Risk of Addiction

What is my risk of addiction? The answer is layered and fairly complex. There are many variables involved in what makes a person more or less likely to become addicted to a substance. Some people, in general, are at a much higher risk than others due to the circumstances of their life, many out of their control. It is important to understand risk factors to have a better picture of addiction and to see how these risk factors may be reduced. Let’s consider the different elements that might contribute to an addiction.

First of all, there is drug availability. If the person lives in an area where drugs are readily available, it’s more likely that they will try them. Peers who use drugs might also be considered as a risk factor, especially in adolescence, where the person might not be directly pressured into using drugs, but may want to try it out to belong.

Family history of addiction is a significant risk factor. It is believed that addiction has a genetic component, increasing the likelihood that relatives of a person with addiction could develop this disorder. Even if the person is not genetically predisposed, having an addicted parent or close relative could influence their perception of substance use and teach a pattern that can be repeated in younger family members.

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Men are more likely to develop an addiction than women. However, this doesn’t mean that women don’t experience this problem, as some data suggests that addictions tend to progress faster in women and that they might do more damage.

Trouble at home and absent parents also are risk factors, especially for young people. Parental absence or emotional unavialability can make someone turn to substances to feel better or as a temporary solution to their problems. A lack of guidance might also be a factor in choosing to use drugs. Another possible reason for why this is a risk factor is that parental abandonment and an abusive or neglectful household can be related to self-destructive behavior.

Loneliness and a lack of deep relationships with peers can also play a role in addiction. The person might use drugs as a way to fit in with a certain group or as a way to cope with feeling rejected and outcast.

Anxiety and depression are issues that might lead to heavy drug use, as the person might use substances to feel euphoric or to reduce their negative emotions. However, many drugs lead to a heightened anxiety or depression at some point, so the person might try to use more to recapture the feeling of pleasure. So, anxiety or depression can lead to drug use, which might in turn worsen the symptoms, leading the person to seek more substances. This can become a vicious circle.

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Other mental health disorders can also increase the likelihood of developing an addiction. For instance, young people with ADHD are several times more likely to become addicted than their peers who don’t have ADHD. Bipolar disorder, especially the manic episodes can also lead to this problem, as the person might not not have the judgment to decide not to use. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is another common issue co-occurring together with addiction, as people with this disorder might turn to substances to cope with their situation.

Poverty and education are other important factors. A person who lives in poverty and who does not have an education that will allow them to work or the chances to get an education is more likely to turn to substance abuse due to what is seen as an unescapable situation.

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An important risk factor is the age of first use. Teenagers who start using drugs are at a higher risk for addiction and for experiencing more negative effects due to the substances than adults. Why is this? Teenagers still have a developing brain and the influence of the substances affects this development, for the worst.

A good example of this is the use of marijuana. Few adults who use marijuana get addicted to it, however, there are two circumstances in which the risk for addiction increases significantly – when the person uses it daily or when the person starts using it as an adolescent.

A risk factor can be the nature of a substance. There are some drugs which are more addictive than others and some that have a faster effect on the brian. For instance, cocaine is much more addictive than alcohol. There are also people for whom a single taste of a drug can spark a full-blown addiction.

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Abuse and other traumatic experiences have also been linked to higher rates of addiction. A person that has been deeply hurt might be prone to self-destructive behaviors or turn to substances in order to cope with the experience. Young people who have been abused also might not feel like they can trust their parents or turn to peer groups for acceptance, even when those peer groups promote unhealthy behavior.

These factors do not occur separately, but often interact. For instance, an adolescent from a neglectful household who lives in poverty is less likely to receive or be able to access a good education and may be more likely to have fewer options to choose peers from and higher chances of a peer group that supports drug abuse. They may also start using drugs earlier and turn to heavier drugs, especially if those are made avialable in their community. In short, many risk factors appear together and increase the risk even more, so that an individual might have many thing stacked against them.

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Risk of Addiction / Texas Recovery Support / Houston, Texas

 

 

 

 

Depression And Relationships

Depression And Relationships – *an anonymous guest weighs in.

Depression can be a very lonely illness and your relationships are a key part of how you cope with your depression. Humans are, after all, communal creatures. So in times of depression, more than ever, you need a community of support. Not just good weather friends but friends who can support you when you’re down. If one of these friends is also depressed it is not necessarily a bad thing. You can understand each other and perhaps be there on each other’s bad days (but not if you’re having a bad time at the same time).

However, you need to be especially conscious when choosing romantic partners that your depression will have altered you as a person. It is likely that the person you get together with when depressed will not be the person you want to be with when you are better. When you are depressed you are a different person – at times you may feel as though you do not even know who you really are – but your partner will be with the person you are at that time. Also, depression alters your view of the world and therefore your view of other people, so your view of your partner will not be the same when you are better.

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Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t ever start a relationship when depressed. In some cases, it could be the best thing for you – but that is likely rare. It may provide the stability you need to start working through your problems and you may be able to talk to your partner about things you can’t discuss with anyone else. Your partner may be the only person you can relax around and start to feel yourself again. Issues may arise that hadn’t before and wouldn’t have come up if you weren’t in a relationship. On the other hand, you may find that you keep up the pretence of being the person you think you ought to be. There is also the possibility that the relationship could fail before you are ready – perhaps due to your depression. And what will that do for your depression? It will likely only make things worse. Either way, the stability may give you the space to start seeing things differently and the confidence to start seeking therapy.

However, what I strongly advise is do not start a relationship with someone who is also depressed. I am not a doctor but I do have 25 years experience of depression and there are two likely outcomes of this sort of relationship. Firstly, one of you will get better, you will split and the other will get worse. The reason is this: if you are simply friends with another depressed person you can help each other and if one of you gets better you can still be there to help the other one with your understanding and advice. However, if you are in a relationship with another depressed person and one of you gets better and you split up then the other person will have suffered the end of their relationship plus the loss of their friendship and support. By all means be friends with other depressed people, we all need friends when we’re depressed, but wait until you have both recovered before you think about starting a sexual partnership.

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Depression is a difficult illness to really get rid of. Once you have had it there is always the possibility of a recurrence. If you have recovered from your depression but are still in a relationship with someone who is depressed it is very difficult to stay recovered. Also, you may find that you want to get out of the relationship but feel trapped because you know that the other person will get worse. The stress of this may send you back into depression. This is the second outome – you will both remain depressed.

There are two remaining possible outcomes – the first is that you will both get better and stay together. I believe this is highly unlikely but not impossible. You will both be different people when you are better, with different views and personalities from when you first got together. You may still like each other but want different things. It would be great if you both manage to help each other through depression and out the other side but the normal stresses and strains of a relationship make this unlikely.

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The other outcome is that one of you will get better and you will stay together. I think this is the least likely to happen. If you recover from depression and live with someone who is depressed you are not likely to be really happy. You may still remember the feelings and understand but there may be an element of “I got through it so you should be able to as well.” We all know that’s unreasonable as part of depression is the feeling that you just can’t try any more but don’t people always say that ex-smokers and the worst critics of smokers?

Bear in mind that a long-term partnership is not necessarily a bad thing when you are depressed but please think about the consequences of getting together with another depressed person. Try to help each other and be there for each other but keep enough distance between you so that you help each other and not bring each other down. In other words, stay friends and don’t live with each other, at least, not until you know who you really are.

Anonymous in West Houston

Depression And Relationships / Live Better Live Now / *guest post / Houston

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Nurses In Recovery

Nurses in recovery from addiction; when professionals need help.

Nurses are a population that we would not usually associate with addiction. However, the rates of drug addiction among nurses, as well as other health practitioners are quite high. Nurses have access to different sorts of medical substances that have different effects on the body. The addiction is not necessarily to cocaine or other drugs, but commonly to prescription drugs with different effects. Around 10% of all nurses struggle with an addiction. However, the rate may be higher for nurses who work in more stressful situations, such as the E.R. or with a psychiatric population, for instance. Nurses in different jobs may also have different types of access to substances and different ways of obtaining them. For instance, some nurses may dilute patient medication or use the leftover substance.

Nurses have a highly stressful job. Not only do they see ill and dying people, but they also have to deal with the many problems of their job, like irregular hours, highly demanding work, challenging and distressed patients/family members, and a high responsibility. All these factors make them prone to burnout and stress, which, combined with the access to substances they have, and other individual factors, makes it more likely for them to fall into addiction.

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There is a stigma and a culture of silence surrounding this issue. It is understandable, considering that individuals in the healthcare profession may place their patients at risk by abusing substances and engage in a breach of professional ethics by stealing medications and using them on the job.

However, it is important that nurses are offered supportive and professional recovery services and can be helped overcome their addiction. A nurse who can not accept the problem or admit it out of a fear of losing everything that they have or out of the strong guilt they feel continues to put patients at risk. A nurse who is in recovery may not be apt for working with patients, so is not risking their lives or well-being while having a chance to get better.

Often, the first step is a report. Colleagues, patients or doctors may need to report a nurse that has an impaired state out of a responsibility to, firstly, protect the patients and the reputation of the profession and of the institution, but also, secondly, to protect the nurse who probably requires professional help. Colleagues have not only an ethical, but also a legal duty to make the report.

Nurses in recovery may have a difficult process ahead of them. Many institutions have been offering nurses the option to get treatment rather than lose their licenses, thus removing an important obstacle on the way to recovery – the fear of being fired, losing the license, losing the job, losing the respect of their colleagues and peers and of course, their livelihood. However, this is just a first step.

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Many obstacles can complicate the recovery process. An important aspect is that nurses continue to work in an environment with a high accessibility to drugs, so a higher supervision is required. Another is the mentality many health care professionals might have, that their knowledge and expertise on the topics of drugs can protect them from addiction or give them more control. However, this slippery slope type of thinking can be what leads to a problem in the first place. It can also complicate the addiction recovery process, as a nurse might think that they can beat addiction easily due to their professional skills. Key point – addiction doesn’t discriminate.

Another aspect that needs to be addressed are the strong feelings of shame and guilt. While the person may have committed unethical acts, it’s important to focus on the recovery process, rather than to continue shaming and stigmatizing the individual, as this is likely to worsen the situation.

It may also be important to consider the special needs of nurses with addiction as a clinical population. Their knowledge, mentality, environment and feelings all will play an important role in the recovery process, which is why it becomes important to adjust this process to better help and understand how nurses experience their addiction and associated factors.

Addiction recovery services that don’t take into account the specific and individual needs of nurses and medical professionals in recovery, may not be quite as well-equipped or effective in providing the support basis truly needed for long lasting recovery. Need Detox? – Get Started Here.

TSAM2015

Nurses In Recovery / Live Better Live Now / Houston, Texas

Challenges and struggles in response to chemo and radiation therapy

Challenges and struggles in response to chemo and radiation therapy

Cancer is not a disease which will only affect a person physically. It is also something which will affect a person emotionally and psychologically. This has always been the hardest to handle and that’s why counseling is recommended for many oncology patients.

Getting to know that you have cancer is a really hard thing for the patient as well as for the loved once. Even though people are happy to get treated and healed. There are many times the treatment itself have greatly affected the patients, psychologically. It is hard to say whether it is the side effect of medications alone or a phase of psychological acceptance of the disease. Anyhow, what has become clear is that counseling for a patient should be carried out throughout the whole time of treatment and sometimes even after a full recovery. This might help a patient develop confidence, self esteem and resilience. Whether you admit it or not, all cancer patients are fighters… GREAT fighters. Their confidence goes down only because, at times, they don’t accept it.

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Many psychiatrists believe that the transitional period after an intensive cancer treatment is the most likely period to cause psychological distress. For some patients this period may be as stressful, or even moreso, as it was to undergo the treatment itself.

Further, the people around the patient might expect the patient to be ‘completely normal’ after the successful treatment and may not appreciate what the patient has already gone through…and is still going through. But, many people do not understand that the cancer patients become more sensitive, anxious and uncertain about things around him. It is very easy to understand. A person who has lived for months in the sorrow, fear and uncertainty of leaving the loved once and all the other things takes some time to get back to who he was. Even though a doctor may confirm their full recovery many patients stay uncertain for a while.

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How a cancer patient is affected psychologically depends on many factors. Some of these are:

Age
Overall temperament in normal
Coping skills
Social supports
Type of cancer
Severity
Family/ friends support
Memory and thinking after chemotherapy

Chemotherapy has many side effects. It does not only kill cancer cells, but it also affects many other normal cells in the body. Among these are the brain cells. About 20% – 60% of cancer patients who undergo standard doses of chemotherapy, experience some degree of cognitive dysfunction and memory problems.

The affected brain is casually often called ‘chemo brain’. The main cause of the chemobrain is presumed to be the neurotoxic effects of chemotherapy. The chemobrain causes diffused mental cloudiness and may affect a person’s cognition, social and occupational behaviours, sense of his own self and the quality of life. Moreover, it affects concentration, memory, comprehension and reasoning as well. And the common byproduct of these is our favorite “S” word; stress.

The studies have shown that many people undergoing this type of cancer treatment have problems with short term memory and difficulty recalling words. Some patients are not acknowledged about these changes and are alarmed at the presence of it and misunderstanding it as a spread or worsening of the disease. But, when people know what they are going through, even when scary, painful or difficult they often experience a much lower stress level and consequently are able to prepare and face these symptoms quite bravely.

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The effects of chemobrain may exist during chemotherapy and even afterwards up to 10 years, in some cases. These changes may be subtle in most patients, while for some it can be more profound.

At the moment there are no specific treatments and preventive measures known, but, if the patients have problems with thinking or memory, which interferes with the daily work, he/she may seek help from a doctor.

There are different memory training exercises and programs and also many other treatments which will improve the brain function such as problem solving abilities and logical thinking. Finding a counsellor and being familiar with this situation is a brave step for the patient as well as the loved ones.
Other psychological issues after chemotherapy and radiotherapy

People, who suffer from cancer for a long time, deal with a lot of stress. Moreover, they face problems with sleep, concentration and appetite together with physical symptoms such as palpitations, due to the intensive treatment which they go through. Some oncologists also mention that they find patients fearful and hyper-vigilant.

According to many recent studies, one third of cancer survivors have suffered from symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder, which are;

Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the event(cancer treatment)

Reliving the event as if it were happening again (flashbacks)

Upsetting dreams about the having cancer and getting treated

Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the event

Negative feelings about yourself or other people

Inability to experience positive emotions

Feeling emotionally numb

Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed

Hopelessness about the future

Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the event

Difficulty maintaining close relationships

This shows us the huge need of counseling and psychological support for cancer patients together with the cancer treatment. (And caregivers and loved ones also need support during this time.)

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Even though being alive is something to be happy about, there are some patients who feel guilty about it. This happens mainly if they have a friend or family member who has died with a cancer. As we know some patients join support groups where there are many cancer patients. Here these patients make very close friendship with each other most of the time. Yes, this is a great support to face cancer than fighting it alone. But, with the time, when members pass away the other patients might experience loss, grief and then guilt of being alive. Hence, there should be a proper counseling support in a support team as well.

Knowing the side effects of chemotherapy
As all the other drugs, even chemotherapy has its side effects too. But every person does not face the same experience during chemotherapy. Some have really less amount of side effects while the others find it very hard to face the treatment.

Fatigue or the feeling of exhaustion is the most common side effect of chemotherapy. Many people complain about the general weakness even up to a few weeks after chemotherapy treatment. It is because the chemotherapy affects many other normal, active cells of the body and the destruction of them may weaken the body.

Next on the list is the pain. This is the main side effect, which most of the patient hate. Pain during chemotherapy may include headaches, muscle aches, stomachaches and shooting pains in fingers and toes. Some patients also feel a burning sensation and numbness in fingers and toes due to nerve damage. Usually this pain decreases with the time unless a person has permanent nerve damage. Permanent nerve damage may cause symptoms up to months or years.

There is nothing to worry as there are medications to relieve pain. These pain relieving medications have been noted to have helped to minimize the side effects of chemotherapy for many patients. (Note: do speak with your doctor about addiction / dependency risks of your pain medications. There are many options – you don’t have to be saddled with an additional challenge down the road.)

Sometimes this medication affects the gastrointestinal tract too. Painful mouth sores which appear after 5-14 days of treatment are one of the most unpleasant side effects. But, a person can prevent it by maintaining a proper oral hygiene. These sores disappear as the treatment comes to an end. Moreover, diarrhoea, nausea, and vomiting and constipations are some other common side effects of chemotherapy.

Many people experience a loss of appetite during chemotherapy. Some feel full after eating a small amount, while some do not feel hungry at all. This might result in weight loss, lack of nutrition in your body and also this might make it difficult for the patient to recover from chemotherapy. Therefore, it is a must that you keep your body filled with nutrition, so that your body can fight against cancer, even though you don’t feel like eating.

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Chemotherapy brings another picture to our mind. Hair loss, some types of chemotherapy results in loss of hair. This is a really hard time, especially for women, but once you finish the treatment the hair will grow back. The person needs to be strong during the treatment and should talk with a counselor about how she is going through.

Chemotherapy can also affect your sexual life. The chronic fatigue, weakness and other side effects may reduce the patient’s ability and interest of having sex. It is not only that, but, also the fertility can be affected in men and women. During chemotherapy, the ability to get conceived and make a baby will be reduced. It is important that patients discuss these issues with a doctor, if it is disturbing your personal life.

The medications used in chemotherapy, can harm a growing fetus. Hence, if the patient cannot be sure of avoiding a pregnancy, it is important to use effective birth control. In case of an unexpected pregnancy during chemotherapy, the patient should inform the doctor right-a-way.

Radiotherapy has side effects too. The side effects of radiotherapy depend, on the part of the body which is being treated, the dose of radiation and the ability of the healthy cells to repair the damage soon.
As with chemotherapy, people‘s body reacts to radiotherapy in different ways, and it is difficult to know exactly how it will affect a person.

One of the most common side effects is ‘sore skin ’. The skin might get red and sore in the area, which is being treated with radiotherapy. Sometimes it may look like a sun burn. These will be healed within a couple of weeks after finishing radiotherapy. Keeping your skin safe and avoiding further irritation may help recover soon.

General weakness, nausea, weight loss, Loss of appetite and other gastrointestinal tract disturbances are common during radiotherapy as well.

Even though hair loss is not a common result of radiotherapy, it can be seen in patients who undergo radiotherapy in the areas of the neck and the head. But unlike chemotherapy, loss of hair will be limited to the areas of treatment.

Stiff joints and muscle stiffness are also in the list. This will also occur only in the areas which are being treated. Sometimes the patients might experience a discomfort due to the swelling of the affected area. This stiffness of muscles and joints can be eliminated by special exercises and it is advised to go to a physiotherapist in the presence of these symptoms.

Other symptoms of radiotherapy are almost same as in chemotherapy. The only difference is that the location of the side effects appearance is almost always the same and is related to the location of treatment.

Childhood cancer and getting treated:

When a child is diagnosed with cancer, the parents and the loved once have to be acknowledging on how they are going to cope with the kid, as a childhood cancer, unlike cancer in an adult, may cause a lot of late health effects.

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Thanks to the advanced methods of treatment, more than half of the children who are treated survive a long time or get cured. Even though, the cancer is being treated, this treatment itself may cause a lot of problems in a child’s health when they grow. The reason of these late effects is the damage caused by chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or surgery to the healthy body tissues and cells. When these growing cells are killed or damaged, they may lose their function or the ability to function well.

Treatments for a brain tumour during childhood may affect the normal growth and function of the brain. Some kinds of chemotherapy and radiotherapy may cause cognitive impairments such as low IQ, low academic achievement, poor hand – eye coordination and behaviour problems as the child grows.

Mathematical skills and logical thinking are more likely to be affected. Moreover, this treatment may cause vision and hearing disturbances as well. It is clear that almost all the system of the body may get affected after a childhood cancer treatment.

The next thing which get’s affected most commonly is the growth and development. Many children with chemo and radiotherapy show a lower growth rate than the growth rate of a child without cancer in the childhood. It is believed that this occurs due to damage of hormone secreting endocrine glands and tissues of the body.

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Other than the physical disturbances, there might be issues with the emotions as well. Even though cancer is fully treated, the child and the parents might live with an uncertainty, whether it will return. The physical changes as mentioned above may also cause psychological concerns. Concern about future, career and marriage may come up too.

We know that nobody chooses to have cancer. But some childhood cancer survivors embrace their past struggle and use it to forge meaning and purpose in their life – they add a value to the experience and in my opinion, to the world in doing so.

A great family support, friends and loved ones in the background may help the child overcome the physical as well as the psychological obstacles which he might have to face after an intense childhood cancer treatment. When a little more is needed, a seasoned counselor who specializes in working with children and cancer may be helpful to all concerned.

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Live Better Live Now / Houston, Texas / Challenges and struggles in response to chemo and radiation therapy

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Why is addiction called a disease?

Why is addiction called a disease?

The controversy on whether addiction is a disease or not has continued for a long time and is unlikely to end soon. It is one of the most popular ways of conceptualizing addiction nowadays and it is one that research has shown some very positive results in support of. However, it is worth considering why is addiction considered a disease rather than something else.

Historically, addiction used to be conceptualized from a moral perspective. It involved looking on the addict as lacking in moral fiber and having deep, intrinsic personality defects that led them to become addicted. There was a strong religious component to this idea as well. Addicts themselves were viewed with disdain, an attitude that often appears even today. However, the issue with this concept was that it did not allow for treatment or had only inhumane or ineffective treatment options. After all, there would be no point in treating someone who is lacking in morality and who is, by nature, doomed.

Thankfully, there was a shift from this paradigm, but for a very long time the moral component stayed strong. Addicts were seen as flawed human beings, so many treatments or programs were focused on shaming the individual and working solely with the issue of willpower. This approach, in general, was not effective, because it did not consider the different mechanisms of addiction and the process that real recovery necesitates.

With time and with the development of psychiatry and psychology, new and better treatments became available. More and more was discovered on addiction until the present concept of addiction as a disease was developed.

So, where did it the idea of addiction as a disease originate?

Why is addiction called a disease? Well, it has to do with the idea of mental health disorders and of physiological elements of these disorders. There is a neurobiological mechanism for addiction, involving the brain’s reward system and neurotransmitters such as dopamine. There are also changes in the brain, some of which are irrversible or at least long-lasting, that occur due to substance use and substance abuse. In short, addiction was found to have a strong neurobiological element and a mechanism for addiction that occurred in the brain.

The reward circuit of the brain releases dopamine, which makes us feel pleasure and happiness. A drug like cocaine prevents the dopamine from being reabsorbed, leading to very high dopamine levels which induce a state of euphoria. However, as time passes and the person continues to use drugs, the brain starts producing less dopamine on its own and requires the drug to feel happiness. A mechanism known as tolerance begins to act and the person’s nervous system becomes accustomed to smaller doses. The person starts taking larger doses, which does more damage and eventually may end up in a tragic outcome, such as an overdose. Different substances can affect the brain differently, but heavy use can end up in brain damage, cardio-pulmonary collapse, kidney/liver failure and so on.

So, addiction has a biological mechanism.

The person might choose to use the substance at first, but at a certain point the individual’s will power or judgment are significantly reduced due to the effects of the use.

Some studies have suggested that addiction is also genetically predisposed. This means that some individuals who consume alcohol or try a drug will not get addicted, while others have a higher likelihood of developing this disorder. A genetic component can also support the idea that addiction is a disease.

However, the element that many argue about is that addiction has a lot to do with a person’s choice and with a person’s way of thinking. Some people argue that many addicts consciously begin using substances they knew were dangerous, so can we really call it a disease?

This is the aspect in which addiction is closer to other mental disorders. While problems like depression or anxiety also have a genetic element and a chemical imbalance, emotional and cognitive aspects also play a role. Mindfulness Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (MCBT) can be used to improve the symptoms of these issues, because they change the way a person thinks. In a way, the thought process and irrational decisions and cognitions can be linked to other mental disorders, as well as to addiction. In general, it can be said that even though addiction involves distorted thinking and decision making, often starting with poor choices, that does not mean it should be considered as a wholly different mental disorder nor that it in any way needs to be considered from a moral perspective. A person with addiction needs to receive medical and psychological help, as well as a treatment that is confidential and adequate to the person’s individual needs.

Today’s model of addiction as a disease, while strongly supported, is not without its problems and will continue to change in the future. At the moment, however, it is a model that does take into account the neurobiological elements of addiction, as well as the processes involved in this condition that make it such a dangerous problem. Specifically, the concept of addiction as a brain disease can explain why addiction occurs and why people can not overcome it without help in most cases. Looking at addiction as a disease with biological, social, emotional and psychological components, it’s possible to develop an integral treatment model that recognizes that addiction is not a choice and that it involves a problem which can not be overcome with sheer will power. The model of addiction as a disease can be used to study addiction, to understand how it appears and develops and to provide treatment, which is why it is a widely used model today.

Why is addiction called a disease? / Live Better Live Now / Houston, Texas

Understanding Obsessive-Compulsive Anxiety Disorder

Understanding Obsessive-Compulsive Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety disorder covers different types of unconventional phobias, pathological anxieties, and fears. Anxiety, according to medical terminology, is the emotional state or condition that an individual regarded as unpleasant. The cause or reason of unpleasantness is not, however, readily identified or defined by medical experts. Often used interchangeably with fear, anxiety conditions require accurate diagnosis so that better prognosis and effective anxiety treatment are provided.

One of the most common types of anxiety condition is the Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). This type of anxiety disorder is defined through a person’s extreme compulsions and obsessions. This condition is often linked to the phrase “obsessive-compulsive” that basically refers to a person who is either too absorbed or meticulous.

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Defining obsessions and compulsions

A person is diagnosed to have obsessive-compulsive disorder if he or she either has compulsions or obsessions or both.

Obsessions are recurring or persistent impulses and thoughts that are regarded by an individual as inappropriate, disturbing, and intrusive, thus, resulting to distress and anxiety. As these impulses and thoughts are not just necessarily concerns about personal matters or affairs, an individual suffering from OCD tries to disregard or to hide such concerns by means of neutralizing them with other actions or thoughts.

On the other hand, compulsions are characterized as interminable behaviors or thoughts that an individual performs as a response to his or her obsessive actions.

A person suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder is aware that his or her compulsions and obsessions are somewhat exaggerated and irrational. Apart from being time-consuming, an individual’s obsessions and compulsions are known to cause distress or impairment to one’s occupational and social functioning. (*one important differentiation to note is that OCD involves a measure of suffering – there is shame and high distress; knowing that the thoughts and behaviors are not altogether logical and yet being “trapped” by them. Having an Obsessive-Compulsive Personality is very different. In OCP, the individual is not conflicted with the obsessions or compulsions the engage in.)

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Symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder

The obsessive-compulsive disorder is distinguishable in a number of ways. Below are some of the notable symptoms of this type of anxiety disorder:

1.Habitual dwelling and preoccupation with negative thoughts and concerns with positive or good thought. Some of the best examples of bad or negative thoughts are:
a. Chronic worries on particular actions and events like eating or leaving home     without proper items.
b. Inappropriate sexual obsessions or thoughts.

2. Habitual aligning or fixing of things or objects at their proper or designated places.

3. Extreme fear of contamination. A person diagnosed with OCD is constantly worried about being contaminated with human or animal body secretions like sweat, vomit, saliva, mucus, as well as body excretions such as feces and urine.

4. Habitual clearing of throat.

5. Habitual hand washing or cleaning.

6. Habitual checking

7. Intrusive need for sequencing or order based on numerical value, identification as good or evil, superstition or religious/spiritual significance and more.

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Treatments for obsessive-compulsive disorder

Recent community studies show that many OCD sufferers fail to seek clinical help due to stigma or shame of having the said type of anxiety disorder. Another noted reason for unaccounted OCD condition is that some people are not aware that they actually have an obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Generally, OCD is treated with three kinds of anxiety treatment: Cognitive therapy, behavioral therapy, and of course, medications.

As for the cognitive and behavioral therapies, one of the best treatments recommended to OCD sufferers is the exposure and response prevention. This treatment involves the process of tolerating anxieties that form when one does not perform a specific habitual actions or rituals. Meanwhile, doctors and specialists often recommend selective reuptake inhibitor medications like fluvoxamine, sertraline, paroxetine, and fluoxetine to individuals suffering from OCD.

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Understanding Obsessive-Compulsive Anxiety Disorder / Live Better Live Now / Houston, Texas

Eight Myths About Acupuncture

Eight Myths About Acupuncture

There are a lot of myths with regards to acupuncture. Some of these are true; others are silly while the rest only have a half truth. As you read on, you will learn which ones are worth believing.

The first myth is that acupuncture is painful. This is not true. Some of those who have tried it claim they only experienced a tiny prick while others did not feel anything at all. There is no tissue damage when the needle is inserted into the skin or pulled out and only in very rare cases are there traces of bruising.

The second myth is that you can get hepatitis or AIDS from acupuncture. This is true only if the needles used are not sterilized. In the US, this will never happen because acupuncturists are required to use disposable needles thus you are not at risk from these two diseases.

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Third, acupuncture is used to treat pain. This is only a half truth because this holistic technique has been proven to do other things such as help a person lose weight and preventing certain illnesses.

Fourth, there are some who think that Asians are the only ones that can practice acupuncture. Since 1982, there are over 50 schools all across the country that teach students about this technique and become licensed acupuncturists. This means that anyone who has the desire to learn about this ancient practice can do so and help treat patients. Just to give you an idea, there are at least 3,000 acupuncturists now working in the US.

Fifth, medical doctors do not believe in the potential of alternative medicine. This is not true because there are more doctors these days that are open to the idea that there are other ways to help patients aside from conventional medicine. In fact, some of them even recommend an acupuncturist if they know that what they have done is not effective.

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Another myth is that every patient will undergo the four needle technique. This is not true and it will only be used when the specialist feels that the energy of the patient is virtually not moving as a last resort.

The seventh myth is that it is better for a medical doctor to perform acupuncture. This is wrong because the training is much different than that taught in medical school. Students who have an acupuncturist license train for 3,000 hours before they are allowed to practice this profession. So between an acupuncturist and a medical doctor, you should go with someone who has learned about this much longer.

The eighth myth is that acupuncture is only used in third world countries. This is not true because this technique originated in China more than 2000 years ago and this has spread to developed nations in Asia such as Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia.

Here at home, acupuncture been practiced for more than 2 decades and is legal in 30 states. In fact 22 of them, license professionals after they graduate once they pass the state board examination.

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Although acupuncture has been around for a very long time, there is still a need for this form of holistic healthcare which is why this is being taught in colleges and is widely in use today. It is painless and cost efficient and a lot of studies have shown that it is effective in treating various illnesses and even preventing some of them.

Eight Myths About Acupuncture / Live Better Live Now / Houston, Texas

Borderline Personality Disorder VS Bipolar Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder VS Bipolar Disorder

Borderline personality disorder and bipolar are often mistaken as being the same thing. They are also often misdiagnosed, one for the other. This is because the symptoms for both illnesses are startlingly similar.

Borderline personality disorder is actually less common and less known than bipolar. Borderline personality disorder accounts for only about twenty percent of hospitalizations for mental illness each year, while bipolar accounts for about fifty percent of hospitalizations. Borderline personality disorder is most common in young women, whereas bipolar is equally common in both men and women, as well as all age groups.

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Borderline personality disorder and bipolar patients both experience mood swings that may involve violent outbursts, depression, or anxiety. However, while bipolar patients typically cycle through these moods over a period of weeks or months, borderline personality disorder patients may have bursts of these moods lasting only a few hours or a day.

Borderline personality disorder patients also undergo periods of having no idea who they are in terms of personality, likes, dislikes, and preferences. They may change long term goals frequently, and have trouble sticking to any one activity. Acting with impulsiveness, going on major unaffordable shopping sprees, excessive eating, or engaging in risky sexual relationships can also be experienced. These are also symptoms of mania in bipolar patients.

Borderline personality disorder patients may also undergo periods of worthlessness, feeling mistreated or misunderstood, and emptiness. These symptoms coincide with symptoms of depression in bipolar patients.

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Another symptom of borderline personality disorder involves how they deal with relationships. Relationships are often viewed in extremes. Either the patient is totally in love or hates with a passion. A patient may be completely in love one minute, then hate someone totally due to a small conflict or situation. Fears of abandonment often lead to suicide threats, rejection, and depression in the patient. These relationship issues can also be found in bipolar patients.

Treatments of borderline personality disorder and bipolar are also similar. A combination of therapy and medication is typically preferred by the psychiatrist. Cognitive behavioral therapy, while successfully implemented with bipolar patients, was originally developed for use with borderline personality disorder. Various medications can also be prescribed for either mental illness with successful results.

Like bipolar disorder, little is known about the actual causes of borderline personality disorder. There is a lot of controversy about genetics versus environment in this area. However, it appears through research that, while bipolar is definitely hereditary and biological in nature, borderline personality disorder is more likely to be a result of environment and situational stimuli.

As you can see, many similarities exist between bipolar and borderline personality disorder. It can often be quite difficult to distinguish one illness from the other, even for doctors and psychologists. If you suffer any of the symptoms discussed here, it is important to obtain the assistance and diagnosis of a licensed professional for appropriate diagnosis and treatment of your symptoms. You should never attempt self diagnosis and treatment for symptoms such as those associated with bipolar and borderline personality disorder without the help of a psychiatrist or psychologist. Doing so may cause your symptoms to worsen, and make treatment less successful in the future.

Borderline Personality Disorder VS Bipolar Disorder / Live Better Live Now / Houston, Texas

Counseling for Disease

Why is counseling needed for recovery from a disease?

Today the importance of counseling for disease is more widely recognized and recommended than ever before. Many hospitals and rehabilitation centers offer counseling programs for people who are battling cancer, struggling with addiction or are facing other serious health problems. This raises the question of why would a person with cancer or addiction benefit from a service that works with a person’s mental health.

It has been established that most diseases have some sort of psychological component. In many cases, this involves stress. Let’s take as two examples, two very distinct illnesses, such as cancer and addiction.

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Example One:  Counseling for Addiction

In the case of addiction, it seems easier to establish the need for counseling. The person who has a substance abuse problem usually has certain alteration in the brain, but also specific flawed ways of thinking, deeper problems that may be masked by the addiction, other mental health disorders and other issues might also be present that might benefit from counseling. Let’s take a closer look.

A addict who is active in their disease may frequently engage in flawed ways of thinking. They may deny the problem or try to minimize, justify it or rationalize it. The person might feel angry or sad and not know how to handle these emotions. There commonly are also other factors that contribute such addiction in the family or a trauma history. An experienced and well-trained counselor can help the individual explore the ideas that have led to addiction and may be supporting it, changing negative thinking for a more positive thinking process and learning to adopt new behaviors that support recovery. Counseling can also give the individual tools for the healthy expression of emotions and healthy relationships with others.

Often, addiction appears together with other issues in the person’s life. These issues might involve loneliness, family troubles, low self-esteem or as mentioned earlier, a history of trauma and abuse. Counseling can address these issues, helping the person overcome these situations without using substances as a way of coping.

Addiction often co-occurs with other disorders. Frequently, these disorders are ADHD, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety and many others. Counseling can work with the symptoms of the other disorder, improving the person’s overall state and condition, which can also benefit the treatment for addiction. In general, it is now generally an accepted best practice that co-occurring disorders need to be treated in tandem, together, to achieve a significant and lasting improvement in the person’s life.

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For example, a person with bipolar disorder might consume alcohol during their manic episodes, as one of the characteristics of this state is the increase of euphoria and engagement in pleasurable activities, but that may have dangerous consequences. The same person may then again drink during their depressive episodes, where they may use alcohol, mis-guidedly so, as a pick-me-up or simply to mask or hide from their feelings. If the person does not receive treatment for the bipolar disorder, for instance, receiving mood stabilizers, it’s likely that it will be difficult for them to comply with the treatment for substance abuse due to the shifting mood and the specific symptoms of each episode. However, a joint treatment of the comorbid conditions can more effectively benefit the person.

In general, few people deny that addiction requires counseling, not just medical help. In the case of cancer and other diseases which are viewed as being purely “medical”, there may be more controversy.

Now let’s take a look at why counseling can help a person with a disease such as cancer.

Example Two: Counseling for Cancer / Serious Medical

The first thing that counseling can offer is dealing with the grief of having such an illness and going through a process that culminates in acceptance. Many diseases confront the person with their own impermanence or mortality and with many regrets, pain and fear. Counseling can help the person live through this process, avoiding additional damage and providing a safe environment.

A second aspect of counseling for recovery is that stress and negative emotions play a big role in the progress of disease. While there is no clear link between stress and cancer, it does affect the person’s health indirectly. Constant stress wears down the body, reduces the effectiveness of the immune system and has many other negative effects that could be dangerous to the health of the individual. Stress often is not connected just to the situations a person lives through, but also to their interpretation of this situation, their beliefs and ideas.

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For example, let’s consider a cancer survivor who has been a workaholic throughout most of their life. This might be a person who places a high value on working “till you drop” and that doesn’t know how to relax. This is an attitude that might bring them problems if they find it hard to adjust it to their new life circumstances. Counseling can help them develop a new attitude that they are more comfortable with and that is not harmful to their health, reducing stress. It can also help the person use strategies for relaxing and for establishing their new workload. This may be especially important during periods of chemotherapy and/or radiation treatment.

Counseling for disease can help with the adjustment process in general, helping the person accept the changes that have occurred in their life, solidify their commitment to resilience, address their emotions and talk about the many things they may not be comfortable sharing with their family members or friends. The counseling process can help the patient and their loved ones not only to move forward, but also to make the most of the experience.

Counseling for disease can be said to engage the higher executive functions. A disease can bring forward and activate some of the more deep and unconscious parts of our minds, such as our limbic system and the body’s fight-or-flight response. The person might feel overwhelmed with fear, so a process such as counseling that favors integration and engages higher functions related to the prefrontal cortex, for instance, can help the person ground themselves in reality and overcome their difficult emotional state to give them hope for the future.

There are many good counselors out there. You will find the one who is right for you. Whomever you choose, take the time to be sure they are experienced, seasoned, appropriately trained/licensed, communicate clearly, honestly and with compassion.

Thank you for reading. Our heart and prayers are with you on your path wherever it takes you.

Survival Is Science, Living Is Art

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Counseling for Disease / Live Better Live Now / Houston, Texas

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Heart Disease and Depression

Cardiac events, surgery, heart disease and depression. These are all familiar, often feared and typically held as foreign to us personally. But for many of those or those we love – these can become all too real very quickly.

When someone experiences a heart-attack, heart surgery or stroke, the immediate concerns obviously are physical health and management of the immediate situation. But when they survive and move on with their day to day activities, it is important to manage their mental health as well.

According to several studies done by researchers, it has been clear that about 40% of the patients with heart diseases and cardiac events suffer from depression. Depression has become very common after a heart attack. About 20% of post cardiac patients who suffer from depression have the severe form of it, while the others have it mildly. The good news is that this can be treated, but, this has been temporary most of the time. Long term survivors of cardiac events fall into depression in the rate of one out of three every year.

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Also the researchers have shown that physical inactivity has become an independent risk factor for increased depressive symptoms after a cardiac event. Of course, it is understandable that getting diagnosed with a heart disease is really sad. But the process of this sadness and how the person copes with it is also important. Some accept the health status of their own selves, and focus on rehabilitation and regaining the health which he has lost or to recover as much as possible. But some find it hard to accept and the early sadness converts to depression over time.

One of the main things a person should be concerned about is that if the patient is changing himself or not enjoying the life as he did before. These are the main symptoms which will hint that the patient has not recovered from the psychological effects which he had suffered due to this health state. If you are having a loved one or you yourself are suffering from such a situation, it is best to go to a doctor. Counseling can help you come out of the depressive state you are in.
Depressive state after a cardiac event is not a normal thing and sometimes, your cardiologist may not understand that you have depression. To understand and to save yourself or your loved one from this state, you will have to observe them carefully. According to the diagnostic criteria, a person with depression will have five symptoms out of the following;

• Frequent feelings of sadness or emptiness
• Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
• Strange eating or sleeping patterns
• Excessive crying
• Thoughts of suicide and death
• Fatigue
• Difficulty concentrating or remembering
• Feelings of worthlessness or helplessness
• Irritability
• Unexplained aches and pains that don’t respond to treatment

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Depression is not the only matter, after a cardiac surgery. Some people also suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD) or anxiety. Even though the relationship between heart and mind are not understood, it is evident that a major surgery in the heart can cause some chemical changes in the brain. Doctors say that it is good to talk to a patient who has undergone a heart surgery, before you do your surgery. Also, they recommend that, a post cardiac surgery patient should do counseling after the major surgery.

Without treatment, depression can be fatal. For heart patients, depression can cause increased risk of heart attacks and coronary artery diseases. That is why you need to be careful about your psychological status, in order to have a full recovery and an effective rehabilitation.

If you feel like having depression and that something is disturbing your day-to-day work and social relationships, then it is necessary to get treated by a mental health specialist. If you want to be more specific, here are some reasons to seek help;

• If you have low mood and lack of happiness daily, for about two weeks.

• If you find it very difficult to recover from your heart disease and if you feel a lack of motivation and confidence. This is a symptom of depression being settled in your brain.

• If you have difficulties carrying out your daily work, such as marketing, having good neighborhood, having a good relationship with family and etc.

• Low social activeness can also suspect that the patient is finding it hard to move with others and is also one of the symptoms of depression.

• If a person has suicidal thoughts and feelings. Suicide is not a solution for any problem and it can harm not only the person who tries to commit suicide, but the loved ones as well. If you have any suicidal thoughts, call your physician or 24 hour suicide hotline right away.

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The symptoms and a proper history can help a doctor predict or diagnose the prognosis of a patient. How long the psychological affects last and how often it occurs help us understand whether the patient is processing this health state in a natural way or whether he is slipping into depression. Diagnosing this status wholly depend on the patients attitude and behavior and not by the lab reports and others.
There are many treatment methods for depression; medications, psychotherapy or a combination of both can be used. Among medications new antidepressants such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI) are safe to be used for cardiac patients. Currently some of the best drugs in this category reportedly are Sertraline and Citalopram, which are thought to be quite safe in patients with heart diseases.

Psychotherapy can help a person to regain the normal thoughts and activities. It helps to provide social support and help the patient develop positive thinking. Supportive models of talk therapy appear to be the most effective in treating post cardiac surgery depression. Talking about the surgery and the experience the patient had can remove the fear, depression and sadness they have had after surgery.
Furthermore, a healthy lifestyle, regular exercises, proper sleep and a healthy diet together with a relaxation technique which will help to remove the stress after the surgery will help the patient manage psychological negativity which comes after surgery.
Early diagnosis and treatment of post cardiac surgery depression is important to gain effective rehabilitation and to prevent recurrent heart attacks. If left untreated, it increases the risk of mortality, depression and heart attacks.

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As always a proper support system and a helpful background are important in helping a depressed person come out of the situation. If you are family or a loved one of a patient who has undergone a cardiac surgery, here are some tips and suggestions;

• Encourage the patient to seek medical help and follow the therapy as asked. Make sure that he is consulted by a proper medical professional so that the diagnosis can be made as soon as possible and treated effectively.

• Educate yourself and family about post cardiac surgery depression. This will help you and your family to understand the patient’s situation. There are many support groups and organization which will provide you with enough information.

• You should know that depression is not a person’s attitude, weakness or quality and that it is a disorder with biological, psychological and interpersonal components.

• Help your family member follow the prescribed treatment plan and practice the coping techniques and problem-solving skills he or she is learning during psychotherapy. Following the doctor’s instructions will help him recover soon.

• Make sure medications are available if prescribed, attend therapy sessions together with a family member if the patient feels that it is needed, encourage the patient to follow recommended lifestyle changes and follow up with the proper health care providers.

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• Recognize that depression is often expressed as hostility, rejection and irritability. Offer consistent support to your loved one. This can be daring, but it is one of the most important parts of a treatment plan. People with depression can feel alone and isolated. Giving consistent support and understanding are critical. Making them feel that you are with him, helps a lot more than you think.

• Adopt an interaction style that puts the depressed person in charge. For example, instead of suggesting, “Let’s go to the movies tonight,” try this: “I’d like to see a movie tonight. Which one of these do you want to see with me?” When he is in charge, he feels that he can manage things and this will help the negativity vanish away. (Remember that treatment is effective and your loved one will start to improve in 2 to 3 weeks, achieving full improvement in a couple of months. Notice and praise any significant improvement.)

• Reward your family member with opportunities such as visiting friends or going out for activities. Don’t force these, though. Suggestions and requested would be the best option.

• Take breaks from the depressed person from time to time. It will help both of you. A break will help you regain your active mind as well as the patient will feel that he is not forced.

• Consider family or marital therapy: these forms of therapy bring together all those affected by depression and help them learn effective ways to cope together.

• Consider support of community support groups, either for the depressed person, or for you as the family member, or better yet for both of you.

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Live Better Live Now / Houston, Texas / Heart Disease and Depression

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