(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
By: Thomas G. Beley, PhD, LCSW
There is a German fable that states that relationships are like two porcupines trying to keep warm in the dead of winter. Move in too close, or too quickly, in the anticipation of feeling the warmth, chances are the porcupines are going to experience some discomfort and pain from their respective ill-positioned quills. Yet, being afraid of getting too close to each other, the porcupines are likely to run the risk of dying from the winter cold.
As individuals, our relationships are not too different than the porcupines. Whether it is with family, friends, co-workers or strangers, we are constantly in a natural process of trying to determine just how close we need to be with someone while at the same time not sacrificing our own individual beliefs, values, or needs. It is the negotiation of these two natural forces of individuality and togetherness that determines the success of any relationship. Too much of either or an imbalance can have unsettling effects.
It is important to understand that individuals are subject to an inherent process of trying to reach a successful balance between these two natural forces. Research has shown that this is a process rooted in nature and all living organisms. Being a part of all life means we have the desire to be our own person yet at the same time desire the safety and security of the group.
Finding Balanced Relationships
In humans, this process happens both consciously and unconsciously. We seek out relationships that will give us both the opportunity to pursue our own individual needs while at the same time involve ourselves in a relationship that is nurturing and comforting. Our behavior, whether good, bad, or indifferent, is often influenced by these forces of nature of trying to find that right balance between one’s need for individuality and togetherness. The successful balance of these two life forces is what brings us a sense of well being and contentment. It is our ability to maintain this delicate balance between individuality and togetherness that determines the quality of any given relationship.
It is also important to note, here, that the quest for individuality or togetherness is not to say that one is more important than the other. They are both extremely critical. However, it is how a person balances these two forces within their life and the relationship systems in place that makes the difference between staying calm and collected and being in a state of turmoil and conflict.
Relationship conflicts often occur when there is an imbalance in these two natural forces. Imbalances can occur both within the individual and within the relationship system itself. A common scenario that often develops is when one person within the relationship system desires more individuality and the other person in the relationship system desires more togetherness and closeness. As is often the case, one person begins to feel overwhelmed in the relationship while the other person may feel neglected. Typically, the person desiring more individuality is running away from the relationship system while the person seeking more closeness is chasing the relationship system.
The Dance of Conflict
This “dance” can occur in a variety of ways. One such way is when an individual requires an excessive amount of one or the other. Too much of an individuality influence may make it difficult for that person to make a meaningful connection with others, particularly those who desire more closeness and togetherness. In that desire to achieve a sense of individuality, a person can easily cut him or herself off from others. Along the same lines, a person with a high degree of individuality may find others having a difficult time making a meaningful connection with him or her. The same holds true for the person needing a great deal of togetherness. The desire to achieve closeness can result in the person becoming excessively dependent on others or not maximizing their own individual potential.
Another common scenario that is when one person desires individuality and the other person is requiring a sense of togetherness. A person who requires a sense of individuality will likely create a conflict in the relationship system of the person who has the desire to achieve more togetherness. The same dilemma holds true if two people have inordinate amounts of the same needs. Two people desiring a great deal of individuality will likely experience the cold of winter. Two people desiring a great deal of togetherness will likely feel the quills of another person. When there is an imbalance of these needs, anxiety occurs and the potential for conflict exists.
Find What Matters
It is important to emphasize that there is no magic formula that constitutes what is the right amount of togetherness or individuality within a relationship system. What truly matters is how a person manages their respective needs and the awareness of the needs of the other within the relationship system.
Doctor Thomas G. Beley, Ph.D., LCSW is the Executive Director of Palm Healthcare Company. For over 25 years, Doctor Beley has worked in the field of substance use disorder and mental health disorders. Through the years of helping people who struggle with drugs, alcohol and mental health issues, Doctor Beley has proven to be an expert clinician and an innovative and compassionate leader in the treatment industry. Palm Healthcare Company is grateful to have an executive team with experience and incredible commitment to helping others. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398
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One of the most harmful myths about alcoholism that needs to be debunked is the idea that drinking does not affect anyone but the individual. People tend to be self-centered when lost in their cups, and so many believe the only person who has to deal with their drinking problem is them. No one else has to spend the money, or feel the hangover, or suffer the consequences… right?
But we know this isn’t true. The behavior of an alcoholic or a drug addict impacts others, especially the people closest to them. An alcoholics family can experience a great deal of pain and carry plenty of consequences as the result of their loved one’s drinking.
However, none are as vulnerable as the children of alcoholics. Frequently, the impact of parental alcoholism on a child can last the rest of that child’s life. Even as children, they may do their best to conceal the effects at the time, but one way or another it always leaves a mark. Here are just some of the ways that parental alcoholism affects children.
One way parental alcoholism affects children is by creating a lot of self-doubt and self-criticism in many children. Often, the children of alcoholics believe their own shortcomings are the cause of disturbances in the home. This can lead them to be extremely critical of themselves. They may believe they are not good enough, and frequently develop low self-worth and low self-esteem.
Even as adults, the children of alcoholics can feel inadequate.
Over time, the tendency to doubt themselves and be so critical can lead to other issues, including depression and anxiety disorders. Parental alcoholism can lead a young child to feel like they are unworthy or responsible for more than is actually under their control.
Fear or Abandonment
In most cases of parental alcoholism, the parent is emotionally unavailable or even physically not around. Sometimes a parent will be asked to leave due to their drinking by the other parent. Other times, the parent will get in trouble with the law and may go in and out of institutions. In some cases an alcoholic parent will have to be hospitalized, or even worse, they pass away.
All of these circumstances can lead the child of an alcoholic to develop a deep fear of being abandoned. Losing a parent, even if only periodically, can be devastating for young children.
When a child has developed low self-worth, is extremely critical of themselves and has a fear of being abandoned, it only makes sense that they will constantly seek approval from others. Growing up in a house with parental alcoholism as the norm, a child always trying to make others happier will become a people-pleasing adult.
This can be especially true if a child’s alcoholic parent was mean or abusive when they were drunk. It can intensify the fear of not being enough, or of being abandoned. As an adult, the children of alcoholics can grow up with a fear of confrontation. They may spend their lives avoiding any form of conflict. Furthermore, a child of an alcoholic might even sacrifice their own well-being in order to avoid making others angry.
Sadly, with people pleasing a child will learn to suppress their own emotions, making them an emotionally stunted adult.
Sometimes, the child of an alcoholic is so committed to people pleasing that they become a perfectionist. Parental alcoholism can cause a kid to become incredibly responsible, hoping to gain some control of the world around them. These children of alcoholic parents become overachievers or workaholics.
However, there is no guarantee that they will not try to overcompensate in the opposite direction. An alcoholic’s child may also become very irresponsible members of society. They may adopt a self-destructive lifestyle similar to their parents in order to try and escape the pressures of an alcoholic home. Thus, the cycle continues.
If parental alcoholism has played a key role in the household, it is hard for a child to determine what “normal” is. This inability to distinguish the good from the bad makes it much more difficult for children to decide which role models to follow. Not only that, it makes it hard to know the right way to treat other people.
If you grow up in a home where abuse and alcoholism are normal, you are likely to engage in that behavior and seek out relationships like that later on in life. By normalizing the harmful behaviors and the toxic relationships that a child of an alcoholic can be exposed to, they are also building a faulty foundation for future relationships.
Difficulty with Relationships
When growing up with parental alcoholism in the home, kids will experience things like:
Sadly, they may accept that these things are all normal. Thus, these children can develop severe trust issues. If you have grown up developing serious trust issues and/or a lack of self-worth, getting close to anyone can seem almost impossible.
In order to be intimate with others, you have to rely on others for emotional attachment, fulfillment, and interdependence. These things can be very hard to reconcile for the child of an alcoholic home. And if you are so critical of yourself, a strong fear of abandonment will definitely be very hard to overcome when trying to build relationships. Pretty much every issue we mentioned before this point makes it extremely difficult for these children to have healthy relationships.
Overcoming Parental Alcoholism
In truth, there are innumerable ways that parental alcoholism could affect a child. Because we are always trying to figure out what things mean as children, we could adopt completely different ideas based on a variety of experiences. Some people are more sensitive to certain kinds of problems, while others may use their bad experiences as motivation to set better standards for themselves. In short, not all children of alcoholics will be affected the same.
However, many of the issues on this list appear consistently in studies of adult children of alcoholics. For years, these are some of the most common characteristics identified in research on the families of alcoholics. Regardless, one thing remains the same- parental alcoholism can significantly influence a child’s development. Time and time again, we can see how the impact of growing up with parental alcoholism can shape an adult.
A large proportion of the people who seek help for substance use disorders like alcoholism or drug addiction have kids. Sadly, a large number of parents do not seek help because they are afraid of being away from their children. Some even worry they may lose their children. Still, every year countless children lose their parents to alcohol and drug use. That is why it is so important that parents and caregivers receive comprehensive and compassionate support in holistic addiction treatment.
If you or a loved one is looking for treatment, make sure the program you choose has ways for the family to be involved in the recovery process. Not only is it good for helping people understand what their families go through, but they also teach families about what the suffering individual goes through.
Treatment for alcoholism or addiction is not about taking families apart, but about bringing them together.
Palm Healthcare Company believes in uniting loved ones through the practice of healing mind, body and spirit. Our holistic addiction treatment program gives each individual an opportunity to create a personalized recovery plan that helps them to overcome their addiction and get back to what matters most. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398
Maintaining Mental Health and Well-Being
by Thomas G. Beley, Ph.D., LCSW
Executive Director of Palm Healthcare Company
We hear a lot about the importance of mental health. However, exactly what is mental health. If one looks at the research literature there is not very much written about what constitutes mental health. Often times, by default, mental health has been referred to or alluded to as the absence of a mental illness. To complicate the situation further, the literature seems to be overly ripe with how to treat various mental disorders as well as how to reduce the specific symptoms a person may be experiencing. Unfortunately, our society has become overly preoccupied with treatment focusing on the reduction of a person’s symptoms as an indicator of a mentally healthy person. Although treatment and symptom reduction are important facets of a person’s mental health, neither treatment nor symptom reduction guarantees a sense of well-being.
In examining the various disorders as outlined in the DSM IV and the plethora of research that has been conducted on how to treat these disorders, there appears to be a common thread that seems to exist between all of these disorders and conditions. The common thread appears to be an on-going interrelationship between the biological or neuro-chemical make-up of a person; the existing stress factors that may be presented in a person’s life; and the actually coping skills or mechanisms that a person uses as a way of dealing with everyday life. Furthermore, it appears that all three of these influences have the ability to impact the other for the better or for the worse. This article will examine these various influences on a person’s mental health and how these influences are involved in maintaining a person’s sense of mental health and well-being.
Stress is a constant in everyone’s life. Hans Selye, the father of the stress response, defined stress as “any change.” So the fact of the matter is that stress is a constant in one’s life. In essence, the moment a person opens their eyes in the morning, that’s stress. The moment that same person gets out of bed, that’s more stress. And, the moment that person jumps into the shower, even yet more stress. In most instances, our bodies are able to handle this stress much of which is attributed to a person’s balanced neurobiology and neurotransmission.
Much of this can be explained through the “fight or flight response” of a person. This mind-body connection, which has been a part of human evolution, has worked the same way over hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of years, the same way. Any time a person’s brain, either conscious or unconscious, senses any type of danger whether real or not, there are a whole host of stress hormones that are being released into the body (neurotransmission) gearing the person’s body up to do one of two things, to run away from that danger or to fight that danger. In either scenario, the body has to be an efficient machine. Although a person doesn’t necessarily have to hunt for their food any longer per se or run away from man-eating animals, a person is still faced with the everyday modern dangers of life such as unemployment, finances, marital problems, parenting, etc. The list is endless. The important point, here, is that regardless of what that perceived danger, the mind, and body via neurotransmission, kicks into action.
A problem that arises, however, is that once the mind and body have turned it up a notch to deal with the stress, it takes the body a longer time to calm down. The mind or more specifically the neocortex (the thinking part of the brain) is able to easily dismiss stress and false alarms of stress in a relatively short manner. A person can become instantly alarmed at the prospect of their electric being shut off from a notice received in the mail, however, instantly “feeling” a sense of relief realizing that the notice is not meant for them but for the neighbor. Although the mind has dismissed the danger, the stress hormones have already been released to key parts of the person’s body. Studies have shown that these stress hormones or the signaling of the mind to the body to calm down can take anywhere between six hours to seventy-two hours for the body to receive the signal of no danger. So what can actually happen is that a person can be walking around “feeling good” and the least little thing can happen, the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back, that can send a person into a stressed or panic state.
There are three key points that need to be remembered about stress.
The first key point is that stress is a constant in anyone’s life by virtue of the constant change a person is going through from the moment they wake up in the morning to the time they go to bed at night. All too often a person thinks of stress as “nothing bad has happened to me lately.” It is irrelevant to ask the question whether a person is stressed, it is more appropriate to think in terms of whether that person’s neurobiology is handling that stress in an appropriate manner.
Secondly, the body doesn’t really know the difference between “good stress” and “bad stress.” It may be more relevant for a person to think in terms of how much and to what extent has that person experienced change during the course of the week or the month regardless of whether that change has been “good” or “bad.” The more change the person has experienced, the more stress that has been absorbed into the body.
And, finally, the third key point is that the body is a very slow responder. It takes the body a much longer time to calm down than the cognitive processes that are occurring in the brain. A person needs to be mindful that just because they are “feeling relaxed” doesn’t necessarily mean that their body is relaxed.
It is not always feasible to assume that lowering the stressful situations in one’s life is the answer since many people may be unable to avoid a stressful lifestyle. Firefighters, police officers, emergency room medical staff, are all faced with potential chronic conditions of stress. It is not fair to say these individuals will be excluded from feeling a sense of well-being because they are in constant stressful situations. It is important for a person to be aware of trying to lower stress in their life where they can, but for those individuals who are in situations where stress is a constant, it will be more important for that person to develop the necessary coping skills to deal with stress such as exercise, nutrition, yoga, or meditation.
Research in the neurosciences in recent years has continued to shed new light on a person’s brain chemistry and how neurotransmission impacts a person’s sense of well being as well as behavior. There have been numerous studies conducted on certain neurotransmitters of well being such as serotonin, GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), dopamine, and others to suggest the necessity of these neurotransmitters for the person to function at an optimal level. This is where the explosion of new prescription drugs has come on to the market to solve the ills of the world. Needless to say, pharmaceutical companies have long since been proponents of this neurobiological research due to the ability to develop newer and more efficient drugs to attempt to balance a person’s neurochemistry. An important aspect that has evolved over the years, however, is the recognition of, not only the importance of a person’s neurobiological chemistry to be in balance for a sense of well-being, but also the fact that a person’s biochemical makeup can be extremely delicate and subject to a whole host of outside influences such as stress, medical conditions, nutrition, and behavior that can throw a person’s neurochemistry off creating a variety of symptoms. As a result, there continues to be a growing movement toward alternative methods of treatment to address brain chemistry issues such as acupuncture, nutrition, or chiropractic intervention to intervene and/or to enhance a person’s brain chemistry.
Regardless of whether you are a proponent of Prozac or a devotee to acupuncture, the important point to emphasize is that a person’s neurochemistry plays an important role in a person’s sense of well-being and contentment. Furthermore, the imbalance of neurotransmission in the brain can interfere with that person’s overall level of functioning and well-being.
Coping with everyday life situations is another area which is an important influence on a person’s ability to achieve a sense of well-being. A person needs to feel a sense of satisfaction about how they handle given situations that confront them whether if it is with themselves or with others. However, in order to do this effectively, a person needs to have a repertoire of coping mechanisms to choose from. All too often, a person doesn’t develop or change the necessary coping skills needed to deal with life situations. An interesting point to make, here, is that the human species, which is supposed to be at the top of the so-called food chain of life, is the only species that will continue to do the exact same behaviors to problem solve a situation despite the fact that these problem-solving behaviors may have repeatedly failed in the past. For a variety of reasons, it appears that change is often difficult for a person to make. In order to effectively cope with a situation, it is of vital importance for a person to maintain a degree of flexibility, adaptation, and a willingness to change regarding any given situation.
In a sense, a person’s self-esteem can be viewed as being borne in a series of “failures.” Once a person makes a decision to do something, it is usually followed by a series of behaviors or actions. Often times these initial behaviors and actions are not going to be a success since doing something for the first time often leads to a number of miscues or possible “failures.” However, if a person is willing to persist at following through with these behaviors and actions or be willing to try something different in an attempt to reach their goal, there is a greater likelihood the person will develop a sense of competence in that area. Once that person achieves that level of competence, a person’s self-esteem will increase. Once a person’s self-esteem has increased, the easier it becomes for that person to make decisions and take action in other areas of life and the cycle begins all over again.
The important part of coping is that both coping mechanisms and skills need to be constantly reviewed and refined by a person. There is no guarantee that a particular coping skill or mechanism is going to work in all situations. As a person begins to adapt to the various complexities of life, the greater the need for a more complete range of coping skills to maintain that sense of well-being.
The Systemic Relationship of Neurobiology, Stress, and Coping
In considering these various influences on a person’s mental health and well-being, it is vital to understand the interrelationship that exists between them. One must comprehend that all three of these influences are constantly impacting one’s functioning and a person cannot focus on one of these areas without taking into consideration the ramifications it will have on the other areas. There is a cyclical force that each area has on the other areas and vice versa. For instance, if a person is experiencing an inordinate amount of stress, whether it is “good stress”
or “bad stress,”
the neurochemistry of the brain is going to be impacted. If the neurochemistry of the brain is affected, there is a greater likelihood that this imbalance is going to affect the neurotransmission which can result in symptomatic behaviors such as panic, anxiety, depression
, or other symptomatic behavior. As a result of the symptomatic behavior the person may be experiencing, the person’s coping mechanism and problem-solving abilities are probably going to be compromised at least to some degree. If the person is unable to cope with a given situation in an effective manner, there is the potential of the stress level increasing again. As a result, there is a cyclical process of impact.
Balance and Well-Being
It appears that a key factor for a person maintaining mental health and a sense of well-being is the ability to monitor and balance the areas of neurobiology, stress, and coping. The challenge, however, that confronts a person is the ability to maintain this balance on an on-going basis. One of the difficulties stems from the fact that it is not always clear as to what a person needs to attend to at any given time. For instance, let’s say that a person’s depression may simply be stemming from their genetic make-up. If this is the case, it would probably be more prudent for that person to be prescribed the appropriate anti-depressant medication to correct the neurobiological issue as opposed to getting involved in therapy or attempting to reduce stress. Although the latter two methods can be extremely effective in the long run, the more effective and efficient intervention may be from a pharmacological approach.
On the other hand, let’s say a person is depressed as a result of a great deal of existing stress that is occurring in their life, let’s say from being fired from their job, or the person has limited coping skills to deal with real-life traumas like the death of a loved one. In this scenario, a pharmacological intervention may be of little value, since the depression may be more a product of “normal” life situations that would be better addressed through support and the development of better and more appropriate coping skills for that given situation. In these situations, yoga, meditation, and exercise may be extremely efficient in addressing stressful situations whereas psychotherapy can be effective in developing better coping skills. In many instances, it is not necessarily the fact that a person’s anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication is not working, the fact of the matter is that the person’s life is still a mess and they need to begin to put it in order. Unless the person is able to address these matters, the likelihood of a person responding effectively to a pharmacological intervention is going to be minimal.It is safe to say that one’s mental health and sense of well-being is not a given in anyone’s life. Just because a person has a positive outlook on life, doesn’t mean that their genetic make-up couldn’t play a factor in that person’s level of functioning. Or, the person who has savvy coping skills in dealing with incredible amounts of stress, doesn’t mean that the accumulative effects of those stressors will not take a physiological toll on that person via heart disease or cancer.
Maintaining mental health and well-being needs to be worked at on an on-going basis, not too different than an athlete needs to train to maintain peak performance. In the arena of mental health and well-being, a person needs to monitor and train how they are performing in the areas of neurobiology, stress reduction, and the development of more effective and positive coping skills. The ability of a person to attend to these areas through the use of yoga, nutrition, exercise, diet, meditation, stress reduction techniques, psychotherapy, hypnosis, just to name a few approaches, the greater likelihood the person will maintain that sense of well-being. A question that a person needs to ask themselves is what is it they are doing to ensure the balance of these three key areas of their life.
For over 25 year, Thomas G. Beley, PhD, LCSW has worked in the field of addictions and mental health. Over these two-and-a-half decades of helping people who struggle with mental health and substance use disorders, he has proven to be an expert clinician and innovative and compassionate leader. Palm Healthcare Company is proud to have an executive team with experience and incredible commitment to helping others. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398
Just this past Sunday the nation saw one of the deadliest shootings in modern American history in Las Vegas. This immense and indescribable tragedy shocked the world as news reports and live footage filled the airwaves after a gunman opened fire with high-powered rifles at an outdoor music festival. At this point there are at least 58 dead and over 520 wounded, making it the deadliest mass shooting in recent history.
The heartbreak and weight of this tragedy truly cannot be put into words. The unimaginable loss is without parallel. Beyond those who lost their lives in such a senseless act of violence, the impacts this event has had on countless friends, families and loved ones are unfathomable.
In the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting, mental health must be a priority. How we address and protect the psychological well-being of every American must be a very serious part of the conversation. We have to take a close look at how we are facing mental health, and support those who have been traumatized in the wake of such horrific events.
PTSD of Mass Shootings
The risks of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is extremely elevated in situations like this. Research on mass shootings is not extensive but is sufficient enough to allow for some preliminary conclusions. One study examined 15 mass shooting events to review consequences of the incidents upon survivors. From these studies conclusion, researchers stated:
- Prevalence of post-disaster diagnoses (predominantly PTSD) in these studies ranged from 10% to 36%
- Much higher percentages reported sub-threshold PTSD
- Very few participants reported no symptoms
One 1994 study in the American Journal of Psychiatry shows that in the acute post-disaster period:
- 20% of the men met criteria for PTSD after a mass shooting
- 36% of the women met criteria for PTSD
The same study looked at those with post-disaster PTSD who also met criteria for another post-disaster psychiatric diagnosis, especially major depression. They found:
- One-half of the women met the criteria
- One-fourth of the men met the criteria
Experts say most people will recover fully from post-disaster PTSD within 6 to 16 months, but most still emphasize the importance of support.
Not only can those present at the tragedy be affected directly, but also those not present but connected to the location or individuals present can be affected vicariously. You don’t have to experience something so horrifying first-hand to suffer a severe impact. An attack like this can have deep emotional effects on those who witness the event, or even for those all over the world following the story.
Part of dealing with the residual effects of tragic events and disasters is to understand how conditions like PTSD can impact people. PTSD can result in emotional, physical and even cognitive issues that some people may not know how to recognize or cope with.
Emotional Effects of PTSD Include
- Grief or sadness
- Emotional numbing
- Loss of pleasure derived from familiar activities
- Difficulty feeling happy
- Difficulty experiencing loving feelings
Physical Effects of PTSD Include
- Startle response
- Cardiovascular strain
- Increased physical pain
- Reduced immune response
- Gastrointestinal upset
- Decreased appetite
- Decreased libido
Cognitive Effects of PTSD Include
- Decreased concentration
- Impaired decision making
- Impaired Memory
- Decreased self-esteem
- Reduced self-efficacy
- Intrusive thoughts/memories
All of these things can cause other more personal issues. Some will experience difficulty with intimacy or social relationships. Isolation and alienation can develop at work, at school or even at home.
According to PTSD United, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing support and resources for those suffering from PTSD:
- 70% of adults (approximately 223.4 million people) in the US have experienced some type of traumatic event at least once in their lives.
- Up to 20% of these people go on to develop PTSD.
- Approximately 44.7 million people today either have struggled or are struggling with PTSD.
With PTSD, a lot of people actually turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate. Some will rely on substances as a form of relief when PTSD brings feelings of isolation or depression. However, as people try to numb or distract themselves from these feelings, they tend to create more problems through substance use.
Often times, the substances only fuel feelings of isolation, depression or anxiety.
Make Mental Health a Priority
This week, October 1 through October 7, is Mental Illness Awareness Week. There is no time like the present to discuss the current state of mental health across the country. Now is always the time to advocate for better support, services, and acceptance when discussing mental illness and mental health in America.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH):
- 9% of all U.S. adults (43.4 million)qualified as having mental health issues in 2015
- Approximately 20-21% of incarcerated Americans have a “recent history” of mental health issues
- 70% of young people caught up in the juvenile justice system have at least one mental health issue
- 46% of people living in homeless shelters live with severe mental health issues and/or substance use disorders (SUDs)
In the aftermath of such profound tragedy like the recent shooting in Las Vegas, or even natural disasters like recently with Hurricane Irma or Hurricane Maria, there should be a very direct conversation about mental health. We should also work diligently to ensure that while the world grapples with opioid addiction and drug abuse, that more people don’t turn to self-medicating to fight feelings of loss, terror or alienation.
For all survivors of recent tragedies, or those affected indirectly, there are ways to take care of yourself and monitor your own mental state. Make your own mental health a priority. Protect yourself from destructive behaviors, and reach out for help in the wake of such emotionally compromising events as what happened in Las Vegas.
The national crisis hotline also offers confidential and free services 24/7/365 Call (775) 784-8090 or text ANSWER to 839-863
Our hearts and prayers go out to all those touched by this tragedy.
If you or someone you love is struggling with trauma, don’t let substance abuse make it all even worse. Drugs or alcohol are not the answer. There is real help out there. Please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398
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Safe and effective treatment for drug and alcohol addiction is paramount to creating lasting transformation in the lives of those who are struggling. Providing powerful therapeutic resources with education and innovation makes a significant impact on those who have the opportunity for quality care. An essential part of this process is an active relapse prevention program.
Relapse prevention is a system that influences many aspects of individual recovery from addiction. So what is a relapse? And what makes a relapse prevention program so indispensable?
Relapse Prevention: What is Relapse?
First, let us look at the most basic definition or relapse. If we break it down a little we can better understand what it means and how it happens.
- In general– a relapse is to suffer deterioration after a period of improvement.
- With medicine– relapse is also referred to as recidivism or a return to a past condition.
- In the context of drug use (including alcohol) – relapse is a reinstatement of drug use and drug-seeking behavior. It is the recurrence of pathological drug use after a period of
So the common thread here is that a relapse is when someone:
- Experiences a period of improvement from a problem…
- Is healing from a previous condition…
- Has a period of abstinence, then they experience a recurrence of the initial problem/condition
With addiction, relapse means someone ends a period of improvement and falls back into drug-seeking behavior or even drug use. When you are recovering from a serious addiction, drinking or consuming a drug can sometimes be referred to as a “slip” but it is essentially a relapse. Many recovery advocates and experts are of the opinion that “recovery” means making improvements to behavior, not just abstinence. Therefore, they might say the “real relapse” actually starts when the behavior regresses to the old destructive or compulsive patterns. Some will warn you that you are in the process of a relapse without having used drugs.
Whether you believe the relapse is the behavior or the actual physical manifestation of using narcotic drugs or drinking, you can still see the real value in offering relapse prevention strategies to help avoid either circumstance.
Relapse Prevention: Knowing the Signs
The following are a few signs or behaviors that might indicate that someone may be in the process of a relapse.
When someone is experiencing low moods and lack of energy they might be in a state of depression. Other mental health disorders may begin to intensify and thoughts of suicide may also occur.
Everyday difficulties that occur regularly become overwhelming. The most basic problems can’t seem to be solved.
The individual may begin to avoid social or personal activities they once enjoyed, isolating and ignoring their responsibilities.
Someone in the stages of relapse may become irritable or even confrontational without reason.
The person may rationalize or minimize any attempt at acknowledging and addressing their behaviors.
When Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) sets in someone can be at a higher risk of relapse. They can have trouble with memory, emotional overreactions, and sleeping problems, become accident prone or overwhelmed by stress.
Lack of Control
Food, sex, caffeine, nicotine, work, gambling, or other activities become out of control. Their compulsive behaviors become consistent without thinking about the consequences.
Feeling of Immobilization
Immobilization is that feeling of desperation. People feel trapped and start to think that there is no way to solve their problems other than using or drinking.
When experiencing cravings someone may convince themselves the only way to feel better is to use or drink, and they try to justify it.
Abandoning Support System
If someone is in the stages of relapse they may begin to ignore their support systems. They might stop attending support groups, therapy or communicating with their sponsor or loved ones.
Chemical Loss of Control
In a relapse, someone recovering from addiction will eventually begin using drugs or alcohol again to solve problems, even if these problems are only being made worse by their use.
Any combination of these symptoms could mean that someone is headed towards a relapse. In some cases, they may have even relapsed already.
Taking action before someone even comes close to a relapse can make all the difference between lasting recovery and dangerous regression. An effective drug and alcohol treatment plan will include a relapse prevention program in order to help people create a solid foundation from which they can build a sustainable recovery.
Understanding the signs of relapse and the serious risks of going back to drug abuse can help someone who may be struggling in their recovery to stay grounded. It is more difficult for someone to know how to take action, and what kind of action to take if they don’t have an understanding of addiction. Palm Healthcare Company places tremendous value on the importance of education in relapse prevention.
In respect to education about relapse, people should also be made aware of the difficulties they may experience with post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). When people can anticipate or at least understand the difficulty they may experience with PAWS, they can prepare themselves with healthy and preventative strategies.
Relapse prevention programs should also teach each individual new coping skills to utilize in challenging times. When someone is struggling with their recovery, they should have resources available to them to keep themselves accountable. It is vital that people be taught new and productive methods for recognizing things that are bothering them and addressing them.
Another huge aspect of protecting yourself from relapse is to establish strong habits that keep you to be as mentally and physically healthy as possible. It can be regular exercise, better eating, social and personal relationships, or pursuing your passion or continuing your career. Find a way to care for yourself so that when your recovery is threatened you care enough about your life to protect it.
Having people that support you can make it easier to overcome adversity when it presents itself. When someone has to deal with their troubles alone they may not always see the whole picture; they may not see all the ways to address the issue. Having a support group or a therapist are just a few ways someone trying to recover from drugs or alcohol can make sure they have a safety net in place.
Palm Healthcare Company believes in helping each individual to create a personal plan for recovery that includes relapse prevention and continued support. Our facilities all emphasize the value of comprehensive education, awareness, coping skills, self-care, and aftercare. The solution to drug and alcohol addiction doesn’t end with eliminating the substance, that is only the beginning.
In the event of a relapse, getting the individual to go into an addiction treatment program can be the best way to help them before things get too bad. Getting them back on the road to recovery is crucial, and be sure to look for a program that has a comprehensive relapse prevention program.
Relapse is NOT necessary for recovery, but relapse prevention is. Even if you or someone you love has relapsed, there is still hope to take action that can help you create lasting recovery. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398