Tag Archives: anxiety

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
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Massage and Recovery from Addiction

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“This article was written in 2005 and since then there have been hundred of other studies that have shown the same results: massage helps people. You don’t have to be at a resort or use the excuse of you Birthday to get a massage. The simple excuse of being human is enough. Everyone can benefit from the holistic treatment of massage therapy. And I’m not just saying this because I am a certifiedcpractitioner, I’m saying it because its true. Massage has not only physical but mental benefits as well. In this article you’ll find how massage therapy can help promote a greater sense of well being while in recovery from active addiction. The informat of is backed up by facts that are hard to ignore. You may want to consider taking the money that used to be spent on drugs and alcohol to put towards a weekly treatment. Look for a local massage therapist and ask them about possible discounts that can be given if you schedule a regular session. Let them know your condition and work with them to start your healing process.” -With endless love, Robyn

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Substance abuse is a major public health problem. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, substance abuse costs our nation more than $484 billion per year. This includes costs related to crime, medical care, treatment, social welfare programs, and time lost from work.

Comprehensive treatment for the addicted individual is the key to turning this health crisis around. In the October 2003 edition of Counselor, The Magazine for Addiction Professionals, Joni Kosakoski, BSN, RN, CARN gives us the fuel to propel massage therapists into the realm of drug and alcohol treatment. In her article “Massage: Hands Down, a Treatment for Addiction”, Kosakoski gives us a clear and concise analysis of massage’s benefits for this population and its place in addiction treatment.

Incorporating massage into a substance abuse program is advantageous in all of the stages of quitting an addiction: withdrawal, detoxification and abstinence. The physical, emotional and spiritual components of recovery all can be directly benefited by the healing power of therapeutic touch. The nurturing contact of massage utilizes skin as the translator of the therapist’s intent. Skin, the largest sensory organ in our body, is our primary sense for connecting information from our external surroundings to our internal environment.

The Touch Research Institute in Miami, Florida has performed scientific research documenting the physiological effects of massage on the body. Kosakoski reminds us of some of their findings on massage such as decreased pain, diminished autoimmune response, enhanced immune response, and increased alertness and performance. These effects appear to be related to massage’s ability to reduce cortisol, a stress hormone, as reported by the Touch Research Institute in 2003. Several of the Touch Research Institute’s studies positively document the ability of massage to decrease anxiety, depression, agitation, and cravings.

In order to understand the connection between massage therapy and its benefit in addiction treatment, Kosakoski explains the neurological biochemistry of addiction: “Much attention has been directed to the mesolimbic reward system, the so-called ‘pleasure pathway’ of the brain. The area is activated in part by the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine, the chemical messenger responsible for making us feel good when we engage in any pleasurable activity. It is well known that dopamine is significantly involved in addiction and that dopamine levels are lower than average during the withdrawal process and into early recovery until brain chemistry normalizes.”

In 1998, the Touch Research Institute published the findings that a regular massage regimen produced long-term results of increasing dopamine levels. The fact that massage naturally increases dopamine levels, and decreases cortisol levels makes it a perfect addition to a standard detoxification program.

The neurochemistry of an addict takes time to get back into balance, so massage treatments after the initial detoxification phase is crucial. When a person uses a substance to feel good, his/her body stops manufacturing its own “feel good” chemicals, (endorphins), and the substance takes over that task. Therefore, when a person quits using an abused substance, they lose their source of feeling good. Since it takes time for the body to start manufacturing its own endorphins again, this is a challenging interim to endure. This interim is the recovering addict’s most vulnerable time to relapse.

In the 1989 edition of General Pharmacology, Kaada and Torsteinbo of Norway reported on study results that massage therapy increased the amount of beta-endorphins in the blood by 16 percent. The release of endorphins during a massage allows the recipient to feel normal, even fantastic, without the aid of a drug. This can be a powerful, even life-changing experience for the client.

On a physical level, the circulation that occurs with massage is also a desired occurrence during the detoxification process. Therapeutic massage’s invigoration of blood and lymphatic fluid allows for a more efficient exchange of oxygen rich nutrition into the body’s tissues, and the delivery of toxic waste products out of the body’s tissues. Kosakoski adds that “All systems of the body function more efficiently with improved circulation and a reduction in tension of the soft tissues and musculature…”

On an emotional level, part of an addict’s recovery process is learning to identify and manage the triggers that cause them to desire escape. Regular massage sessions can aid the client’s awareness of his or her own body, including where and when tension exists. Being conscious of these patterns is a step toward recognizing one’s own resistance, which can lead to healthfully addressing emotions associated with cravings and stress. In addition Kosakoski says that “Emotional release can commonly occur with massage, which provides a safe, non-threatening opportunity to begin the process of recovering long-buried emotions and memories.”

On a spiritual level, the deep relaxation of a massage can provide a still inner place for the recipient to connect with themselves. Being grounded, centered and fully present can be experienced when receiving therapeutic touch from a grounded, centered and fully present practitioner. A recovering addict has a whole new world opened to them when they acknowledge that they can simultaneously be anchored, present, feel good and be substance-free. As Kosakoski explains, “To allow oneself to surrender to the practitioner’s hands — to breathe fully and easily, to acknowledge and receive the gifts of nurturing, surrender and relaxation ….is an invaluable addition to the newly recovering person’s repertoire of relapse-prevention skills.”

Massage has the unique ability to affect all of our layers of being — from the spiritual plane all the way up to and including our body’s chemical composition. In the process of abandoning an addiction, these many parts of ourselves become fragmented. It is merely a matter of time before all addiction and recovery treatment programs recognize massage’s ability to mend the mind-body connection. When that happens, therapeutic massage will be integrated into addiction treatment, and clients will be optimally prepared to succeed in their recovery.

From IntergrativeHealthcare.org

Understanding Withdrawal Symptoms

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Going into a detox facility during withdrawal from drugs and alcohol is not only safer but highly recommended to those who are trying to stop using because you will receive a lot of support. Commonly, after one goes through detox, they will be able to work with staff to determine the next steps in their treatment. This can include inpatient or outpatient programs that will help educate and inspire a life of sobriety. 

“You don’t have to go through withdrawals alone. It can be scary not understanding whats going on with your body. Below are a list of symptoms to look out for to assure that, yes, you are going through withdrawal and yes, you need to seek help. 

“I know that I had no idea that I was going through withdrawals when I first experienced it. I was in denial about my addiction and I wish I sought help immediately before I decided to simply replace my drug of choice, thinking they weren’t as bad as the ones I was using before. ” -Love and light, Robyn

withdrawal

When it comes to alcoholism and drug addiction, going cold turkey is not the right option. Supervised detox is usually safer and may be the best route for you or your loved one.

Treatment for alcoholism or drug addiction involves undergoing therapy to help you mentally and physically recover from theaddiction. In order to get better, you must physically “cleanse” your body of the substance. To avoid a life-threatening reaction brought on by withdrawal from alcoholism or drug addiction, it’s best to seek professional help instead of trying to go it alone.

Ending Drug Addiction: Withdrawal and Detox
Withdrawal — stopping alcohol or drug use — can be extremely dangerous if done on your own, which is why a carefully administered plan for detoxification is the safest way to end your drug or alcohol addiction.

According to James Garbutt, MD, professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and research scientist at the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies, “Everyone is going to have to go through detoxification to withdraw from a substance. The question is, when is it medically dangerous and when does it require medical oversight?”

Withdrawal from many drugs can bring symptoms such as agitation, sweating, an inability to sleep, and high blood pressure. Opiate and narcotic withdrawal symptoms can be among the most difficult. Opiates and narcotics are classes of drugs that include heroin, codeine, Demerol (meperidine), and Oxycontin (oxycodone), which are taken to achieve a sense of euphoria in those who abuse them.

Other substances that tend to cause more severe withdrawal symptoms, and potentially life-threatening symptoms, are barbiturates, alcohol, and benzodiazepines, according to Stephen Gilman, MD, an addiction psychiatry specialist in New York City. “Withdrawal from these substances should be handled in a hospital.”

Drug Addiction: Symptoms of Withdrawal
Symptoms of withdrawal depend on the object of the addiction. The following symptoms may result:

  • For alcohol: sweating, anxiety, tremors, fluctuations in blood pressure and heart rate, seizures, delirium tremens (the “DTs” — a state of extreme agitation, hallucinations, hyperactivity, tremors, and confusion), psychosis and, adds Dr. Gilman, “ultimately death if not treated by a professional.”
  • For opiates/narcotics: anxiety, insomnia, dilated pupils, increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, nausea, and vomiting.
  • For stimulants, such as cocaine: excessive tiredness and depression.
  • For barbiturates (such as Amytal, Nembutal, Seconal): nausea, fast breathing, increased heart rate, tremors, muscle pain, insomnia, hallucinations, convulsions, and delirium. If withdrawal is not monitored, the consequence could be death.
  • For benzodiazepines (such as Xanax, Librium, Valium): delirium, muscle twitches, hallucinations, sensitivity to light, sound, taste, and smell, ringing in the ears, tingling, numbness, and insomnia.

Ending Drug Addiction With Medication
Another reason detox in a controlled setting is important: Medical professionals can administer medications to ease withdrawal symptoms. Ironically, sometimes these are the same drugs that are being abused.

From http://www.webmd.com by Linda Foster, MA and medically reviewed by Cynthia Haines, MD

The Ultimate Mood Tracking App: Optimism

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“I am completely in love with this app called Optimism. It is incredibly useful for those that are struggling through addiction and co-occurring disorders. It keeps track of everything from sleep to triggers. I remember searching for some type of workbook where I could record my mood and all that nonsense to find patterns so as to prevent mania and depression. This app helps me do that and more! Not only does it just intake the information and allow for extra notes, it literally gives you data summaries over whatever period of time you want. It is simple, thorough and so convenient, I would recommend this for even people that are SANE! Please read the specs below and give it a try. I promise you won’t be disappointed!” -Love and light forever, Robyn

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Optimism is a mood charting app that helps you develop strategies for managing depression, bipolar or other mental health conditions.
*Note: a network connection is needed to use this app.*

The app helps you to:

  • Develop and monitor health strategies
  • Learn the “triggers” of a decline in your mental health
  • Recognize the early warning signs of a decline.

Detailed charts and reports are available within the app or by immediate email delivery. These form a feedback loop, providing concrete starting points for exploring things that are affecting your mental health.
The charts and reports can be invaluable for working with a health professional. They provide a detailed history that is fast and easy to review.
The Optimism app is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The advice of a qualified health professional should always be sought for questions regarding a medical condition.

In a nutshell, the purpose of self-tracking is to learn more about yourself and achieve better health.

  • By using the Optimism apps you can monitor the patterns in your life, to identify the negative influences (or “triggers”) that impact on your health, and the early warning signs that your health is deteriorating.
  • Optimism can help you find the small things, as well as the big, that help you to stay well. It can show you the impact of positive strategies that you adopt on your well-being.
  • It helps you to plan for better health. By bringing together your knowledge of your triggers, early warning signs and symptoms, and wellness strategies you can develop a plan for remaining well. That is the key. The purpose of the software is to plan for wellness, not just keep a record of illness.
  • Rather than be a passive recipient of treatment, or just seek treatment in reaction to a new episode, Optimism can help you to have more involvement in your health and a greater sense of control. In general people achieve better health outcomes when they educate themselves and are proactive with their health.
  • There are many health professionals who love Optimism. By tracking your mental health you can provide your clinician with a precise, detailed history. It removes the problem of memory recall and gives an accurate picture of what has been happening. It gets to the bottom of what is or isn’t working, which helps them to give more relevant, appropriate advice and treatment.

Every person’s illness is different. “One Size Fits One”. For many people treatment is difficult, a slow process, or not entirely successful. Optimism is designed to help increase your chance of success.

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

P.T.S.D. And Childhood Trauma Linked to Addiction

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“This is a wonderful article that focus’ on P.T.S.D that can develop from childhood trauma and how it is linked to Addiction. I may not have experienced much trauma due to my up-bringing but I can fully understand the diagnosis of P.T.S.D after I was faced with the traumatic experience of an extreme manic outbreak while I was living abroad in India. Its hard not to think of something so dramatic everyday and live in extreme regret and torture from the memories. I hope your able to find as much appreciation for this problem and its connections to addiction recovery as much as I have.” -Love, Robyn

by Kevin VaLeu

We live in an addictive age. In the last five years of my life I have come across and counseled more people struggling with cocaine, marijuana, alcohol, anorexia, sex, and a whole host of other addictions then I did in the previous five years.

Are people becoming more immoral? Or is there something else causing people to turn to substances and sex. Perhaps these next statistics will shed light into what I believe is the underlying causation of our culture’s craziness.

1) The turn of our century (2000) marked the first time in American history that the majority of our children (over 50%) were raised without both biological mother and father in the same home.

2) Even if both mother and father are in the home it doesn’t mean they are in any better shape if they are being abused or neglected. 61% of all children experience some form of neglect.

3) Greater than 1 out of 3 girls will be sexually molested during their childhood or teenage years.

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What does this mean? We live in a day and age where children are experiencing trauma at unprecedented levels from molestations, abuse, abandonment, neglect, and dysfunctional or fragmented homes. When traumatized children slip under the radar of effective treatment they will find illegitimate, illicit and unhealthy coping mechanisms to medicate the long unforgotten pain.

Link Between Trauma and Addictions

Research shows that 50-60% of women and 20% of men in chemical dependency programs report a history of childhood sexual abuse. When you include people that have experienced P.T.S.D. (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) or childhood trauma the number can climb as high as 99% of them having substance abuse problems.

How Trauma Affects the Brain

In order to understand how trauma makes one more susceptible to addictions, we need to understand two types of memories at work in the brain: 1) Explicit Memory–this is a memory that we can deliberately call up or put away at any time. We have a sense of control over it and we know it is just a memory; 2) Implicit Memory–these memories have coded in them not only a picture of a past event but the resulting feelings, sensations, and emotional response that went with it. These memories happen outside our control.

These memories are adaptive or automatic, which means they can “pop up” or shoot into our minds involuntarily upon some stimuli or current event that reminds us of a past trauma (called association). This is why a current event can trigger a flood of negative emotions that are identical to the emotions we felt at the time of the trauma. In fact, this is why people with PTSD are continually being tortured from their memories because when something “triggers” their past they are actually reliving the painful past trauma over again. Its no longer just a memory they recall, its all the emotions, feelings, and sensations engraved upon that memory card they recall and relive in the present.

This is why many Vietnam veterans with PTSD experience such painful flashbacks. They aren’t just remembering the past, they are actually reliving it. The bomb they see coming at them in their memory is a real bomb coming at them right now.

In addition, as we grew up, all of our basic assumptions about people (e.g. can they be trusted), ways of relating, and behaving towards people are formed on these implicit memory cards. This explains why you get tense or tighten up at the bank whenever you run into a particular man that reminds you of your cruel step-father.

In order to successfully treat a person with PTSD they have to be guided to convert their implicit memories into explicit ones.

Trauma is Recorded in the Limbic System which sits on the Vegus Nerve.

An interesting physiological discovery is that our traumatic memories are housed in our limbic system. This might not mean much if it weren’t for that fact our limbic system is on top of our Vegus Nerve. When the vagus nerve is stimulated by pain, fear, other distresses, and at an extreme, fainting may occur since such stimulation of the nerve affects the pace of the heart. Such stimulation also causes nausea and cool, clammy skin.

Its now easy to see how memories not only affect our emotions but also our physical bodies.

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Emotional Disregulation & Tension-Reduction Behaviors (Addiction):

When an implicit memory is jarred the body automatically releases the hormones of cortisol and adrenaline to give it power or enable it to go into the “flight” or “fight” (emergency) mode. However, for a person that has experienced emotional trauma, there response mechanism is a bit different. When a person with PTSD has their “flight” or “fight” system alerted they experience the current stress at a visceral or guttural level (soul depth) and have to shut down the hippocampus. Similar to a computer that is slowed down by too many programs running in the background, the mind shuts down certain parts (in this case the hippocampus) because it is too difficult to run it while in emergency mode. Implicit memories can cause one to live in a constant state of being overwhelmed. Past traumas that induce implicit memories also damage mood regulation. It is easy to see how the extra strain on a brain from trauma would affect our ability to stay an even keel.

When the mind tries to remember what has happened during a traumatic moment a person experiences emotional disregulation. There are three coping strategies a person may employ in dealing with emotional disregulation:

1) Avoidance: A person doesn’t want to talk about the trauma, think about the trauma, or be around anybody or anything that reminds them of the trauma.

2) Dissociate: They disconnect from reality which, without realizing, turns off the integrative links connecting the pre-frontal cortex to the limbic system. This means one disconnects from their experiences, which on the one hand helps them escape from the painful anxiety that would normally come, but on the other hand is detrimental from an emotional stand point. You lose the ability to feel anything through this numbing process; even the ability to empathize for others. This is damaging to the psyche.

3) Tension-Reduction Behaviors (leads to Addictions): When trauma occurs the brain fires up, becomes overactive and makes a person feel they cannot deal with it without the aid of some type of pleasure to “settle things down.” This is the point where a person may turn to drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, etc. It is here, at this stage of the process, that lends itself toward addictions.

An Introduction to Acupuncture and Psychiatric Disorders

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“I have studied oriental theories and traditional Chinese medicine at Pacific College. Before I took any pills to treat my bipolar disorder, I inquired about other, more holistic approaches to treat my condition. Sure enough, yoga and meditation can compliment Western treatments for mood disorders and acupuncture can also help a great deal. This is a great article briefly describing Eastern theories and how they approach mental illness.” – Peace and Love, Robyn

Acupuncture is an ancient form of traditional Chinese medicine. It works on the principle of stimulating points in the body to correct imbalances in the flow of energy (Qi) through channels known as meridians. This belief is based on the interaction of the five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal and water) and having profound effects on internal organs, which are either yin or yang.

Traditional Chinese medicine also recognizes the mind and body interacting as one, meaning that emotions have a physiological effect on the body. Five emotions are represented by the five elements:

  • Water (fear)
  • Wood (anger)
  • Fire (happiness)
  • Earth (worry)
  • Metal (grief)

Western medical practitioners traditionally have questioned the validity of traditional Chinese medicines such as acupuncture. More recently, acupuncture has been recognized as a legitimate treatment for some conditions and is growing in popularity.

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ANXIETY 

Anxiety is one of the most common mental illnesses worldwide. Many people suffer some form of anxiety occasionally but others cannot manage this natural response to a stressful situation. When a person experiences a highly stressful or threatening scenario, the mind can be overloaded and fail to develop ways of coping.

Although the symptoms can be as manageable as an ominous feeling in the pit of the stomach, some suffer much worse. Anxiety can trigger the following responses:

  • physical, such as an irregular heartbeat
  • cognitive, which can cause negative thoughts
  • behavioral, which may include uncharacteristic aggression or restlessness
  • emotional, such as fear.

Depending on which of these symptoms are suffered, different anxiety disorders may be diagnosed. These include:

  • generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • panic disorder
  • social anxiety disorder
  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

There are a variety of causes of anxiety; all have different treatments. A person’s personality, behavior or thinking style can cause them to be more susceptible to anxiety. Research has proven it also can be hereditary. Biochemical factors such as a chemical imbalance in the brain also has been proven to cause anxiety.

Traditional Chinese medicine relates anxiety to an imbalance of the heart and kidney. Fire represents the heart and joy according to the five elements. The diagnosis is that too much heat in the heart will imbalance the interaction with the kidney (represented as water and fear). This will result in the water organ failing to contain the fire organ rising up to the mind, leading to anxiety. Acupuncture on points around the heart, kidney, spleen and ear are used to treat anxiety.

In a comprehensive literature review appearing in a recent edition ofCNS Neuroscience and Therapeutics, it was proved that acupuncture is comparable to cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which psychologists commonly use to treat anxiety (Errington-Evans, 2011). Another study published in the Journal of Endocrinology in March 2013 discovered stress hormones were lower in rats after receiving electric acupuncture (Eshkevari, Permaul and Mulroney, 2013).

DEPRESSION

It is estimated that approximately one in five people will experience clinical depression at least once in their lifetime. Although it is natural to feel sad and down at times, especially after experiencing loss, these slight effects can be managed with gradual lifestyle adjustments. Clinical depression, however, refers to a long-lasting and intense emotional, physical and cognitive state that greatly affects day-to-day life. Symptoms include:

  • Loss of positive associations and sense of achievement (lack of interest in normally pleasurable activities)
  • Negative thoughts (often worrying about the future)
  • Irritability, agitation and exhaustion
  • Changes in sleeping patterns (too much or too little)
  • Hopelessness (feeling trapped or suicidal)

The causes of depression are known to be similar to the causes of anxiety. It is traditionally treated with antidepressant medication, psychological methods or a combination of both.

Depression is considered to be a problem with circulating Qi around your body, according to traditional Chinese beliefs. The main organ responsible for circulating Qi is recognized as the liver with the heart and spleen playing supporting roles. The most common acupuncture treatment used to increase the flow of Qi is known as The Four Gates. This involves stimulating source points on both hands between the thumb and index finger and both feet between the big toe and second toe.

Anxiety and depression remain two of the most common mental disorders worldwide. As further research continues, acupuncture and other forms of complementary therapies are gradually being proved to be legitimate treatments for anxiety, depression and other illnesses. Perhaps more important than anything for our health is varying our lifestyles by trying alternative therapies, including exercise, yoga and meditation. It is important, however, to always get a second opinion and consult a doctor any time complementary therapies are tried.

References

Errington-Evans, N. (2011). Acupuncture for anxiety. CNS Neuroscience and Therapeutics, 18(4), 277-284. doi: 10.1111/j.1755-5949.2011.00254.x

Eshkevari, L., Permaul, E., & Mulroney, S.E. (2013). Acupuncture blocks cold stress-induced increases in the hypothalamus–pituitary–adrenal axis in the rat. Journal of Endocrinology, 217(1), 95-104. doi: 10.1530/JOE-12-040

Source:

http://psychcentral.com/lib/acupuncture-anxiety-depression/00017321

Drug Addiction and Disorders

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In a dual diagnosis, both the mental health issue and the drug or alcohol addiction have their own unique symptoms that may get in the way of your ability to function, handle life’s difficulties, and relate to others. To make the situation more complicated, the co-occurring disorders also affect each other and interact. When a mental health problem goes untreated, the substance abuse problem usually gets worse as well. And when alcohol or drug abuse increases, mental health problems usually increase too.

Brain Disorders

What comes first: Substance abuse or the mental health problem?

Addiction is common in people with mental health problems. But although substance abuse and mental health disorders like depression and anxiety are closely linked, one does not directly cause the other.

  • Alcohol or drugs are often used to self-medicate the symptoms of depression or anxiety.Unfortunately, substance abuse causes side effects and in the long run worsens the very symptoms they initially numbed or relieved.
  • Alcohol and drug abuse can increase underlying risk for mental disorders. Mental disorders are caused by a complex interplay of genetics, the environment, and other outside factors. If you are at risk for a mental disorder, drug or alcohol abuse may push you over the edge.
  • Alcohol and drug abuse can make symptoms of a mental health problem worse. Substance abuse may sharply increase symptoms of mental illness or trigger new symptoms. Alcohol and drug abuse also interact with medications such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety pills, and mood stabilizers, making them less effective.

Recognizing co-occurring disorders or dual diagnosis

It can be difficult to diagnose a substance abuse problem and a co-occurring mental health disorder such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. It takes time to tease out what might be a mental disorder and what might be a drug or alcohol problem.

Complicating the issue is denial. Denial is common in substance abuse. It’s hard to admit how dependent you are on alcohol or drugs or how much they affect your life. Denial frequently occurs in mental disorders as well. The symptoms of depression or anxiety can be frightening, so you may ignore them and hope they go away. Or you may be ashamed or afraid of being viewed as weak if you admit the problem.

Admitting you have a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders

Just remember: substance abuse problems and mental health issues don’t get better when they’re ignored. In fact, they are likely to get much worse. You don’t have to feel this way. Admitting you have a problem is the first step towards conquering your demons and enjoying life again.

  • Consider family history. If people in your family have grappled with either a mental disorder such as depression or alcohol abuse or drug addiction, you have a higher risk of developing these problems yourself.
  • Consider your sensitivity to alcohol or drugs. Are you highly sensitive to the effects of alcohol or drugs? Have you noticed a relationship between your substance use and your mental health? For example, do you get depressed when you drink?
  • Look at symptoms when you’re sober. While some depression or anxiety is normal after you’ve stopped drinking or doing drugs, if the symptoms persist after you’ve achieved sobriety, you may be dealing with a mental health problem.
  • Review your treatment history. Have you been treated before for either your addiction or your mental health problem? Did the substance abuse treatment fail because of complications from your mental health issue or vice versa?

Signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse or substance abuse

If you’re wondering whether you have a substance abuse problem, the following questions may help. The more “yes” answers, the more likely your drinking or drug use is a problem.

  • Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking or drug use?
  • Have you tried to cut back, but couldn’t?
  • Do you ever lie about how much or how often you drink or use drugs?
  • Have your friends or family members expressed concern about your alcohol or drug use?
  • Do you ever felt bad, guilty, or ashamed about your drinking or drug use?
  • On more than one occasion, have you done or said something while drunk or high that you later regretted?
  • Have you ever blacked out from drinking or drug use?
  • Has your alcohol or drug use caused problems in your relationships?
  • Has you alcohol or drug use gotten you into trouble at work or with the law?

Signs and symptoms of common co-occurring disorders

The mental health problems that most commonly co-occur with substance abuse are depression, anxiety disorders, and bipolar disorder.

Common signs and symptoms of depression

  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in daily activities
  • Inability to experience pleasure
  • Appetite or weight changes
  • Sleep changes
  • Loss of energy
  • Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Concentration problems
  • Anger, physical pain, and reckless behavior (especially in men)

Common signs and symptoms of mania in bipolar disorder

  • Feelings of euphoria or extreme irritability
  • Unrealistic, grandiose beliefs
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Increased energy
  • Rapid speech and racing thoughts
  • Impaired judgment and impulsivity
  • Hyperactivity
  • Anger or rage

Common signs and symptoms of anxiety

  • Excessive tension and worry
  • Feeling restless or jumpy
  • Irritability or feeling “on edge”
  • Racing heart or shortness of breath
  • Nausea, trembling, or dizziness
  • Muscle tension, headaches
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Insomnia