Archive: Addiction

Common Trauma Misconceptions

I’ve been speaking this month, quite often, about trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). There are many misconceptions associated with PTSD both in the medical field and everyday society.

Rashish, a healthy living website, recently published the story about Rebecca, a 23 yr. old who never suspected she had issues related to trauma. The article states, “Before her diagnosis this past summer, Rebecca says she didn’t know much about PTSD. “I knew it was something serious that veterans dealt with, but I never had a reason to research the subject,” she says. “I thought there was some scale or level of degree of trauma that caused PTSD. I didn’t think my issues were comparable to a veteran’s, so I thought I was just weak.” Rebecca had struggled with depression and anxiety before, but she knew she was dealing with something else.” You can read the entire piece here: http://www.qconline.com/radish/treating-trauma-overcoming-ptsd-myths-and-misconceptions/article_629f5c70-4c53-590b-ab56-4fa1ad1e830b.html

I think what bothers me about misconceptions of trauma and PTSD is that we always think of someone ready to “snap” versus the daily struggle. Most people with trauma are like Rebecca. They feel anxious. They have panic attacks for that they think as “no reason”. They feel like laying down in bed all day or they can’t bare to stay home, they have to stay busy.

People deal with trauma in many different ways, often thinking they are fine- and often suffering from a multiple of subtle symptoms. Not everyone with trauma and PTSD is sitting at home, shaking, hallucinating, are being directed to commit a crime. Those cases are very rare. In fact, trauma victims are usually so confused about the subtle ways they feel, they end up being more of a harm to themselves than society- which is where I feel the misconceptions are birthed.

Another misconception is the cause of trauma or PTSD, which is often (and correctly) related to sexual abuse as a child or war. Well, these are not the only causes. Falls or sports injuries, Surgery (especially in the first 3 years of life),
the sudden death of someone close, a car accident, the breakup of a significant relationship, a humiliating or deeply disappointing experience, or the discovery of a life-threatening illness or disabling condition can all lead to the same feelings of anxiety, depression and withdrawal.

So, what are some of the more subtle emotional and psychological symptoms of trauma or PTSD:

  • Shock, denial, or disbelief
    Anger, irritability, mood swings
    Guilt, shame, self-blame
    Feeling sad or hopeless
    Confusion, difficulty concentrating
    Anxiety and fear
    Withdrawing from others
    Feeling disconnected or numb
    Insomnia or nightmares

Of course, this isn’t the complete list. People respond to different circumstances with a combination of these symptoms or symptoms not listed above. I can tell you that if you have been feeling anxious or depressed for the past three months and you find a life event on the causes I listed above, you should start to speak with someone about not only how you’re feeling, but how you’re coping.

I also offer free consultations and a free 7-Day Mediation program, which you can find here: http://thejoyofliving.co/uncategorized/7-days-of-free-meditation-work/

What Is PTSD?

The myth around Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is that only those who have been to war or beaten and abused as children can end up with it in life. In fact, there are many people who don’t even believe that PTSD is real.

Yes, it is real and NO you don’t have had to go war or have been the victim of childhood physical abuse to suffer from PTSD. Thus, I want to clarify a few things about PTSD in today’s post.

First, let me repost the clinical side of PTSD. PTSD symptoms are grouped into four types: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, or changes in emotional reactions.

Second, PTSD can come from any type of trauma. Emotional abuse, sexual abuse, childhood bullying, witnessing a violent crime, being a teller at a bank that has been robbed, etc. We all have different levels of tolerance, which impacts how we cope (or don’t cope) with various scenarios.

Now- on to the symptoms:

Intrusive memories

Symptoms of intrusive memories may include:

Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event
Reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks)
Upsetting dreams about the traumatic event
Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the event
Avoidance
Symptoms of avoidance may include:

Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event
Avoiding places, activities or people that remind you of the traumatic event
Negative changes in thinking and mood
Symptoms of negative changes in thinking and mood may include:

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 traumatic event
Difficulty maintaining close relationships
Changes in emotional reactions
Symptoms of changes in emotional reactions (also called arousal symptoms) may include:

Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behavior
Always being on guard for danger
Overwhelming guilt or shame
Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much or driving too fast
Trouble concentrating
Trouble sleeping
Being easily startled or frightened
If you feel that you have more than half of these symptoms, it is time to seek out help. No, pills are not the full answer. Prescriptions can help with sleep or help with anxiety, but cognitive therapy is a very important element of recovering from PTSD.

Free Online Counseling

Many people are busy. You’re on LinkedIN networking. You have work to do. Maybe you have kids or parents to take care of. When do you have time to get caught up with all of your personal and then professional obligations in order to take care of yourself?

I offer individual counseling sessions online. Yes, they are secure and confidential and – best of all- the first one is FREE. Yes, a free session of counseling with me. After all, you want to know how this works and if I am a right match to help you with a variety of problems or a specific challenge. If you want to sign up, click here: http://thejoyofliving.co/programs/

How can counseling help? Well, there are a variety of ways to counsel people to help with different emotional and mental health issues. The reasons people seek out counseling is for growth and help and support, not because they are different or that something is wrong with them. With the ability to now offer online counseling, I am able to truly help people in a convenient and confidential manner.

The Huffington Post recently published a great article on the 8 Signs You Should Seek Counseling. The article states, ” Everyone experiences periods of stress, sadness, grief and conflict, so when you’re feeling off it can be hard to know if it’s time to see a professional about the problem. And apparently, those who would benefit from some therapeutic intervention are not seeking it enough: While one in five American adults suffer from some form of mental illness, only about 46-65 percent with moderate-to-severe impairment are in treatment, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

And while identifying and managing diagnosable mental illness is a priority in the psychiatric community, psychological help for those without a clear condition to manage can be just as important. Aside from suffering needlessly, those in distress may actually make the problem worse by avoiding professional help.”

You can read it in its entirety here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/08/11/8-signs-you-should-see-a_n_4718245.html

Want to know more about me and my programs, or just want to read my prior blogs? Please check out my company, The Joy of Living, here: thejoyofliving.co

Abuse At Work!

Do you work with abusive people? It’s very possible and probable. We don’t get into relationships with abusive people willingly (it usually happens for a variety of reasons) and we can’t select the people we work with, either. This is not to say that we are not working alongside, if not for, some very emotionally abusive people.

Do you know how to spot a workplace bully? If not, I’m putting some tips below.

According to a recent study, 72% of all people bully at work. But what is the difference between bullying (not that its right) and being downright abusive? If your co-workers or your boss are constantly slamming doors, being verbally rude and insulting or erupting in angry tirades, but then appear to act reasonably on the surface – abuse is being dealt out.

In fact, isolation is a form of workplace place abuse. If your boss or a coworker instigates malicious rumors and gossip, provides excessive work with unrealistic deadlines, shuns or ignores you in meetings, giving unwarranted, invalid or public criticism, blames without factual justification, swears and provides excessive micromanagement, the abusive actions and bullying are taking place!

I found a great free website that deals with bullying and abuse at work. It has quizzes and resources, which can be accessed here: http://www.workplacebullying.org/individuals/problem/being-bullied/ I can also help you discuss how to be proactive within your organization or company to prevent employees from abusing and bullying one another. Want to learn more about my workplace therapy programs? Please click here: http://thejoyofliving.co/

A New Way Of Looking At Addiction, That Contains A Ray Of Hope

I want to share with you an amazing message given by Johann Hari in a recent Ted Talk.  It’s amazing because it makes so much sense on a topic that is both painful and sensitive to so many of us – addiction.  I’ve included the link below.  I think it’s worth the time to watch and listen.

Hari’s main point is that addiction isn’t about some physical dependence on something:  he gives loads of evidence showing that many of us, including drug addicts, have experiences with habit-forming drugs, and don’t end up needing them afterwards, or even experiencing withdrawal.  The real underlying reason for addiction – to drugs, alcohol, sugar, work, exercising – anything at all that we turn to compulsively – is, in his words, isolation. Of “not being able to bear to be present in our lives”.

Our response to drug addicts is to punish them.  Our response to alcoholics is to avoid them.  Our response to food addicts is to shame them.  All isolating. All fail to work.

The real answer, he claims, is connecting, bonding.  If for some reason we aren’t able to bond with other people or with our world, then we will bond to whatever we can – and this might be drugs, alcohol, food, work – anything that gives us something to connect with, avoiding our sense of isolation.

Addictive substances and addictive habits, looking at it from Hari’s point of view, are natural ways of coping with the unbearable. He points out that our modern society is one of the loneliest societies that have ever been! No wonder addiction has become a way of living for so many!

How can we truly help ourselves, our friends, and our society?

There is all kinds of help out there – from 12-step programs to rehabilitation centres, to harm reduction, to community support.  The one thing they all have in common is community support, where the addict is loved back to a healthy balance.

Hari’s suggestion: deepen the connection.  Love our friend, or ourselves, no matter what.  Commit to being there for them, so that we all know that we are no longer alone.

Because the opposite of addiction is connection.

Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong!

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Quote of the Week
I felt that if he touched me, I’d die. And then the thought crawled into my brain that if he didn’t touch me, I’d die.
-Kitty Thomas, The Auction

3 Ways to Stay Grounded

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Staying grounded is easy- well, at least this is what “they” tell you. Staying grounded during difficult time requires work and being aware of your environment and what is impacting you.  While the tips I am listing below are ways to help you stay grounded during tough times, I also recommend one-on-one therapy.  These tips are suggestions and they do help, but they do not solve the inner challenges or responses when it comes to dealing with difficult times in life.

Now, without further delay, 3 ways to help you stay grounded during difficult times;

1. As difficult and painful as it can be,  look at things just as they are and make an honest assessment of the situation. What is going on in the world, in your relationships, in your work situation, etc? How are things really?

2. Be thankful. Now that you’re seeing more clearly, it is important that you practice gratitude. Perhaps this seems a bit odd when we are looking into the face of painful, stressful situations, yet gratitude can help us put things into perspective.

3. Seek support. Because staying present can be extremely difficult in the face of a chaotic and exciting world, you will always need some sort of support. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, we all have to at some point.

Developing Awareness 101

I help people develop their own personal awareness in my therapy sessions. It is part of my Gestalt therapy rooted applications and process when helping clients grow.  This said, however, I was recently asked if there are any Gestalt rooted practices someone could do at home to help develop their own self-awareness. Well, of course, there are!

What I really like people to start with at home is a concentration technique.  There are four steps to this process, which are as follows; First- start with maintaining the sense of actuality. This means you concentrate on your here and now.  Don’t disassociate to stress or daydreams. If you’re sitting in a quite room, try to remain (mentally) in the quite room and not lost in thought.

Next, realize that you are living the experience – acting it, observing it, suffering it, resisting it.  If your mind keeps wandering away from the quite room, understand this is happening and then ask yourself why your mind keeps trying to leave the room. Will it suffer from being in the present? Will it resist it because you may be forced to deal with the stillness of the here and now?  The follow-up step to this is to attend to all experiences, whether internal or external, the abstract as well as the concrete, to those that you ‘wish’ for and to those that you deliberately produce. It is key to take responsibility for them all, including your blocks and symptoms.

The final step is to verbalize what you are feeling out-loud and to yourself. Try something like, ‘Now I am aware that I can’t keep my mind still and in this room, I realize that I am overly stressed about money. I can’t stop worrying about it. Money is causing me to stress and causing me harm. I’m going to take action now by……”

Of course, all this takes practice. I can help you. Make sure to click and connect with me for personalized help and deeper work.

Asking Yourself the Right Questions

A part of Gestalt Therapy is being able to ask yourself the right questions. This is harder than it presents because we often don’t know what the right questions are in the midst of crisis or change. Using the questions and statements meant to focus the awareness in the present on one aspect or another is a key to my services and helping people identify and then overcome certain challenges.

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“What do you feel?” or “What’s on your mind right now?” are some of these questions. They may seem like typical therapy questions, but there is more to reporting simply what you’re feeling. In fact, it is important for you, the patient, to work through the simple answers to get in touch with your true, hidden and often complex feelings / replies.

Let’s say you just were fired. You might say, “I feel upset and scared.” Well, that is ok but it’s scratching the service. Someone who is Gestalt therapy may answer with “I’m scared because I failed to save enough money to get  me through a time like this. I don’t know who to ask for help or what resources are available to me. I’m mad at myself, my employer and my spouse for not understanding where my head is at right now.”

Being detailed about what you feel is really a key component to being present in your daily life, regardless if the situation is pleasant or not.  I can also  help you identify areas of avoidance in your life by how you answer these questions. For example, the recurrent avoidance of using the pronoun “I” and its substitution with “you” or “it” can indicate that you may avoid a particular area of your life or a situation. There are ways I can help encourage you to take ownership of these situations.

Want to know more? Please contact me. I can help!

Here and Now….

As a therapist who uses Gestalt therapy techniques, focusing on the here and now is important when helping clients understand how to overcome current challenges. Many people want to focus on the past in order to move forward. While this does work and is a great tool to use, I believe that understanding the past means dealing with the here and now.

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Through therapy, people learn to discover feelings that may have been suppressed or masked by other feelings and to accept and trust their emotions. Needs and emotions that were previously suppressed or unacknowledged are likely to surface as well. Through this process, my clients gain a new sense of self as overall awareness increases.

Again, this doesn’t devalue what working on the past has in a person’s everyday life. But thinking in terms of the present can help dissect the past and really address how to cope with different and even similar situations going forward.  Think about people , maybe even yourself, who suffer with anxiety. Usually, anxiety is rooted in an incident from the past. When the feelings or circumstances of today relate or refer to yesterday, the anxiety is usually ignited.  While we work with the past to think about how and when the anxiety started, it isn’t enough to move forward.  Dealing, however, with the triggers of today will help to harness the feelings associated with anxiety and the past.  It is important to have a conversation with yourself about today as much as you need to have it with yourself about your past.

I can help you navigate these often difficult conversations with yourself to address current and past behaviors and even others who may have caused you harm.  If you’re a bit curious about my technique, of Gestalt therapy in general, please do not hesitate to contact me. All my sessions are confidential and I work by phone or Skype. Yes, I’m HIPAA compliant.

Is Gestalt Therapy Good for Addiction?

I recently received a question about addiction and Gestalt therapy. My thoughts are this, if you’re seeking help- you’re already on a good path no matter what form of therapy / treatment you decide to take. Moving forward to addictionbreak the cycle of addiction is always a positive thing.

Gestalt therapy can help with addiction issues. As I’ve noted before, Gestalt therapy works on your psychological and emotional health, believing these two things can only be achieved by understanding oneself as part of a greater whole. Basically, I (and other therapists) believe that once you acknowledge who you are and why you are, you can finally be who you are.  Understanding why you react to certain triggers, and that the journey to self-discovery and transformation is a lifelong quest, is always my primary goal.

When it comes to addiction, I try not to analyze your past and place blame on certain people. Instead, we talk about you and your feelings. We work on your present moment in certain situations and how you felt and then how addiction become introduced and relied upon.

Addicts are often unaware of their true selves and therefore can’t really identify their true needs.  This is where I help patients understand their needs on a physical and emotional level, as well as the ways that they have responded to them in the past. By understanding your true self, you can start to seek out and  provide yourself with your true needs, vs. continuing to fill a void through the cycle of addiction. We also work on breaking the escape of life by using addiction as the tool / doorway. Instead, I help you  increase self-awareness and awareness of your relationship with the world. You no longer will need an escape tool / doorway through drugs, alcohol or sex. Instead, you will be able to discover your true needs and fulfill them, leaving addiction behind.

Don’t get me wrong. Addiction is addiction and it can take several attempts to truly kick any habit, but I promise the journey is worth it.

If you’re struggling with addiction and want to learn more, please contact me.