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Josh Hamilton's Tragic Relapse - By Chris Gearing

Friday, February 03, 2012

News broke on Tuesday that the heroic Ranger's outfielder, Josh Hamilton, had a relapse in his long battle with alcoholism. Many Rangers fans are wondering why Josh can't kick the habit and what this means for his future.

So, why can’t people just quit the addictive behavior?

All addictions are unintentional and they begin with the decision to use. No one starts drinking with the idea that they will ever become addicted. But addiction sneaks up on you and before you know it, you can be drawn into a world of confusion and torment. Voluntary users become compulsive users and then you bottom out as a true addict when drugs or alcohols define your life.

The real issue is that addiction is not a moral failing or a lapse in will. At the end of the day, addiction is a brain disease. New research shows that there are literal brain changes in the structure and function of key brain processes that are fundamental in handling emotions, exercising self-control, and reading situations correctly. Addicts are stripped of their accuracy in understanding the world.

How do addictions get started and become worse over time?

Internal Shift: The person begins to turn toward behavior that is relieving his stress. Getting high is fun and it changes his mood for the better in the beginning. He denies how dangerous his usage is as he begins to betray others and himself with repeated use.

Lifestyle Change: A behavioral dependency on the alcohol or drug now emerges. Life is now altered to accommodate the addiction even if he becomes reckless and self-destructive. He moves deeper into the self-sabotaging behavior as he builds his life around getting high.

His Life Destructs: The addiction has now taken over. The individual relies on getting high and ignores or rationalizes the destructive aspects of his behavior. At this point, nothing matters to the addict but the acquisition of the substance. The obsession with the addiction causes a trance state. People don’t matter, commitments don’t count, and honesty isn’t even a part of the conversation.

Unstoppable: People become convinced that they cannot stop the drinking. Since there are significant changes in brain structure that are critical to judgment, decision making, learning, memory, and behavioral control, the slide into addiction is accelerated.

How do you know that someone is at rock bottom?

A chronically addicted person tends to psychologically regress suddenly and severely, with no warning. They go down like a stone. Once the addiction switch is flipped, it is incredibly difficult to reverse the emotions and behavior. Insight is gone, judgment is gone, and perspective is shot. If the addictive substance—whatever it is—is strong enough, all bets are off. He begins to destroy every area of his life—his job, his relationships and even his health. Addiction hijacks the mind and better judgment.

What do we tell our children about people like Josh Hamilton who struggle with addiction?

This is a prime opportunity to teach kids about addiction and the inevitable struggles of recovery. Remember these points:

Teachable Moment: Make stories about addiction struggles a part of the conversation. You want your child to be armed with knowledge of addiction so he is never start the cycle. Remember that the child who stays away from drugs, tobacco, and abusing alcohol until age 21 is virtually certain to steer clear of these substances forever. Teens who learn about the risks of drugs or alcohol from their parents are much less likely to try them.

Still A Good Person: Most kids already know what addiction is, since Americans consume two thirds of the worlds’ illegal drugs. Celebrities who have struggled with addictions are always in the news so a lot of kids understand that you can be a talented, good person and still have an addiction.

Constant Battle: Break the addictive behavior down into understandable language. Explain that alcoholism is a disease and that it is a lifelong struggle to overcome it. Tell them that relapse is a part of recovery and that all that matters is how the alcoholic handles their next choice.

There’s Always Hope: Teach them to believe in recovery, believe in the person’s ability to fight against this illness, and to celebrate the gains that people show as they power on to a better tomorrow.

The Health Effects of Nostalgia - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Watch Dr Sylvia Gearing on YouTube describe how nostalgia and remembering the good times can actually be good for your health - click here.

Part of the magic of family is getting together and revisiting family traditions – eating a family meal together at the holidays, watching the same movie, or singing the same songs. But did you know that those nostalgic feelings are actually good for you?

In a recent study, nostalgia was found to have a physically comforting and relaxing effect on the body. Subjects had lower blood pressure, calm heart rates, and lower levels of anxiety.

So if you’re looking to take the edge off of your stressful day, take a trip down memory lane and remember everything that you have to be thankful for.

Source:

“The Power of Nostalgia at Thanksgiving” by Jacque Wilson, CNN.com

Suicide and Teens - By Chris Gearing

Monday, January 16, 2012

With the shocking news this weekend that a Texas teenage committed suicide by jumping off the 18th floor of the Dallas Hyatt hotel, many Americans are worried about their own teens and the risk of suicide.

So, why would a teenager choose to end his life?

Feeling Hopeless: Suicide becomes an option for a young person when all hope is lost. In fact, hopelessness is the attitude most highly correlated with those who attempt to end their lives. Suicide has become the third leading cause of death for kids between the ages of 10 and 24.

Motivations for Suicide are Complex: The motivations for either attempting or completing suicide are complex but the main motivations include a desire to escape depression and loss, debilitating anxiety or a situation they regard as being unsolvable such as being bullied or abused. The older the child is, the more likely it is that the suicide is connected to their own interpersonal conflicts.

Are our children more depressed or are we just better at detecting depression?

Both statements are true since this generation's children are more depressed but we also have more safeguards in place to detect the depression. That being said, depressed kids are vastly underserved in our society with very few being seen by a psychologist. We know that depression has increased tenfold over the last century and strikes a full decade earlier than it did fifty years ago. Severe depression reoccurs most of the time—about 50% of the time. In fact, The Center for Disease Control now reports that anti-depressants are the most prescribed drugs in America. We are much more likely to battle depression and other mental illness for our entire lives.

What about those teens who are depressed and make attempts to hurt themselves but are never brought to the attention of medical professionals?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 150, 000 kids between the ages of 10 and 24 receive medical attention at the emergency room because of self-inflicted injuries. But that is when the denial kicks in. Very few of them actually follow up with psychological treatment or counseling. They tend to downplay what happened. They feel that they just need to get their child home and figure this out. No matter what recommendations are made by doctors or other healthcare professionals, families tend to blow it off. Kids can be very depressed and hide it well.

However, the numbers do change after the second attempt. Families do seek treatment after a second suicide attempt as they begin to realize that this is more of a chronic issue and is not a fleeting crisis.

Are there gender differences in completed suicides?

Eighty four percent of completed suicides are committed by boys, even though girls are much more likely to attempt. Suicide remains a health threat for men throughout adulthood with four times as many males dying by suicide as females. The reason for this large gap is that boys and men use much more violent and lethal means of committing suicide with guns, cars, or in this case - jumping off of a building. Girls and women choose much quieter means of suicide such as poison or overdosing.

This country has a double standard of masculinity. We want our boys to be strong and courageous and virile and yet have access to their emotions. Too many boys are confused about how to express their feelings. Anger is the only emotion some boys feel that they can express. When depression strikes, they are more reluctant to admit that they are vulnerable and that they are struggling. Depression is a progressive illness and can lead to suicide if it becomes too severe and too intense, but it can also be treated and success rates rise exponentially depending on how early in the depression the child begins treatment.

Here are some warning signs if you are worried about your teen:

  • History of previous suicide attempts
  • Family history of suicide
  • History of Depression or other mental illness
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Stressful life event or loss like a relationship breakup
  • Easy access to lethal means
  • Exposure to the suicidal behavior of others
  • Increased withdrawal from others
  • More angry outbursts
  • Increased Need for Sleep, Low Appetite
  • Dramatic Mood Swings

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