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Suicide - The Rising Rate of Teen Suicide - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing discuss the rising rate of teen suicides, why American teens need more help than ever, and some of the warning signs of teen suicide - click here.

According to the CDC, one in five US teenagers considers suicide every year.

The American Psychological Association reports that teen suicide is the third leading cause of death for people who are 15 to 24 years old. So why would a teenager with every thing to look forward to in life choose a permanent solution such as suicide?

Most teen suicides begin with a perfect storm of upsetting events, like getting dumped by a significant other or losing a family member, that leads to overwhelming depression. If they lose hope and think that their life will never change for the better, they may begin to think about committing suicide. At a basic level, these adolescents lack the necessary coping skills to think accurately about temporary setbacks and how to overcome adversity.

There are several factors that can lead to teen suicide:

No Hope For The Future:

Suicide becomes an option for a young person when all hope is lost. In fact, hopelessness is the best predictor for a suicide attempt. Hopelessness is the most common emotion in those who attempt to end their lives.

Escaping Unsolvable Problems:

The motivations for either attempting or completing suicide are complex. In most cases, they are trying 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 greater the likelihood that their suicide is connected to interpersonal conflicts.

Hidden Mental Illness:

Mental illness, such as clinical depression or general anxiety disorder, is the top risk factor in suicide and accounts for 90% of all suicides. Clinical depression is the most common disorder linked to suicide. Children and adolescents are particularly skilled at hiding their mental health challenges since they do not know how to fully describe their thoughts and feelings. Since they are confused about what is going on inside of their minds, they don’t know when they need to ask for professional help.

Masking Their Pain:

Adolescents will not always articulate their pain because they often don’t understand the serious nature of their feelings. In fact, they may even present a happy façade. Psychologists describe this condition as a “smiling depressive” since they are hiding their clinically depressed thoughts behind a mask.

A lack of emotional coping skills combined with overwhelming situational stress can drive children and teens toward suicide. If you are worried about someone you know, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.

Sources:

"Learned Optimism" by Martin Seligman, Ph.D.

"Unraveling the Mystery of Suicide" by Tori DeAngelis, American Psychological Association

"Suicide Among Pre-Adolescents" by Michael Price, American Psychological Association

"Teen Suicide is Preventable" published by the American Psychological Association

American Association of Suicidology, www.suicidology.org

National Institute of Mental Health, nimh.nih.gov

Drug Bust At Texas Christian University - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

How big a problem are drugs on college campuses?

Drug addiction in general is increasing exponentially. Over a ten-year period, the number of Americans abusing prescription drugs increased seven times faster than the increase in the U.S. population.

Getting High on Campus: Forty nine percent (just under 4 million) of full time college students binge drink and/or abuse prescription and illegal drugs on campus.

Dependency: Just fewer than 2 million students meet the medical criteria for substance abuse and dependence—2.5 times the 8% of the general population.

Invisible Epidemic: We have been in denial about the severity of this problem. Alcoholism has received the most media attention in the past but those rates have not risen. However, prescription drug abuse has become the most underreported drug abuse problem in the nation. Unfortunately, it is now an epidemic.

Why is prescription drug abuse growing at such alarming rates?

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. We also borrow 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) – that’s almost 20% of the U.S. population!

What are the signs that a college student may be abusing drugs?

Remember that addictions are progressive—what you see today started months ago. Here are a few signs to look for:

  • A change in your child's friends
  • Long unexplained periods away from home
  • Lying and Stealing
  • Deteriorating family relationships
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Obvious intoxication such as slurred speech
  • Decreased school performance
  • Relaxed and/or a euphoric state

What are the effects on a college student’s future?

We know that young adults are extremely vulnerable to experiences—good and bad—during this pivotal time. The brain in early adulthood is still expanding and refining itself and is not fully mature until age 26. When you introduce drugs or alcohol into a developing brain, lifelong addictions can get a foothold. The dependence on the drug replaces the cultivation of sturdier, more resilient ways of approaching problems in life. Emotional intensity that compels them to escape into a “high” is the solution.

What would you recommend for parents who are concerned about their college age child?

Discuss the Problem: Challenges such as alcohol and drug abuse must be part of the family conversation. Kids who learn about substance abuse from their parents have much lower usage rates than those whose parents never offer to talk about it.

Parents are the Keys to Prevention: Live the lesson you are teaching your child. Do not drink and drive, smoke marijuana or misuse your own prescription drugs and then wonder why your child is confused. Practice what you preach without exception.

High Expectations: Today’s parents are often afraid of expecting the best from their kids. They worry about overtaxing their child with expectations and demands. But on the basics of responsible living--like don’t use drugs-- you have a responsibility to be clear, absolute and emphatic. Step up and make your son or daughter understand the rules.

Source:

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University

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.

Relationship Violence In Females - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Most of us tend to think of domestic violence as solely a male crime. However, while women are much more likely to be the victim in any type of domestic violence or abuse, there are a growing number of cases in which the woman physically attacks the man.

Usually there has been an argument, tempers flare, and pushing and shoving occur. Then the woman strikes out against the man. Three factors can increase the likelihood of such behaviors—substance abuse, fatigue, or the discovery of either marital or financial infidelity.

Most men do not reach out for help since there is enormous shame associated with being the recipient of bullying or physical violence at the hands of a woman. Many men would rather suffer in silence than admit that the woman they are in a relationship with has hit or even injured them. Men struggle with shame mightily in our society anyway so their reluctance is understandable.

Remember the Tiger Woods incident in which his now ex wife engaged in physical violence? He did everything he could to avoid revealing there had been any domestic violence.

So why would a woman resort to violence?

There are four primary psychological reasons:

Antisocial Personality Disorder: Coercion and physical bullying are techniques that are readily employed when you lack a conscience. Women who are violent outside the relationship are much more likely to use violence to get their way or to punish their partner.

Mood Disorders: Women with high levels of anxiety, depression and other mental health problems are much likely to use physical force. Women with anger management issues are often depressed and are irritable and irrational as a result.

The Last Straw: Some women have no history of violence and strike out because of a sudden shock, such as the discovery of infidelity. Their loss of control is temporary and is usually followed by great remorse.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: In cases in which she has been deeply traumatized in the cases of rape or past physical violence, the woman may overreact to the current stressors with violence.

In addition, family background can greatly contribute to the woman’s tendency to use violence in a relationship:

Bullying in the Family of Origin: Emotional or Physical Violence was Permitted or Even Encouraged. She grew up seeing violence replacing words as a way of resolving conflict and began to act out these patterns in her relationships.

Over Indulgent Parents: Many women are reared in narcissistic homes that have reinforced and arrogant and entitled view of the world. Sooner or later, there are inevitable frustrations and these women lash out physically when their emotions override their better judgment.

Abuse and Neglect: In some families the child is the direct recipient of parental or even sibling violence that is abusive and deeply hurtful. Other families neglect the child resulting in an adult who has no idea how to self regulate her emotions. Anger comes out of a world view of victimization and resentment.

Men, if you or someone you know is the victim of violence -- remember this advice:

Violence Escalates: Violence in a relationship is never a legitimate way of handling strong negative emotions. It is never justified and it is always wrong. A "little push" can become a swinging fist or a weapon aggressively wielded. Remember that once violence happens once or twice, the likelihood of its reoccurrence is exponential. It is also a progressive issue and escalates when there is no enforceable accountability.

Break The Cycle: If you are the victim of female relationship violence, make it perfectly clear that you are unwilling to participate in this cycle any longer. Reach out to the professional community—your spiritual leader, psychologist, or family physician are all excellent resources for getting help.

Hold Them Accountable: Insist that the abuser is accountable and that you are no longer going to be the recipient of this cruelty. If she refuses to get help, make a plan to leave and follow through.

Celebrity Addicts - By Chris Gearing

Friday, March 25, 2011

Charlie Sheen & Addiction - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Charlie Sheen and Addiction - By Chris Gearing

Friday, February 25, 2011

With Charlie Sheen’s latest public tantrum denouncing the writer and creator of his top rated show, Two and a Half Men, CBS has canceled the show for the rest of the season. With a long-standing history of addiction and failed rehabilitation, Sheen seems to be in serious trouble.

So how do you know that someone is at rock bottom?

Sudden Regressions: Chronically addicted people tend to regress suddenly and severely with no warning. Once the addiction switch is flipped, it is incredibly difficult to reverse his emotions and behavior. He has no insight and no judgment. He begins to destroy every area of his life—his job, her relationships and even his health. Addiction hijacks the mind and better judgment.

Addiction Takes Over: Self-destructive behavior is the inevitable and predictable end point of a long and down ward spiral. The addict’s emotional outbursts indicate that his addicted brain has taken over fully since there is no demonstrated ability to censor his words or his behavior. His recklessness and self-destructiveness may well continue.

Psychologists often diagnose two other serious problems that contribute to the addiction illness:

Bipolar Disorder: The leading contender is bipolar illness, which is a type of depression in which the mood becomes elated and then depressed. People can cycle in and out of explosive, grandiose manic episodes and then be flat on their backs with a debilitating depression in the same hour.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder: This disorder is often present in the addicted person and remains undiagnosed due to the overwhelming addiction. The individual is arrogant, grandiose, entitled, shameless, vengeful and highly impulsive. Striking out at others even if it results in unfortunate consequences is common when the person becomes enraged or frustrated.

Remember that other unaddressed psychiatric disorders that accompany addictions often sabotage treatment in the end.

Celebrities who are under pressure to perform are especially vulnerable to addictions. Unfortunately, money often insulates people from the accountability that is necessary to overcome a serious addiction. They become more and more entrenched in the addiction because their power allows them to control the treatment. We are seeing this in the tragic examples of Lindsay Lohan and the late Michael Jackson.

We do know that male addicts can function in the workplace for decades without detection. The alcohol or drug problems are concealed carefully. However, when their performance at work is affected, they have crossed a line and surrendered to the addiction.

Separation stresses such as a marital dissolution can impact a fragile personality intensely causing regression and a return to the addiction. Addictions make people very self-centered and they have minimal accountability so the marriage ending feels like an injury or wound they find intolerable. Engaging in the addiction becomes a way to sooth their embarrassment and to escape the pain and agitation.

Remember that the drugs and alcohol have hijacked the mind of the addict and they have minimal abilities to rescue themselves.

Intervene, stay firm, set your boundaries firmly and refuse to participate in the addictive behavior. While it is the hardest thing you will ever do, you have to refuse to accept the addiction as inevitable and unchangeable. Believe in recovery, believe in their ability to fight against this illness and light the way back to health for the addict who is truly lost.

The Warning Signs of Violence - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

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"


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