We can't say that any of the below frowned-upon habits will make you a better person on the whole. A regimen of all-natural foods and quiet meditation, free of all vices, is surely still the way to go if you want to live a long, healthy life.
Still, depending on what's wrong with you, the cure can often be found in the things your health nut friends warned you about.
#5. Violent Video Games Can Treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
We realize that we're preaching to the converted when we point out that violent video games are about as effective at turning children into murderers as Pac-Man is at getting them to eat fruit. But still, at best we think of games as a neutral force in society -- a harmless time-waster that isn't making things better or worse. And when we see a positive study saying, for instance, that women who play video games have more sex, we suspect that there might be some wishful thinking involved.
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Though they are playing Sex-Haver 4: The Suckening.
But science says there is one benefit of violent games that you'd never have guessed in a thousand years: They can heal soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
And no, this isn't taken from some press release from Activision -- it's the result of work done by the Department of Defense National Center for Telehealth and Technology. It's called virtual reality exposure therapy, and it forces subjects to relive the traumatic experiences in a safer environment. It sounds like a form of torture, but it's actually one of the only ways to overcome traumatic memories.
Via Wikimedia Commons
A man overcomes the memory of his brother being killed in a tragic bowling accident.
The human brain needs to relive the worst events it's experienced in order to properly heal itself. Psychologists used to do it by having PTSD sufferers talk through the experiences over and over, but simulating the events takes the process one step further. The games have been proven to help release the stored anxiety as they, in essence, desensitize the soldier to the severity of the memories.
A recent study of Vietnam veterans found a 45 percent reduction in self-reported symptoms with the games. It also works for other people who have survived non-war related traumatic events -- for example, simulated driving games appear to help car accident victims get over the phobia of motor vehicles that sometimes results. Really, it should work for anything where exposure is needed to help a person get over their fears -- one clinical psychologist is using it to treat everything from a fear of flying to a fear of spiders. Damn, when the future arrives and space marine becomes a real job, this whole generation is going to be trauma-proof.
"An eternity of slaughter and the laughter of thirsting gods? Count us in."
#4. Coffee Can Treat Attention Deficit Disorder
As we have pointed out, coffee is a miracle substance, mostly thanks to caffeine. We're not saying it's good for you, necessarily, just that most of you are alert enough to read this article thanks only to its stimulant effect. It also lets us ignore all of those doctors' warnings about getting enough sleep at night. If our body wanted us to sleep, it'd put us in a coma, right?
"Biology can eat a dick, I want to bounce!"
But that means the absolute last thing you'd want to do is give the stuff to people who are already too alert -- people with short attention spans and problems with hyperactivity. It'd be gasoline on the fire. But here's where science's "let's just see what happens" approach pays off, because it looks like coffee is good for your attention span. In fact, they think caffeine is responsible for the decrease in ADHD symptoms as people get older, since most of us develop a substantial coffee addiction in our adult lives or, at the very least, an aggressive soda habit. We're accidentally treating our hyperactivity.
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And treating our urge to strangle people before 9 a.m.
Now, this is hardly surprising to some of you who are on ADHD medication, or those who just know what's in it. You know that this fighting-fire-with-fire approach to treating ADD and ADHD is nothing new, considering the most popular medication for it, Adderall, is basically speed. That's what the "amphetamine" in "amphetamine and dextroamphetamine" means.
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Here's another amphetamine that helps you control that pesky having-a-pulse problem.
So think about what you're curing the next time you order a double half cap at Starbucks or the next time you cook up in a basement. Wait, no, don't do that second part.
#3. Botox Works Better Than Anti-Depressants
Getting a Botox treatment -- pumping your face full of neurotoxins to get rid of wrinkles -- has to be among the least admirable medical procedures in the world. It brings to mind rich, bored housewives spending obscene amounts of money to inject poison into their faces out of pure vanity.
And that isn't even touching on the weird side effects, where deadening the muscles in your face actually prevents you from making normal human facial expressions. We mean, what possible actual good would that do? What are you going to do, inject it to kill your frown muscles to cure your depression?
"I am so pissed off right now, I could just blankly stare off into space."
It starts with something called facial feedback theory. We've discussed before how Botox users actually found their emotional states changed after the treatment since, bizarrely, the link between your moods and your facial expressions goes both ways. Take away your ability to furrow your brow with worry, and your mood improves.
"Of course, I'll marry you. You've made me the happiest woman in the world."
Doctors had already noticed the phenomenon in their Botox patients, but just figured it was people being happy about getting rid of their wrinkles. But then they noticed the same effect in patients who weren't looking to get rid of wrinkles at all.
So they did a trial on 10 depressed patients and nine saw their depression vanish completely. They need to do a larger study before they know for sure, but based on those limited results, we have to say holy shit. Sure, you can say that it's just some kind of advanced placebo effect, that the frown-killing treatment simply fooled the patients into not being depressed any more. But ... so what?
You just got tricked into happiness, loser.