Trauma-Informed Care In Behavioral Health Services

Alcohol Use Disorder | Recovery in Tune Addiction Treatment

What is Trauma-Informed Care in Behavioral Health Services

To define trauma-informed care (TIC) in behavioral health services, we must first examine trauma.

Life often feels unpleasant. Even unfair. People that we love hurt us. They betray us. They might abuse us. We lose those we care about. To tragic, seemingly random events. Violence reaches out and touches us. Or those close to us.

Put simply: life can leave marks on us. And many of those marks feel like scars. We use the term trauma to describe these sensations. But trauma doesn’t have a simple definition. Even seasoned researchers find it difficult to describe.

In this article, you will learn:

  • What is trauma?

  • What are some causes of trauma?

  • How does trauma affect people?

  • What is trauma-informed care in behavioral health services?

  • How can I receive trauma-informed care?

What is Trauma?

Nailing down an exact definition of trauma proves a difficult task. The American Psychological Association defines trauma as, “an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster.” The DSM-V lists diagnostic criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder. It refers to trauma as, “exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence.”

The definition of trauma remains in flux. It changes with time. For a comprehensive understanding, consider the work of Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk. His book The Body Keeps The Score provides an excellent framework. In an interview, Dr. Van Der Kolk said that trauma occurred when “something happens to you that is too big for your mind to comprehend.”

Dr. Gabor Maté’s work can also provide further insight into trauma. Particularly how trauma relates to addiction. His book In The Realm Of Hungry Ghosts offers incredible insight into both trauma and addiction. In a 2018 lecture, Dr. Maté said, “trauma is what happens inside you as a result of what happens to you.”

What Are Some Causes of Trauma?

Many of the definitions of trauma include examples of traumatic events. Typically, you’ll see topics like:

  • Combat

  • Domestic violence

  • Childhood abuse

  • Rape

  • Terrorism

We can also include things like accidents, injuries, severe health problems, etc. No comprehensive list of traumatic events exists. Furthermore, trauma doesn’t impact everyone the same way. Two people can go through the exact same experience. One might experience symptoms of trauma. And the other may not. But when trauma does affect people, it tends to produce similar symptoms.

How Does Trauma Affect People?

When you experience stress, 3 areas of your brain activate. These are the amygdala, the hippocampus, and the prefrontal cortex. Your amygdala attaches feelings to your memories of events. It also puts meaning to these experiences. Our brains tend to remember bad experiences better than good ones. This represents part of what the amygdala does.

Your hippocampus stores your memories. It also activates when you learn. It helps you recognize patterns. To try and make sense of them. Your prefrontal cortex (PFC) helps guide your behavior. It influences how you speak and act. It helps you respond to what’s happening in the world around you.

Trauma disrupts these 3 parts of the brain. It can create powerful memories. So powerful that a person feels like they are still experiencing a traumatic event. Reliving it right now. In the present. Sometimes trauma manifests as nightmares. People experiencing trauma might express feeling frozen or stuck.

What Is Trauma-Informed Care?

We’ve examined trauma. We’ve learned a bit about how trauma affects people. But you may still have questions. You might wonder why we need trauma-informed care in behavioral health services.

Sometimes people suffer. That’s why they seek help from behavioral health providers. People often experience mental health disorders and substance use disorders (SUD) at the same time. Research calls this comorbidity. Both SUD and mental health disorders have links to trauma.

Sobriety and proper medication can contribute to recovery. But for a person to truly heal, they may need to dig deeper. Trauma-informed care helps with this. Instead of trying to fix a problem, trauma-informed care attempts to help a person.

Elements of Trauma-Informed Care

Trauma-informed care (TIC) aims to reduce the likelihood of re-traumatization. It does this by creating an atmosphere of openness. The Institute on Trauma and Trauma-Informed Care lists 5 principles of trauma-informed care.

  • Safety

  • Choice

  • Collaboration

  • Trustworthiness

  • Empowerment

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers four assumptions about TIC. It calls them the “Four R’s.” SAMHSA defines trauma as any event that leaves an enduring result on any aspect of a person. They list the Four R’s of trauma-informed care as:

  • Realization about trauma and its impact

  • Recognizing signs of trauma

  • Responding appropriately to trauma

  • Resisting re-traumatization

These principles help guide behavioral health providers. Providers use these principles to create a safe environment for trauma survivors. Without these principles in place, survivors might feel dehumanized. TIC aims to dignify what a person has been through. To treat a person’s experience with respect.

TIC equips behavioral health professionals with sensitivity. It assists them in treating a human being. A person is not a cluster of symptoms. A person isn’t just a disorder either.  They are not addicts. They are flesh and blood human beings. TIC offers a holistic path to healing and recovery.

How Can I Receive Trauma-Informed Care?

You might be a trauma survivor. Or, perhaps you don’t care for that term. You don’t want to feel like you’re labelling yourself.

At Recovery In Tune, we understand that. Our purpose is to listen. Not to label. We have no interest in fitting you into a mold. Rather, we aim to help you address what has happened to you.

Using trauma-informed care best practices, we create a haven for you. Your wellbeing and security are important. You have dignity and worth. Your experiences were real. They matter. And they were not your fault.

If you, or someone that you love, has experienced trauma, don’t wait any longer to seek treatment. If you have questions about trauma-informed care, contact Recovery In Tune now at 1 (844) 7-IN-TUNE.

Anger Management and Addiction

Woman Suffering from Anger Management and Addiction

Most people struggle with anger. Whether it’s anger that explodes or anger that you stuff. It doesn’t matter. Just about everybody can relate to feeling angry. If you’re in recovery, you’ve noticed a relationship between anger management and addiction. If you’re struggling with anger control, you may likely also struggle with a substance use disorder (SUD).

You may be wondering where the anger begins and the addiction begins. Perhaps you’ve heard of certain drugs that cause anger. Or, you may have begun taking drugs to try and relieve anger. Some antidepressants, though they do not target anger directly, may help you stay calm. You might opt to try Xanax for anger. But some research indicates a correlative relationship between benzos and anger.

In this article, you will learn:

● What is the relationship between anger management and addiction?
● Are there drugs that cause anger?
● What are practical ways to manage anger?

What Is The Relationship Between Anger Management And Addiction?

Uncontrolled anger has a link to the formation of substance use disorders. Consider the role of alcohol in domestic violence. For a person with poor impulse control, alcohol will only make their situation worse. A domestic abuser may experience any number of negative emotions. Drinking may help ease some of those emotions. But alcohol also lowers inhibition, thus keeping the domestic violence cycle turning.

What Is Anger?

Merriam-Webster defines anger as, “a strong feeling of displeasure and usually of antagonism.” You might feel it when someone breaks a commitment. Or misses an appointment. You’re likely to anger when someone betrays you. When someone lies to, or about, you. Or maybe when someone discloses something you told them in confidence.

Symptoms Of Anger

Knowing the emotional and physical symptoms of anger can be very helpful. Pay attention to these symptoms, they’ll come in handy later.

Internal Symptoms

We feel anger internally before we display it externally. It might feel like a clinching or burning sensation in your gut. You might feel it a little higher in your chest. Your thoughts will also offer cues to your anger. You’ll think things like, “How dare they…” or “They won’t get away with this…”

When you’re angry, your mind might bring vows to mind. These are absolute statements. Agreements with yourself that you may not even be aware of. They involve phrases that begin with “always” and “never.” This process happens in fractions of a second. But if you’re mindful, you’ll learn to recognize it.

External Symptoms

Once you’ve stepped into your anger, look for changes in your body. Notice bodily sensations like:

● Sweating, typically on your head, face, and torso
● Narrowed eyebrows
● Lowering or raising your voice
● Racing pulse, or tension in your temples
● Stiffness or rigidness in your hips, back, and neck
● Shaking hands or jaw

Verbal Symptoms

Anger will show up in your speech as well. The tone of your voice may either hush to a whisper or elevate to a yell. You may blame, insult, or even threaten people around you. You might even use curse words or other provocative language. Anger can stimulate salivation, so you will likely foam or froth at the mouth when you speak.

Anger And Addiction

By itself, anger may not cause addiction. But it certainly contributes to it. In his essay On Anger, the Stoic philosopher Seneca said that anger was essentially madness. “You have only to behold the expressions of those possessed by anger to know that they are insane,” Seneca wrote.

Is it any wonder that a person would want relief from this kind of insanity? Some drugs, like antidepressants and benzos, may temporarily offer relief from anger. For a little while, they make us feel a little bit better. Or, at least less bad.

Just feeling angry isn’t wrong. On an emotional level, feeling angry is no different than feeling anything else. But because of its toxicity, we must change the way we think about anger. In recovery, we don’t simply become sober as an end. Sobriety is a means. In this case, a means to understand our anger, process it, and express it in ways that are proactive and helpful. This is how we come to understand the relationship between anger management and addiction.

Are There Drugs That Cause Anger?

Methamphetamines show possible links to violent acts like suicide. Women who consume methamphetamine seem to be at least as violent as their male counterparts. Some case studies indicate that steroid users report feelings of irritability and anger.

An inability to control anger may be a precursor for alcoholism, but this doesn’t mean that alcohol causes a person to become angry. Likewise, cocaine can make symptoms of pre-existing mental illnesses more prevalent. Some of those symptoms include violent acts, whether against self or others.

Evidence appears to suggest a very strong connection between anger and addiction. But no specific drug makes a person angry. Rather, drugs seem to amplify how the person feels already. Addiction makes a bad anger problem into a terrible anger problem.

What Are Practical Ways To Manage Anger?

Now, you know what anger is. You know how to recognize how it feels. And how your body expresses it. You also know how anger alters your speech. You know how addiction and anger relate. With those things in mind, here are 3 practical steps you can implement that will help you better express your anger.

Become Mindful Of Anger

To practice mindfulness means to become aware. To pay attention. To see something in your mind with focus and effort. Meditation can help strengthen this awareness. And awareness works just like a muscle. If you train it, it gets stronger. The more you train your awareness, the better you will be at detecting your anger. The earlier you detect your anger, the quicker you can act to express it healthily.

Label Your Anger

Once you become aware of your anger, call it for what it is. Name it. Even if no one is around, say out loud, “I am angry.” But if others are around, saying this aloud is helpful. Speaking your anger provides clarity for you, and for those around you.

Identify The Reason(s) For Your Anger

Once you’ve said that you’re angry, it’s time to say why. To bring abstract feeling into concrete reality. This will help further clarify why you feel what you feel. Say, “I am angry because of ________.” Don’t judge your reason. But don’t defend it or excuse it either. Just say it. Once you’ve done that, you can then examine your reason(s) for being angry.

Getting Help For Anger Management And Addiction

If you have more questions about getting help for anger management and addiction, call Recovery In Tune now at 1 (844) 7-IN-TUNE.

Alcohol and Major Depression Symptoms

alcohol major depressive disorder

Alcohol addiction and depression are two conditions that have a high likelihood of occurring simultaneously, thus making them a co-occurring disorder. This means that addiction to alcohol and major depression symptoms often appear at the same time. Furthermore, these two conditions are known to exacerbate each other’s negative effects, creating an ever-worsening cycle that can cause serious harm if not properly treated.

However, there is a silver lining: treating one condition can make the other better as well. In other words, if you treat alcohol addiction and see improvements, you will see improvement in the symptoms of depression. Keep in mind that this is not an easy or quick process. In severe cases, treatment can last for months or years.

What is Major Depressive Disorder?

Major depressive disorder is one of the types of depression. It is the most common type of depression in the United States, with an estimated 6.7% of American adults suffering from this condition at any given time. Women are also more prone to suffering from this condition compared to men. Approximately one in every three women will experience major depressive disorder at least once in their lifetime.
People with major depressive disorder experience such severe feelings of depression that they cannot function normally. These feelings can have significant adverse effects on a person’s personal and professional lives. Some people may only experience it once, but most will have several episodes.

How to Spot Alcohol Addiction and Major Depression Symptoms

Some of the symptoms of alcohol addiction include:

• Consuming large amounts of alcohol frequently
• Regular consumption of alcohol, even on a daily basis
• Severe alcohol cravings
• Continued drinking even when experiencing negative health effects
• Consciously hiding alcohol consumption out of guilt or fear of judgment

Symptoms of major depressive disorder include:

• Feelings of melancholy
• Feelings of worthlessness and guilty
• Continuous fatigue
• Lack of energy to perform daily tasks
• Lack of interest in personal relationships
• Lack of interest in work
• Substance addiction, including alcohol
• Suicidal thoughts
If you observe more than a couple of these symptoms in yourself or a loved one, it’s important to seek help right away.

Causes of Major Depressive Disorder

The most difficult thing about finding treatment for alcohol and major depressive symptoms is that they are hard to diagnose. In many cases, the symptoms can overlap and even mask the other. Many people who suffer from major depressive disorder may use alcohol to self-medicate. Those who drink frequently are at greater risk of developing depression, and subsequently increase their alcohol consumption to feel better.
Studies have found that people with a family history of alcohol addiction or major depressive disorder have a higher risk of developing either condition. Those who have suffered trauma or abuse are also more likely to develop this co-occurring disorder.

Can Alcohol Addiction Cause Major Depressive Disorder?

While it has been found either condition can cause the other, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has determined that it is more likely that alcohol addiction can lead to a person developing major depressive disorder. When a person is struggling with alcoholism and fails to cope with their situation, they can develop feelings of depression. They feel weak and inadequate, which leads to more drinking to help manage their negative emotions.

The Relationship between Major Depressive Disorder and Alcohol Addiction

According a study conducted by the University of Otago, addiction to alcohol and major depression symptoms are closely correlated. As many as 40% of alcoholics will develop major depressive disorder. This is likely due to two things: the sedative effects of alcohol and its ease of access. Unlike anti-depressant drugs, people don’t need a prescription to get alcohol. What’s more, alcohol is much cheaper compared to medication.
Drinking alcohol can and does relieve major depressive symptoms, albeit temporarily. However, since the effects of alcohol can wear off quickly, people who use it to self-medicate will need to take it on a regular basis to keep feeling the effects. What’s more, they find that they need to take it in ever-increasing amounts as they develop a stronger tolerance over time. This cycle will likely continue and worsen until treatment is given.

Finding Treatment

The first step in treating addiction to alcohol and major depressive symptoms is consulting a licensed addiction counselor. Neglecting to find proper consultation can lead to a misdiagnosis, or worse, trying to self-diagnose. This problem is likely due to the fact that many people mistakenly feel that having either alcohol addiction or major depressive disorder makes them appear weak and open to ridicule from others. Some researchers even believe that this is the reason why men are less likely to seek treatment compared to women.

Once this co-occurring disorder has been diagnosed by a professional, there are several treatments that can be prescribed, such as:

Medication

Both alcohol and major depressive symptoms usually cause a chemical imbalance in the brain, particularly by decreasing the amount of neurotransmitters. Anti-depressants are usually prescribed to help correct this chemical imbalance and relieve the symptoms of both conditions. In the case of severe alcohol addiction, drugs such as naltrexone, acamprosate, or gabapentin can be prescribed to help curb the craving.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective therapy methods for people with major depressive disorder. CBT helps people identify their triggers and manage their negative thoughts and emotions by modifying their behavior.

Rehabilitation

Many people with alcohol addiction may require rehab to help detox. Detox is a dangerous and long process, especially for those who have suffered from alcohol addiction for a long time. Withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening, and should be managed in a controlled environment. However, people with mild alcohol addiction can undergo detox as an outpatient.

Support Groups

Support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous can help by offering group sessions, classes, and call centers. These groups are immensely helpful for people who might not have a strong support system in their private circles.

Getting Help Today

Suffering from alcohol addictions and major depressive symptoms might feel hopeless, but there is always hope! For those who are willing to take that first step, help is available. There are numerous treatment facilities that are able to give the best care possible. Recovery in Tune offers evidence-based treatment for those who are seeking to overcome their co-occurring disorder. Call us for more information, anytime 1-844-7-IN-TUNE

Benefits of Meditation in Recovery

man meditating in a field

Meditation has moved out of the spiritual realm and into the medical field. Studies have shown that meditation assists in recovery from illnesses of the mind and the body. It also helps those in recovery from addiction.

How Meditation Promotes Recovery

People battling addiction have far more stress than the average person. Cravings plague us. Resentments gnaw at us. We live in a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. Meditation assists with all of these. Clinical investigations show that meditation alone provides the following benefits:

• Stress relief
• Improved emotional awareness
• More control over anxiety
• Identifying addiction triggers
• Greater compassion towards self and others
• Increase in positive neural transmitters
• More flexible thinking and problem-solving
• Promotion of acceptance
• Cultivation of better coping skills

Add meditation with talk-therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, exercise and medication-assisted treatment, and the results are even more profound.

What is Meditation?

In general, meditation is nothing more than training the mind to relax and focus. Then seeing the patterns of the mind from a detached emotional state. It fosters calm and reduces stress by directing thoughts inward or drawing attention to the present moment. Through concentrating on a simple concept, racing thoughts are released. Relaxing physically eliminates strain on the body.

The natural image that occurs when we think of meditation is of a monk sitting in the lotus position, peaceful and tranquil. It conjures images of deep serenity and oneness with the universe. This is only partially true. In fact, there are as many different types of meditation as there are those who practice it.

Types of Meditation

There’s no wrong way to meditate. The methods are easy and require no special training to accomplish.

The most popular types of meditation for recovery are:

Mindfulness Meditation

Typically accomplished by focusing on the breath and merely watching your thoughts and the air as it passes into and out of your body. The goal is to be aware of what you think and how you feel so as to know what thoughts or feelings are troubling you. You detach from these thoughts, and because you are detached you can observe them without allowing them to carry you away. According to scientific research, this style is one of the most useful in addiction recovery.

Mantra Meditation

When picturing a monk sitting serenely in meditation, she or he may be chanting “Om.” This is mantra meditation. A basic word or phrase – called a mantra, taken from the Vedic tradition – is repeated over and over. The goal here is to focus the mind on the word while releasing other thoughts. Transcendental Meditation is one form of mantra meditation.

Relaxation

All meditation involves relaxation, but in this style, the entire goal is to soothe the mind and body by tensing and then relaxing muscles. Start at the feet and strain them, then release. Move up the legs. Then the arms, chest, neck, and face. By doing this, tension releases and the brain focuses on the body instead of stressful thoughts.

Loving-Kindness Meditation

Emotions are the focus of loving-kindness making it particularly useful for anyone with resentment or anger. Compassionate thinking and openness toward to love toward one’s self, family and all life is the aim.

Visualization

During visualization, a happy, unworried place is pictured. It allows the person to mentally live in that place and generates the feelings that space creates. Using all five senses helps add texture, which makes the relaxation deeper and the emotions more real.

This list is by no means comprehensive. Not every style is right for every person. Experiment with each, use combinations or blaze a trail to find a new style that allows you to unwind.

The Importance of Treating Co-occurring Disorders

man lies awake in bed unable to sleep due to co-occurring disorders

Co-occurring disorders are psychological conditions that exist in parallel with a substance abuse disorder. This is also sometimes referred to as a dual diagnosis. One example would be a person who is addicted to prescription opiate pain medications but also has Bipolar II disorder. Many people with substance abuse disorders enter treatment completely unaware of their secondary diagnosis. They may know that they have always seemed more anxious than others or struggled to find happiness most of their lives. This is not the same as having a formal diagnosis, however. People with undiagnosed mental illness are more likely to turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate and change the way they feel. (1)

Identifying and treating co-occurring disorders is important for several reasons. Recovery from addiction is a tremendous challenge for most people. When someone has addiction compounded with depression, anxiety, or untreated PTSD it only increases the difficulty of getting and staying sober. Diagnosing and treating the co-occurring psychological issue dramatically improves outcomes for dual diagnosis patients. Relief from the secondary disorder tends to lessen the tendency to self-medicate. It enables the patient to participate more fully in their treatment and focus on the work of recovery. An accurate diagnosis also helps therapists and clinicians devise a targeted treatment plan that best addresses the patient’s needs.

Ideally, a co-occurring disorder will be diagnosed prior to or during drug and alcohol treatment. That way a patient can begin to be treated immediately and observed for results in an inpatient setting. Treating each facet of mental health, in addition to the substance use disorder, leads to patients who are better equipped for early recovery. Conclusive research has shown that dual diagnosis patients who receive treatment for both addiction and the co-occurring disorder are more likely to stay sober for longer periods of time. (2) It is easy to understand why. An untreated co-occurring condition can not only lead someone to self-medicate but make life more difficult and complicated. Any number of situations can arise as a result from failed relationships to lost employment and these stressors can all contribute to the likelihood of relapse.

It is demonstrably true that treating co-occurring disorders improves the quality of life for people suffering from addiction. Practical research has also shown that dual diagnosis treatment measurably improves outcomes for these patients’ months and even years after treatment. The goal of drug and alcohol treatment goes beyond simply separating a person from their substance of choice. It is also about preparing them for a life in recovery which will allow them to become their ‘best self’. Identifying and addressing underlying psychiatric problems goes a long way towards building a robust foundation for recovery. As much of a challenge as recovery can be, we all owe it to ourselves to remove as many obstacles as possible to it. The unquestionable benefits of dual diagnosis treatment are what have led to its popularity and prevalence in the treatment field today. As the field of addiction medicine grows, we can look forward to more innovations along these lines.

If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction and/or a mental health disorder, please contact us for guidance and information.


Sources
(1) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0890856709630227 (2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5933848/



10 Warning Signs of Bipolar Depression

man gripping his head suffering from bipolar depression

Each of us have changes in our moods. When these changes become so severe that they are affecting our daily living, it is time to ask for help.  Approximately 26% of Americans ages 18 and older, about 1 in 4 adults, suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder. (1)

What is Bipolar Depression?

Bipolar depression is a mental disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood from extreme lows to extreme highs.

Some Extreme lows of Bipolar Depression are:

  • Hopelessness– No expectation of future improvement or success
  • Irritability– Disturbed, edgy mood. The onset of becoming angry
  • Fatigue– Feeling exhausted and sleeping excessively
  • Crying– In response to an emotional state.
  • Self-Harm– Cutting yourself, punching things, pulling out your hair, or bruising yourself

Examples of highs or manic symptoms are:

  • Unexplained Hyperactivity– Inability to sit still, being easily distracted, or talking excessively
  • Paranoia– Unwarranted jealousy, mistrust, and defensive attitude in response to perceived criticism.
  • A decreased need for sleep.
  • Impulsive behavior.
  • Participate in risky behaviors without concern for consequences.

Severe forms of bipolar depression are Bipolar I and Bipolar II

Bipolar I is indicated by manic episodes (mania) lasting at least a week and may become psychotic and require hospitalization. These episodes are followed by extreme episodes of depression that lasts weeks.

Bipolar II involves episodes of severe depression. Unlike Bipolar I, it does not present warning signs of mania however, one or more episodes must be experienced in a lifetime. (2)

The first step is to determine if you have bipolar depression is evaluation

Your doctor may do a physical exam and lab tests to identify any medical problems that could be causing your symptoms. The next step is usually an evaluation by a psychiatrist. They will talk to you about your thoughts, feelings, and behavior patterns. You may also fill out a psychological self-assessment or questionnaire. With your permission, family members or close friends may be asked to provide information about your symptoms.

Mood charting is also an effective therapeutic tool. You may be asked to keep a daily record of your moods, sleep patterns or other factors that could help with diagnosis and finding the right treatment. Bipolar depression is a lifelong condition. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of bipolar depression are important to manage them.

Treatment options include:

Medications

You may need to start taking medications to balance your moods right away. Bipolar depression often requires lifelong treatment with medications, even during periods when you feel better. People who skip maintenance treatment are at high risk of a relapse of symptoms or having minor mood changes turn into full-blown mania or depression.

Day Treatment

Your doctor may recommend a day treatment program to help you get symptoms under control.

Substance Abuse Treatment

If you have problems with alcohol or drugs, you will need substance abuse treatment as well. Ideally, a dual-diagnosis program equipped to treat co-occurring disorders.

Inpatient or Hospitalization

Your doctor may recommend inpatient care or hospitalization if you are behaving dangerously, you feel suicidal or you become detached from reality (psychotic). An inpatient or partial hospitalization stay can also be helpful if you need to remove yourself from a toxic environment. 

Self-diagnosis is not safe or accurate. Do not be afraid to ask for help.

(1) https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/mental-health-disorder-statistics
(2) https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/learn/index.htm

When Should You Seek Mental Health Treatment?

grayscale image of woman staring out of a window

The decision to seek help for a mental health issue does not always come naturally. Many people endure needless suffering for months or years even, rather than seek help. The reasons why vary. Some are skeptical about the effectiveness of mental health therapy or concerned about the need for medication. Others see asking for help as a sign of weakness or a lack of discipline. Perhaps we worry about what others might think of us. Sometimes, living with depression or another mental health challenge can become so routine that we end up acclimated to this ‘new normal’. We try to accept things as they are, even though somewhere deep inside we know life can be so much better.

Whatever the reason for not seeking help, it is absolutely crucial that you give yourself a break. Remaining in denial, making excuses or judging yourself harshly probably isn’t the way you would handle a physical health problem. Should we not show ourselves the same kindness when it comes to mental health? It may be helpful to consider one important fact. When it comes to any problem, there is no such thing as ‘too much help’, there is only ‘not enough’.

Reasons Why You May Need Mental Health Treatment

If you’re reading this, chances are that you or someone you care about is facing a mental health challenge. Here are some guidelines to help you decide when you should seek mental health treatment.

You have lost interest in activities you used to enjoy.

This goes beyond simply changing hobbies. If you find it difficult to get pleasure out of life. If you don’t find your mood lifted by music, conversation, movies, food, whatever once brought you happiness. This can be a sign of a deeper issue like depression. Especially if this has been the case for weeks or months or longer.

You are turning to alcohol or drugs to escape feelings.

Do you find yourself uncomfortable in your own skin? Overcome with anxiety, anger or even boredom? Are you regularly seeking relief in alcohol or drugs? Do you drink or use drugs alone? All of these can be signs of an underlying issue and self-medicating with substances will only serve to obfuscate the real problem and move you further away from a solution.

You have experienced a traumatic event(s).

Everyone experiences some trauma in their lives and almost everyone benefits from outside help in overcoming the aftermath. Whether it’s trauma in your distant past or childhood, or something more recent, time alone does not heal all wounds. Processing trauma and learning to move through and beyond it is one of many benefits of mental health treatment. Don’t continue to rely on coping mechanisms that are failing you. There are people who can help.

You have lost someone or something important to you.

Loss is one of the biggest challenges most of us will ever face in our lives. We must be careful not to underestimate the effect it can have. According to the Holmes & Rahe Social Adjustment Scale, the death of a significant other, divorce and separation, incarceration and losing a job all rank at top of the list of significant life stressors.(1) Any significant loss can have a lasting impact that’s often hard to recover from. Mental health treatment can be greatly beneficial in these circumstances.

You are experiencing psychological symptoms that have consequences.

Perhaps you have been experiencing mood swings or lingering anger that is disrupting relationships and causing problems at work. You might be troubled by persistent, unwanted obsessive thoughts. Maybe you have persistent anxiety that is making it difficult for you to function. All of these are good reasons to see professional mental health treatment.

The reasons to see mental health treatment depend on the individual. The constant is that a person is experiencing symptoms or feelings that are impacting their quality of life. The field of mental health treatment has made great advances in recent years and there is less stigma attached to seeking help than ever. The fact is every human being deserves to realize their potential and to enjoy their life. We should try to never allow excuses or pride or worry to come between us and become our best selves. If you want to learn more about mental health treatment options, please call us at (844) 746-8836

(1) https://www.dartmouth.edu/eap/library/lifechangestresstest.pdf

What is Bipolar Depression?

silhouette of a man staring out of a window

Bipolar depression is a disorder that is defined by cycling moods and energy levels that fall far outside the norm. This combination of manic or hypomanic episodes punctuated by depressive episodes is the primary defining characteristic. To begin to understand this disorder, it helps to know the three main types of bipolar depression.

  • Bipolar I Disorder
  • Bipolar II Disorder
  • Cyclothymic Disorder

Most bipolar depression diagnoses fall under one of these three categories. However, people can sometimes exhibit bipolar disorder symptoms for other reasons that don’t meet the standard to be considered cyclothymic disorder. These symptoms are usually a result of another health problem or drug or alcohol abuse.

If You Suffer From Bipolar Depression, You’re Not Alone

About 2.8% of the U.S. population are diagnosed with a bipolar mood disorder. (1) The majority of bipolar sufferers are diagnosed with either Bipolar I or Bipolar II. Bipolar I, has the most severe symptoms. It is characterized by manic episodes lasting a week or longer, or severe mania that requires a hospital visit. Bipolar I patients also experience depressive episodes usually lasting 2 weeks or more. Bipolar II patients experience similar, but much milder symptoms than those with Bipolar I. They may go through hypomanic periods of high energy and enthusiasm, but not full-blown manic episodes. They also experience depressive troughs of low energy and depressed mood. (2)

The full-blown mania of a Bipolar I manic episode can be alarming to observers and dangerous to the person experiencing it. During an episode, the person may speak rapidly, jumping from subject to subject and exhibit extreme enthusiasm. These racing thoughts are usually accompanied by high physical energy and insomnia. Judgment is affected, they may espouse seemingly wild ideas that they would never normally entertain. A manic episode can even sometimes lead to psychosis, this is another reason why it is so important for Bipolar I sufferers to get proper treatment.

Hypomania, as experienced by Bipolar II sufferers is a much milder form. The less severe features of Bipolar II often make it more difficult to diagnose. A person with Bipolar II disorder is often able to function and live a relatively normal life. They may even learn to harness their hypomania and channel it into productive pursuits. Their depressive episodes can vary in severity, but many people with Bipolar II manage to live without treatment or medication for many years. Most people with Bipolar II also find treatment or therapy beneficial, whether or not medication is needed.

The extremes of Bipolar I disorder can make it almost impossible to live a normal life without disruption. Full-blown manic episodes often result in the sufferer needing to be hospitalized. Many Bipolar I patients get a certain amount of enjoyment out of manic symptoms or may find that they miss the way they used to feel after beginning treatment with medications to stabilize their mood. One of the most common problems faced by Bipolar I patients is deliberately neglecting to follow their medication regimen. This is something any spouse, family member or caretaker of a Bipolar I sufferer should be aware of.

There Is Help Available

Whichever form of bipolar mood disorder a person may suffer from, there are simple choices that can make life much easier. The first is receiving a proper diagnosis by a qualified psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner. Once a diagnosis is made, medication may be recommended by a psychiatrist. Whether or not a medication regiment is suggested, two of the easiest ways to help a bipolar person at home is by maintaining order and routine in their lives and engaging in regular exercise. Choices as simple as keeping a tidy bedroom and socks and underwear neatly organized and keeping a regular bedtime introduce order. These behaviors can be helpful for a Bipolar II sufferer, but critical for a person with Bipolar I. Studies have shown that regular exercise and proper nutrition also contribute greatly to the stability of the lives of people with a Bipolar Mood Disorder. Exercise helps alleviate anxiety and regulate stress hormones. (2) It is absolutely possible to live a healthy, fulfilling life with a bipolar disorder, if it is diagnosed and managed properly. If you believe you or someone you know may be suffering from bipolar mood disorder, please consider calling us at (844) 746-8836 for guidance.


(1) https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Mental-Health-Conditions/Bipolar-Disorder
(2) https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/bipolar-disorder/index.shtml

5 Tips for Managing Depression

three women laughing outside

Depression can seem to cast a shadow over your entire life at times. Worse, it can be a self-perpetuating problem as the behaviors that it results in usually only serve to cause yet more depression. Much research has been done into depression as it is one of the most common forms of mental illness. While there is no definitive cure, we do have an array of interventions that are proven effective.

As with any complex problem, the most powerful remedy is often a compound approach. It may be a combination of talk therapy and medication or meditation and medication. Exercise and nutrition. Even religion or spirituality. Utilizing more than one remedy at the same time generates synergy. You’ll almost always get far more out than you put in.

All that is needed is enough willingness to try. We have to suppress the masochistic instinct to continue wallowing in misery just long enough to try something that just may work. You’ve got nothing to lose except a lousy mood. If your depression has continued for more than a few weeks, you may want to consider getting a formal diagnosis, if you haven’t already. A mental health professional can help you jump start your recovery and help you avoid common pitfalls.

Here are 5 useful tips for managing depression:

1. Get outside of the house

It may be the last thing you feel like doing when you’re depressed but going outside and getting some fresh air and sunlight has a real effect. Several studies have shown that depression is one of the mental health issues that is most improved by outdoor activity. (1)

2. Get outside of yourself

Isolating and focusing all of your attention inward almost never makes depression any better. In fact, it usually makes it worse. Spending time with other people, even when you don’t feel like it, is important. Humans are social animals. We are built for contact and interaction with each other. Stepping out of your own mind and into someone else’s experience for a little while can serve to not only get your mind off your own problems, it can give you a sense of purpose.

3. Gratitude

Everyone has something to be grateful for. No matter who you are. It may sound silly but a great deal of overcoming depression, in the beginning, has to do with going through the motions. Even when you think nothing can possibly lift your mood or make life seem less gloomy. Do it anyway. Act as if. You have nothing to lose but more of your misery. Start by making a list of the things you are grateful for. Make it a habit.

4. Forgiveness

Forgive people in your past. Forgive people in your present. Forgive yourself.

Depression and anger are inextricably linked. Work on getting rid of anger and depression begins to lift. Forgiveness doesn’t mean saying that it’s OK that someone did you harm. It means you are choosing to let go of the anger and sadness and move on. Who can you forgive? Who might you ask to forgive you? Forgiveness is magic if you let it work for you.

5. Remember what brings you joy

Everyone has had things in life that bring them happiness. Even if it’s something that used to make you happy in the past and you think it won’t help, do it anyway. Surround yourself with beauty. Listen to music. Watch a movie that makes you smile or laugh. Read an inspirational book.

Here are some helpful resources:

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is an advocacy group for people who struggle with mental illness and their families. NAMI is an excellent resource for finding help and support.

https://www.nami.org/

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available 24-hours a day at 800-273-8255. You can also chat with them online if you prefer at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/

Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Let someone help.


Women’s Healthcare Month: How Addiction Affects Women Differently

Women's Healthcare and Addiction

In the past, men reported higher rates of addiction and substance use disorder than women, but the past few decades women have swiftly closed the gender gap. Today, men and women experience roughly equal rates of these issues. However, women’s rates of progression, experiences, reasons for use, and stigmas can vary greatly from their male counterparts. 

 

Addiction Progression in Women 

Scientific studies have found that women progress in addiction faster than men due to their physiology. This is particularly true with alcohol, which female bodies process differently. Because women have less of a particular stomach enzyme which helps break down alcohol, it remains in their system longer and leads to higher blood alcohol levels. One drink for a woman can have twice the physical impact of one drink for a man. When a woman is drinking often, this higher saturation of alcohol leads to dependence more quickly. It also leads to brain and organ damage more quickly than for men. 

 

Co-occurring Disorders in Women

Studies show that women are two times as likely to suffer from depression and anxiety as men. Self-medicating is a common theme with co-occurring disorders to manage uncomfortable feelings and often leads to abuse, dependence and addiction. Women are also more likely to experience suicidal thoughts and attempts than men. 

Furthermore, domestic and sexual trauma in women can lead to co-occurring disorders. Roughly one in three women will experience a sexual assault in their lifetime, a stat which is higher for women than it is for men. Women are more vulnerable to physical attacks and are more likely to experience child sexual abuse, incest, neglect in childhood, and domestic violence. A history of violent trauma is more common among women with drug addiction, often as a result of PTSD. In fact, one study found that as many as 6 in 10 women with addiction also have PTSD. 

 

Women’s Pain and Addiction

Women’s pain is less likely to be taken seriously by medical professionals than men’s pain, called Pain Bias. According to Harvard Health, women’s pain is more likely to be considered psychological rather than physical. One study found that women in emergency rooms in acute pain were less likely to receive painkillers than males in similar condition. 

Conversely, women are found to suffer more frequently and more intensely from pain and often require more medication to mitigate the effects. One study found that women needed twice the amount of morphine as males to receive comparable pain relief. Women are also more likely to have chronic and painful inflammatory and/or auto-immune conditions than men. Further, women’s reproductive health conditions can lead to significant pain such as Endometriosis which affects 1 in 10 women worldwide.

The lack of adequate pain management can lead women to seek pain relief elsewhere in the form of illicit substances or illegally-sold prescription medications on the street. 

 

Social Stigmas and Pressures for Addiction in Women

Women with children in particular experience social stigmas around addiction. They have been found to be less likely to admit they have a problem, to analyze their own alcohol or substance use habits. They are also less likely to speak to a friend or professional about their problem for fear of judgement.

Further, women with addiction who are pregnant are less likely to seek support. One study found that 25% of opioid addicted pregnant women went untreated. Researchers believe that shame and stigma play a role in their barrier to receiving help. 

 

Getting Help 

Women need and deserve proper support in treatment of Substance Use Disorder (SUD) and Addiction. Seeking help in a supportive, nurturing environment that also specializes in treating Co-occurring Disorders can help to make the changes needed to overcome addiction. 

If you or a loved one are struggling with drugs or alcohol, contact us today. We are here to listen and we are here to help.

 

Sources

https://www.jneurosci.org/content/37/12/3202

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5845507/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9398925/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3688835/

https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/addiction-in-women

https://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/genderwomen/en/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression/art-20047725