Category Archives: Co-Occuring Disorders

Addiction and Co-Occuring Disorders

Boost Your Self Esteem

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“As the holidays come and go, so do the cookies, sweets and feasts. Leftovers fill the fridge and your stomach is full of fatty food. A lot of people gain weight during this time of year because of the celebrations. Its hard not to overeat when your around family that won’t judge you and food that tastes all to good. And just like most of the population in the U.S., we struggle body image issues. While with the new year comes our promises to stay fit and clean in 2014, we can make it a goal to feel better about ourselves in our own body. Working the steps help us cope with the low self-esteem that our addiction may have left us with as we reflect on
our past, but we can also apply these suggestions when letting go of our negative body image.  This is an article from the Healthy Weight Network about how to conquer your self esteem and body image issues.” -Shanti, Robyn

Low Self EsteemIt’s about you

You’re okay just as you are. You are a unique person, capable and loveable, with special talents and strengths, with inner wisdom and creativity – a human being of value. So accept and respect yourself now.Get comfortable with the real you, inside and out. Accept your size and shape, your feelings, yourself, unconditionally. Honor your character, talents and achievements.

No need to work on perfecting yourself. In fact, it can be self-defeating, and a big waste of time. Perfection is a myth. It doesn’t exist in the real world and it certainly doesn’t exist in human appearance. Many women who struggle with eating, weight and body image spend inordinate amounts of energy trying to change their appearance. They make their bodies their life’s work; they put their lives on hold “waiting to be thin.”

Instead of trying to meet society’s impossible standards of female beauty, give yourself affirmations on how special you really are. Find the peace and serenity of your life, buried though it may be under many layers. Accept this place where you are on your life’s journey and live with joy and relish.

  • Recognize that beauty, health and strength come in all sizes. Real beauty encompasses what’s inside, your zest for life, your fun-loving spirit, a smile that lights up your face, your compassion for others, says Carol Johnson, author of Self-Esteem Comes in all Sizes.It’s being friendly, generous and loving, having strength and courage, and respecting yourself just as you are — goals that we all can achieve.
  • Your body is okay. Your size is okay. The good news is that you can change how you feel about your body by changing your self-talk. If you are especially concerned over weight, understand that your body has an opinion of what it should weigh at this time in your life. It regulates weight around a setpoint that may be nearly impossible to change. Recognize how destructive the obsession to be thin is and how it harms the people you love, especially children. Your weight is not a measure of your self-worth. Accepting this can give you new freedom.Cat as Lion
  • Be size positive. Set an example of respect for size diversity. People naturally come in different sizes and builds, and that’s okay. If you are a large woman it’s especially important in our size-focused society to be a role model who radiates confidence, self-respect and friendliness for other adults and children who, sadly, may fear going out in public. Or, if you are a thin person, keeping thin through semi-starvation, remember this means an anorexic personality (anxiety, irritability, depression, inability to concentrate, social withdrawal, isolation from friends and family, preoccupation with food, loneliness, lack of compassion and generosity, self-centeredness), weak and brittle bones, and other serious health issues. Our society is currently obsessed with thinness, which hurts us all. When will this nation come to its senses, reject size prejudice, accept a wider range of shapes and sizes, and focus on health rather than weight? We each can do our part to bring about this healthful change.
  • Dress for successDress in ways that make you feel good, that make your own statement and, most of all, that fit now. Clean out your closet of clothes that don’t fit; clothes you can wear only during dieting bouts. Give away or store too-small clothing. This makes room for clothes you will enjoy wearing.
  • Want what you have – contentment. T he secret to happiness is not to get what you want, but to want what you have . Though much underrated today, contentment has long been valued in world religions and philosophy. Realizing the full measure of our abundance can bring true happiness.
  • Keep a gratitude journal. Have you inventoried the richness of your life assets? Try it. Add to that inventory and each day write down three things you are grateful for in your gratitude journal. It can be humbling to realize the abundance of riches we have, and how much we take it for granted. The everyday joys of family, friends, home, community, country, health, work and the wonder of nature are all around us. Contemplating this can bring you deep serenity.
  • Learn and practice relaxation techniques. Relaxation relieves stress and enhances our lives. Stress overload is linked to many health problems, such as exhaustion, insomnia, headache, diarrhea, anxiety, restlessness, depression, abuse of alcohol, increased risk of heart attack and weakened immune system. Relaxing is like re-booting a stressed-out computer. Everything works better afterward.
  • Choose self-care. Set aside time every day for yourself. T ake time for self-care and healing. Invest in small things that enrich your life: listening to music, reading a novel, napping after lunch, laughing with your spouse or best friend, eating a nourishing meal, telephoning a friend, taking a stretch break at your desk, enjoying a sunset.
  • Live assertively. Assertiveness allows people to express their honest feelings and opinions comfortably, to be open and direct, without anxiety or guilt, and to obtain their personal rights without denying the rights of others. Assertive persons respect themselves, speak calmly and clearly, maintain eye contact, project their voices, and smile sincerely when they mean it. By contrast, responding to others in passive or aggressive ways involves manipulation that respects neither yourself nor them. (By the way, in lists like this, and of course, this one, read, consider and take what seems best for you at this time in your life – and leave the rest. That’s being assertive!)
  •  Strengthen your social support . Include pleasant and stimulating interaction with others in your day, every day. Maintain nourishing relationships with family and friends. Promote communication and sharing of feelings in appropriate ways. Encourage positive self-talk, praise and support for each other. Getting involved in volunteer work is an excellent way to increase your social network as you lend a helping hand and a helping heart.
  • Shape a healthy balance. You’ll feel better and have more energy when you develop healthy living habits that come so naturally and feel so normal you hardly think about them. Normalize your life by being regularly active and keeping yourself well nourished without dieting. Take care of your health, but don’t obsess over it or struggle for perfection. Find a satisfying balance of wellness and wholeness that works for you at this time in your life and helps you live the way you want.

The Power of Imagination

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“At times, our dreams may seem out of reach. The reality is that we are far from them— but only presently. Imaging is simply using your imagination to lift your mood and enhance your motivation for long-term sobriety. This is part of an article from Addiction-Recovery-Blog.com. You will find that imaging can do even more than I mentioned above, plus advise on how to start your own practice.” -Enjoy, Robyn

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Imaging, in the purest sense, is a way of focusing your mind on positive alternatives. Whether you practice self-imaging through yoga or meditation or participate in a program of therapeutic imaging, the technique can be very effective.

Basically, imaging is a type of perception therapy that embraces the connection between your mind, body, spirit, and environment. It’s a psychotherapeutic approach that helps you replace faulty perceptions about who you are and who you want to be with new and more beneficial perceptions.

Issues Imaging Can Address

Depression and addiction are common co-occurring conditions. In fact, even without addiction, depression is a very common condition. It is estimated that more than 10 million Americans suffer from some form of depression. After treatment for drug and/or alcohol abuse, depression can wreak havoc on the recovering addict’s life and any future plans. The heart of depression is hopelessness, a feeling or perception that nothing good will ever happen. Imaging helps transform hopelessness into hope. And hope brings the promise of a brighter future.

Low self-esteem and low self-worth often plague recovering addicts in varying degrees. Sometimes the feelings are tucked away into the back of the mind, while at other times they completely take over the individual’s thoughts, sabotaging any attempts to plan a better life. The old ways of trying to bump up self-esteem by hanging out with others and doing things so other people will like us – even though those were undesirable friends and activities – no longer work, or we’ve been responsible enough to reject them, wisely realizing as a result of treatment that we can’t associate with those triggers. Imaging helps improve feelings of self-worth and self-esteem by treating the whole person. As the underlying faulty thinking is exposed, new perceptions are created that lead to more positive behaviors.

Intolerance and prejudice are seldom talked about as issues affecting recovering addicts, but think about the kinds of beliefs we’ve been brought up with or acquired over the years. Every time we rejected someone who didn’t share our need to binge or use, or laughed at the spiritual person who seemed so happy with their life, or lashed out at loved ones and friends who tried to encourage us to change – those were all forms of intolerance and prejudice. If not dealt with, they’ll resurface in other forms during recovery and put a serious strain on our future plans. Imaging can help people to be more accepting of others, to embrace the fact that we’re all equal, that we need each other, that we’re connected, and that we can help each other grow. This leads to better self-awareness, inner peace, and the ability to plan for the future.


After chronic abuse of alcohol or drugs, those in recovery often still bear some of the effects: poor physical condition, not eating properly, disturbed sleep patterns, or other self-destructive acts. Some replace one addiction with another. They may start smoking cigarettes when they never smoked before, eat compulsively, or engage in other addictive behaviors. Imaging helps you avoid this by devoting attention to improving fitness, practicing meditation, focusing on better breathing techniques, and learning better eating habits. With a healthier body, the mind and body connection is stronger, and planning for the future becomes a more viable possibility.

Many recovering addicts are beaten in spirit, even though they’ve completed treatment and are abstaining from drugs and alcohol. They don’t feel worthy of a good future. Their spirit is weighed down with the accumulation of guilt, shame, remorse, and the injustices they have done to others, real or imagined. Imaging realigns the spirit, helping the recovering addict gain an increased awareness that we all deserve to be happy, to be productive members of society, to go after our goals, and to be at peace. In short, imaging helps you to reaffirm your goodness of spirit, which fosters the ability to make plans for your brighter future.

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How to Start Imaging

You can begin by meditating for a few minutes every day, morning and evening. While
many people may think meditation is some mystical process and shrug it off as nonsense, the truth is that it’s really as simple as closing your eyes and blocking out all thoughts, breathing in and out deeply, and concentrating every ounce of your being on the sound and rhythm of your breath. Do this for a period of five minutes. It’s also helpful to engage in this practice when you become overstressed or feel you can’t deal with a potential trigger or craving to drink or use.

There are books you can borrow at the library or buy at a bookstore on meditation. You can also listen to CDs or DVDs that help calm your spirit and your random thoughts. Or you can participate in therapeutic imaging, a psychotherapeutic approach that is offered in some parts of the country. Ask your aftercare counselor or therapist for recommendations for such treatment or investigate holistic therapy or alternative therapy groups in your area.

Imaging Techniques

Imaging techniques vary but should consist of the following:

• Be open to new concepts
• Recognize that people are different and be accepting of everyone
• Be willing to change your perceptions about your future
• Explore ways to help change your perceptions
• Learn to investigate facts, rather than blindly accept things as true
• Admit that you can have a better future and that you deserve it
• Repeat positive imaging practices, such as daily reminders of self-worth, meditation, and other relaxation techniques
• Create new ways of handling your daily situations, especially stressful ones
• Recognize that what works for another may not work for you – you are an individual with unique needs
• Be open to lifting and awakening your spirit, your inner being, your true self

Whether you participate in a group, structured counseling, or do it by yourself, imaging in any of the above forms can help you to create a future that you desire. The best thing about the future is that it is always available before us. We can be the architect of tomorrow – by laying the groundwork today through imaging.

How Mental Illness and Addiction Influence Each Other

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Many addicts struggle with mental disorders. I myself struggle with bipolar one and it is the cause of much of my use (read my journals for more personal accounts). Using drugs to defeat things like that or depression and anxiety most often make things worse. It can further offset the symptoms despite the immediate satisfaction. Its important to see a psychologist, being as honest as you can, to seek proper treatment. I have found that treating my illness with prescription drugs has controlled my mental/emotional state far better than any illegal substance I have ever used. The effects are long-term and with the help of medial professionals, I am able to stay sober and sane.” – Love, Robyn

There is a complex relationship between addiction, such as alcoholism, and mental illness. Treatment needs to focus on both conditions at the same time, once the right diagnoses have been made. 

The complexities of mental illness are often compounded by drug and alcohol abuse, making it a challenge to get the right diagnoses and treatment for both.

Drug Abuse and Mental Illness: A “Complex Dance”
“Mental illness and alcoholism or drug abuse interact in a complex dance, “says James Garbutt, MD, professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and research scientist at UNC’s Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies. “Mental illnesses can increase the risk for alcoholism or drug abuse, sometimes because of self-medicating. On the other hand, alcoholism can lead to significant anxiety and depression that may appear indistinguishable from a mental illness. Finally, one disorder can be worse than the other.”

According to Stephen Gilman, MD, an addiction psychiatrist at New York University in New York City, “Alcoholism and drug abuse addictions and other psychiatric disorders often occur at the same time. However, they are distinct disorders that must be treated as such in order to get a good outcome for the patient.”

Rorschach Test Smoke

Drug Abuse and Mental Illness: Likely Conditions
Certain mental conditions are frequently associated with alcohol and drug dependency. They include:

  • Depression. In some cases, individuals may start to abuse a substance to mask the symptoms of depression. Female substance abusers are particularly likely to have depression, but it also occurs in male substance abusers.
  • Bipolar disorder. Those with bipolar disorder — a condition that causes alternating cycles of depression and an abnormally elevated mood — may attempt to smooth out mood swings with alcohol.
  • Anxiety. Alcohol abuse is more common in both men and women with anxiety disorders.
  • Schizophrenia. Psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions, may lead to substance abuse as a way to ease the distress that these symptoms can cause.

Those with a mental disorder may also be less inhibited and more likely to show risk-taking behavior — like buying and using illegal drugs or drinking to excess — that could quickly lead to alcohol or drug abuse. “Individuals with a mental disorder could have impaired judgment and consume higher amounts of a drug or alcohol, says Dr. Garbutt.”

Drug Abuse and Mental Illness: Underlying Causes 
There are also other factors that could explain the frequent simultaneous occurrence of addiction and mental illness, including:

  • Genetics. Genetic factors seem to account for some of the co-morbidity (having both disorders at the same time) of substance abuse and mental disorders. Studies comparing identical and fraternal twins found more instances of having two disorders among the identical twins, indicating that genetics likely play some role.
  • Chemical deficiency. Neuro-chemical factors were also found to be a common thread when mental disorders and addiction occur together. A reduction in the amount of serotonin, a chemical critical to brain functioning, may be the reason that alcoholism and anxiety disorders coincide so often. There is also evidence that addiction and mental disorders are associated with the dysfunction of a group of brain chemicals called monoamine oxidases.
  • Shared environment. Studies surrounding twins also showed that environment plays a major role in having both a substance abuse problem and another mental disorder.

Drug Abuse and Mental Illness: What Is the Exact Relationship?
The answer is not entirely clear, but the connection works both ways. People with alcohol and drug addictions tend to develop mental illnesses. People with certain mental illnesses tend to develop substance abuse problems.

“Fifty percent of those with an addictive disorder will have a psychiatric disorder. And for those who have a psychiatric disorder, about 20 percent have an addiction problem,” says Dr. Gilman.

That number is even higher in those with certain mental conditions. “A variety of mental illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder, antisocial personality disorder [characterized by a lack of empathy toward other people], anxiety, sleep disorders, or depression, increase the risk of addiction. Those with the highest risk of addiction have bipolar disorder or schizophrenia — up to 50 percent [of people with these conditions] can have an addiction,” says Garbutt.

Researchers don’t yet know exactly why people with these particular disorders are at an increased risk for addiction, says Garbutt, but it has been noted that:

  • Abruptly stopping alcohol intake can lead to withdrawal symptoms — including hallucinations — that may look just like schizophrenic symptoms.
  • Alcoholism and drug abuse can cause changes in the brain, sometimes leading to changes in personality and mental disorders.
  • Alcoholics of both genders frequently suffer depression and anxiety disorders, while men are more likely to exhibit antisocial personality disorder than non-abusers of alcohol.

Drug Abuse and Mental Illness: Treating Two Sets of Symptoms
According to Gilman, “It is very important, but often difficult, to distinguish which symptoms are psychiatric and which are addictive. A person must be substance-free for a period of at least two weeks in order to tease apart the various symptoms.”

“Clinically speaking, you have to treat the addiction and the psychological symptoms at the same time. Misdiagnosis, and therefore under-treatment, is common, such as when an alcohol addiction is masking bipolar disorder,” says Garbutt.

Garbutt and Gilman both believe that treating an addiction and a mental illness at the same time is possible, and when you treat them together you can begin the process of unraveling the underlying causes of each.

By Linda Foster, MA from Everyday Health
Medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH

Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

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“When I first got diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder,  I was in denial. For months after hearing doctor after doctor telling me the same thing I would still hide my meds, take drugs and do anything to prove I wasn’t crazy. But the hospital visits and psych ward continued to prove I was wrong. I was crazy.

“But being bipolar doesn’t mean your crazy. The more I learn about my disorder (reading articles, books and even digging into my past) I notice that I am not alone. I notice that these moments of clear insanity have a purpose, they have a name. There are reasons to me madness and now I finally have an opportunity to treat it.

“Its important that we are knowledgable about our (or your loved ones) diagnosis because it gives us the power and courage to live with it. This is an article I have found very helpful to myself as I live with bipolar and co-occurring addiction. It’s informative and concise, clearly describing the highs and lows of bipolar disorder.” -Love, Robyn

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Bipolar disorder, once commonly known as manic depression, is a serious mental disorder that is characterized by sudden and intense shifts in mood, behavior and energy levels. Like substance abuse, bipolar disorder poses a risk to the individual’s physical and emotional well-being. Those afflicted with bipolar disorder have a higher rate of relationship problems, economic instability, accidental injuries and suicide than the general population. They are also significantly more likely to develop an addiction to drugs or alcohol. According to statistics presented by the American Journal of Managed Care:

  • About 56 percent of individuals with bipolar who participated in a national study had experienced drug or alcohol addiction during their lifetime.
  • Approximately 46 percent of that group had abused alcohol or were addicted to alcohol.
  • About 41 percent had abused drugs or were addicted to drugs.
  • Alcohol is the most commonly abused substance among bipolar individuals.

If you are struggling with bipolar disorder and with a drug or alcohol problem, you may have a Dual Diagnosis of bipolar disorder and substance abuse. Having a Dual Diagnosis, or a co-occurring disorder, can make recovery more challenging. Bipolar individuals may experience periods of intense depression alternating with episodes of heightened activity and an exaggerated sense of self-importance. This emotional instability can interfere with your recovery program, making it difficult to comply with the guidelines of your treatment plan.

Dual Diagnosis rehabilitation programs are designed to meet the needs of clients who are faced with this complex psychiatric condition. Staffed by specially trained and credentialed mental health professionals and addiction specialists, these centers offer care that integrates the best treatment strategies for bipolar disorder with the most effective treatments for addiction.

How Are Bipolar and Addiction Related?

There is no easy explanation for the high rate of substance abuse and chemical dependence among bipolar individuals. One reason for this phenomenon is that a large percentage of individuals attempt to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol in an effort to numb the painful symptoms of their bipolar disorder. Symptoms of bipolar disorder such as anxiety, pain, depression and sleeplessness are so alarming, that many individuals will turn to drugs and alcohol as a means for offsetting the discomfort, if only for a little while. On the other hand, the National Institute of Mental Health notes that drinking and using drugs may trigger depressed or manic moods in someone with bipolar disorder.

Age and gender may play a part in the relationship between bipolar and addiction. According to the journal, Bipolar Disorder and substance abuse is more common in young males than in other population groups.

Young men are more likely than females or older men to take dangerous risks or to act on serious self-destructive impulses. In elderly individuals with bipolar disorder, the incidence of substance abuse is much lower.

Clinical researchers believe that brain chemistry may influence both bipolar disorder and substance abuse. People with bipolar disorder often have abnormal levels of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, according to WebMD. These chemicals affect vital functions like appetite, metabolism, sleep and your body’s response to stress. They also affect mood and emotions. Heavy use of drugs or alcohol can interfere with the way your brain processes these chemicals, causing emotional instability, erratic energy levels and depression. People with bipolar disorder may turn to drugs or alcohol out of an unconscious need to stabilize their moods. Unfortunately, substance abuse has the opposite effect, making the symptoms of bipolar disorder worse.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

We all go through intense episodes of sadness, elation, anger or despair. But for someone who meets the diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder, these episodes are all-consuming and uncontrollable. There are four major types of mood episodes that characterize bipolar disorder: mania, hypomania, depression and mixed episodes — each of which has a set of unique symptoms:

Symptoms of Mania

Mania is the “high” end of the mood spectrum for bipolar individuals. Symptoms may include:

  • Moments of tremendous optimism and significant pessimism
  • Grandiose feelings
  • Rapid talking
  • Little sleep
  • Impaired judgment, irrational behavior
  • Delusional behavior
  • Hallucinations

Symptoms of Hypomania

Symptoms are similar to those found in manic behavior but less intense. Hypomanic individuals are usually capable of managing their day-to-day lives, but they experience a higher than usual level of happiness, irritability or energy. You may feel that you’re capable of taking on more responsibility, or that you need less sleep. People in your life may find that you’re more talkative or sociable. You may also be more prone to engage in risk-taking behaviors, like substance abuse. Hypomanic periods are extremely productive for some people, and because psychotic symptoms do not occur in hypomania, it might seem that you don’t really have a problem.

Symptoms of Depression

At the “low” end of the bipolar spectrum is depression, an emotional state that is often characterized by sadness, tearfulness and despair. Depression in bipolar disorder may last for days or weeks, depending on your mood cycle. These periods are dangerous for Dual Diagnosis individuals, who have a higher risk of self-injury and suicide when they’re using drugs and alcohol during a low period. When you’re depressed, you may experience:

  • Hopeless feelings
  • Loss of interest in things that used to make you happy
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in appetite
  • Self-loathing
  • Suicidal thoughts

Symptoms of Mixed Episodes

The symptoms of bipolar disorder aren’t always clearly defined. In a mixed episode, behaviors reflect a combination of mania and depression. For example, you may have suicidal feelings and a loss of interest in your daily activities, combined with racing thoughts, pressured speech and a loss of sleep.
You may feel the urge to drink or take drugs in an attempt to balance out these unpredictable mood swings, but intoxication is only a temporary fix that won’t provide permanent relief. To achieve a full recovery, you need professional treatment that helps you stabilize your moods as you deal with the cravings and destructive impulses that characterize addiction.

 

9 Ways to Heal Depression Holistically

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“This was an article I stumbled upon from Natural News a few days back. Its written by Mike Bundrant who was able to compile this brilliantly inspiring list of ways to heal depression on the physical and psychological planes using holistic methods. Including reasoning that has been discussed within several strong sources, Bundrant explores the concepts of transforming mind and invigorating the body through 9 simple steps.” -Enjoy, Robyn

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As you pursue natural remedies for depression, it is important to understand that depression has both physical and psychological components.

To be happy, healthy and enthused about life, you must get both your mind and body balanced. Falling into a depressed state, however, only requires that one element of your body or mind is out of balance.

The following nine natural ways to combat depression are broken down into physical and psychological elements.

Healing psychological components of depression

1. A future worth embracing

Your perception of the future has a lot to do with your emotional state. An exciting future naturally produces feelings of enthusiasm. A blank future can produce feelings of uncertainty or anxiety. In fact, panic is often called a complete ‘future blowout.’ The future is gone, which means it all ends right here!

People who suffer with depression often report a seeing a future in which they do not want to participate.

This factor alone is enough to make anyone feel down. If you took the healthiest person and mentally installed an unacceptable future into her mind, she would immediately begin to feel discouraged and eventually depressed.

If your future is not what you want it to be, then it is imperative that you consider your options.

What are your goals?
Are you living someone else’s idea of the good life?
Do you feel you deserve to create the life you want?
What skills, training or education do you need to feel excited about your future?

You may wonder if depression causes you to perceive an uninspiring future or if an uninspiring future creates a depressed state. BOTH are true.

2. Relationships that fulfill

The evidence is in. Bad primary relationships correlate with high depression. It doesn’t appear to matter how good your physical health is. If you are in a stressful, unhappy relationship, you will be stressed and unhappy.

Being in great physical health does NOT mean that you make good decisions about people, money, business or other factors that also determine your quality of life and state of mind.

A happy mood goes with fulfilling relationships and vice-versa. Learn the relationship skills that support happiness. Don’t get stuck or cling to bad relationships! They wear on your psyche and your body.

Sometimes, in the throes of a painful relationship, you blame yourself and think you are broken. I did this for years. It was the untenable relationship that was the source of my angst. Yes, I was still participating in the problem, but when I finally ended that particular relationship, I was freed.

You can’t just blame others, but you should absolutely consider that feeling trapped in a relationship is depressing in its own right. Check out some of the little known reasons why people stay in bad relationships.

3. A friendly mind

It seems to be universal – the human tendency to self-condemn. Do you live with a critical voice inside their head that punishes you and warns you (irrationally) that you will fail?

Does it feel like no matter what you do or where you are, you ruin your mood with inner negativity and pessimism? This is your inner critic at work.

Healing that critical voice in your head requires making friends with it. This is a part of you that won’t rest until you come to terms with self-sabotage. Most people need help with this, but here is a video you can watch that offers a great little method to calm down your inner critic.

4. A present mind

Most people live inside their heads, with thoughts that meander in the past and the future. You worry about what might happen in the future. You obsess about what already happened in the past. You do anything but enter the here and now.

Interestingly, many people simply do not know how to enter the present moment. Getting to the Now is easily achieved by grounding yourself through sound. Best of all, you don’t need special equipment.

Your environment is filled with white noise. The hum of your computer, the sound of a blowing fan or running refrigerator, the smooth sounds of running water. All these and more are actually hidden portals into the present moment.

When you tune in exclusively to white noise, your brain responds in the most amazing manner. The brain’s Default Mode Network, responsible for self-referential, autopilot thinking, switches OFF. Then, your brain grounds itself in a new consciousness that is clear and peaceful.

This is has been proven through fMRI scans, which you can read about in the March 2010 issue ofScientific American magazine.

Natural remedies for physical depression

5. Vitamin D fights depression (and so much more)

Vitamin D is said to be one of the most underrated nutrients of all time. Vitamin D is a steroid hormone precursor. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease, osteoporosis, and cancer. As you can tell, this is an essential vitamin the body needs to stay healthy.

In 2006 the CDC concluded that one fourth of the population is Vitamin D deficient. Canadian researchers have done 14 studies with 31,424 participants that all prove the strong correlation to Vitamin D and depression.

In 2006, a study on 80 elderly people showed that those who lacked Vitamin D were 11 times more prone to depression – a number that is shocking, considering most people would never link this vitamin to such a serious disorder.

Safe sun exposure may help raise Vitamin D levels. Being outside with no sunscreen can actually be good for your body. Of course, supplements can also be taken and are proven to help as well.

6. Omega 3 fatty acids

Researchers have noticed that a sharp rise in depression occurred as people consume less omega 3 fatty acids and more processed foods.

A Columbus University study analyzed 59 patients diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, 18 of which also suffered from Cormobid Anxiety Disorder.

Low levels of omega 3 prevailed among the study group, but were most pronounced in those suffering from anxiety and depression. Although is it not on the front line for treating depression, it is a way to attack it from another angle.

By treating a different area of the brain associated with depression, it can be an effective method for the right patient.

7. Sam-e

Sam-e is a naturally occurring compound found in almost every element in the body. It helps the immune system, maintains cell membranes, and produces and breakdown chemicals in the brain such as serotonin, melatonin, and dopamine.

Research indicates that Sam-e treatment is more effective than placebo in treating mild to moderate depression. It works more quickly and is just as effective as prescribed medications without the headaches, sleepiness, sexual dysfunction, and other side effects that occur.

Unfortunately. Sam-e cannot be found in food, but it can be prescribed in capsules if you consult with your healthcare provider.

8. Heavy metals – a rarely discussed cause of depression

Heavy metal toxicity can disturb brain chemistry, which can cause anxiety and depression, and can also weaken your immunity.

Heavy metals, such as mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic, mad aluminum affect different chemicals in your brain that are associated with depression. Examples of these would be GABA, which contributes to anxiety and a dull intelligence, dopamine, which gives the brain energy and motivation, and acetylcholine, which makes the brain sharp and have good memory.

Ridding the body of the excess heavy metals that harm vital brain chemistry involves balancing mineral antagonists. This dislodges the metals from the tissues into the blood with cheating agents that bind the metals in the blood and prevent them from being re-deposited elsewhere, so the kidneys can properly excrete them.

9. Amino acid therapy to balance brain chemistry

Depression and anxiety can occur when there is an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain, and amino acids are the building blocks of neurotransmitters.

By giving the body specific therapeutic doses of amino acids, we are giving the body the raw materials it needs so it can feed the pathway of neurotransmitter production and balance out the chemicals in the brain.

For serotonin, 5-HTP or tryptophan can be used. For GABA, doses of GABA can be used. Both of these help soothe and calm the brain, which is helpful with depression, anxiety, and also insomnia.

Amino acid therapy is a method that was discovered in the early 1900’s and used up until the 1980’s when other methods, such as SSRI’s became more popular.

Amino acids can be used in place of antidepressants and don’t have the harsh side effects. With a doctor’s supervision, it is proven to be a powerful method in overcoming depression.

Why We Smoke SO Much!

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” When I first started smoking, I thought I was cool. Then I stopped. When I picked up smoking several years later, it was a way to get high. Then I stopped.  It wasn’t until I found myself in recovery that I really started smoking like a chimney. My parents were concerned and frankly annoyed my this new habit. There was a sense of relief  however, when they discovered in their NAMI class (National Alliance on Mental Illness) that this was commonly seen in people who have mental disorders and addiction. So I went on their website and found the article that explains it all! So if your a smoker, you may relate to this bit of text! It does focus on mental illness but a lot of the information can be useful to all.” -Peace, Robyn

Smoking and Mental Illness

People living with mental illness have a very high rate of smoking. A study by The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that 44.3 percent of all cigarettes in America are consumed by individuals who live with mental illness and/or substance abuse disorders. This means that people living with mental illness are about twice as likely to smoke as other persons.

A positive note is that people who live with mental illness had substantial quit-rates, which were almost as high as the group without mental illness. NAMI has led many changes in our mental health system─getting access to the tools to quit smoking is a way to improve the quality and quantity of life. Improving lives is a new advocacy pursuit.

The Connection between Mental Illness and Smoking

There is no one single, certain reason why so many people who live with mental illness smoke. It may be a combination of brain effects, psychological effects and the social world in which we live.

From a brain-based perspective, research is being done to determine if and how nicotine is involved in some of the brain’s memory functions. If nicotine is a factor, then this could explain why so many people living with an illness like schizophrenia or other illness involving cognitive deficits may smoke. Even though smoking is thought to enhance concentration and cognition, the effects are short in duration.

Researchers and the medical community have a great deal to learn about how smoking impacts the brains of those living with mental illness. It is known that people diagnosed with schizophrenia often smoke before the onset of symptoms and that they smoke more often and inhale more deeply than smokers without schizophrenia.

While we still have a lot to learn about why people smoke, there is plenty of information to support the serious health risks of smoking. So while there may be good reasons why you were attracted to smoking, the key is to figure out ways to increase rates of quitting. Nicotine isn’t a health problem on its own, but when smoked and combined with hundreds of other chemicals that are present in cigarettes the practice of smoking is toxic.

Psychologically, all addictions soothe cravings. People often find themselves relaxed and less tense when their addiction is fed. This is true of cigarette smoking. Smoking can also be part of a social norm, one where people in your social circle all hang out and smoke. Some people who live with mental illness learned to smoke in a hospital or in group-living settings. These examples help illustrate how the mental health culture needs to move forward to reduce the tie between socialization and smoking.

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Facts About Smoking

People die from smoking-related illnesses. Every year, smoking kills about 200,000 people who live with mental illness. Smoking harms nearly every organ of your body and diminishes your overall health. Smoking is a leading cause of cancer and of cancer-related death.

Smoking also causes heart disease, stroke and lung disease. With the increased risk of heart disease from second-generation atypical antipsychotic medications (SGAs), individuals living with mental illness must try to quit.

Inhaled cigarette smoke is made up of 4,000 chemicals, including cyanide, benzene, ammonia and carbon monoxide to name a few. There is no safe tobacco product, so switching to a smokeless or chew product will not eliminate your risk of smoking-related diseases.

People are finally waking up to the fact that smoking is a true health hazard, and people need to quit in order to live longer. More psychiatric facilities are going smoke-free, and NAMI is advocating for access to smoking cessation in outpatient settings.

State mental health commissioners and state medical directors are committed to changing the way the public mental health culture relates to smoking. Check out their toolkit (http://www.nasmhpd.org/general_files/publications/NASMHPD.toolkitfinalupdated90707.pdf) to see what policy changes and strategies they are using to create a healthier mental health system environment.

Smoking’s Effects on Symptoms and Medications

Research shows that people living with mental illness do not have worse symptoms after they quit. It is understandable that this is a concern with quitting smoking. Quitting is hard work, and it may take many efforts to be successful. Be sure to get support, talk with your doctor, set a quit date and explore the tools for success (Link to tools for success section) that are available to help you quit.

If you are a smoker and you quit, you can usually get the same treatment results from lower doses of psychiatric medications. Smoking increases the breakdown of medicines in your body, so smokers need to take higher doses to get the same results as someone who does not smoke. Without cigarettes you may need to take less medication. An additional benefit is that a dose reduction will likely reduce side effects of medicines, such as weight gain and other side effects.

Film Pick: Drug Abuse, Mental Illness and Co-Occuring Disorder

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“This is a a great old video that offers a lot of information regarding substance abuse and mental illness. It brings up questions like, “Which came first?” This is a common topic many people struggling with co-occurring disorders ask. The speakers and stories shared in this film explore topics like those and many more. Go ahead, get educated and take an hour to learn something new!” – Robyn

Panelists:
Patricia Ordorica, MD – Associate Chief of Staff, Mental Health & Behavioral Sciences Central, James A. Haley Veterans Administration Hospital; Associate Professor Dept. of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, University of South Florida College of Medicine; Director Addictive Disorders Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Univ. of South Florida College of Medicine. Deirdre Forbes – Intake Coordinator for Madison East, part of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. Ms. Forbes is in recovery from a co-occurring disorder.
Hosted by:
Mary E. Larson, Vice President of Communications and Membership for CADCA

DBT in Recovery

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Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a relatively new treatment method that has shown promise for treating both substance abuse and even the most difficult mental health concerns. Targeted dialectical behavior therapy programs work especially for those who:

  • Suffer from trauma, life-threatening experiences, abuse or loss
  • Try traditional therapy with limited success
  • Struggle with co-occurring addiction and mental health concerns
  • Struggle with bipolar disorder, an eating disorder, PTSD or borderline personality disorder
  • Struggle with self-injury, self-harm or low self-esteem
  • Are an adult child of an alcoholic or suffered abuse or trauma as a young person
  • Have difficulties coping with emotions or feel that your emotions are overwhelming

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How Is Dialectical Behavior Therapy Different?

Dialectical behavior therapy was developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan, a renowned psychologist at the University of Washington. Dr. Linehan specializes in hard-to-treat patients. She found that traditional methods of therapy were not effective, and as a result she developed DBT.

DBT is different, as it does a few things that traditional therapy does not. DBT helps you deal with complicated emotions without putting you “on the spot.” DBT has two types of sessions that include a classroom/group environment and individual therapy sessions. These two types of treatment sessions work together to help you feel more comfortable about the treatment process. DBT provides real-life skills to help you recover from addiction and identify and help yourself get through difficult life moments. Dialectical behavior therapy is different from traditional Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in the following ways:

  • DBT works like a class, as you learn more about yourself and how you relate to others
  • DBT accepts you as you are and does not pressure you to become someone you are not
  • DBT works to help you accept hardships and handle trauma and conflict more effectively
  • DBT helps you regulate and control your own emotions
  • DBT gives you the skills to release anxiety and live a life you want to live

What Are the Goals of Dialectical Behavior Therapy?

Dialectical behavior therapy helps you become more present, mindful and at peace with the world. By combining Buddhist principles with traditional psychotherapy and life skills, DBT works to help patients in the following four core areas:

  • Emotion regulation: Helping patients learn how to manage mood changes and impulsive decisions naturally
  • Distress tolerance: Teaching patients how to cope with trauma, distressing feelings and reactions
  • Mindfulness: Learning how to observe the situation and accept yourself and others as they are, and learning how to enjoy life just as it is and not how you would like it to be
  • Interpersonal effectiveness: Helping patients cope with difficult situations and difficult people to create healthy boundaries and build happier relationships

Take a Quiz to Judge How Well You Manage Your Bipolar Disorder

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“Check out this link to take a test that evaluates how well you are controlling your bipolar disorder. It offers some insight that you might not have been able to see and educates you on the steps you can take to improve your situation.

I took the test, these were my results: ” – Shanti, Robyn

Your Bipolar Disorder May Not Be Well Controlled

Perhaps you’ve been dealing with symptoms for a while but are afraid to talk to a doctor, or you’ve been diagnosed but don’t like taking medication. Sometimes lifestyle factors like your support system or dietary habits play a part. Whatever the reason, your responses indicate that it’s time to get things in order. Start here:

See a Qualified Medical Professional

When it comes to getting a proper diagnosis and treatment plan, it can sometimes take a few tries. If your primary doctor hasn’t addressed your concerns or has prescribed a medication that isn’t helping, you may need to seek out a psychiatrist to diagnose and treat your bipolar disorder. Your regular doctor or local hospital should be able to recommend one.

Educate Yourself and Your Family and Friends

There’s a wealth of information available to help you get a better understanding of the condition, whether online, through mental health organizations, from self-help books, or from your doctor’s office. Sharing this information with family and friends can help them understand too, and may even open up a dialogue about how they can best support you.

Know Your Treatment Options

A number of therapies are available to help alleviate the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Your doctor can tell you about medication options, which range from mood stabilizers to antidepressants. Talk therapy is also often useful, and some complementary therapies, like acupuncture, may be incorporated into your plan.

Inform Your Workplace or School

If you find yourself struggling to keep up at work or school, it might be necessary to inform human resources, your union, or school administration that you’re managing a medical condition. That way you can learn about your options should you need to take time off, and you can file any necessary paperwork.

Must Read: Sane- Mental Illness, Addiction, and the Twelve Steps by Marya Hornbacher

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“This is my next ‘must read’ book. I haven’t gotten around to reading this one yet, but I have read Madness and it was one of the most relatable and amazingly written books I have ever read. For those of you suffering with Bipolar disorder, thats the book for you. Those of you suffering with eating disorders, her first book Wasted is one you should look into. This one however, seems like a great novel for all addicts, focusing on co-occurring disorders and working the 12 steps!” – Much Love, Robyn

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Marya Hornbacher, author of the international best sellers Madness and Wasted, offers an enlightening examination of the Twelve Steps for those with co-occurring addiction and mental health disorders.

In this beautifully written recovery handbook, New York Times best-selling author Marya Hornbacher applies the wisdom earned from her struggle with a severe mental illness and addiction to offer an honest and illuminating examination of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous for those with co-occurring addiction and mental health disorders.

Relaying her recovery experiences, and those of the people with whom she has shared her journey, Hornbacher guides readers through the maze of special issues that make working each Step a unique challenge for those with co-occurring disorders.

She addresses the difficulty that many with a mental illness have with finding support in a recovery program that often discourages talk about emotional problems, and the therapy and medication that they require. At the same time, Hornbacher reveals how the Twelve Steps can offer insights, spiritual sustenance, and practical guidance to enhance stability for those who truly have to approach sanity and sobriety one day at a time.

““The difference between now and the years when I lived in chaos is that I now have the knowledge, the tools, and the support to handle any kind of challenge, any kind of change.” Hornbacher (Madness) writes with honesty, empathy, and personal experience as someone with Bipolar Disorder who has struggled with addiction. She explores the meaning of the Twelve Steps in daily life to someone struggling with addiction, mental illness, or both. From perceptions of addicts (“that we can, by force of will, gain control over the substance to which we’re addicted, and that our failure to do that is simply more proof that we are failures as people”) to the “God problem” of the Twelve Steps, Hornbacher reaches out to readers in a clear, surprisingly lyrical voice that seeks to understand, assist, and explain. The Steps, she argues, “help us through the difficult passages, and they teach us to take joy in the discoveries we make as we go. What I am discovering as I work and rework the Steps over time is that there is no end to this journey.” For anyone seeking to understand or conquer addiction, her book will be a valuable guide and pocket mentor.”

— Publisher’s Weekly