I read these stats in an email from National Council for Behavioral Health today. Pretty eye-opening. More of us need to be aware of these systemic differences in health outcomes for Americans.
Click on the links to see the research.
Bright and early a few days ago, I had the fantastic opportunity to teach a workshop about yoga to counselors from across our state at the Texas Counseling Association annual conference in Dallas. It was a great time! I shared a presentation, then led the group through a yoga practice so they could experience it for themselves. We ended our morning circling up for discussion.
In the session, we talked about the ancient roots and philosophy of yoga, the different types of yoga classes found in many communities today, and how specific approaches have been developed to use yoga for trauma recovery and mental health. You can learn more about all of these ideas in the complete Powerpoint presentation.
Here are a few key slides that may be very helpful when considering starting a yoga practice. First, a description of some of the terms used to describe types of classes.
Then some findings of researchers. There's a lot of data that points to the benefits of yoga.
But yoga is not to be used without caution. Here's my advice for choosing the right yoga class:
What to know before you go:
Here's to finding the best yoga experience to reap the benefits of this ancient practice!
Here are some of those symptoms to look for when regular drinkers quit drinking, ranging from less to more intense.
These symptoms appear anywhere from 6 to 72 hours after the last drink, and can last up to 1-5 days based on the level of physical and emotional dependence. Medically supervised detoxification is absolutely required in severe cases, and there are many local facilities in Dallas that facilitate safe withdrawal. Contact us or check out our Commuity Resources page to find support for alcohol detoxification.
In the book How to Change Your Drinking by Kenneth Anderson, he recommends three ways to prevent alcohol withdrawal.
Reaching out for counseling and support when alcohol becomes a problem can be a powerful step in the road to recovery. It is one of the most dangerous substances to stop using because of the profound physical effects on the body.
by Kambria Kennedy-Dominguez
It's an unseasonably cool day in August today and it seems fall may be coming! I had the wonderful opportunity this summer to take time away from work with my family, rejuvenate and recharge from what's been a very busy past year at Flourish. I am grateful to each and every client that has walked through my door keeping my practice thriving. My sincere hope is that work we've done together in the counseling room allows lives to flourish, self-understanding to deepen, and relationships to strengthen. So much beauty is created through sharing, and in that vein, I'm sharing some images that I've captured thanks to a new photography hobby, a great camera, and our beautiful earth. Some of these images were captured far away and some right here in Dallas.
Noticing beautiful objects, creatures, plants, landscapes, and people in our environment certainly impacts my health and wellness. I hope we are all able to find beauty around us, whether we are in a distant place or right outside our front door.
Have you ever wondered whether you or a loved one has post traumatic stress disorder? While an assessment by a trained mental health professional or doctor is required to diagnose any mental health condition, I'd like to share a few tools that can help you sort out your own experiences and learn more.
First, the Life Events Checklist. Look through the below document and answer the questions. Have you ever had any of these stressful or traumatic life events occur to you, witness them happen to someone else, or learn about them happening to a loved one?
If you've had one or more of these stressful life events occur to you, witnessed it, or learned about it happening to someone close to you, then move on to the following questions. The next questionnaire, called the PCL-9, is designed to help you and your therapist understand 1) whether you have symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder and 2) the severity of these symptoms.
If you scored 28 or higher on the PCL-9, take these questionnaires to a therapist as soon as you can. If you didn't score that high, but are still concerned about your experience of a stressful life event, talking to a therapist can help you sort out and further assess what you are experiencing.
Please know these questionnaires alone are not meant to diagnose PTSD. However, the way you answered them can help a mental health professional provide an accurate diagnosis and treatment options. The good news is that PTSD is treatable and mental health counseling is often a critical part of treatment.
Contact us at Flourish if you want to learn more about how we work with trauma to help those with PTSD live a meaningful and rich life, despite the history of stressful life events.
Let's give anxiety some consideration today. You've likely experienced it over and over. You may have heard about certain types of anxiety like phobias and panic attacks, or diagnoses like Generalized Anxiety Disorder or Panic Disorder. There are lots of levels and experiences of anxiety, and sometimes even different definitions of anxiety from person to person. Anxiety is essentially worrying, feeling afraid, overthinking, and sometime panicking.
The common thread is that anxiety exists and is real for all of us, because it stems from an innate human emotion...Fear.
The DSM 5 (the manual we look at to classify symptoms and diagnose) draws a distinction between fear and anxiety like this:
The autonomic nervous system, referenced above, pays a particularly important role in anxiety, and has two distinct parts. It revs us up (courtesy of the sympathetic system), then stabilizes us (thanks to the parasympathetic system), when there is a perceived threat in our environment. Imagine a bear chasing you...your heart rate increases, breathing rate increases, blood flows to limbs, pupils dilate, digestion slows, muscles tense. Sometimes tunnel vision and hearing loss occur, as well as relaxation of the bladder and colon. This very physical response to danger has a purpose. Muscles tense to ready themselves for action, blood flows to limbs to enable us to move quickly away from danger. Then, the nervous system slows and reverses this response once danger has passed, initiating relaxation. Our breathing and heart rate slow down, our muscles relax, our body comes back to homeostasis.
Both humans and animals alike experience this stress response cycle. Animals and humans differ, however, in the ability to reason, classify, predict, and analyze. We humans can thank our bigger brains and cerebral cortex for that. An animal might encounter that same bear, have a fight or flight response, be able to escape from danger, then quickly stabilize and move on. The cerebral nature of our human brains don't allow us to move on in the same way. We would likely have persistent fear or worry after an episode like that. We may feel afraid of bears, the place it happened, what we did right before it happened, that we may not protect ourselves from it happening again, or that it will happen to someone else. You can see how the human mind's ability to analyze gets us in a pickle here.
We can get stuck with our fear in the "on" position, even in response to more innocuous stimuli like work or school demands, relationships, financial issues, health concerns, parenting, and other aspects of daily life. Our reasoning and predicting minds create future scenarios to worry about, and sometimes with good reason. If you lost a job in the past because you were late, you may be well served to worry about being late in the future. So in this way, anxiety is a helpful and useful tool that reminds us to pay attention to something specific like not being late to work. However, as we know, anxiety can become problematic when it immobilizes us in everyday life, keeps us from making decisions, disengages us in things we'd like to do, or impedes relationships.
Here's how I describe the anxiety continuum. Remember, fear and anxiety are related to paying attention to our environments and paying attention is a good thing.
It may be helpful to outline the different types of anxiety disorders listed in the DSM 5.
In counseling, there are many approaches to working with anxiety. I've found three approaches most helpful:
For more information on how we incorporate these approaches into therapy, please contact us! We are happy to help you learn more about how counseling can work to manage fear and anxiety.
Mental health is worth spending time on, just like going to the doctor when you're feeling under the weather. If you're feeling overwhelmed, anxious, sad, angry, hopeless, sleepless, distracted, panicked, these are symptoms, just like a runny nose or a cough, that deserve attention from a professional. This month of April is about spreading the word that mental health support is readily available, and can be easily accessed. Check out Megan and Kambria's bios here to get to know us and see if we may be a good fit for you, and read all about the counseling process here.
Also, here's a great article about how to make the most of your counseling experience.
Be well. Breathe easy. Make use of a counselor.
This will be a great opportunity for the general public to learn about mental health and addiction. You must register to attend, but the cost is free. Hope to see you there!
.Psychosis involves one or both of the following:
Psychosis is not a mental health diagnosis, but rather a set of symptoms that accompany a diagnosis. Schizophrenia, schizophreniform disorder, and brief psychotic disorder are three diagnoses distinguished only by the duration of time symptoms have been present. They each include either hallucinations or delusions, may include disorganized speech and/or behavior, and may include what's called "negative symptoms" which manifest as lack of emotional or behavioral expression. Negative symptoms include decreased interest in activities, decreased speech, decreased social interaction, or decreased ability to experience pleasure. Schizoaffective disorder involves the symptoms of schizophrenia listed above, with an accompanying mood disruption like depression or mania. Delusional disorder involves delusional thinking without the symptoms listed above that indicate schizophrenia-related disorder. Depression and bipolar disorder in their most severe forms can include psychosis as well.
Psychosis can be induced by substance use, and usually pass once intoxication passes. Most notably, methamphetamine, hallucinogens (particularly synthetics like K-2), and stimulants like cocaine can induce symptoms that look like psychosis. Acute alcohol withdrawal can also produce psychotic-like symptoms, and should be treated immediately.
Some medical conditions may also induce psychosis. The most notable conditions in which this may occur are endocrine and metabolic disorders, autoimmune disorders like lupus, and temporal lobe epilepsy.
Stay tuned for another post on treatments available for disorders that include psychosis. In the meantime, here is a helpful page from the National Institute of Mental Health on schizophrenia.
By Kambria Kennedy-Dominguez
What "sobering up" means to you depends on your situation. Sometimes it means decreasing the frequency or quantity of use. Called "harm reduction" in treatment terms, many people naturally do this when they notice a problem with drugs and alcohol but are unsure of its severity. For example, if you find that you binge drink (more than 4 drinks at a time for women and more than 5 for men) when you're out with friends at bars, you might decide to ask your friends to meet you at a movie instead of a bar. Shifting the environment in which problematic behaviors occur is a way to reduce harm. Likewise, you may try to limit the amount you are drinking or using, or you may make deals with yourself not to use at certain times of day or in certain places. All of these methods of control are common once a problematic pattern is recognized. Whether these methods of control work or not depends on your individual circumstances. Here's a guideline for the safe consumption of alcohol, by the way. Great graphic from the CDC.
Harm reduction is controversial, because many treatment professionals and many of those in recovery believe complete abstinence is the only way to sobriety. They might say that attempting to reduce harm only keeps you in the dangerous cycle of addiction, as you try to negotiate the problem away. There are reasonable arguments in favor of abstinence as the best strategy and it does indeed seem to work best for many. Taking a harm reduction versus abstinence approach is a very personal decision, one that I help clients make based on their own experiences.
Depending on the severity of the addiction and on the substances or substance combinations being used, withdrawal may with abstinence. Withdrawal symptoms range from mild to severe and vary depending on the drug. The process of withdrawal under medical supervision is called detoxification, and is the safest way to discontinue use of a drug when withdrawal is present, particularly with alcohol, opiates (heroin or prescription pain killers) and anti-anxiety drugs (like Xanax and Klonopin). After detox, many continue to residential treatment for 30 days or more, and some choose to move into sober living environments after residential care. These are each options along the way to sobriety, and most everyone's journey looks different depending on what they need.
Once a more sober life is established, you have entered "recovery." Below is the three part plan that I use with counseling clients to help sustain recovery.
Using coping skills that work
A critical part of therapy for anyone, whether addiction is present or not, is learning to identify and use coping skills that work. What do you do when you feel stressed out at the end of a busy day? What do you do when you fight with your spouse? What do you do when you come up short on your monthly bills? What do you do when your boss yells at you? These are just some examples of possible triggers (see above) that may lead to cravings to use if there are not more adaptive coping skills in place. Some examples of coping skills are exercise, art, reading, talking to trusted friends, 12 step groups like AA, support groups, meditation, spending time with pets, making music, listening to music, walking, drinking tea, taking a warm bath, having a massage, giving yourself a massage, learning a new skill, taking up a new hobby....the list is limitless really. The question to ask yourself is how can I soothe myself in a way that doesn't create harm?
Recovery is possible and it's happening for many people every single day. There are a ton of resources available to help and lots of evidence that positive change is within reach. If you are struggling with addiction or wanting to know more, please don't hesitate to reach out.
Kambria Kennedy-Dominguez, Counselor and yoga teacher specializing in mental health, substance abuse and wellness.