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Mental Health Resources
Anxiety: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments
Anxiety is a general term for several disorders that cause nervousness, fear, apprehension, and worrying.
These disorders affect how we feel and behave, and they can manifest real physical symptoms. Mild anxiety is vague and unsettling, while severe anxiety can be extremely debilitating, having a serious impact on daily life.
People often experience a general state of worry or fear before confronting something challenging such as a test, examination, recital, or interview. These feelings are easily justified and considered normal. Anxiety is considered a problem when symptoms interfere with a person’s ability to sleep or otherwise function. Generally speaking, anxiety occurs when a reaction is out of proportion with what might be normally expected in a situation.
Anxiety disorders can be classified into several more specific types. The most common are briefly described below.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a chronic disorder characterized by excessive, long-lasting anxiety and worry about nonspecific life events, objects, and situations.
GAD sufferers often feel afraid and worry about health, money, family, work, or school, but they have trouble both identifying the specific fear and controlling the worries. Their fear is usually unrealistic or out of proportion with what may be expected in their situation. Sufferers expect failure and disaster to the point that it interferes with daily functions like work, school, social activities, and relationships.
In this short video from The Psych Network, Dr. Sylvia Gearing discusses Generalized Anxiety Disorder and how it affects sufferers.
Panic Disorder is a type of anxiety characterized by brief or sudden attacks of intense terror and apprehension that leads to shaking, confusion, dizziness, nausea, and difficulty breathing. Panic attacks tend to arise abruptly and peak after 10 minutes, but they then may last for hours. Panic disorders usually occur after frightening experiences or prolonged stress, but they can be spontaneous as well.
A panic attack may lead an individual to be acutely aware of any change in normal body function, interpreting it as a life threatening illness – hypervigiliance followed by hypochondriasis. In addition, panic attacks lead a sufferer to expect future attacks, which may cause drastic behavioral changes in order to avoid these attacks.
A Phobia is an irrational fear and avoidance of an object or situation. Phobias are different from generalized anxiety disorders because a phobia has a fear response identified with a specific cause. The fear may be acknowledged as irrational or unnecessary, but the person is still unable to control the anxiety that results. Stimuli for phobia may be as varied as situations, animals, or everyday objects. For example, agoraphobia occurs when one avoids a place or situation to avoid an anxiety or panic attack. Agoraphobics will situate themselves so that escape will not be difficult or embarrassing, and they will change their behavior to reduce anxiety about being able to escape.
In this short video from HealthGuru, Dr. J. Clive Spiegel M.D. talks about the difference between fear and phobia.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Social Anxiety Disorder is a type of social phobia characterized by a fear of being negatively judged by others or a fear of public embarrassment due to impulsive actions. This includes feelings such as stage fright, a fear of intimacy, and a fear of humiliation. This disorder can cause people to avoid public situations and human contact to the point that normal life is rendered impossible.
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Diabetes and mood swings: Effects on relationships
Written by Rachel Nall, RN, BSN, CCRN
Diabetes is a condition that impacts the way a person’s body uses sugar for energy. However, diabetes affects much more than blood sugar. It can impact nearly every body system and have an effect on a person’s mood.
Stress associated with managing diabetes as well as concerns about potential side effects can all contribute to changes in mood. In addition, the actual highs and lows of blood sugar levels may also cause nervousness, anxiety, and confusion.
It is important for people to recognize their own individual symptoms of high or low blood sugar. They must also ensure they seek support for any concerning mental health symptoms they might experience.
Watching these mood swings can often be difficult for friends and family to understand. However, learning why a person may experience mood changes related to diabetes and being supportive can help to promote a stronger, healthier relationship.
Contents of this article:
How do diabetes and mood swings go together?
Adjustments to their diet and constantly checking their blood sugar can also add to a person’s stress and enjoyment of life. As a result, they are more likely to experience feelings of anxiety and depression.
Blood sugar swings can cause rapid changes in a person’s mood, such as making them sad and irritable. This is especially true during hypoglycemic episodes, where blood sugar levels dip lower than 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).
When a person’s blood sugar returns to more normal ranges, these symptoms often go away. In fact, changes in mood and mental status can be one of the first signs that someone’s blood sugar levels are not where they should be.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, the mental symptoms associated with low blood sugar levels may include:
- feeling confused
- feeling anxious
- having difficulty making decisions
Symptoms that indicate a person may have high blood sugar levels include:
- difficulty thinking clearly and quickly
- feeling nervous
- feeling tired or having low energy
Having diabetes can also cause a mental health condition called diabetes distress. This condition shares some elements of depression, anxiety, and stress.
While a person may not have symptoms severe enough for a doctor to diagnose them with a more severe mental illness, these symptoms can affect the quality of life for a person with diabetes.
An estimated 33 to 50 percent of people with diabetes experience diabetes distress at some point during the course of their disease. The sources of distress can include the responsibilities of managing the condition to worrying about potential complications.
Effect of diabetes on mental health
People with type 1 or type 2 diabetes are at increased risk for experiencing depression.
A diabetes diagnosis can also add to a person’s experience with depression. For example, a person who struggles with depression often lacks motivation and energy to engage in healthful behaviors. This could include healthful eating or exercising regularly.
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A leisurely walk can boost mood, psychological well-being
Written by Honor Whiteman
Regular exercise is considered key for improving and maintaining physical health. When it comes to psychological health, however, new research suggests that you do not need to hit the gym in order to reap the rewards.
Researchers from the University of Connecticut (UConn) in Mansfield found that simply going for a leisurely walk can improve mood and boost subjective well-being, particularly for adults who are normally sedentary.
Lead study author Gregory Panza, of the Department of Kinesiology at UConn, and colleagues recently reported their findings in the Journal of Health Psychology.
While a number of studies have shown that physical activity can benefit psychological health, Panza and team note that it remains unclear how the intensity of physical activity impacts subjective well-being, defined as a person’s own evaluation of their lives.
The researchers decided to investigate this association further with their new study, which included 419 healthy, middle-aged adults.
The physical activity of each adult was monitored over 4 days using accelerometers, which participants wore on their hips.
Additionally, subjects completed questionnaires detailing their daily exercise routines, psychological well-being, level of depression, whether they experienced pain and its severity, as well as the extent to which pain disrupted their day-to-day activities.
Light, moderate activity led to greatest improvements in well-being
The researchers found that adults who were sedentary had the lowest levels of subjective well-being and the highest levels of depression, which indicates that lack of physical activity is detrimental to psychological health.
Overall, the team found that people who engaged in physical activity demonstrated greater subjective well-being. However, the benefits of physical activity were found to vary by intensity.
Light-intensity activity, for example, was associated with greater psychological well-being and lower depression, while moderate-intensity activity was linked to higher psychological well-being and reduced pain severity.
Light-intensity activity was defined by the study as a leisurely walk that does not noticeably raise heart rate, breathing, or sweating. Moderate-intensity activity was defined as walking a mile in 15 to 20 minutes, with a slight increase in heart rate, breathing, and sweating.
Notably, the study results revealed that sedentary adults who increased their exercise levels to light or moderate activity demonstrated the greatest increases in subjective well-being.
However, vigorous-intensity activity – defined as jogging or briskly walking a mile in 13 minutes, with very noticeable increases in heart rate, breathing, and sweating – appeared to have no impact on subjective well-being. However, the researchers say that this is not necessarily a bad finding.
“Recent studies had suggested a slightly unsettling link between vigorous activity and subjective well-being,” says study co-author Beth Taylor, associate professor of kinesiology at UConn. “We did not find this in the current study, which is reassuring to individuals who enjoy vigorous activity and may be worried about negative effects.”
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Anger? When does it create a problem?
Anger is a very strong emotion. We sometimes share anger to show what we are experiencing in the moment, how hurt we are, and the degree to which we are flustered by our experiences. When we are open to examining our anger, we can begin to positively enter self-exploring and discovery. However, anger becomes more a problem when we chose to create barriers that block us from open and genuine communication.
Among a few of the internal defenses that might be used to express anger are: (1) Nagging, (2) Excessive accusations, (3) Gossiping, (4) Blaming, (5) Justifying and (6) Displaying a passive role to avoid accepting responsibility for the anger.
Anger can be expressed both directly or indirectly to intentionally hurt others. Normally guilt, anxiety, hurt and insecurities can be accompanied by anger. When experiencing these distinct range of emotions, we generally look at the intensity of the anger and thereby, react to the pressure. A healthier way of adjusting to our anger may be to say “I am feeling overwhelmed or may be anxious” rather than acting out verbally or physically.
Many cognitive psychologists have suggested that anger can be accounted for by how we process events and reflect on them personally. “I am angry because of the way I perceive or see things occurring” is one thought pattern that might explain what we are experiencing in a given situation. The goal of cognitive therapy is to assist with tackling the faulty belief system we have, assumed interpretations reflecting the world around us, and how to ultimately reach a point of healthier reflective thinking. In identifying anger, it is not only significant to analyze what we are going through, but the degree to which we are affecting others. Sometimes a person does not experience issues from our vantage point and this needs to be better understood and sorted out so that we can reach a successful chain of interaction.
Professional counselors have suggested a few tactics to appropriately manage anger. They may be as follow:
- Separating ourselves from situations that we are faced with
- Relaxing and taking deep breaths
- Taking silent pauses in speech, along with pauses that focus on the anxiety provoking situation
- Reflective thinking, and
- Visual imagery.
In addition to these coping strategies, spiritual and emotional support are two critical attributes that contribute to the longevity of positive encounters. When anger is too harsh to unravel and “let go”, it is recommended for one to seek out guidance from a trained professional who can really hear the issue at hand and put them into perspective for you.
Positive thinking and taking action are two of the most important factors associated with better living, great health and achievement. Focus more on creative planning, happiness and success and you will invite people who will enjoy being around you and genuinely want to assist you, because they are connecting with the energy that positive thinking creates deep within us.
The first step in understanding how to gain stronger outcomes from positive thinking is to examine our basic attitudes we have toward life. In certain instances, do we find ourselves filling the “glass” only half up or full. Positive thinking is something that we must internalize deep within ourselves and make a decision to reach success.
Positive thinking takes more than merely speaking the words, but to know them enough to put into action. The power of buying into what we think and putting the foot work into making the necessary changes for healthy living goes a long way in terms of creating the most out of our relationships with both self and others.
Inner work is required to reach a level of developing a mature and creative style of processing positive emotions and behaviors. There are moments when it helps to visualize what we are experiencing in the moment- to examine our self-talk messages: “I feel angry and therefore, I react in anger” rather than realizing deeper layers of anger and how they hinder us from remaining focused on many of our successes.
Researchers have addressed the importance of offering positive affirmation to encourage you towards great success. Affirmations are positive self-statements that we give ourselves regarding the type of goals, plans we have. What we continue to tell ourselves and reflect on psychologically or verbally becomes engraved on the subconscious mind. This alters the way individuals see things, their habits, attitudes and behaviors.
The best thing about developing positive thoughts is that it can manifest into great things. Affirmation is one way to get the ball rolling and gearing you in the right direction.
If you need additional assistance, feel free to talk more with a qualified therapist. Many clients with deeper issues pertaining to poor lifestyle dynamics respond a great deal to negative self-talk or evaluation which only helps to reinforce negative responses to outside influences. From clinical experiences, negative ideas and attitudes perpetuate not only escalating tension, however, continue fights between clients in group settings. One’s social skills may be heavily impacted by how they see changes going on in their environment. In order to establish success, you have to make a decision to be happy and process stronger resolutions.
The Ventral Vagal
Expert advice by veteran Family Therapist and Psychologist
For many years, the autonomic nervous system was thought to be the sympathetic nervous system in balance with the parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic revved the body up and the parasympathetic calmed it down.
Dr. Stephen Porges’ Polyvagal Theory changed all that. As I am just summarizing the polyvagal theory, if you want more thorough information, just google Polyvagal theory.
Dr. Porges discovered that the parasympathetic system is composed of two branches of the vagus nerve which arise from different areas of the brain.
The unmyelinated branch is an ancient system found also in reptiles. Its action is below the diaphragm. Myelin is the outer coating of a nerve which allows it to transmit impulses more efficiently. This branch lacks myelin.
The ventral vagus which we are interested in is found only in mammals and it is myelinated. It arises from the brain very close to the area that stimulates the face muscles and voice box. Stimulation of the ventral vagal allows up to be more relational.
When we are threatened the responses come down the development chain starting with the most developed.
- Smile and try and act pleasant to defuse the situation.
- If that doesn’t work, we prepare for fight or flight.
- If that doesn’t work, the body may go into freeze mode. Freeze dulls pain if we are attacked and if the predator relaxes its grip it gives us a chance to escape.
This is all below the level of consciousness. We do not have voluntary control over these responses.
It is possible with chronic stress to get stuck in fight or flight or freeze. It is also possible to alternate between them.
The signs of hyper-arousal (fight or flight)
|Exaggerated startle reaction||Outbursts of anger|
|Feelings of panic and anxiety||Insomnia|
|Reduced tolerance for pain||Fatigue|
|Difficulty concentrating||Constantly being on guard.|
|Feelings of electricity going through your body especially the legs. (feelings of bugs under the skin||Frequent urination|
The signs of hypo-arousal (freeze) are:
- Feelings of being hopeless and helpless
- Dissociating into daydreaming, or into a book where you are startled if someone calls or touches you.
- Just wanting to be in a dark room, lying in bed with the covers pulled over your head.
- We can alternate between these two states.
Stimulating the Ventral Vagus.
The only way out of these states is to activate the ventral vagal (relational) nerve.
There is two-way traffic in this nerve. Many signals come from our internal organs and travel up the vagus to the brain. This is the “gut feelings” that we get.
Signals travel back down the ventral vagus to have a calming effect.
There are some experiments being done with electrical stimulation of the ventral vagus for depression and epilepsy.
While we can’t do that, there are things we can do for ourselves to stimulate the ventral vagus.
What We Can do at Home to Stimulate the Ventral Vagus:
Remember, safety above all. If you do not feel safe, it is below the level of conscious response, and the ventral vagal will not activate.
- Values: Friends, family good health and generosity are essential.
- Being creative: Whether through writing, art, acting, singing or dancing.
- Prolonged exhale is the best way to stimulate the ventral vagus. If you haven’t seen the video I usually make available, then follow the instructions for conscious breathing which will follow.
- Conscious Breathing: The breath is one of the fastest ways to influence our nervous system. The vagus nerve is stimulated when the breath is slowed from our usual 10-14 breaths per minute to 5-7 breaths per minute. Breathe in through your nose and give a very prolonged exhale through the mouth. Like you are saying AAH!
- Valsalva Maneuver: This involves attempting to exhale against a closed airway. You can do this by keeping your mouth closed and pinching your nose while trying to breathe out. This increases the pressure inside of your chest cavity increasing vagal tone.
- Diving Reflex: Considered a first rate vagus nerve stimulating technique, splashing cold water on your face from your lips to your scalp line stimulates the diving reflex. You can also achieve the nervous system cooling effects by placing ice cubes in a ziplock bag and holding the ice against your face and briefly hold your breath. The diving reflex slows your heart rate, increases blood flow to your brain, reduces anger and relaxes your body. An additional technique that stimulates the diving response is to submerge your tongue in liquid. Drink and hold lukewarm water in your mouth sensing the water with your tongue.
- The Butterfly Hug: The butterfly hug is a soothing gesture you can do anytime. Wrap your arms around your body at the level of the shoulders. Alternating pat one shoulder and then the other until you feel calm.
- Connection and Feeling Safe: Reach out for relationship. Healthy connection to others can initiate regulation of our body and mind. Relationships can evoke the spirit of playfulness and creativity or can relax us into a trusting bond with one another. While it is most effective in person, connection can be made through the phone or texts or social media. Texting only becomes a problem when it is used to avoid person to person contact.
This is a very simplified version of Dr. Porges polyvagal theory.
Contact Janette Strokappe for online counseling support
Addiction – Biological and Neurological Causes
An academic paper by
This paper is about the biological and neurological causes of addiction, how it affects many people, and systems of the body that are affected.
The category that addiction best falls into is a behavioral syndrome, noted for compulsive drug use with relapse into more drug use. Addiction can happen without being physically dependent, and physical dependency can happen without being addicted (Spanagel & Heilig, 2005). For the past 20 years scientists have looked at positive drug reinforcement as what lies beneath addictions. According to Spanagel & Heilig (2005), other neuronal systems must aid in addictive behavior, all systems work together. This means that one system affects the other. One of these systems, which detect influencing environmental stimuli, is the mesolimbic dopamine system, which affects the core brain reinforcement system. The hypothesis for the neurobiology of addiction is that there are changes on the molecular and structural levels that are irreversible, caused by the dopaminergic reinforcement system having synaptic plasticity, due to constant drug use. (Spanagel & Heilig, 2005). Scientists seem to think that there is some kind of modular switch that explains the irreversible transition from controlled drug use to compulsive drug use. These scientists say “It has been claimed that transcription factors such as “AFosB” may constitute such a molecular switch” (Spanagel & Heilig, 2005, p. 2). This transition factor builds up in the mesolimbic dopamine system with continuous drug use. However a modulator of transcription factors is Per2 and that does remain in the brain for quite a few weeks after drug treatment. Some change in the mesolimbic dopamine system that is irreversible that has been seen is the micro structural alterations on the dendrites of medium spiny neurons, which are the essential cell population inside the mesolimbic dopamine system. However, that change is not seen past 3 months after drug treatment ends. That contradicts the irreversible switch theory of moving from controlled drug use to compulsive drug use (Spanagel & Heilig, 2005).
Schepis, Adinoff, & Rao, state that adolescents are more persistently and acutely affected by addiction than are adults. These differences possibly have to do with neuroplastic changes that aid entrenchment and accelerated use, which leads to more neurobiological liability and SUD (substance use disorder) being great factors as the outcome (Schepis et al., 2008). This study also shows that adolescents with a family history of substance use are more likely to have neurobiological and neurobehavioral dysfunctions (Schepis et al., 2008). Adolescence is the period when most neurons grow. Neurocognitive functions such as decisions, monitoring oneself, controlling impulses, and gratification delay, are relative to the PFC (prefrontal cortex) and the anterior cingulate activity; these things seem to be affected by changes in pretty much all of the neurotransmitter systems. The most important factors in becoming a SUD are alterations in the dopamine related systems. Dopamine is a key factor in the mesolimbic neural pathways (Schepis et al., 2008). According to Schepis et al., “This circuit originates in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and projects to the nucleus accumbens (NAc) and various limbic structures” (p. 8). A variety of environmental reinforcers trigger the mesostriatal to release dopamine (DA). In order to assign value to these reinforcing stimuli, there needs to be an increase in striatal concentrations of DA (Schepis et al., 2008).
In an article about SUD by Taylor, he explains Gray’s behavioral inhibition system (BIS) and the behavioral activation system (BAS), which, may be seen in the physiological reactions and shown in the psychopathology. Gray also says that the neural structure of the BIS incorporates information to the prefrontal cortex (PFC), and the neural structure of the BAS could be related to the dopaminergic reward circuit (Taylor, 2005).
Love passion, what some people consider an addiction, has neurobiological links with addiction. In love passion, neurochemicals that play a part in wanting that feeling all the time are dopamine, ocytocin, and vasopressin. Dopamine plays a major role in addictions. Other neurotransmitter systems that are common between addiction and love passion are GABA and glutamate, noradrenaline and serotonin, opioid, and cannabinnoid. These are implicated in the addiction process, as is the corticotrophin system that regulates the oxytocinergic and dopaminergic systems (Reynaud, Karila, Blecha, & Benyamina, 2010). Even though love passion is not considered to have a recognized definition or diagnosis criteria, it is very similar to addiction.
Alcohol affects GABAA receptors and a subtype of glutamate receptors called N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA). These neurotransmitters control the excitatory tone and activity of the brain. GABA is the inhibitory neurotransmitter and glutamate is the excitatory neurotransmitter (Devaud, Risinger, & Selvage, 2006). Incoordination, reduced nervousness, anticonvulsant, and relaxation, the symptoms of intoxication, are partly controlled by coming across these neurotransmitter systems. These actions show how the central nervous system (CNS) reacts to more GABAergic activity and less glutmatergic activity (Devaud, et al., 2006). GABAA and NMDA receptors are part of a larger receptor family and each has their own protein make-up. The different neurological responses are due to the combination of the different receptors. Men and women have a different chemical make-up as far as systems go. The difference between men and women when they drink is in the brain- and endocrine-mediated stress reactions. Men take the flight or fight response, whereas women tend to try to nurture the other and avoid aggressiveness (Devaud et al., 2006).
Another test shows that substance use and most psychiatric disorders are common and complex and have multiple genes that play into the phenotype, which show no pattern of Mendelian transmissions. There are two parallel mechanisms that influence this genetic complexity. One is the explanation of polygenicity, which means many genes come together at the same time to ensure vulnerability. In SUD, the genes that might be involved are genes related to drug-specific metabolism, neurobiological processes regulators similar to all abused drugs, and some that comorbidity-related that change environmental vulnerability. The second parallel mechanism that influences genetic complexity is heterogeneity, which shows that it is only one genetic variation that could make up a single specific phenotype that could be needed for the initiation and possibly the upkeep of addictions (Schumann, 2007).
Different people have different chemical make-ups, so everyone, more than likely, will have different effects from addictions. The many different receptors bind with different chemicals; if there is some disruption of that binding, many different affects could happen. Some people simply do not to become addicted to things, where others become addicted very easily. It is all in how chemicals bind together with the receptors, and apparently in the genetics.
Alcoholism is a terrible addiction that has been shown to be passed down from generation to generation. People who have a history of alcohol abuse in their family, have a greater chance of using themselves. According to previous studies Hanson, Medina, Nagel, Spadoni, Gorlick, and Tapert, (2010) hypothesis says that there is a difference in the size of the hippocampus of adolescents with a family history alcohol use problems and those adolescents who do not have a history of alcohol use issues. When the hippocampi of non-drinking youth with a family history of alcohol use was compared with youth who did not have a history of alcohol use in the family, those who had the history had smaller hippocampi or asymmetry that was abnormal (Hanson et al., 2010). The hippocampus is involved in making new memories. There is ongoing myelination in teen years, so if there is a problem with family history of alcohol use, then there will no doubt be a neurodevelopmental lag that hinders the proper growth of the left and right hemispheres of the hippocampus (Hanson et al., 2010). From their own preliminary findings, their hypothesis found not to be correct. Hanson et al. (2010) found that the hippocampal asymmetry was the same for youth with and without a family history of alcohol use.
Slutske et al. (2002) looked at four different studies on alcohol expectancies. Out of those four, three of them were done on twins. All of the participants of these studies were experienced drinkers (Slutske et al., 2002). What people expect of alcohol starts when they are young. Children see adults drink all the time, whether it is on the television, the radio, in a restaurant, or, sadly enough, in their own homes. From these experiences we can see how others are affected by alcohol. They look like they are having a lot of fun. Whether they are laid back and relaxed, laughing hysterically, or not afraid of anything, almost superhero type, so we expect what we see to happen to us. With that in mind we start to drink. Those who have a family history may start sooner than others, because they were exposed to it much younger and on a regular basis. In a recent study Slutske et al. (2002), examined how genetics, parents’ thoughts, and the same peer groups, affected thoughts of alcohol use, compared to thoughts of alcohol use with factors that are unrelated, peer groups that are not the same. What they came up with from this study, was that genetics alone did not make a significant difference, but when added to the family environment, together they made a huge difference on how people thought of alcohol and its use (Slutske et al., 2002). The thought here is that the social learning theory has more to do with alcohol use and dependence than does only genetics.
The ethanol in alcohol effects the predisposition of abuse and dependence. The way neural pathways are activated or deactivated by alcohol. With this in mind, research has turned to pharmacology, where medications affect cellular and physiological levels in the brain (Ray et al., 2010). These endophenotypes affect the subjective responses of alcohol, therefore may work to help treat alcoholism. The medication that is approved by the FDA has shown to lessen the good feelings of the alcohol, bring out more of the fatigue, stress, and confusion felt by alcohol use, therefore lowering the enjoyment (Ray et al., 2010).
Carlson (2010) explains that there are variations of genes that do play a big role in becoming addicted to substances. Environment also has a lot to do with whether you become dependent or not. He also goes on to explain that being prone to becoming an addict could be how your body metabolizes substances or by how the structures and biochemistries in your brain differ (Carlson, 2010).
A cause for alcoholism could be that the person is predisposed to the genetics of an alcoholic. However, just because you may be predisposed to alcoholism does not mean you will automatically become an alcoholic yourself. It may take outside factors to play a role in becoming an alcoholic. Coming from a line of alcoholics and seeing it every day, may have great impact on how you see the disease. Having friends that you spend most of your time with, could also have a great impact on whether or not you drink. A trusted friend, colleague, boss, or family member may offer you a drink to calm down, and it works, you like it, therefore you use it to chase away the blues or your bad day. You repeat these feelings of being alright enough that you now need it to get through your day. You become addicted.
Carlson, N. R. (2010). Physiology of behavior (10th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education.
Devaud, L. L., Risinger, F. O., & Selvage, D. (2006). Impact of the hormonal milieu on the neurobiology of alcohol dependence and withdrawal. Journal of General Psychology, 133(4), 337-356. doi:10.3200/GENP.133.4.337-356
Hanson, K. L., Medina, K., Nagel, B. J., Spadoni, A. D., Gorlick, A., & Tapert, S. F. (2010). Hippocampal volumes in adolescents with and without a family history of alcoholism. American Journal of Drug & Alcohol Abuse, 36(3), 161-167. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Ray, L. A., Mackillop, J., & Monti, P. M. (2010). Subjective responses to alcohol consumption as endophenotypes: Advancing behavioral genetics in etiological and treatment models of alcoholism. Substance Use & Misuse, 45(11), 1742-1765. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Reynaud, M., Karila, L., Blecha, L., & Benyamina, A. (2010). Is love passion an addictive disorder? The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 36(5), 261-267. doi:10.3109/00952990.2010.495183
Schepis, T. S., Adinoff, B., & Rao, U. (2008). Neurobiological processes in adolescent addictive disorders. The American Journal on Addictions, 17(1), 6-23. doi:10.1080/10550490701756146
Schumann, G. (2007). Okey lecture 2006: Identifying the neurobiological mechanisms of addictive behaviour. Addiction, 102(11), 1689-1695. doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2007.01942.x
Slutske, W. S., Cronk, N. J., Sher, K. J., Madden, P. F., Bucholz, K. K., & Heath, A. C. (2002). Genes, environment and individual differences in alcohol expectancies among female adolescents and young adults. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 16(4), 308-317. doi:10.1037/0893-164X.16.4.308
Spanagel, R., & Heilig, M. (2005). Addiction and its brain science. Addiction, 100(12), 1813-1822. doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2005.01260.x
Taylor, J. (2005). Substance use disorders and cluster B personality disorders: Physiological, cognitive, and environmental correlates in a college sample. American Journal of Drug & Alcohol Abuse, 31(3), 515-535.
Certified Counselor, Fellow of the American Association of Philosophical Practitioners
LOVE AND SELF-LOVE
Sometimes it is said that our capacity to love others depends on our ability to love ourselves — the capacity for self-love. This may or may not be so. However our capacity for self-love is certainly a precondition for our ability to live good lives. As a part of leading a good life is feeling good, the ability to love ourselves healthily is an essential part of our overall mental and emotional well-being.
Counselors see many clients with problems relating to love, and most describe their difficulties and pain as arising from love (or absence of love) for and by others. However, these same counselors often see that the same people have issues with self-love. The culture in which we love is highly conducive to all kinds of problems with self-love. We share norms and values of our communities which are based on concepts such as duty and obligation: our self-esteem and our recognition by others are often predicated upon our ability to meet the community’s expectations. We work increasingly long hours and spend an increasingly large proportion of our overall mental energy on work-related issues. Our private lives suffer, but along with private lives, our ability to adequately appreciate ourselves is also damaged.
Alain de Botton once wrote that our self-esteem is a direct result of the relationship between the community’s expectations which we accept, and our ability to perform and achieve various goals. The epidemic of low self-esteem and depression, which in many cases bears strong links with low self-esteem, according to Botton, lies in the fact that, while our resources to achieve various goals rise with time (we have more technology, for example) at the same time the community’s expectations rise much faster. The result is seemingly paradoxical: while with the passage of time, as we grow older in our civilizations, we are able to accomplish more thinks, at the same time with time we feel under increasing pressure, less worthy and less able to meet the demands that are placed upon us. The result is that 20+ million people take antidepressants, and many do not take them as medication for depression, but rather as an ‘enhancement drug’: a drug that helps them perform better in the face of everyday adversity which is made up by the ever rising expectations that they wake up to each morning. We are expected to do more things, and to do them with a smile. At the same time, our own inner suffering often goes not only unrecognized, but unapproved of: one is not really expected to pay much attention to one’s own pain and sadness, because that diminishes one’s ability to be a ‘productive member of society’. The result: an epidemic of unhappiness.
As someone said, we end up spending a large part of our day in cars which we are indebted for, but we need them in order to get to our jobs, which we may not love but we need them to make payments for our houses, in which we spend almost no time. It is no wander that ‘popping up’ an antidepressant along with the daily multivitamin comes to us naturally. It is difficult to love oneself if your day is such that you constantly work to meet the next expectation which, in fact, has nothing to do with who you are. Finally, it is very hard to feel content and plan a ‘good life’ for yourself, if your day is such that the only time when you can actually think about what a good life is for you is the half-an-hour before you fall asleep, without a notebook, a freshness of mind and morning optimism to look into the future with clear eyes.
How, then, do we love ourselves? Is there a method which we could remember, practice, or learn?
The method is the same as in loving others. Love is fundamentally an acceptance of the totality of another person. Love is not exhilaration, and it is not a positive pleasant emotions which lasts all the time. Love is a relationship with another person: the ability to appreciate their presence and the ability to adopt an awareness that we love them even when they irritate us, where this realization enriches us ‘on the inside’. I think that this means that love is basically a recognition of another person as significant to us — sufficiently so to become part of our life plan. Emotions play an important part in this type of relationship, but they are not all of it. German philosopher Axel Honneth argued that ‘recognition’ is a basic requirement for our identity, for our personhood, and our mental well-being. Sufficient recognition of someone else — as a lover, friend, human being and companion — amounts to love. The same principle applies to self-love. It is impossible to love ourselves if we do not recognize ourselves in all those capacities in which we recognize our lovers.
But what does this all mean in specific situations, when we face the pain or anxiety or the numbness of depression? How do we approach the difficult process of building self-love?
Consider the way to learn to love another person. We do this each time when we fall in love. The first phase is that you actually dedicate some of your time and attention to that person. You notice someone, and then you think about them. Sometimes you are immediately struck by them and become attracted to them, but more often than not falling in love requires that we ‘maul over’ someone as a candidate to become part of our lives, as well as about ways to approach them and win them over for ourselves.
Psychology operates with a concept of catexis, or mental energy. It is assumed that we all have a limited amount of catexis. According to some theories, catexis is generated by emotions, however I think that it is more useful to think of catexis as our general mental energy which derives from all mental processes and is at the same time consumed by other processes. After all, we are all familiar with the colloquial concept of ‘charging our batteries’ when we rest and do things that replenish our mental and physical energy, things that contribute to our well-being and prepare us for future trying situations. This, in the broad sense, is what catexis is.
When we fall in love with someone, we dedicate a considerable part of our overall catexis to that person. When we are young we spend sleepless nights thinking and fantasizing about them; when we are more mature we consider ways in which we could get to know them as persons and establish a relationship with them which would be best for the both of us, if not as lovers than as friends. There are innumerable ways in which we spend our catexis and time preparing ourselves to invite someone into our lives. This process is so demanding that sometimes it takes all of our time and energy: some people, when they are at a start of a relationship, find it difficult to work and meet their other commitments, because love takes so much of their energy. This is at the same time the reason why we are so often alone in the modern circumstances where we have so little time for our private lives. Some of us just cannot find time and energy to go out, to meet others, to dress up, maintain a casual and positive conversation, project good energy and optimism about the future — all these things are necessary for the start of a healthy new relationship.
The same reason makes it difficult for us to establish self-love. To do so, we need to think about ourselves and consider what kind of person we really are: which aspects of our personality are worthy of love by our own standards, and what a person like us would be able to give others as a lover, friend, colleague, neighbor, or parent. In other words, to establish self-love we need to understand ourselves and become interested in ourselves in exactly the same way in which, in order to love someone else, we first must become interested in them. And to become interested either in ourselves or in others we need sufficient catexis, sufficient inner resources in terms of mental processes, energy and time, to dedicate to the one we love, whether it is another person or ourselves.
Sometimes it is impossible to get to know yourself without a mirror. More often than not, that mirror needs to be both critical and supportive, both objective and able to provide creative interpretations. Especially in the circumstances where we have learned to forget about ourselves and have become accustomed to felling low because of it, ‘popping up a pill’ to get through the day, the aid of a mirror is a vital need without which we might flounder: our quality of life, our mental well-being, and our idea of the good life might all become lost in the murky reality of a depressing daily routine.
The mirror, the self-reflective tool, the beacon which guides us out of the murky waters, then, is counseling. In this sense, counseling is a tool to illuminate the way towards self-love, and self-love is a step in the direction of finding love in general. Finally, once we are able to feel love for ourselves and for others, we are pretty much in the clear of depression. The philosophical concept for this final outcome is ‘the good life’. It is probably a reasonable assumption that we all seek the good life, and it is probably fair to say that most of us never find it.
Good counseling is always about love. In fact, some philosophers describe good counseling as a loving relationship in itself. It is always empowering. And it always, whether we are immediately aware of it or not, leads to a better life, if not to an entirely ‘good life’.
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Spirituality in Psychology
An academic paper by
This paper is about exploring the use of spirituality in the practice of psychology and how it could potentially strengthen their bond with their patients. There could be a better understanding of issues and treatment if spirituality were apart of therapeutic practices.
Psychology got its start in ancient times from philosophy. Psychology remained part of philosophy until nineteenth century (Leahey, 2004). Here we have the beginning of the mind-body problem. To some the mind was our essence and the body a mere vessel. When the physical body died, the soul moved on to an afterlife (Leahey, 2004). The soul (mind) has the spiritual world knowledge, whereas the body has the physical world knowledge (Leahey, 2004).
Everybody but atheists, have a faith that they follow. It has been addressed that psychologist show gain education and knowledge as to the role that religion and spirituality plays on personal factors (Shafranske, 2010). There was an introduction of value in different consciousness in therapeutic practices. It is very important for the therapist to integrate the patients’ spirituality in the course of interventions (Shafranske, 2010). It is also important to take into consideration the personal and professional influences of inspiration from the therapists’ point of view. This can greatly impact how the therapist entices the patient to open up, and help the therapist to relate better to the patient (Shafranske, 2010). “This leads to an associated point: Given the lack of attention given to the religious and spiritual dimension in most psychology training, how prepared are clinicians to be mindful of the potential impacts their religious and spiritual commitments have on their professional practice, to appropriately and ethically integrate spirituality in psychological treatment, or respond to emergent transcendent experiences” (Shafranske, 2010, pp. 125)? This seems to mean that therapists should have the understanding to be able to mindfully talk about spirituality in their practice and treatment plans for their patients.
Spirituality is hard to define, but it has been explained a few ways. One is that spirituality can be called one’s highest or ultimate values or reality, and the relationship one has with those realities or values (Braud, 2009). A second way is the belonging or link to the transcendental ground of being. Another is how people relate to God, other humans, or Earth. Some refer to it as how committed one is to practicing a particular faith. However, it is important to distinguish between healthy practices and beliefs and ones that are unhealthy to well-being (Braud, 2009). Yet another general term by Lindholm and Astin is involving the process inside when you look for personal authenticity, wholeness, and genuineness; transcending one’s center, having a deeper sense of connecting to self and others from having relationships and community, having meaning, direction, and purpose in life, being open enough to the possibility of a relationship with a higher being that is above human existence and knowing, and having a value for the sacred (Braud, 2009). There are other definitions of spirituality for femininity and other cultures. But they were not included in the ones above.
There is a relatively new field of psychology called transpersonal psychology. In addition to conventional ways, transpersonal psychologists use heuristic research, intuitive inquiry, organic inquiry, and integral inquiry. These are depicted in these psychologists by a higher level of integration and inclusiveness in the whole person, more variety of benefits and functions in a session, sources of inspiration, more ways of knowing, topics and questions researched, different ways of gathering, using, and explaining information, including epistemology and ontology, and ethical thoughts and values that are relevant (Braud, 2009). This gives a broader perspective of all aspects of the issues at hand.
When we think in terms of helping people with their psychological issues, it just makes sense to include everything you possibly can to understand what the patient is going through and how they see thing possibly running their course. Because a lot of people do follow some sort of faith, it is important for the therapist to know as much as possible about their patient’s spirituality, in order to help them the best way possible and include every aspect of that person as a whole. Having this knowledge will provide the best treatment plan for that specific patient.
Braud, W. (2009). Dragons, spheres, and flashlights: appropriate research approaches for studying workplace spirituality. Journal Of Management, Spirituality & Religion, 6(1), 59-75.
Leahey, T. H. (2004). A history of psychology: Main currents in psychological thought (6th ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Shafranske, E. P. (2010). Advancing “the boldest model yet”: A commentary on psychology, religion, and spirituality. Psychology Of Religion And Spirituality, 2(2), 124-125.
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