November 20, 2012
Busting The Full Moon Effect
In the early 2000s, when I was in grad school, a good friend of mine was working at the emergency room at the local hospital. He used to tell us that on full moon nights, the “freaks will come out.” He meant that the hospital seemed busier and dealt with weirder situations. When I pressed further, he told me that more psychological problems came to the emergency room during a full moon. This has since baffled me.
Time and again, medical personnel have told me about this full moon effect. Well, on November 19, 2012, researchers in Montreal found that no truth rests in my friend’s statements. According to a study completed by a team of researchers led by Professor Geneviève Belleville of Université Laval’s School of Psychology, no full moon or new moon effect exists on psychological problems. In their findings, they studied 771 individuals who went to the emergency rooms at Montreal’s Sacré-Coeur Hospital and Hôtel-Dieu de Levis with what was later found to be psychological problems. None of these patients went because they were affected by the lunar cycle. In fact, the researchers found no evidence of even a correlation between their emergency room visits and the moon.
Like my friend, many nurses and doctors are convinced that a relationship exists, so this study’s results definitely contradict their preconceived notions. I think some obvious issues are tied to this fact. If nurses and doctors believe like my friend believed that on full moon nights “the freaks will come out,” then these same doctors and nurses may not give proper attention and medical care to those who may truly need it.
If someone goes to the emergency room with a psychological issue, that should not be ignored. And if doctors and nurses work with the full moon superstition, potentially these patients might not receive what they need to reach a proper state of health again.
The full moon has long been the scapegoat of the medical industry. When life gets crazy in the emergency room, it’s got to be the full moon. When nurses and doctors see seriously weird cases, well, it’s got to be the full moon. This has been the excuse for far too long. Now, researchers demystified the old tale.
The researchers’ findings in this study definitely debunk the full moon myth. Only good can come from this. If people start looking away from superstition and myth, they are more likely to see opportunities. Instead of looking at emergency room visits as a result of the moon, they would be able to look at the individual and his or her condition. I can’t help but be glad that the team found such positively concrete evidence when comparing the 771 patient visits to the lunar calendar.
What is important now is to make sure emergency room personnel see the study. The real issue at hand is how doctors and nurses treat individuals suffering from psychological disorders, be they panic attacks, anxiety and mood disorders, or suicidal thoughts. These individuals may not be visually bleeding, but they are suffering from illnesses that deserve respect and attention.
We can no longer treat psychological disorders as the “other.” For too long, psychological problems have been mistreated, ignored, denied, or simply laughed at. This study supports legitimizing psychological problems and eliminating the biases. Only good can come from this.
As for my friend, well, he later took back his statements. He realized that no matter the patient experience or situation, all emergency room visits deserve proper respect and attention. As for me, I learned that we must look beyond superstition. Myths like the full moon effect might be funny, but the reality of the situation is not. And that, well that deserves respect and attention.
Image Credit: Photos.com