Therapy That Works...

The Tragic Gabrielle Giffords Shooting - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Mental Illness is Not an Explanation for Violence

The tragic shootings in Arizona of US congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords once again highlight the link between mental illness and violence. The suspect Jared Loughner reportedly had shown symptoms for years but was never treated. Many of us automatically think that a psychological disorder will predict irrational or even violent behavior in the future. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Millions of people struggle with mood disorders, eating disorders, addiction issues and a host of other problems and are never violent.

In fact the real danger to your physical safety comes from some one who is using some kind of substance—either alcohol or drugs.

In a 2009 analysis of nearly 20,000 people, researchers reported that an increased risk of violence was associated with drug and alcohol problems, regardless of the presence of any mental disorder such as schizophrenia.

We do know that violence is more common when there is paranoid thinking that convinces the offender that others are against him. He feels persecuted, misunderstood, the victim of wrong doing and badly mistreated. If paranoid thinking becomes psychotic-- meaning that he loses touch with reality--things can get very dangerous. Although, he is systematically capable of planning a murder and execute it at this point, he will have no understanding that his judgment is impaired and that is completely out of touch with reality.

So what are some warning signs for violent behavior?

The prediction of violent crimes include the following:

Violent Language: Words are often our first signs of murderous intent and as we see in this case, the suspect had used plenty of violent language on the Internet and at school. When someone is planning to commit violence, their language has themes related to:

  • Revenge
  • Conspiracy
  • Entitlement
  • Grandiosity and attention seeking

Justification for Murder: When someone is about to commit a violent act they begin to justify their crime at least to themselves if not to others. Not only are they convinced that violence is an acceptable choice, they begin to argue that it is the only choice they can make.

Here are the four steps they move through on their way to violence:

  • They believe that they have justification for the crime.
  • They have no alternatives for the achieving the outcome they want
  • The consequences for their actions are acceptable
  • They have the resources and the abilities necessary to carry out mass murder such as access to guns, bullets and tragically the victim.

Danger Comes with Warnings: I am convinced that danger comes with warnings almost every time. However, odd behavior or even threatening behavior is often explained away or misunderstood as something more innocent. Our tendency is to ignore such threats since we conclude that its either none of our business or the person has no malicious intent.

Now, as this tragedy in Arizona illustrates, we have a responsibility as a society to speak up about people we are concerned about. Our community mental health systems must receive the requisite funding to handle the mental health issues of those who need it most.

Advocate for increased mental health services. This young man who allegedly committed these crimes was obviously in serious trouble yet was never treated. We must fundamentally reexamine our mental health system and mandate the new laws and harness new social resources to save not only the victim’s life, but also the life of those who commit such crimes.

Most of all, we need to make sure that our own intuition trumps our rationalizations. If you see disordered behavior, take it seriously. If you are the victim of threats to your safety, do not disregard this. Violent behaviors are predictable if we increase our awareness, learn the warning signs and act to protect ourselves. Pay attention to what is happening and remember that in most cases, the only person who can save your life is you.

Is Your Teen Ready For College? - By Chris Gearing

Monday, December 27, 2010

How To Help The Addicted Woman In Your Life - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Addicted Mothers - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The number of women ages 30 to 44 who report abusing alcohol has doubled over the past decade, while prescription drug abuse has sky rocketed over 400%, according to a federal study. But most addicted women hide their secret well – often, with disastrous results.

So, why would young successful women begin down the long road of addiction?

No one who becomes addicted intends to be a junkie. But substance abuse among young mothers is becoming an ugly reality since the stress on this generation of women has never been greater.

No one ever considers that a busy, engaged mom in the prime of her life may actually have a serious addiction. Here’s why:

More Stress, Less Time: More women with young kids hold down full time jobs and they are the most sleep-deprived part of our society. A sleepy brain is a stressed brain. Addictions begin when we use something to bridge the gap or take the edge off of your daily stress.

Escape Hatch: Substance abuse gives you an escape. Most abused drugs and alcohol create intense feelings of euphoria and pleasure. Self-confidence soars, energy expands, and the worries and challenges of a busy life are gone.

Girls Night Out: “Girls Night Out” has become a national, normalized ritual in our society. But a whole lot of drinking also goes on during these female-bonding events.

Long Standing Problem: Most substance abuse begins in adolescence or in college when there is rampant binge drinking and the young woman carries the problem forward into her social life as a young mother.

Most of what you hear about alcoholism relates to how it is dangerous for the man in your life. But women are at just as much risk, if not greater:

Quick and Painful: Women get drunker faster than men, become addicted quicker, and develop health problems related to abuse such as liver cirrhosis, hypertension, and malnutrition at higher rates than men.

Substance-Fueled Violence: The link between physical abuse and alcohol is well established. Seventy five percent of rapes and seventy percent of domestic violence involves alcohol.

Liquid Diet: Many women are obsessed with their weight and prefer to drink rather than eat a healthy diet. Since 40% of American women are on a diet at any given moment, many women substitute alcohol for regular meals and good nutrition, and they end up harming their bodies.

Long Term Consequences: The effects of alcohol on a woman’s body linger months after she stops drinking. In fact, studies find that alcohol damages a woman’s brain structure and function in lasting and measurable ways. Although women drink less than men, death rates among alcoholic women are almost 100% higher than among their male counterparts.

Most people don’t know that addiction takes root through very predictable steps and stages as a woman surrenders her life to addiction:

Internal Shift: The woman begins to turn toward behavior that is relieving her stress. Getting high is fun and it changes her mood for the better in the beginning. She denies how dangerous her usage is as she begins to betray others and herself with repeated use.

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

Her Life Destructs: The addiction has now taken over. The woman relies on getting high and ignores or rationalizes the destructive aspects of her 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: She believes that she cannot stop. New brain imaging technology now shows that there are significant changes in brain structure that are critical to judgment, decision making, learning, memory, and behavioral control. These changes compromise the brain architecture and cause the slide into addiction.

Here’s what you can do to identify and help the addicted woman in your life:

Be On The Lookout: Whenever you see any kind of irrational, highly self-destructive behavior that just doesn’t add up, there is usually some kind of addictive behavior behind it.

Bad Behavior: Secrecy, deceit, and the systematic betrayal of the trust of others are all hallmarks of this disorder.

Feeling Blue: Addictions often manifest very differently in women than in men with addicted women reporting more depression, anxiety and low self esteem.

Interventions Work: Make a plan, enlist a team of loving friends and family and intervene directly and quickly. Happily, addiction treatment is highly effective and lasting so be encouraged that you are saving her life. She’ll thank you for it once she is sober and safe again.

Addiction is extremely serious, and if you are worried about someone in your life – please contact a substance abuse professional or facility for more information.

Sources:

The National Center of Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University: Report on Substance Abuse and the American Woman, June 1996

Women Under the influence, by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University omen under the Influence

Alcoholism Hurts Women Neuropsychologically Almost the Same as it Hurts Men: Deficits Linger Months into Abstinence, APA, January 20, 2002

Addicted Moms: Everybody Knows Somebody, WorkingMother.com

The National Institute of Drug Abuse, “Drugs, Brains, and Behavior - The Science of Addiction"

The Epidemic of Addicted Women - By Chris Gearing

Monday, November 22, 2010

Addicted Moms - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Addicted Moms

CBS 11 News

Dr. Sylvia Gearing

The number of women ages 30 to 44 who report abusing alcohol has doubled over the past decade, while prescription drug abuse has sky rocked 400%, according to a federal study. But most addicted women hide their secret well – often, with disastrous results. Here to tell us more is psychologist, Dr. Sylvia Gearing.

Why would young successful women begin down the long road of addiction?

No one who becomes addicted intends to end up addicted. But substance abuse among young mothers is becoming an ugly reality since the stress on this generation of women has never been greater. Most importantly, no one ever considers that a busy, engaged mom in the prime of life may actually have a serious addiction. Here’s why:

More Stress, Less Time: More women with young kids hold down full time jobs and they are the most sleep-deprived part of our society. A sleepy brain is a stressed brain. Addictions begin when we use something to bridge the gap or take the edge off of your daily stress.

Escape Hatch: Substance abuse gives you an escape. Most abused drugs and alcohol create intense feelings of euphoria and pleasure. Self-confidence soars, energy expands and the worries and challenges of a busy life are gone.

Depression and Anxiety Epidemics: Depression is ten times more prevalent than it was fifty years ago and it strikes a decade earlier than it did a generation ago. Women have twice the rates of depression as men and addictions give them a temporary reprieve from their misery.

Women Drinking in Groups: “Girls Night Out” has become a national, normalized ritual in our society. But a whole lot of drinking also goes on during these female-bonding events.

Long Standing Problem: Most substance abuse begins in adolescence or in college when there is rampant binge drinking and the young woman carries the problem forward into her social life as a young mother.

Is alcohol addiction more dangerous for a woman than for a man?

Alcohol More Harmful for Women: Women get drunker faster than men, become addicted quicker and develop health problems related to abuse such as liver cirrhosis, hypertension, anemia and malnutrition.

Violence Tied to Substance Abuse: The link between sexual assaults such as rape and alcohol is well established. Seventy five percent of rapes and seventy percent of domestic violence involves alcohol.

Pregnancy Always an Issue: One out of five pregnant women uses drugs, drinks or smokes with irreversible damage to her unborn child.

Drinking Correlated with Eating Disorders: Many women are obsessed with their weight and prefer to drink rather than eat a healthy diet. Since 40% of American women are on a diet at any given moment, many women substitute alcohol for regular meals and good nutrition, and they end up harming their bodies.

Alcohol Poisons the Woman: The effects of alcohol on a woman’s body linger months after she stops drinking. In fact, studies find that alcohol damages a woman’s brain structure and function in lasting and measurable ways. Although women drink less than men, death rates among alcoholic women are almost 100% higher than among their male counterparts.

Are there stages to addiction?

Absolutely there are and the addiction progresses through very predictable steps as the woman surrenders her life to the addiction.

Internal Shift: The woman begins to turn toward behavior that is relieving her stress. Getting high is fun and it changes her mood for the better in the beginning. She denies how dangerous her usage is as she begins to betray others and herself with repeated use.

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

Her Life Destructs: The addiction has now taken over. The woman relies on getting high and ignores or rationalizes the destructive aspects of her 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.

Cannot Stop: She believes that she cannot stop. New brain imaging technology now shows that there are significant changes in the brain that are critical to judgment, decision making, learning and memory and behavioral control. These changes compromise the brain architecture and cause the compulsive slide into addiction.

What can we do if we are worried about a woman in our life?

Whenever you see any kind of irrational, highly self-destructive behavior that just doesn’t add up, there is usually some kind of addictive behavior behind it. Secrecy, deceit, and the systematic betrayal of the trust of others are all hallmarks of this disorder. Addictions often manifest very differently in women than in men with addicted women reporting more depression, anxiety and low self esteem.

Make a plan, enlist a team of loving friends and family and intervene directly and quickly. Happily, addiction treatment is highly effective and lasting so be encouraged that you are saving her life. She’ll thank you for it once she is sober and safe again.

Sources:

The National Center of Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University: Report on Substance Abuse and the American Woman, June 1996

Women Under the influence, by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University omen under the Influence

Alcoholism Hurts Women Neuropsychologically Almost the Same as it Hurts Men: Deficits Linger Months into Abstinence, APA, January 20, 2002

Addicted Moms: Everybody Knows Somebody, WorkingMother.com

The National Institute of Drug Abuse, Drugs, Brains, and Behavior - The Science of Addiction"

Think Yourself To Sleep! - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thinking Yourself To Sleep

September 10, 2009

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

Insomnia strikes 30% of Americans according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and this trend has only worsened during these challenging economic times. Millions of us have turned to prescription sleep aides but a new study from the Mayo Clinic now reports that improving your attitudes about sleep may be the real key to getting that elusive good night’s sleep.

Most of my sleepless patients begin by asking me why it is so difficult to get a good night’s sleep. Here are the facts:

  • A Lot on Our Minds: Stress is the number one cause of short term sleeping difficulties and the number of people struggling with sleep has doubled since 2001. Forty million Americans struggle with over seventy different types of sleep problems with insomnia being the most common. You cannot sleep if you have adrenaline coursing through your body while you worry about your job, your school, your kids or your money. Such chronic stress can even erode your immune system.
  • Sleepless Youth: Insomnia is not confined to the middle aged or the elderly anymore. The use of prescription sleep medications by the 18 to 24 year old crowd has nearly tripled since 1999. Access to Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and texting keep us plugged in and sleepless.
  • Insomnia is Progressive: Sleep problems are progressive disorders. Unaddressed, short-term insomnia becomes long term, chronic insomnia. We begin to think that we cannot sleep and adopt attitudes that make it more difficult to sleep. We create an entire personal “culture” around why we cannot sleep.

Now that all sounds pretty bad, but it gets worse when we look at how sleeplessness actually affects its victims.

  • Thinking Less Effective: A weary mind cannot process the emotions of today and sleep deprived people overreact, snap at others and fail to concentrate and follow through. We end up with muddled minds and compromised careers.
  • Psychomotor Reactions are Compromised: We are simply clumsier when we are tired. Chronic insomniacs have four times the incident of car accidents. This phenomenon costs the U.S. up to $100 million a year in indirect costs. Falling asleep at the wheel causes half of all fatal accidents.
  • Increased Substance Abuse: People with sleep problems have 2.4 times more alcoholism than average. If they can’t sleep, many people turn to substances like alcohol and drugs to relax. This is dangerous especially since tolerance develops and we use more alcohol to get the same effect.
  • Sleepless and Blue: Insomnia does precede depression in most cases, and studies have shown that if you deprive a normal person of just two hours a night for five nights that they will begin to show symptoms of depression. Up to 90% of depressed patients have insomnia, and insomniacs have 35 times the rate of depression when compared to good sleepers.

The good news is that you can improve your sleeping habits by simply changing how you think!

When insomnia develops, it is often because of temporary circumstances that cause transient sleeplessness. We begin to believe we cannot sleep on our own and with $300 million spent on marketing last year by the top makers of sleep medications, we are often persuaded to take a pill. Unfortunately, experts are now reporting that medication may be more like a band-aid. The crisis may pass but our underlying attitudes and habits have shifted and are never addressed.

Are you ready to take the first step? Here’s what you should do:

Filling our minds with catastrophic outcomes keeps us up at night. The antidote, other than sleeping pills, is to focus on shifting your thinking from stressed to more logical, realistic thinking that is calming. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps you to control or eliminate worrisome thoughts about current stresses and about sleep issues. Remember that 70 to 80% of people with chronic insomnia seem to benefit significantly from CBT. It is natural, reasonably priced and lasting.

Here is an example of CBT steps:

  • Step One: Catastrophic Beliefs. Think of a current stressor that is troubling you. List the future-threat catastrophic thoughts that were produced by this adverse situation, and then record all the thoughts and emotions that you experienced. These catastrophic beliefs often “chain together”, meaning that one catastrophic belief will provoke and flow into another catastrophic belief. The downward spiral is difficult to escape.
  • Step Two: How Likely Are Your Fears? Most of us worry about what bad outcomes could occur without any concern about likelihood. The key to ending your catastrophizing is to break free of the future-threat beliefs. The best way to do that is to emphasize what you do know as fact. Usually, the only solid fact in the catastrophizing chain is the original adverse event that started it. The rest is guesswork and supposition. Use that fact to estimate the probabilities of your worst-case fears. Just how likely is it that all of the awful events in your negative chain actually will happen? Try to estimate a numerical probability of the likelihood that each event in the chain will occur. Is it 75%? Is it 50%? Is it one in a million?
  • Step Three: Best-Case Beliefs. Generate a best-case alternative for each of your worst-case outcomes. This forces you to escape your worst-case scenario thinking, at least temporarily. You are now beginning to think logically and to solve the problem. Suddenly, when you take a break from catastrophic thinking, you will be better able to create the positive outcomes because you’re not dwelling exclusively on the catastrophic outcomes.
  • Step Four: Focus on Realistic Outcomes. Often, your identification of the most likely outcomes will be negative, since your mind is already thinking negatively. When you focus on the more realistic probabilities of bad things happening (1 in 10 million), and then compare those probabilities to the odds of good outcomes occurring (such as 50% to 70%), your thinking and mood will automatically shift to the positive. Avoid catastrophic thinking by filling your mind with realistic, positive outcomes with a high probability of occurring. You will then be ready to tackle the problem creatively and forcefully.
  • Step Five: Pro-Active Solutions. Now it is time to generate the realistic action steps you can take to remediate the problem. Relax, breath deeply and begin to focus on concrete actions that are reasonably implemented to solve the problem. Implement as soon as possible. Remain calm. Again, stay away from catastrophic thinking since it is just a distraction from solving the problem and is a complete waste of your mental energy. The positive solution is at hand. You just need to problem solve to generate it.

Sources:

“Cost Effective Ways to Fight Insomnia” in the June 6th, 2009 New York Times

“Get A Great Night’s Sleep Every Night” from Good Housekeeping

American Academy of Sleep Medicine

“Insomnia Treatment: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy instead of Sleeping Pills” from MayoClinic.com

“Suffer From Insomnia? Try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy” from U.S. News and World Report

“The Resilience Factor” by Karen Reivich, Ph.D. and Andrew Shattle, Ph.D.

Lethal Dangers - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Lethal Dangers: The Dangers of Prescription Drug Abuse

August 27, 2009

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA21 News

Monday’s announcement that the Los Angeles coroner has ruled Michael Jackson’s death a homicide has once again raised the issue of prescription drug abuse. According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, prescription drug abuse has almost doubled in an eleven-year span, with 15 million Americans abusing prescription drugs.

But why is prescription drug abuse growing at such alarming rates?

Addiction is a lifelong disease characterized by compulsive use of substances despite the adverse consequences. These drugs hijack the brain and the individual cannot stop on their own.

There are several reasons why prescription drug abuse is increasing:

  • Access to Drugs: We have more effective drugs that are more vigorously marketed to the public ($60 billion annually spent on marketing by pharmaceutical companies). Approximately three billion prescriptions are written annually, and we are all encouraged to take pills to make things better.
  • Non-Medical Use of Prescription Drugs: We have grown more casual in self-medicating and in borrowing prescriptions from friends and families. One study found that fifty-six percent of pain relief abusers acquired the medicine from a friend or relative for free (National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2007). An estimated 48 million people have used prescription drugs for non-medical reasons in their lifetimes (National Institute of Drug Abuse). This represents 20% of the U.S. population.
  • Invisible Epidemic: We have been in denial about the severity of this problem. Alcoholism and drug addiction have received the most media attention in the past. Prescription drug abuse has been the most underreported drug abuse problem in the nation (National Institute of Drug Abuse). Unfortunately, it is now an epidemic.

Leading researchers also shed light on what kinds of prescription drugs are being abused and why:

Painkillers Dominate Abuse: Stimulant prescriptions have increase sevenfold (five million to thirty five million) over the last sixteen years. Opioid painkiller prescriptions such as oxycodone and hydro condone have more than quadrupled (forty million to one hundred eighty million) and are the number one abuse prescription drug. Benzodiazepines such as xanax and ativan are also quite popular.

Depression Rates Climbing: Depression is ten times more prevalent than it was fifty years ago and it strikes a decade earlier than it did a generation ago. Prescription drugs, particularly painkillers and tranquilizers, offer an endorphin rush that is alluring and addictive. Pain relievers mimic the body’s endorphins, but they are more powerful and last longer. Addiction is easy to develop because of these factors.

Prescription drug addiction can develop for a variety of reasons, but most often it is due to the following:

Pain Management Attempts: A history of pain can begin the cycle of addiction without people realizing it. The majority of people who become addicted never imagine that they will be in this situation—they just want the pain to stop. Over time, the painkillers deceive the brain and mimic the wondrous endorphins in a more powerful and lasting way. Substituting anything (including abstinence) for that “glow” is unacceptable.

Trauma Background: Trauma is an insidious mental health issue, and we know that the earlier in life it is inflicted, the more pervasive and intense the damage. A history of trauma can predispose individuals to becoming addicted to a variety of drugs later in life. Since addiction is a brain disease, early traumatic experiences in particular can deregulate the brain. Many addiction specialists view prescription abuse as an attempt to emotionally self-regulate.

If you are worried about a loved one, here’s what you can do:

Recognize the Problem: Your denial is the first hurdle to overcome. Most prescription addictions begin with a doctor’s good intentions. The slurring, drowsiness, craving and erratic sleep in the new addict are the first signs of an increasing problem. Pay attention, stay committed to change and do not be bullied by their anger.

Licensed Substance Abuse Professional: Seek help from a licensed substance abuse professional to get the best intervention plan. They will help you develop a list of triggers, the signs of using and a plan for family intervention. Carefully crafted intervention plans are highly effective and are often the reason why people finally address their addictive behaviors.

Sources:

When Painkillers Become Dangerous, Drew Pinsky, M.D.

Office of National Drug Control Policy

The National Institute on Drug Abuse

National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings, 2007

Prescription Drug Abuse.com

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia

MayoClinic.com


Recent Posts


Tags


Archive