to copy all your favorites. as to pysch problems. to be honest, i never ever really saw anything in 5 winters that would lead me to think that there is a t3 experience. maybe the opposite. one of my cop friends once asked me how can mcmurdo survive with no police force. i told him we really didnʹt need one. take an average sized small town of several hundred to a thousand and youʹll see so much deviant behavior that just doesnʹt exist at mcm. even in the winter, apart from the oft publicized events of many years ago, things are pretty benign. in part because background checks now cut out anyone who has a police record of drinking and/or violence. take out people who already had problems back home and poof no more problems in the depth of the winter. it seems funny to me. maybe itʹs genetic. over the years iʹve watched enough people to know that for most people the experience is great until the last month. it doesnʹt matter what season you are in. as long as you are settled and have routines you are happy. what happens in the last monthʔyour life changes. you suddenly have to pack, move, worry about home, worry about relationships etc. your whole world goes topsy turvey and for most it gets very hard to do the 6 week work week thing. you time to leave is coming up. you cant possibly do everything that needs to be done and at some point you just have to say to yourself, this is it, i canʹt wait to leave.June 14, 2009 at 6:59 am #9559
does anyone ever not want to leaveʔ…like, seriously wanting to stay ʔJune 14, 2009 at 6:59 am #9560
i donʹt think there is ever a question. you canʹt stay no matter what. you may get an extra month or so, but you canʹt work a second year. m
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