Author: Justin Mckibben
Studying Compassionate Goals
A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology actually states that compassionate goals we set are about
“- striving to help others and avoiding selfish behavior” for example, “making a positive difference in someone else’s life.”
Researchers here measured how participating in self-image goals and compassionate goals had an impact on symptoms of depression and anxiety, along with their conflict with others.
This study concluded that its results suggest there is a very real relevance of self-image and compassionate goals for the interpersonal maintenance of issues like depression and anxiety.
Principally, the results held some pros and cons for people with anxiety. The downfall is that trying to boost self-image by avoiding vulnerability backfires, leaving people more depressed and anxious. This can create a difficult cycle to escape from emotionally.
The good news is that by focusing on helping others, we make everyone involved, including ourselves, feel better. This is because showing compassion through action doesn’t just relieve our anxiety or depression in the moment, but it helps us build our relationships, which can reduce anxiety and depression as they grow stronger and healthier. It is a win-win. In recovery from drugs or alcohol, we should take all the wins we can get.
4 Ways to Help Others that Help Us
If you want to utilize acts of kindness to help you grow in your recovery, there are plenty of ways to do it. Here are just 4 examples of things you can do to help others that will help you.
Making constructive comments to others
”Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity.”
That statement is no exaggeration. If the pen is mightier than the sword, the spoken word is truly the undisputed champion.
In recovery use your words to help others. Make constructive comments that serve to build others up, while pointing out their strengths and celebrating their successes. This helps us develop a habit of focusing on the good in one another and ultimately in our communities and our lives. It can also build up our relationships to give us strong support.
Having compassion for others’ mistakes
“Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes”
For a lot of people, it is already hard enough to accept their mistakes. Most of us are our worst critics. No one likes people pointing out their shortcomings. We all make mistakes. Try to be compassionate about it when others slip up.
Why is it important to show companion when someone else makes a mistake? Because not only does giving someone an empathetic response make them feel better, it also reinforces our relationship with them. It shows those around you that you are understanding and humble enough to support someone through their mistake without shaming them or holding it over their head.
In recovery, this means a lot because it is important to remember that we are also a work in progress. We have our own faults, and if we want to build a new life we have to move on from the old. Compassion can even help others show you the same support when it’s your turn to mess up.
Don’t be self-centered
“A selfish man is a thief”
In most recovery fellowships there is an emphasis on avoiding the self-centered behavior. Being self-centered is never really beneficial in the long-term, even if it helps you with some level of instant gratification. In addiction recovery, being so self-involved can be counter-productive to healthy growth.
Surely it is ok to take care of yourself and honor yourself. But being self-centered makes it less about self-care and more about self-seeking and being inconsiderate.
In fact, high levels of depression and anxiety tend to make us turn inward and focus on ourselves even more. The worse we feel the more isolated we become. Being considerate of others and finding a way to help them can actually relieve anxiety and depression by turning that energy outward.
In recovery, we should think of others as we improve ourselves. When we realize we must make choices and take action to benefit people other than ourselves, our compassion gives us perspective.
Avoiding harming others
“If you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do not harm them.”
Last but certainly not least, we can easily help ourselves and others by not causing harm. If you can’t make someone’s life better, at least don’t make it worse. You don’t have to necessarily go out of your way and do random acts of kindness, but at least don’t do random harm to others.
And this kind of compassion is pretty much just common courtesy. It can be active on a small scale and still impact you in recovery. You can throw your trash in a garbage can so someone else doesn’t have to sweep it up later. You could put away your shopping cart at the grocery store, or even use that crazy ‘turn-signal’ thing everyone keeps talking about when you’re driving.
While these seem like silly examples, for some people it goes a long way to just be considerate with the little things. It helps build character slowly but surely, while also giving us a sense of our impact on other people. If we can learn to so how our small kindnesses add up, maybe we will be more aware of the power in our bigger decisions.
Compassion in Addiction Recovery
It might not always be easy, but the important choices often aren’t easy. In addiction recovery, we should try to work on ourselves as often as we can, especially for the benefit of others. If our actions can make a positive effect and help someone else, while helping us stay clean and sober, we are on the right track.
But how do we start on that path?
If you want to begin a new journey that will help you build the life you deserve, while helping those you love most, there is help. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
We’ve all heard that oh-so-clever cliché that has been used by generic T-shirt makers and plastered on ironic bumper-stickers… “HUGS NOT DRUGS.” You may have heard it so often that it has become a bit irritating. Some guy at your favorite coffee shop who collects random graphic shirts with witty quotes probably wears that one like he invented it. But realistically, the concept of a “friendly neighborhood HUG dealer” is probably a lot more valuable than it sounds.
The truth is that when you take into account the impact of physiology on your sociology and psychology, it makes a lot more sense for most people. When examining the physical science behind our response to hugs, it should be obvious that dealing out hugs like it’s your business do well for our mental health.
Ok, so remember in science class how they explained your skin is the largest organ of your body? Ok, show off, I don’t! But still, it is. While skin keeps a lot of the bad stuff out, it also takes in a lot. Skin collects external data from the world around us and sends it to the brain for processing. The most effect body parts for picking up precise pieces of sensory measurements are:
- Finger tips
- Soles of our feet
Now knowing that, it makes sense that a hug provides us with a bevy of complex responses neurologically. A hug creates a reaction in the brain that is sent through our sensitive nerve endings, giving us a good feeling.
Research has told us that stress causes our body to produce a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol actually slows down the healing process while create something like cliff-note memories in the mind. These cliff-notes will be stored in relation to circumstances to teach us how to avoid that same stress in the future.
Another thing Cortisol does when we experience social rejection is make us more willing to make friends and establish connections. For example, if people are in stressful situation as a group, they often bond through their shared peril. When a natural disaster occurs communities unite, and we probably have Cortisol to thank for that. Stress creates an environment where we will seek comfort and protection through one another.
Then through empathy we react in a supportive nature when someone we know is stressed. Naturally many people will offer a hug of support and compassion, thus igniting the body’s natural means of a “high” through Oxytocin!
Oxytocin itself is a neurochemical that has a few positive effects on an individual, including:
- Building trust
- Dissolving short-term memory
- Warm, fuzzy feeling
Researchers have even discovered that Oxytocin can speed the physical healing of wounds!
So when you offer someone in pain a hug it not only gets the Oxytocin pumping to keep those good feelings going, but it also helps the body disconnect from the memory of painful stimulus. Giving a hug not only jump-starts the body’s ability to heal, but protects it form creating harmful associations to circumstances.
2 Birds, 1 Hug
The big thing about being a “hug dealer” is that it is actually killing two birds with one stone- or two burdens with one hug.
How? Simple; doing good makes us feel good.
If you are an empathetic creature then you instinctively want to help heal someone who is hurting. When we see someone in great pain we intuitively put ourselves in their shoes and feel what they feel. Feeling their pain can get into our heart and soul. So we hug them to heal us both at once without even knowing it.
All together we can gather from this information that being a “hug dealer” makes an impact on the lives of both parties, and usually doesn’t result in indescribable misery or criminal charges… well, at least just don’t hug strangers without permission.
- A hug promotes social connections
- A hug relieves stress
- A hug helps build trust
- A hug promotes empathy
- A hug disrupts unhealthy memories of association
- A hug helps active the healing process
There are so many reasons why we are wired to find comfort and healing in a welcoming and supportive embrace. It communicates to us both directly and subconsciously that we are not alone and we do not need to suffer.
That’s why I am a “hug dealer,” because I see the value in offering comfort and connection to people in pain. I’ve known pain in my life; I know the value of a personal connection. Creating love and compassion in that kind of connection is the cheapest high I have ever known. Everyone should be a “hug dealer,” not just for others, but for their own good. It just feels good to embrace another person, especially when they need it most. Our bodies are just build that way, and we should take more advantage of it than we do. Look at the world around you- at your relationships and at your community- wouldn’t a hug once in a while help?
Come on, bring it in… first one is free!
Empathy, compassion and connection are much needed in the world today as a whole. For the addict, it may seem like something so far forgotten. In reality, connection is one of our deepest needs and can be the greatest natural high. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
These days it seems a greater number of Americans are attentive to the issues and risks related to mental health disorders, especially compared to once upon a time when people drastically stigmatized any kind of psychological impairment or illness and people who suffered with left with little to no choice but to be subjected to all manner of experimentation and examinations. Thankfully we no longer rely on drowning people or performing crude brain surgeries to cure mental health.
There was a day when the world of medicine in relation to mental health was fueled by only myth and misconception, and considering how powerful and yet how fragile the mind can be it did a lot of damage, but we have taken some remarkable steps as a society since then.
Then again… sometimes, in attempts to trying to debunk one old harmful myth, society actually ends up just replacing it with another- case in point- civilization spent thousands of years treating clinical depression with advice that ranged from “turn that frown upside down” to “Have another drink” and of course the latter has contributed to increased alcohol abuse, while the two afflictions of depression and alcoholism feed off each other in a vicious cycle that often ends in tragedy.
So why is it our new perspective is so skewed?
The Chemical Imbalance (Mis)Concept
In the more modern age the majority of people see depression as a chemical imbalance in the brain, and chalk it up to bad science. In this case we’ve developed over time a more practical understanding of chemical imbalances in the brain and have gotten incredibly efficient at making and marketing medications to alleviate them to varying degrees. As always, there is a such thing as too much of a good thing- so, these days, any time someone mentions depression societies knee-jerk reaction is to diagnose you with a chemical imbalance and tell you to get on pills.
One huge fault with this chemical imbalance concept, which goes largely unspoken, is that it creates the illusion that depressed people are living a normal, happy life and seeing a distorted gray haze instead, thus suggesting that there are no other elements at play in depression, which is simply not the case.
Depressed people are not all just depressed because their brain is malfunctioning, there is so much more to it.
The Real Deal with Depression
So what is the real deal with depression?
Spoiler Alert: Nobody really knows.
If we are talking full-disclosure, the drugs advertised on TV are said to barely work better than placebos, which do actually work pretty well, along with exercise, hobbies and alternative treatments.
The truth is the best answer seems to consistently vary from patient to patient. Now if depression was just a matter of chemical imbalance, this wouldn’t be the case and there would be a one-size-fits-all recovery method to treat depression. But it’s not that simple, because if you look at the causes and risk factors for depression, alongside the biological stuff (neurotransmitters, hormones), you see things like:
- Death of a loved one
- Being homosexual in an unsupported environment
- Chronic pain
In other words, it’s not just because your brain is broken and you’re ungrateful… sometimes people are depressed because their lives are depressing! Imagine that!
Also, to smash the concept of what I’ll call the “delusional depression” there have been numerous studies suggesting that depressed people are not only completely connected with reality, they’re actually more up aware and awake than most. Psychologists have coined the term “depressive realism” and have described depressed people as:
- Consistently more realistic
- Have a better sense of the passage of time
- Unusually level-headed and rational view of both themselves and the world around them
So depressed people are not truly delusional about their circumstances which fuel an unrealistic depression.
The point to us breaking this down and trying to debunk the old mythology behind depression is just to point out that while science and biology make a contribution to the way the mind works and someone with depression processing things doesn’t mean there aren’t other areas that need to be addressed, to urge people to understand some magic pill doesn’t fix everything!
Truly overcoming depression means incorporating new coping skills in recovery with patterns of behavior that support emotional health along with any medications, while working a treatment plan to avoid reliance on drugs to make you happy. Far too many depressed people in the world turn to drug to make them happy and die looking for happiness that way. Depression is assiduously more intrusive and intimate, not to be summed up to defective wiring in the brain but to be understood as an issue with several levels or influence. Because of the nature of depression the best way to try and heal is holistically, so that every aspect of the individuals life has a chance to be nurtured and find a new fulfilled foundation.
As someone who has thoroughly struggled through onerous and vexing periods in life, before and after a desolating battle with addiction to drugs and alcohol, I can say that I see both sides of the portrait of depression. I have had times where even though my life was OK, the world still felt like it was burning at the foundation and toppling over on the inside. I’ve also had times of bliss brutally interrupted by tragedy that has dropped me back to the darkness where depression and dejection thrive against the hearts will to overcome. All-in-all I would say to get the full picture of depression you have to acknowledge all the colors and paint the contrast with the contemporary.
Depression often comes hand in hand with other destructive behaviors, and too often people are paralyzed by drug addiction and depression. Thankfully dual diagnosis treatment is out there, and Palm Partners takes pride in an outstanding dual diagnosis program. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
In case you were still skeptical, social media has become a significant element of our society… definitely. We have evolved into a culture that circulates information and cultivates emotional and ethical responses based on the shares, likes and comments associated with our tweets, posts and pics. Social media has been credited with being both helpful and detrimental to depression depending on the context, and now there is another aspect of mental health that some suspect is being threatened by our threads.
A new study is suggesting that observing violent news events via social media can actually cause people to experience symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
How much of an impact can our videos have, and could this be the beginning of a whole new brand of stress and trauma diagnosis?
Sharing Our Stress
Dr. Pam Ramsden from the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Bradford presented this concept back on Thursday May 7th 2015 at the Annual Conference of the British Psychology Society being held in Liverpool. Here Dr. Ramsden explained:
“The negative effects of exposure to other people’s suffering have long been recognized in roles such as professional healthcare workers. Various studies have documented the negative psychological reactions following indirect exposure to traumatized people called vicarious traumatization.”
This refers to incidences where individuals in several fields including healthcare professionals experienced trauma through others and ultimately were affected by that shared experience. Someone reliving their trauma and expressing it to another person can take a toll on that person. Hearing the grotesque and gruesome details can create a kind of second-hand shock and stress. Ramsden went on to say,
“Social media has enabled violent stories and graphic images to be watched by the public in unedited horrific detail. Watching these events and feeling the anguish of those directly experiencing them may impact on our daily lives. In this study we wanted to see if people would experience longer lasting effects such as stress and anxiety, and in some cases post-traumatic stress disorders from viewing these images.”
So when we see something brutal or violent happen online through videos, images and dialog we can still feel that impact, even though some have suggested we become disconnected from the images and words on the screen and dehumanize the victims, it appears this is not always the case.
Assessing the Trauma
189 participants around the age of 37 years old with an almost even equal number of men and women completed a few tests for trauma including:
- Clinical assessments for PTSD
- A personality questionnaire
- A vicarious trauma assessment
- A questionnaire concerning different violent news events on social media or the internet
The violent events used for this test included the 9/11 Twin Tower attacks, school shootings and suicide bombings. The details of the examination indicated:
- 22% of participants were significantly affected by the media events
- 1/4 of those who viewed the intense internet images scored high on clinical measures of PTSD
The fact that these individuals scored high on clinical measures of PTSD was a very concerning development considering that they experienced this level of stress despite:
- They did not have previous trauma
- They were not present at the traumatic events
- They had only watched them via social media
There was also an increased risk for those with outgoing, extroverted personalities. So those social butterflies that are more likely to share and comment were also those that could be more sensitive to the effects of being exposed to violent and graphic material on social media.
So by exposing ourselves to such extreme and foul content we are increasing the risks of PTSD, and possibly even creating a whole new brand of it. Extensive research into the trend of internet addiction and some kind of dependence on social media has already begun, as debates continue on the influence social media makes on depression.
So is it safe to assume that with all the sway social media has over us that we should be careful of all the distasteful and uncensored stories and depictions we take in?
Are we as a society overloading ourselves online with images and audio that intoxicate our anxiety and compound with our already rattled reasoning to create new levels of trauma?
What new methods of diagnosis and treatment could come from PTSD inspired by social media?
For now we should remember that the impressions these sites have are real for some people. Some have been oppressed by these unstable emotional ties to their online lives, while others have been liberated by the sense of connection. Whatever way you believe, your social media can change your mind if you let it.
An issue like PTSD is nothing to take likely, and mental health has a serious impact on the quality of life and possibility of recovery for anyone struggling with substance abuse issues. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
What is Neuropsychology?
Neuropsychology is the study of changes in the human behavior and cognitive functioning. Usually neuropsychology is used after some sort of physical damage to the brain either through an accident, trauma, or even substance abuse. Some diseases that neuropsychology helps treat are Alzheimer’s, depression, ADHD, and brain damage due to stroke. Neuropsychology is the practice that mixes psychology and clinical neurology together. Neuropsychology is not just a study but a practice; there are neuropsychologists who have clients/patients and are trying to help them in a clinical setting. Neuropsychologists can be a part of diagnosing behavioral changes in people for court cases, giving insight to psychological responses, studying patient’s responses to stimuli, and working on new clinical treatments for disorders.
There are three different branches of neuropsychology known as
- Behavioral Neuroscience – behavioral neuroscience focuses on how biological processes underlie behavior
- Cognitive Neuroscience – focuses on how the brain controls and panels functions such as memory, attention and learning
- Social Neuroscience – focuses on the role the brain plays in social processes and social behaviors
Neuropsychology often studies people who have suffered some sort of bruising to the brain. By looking at the bruised area of the brain, neuropsychologists are able to see how different areas of the brain impact behavior and cognition or thinking abilities. Neuropsychology has helped to map the brain.
In neuropsychology the brain function is evaluated by testing the memory and thinking skills. Usually a detailed assessment of abilities is done, and the pattern of strengths and weaknesses are used in diagnosis and treatment plans. Neuropsychological evaluations are usually requested by doctors and other professionals to understand how different areas and parts of the brain are working. Neuropsychological testing will test areas such as:
- General intellect
- Executive skills
- Attention and concentration
- Learning and memory
- Visual-spatial skills
- Mood and personality
Neuropsychology uses these tests to identify weaknesses in specific areas. The neuropsychological testing is sensitive to mild memory and thinking problems that may not be apparent in other ways. Testing is also used to identify problems related to medical conditions that can affect memory and thinking such as Alzheimer’s.
The neuropsychology tests also help to differentiate between illnesses. This is paramount in making accurate diagnosis and tells doctors the best route of treatment. An example would be the test differentiating between Alzheimer’s disease and depression.
The testing with neuropsychology also is used to establish a person’s skills and abilities prior to any problem that could arise. The testing is used as a baseline to measure changes objectively that are specific to the individual.
Neuropsychology essentially is the marriage between the science of the brain and its impact on behavior and thinking. It has its place within the scientific community as well as in psychology. The study of neuropsychology has helped to push the science into human behavior and thinking to the next level.
If your loved one is in need of addiction treatment, please give us a call at 800-951-6135.