8 Things You Should Know About Gender and Addiction

There are many misconceptions about addiction and these often include how people perceive how a person’s gender may impact addiction and recovery. While  anyone can become addiction to drugs, alcohol or process addictions there are a few gender related trends to take note of.

8 Things You Should Know About Gender and Addiction

Men Are More Likely To Become Addicts Than Women

According to studies carried out males tend to start using drugs and alcohol at a much younger age than females. Males also tend to drink alcohol and use more drugs more frequently and in much higher quantities than females. Males are more likely to engage in binge drinking.

This does not necessarily mean that men are more susceptible to become addicts. Studies show that teenage males have more opportunity and are more exposed through their peer groups than females. It is often the case that teenage girls are first introduced to drugs by their male peers.

Women are in fact more likely to transition from substance abuse to dependence and addiction and they do so at a faster pace than men.

Death By Overdose

Men are more likely to die from an overdose than women. More than double men have died from overdosing on heroin and opioids than women and almost two thirds of the deaths by prescription opioids have been men.

Dual Diagnosis and Gender

While dual diagnosis is equally prevalent between men and women the types of mental health disorders differ. Men are much more likely to antisocial personality disorders and women tend to have affective disorders such as depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder.

Drugs

Detoxing, Recovery and Relapse

Men are more likely to have more intense alcohol withdrawal than women. Women are more likely to experience physical side effects of addiction (such as liver damage) and overdose.

Men are less likely to relapse and have a better chance at long term sobriety than women. Women report more intense cravings and are more likely to relapse than men.

Types Of Drugs

Men are more likely to abuse a variety of illegal drugs such as anabolic steroids, methamphetamines, heroin, LSD, cocaine, ecstasy, opioids and molly. Women are more likely to abuse prescription medications than men.

Process Addictions

In general women are more likely to have an eating disorder than men. Women are more likely to suffer from anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa while men with eating disorders are more likely to be overeaters.

Women are more likely to be dissatisfied with their weight and engage in dieting for weight control and purging.

When it comes to sex addiction men are physical and men are emotional. Men tend to obsess over sex and objectify women. Men tend to get involved in sexual behaviors that are not emotional.

Women look to sex for power or control, or to get the attention or praise that they want.

Women are also more likely to have a love addiction, which can easily be mistaken for a sex addiction. With a love addiction the addict looks for all her self-worth from her partner.

Men are about three times more likely to be addicted to gambling. Another difference with gambling addiction is that women tend to favour the slot machines and bingo while men are more likely to get hooked on table casino games or the stock markets.

Prescription overdose

Reason For Stopping Drugs

The biggest motivating factor for both men and women stopping drugs is for their children. 49% of women gave their children as the reason for stopping drugs, almost double that of the 26% of men that gave their children as their motivation.

Reason For Using Drugs

The trigger for men could originate for some men from traditional gender roles. Men may feel that they need to be adventurous and in control. Drugs and alcohol may seem like a good tool to help achieve these things. Men can be encouraged to keep their feeling hidden and taking drugs and drinking alcohol can appear to be a way of coping for some men.

Women often turn to drugs and alcohol in response to a traumatic event from childhood. In one study 30 to 59% of women in an addiction treatment program had a dual diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder.

Although men are more often in situations that are physically dangerous women are at a higher risk (both as a child and as an adult) to be victims of personal violence. In addition to this women are more likely to be sexually victimized while using alcohol than men.

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8 Steps to a Calmer Mind in 2019

Addiction recovery can be a stressful time for anyone.  If you’re not in the right frame of mind, it can be difficult to find the strength or motivation.   The daily stresses of modern life can all chip away, reducing your willpower to overcome addiction.  Even simple things such as getting too many emails, forgetting what you’re supposed to be doing today, or tiredness caused by lack of sleep.

It’s important to remember that stress comes in many forms; in fact we may not even realize that we are stressed.

When you’re pre-occupied by work, family, health concerns or even the task of overcoming your addiction, you may not realize you’re constantly carrying tension in your shoulders, in your neck or in your head.  You may not consider that you’re not as happy as you could be, and that things are getting you down.

Taking the time (however small), to work on calming your mind can help you to recognize your stressors, and better cope with them.

So here are 8 steps you can take to a calmer mind in 2019:

8 Steps to a Calmer Mind in 2019

  1. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness has grown massively in the past few years.  A kind of “meditation lite”, it involves focusing on the present, such as focusing on your breath, focusing on the sounds around you or the really tuning in to the food you eat.   There are 100s of mindfulness activities to choose from, some taking as few as 1-10 minutes.  There’s no right or wrong activities, just choose whichever works for you.

It’s important to remember that mindfulness practice takes time and not to put pressure on yourself about whether you’re doing it right or not.

Numerous studies show that mindfulness can help to calm people’s mind and enable them to cope better with daily stresses, thoughts and emotions.

A recent British study found that 11 minutes of mindfulness per day significantly reduced alcohol consumption for “at risk” drinkers.

Calm peaceful scenery

  1. Look After Your Gut Bacteria

Gut health is another field of research which is moving rapidly.   It was not that long ago that scientists made the connection that the gut in essence is the body’s second brain.

There is increasing evidence linking gut bacteria to depression, anxiety, and behavioral responses to addiction.  Taking a daily probiotic is one way of maintaining the healthy balance needed for good gut health.

There are dozens of different probiotics on the market, each with different proposed benefits. Lactobacillus (L.) rhamnosus for example is well researched in helping against anxiety. 

Exercise stretch

  1. Get More Exercise

There are hundreds of studies linking exercise with improved mood and ability to copy with situations we find difficult.  Some people like exercise more than others, but the key thing to remember is that exercise should not be boring.  If you don’t enjoy it then it becomes another drain on your resources.

If you don’t like high intensity workouts for instance, you could try Yoga which helps maintain good posture, flexibility and works on core strength.  Yoga is also an excellent way of calming the mind in itself. 

  1. Create Goals You Can Achieve

When we set unrealistic goals and don’t achieve them, we get down, lose momentum and get stressed out about the future.  Making a habit of setting small but achievable goals is a great way of putting yourself into a calmer more positive frame of mind.  Good goals should be SMART:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

A goal to go out for a 5 minute walk, within the next two weeks for instance could be an objective which might sound small and insignificant, but it could be a stepping stone onto a bigger goal. 

  1. Turn off Daily Stressors

If it’s causing you stress, doesn’t benefit you and can be removed, take it out of your life.

Technology is a common, constant stressor for most people.  Getting constant notifications when you’re trying to relax, or focus on something important is not helpful.  If you don’t really need them, switch them off.

Most phones have sophisticated settings to select which apps can and can’t send you push notifications.  

Read a book outdoors

  1. Take a Break

Many of us are so preoccupied with modern life that we forget to switch off, to do something we enjoy or to give our brains a rest.  Our brains weren’t designed to be stimulated for most of the day.  In fact humans lived for thousands of years at a much slower pace.    Make a habit of being in nature, zoning out or doing things you enjoy to give yourself a rest.

  1. Eat Your Way to a Calmer Mind

What we eat has a huge effect on our emotions and mindset.  Consider eating more:

  • Oats – Credited with mild sedative properties.
  • Dark chocolate – Is a natural mood enhancer, improving serotonin levels and helping to reduce the stress response.
  • Complex carbohydrates – Such as whole meal bread, pasta, etc.. provide even energy and a host of B vitamins which promote brain health.
  • Eggs – Contain tryptophan which helps to create serotonin (happy hormone).
  • Fatty fish – Such as salmon, sardines, mackerel contain high levels of Omega-3 which can help to reduce depression and anxiety levels. Or consider supplementation.

Drink herbal tea

  1. Switch From Caffeine

Caffeine comes in many forms: tea, coffee, cola etc..  It’s part of a habit for millions of people worldwide, but if you want to be calmer then it may be best to switch away.  This is because caffeine is a stimulant.  It triggers the release of adrenaline which is associated with the stress (fight or flight) response.  You might not feel it, but caffeine can play a background role in keeping our stress-levels elevated and fight against our ability to truly relax.

Many herbal teas such as chamomile and green tea are associated with reduced cortisol levels (stress hormone). 


About The Author 

Article written by Oliver Neely on behalf of Step up Inn in Connecticut, USA.  Step Up Inn is a sober living home for women, designed to provide a safe and calm environment to aid people in their transition from rehab to normal life.


 

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Give Your Mental Health A Boost This Year With These Strategies

It’s a whole new year, which means that this month is the perfect time to take a look at your life, your health and your wellness and consider how you can change and improve each aspect of that. By taking your health and wellness more seriously, you can improve your quality of life, and ensure that you have the best year ever, allowing you to start next year in the most amazing place, health-wise.

If there’s one area of your life that you should consider focusing on this year, it’s your mental health, after all, this is a key area of your health and wellness, and one that very few people put enough time and effort into taking care of.

Wondering what it takes to give your mental health a boost this year? Have a read of the tips and ideas below!

Peace meditate

Photo source: Pixabay

Be more active

One way to enhance your mental health this year is to take steps to become more active. If you want to give your mental health a boost and improve how happy you are, becoming more active is a great way to go about it. Physical activity isn’t only beneficial for physical health, but also for mental health because it helps to reduce feelings of stress, tension and anxiety, which is what makes being more active so important for your mental health. Whether you choose to take up running, swimming or yoga, it doesn’t matter – all that matters is that you’re taking your mental health seriously by taking steps to be more active to help improve your emotional wellness.

Seek support

There’s no shame in seeking support, should you need it. When it comes to your mental health, it’s important to understand that there is no shame in taking the time to get support, should you need it. Regardless of what the problem is and whether you need anxiety counselling, sex addiction counselling or support for another mental health problem, it’s essential that you feel like you can seek the support that you need without needing to feel embarrassed about it. If you are struggling, one of the best things that you can do is seek support, which is why it’s so important that you understand this.

Do what makes you happy

Want to improve your mental health this year? Then, it’s essential that you do what makes you happy. When it comes to mental health and happiness, these two things tend to go hand in hand, with you being less prone to develop mental health problems if you do what makes you happy. Spend more time doing the things that you love and less time doing what other people want you to do – this is important as it could have a huge impact on your mental health and wellness.

There you have it, everything that you need to know about giving your mental health and wellness a boost this year. Take note of the tips and advice above and you can make the whole process much easier for yourself.

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Understanding The Therapeutic And Restorative Benefits Of Healing Gardens

Gardens have been touted for their therapeutic benefits for centuries. Horticulture therapy grew exponentially after World War II as a result of the many veterans who were hospitalized after the war. In the recent past, the benefits of spending time surrounded by beautiful plants in a peaceful garden setting have become even more clear. These days, horticulture therapy is a commonly used treatment that is designed to promote wellness in both body and mind.

Healing gardens, which include therapeutic gardens and restorative gardens, are created with the goal of promoting the well-being of anyone who enters them. The design of these gardens can vary depending on the purpose for which they are created.

The term healing garden is used to describe any garden that is designed to improve the health and well-being of the people who spend time visiting it. You can often find these gardens outside of hospitals or in other areas where health care services are offered. Therapeutic gardens, which are often incorporated into bigger healing gardens, are designed to complement traditional treatment options such as physical therapy or occupational therapy.

Restorative Gardens, on the other hand, are designed to help people reconnect with their inner selves through observing the beauty around them or meditating in a quiet space. You can find these gardens in both private and public settings. The ultimate goal of a restorative garden is to reduce stress and to promote better mental health and physical well-being. 

Understanding The Therapeutic and Restorative Benefits Of Healing Gardens

Healing Garden Benefits

Healing gardens provide countless benefits. Not only can they lower anxiety levels but they can also reduce blood pressure, minimize pain, and can even help counteract depression. People who visit these gardens may be able to get by with lower doses of medication. They may also feel more satisfied with their treatment and may be able to leave the hospital or healthcare facility sooner. In a work environment, healing gardens can also lower turnover rates while at the same time helping employees feel more satisfied with their jobs.

The healing powers of nature have been backed up by recent research. For instance, a study conducted by Texas A and M’s Dr. Roger Ulrich discovered that patients recovered more quickly when they had windows that looked out onto trees or nearby gardens when compared to patients whose windows only offered a view of a brick wall.

Man walking through garden

What Makes Healing Gardens Different Than Standard Gardens?

The goal of a healing garden is to create a plant-filled area that has therapeutic and restorative properties. They are designed to support both physical and mental health and well-being.

Patients with mobility issues often are led by physical therapists through the garden. People who have suffered from strokes, on the other hand, may be asked to pay attention to the plants on either side of their body, identifying the ones that they can see. Activities like watching birds or listening to music in the garden can promote better social interaction. These gardens can also be used by speech therapists to improve cognitive function or to further communication skills. Children who are hospitalized can greatly benefit from playing in these gardens. Ultimately, they are designed to help patients gain strength and mobility, increase their endurance, and improve their cognitive functions.

According to the American Horticulture Therapy Association, these seven features are what define therapeutic gardens:

  • A design that focuses on accessibility
  • Regular activities that follow a specific schedule
  • A clearly defined boundary
  • A number of different types of plants that are chosen specifically for people/plant interactions
  • Plants that are naturally resistant to pests and disease, eliminating the need for chemicals in the garden. Plenty of shaded areas where patients can rest. Water can also help and be therapeutic – look at these water fountain ideas.
  • An inclusive design that accommodates people with a range of abilities.
  • Gardens that are designed to be therapeutic should have a simple, cohesive design
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Foods You Need to Eat if you Are Depressed or Down in the Dumps

If you are feeling low or if you know that your mental health could do with some support then your diet may be to blame. After all, if you have a very poor diet then this could really be limiting your motivation and it can also have a profound impact on your energy levels as well. If you want to try and make yourself feel better or if you know that you need to try and give yourself some additional support when it comes to your own nervous system then these foods can certainly help you to get to where you need to be.

Fatty Fish

Believe it or not, fatty fish is really rich in Omega-3. It is also very rich in docosahexaenoic acid as well. Studies show that foods which are higher in Omega-3 such as herring, salmon and even sardines are all great for your body and they can even reduce depression and hyperactivity disorders. The main reason for this is because it has a huge impact on the neurotransmitters that are in the brain and this includes dopamine and even serotonin. If you are able to support the synapses in the brain then this can help you with your mood, your learning ability and even your memory as well.

https://www.pexels.com/photo/catch-fish-fish-market-fishing-229789/

Whole Grains

The main source of energy for the brain is glucose. This tends to come from carbohydrates. Of course, when you look at simple carbohydrates you will find that these can increase your low moods by creating a spike in the blood sugar. This can have very similar effects on the brain as drug abuse. Healthy sources of carbohydrates however can easily provide your brain with a steady fuel so that you can avoid those blood sugar spikes. This will also help you to avoid heartburn as well, as this normally comes from sugary or fatty foods. If you do find that you struggle with heartburn then you can consider taking products such as Zantac as this can really help.

Lean Protein

Lean protein is ideal if you want to boost the amount of serotonin in the body. The main reason for this is because most of your body is made up of protein, and some people even call it the Prozac of nature. Lean sources of protein can include egg, chicken, fish, turkey and even beans. They help to keep your serotonin levels balanced and they can also facilitate the tryptophan in the brain as well. This helps to reduce both anxiety and depression, not to mention that it also increases your own cognitive functioning. If you are finding it hard to battle the anxiety that you have then increasing the amount of lean protein in your diet can certainly help.

https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-slicing-raw-meat-with-pepper-on-chopping-board-beside-spices-1446270/

Leafy Greens

There’s a reason why Popeye is so keen on spinach! Mustard greens, broccoli, romaine and more are all very rich in Vitamin B. This has been proven, in the past to try and reduce depression and even insomnia as well. If you are suffering from chronic fatigue then this can also really help you. The main reason for this is because broccoli contains selenium and this is a mineral that plays a huge part in the immune system. It also plays a part in the thyroid metabolism and even in reproduction as well. Various studies have been done and they all show that low levels of selenium do contribute to things like anxiety, fatigue and more.

Active Cultured Yoghurt

If you are struggling with anxiety or even depression then active-cultured yoghurts can really help you. You should also look out for fermented foods, such as pickled vegetables. The main reason for this is because they contain probiotics. This is healthy bacteria and this has shown in the past that it can reduce anxiety and stress hormones. It can also have a huge impact on the neurotransmitter GABA as well. If you find that you eat a lot of junk food then there is a chance that the healthy bacteria in your gut has been compromised and you may even find that you struggle with your energy levels. By eating foods that are higher in active cultures, you can help to nurse yourself and your body back to health while also putting an end to your own anxiety and depression.

Of course, if you are struggling with anxiety or even depression then there are things that you can do to help. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference your diet can make to your mood.

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5 Mental Health Benefits of Cycling

It goes without saying that cycling is a rewarding, fun and invigorating activity for men and women of all ages. It’s one of the best forms of exercise if you intend to lose weight, gain strength among other benefits. But, did you know that cycling benefits your mental health?

Humanity is constantly affected by depression, anxiety, stroke and other stress-related illnesses. This is a result of daily pressures of life. They range from financial needs, work issues, to relationships and family issues.

No wonder, the substance abuse rate is high. Additionally, mental hospitals and the streets have new mental illnesses brought in every day.

Lack of a balanced mental health may have adverse effects on humans. In the recent years, most people have understood the essence of daily exercise. You not only maintain a physically fit body but also mental health.

This article will help you identify the benefits of cycling for mental health.

5 Mental Health Benefits Of Cycling

Cycling relieves stress

Like most exercises, cycling relieves stress. Cycling and other aerobic exercises reduce the formation of cortisol and adrenaline. In the process, your body produces the endorphins which are your happy hormones.

Pedalling increases the production and circulation of oxygen and consequently the production of endorphins. When your body has a high rate of endorphins, stress has no place. It also makes you focus on beneficial things for a short while.

Sometimes all your body needs is that distraction from your mental negative thoughts and pictures. Furthermore, if you live in a city that has uncontrollable traffic jam during high peak, cycling will help you save the time while relieving you of the financial stress.

The 21st century has seen the rise of work that requires people to sit in front of a computer for hours. This may result in body fatigue, eyes strain and general mental stress. Since cycling engages all your body parts, it’s the best exercise to combat the body and mental strain.

Cycling alleviates an individual’s mood, release the body tension and overall stabilizes their mental structure. As you can see, you have every reason to buy the best bike for women or men and begin cycling.

Freedom cycling

It changes your mental well being

The brain will receive a normal and enhanced blood flow which generally improves your mood, memory and shields you from the effects of aging. In fact, if you are elderly, cycling makes you active and happy thereby reducing the aging cells.

A high self-esteem is vital for every human being. You see, riding will make you set goals and work towards achieving them. You boost your self-esteem in achieving a set goal. You have something to look forward to and you feel worthy.

This activity aides in the production of serotonin and dopamine chemicals which make you feel good and happy. With these chemicals, you will sleep better thus have enough rest for your physical body to handle a new day.

The human hormonal imbalances lead to stress. Taking the right nutrition and the best form of exercise will strengthen you physically and emotionally.

It improves your creative thinking and thus productivity

Everyone in different profession suffers from a mental block at one point in time. Going for a ride makes you bond with nature which then helps you release the mental block. Take time to ride where tall trees are or at the beach among other forms of nature.

As the wind hits your face and there is an exchange of fresh air while increasing your heart rate. In the process, your mind clears of most unnecessary information stored in. this makes you feel good and creative then new ideas begin to flow.

Refocusing your brain power to daily cycling means you have diverted your attention to a positive place. This will help boost your energy levels. Its said that those who ride to their places of work are more productive.

Most people can’t understand how cycling like any other exercise boosts your energy. Here is how this happens; when you use your physical energy, the increased heart rate helps to produce chemicals that boost your energy.

Cycling outing

It combats anxiety and depression

Every other individual experience stress and anxiety at one point or another. However consistent anxiety is detrimental to your health. You begin to develop panic attacks among other related illnesses. When you cycle your cortisol and adrenaline levels balances thus maintaining a good mental health.

Besides, outdoor exercise slowly helps you move from ‘your distractive mind’. Depressed people think and create damaging mental images. In the process, they may either become sick or others decide to abuse drugs.

The mentally ill people often abuse drugs to forget their woes and experience some elation. But, this joy makes you dependent on the drug. That’s why cycling or other forms of exercise is more effective. In fact, if you can find a riding team the better. Developing a social relationship will help you out of mental illnesses.

Instead of fully depending on psychotherapy and anti-depressants, go for engaging exercise like cycling. Commit to the activity everyday and watch the difference.

Makes you happy while boosting your confidence

You don’t need to exercise for hours to boost your moods. Even a 15 minutes cycle every day is great. Various studies have indicated that those with an active lifestyle are happier. You see there are many people who ride as a form of transport, for fitness while others do it for fun.

We achieve happiness by finding out what brings you joy and doing it. Aside from that, riding produces endorphins hormones which are joy boosters. Observing yourself become fit and hearing compliments is a definite confidence booster.

When you see yourself achieving certain set goals, you will believe in yourself more.

Conclusion

Cycling is not only one of the cheapest mode of transportation but also an easy and fun mode of exercise. You don’t need massive preparation in terms of finances especially if you already have the bike. All you need is your motivation and a suitable place to ride for as little as 20 minutes a day.

As you can see, the benefits of riding abound. So, go out and join the world of riders to maintain a healthy mind, spirit and body.


About The Author

Sophie Elise is a passionate cyclist, author, and blogger. She is very passionate about writing on different types of women’s bikes, accessories, health, fitness and more. She regularly writes on sportsly.net


 

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Substance Use Disorder: Is it a Mental Illness?

Addiction is a common disease that impacts millions of people across the United States, but the lens through which we see addiction can change significantly. Many of us are familiar with the stereotype of an underachiever suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction. It’s easy to see addiction when its effects have created visible marks throughout a person’s life, such as financial difficulties or a criminal record. However, addiction also has a hidden side.

Substance Abuse Disorder - Is It A Mental Illness?

Many high-achieving individuals use drugs and alcohol in ways that cause harm, but the effects of this abuse isn’t visible to the outside observer. There isn’t a typical drug or alcohol addict. This disease impacts people from all walks of life equally. However, people who are able to effectively hide their addiction are less likely to receive treatment than those who wear their addiction on their sleeve.

For high-achieving individuals, addiction is a deeply personal issue. Many professionals facing substance abuse issues may view their addiction as a sign of personal weakness or as a moral defect in their personalities. However, it’s important to remember that addiction is simply a misapplication of the brain’s natural reward circuitry. At its core, addiction is an issue where the brain has trained its reward circuitry to respond to harmful, artificial stimuli (such as drugs and alcohol) instead of natural, beneficial ones.

The reward circuitry in the human brain is driven by a complex chemical cascade. At the core of most reward pathways in the brain is dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood. It’s also used by the brain as part of its reward system. When the human body does something that is considered beneficial (in terms of evolutionary survival and reproduction), the brain releases a burst of dopamine.

Lonely woman on pier

Human reward circuitry is designed to respond to activities and environments that improve the odds of passing on genes to the next generation. When we eat a delicious meal, our brains are flooded with dopamine. This is the way that our body tells us what we’re doing is a ‘good thing’ in terms of survival of the human species. When we engage in sexual activity, our brains are also flooded with dopamine, since reproduction is one of our core purposes in life (in evolutionary terms).

Unfortunately, this reward circuitry often backfires in the modern world. In the past, humans were primarily a hunter-gatherer society. To get that hit of dopamine from food, our early ancestors may have had to march dozens of miles across the savannah before they could capture game to eat. Their desire to hunt was driven by a combination of hunger and an unconscious desire to trigger the reward circuitry in their brain. The same applied to gatherers: Each sweet berry that a forager managed to find might trigger a small release of dopamine. Likewise, each time an early human copulated, their brain rewarded them with a hit of dopamine, helping to make sure that we, as humans, would still be around today.

Empty street with benches in autumn

While our brain’s reward circuitry helped humanity survive and flourish in a harsh environment, our modern world has caused problems for many of these systems. Instead of dopamine serving as a reward for behavior that benefitted ourselves (both on an individual and species-level), we can get that same hit of dopamine through many activities that are harmful or detrimental to our health.

Many of us know the dangers of consuming too much fat, sugar or salt. Overconsumption of this trifecta can cause Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, and the many health problems associated with obesity. However, our brains are primed to love foods with these ingredients. For early humans, fruits like berries contained natural sugars, which served as a valuable energy source. This sweet tooth led early humans to forage for hours for these small tastes of sweetness nestled among bushes and trees.
Things have changed. Now, we can now go to the grocery store and buy a two-liter bottle of concentrated sugar water for only a few dollars. A single glass of a soft drink may contain the sugar equivalent of several pounds of berries or natural fruit. The same applies for fat and salt.

While fat and salt are essential for human health, our modern lifestyles allows us to consume these substances in amounts that can leave our arteries riddled with plaque and our heart valves crusted with cholesterol.

Drugs and alcohol hijack this reward circuitry in even more insidious ways. While fat, sugar and salt are now available to us in quantities that are harmful to health, they trigger our reward circuitry in the same way as our early ancestors. Drugs and alcohol, on the other hand, hijack this reward circuitry, causing a massive release of dopamine for little or no effort.

Young girls out at night

Just like a computer hacker gaining illegal access to a network, drugs and alcohol cross the blood-brain barrier to trigger specific clusters of neurons in the brain. The reason that drugs and alcohol feel good is because they activate our reward circuitry for an extended period of time. Instead of this reward circuitry being activated for brief moments throughout the day, drugs and alcohol allow us to open the dopamine floodgates in our brains, triggering euphoria in ways that aren’t naturally possible.

Not all drugs are the same. Some milder drugs, such as nicotine, may only trigger a small release of dopamine in the brain. Very addictive drugs, like methamphetamine and heroin, can trigger a release of dopamine that is greater than anything an individual has experienced in his or her life.

One of the reasons that drugs are so addictive is because our reward systems aren’t designed to be continually activated. When we hijack the reward pathways of our brains with addictive substances, we’re literally rewiring the way we pursue pleasure. Instead of getting enjoyment from a nice meal and a romantic evening with a loved one, addiction unconsciously teaches us that we can get an even better substance from a chemical.

Drug or alcohol addiction isn’t a moral failing, nor does it represent a weakness in character. Addiction is a learned behavior that has embedded itself so deep in our psyche that it can drive every decision we make. When the reward circuitry of the brain has been completely hijacked, an individual suffering from addiction will do whatever he or she can to achieve another cascade of dopamine. Addiction completely rewires an individual’s motivations from healthy ones to malicious ones.

 

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Does Counseling Help with Addiction?

Addiction is not an easy thing to beat. Actually, it can be the most difficult thing you ever have to do. Addiction does not play by the rules like you have to do. Your addiction will lie to you and make you believe that what you are doing is good for you even as it is ruining your life. It does not even matter what it is you are addicted to because no matter what it is, it will be incredibly hard to beat, but it is possible. You can do it. Many people who also thought they could never do it have done it before. You can do it too! Those who have never been addicted to anything think it is easy. Some people may say, “why don’t you just stop?” or “I would never do that” but they have no idea what it is really like unless they have been there.

Does Counseling Help With Addiction

Addiction or Abuse?

Drug addiction and abuse are two of the most common mental health problems in Americans. In fact, there are over 20 million adults in the United States who suffer with one of these addictions. Everyone has heard of drug addiction and abuse, but are they the same thing? According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the difference is the number of diagnostic criteria the person has. For example, you are addicted if you have at least three of the seven signs of drug addiction. However, the DSM uses the term dependence rather than addiction. These criteria include:

  • Consuming more of the substance
  • Continuing to use the substance even if it causes issues with school, business, personal life
  • Giving up other interests such as social life, job, and daily activities
  • Spending too much time looking for or trying to get the substance
  • Tolerance (needing more and more to get the same effect)
  • Trying to quit using without being able to
  • Withdrawal (varies depending on the drug)
    • Feeling aggravated
    • Anxiety and stress
    • Depression
    • Hallucinations
    • Nausea and vomiting

Substance Abuse

What exactly is substance abuse then? If the person has at least one, but less than three, of the above criteria, that would be considered substance abuse. With abuse, it is more of an occasional type of drug or alcohol use. For instance, those who abuse alcohol may only drink once or twice a month, but when it happens, they do not know when to stop. With addiction, the problem is continuous and the person is always looking for their next drink (or drug).

Hands on wooden heart

What Addiction Really Means

There have been many experts who believe that addicts have addictive behaviors, so when they try to quit, they will most often just trade one addiction for another. For instance, an alcoholic may quit drinking alcohol but start taking another drug or a smoker may trade nicotine for food. In truth, those with addictive personalities typically will have more than one addiction. For example, some who are addicted to gambling are also addicted to alcohol and those addicted to cigarettes will often drink alcohol as well. This issue is not only applicable to illegal or dangerous substances either. People have become addicted to anything from shopping to video games or even food. Anything that a person does repeatedly and becomes a compulsion can become an addiction. In the same way, addictive behaviors are repeating an activity because it makes the addict feel good. It certainly does not have to be a bad thing, like drugs. In fact, some addictions are good. How do you know the difference? A bad addiction takes away from your life and a good addiction adds to your life.

Some Tips That May Help

Once you realize you have an addiction, it is time to talk to a professional and find out if your addiction is good or bad. Then, if necessary, you can find out how to fix the problem. A therapist or counselor can help you decide what you need to work on. You can also use some of these tips to help you figure out the issue:

  • Accept That There Is No Cure: That’s right, there is no magic pill that can cure your addiction. There is no magic addiction fairy who can wave a magic wand and stop those cravings and urges you may be feeling. Addiction is a disease you will have to deal with your entire life. You cannot just say, “I used to be an addict” because you still are and will always be an addict. You are a recovering addict because you still have that little voice inside you telling you that it is okay to drink that beer or use that drug. Addiction is like a dormant cancer cell inside your body that will stay dormant until you feed it.
  • Get it Out of the House: No matter what it is you are addicted to, get it out of your house. Of course, if it is food that you are addicted to, you cannot get rid of all the food. However, you can get rid of those foods that are most tempting for you such as chocolate, pizza, ravioli, and donuts.
  • Have a Support System: It could be your family, friends, co-workers, or even the members of your AA or NA meetings. You need to have someone to call if you are feeling stressed or if you feel like you want to drink/smoke/gamble/etc. Without a support system, it is harder to stay on track. You can do it, but you will be much more successful if you have someone to back you up when you need it.
  • Talk to Your Doctor: Don’t be afraid to tell your doctor what you are doing and ask for some help. Antidepressants such as bupropion (Wellbutrin) and fluoxetine (Prozac) are two that help curb the cravings and take the edge off the anxiety.
  • Write Down the Pros and Cons: Take a few minutes to write down the pros and cons of beating your addiction. For example, you may put your family and your health in the pros column and job loss and relationship troubles in the cons column.

Whatever you decide to do, be sure to let your psychologist know about it because he or she will surely have some tips for you. Your doctor can help you as well, but, the best thing to do is speak to a mental health professional right away. They will help you begin to understand your addiction. The more you understand, the easier it will be to fight and win.

Pensive woman

Could You Be Addicted?

Although you need a professional to answer that question, there are a few things you can ask yourself if you think you may have a problem:

  • Are you missing days or showing up late at work due to using the substance?
  • Are you using the substance while doing things you used to do sober such as hanging out with friends or watching television?
  • Do you find yourself thinking about the substance during the day?
  • Do you go out of your way to find or use the substance?
  • Has using the substance caused any problems with friends or family?
  • Has using the substance caused you to make mistakes at work or school?
  • Have you had any legal problems due to your substance use?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you definitely should talk to a counselor or your physician. No matter what, you need to get treatment before it becomes a bigger problem than you can handle. Sites like BetterHelp can help you find the right person and you do not even have to leave the house. Don’t wait until it causes you serious trouble. You can talk to someone today and start to feel better.


Marie MiguelAbout The Author

Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.


 

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13 Safe Ways To Deal With Paranoia

Can a person be their own enemy? Even though we should feel safe in our own company, for a paranoid person, they may never feel at ease with themselves. We all experience insecurities a paranoid person experiences constant feeling that never goes away. Though there are different kinds of paranoia, most people perceive the world as a dangerous place to be. There is no known cause of paranoia and individuals experience it differently.

Anxiety and paranoia may be related, but they are not the same condition. Paranoia is an extreme case of anxiety. A paranoid person sees danger surrounding them and may have delusions that are not easy to break. With paranoia, you are likely to perceive conspiracy around your relations with others and attack others for the feelings. You may become offended easily and find it hard to cope with criticism. How can you deal with this condition? 

13 Safe Ways To Deal With Paranoia

Find a jury

Your friends can help you determine the degree of your delusions. Talking about your feelings to them can help you know if you are clinically paranoid. Since most people develop such symptoms depending on various situations, your friends can tell you if you need help or it is a normal condition that is temporary. Don’t conclude before getting a second opinion from those who know you.

Evaluate yourself

Other people may not know the cause of your paranoia, but only you can find out through examining yourself. Studies reveal that this condition can be brought about by past painful life experiences that you may not have gotten over. Write down your feelings as you assess the intensity of what you feel.  

Practice dialetic thinking

Being in public can make you judge things inaccurately if you are paranoid. With the help of a friend, they can help you practice dialetic thinking by asking them their views on something before reacting negatively towards others. This will help you think again about your perception so that you don’t jump into conclusions.

Woman watching railway

Develop a sense of self

Instead of attacking others based on your thoughts, start developing a sense of self to help you control your reactions. Don’t always assume that people are planning to harm you or are talking about you. Most of the times, all these thoughts are false but just a delusion in the head.

See the good in situations

In most cases, a paranoid person may not realize that they are mentally ill. They tend to believe that their thoughts are a reality without finding facts in situations. Instead of focusing on your negative thoughts, try to see the good in situations before confronting others. 

Get support

You may be experiencing delusions due to substance abuse. Heaver drinkers sometimes get hallucinations. Statistics state that about 80% of cocaine users face paranoia. TN drug and alcohol treatment will help you fight drug addictions and get rid of symptoms of hallucinations.

People also assume that prescription drugs are safe to use. Taking high dosages of these pills can also make you paranoid. Stimulants such as caffeine are not healthy when taken in large quantities since they affect your sleeping patterns and can cause paranoia. Change your lifestyle and get assistance from a professional who can help you with such addictions.

Friends support

Find an exit tactic

In a situation where you are in public and feel you can’t control your feelings, find a strategy to leave. You can excuse yourself or ask a friend to take you home. This will prevent the symptoms from getting out of hand and causing a scene in the midst of strangers.

Plan on how to handle triggers

It may not be possible to skip classes or work because of paranoia. You can, however, identify the common triggers so that you can know how to deal with them as you go on with your life. For instance, to feel at peace, if a particular area makes you feel in danger, start by avoiding it.

Distract your mind from paranoid thoughts

Not dwelling on things that make you feel paranoid can help you feel better. Hang out with friends and avoid being alone so that you can stop perceiving threats around you. Go out for walks or entertain yourself with music or a movie. 

Avoid self-judgment

Sometimes, you may be too hard on yourself due to uncontrollable emotions. Instead of judging yourself, examine your thoughts to find out why you react the way you do in different situations. Self-judgment can cause depression and low self-esteem.

Watch out for symptoms of paranoid personality disorder

Check if your symptoms range from suspicion, bearing grudges, withdrawal from others, rage as well as hostility. Understanding your symptoms can help you determine the severity of your condition. This is because mental states differ and some people confuse anxiety with paranoia.

Take prescribed medication

A doctor can prescribe long-term medicines that can help you reduce the symptoms of paranoia. Ensure that you take the medication as prescribed as you go for medical check-ups regularly.  A doctor can recommend a change in dosage according to your symptoms.

Talking with friend coffee

Attend therapy

With the help of a therapist, you can determine if you are experiencing mild or severe paranoia. Therapy can help you comprehend your feelings as a journey to recovery. The wide range of treatment gives you the liberty to switch therapists if you feel you are not getting help from one. Your therapy session should make you feel comfortable so that you can open up to them. Being paranoid can make you develop trust issues, but a therapist is a confidential professional that you will not share your problems with others.

Final thoughts

Even though it is normal to feel insecure, constant fear of the unknown is a sign of paranoia. Identifying the mental condition in its early stages can help you prevent it from worsening. Our mechanisms above will help you find your peace again as you address the issues making you feel paranoid. Do not face the problem on your own but raise it with others as you maintain a healthy lifestyle.

 

 

 

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7 Ways Dogs ‘the Mood Boosters’ Can Help You Fight Depression

Dogs have a life-changing impact on you and your family. Dogs not only have an ‘immune-boosting’ impact on your newly-born babies but also they have an impressive ‘mood-boosting’ power to cheer you up in the toughest situation. Whether it’s your mental health or physical health, your dog unconsciously endeavors to keep that in check and get you back on track. Your pooch can help you with your anxiety, stress and depression. Studies have shown that therapy dogs have helped children with autism and people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Did you know that there are two types of mental health issues we are mostly likely prone to due to our family history? We are either prone to anxiety or depression. My family has depression-prone history which makes it easier for me to get upset and depressed on little stuff. I always seek natural ways to cure medical issues rather than depending entirely on medicines for life. My friend, Martin, suggested me to bring home a dog, Leo. Leo had a huge impact on my life and helped me stay engaged with the cute furball during free time at home.

7 Ways Dogs Can Help Your Fight Depression

How Dogs Help us?

Among all the pets, dogs are most attuned to human emotions and behaviors. They have the ability to understand our commands, interpret the tone of our voice, gestures and body language. The man’s best friend looks into the eyes of his owner to understand the emotional state of the person. A person in similar room may not notice the change in your emotions and expressions, but a dog will always be the first one to notice. He is no less than a mind-reader who can understand what you must be thinking and feeling after the dog has acted in a certain way.

Ways in Which Mood-Busters Help Us:

Most of the pet-owners know what joy and happiness a pet brings in their life, but they are not really aware of the mental and physical health benefits they are reaping due to the pet. Various studies have been conducted on dogs and their owner’s mental and physical health which have shown that dogs are literally ‘man’s best friend’. American Heart Association conducted studies to prove the fact that dog ownership, in specific, lowers the risk of heart problems and ensures longevity.

Labrador sniffing hand

Below are the seven reasons why you should bring home these ‘mood-boosting’ Fidos to fight depression:

  1. Improved Mood:

Increase in physical activity with a companion pet doubles the production of serotonin, one of the ‘happiness hormones’. It is a neurotransmitter that assists in the transmission of nerve impulses within the brain. Research has shown that reduced level of serotonin causes depression. Therefore, a pet dog is a necessary addition to your family to enjoy happiness and overall well-being.

  1. Unconditional Love and Acceptance:

We all can be selfish one way or the other, but dogs are different. They teach us to be selfless, be open and share more laughter with the world. People suffering from depression need someone patient enough to listen to them and still continue to love them unconditionally. Your Fido will never leave your side and they will make your life simpler and easier to live. Why? Dogs don’t really complicate anything in spite of your drastic mood swings. Teri Wright, PhD from WebMD, says that the stability of human-animal bond benefits the people suffering from anxiety or depression.

  1. Reduce Blood Pressure:

Petting a dog itself is one of the most relaxing act one can do while sitting on a couch. The contact with pet during hugs, licks, and kisses increases the release of happy hormones in the blood stream. The level of endorphins increases and the stress hormones ‘cortisol’ drops down to a great extent. Study conducted at Harvard Medical School has proved that petting a dog reduces heart rate and, therefore, blood pressure.

Dogs make daily physical activity an essential part of our routine no matter how gloomy we may be feeling. We have to follow active routines to keep the pooch happy and well-behaved. Studies have shown an increased physical activity reduces blood pressure. In consequence, improved heart and mental health are enjoyed by dog owners.

  1. Disciplined Routine:

Dogs only follow routines. They can easily get upset or anxious if the schedule is not followed. It is due to anxiety that many behavioral problems such as destructive chewing, excessive barking, etc develop in pooches. You will have to serve food on time to keep the Fido relaxed. Have you tried following raw diet trends for the pooch? Serve natural and raw if you prefer natural treatments for yourself.

Following routines for the pooch will help you set a daily schedule for yourself. Did you know that timetables have great ability to drive us through the day? The patterns will keep you engaged and disciplined.

Cute puppy

  1. Build Responsibility:

Dogs are a huge responsibility as they have a mind equal to that of a toddler. They provide meaning to our life. You will be encouraged to wake up early in the morning for the sake of your pet. Providing comfort and happiness to the pooch will give you a sense of achievement and satisfaction. It will keep you away from destructive feelings due to depression. Your dog will become the true meaning of your life again.

The continual engagement with the dog will not let your thoughts stray away on the negative side. Moreover, caring for the dog will help you take care of yourself.

  1. Good Company:

Leo’s company is what I adore about him the most! Dogs are your faithful companions who will never leave your side. No matter how much angry you have been the moment before, he will forget it immediately if you fulfill his basic needs and wishes.

Depression forces you to avoid people as you desire a silent companionship. Dogs can quietly listen to you for hours without being critical, judgmental or opinionated.

  1. Improved Social Skills:

Bringing dogs home is equal to opening yourself up to many people around. Dogs wouldn’t enjoy staying at home all day long. Ultimately, you will be advised to take them out for a walk or to dog parks daily to exhaust their extra energies. Moreover, you may have to visit the vet, dog behaviorist, pet sitter and so on for your dog’s sake. It will bring you thousands of opportunities to meet new people and socialize more often.

You will not have to fight depression alone rather you may find like-minded people who are fighting the challenge of depression as well. Wouldn’t it be amazing to do it together?


James ShoreAbout The Author

James is a part-time dog-trainer and dog behavior consultant with years of experience in dog training and the man behind LabradorTrainingHQ.com. He is interested in finding out fun ways to handle dog behaviors, specifically, Labradors to help dog-owners enjoy their companions at all times.


 

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