Programming's Effect on Mental Health

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#1 litedrive  Icon User is offline

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Programming's Effect on Mental Health

Posted 01 July 2011 - 11:39 AM

I'm not sure if this is a common question or not, but it seems like (as with video games) there is a fair amount of controversy with programmers and mental health in relation to that. The main reason why I'm asking this is if anyone knows of any sources which may document the results of long term effects of programming, such as with people who develop software for 8+ hours a day.

I've recently been having some health issues, and am curious to know how this may effect me long term. I heard from a therapist I was seeing that programming also can sometimes result in the programmer "programming [his/her] brain", so I don't really know what to think of that. Apparently it could be stirring up some genetic personality traits brought back from the past. Either way, if anyone has any idea on this, or where I could go to find some decent sources (honestly, Google wasn't much help. Surprising, I know), I would appreciate it.

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#2 maniacalsounds  Icon User is offline

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Re: Programming's Effect on Mental Health

Posted 01 July 2011 - 12:04 PM

Well, I'm not going to college to get a useless "psychology" degree, but I see this as a bunch of bologna. How could exercising your brain cause your mental health to suffer? If anything, I imagine it would "keep you on your toes," and alert. Challenging yourself mentally could only be a good thing, especially as time went on, when you've been out of school longer (although programmers are never truly out of learning things).

I could understand possibly physical health in one respect, though: stress. Programming can be stressful when there's one single little line of code that's ruining the whole program, but you just can't figure it out yet. :P
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#3 modi123_1  Icon User is offline

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Re: Programming's Effect on Mental Health

Posted 01 July 2011 - 12:11 PM

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anyone knows of any sources which may document the results of long term effects of programming, such as with people who develop software for 8+ hours a day.

Well what do you mean? Mental? Physical? Emotional?

Mentally it depends on your work schedule, living conditions, and so forth. The EA Spouse and the talk of 80-100 for LA Noire can break a man.


Not to mention programming tends to attack a high number of like wired people. Hell Rands constantly blogging about this.


Physically.. well eye strain, sitting on your ass all day, sugared drinks, and repetitive motion rarely are a plus sign.

Emotionally - that also depends. A coworker rage quit a few weeks back because he was too obsessed with work and minor changes were making him super agitated.


Quote

I heard from a therapist I was seeing that programming also can sometimes result in the programmer "programming [his/her] brain"

It's a bit questionable what that means. I mean a hypnotist can "program" your brain.



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Apparently it could be stirring up some genetic personality traits brought back from the past

Elaborate please. Are we talking the Genesis episode of ST:NG, past lives, or just repressed trauma from earlier in your life?
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#4 litedrive  Icon User is offline

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Re: Programming's Effect on Mental Health

Posted 01 July 2011 - 12:49 PM

View Postmodi123_1, on 01 July 2011 - 12:11 PM, said:

Quote

anyone knows of any sources which may document the results of long term effects of programming, such as with people who develop software for 8+ hours a day.

Well what do you mean? Mental? Physical? Emotional?

Mentally it depends on your work schedule, living conditions, and so forth. The EA Spouse and the talk of 80-100 for LA Noire can break a man.


Not to mention programming tends to attack a high number of like wired people. Hell Rands constantly blogging about this.


Physically.. well eye strain, sitting on your ass all day, sugared drinks, and repetitive motion rarely are a plus sign.

Emotionally - that also depends. A coworker rage quit a few weeks back because he was too obsessed with work and minor changes were making him super agitated.


Quote

I heard from a therapist I was seeing that programming also can sometimes result in the programmer "programming [his/her] brain"

It's a bit questionable what that means. I mean a hypnotist can "program" your brain.



Quote

Apparently it could be stirring up some genetic personality traits brought back from the past

Elaborate please. Are we talking the Genesis episode of ST:NG, past lives, or just repressed trauma from earlier in your life?


Eh, I was really never one for Next Generation. Past lives? Nah. Trauma? Possibly, though mild cases at best, and that definitely wouldn't be all of it.

More like addictive personality traits, or bringing on hallucinations (which is part of the diagnoses I have). I'd honestly say I'm one of those "obsessive" programmers (not obsessive compulsive - just really into programming - design methodology, mathematics, logic, etc ). And because of this I tend to be somewhat detached from reality. Still, I'm guessing a lot of programmers tend to share this kind of mindset - the same point the blog you posted was iterating.

Apparently too much use of the computer can cause people to hallucinate. I don't really know much about that one, but it seems like it could be true to an extent.
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#5 modi123_1  Icon User is offline

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Re: Programming's Effect on Mental Health

Posted 01 July 2011 - 01:03 PM

Quote

More like addictive personality traits, or bringing on hallucinations (which is part of the diagnoses I have). I'd honestly say I'm one of those "obsessive" programmers (not obsessive compulsive - just really into programming - design methodology, mathematics, logic, etc ). And because of this I tend to be somewhat detached from reality. Still, I'm guessing a lot of programmers tend to share this kind of mindset - the same point the blog you posted was iterating.


I think it's mostly an issue where people of a certain mindset find an attractor with programming versus the activity causing it. Like minded people gravitate towards it and thus are a higher concentration.

I would be mildly interested in hearing more of this "somewhat detached from reality" is all about. God, I might have it!

Quote

Apparently too much use of the computer can cause people to hallucinate. I don't really know much about that one, but it seems like it could be true to an extent.

I don't know.. are we talking 'A Beautiful Mind' or something else? Sure computers help facilitate a fantasy world - be it doing work, playing w0w, or creating alternate personals being that persona. The same can be said for people who spend too much time immersed in the Twilight/Potter universes, the Avatar people who freaked out and only found solitude while being immersed in the movie, or your generic LARPRs. Hell does yelling at the TV during a baseball game make a difference? Nope but people still do it to make themselves "heard".
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#6 Mila  Icon User is offline

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Re: Programming's Effect on Mental Health

Posted 01 July 2011 - 01:09 PM

View Postmodi123_1, on 01 July 2011 - 01:11 PM, said:

Quote

I heard from a therapist I was seeing that programming also can sometimes result in the programmer "programming [his/her] brain"

It's a bit questionable what that means. I mean a hypnotist can "program" your brain.

Quote

Apparently it could be stirring up some genetic personality traits brought back from the past

Elaborate please. Are we talking the Genesis episode of ST:NG, past lives, or just repressed trauma from earlier in your life?


I take "programming the brain" to mean something a little bit differently. When you program you approach situations from a problem solving point of view. Consider all the tools at hand, consider the situation, determine the best way to resolve the situation using what you have available to you. It's a kind of out-of-the-box in-the-box thinking if you get what I mean -- you're limited in what you can use (in-the-box), but you apply those tools in a creative (out-of-the-box) manner.

Roll back many thousands of years and you've got the same situation. You are a cave man in your cliff-side cavehome. You are confronted by a predator. You have a rock and a stick and some remnants of last night's wooly mammoth dinner. Do you: A.) throw the rock at it; B.) hit it with the stick; C.) leave the carcass as a distraction while you run away to safety; or D.) use sinews from the mammoth to tie the rock to the stick and viola! a spear.

If you're "thinking like a programmer", you'd analyze these options and pick the best one, much like the caveman. You wouldn't consider, say, scrambling further up the cliff face, lying in wait, and rolling rocks down on it. You wouldn't consider, say, using a lure of some sort to get the predator to run itself off the cliff. You consider your rock and your stick and the remains of your dinner.

In much the same way, when confronted with a problem in programming. You have some problem you need to solve, you have some tools to solve it with (a language, an environment, maybe some language extensions/additional technologies), and you use those tools to solve the problem. You may do some amazingly creative things with said tools, but your solution will still only use those tools.

Too much of this and you get "boxed in" to a certain way of thinking. You may be blazing fast at using a specific toolset, but over [a relatively short period of] time, that toolset becomes outdated. You may be god's gift to regular expressions, but there are an awful lot of cases where regular expressions, while they can solve the problem, aren't the best way to do so.

I think by "programming" your brain the therapist didn't mean in the way a hypnotist could "force" certain behaviors, but moreso in the manner of restricting the scope of your problem solving skills. In the course of evolution, humans have gained a remarkable ability to "think outside the box" -- and I think that's what the therapist meant was being lost.
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#7 no2pencil  Icon User is offline

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Re: Programming's Effect on Mental Health

Posted 01 July 2011 - 01:11 PM

*
POPULAR

I believe that management causes way more mental breakdowns than actual development.
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#8 litedrive  Icon User is offline

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Re: Programming's Effect on Mental Health

Posted 01 July 2011 - 01:45 PM

View Postmodi123_1, on 01 July 2011 - 01:03 PM, said:

Quote

More like addictive personality traits, or bringing on hallucinations (which is part of the diagnoses I have). I'd honestly say I'm one of those "obsessive" programmers (not obsessive compulsive - just really into programming - design methodology, mathematics, logic, etc ). And because of this I tend to be somewhat detached from reality. Still, I'm guessing a lot of programmers tend to share this kind of mindset - the same point the blog you posted was iterating.


I think it's mostly an issue where people of a certain mindset find an attractor with programming versus the activity causing it. Like minded people gravitate towards it and thus are a higher concentration.

I would be mildly interested in hearing more of this "somewhat detached from reality" is all about. God, I might have it!

Quote

Apparently too much use of the computer can cause people to hallucinate. I don't really know much about that one, but it seems like it could be true to an extent.

I don't know.. are we talking 'A Beautiful Mind' or something else?


I see what you mean, but to an extent it's a similar situation. The real John Nash actually heard voices, where as what I experience is an altered perception of inanimate objects. So, not necessarily a hallucination in the sense that you see people who aren't really there, or view a cartoon popping out of the forest, but more so in the sense that you perceive something strangely, enough as to where it can be distracting and in some ways look...strange, or frightening. It's very hard to explain. There are other factors which John Nash didn't have as contributors though, one being meditation, and a separate diagnoses (do NOT EVAR meditate unless you ABSOLUTELY know what you are doing. Just saying - shit is srs bsns).

View PostMila, on 01 July 2011 - 01:09 PM, said:

View Postmodi123_1, on 01 July 2011 - 01:11 PM, said:

Quote

I heard from a therapist I was seeing that programming also can sometimes result in the programmer "programming [his/her] brain"

It's a bit questionable what that means. I mean a hypnotist can "program" your brain.

Quote

Apparently it could be stirring up some genetic personality traits brought back from the past

Elaborate please. Are we talking the Genesis episode of ST:NG, past lives, or just repressed trauma from earlier in your life?


I take "programming the brain" to mean something a little bit differently. When you program you approach situations from a problem solving point of view. Consider all the tools at hand, consider the situation, determine the best way to resolve the situation using what you have available to you. It's a kind of out-of-the-box in-the-box thinking if you get what I mean -- you're limited in what you can use (in-the-box), but you apply those tools in a creative (out-of-the-box) manner.

Roll back many thousands of years and you've got the same situation. You are a cave man in your cliff-side cavehome. You are confronted by a predator. You have a rock and a stick and some remnants of last night's wooly mammoth dinner. Do you: A.) throw the rock at it; B.) hit it with the stick; C.) leave the carcass as a distraction while you run away to safety; or D.) use sinews from the mammoth to tie the rock to the stick and viola! a spear.

If you're "thinking like a programmer", you'd analyze these options and pick the best one, much like the caveman. You wouldn't consider, say, scrambling further up the cliff face, lying in wait, and rolling rocks down on it. You wouldn't consider, say, using a lure of some sort to get the predator to run itself off the cliff. You consider your rock and your stick and the remains of your dinner.

In much the same way, when confronted with a problem in programming. You have some problem you need to solve, you have some tools to solve it with (a language, an environment, maybe some language extensions/additional technologies), and you use those tools to solve the problem. You may do some amazingly creative things with said tools, but your solution will still only use those tools.

Too much of this and you get "boxed in" to a certain way of thinking. You may be blazing fast at using a specific toolset, but over [a relatively short period of] time, that toolset becomes outdated. You may be god's gift to regular expressions, but there are an awful lot of cases where regular expressions, while they can solve the problem, aren't the best way to do so.

I think by "programming" your brain the therapist didn't mean in the way a hypnotist could "force" certain behaviors, but moreso in the manner of restricting the scope of your problem solving skills. In the course of evolution, humans have gained a remarkable ability to "think outside the box" -- and I think that's what the therapist meant was being lost.


That could be true. If this were the case, would you say that I could potentially still program, just without excessive 16 hour a day overload like some people end up doing? I like to keep a balanced lifestyle through things such as exercise, piano playing, self-study, and reading.
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#9 tlhIn`toq  Icon User is offline

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Re: Programming's Effect on Mental Health

Posted 01 July 2011 - 08:08 PM

My personal opinion is that if someone is weak minded and weak genetically they are going to suffer more problems both mental and physical than someone of stronger stock.

Basic Darwinian evolution.

Except for extreme jobs where you deal with chemicals, coal dust, radiation and the like your job isn't going to cause it.

However, one's job can be a source of triggers. Being a coder with tight deadlines and pressures might not be a good fit for someone already weak in the head. Perhaps donut shop clerk might be better.
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#10 _HAWK_  Icon User is offline

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Re: Programming's Effect on Mental Health

Posted 01 July 2011 - 08:41 PM

I think of programming as my anti-Alzheimer's drug. It uses the right and left sides of your brain - logic and design. Are you the product of your environment or genetics??? I also think we have the ability to change and drastically - like after starting my last job. In conclusion the possibilities are endless. I don't think any of us can guaranty who we will be in the future and what could change us. Ummmm donuts!

This post has been edited by hawkvalley1: 01 July 2011 - 08:49 PM

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#11 litedrive  Icon User is offline

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Re: Programming's Effect on Mental Health

Posted 01 July 2011 - 11:28 PM

Both good points.

I think Darwinian evolution has a strong basis, but it's more complex than that. Science is always that way, it must be re-examined and modified. It's just another representation of the GPL. Or is it the other way around?

As far as myself, I can say that I'm not necessarily weak minded. I have issues, obviously, but who doesn't?

My goal is to do the entrepreneurial thing, anyway, which can be just as stressful as any software development job.

On hawkvalley1's comment of changing drastically:

My past was admittedly rather hectic, and I was thrown quite a bit of hurdles to have to jump over, which I have done so and rather nicely at that. It's only made me stronger. Look at people like Steve Pavlina (http://stevepavlina.com), too, who've gone from being at the bottom of the barrel to well-off, wealthy and well accomplished motivators in life. Nothing is set, and while genetics can make it harder to change from that domino effect, it's still possible I think, regardless of the situation you're in (in terms of personality traits, as opposed to physical/mental limitation)
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#12 baavgai  Icon User is offline

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Re: Programming's Effect on Mental Health

Posted 02 July 2011 - 05:36 AM

View Postlitedrive, on 01 July 2011 - 02:39 PM, said:

I heard from a therapist I was seeing that programming also can sometimes result in the programmer "programming [his/her] brain", so I don't really know what to think of that.


My knee jerk reaction is; fire that therapist... however, let's think about "programming your brain."

Aside from "nature" stuff you have no real control over, you are the sum total of all your experiences. The person you are "right now" is slightly different from the person you were before you started reading this... neat, huh? Every choice you make, explicitly or implicitly, will impact the person you are.

Can you watch a good gory horror movie or even the average episode of CSI? A "normal" person should be physically ill at the images we sometimes choose to bombard ourselves with, but get exposed enough and you become desensitized. That's programming the brain.

Go back to programming your computer. How do you translate the act of simply reordering bits in a box into real world attitudes or behaviors? Perhaps you might approach problem more logically if you're used to thinking that way. ( OMG, no! ) Beyond that, I don't see any reasonable argument for impact on mental health. You could make a better case for playing violent video games, honestly. And even that's questionable.
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#13 Jeff H  Icon User is offline

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Re: Programming's Effect on Mental Health

Posted 03 July 2011 - 10:12 PM

It sounds like it might be a anxiety disorder.
The part about Hallucinations, addictive trait, and detached from reality is what caught my attention.

Bare with me, but

Like mentioned early about a caveman. When the caveman was confronted by a predator his brain told his body to flush it with stress chemicals that are vital for survival.

We inherited this response and is helpful

For example:
If you were dead tired and sitting in a chair and look up and see a huge dog running right at you, your body release a bunch of stress chemicals to help you get up and move.(Fight-or-Flight),
or
Walking down the street a car veers right at you then your brain interrupts the danger and responds with releasing the stress chemicals.
So that is vital trait to have for survival.

Back to anxiety disorder caused by a environment or genetic disorder.
Your body goes into that state when there is no danger present which
I will refer to as a panic attack.

So just sitting at the computer doing some programming and your body is having the same sensations as if your life is in danger and you feel like you are going crazy or something bad will happen, which is a scary feeling

What makes it worst is you start worrying about feeling like that which just snowballs into Panic Attacks about
having panic attacks.
You constantly feel like that and naturally you think it must be a health, environment or mental issue.
You try to make sense of it and if you will start to associate the cause from whatever situation you are in.

For certain reasons the panic attacks are getting worst and you have been doing alot of programming,
then you might try to associate the cause from programming.

I suffered from this and think it is genetic because my dad helped me out alot as he suffered with it.

But it is so fucking miserable to feel like that all day everyday.
You really never get to enjoy anything.
Feeling like that while sitting on beach does not make it better.

But I felt like I was in a dream world and panic attacks made my vision real shaky.
I went to all kind of doctors and at that time the best solution I came up with was I
was having flashbacks from LSD.

But everyone that knew me thought I was one of the most laid back guys and had no clue.

Staring at a computer makes your vision a little shakey which adds to the anxiety feelings and shakey vision already caused from panic attacks.

By your posts I thought you might have same issue where you are worried that programming caused the feelings or might make it worst and checking to see if it will.

Is it kinda like you feel as your going to have a hallucination but never do?
Do feel like you are in a type of dream world?(more like a nightmare)
I could be totally wrong but your posts just made think that.
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#14 Brewer  Icon User is offline

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Re: Programming's Effect on Mental Health

Posted 04 July 2011 - 02:32 AM

View Postmaniacalsounds, on 01 July 2011 - 04:34 PM, said:

Well, I'm not going to college to get a useless "psychology" degree


My girlfriend is a Psych major.
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#15 no2pencil  Icon User is offline

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Re: Programming's Effect on Mental Health

Posted 04 July 2011 - 02:34 AM

View PostBrewer, on 04 July 2011 - 05:32 AM, said:

View Postmaniacalsounds, on 01 July 2011 - 04:34 PM, said:

Well, I'm not going to college to get a useless "psychology" degree


My girlfriend is a Psych major.

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