Activity Ideas for Living Sober in Florida

Sober living communities in Florida provide some of the best activities for anyone who is looking to be part of a solid Recovery aftercare program or community.  Sober living programs were created to aid clients in reclaiming their lives in a safe and supportive environment with people who understand the unique situations of those who have completed a drug or alcohol rehab program.  People who choose to participate in sober living can find built in support on the difficult road that is recovering from addiction.  The best support you will find comes from the people who have been through what you have been through and really understand where you are coming from.

The Important of Aftercare in Recovery

Sober living is a useful step in the recovery journey.  It provides ample support for drug and alcohol addiction clients who have completed their initial programs.  This unique community is populated with people who understand the unique needs of those beginning to remain clean and sober in an effort build the lives they want to live, to regain a former life, or be the person they want to be for their loves ones and for themselves.

Many of Florida’s sober living communities offer resident programs, outpatient services, after-care programs, and ongoing recovery support services for those recovering from drug and alcohol addiction.  All of these services can help to support your goal of staying clean and sober in the future.  Many of these support programs are also offered through rehab and recovery programs.  Their goal is to support your efforts as well.

Florida: Capital of Recovery and Sober Living

Florida is a very popular state for sober living communities to grow.  It has a host of activities that lend themselves well to sober activity.  So many of the outdoor and indoor activities in Florida can be easily undertaken without the use of drugs or alcohol.  They are also great for groups so that all of the member of your sober living community can participate together.  Some of these activities are best done without the use of illicit substances.

Healthy Things To Do While Living Sober in Florida

Snorkeling excursions are dangerous if undertaken under the influence.  Men and women can both enjoy group water activities such as swimming, fishing, snorkeling, and professionally guided scuba diving.  Sober communities also enjoy other beach activities like beach volleyball, shell hunting, sun bathing, picnicking, soccer, and Frisbee.

Just because Florida has a beach does not mean that activities are limited to beach sports.  There is also golfing as Florida is known for its golf courses.  The men and women of Florida sober living communities take excursions to the Sandoway House Nature Center, The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, The Cornell Museum of Art, and take the Pineapple Grove Art Walk.  For a day of shopping, there is the Downtown Delray called The Most Fun Small Town with every kind of boutique imaginable from clothing and cosmetics to jewelry and home furnishings, or the Delray Marketplace.  And no list of activities would be complete without a day at the spa.  Ladies can go to the spa for a “Day of Beauty” where they will be pampered as all women should be on occasion.

There are also activities that you and your sober living compatriots can plan to do at home.  You can do almost anything as a group with a little bit of planning.  You can learn how to cook something new and different.  Make a plan and shop each week so that you can all participate and learn to make something new.  Start a crafting project together like a quilt.  You could start a monthly book group where you choose books that will be inspirational to you all in your individual journeys.  Planning a weekly discussion about a topic involved in your recovery might serve both the purposes of bring you all together as well as getting to talk about some of the issues the effect you all as recovering addicts.

Sober Living Promotes Long-Term Sobriety

The goal of the Florida sober living community is to remain sober forever.  Trained staff and professional practitioners use spiritual immersion as the emphasis for these programs.  Teaching the twelve steps of life and learning to reintegrate into society helps all clients learn to be the people they want to be.  These activities can help all of these things happen.

Dual Diagnosis: Mental Illness and Addiction

Dual diagnosis is defined as a drug or alcohol addiction that occurs alongside at least one mental illness.  Getting a dual diagnosis can be kind of tricky.  Often in people who suffer from addiction as well as mental illness, the one problem fuels the other.  The addiction may bring out the symptoms of the mental illness or the mental illness may be one of the causes of the addiction.  Treatment can be difficult as well. Sometimes people with both a mental illness and an addiction are treated for one and not the other.  For example, a person who exhibits signs of an addiction will be treated in an addiction recovery program and then released because the addiction is dealt with.  Since the mental illness has not been dealt with, the person in question will exhibit symptoms of mental illness and then turn back to addiction in order to self-medicate.  The reverse is also true. People can be treated for a mental illness and will go through withdrawal because they do not have access to their drug of choice.  But once given a clean bill of health, they may continue with the addiction that did not receive attention while he or she was being treated for the mental illness.

Because of all of this, dual diagnosis is receiving a lot of attention directed at the specific needs of the dual diagnosis patient.  One of the elements of dual diagnosis that is being looked at is which mental illnesses occur most often with addiction.  There are several that come up fairly frequently.

Addiction and Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is the most common dual diagnosis mental illness.  People who suffer from bipolar disorder are at a very high risk for abusing drugs or alcohol.  During a manic cycle, these people often engage in risky behavior.  This includes the excessive use of drug and alcohol.  Alcohol abuse is more frequently associated with the depressive cycle of bipolar disorder.  Sometimes, it is difficult to distinguish which symptoms are the result of the bipolar disorder and which symptoms are the result of the addiction.

Addiction and Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety is very often a symptom of drug or alcohol addiction.  These addictions will leave the user feeling paranoid and unable to appropriately cope with stress.  On the other side, anxiety can occur first, and the sufferer may turn to drugs and alcohol in order to cope with the anxiety.  A person is more likely to receive a dual diagnosis from the anxiety occurring first and the addiction occurring second than the other way around.  Often, is the anxiety is occurring as a result of the addiction, the anxiety will go away when the addiction does.  If the anxiety occurred first, than it will need to be treated in addition to the addiction.

Addiction and Depression

The combination of addiction and depression is usually all about self-medication.  On one side, some people can develop depression in response to an addiction.  They may feel hopeless or stressed because of the lying or the risky behavior associated with addiction.  They may even turn to more drugs or alcohol for relief thus fueling the addiction even further.  On the other side, like with anxiety disorders, the drug or alcohol abuse may be a way of coping with the effects of depression.  Either way, the addiction is “treating” the depression.  And both ways could be considered for a dual diagnosis.

Addiction and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD is very commonly a disorder worthy of dual diagnosis.  PTSD is caused when something traumatic happens near or to a person.  There are many different kinds of symptoms associated with PTSD such as insomnia, aches and pains, flashbacks, general paranoia and anxiety, and dissociative episodes.  Many sufferers turn to drugs or alcohol to help themselves deal with some of these symptoms and end up with an addiction problem.  As the sufferers of PTSD struggle to deal with the mental illness, their addiction builds.

Getting the right kind of help when you suffer from a dual diagnosis is essential.  Take some time to make the treatment decisions for yourself or for your loved one seriously and with a lot of thought given to the kinds of mental illnesses that are involved.  While dual diagnosis may be more difficult to treat, it is not impossible.  There is hope.

Seven Factors that Impact the Retention Rate of Addiction Treatment for Women

Many drug and alcohol recovery programs monitor the habits of people who come in and out of their programs.  One of the things that they look into are the factors that impact the quantity of treatment a person receives or their retention rate.  This retention rate says a lot about the demographic that the information is gathered from.  According to recent research, there are a number of factors that indicate how long patients in recovery will commit to a program that offers addiction treatment for women.  While there is no indication that these factors come with hard and fast rules about how long a woman will stay in treatment, they can be good indicators.

Socioeconomic Status

Women who come from environments where drug use is the norm and violence goes unchecked are less likely to complete recovery programs.  If a program is completed, these women are less likely to continue to stay clean after their treatment as well.  The retention of women who come from high poverty level and low education level backgrounds have a much lower retention rate and a much higher relapse rate.  Aftercare seems to be essential to keeping these women clean and sober.


Women who graduated from high school are more likely to complete a recovery program than women who did not finish high school.  The education factor can be highly subjective.  Not graduating from high school can be an indication of socioeconomic status which is mentioned above as a factor unto itself.


If a woman has the support of her partner, the rest of her family, and her friends, she is more likely to stay in a recovery program for a longer amount of time.  Some studies have indicated that including the patient’s partner in treatment can help the patient feel more involved in her treatment and want to make more of an effort to stay longer.  Family therapy can also have the same effect.

Gender of Treatment Center Staff

Women show a much greater preference for having a staff comprised of mostly women.  There has been little study in the field of substance abuse into whether the gender of the staff effects the retention of the patients.  Studies have indicated that recovery patients largely prefer female counselors and that women with children or pregnant women in recovery prefer to have female staff members around.  Not enough study has been done in this area to put a number on the retention rates, but it does seem to be a factor that could require some study.


Retention rates for women in recovery who are pregnant tend to be rather low.  Pregnancy can significantly impact treatment depending upon where a woman is in her pregnancy when she enters treatment.  Often, the birth of the baby will interrupt the flow of treatment and a woman will not come back to it as she has a newborn to deal with or she was unprepared for life away from the treatment program and has quickly slipped back into addiction.  Studies indicate that women who seek treatment in their first trimester have low retention rates, but if a women in late pregnancy can complete a program before she gives birth, she is likely to stay clean and sober for longer.

Referral or Involvement of the Law

Patients who have been referred by, or are involved with child protective services or the criminal justice system in any way are more likely to stay in addiction treatment for women for a longer period of time.  While there is much evidence that mandating a woman to seek recovery treatment is not particularly effective, overall, these women are more likely to stay in treatment for longer than their counterparts who entered voluntarily.

Therapy Type

Women in recovery have been shown to benefit more from supportive therapy methods rather than confrontational therapy methods.  Studies have indicated that women are more receptive to positive treatment methods that encourage empathy, warmth, and the ability to stay connected with their support network both outside of the program and inside of the program.  For women, generally, the relationship with the therapist or counselor should be one of compassion and mutual respect in order to keep the patient in the program.  If she feels threatened or the confrontational therapy method is too much, she is very likely to leave the program.

What to Expect in a Dual Diagnosis Halfway House

Once you have completed your formal rehab experience, you have a choice to make.  You can try to do it on your own and move on to living a life completely reintegrated into regular society, or you can go on to a halfway house.  If you have been diagnosed with a co-occurring disorder, it is a good idea to explore your halfway house options so that you make sure your mental health is in check as well as your addiction recovery before you go back to being completely on your own. Dual diagnosis halfway house living is designed to help you work toward being self-sufficient.  While every situation is going to be different, there are some universal things that you can expect from a sober living situation.

Abstinence from Substances of Abuse

Clearly, a halfway house is designed to be a sober living community.  It is possible that you have been prescribed some kind of medication for your mental illnesses by your doctors, but these are the only kinds of substances that you should be taking while you are in a halfway house.  It is likely that your medication will be controlled at least for a while.  Any of the kinds of illicit substances are forbidden and, if found, can cause you to be ejected from the halfway house.  You are expected to remain free from addiction as long as you remain in the halfway house.

Participation in Aftercare

In most halfway houses, particularly those for people who have been dually diagnosed, residents will be expected to participate in aftercare.  There are lots of kinds of aftercare.  Some halfway houses will require that you go to twelve step meetings between once a week and twice a day.  Others will require you to make and keep appointments with your therapist regularly to keep up on your mental health and to keep sight of your sobriety goals.  You may have regular house group therapy sessions that you are required to participate in as well.  The goal of a dual diagnosis halfway house is to help you adequately deal with both your former addiction and your mental illness.

Staying Busy With Work and Other Responsibilities

In some halfway houses, it may not be a requirement that you work, but it is a good idea either way.  While you are in a halfway house, you should and may be required to work, volunteer, or further your education in some way.  This is the perfect opportunity for you to start working your way back into the world.  Take some time while you are near the end of your formal rehab or when you first go to the halfway house to think about what you want to do with the rest of your life.  When you have figured out what you want to do or have an idea about what you might like to do, talk to your therapist about it and make a plan for making it happen.  Your program might be able to offer you some assistance with getting a job or finding a volunteer opportunity that will further your goals and help get you where you want to be.  Asking your program for help could be a boost especially if your mental illness limits your abilities in some ways.


A halfway house is not a free ride.  You will be required to share in the household duties such as cooking and cleaning.  You will always be responsible for keeping your personal space and your personal belongings clean and tidy.  You will be expected to clean up after yourself as well.  Some halfway houses will have a rotating list of household chores to be done each week.  There will always be something for you to do to be responsible for the smooth function of the home.

Be Accountable

At least in the beginning, you will likely need to sign in and out of the house and give facility staff an account of your whereabouts.  You will be expected to go where you say you are going and return when you are expected to return.  If you cannot be accounted for, your facility will likely put out the alert and someone will come looking for you.  They want to be sure that you are safe and that you are not having a problem related to your addiction or your mental illness.  If you are found to be fine and simply late, there will likely be some consequences related to your continued stay in the halfway house.

Mental Illness and Women

Studies have indicated the more than 50 million people in the US suffer from some form of mental illness.  While mental health issues can effect anyone of any age, any race, or any gender, there are a few mental health issues that occur more often in women.  According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, about 23.8 percent of women in the US have experienced a diagnosable mental illness compared to 15.6 percent of men.

There may be some scientific reasons why women tend to be more susceptible to mental illness than men are.  Some studies have shown that biological elements related to gender can play a role in the development of mental illness.  Women have lower serotonin levels than men do, and they process serotonin at a slower rate.  This contributes to mood fluctuations.  Hormonal fluctuations are more common in women and men as well.  Both the lower levels of serotonin and the common fluctuations in hormones could be a key development in some mental health issues.

Most Common Mental Illnesses among Women

1. Depression and Depressive Illnesses

Depression is characterized by a feeling of overwhelming sadness or melancholy. Other symptoms can include extreme fatigue, loss of interested in formerly enjoyable activities, a sense of worthlessness or hopelessness, and changes in appetite and energy level. Depression can be episodic with bouts that last hours, days, weeks, or longer.  It can also be chronic where the feeling never goes away.

Women are twice as likely as men to experience depression and other depressive disorders such as bipolar disorder.  Women who suffer from depression are also more likely to turn to drug or alcohol for relief.  When a woman makes the choice to get treatment for the alcohol or drug abuse, she will likely need to be treated for the co-occurring disorders in order to really begin to heal.

2. Panic Disorders

Of the wide breadth of panic disorders out there, women are more likely to experience generalized anxiety disorder and specific kinds of phobias.  It is estimated that 4 million people in the US suffer from generalized anxiety disorder, and women are twice as likely to develop a generalized anxiety disorder as men are.  Episodes of anxiety or anxiety or panic attacks can last a few minutes or a few hours.  While some with generalized anxiety disorder experience constant mild to moderate feelings of anger, tension, and worry, anxiety or panic attacks often come with overwhelming sense of these feelings.

3. Eating Disorders

Studies indicate that while there are many men who have eating disorders, women make up 75 percent of the people being treated for eating disorders in the US.  Eating disorders are considered a mental illness because many of the factors that contribute to eating disorder development are mental or psychological.  Issues such as low self-esteem, negative body image, and feeling out of control of one’s life can all contribute to the development of an eating disorder.  According to Everyday Health, approximately 65 percent of binge eating disorder cases and 85 percent of bulimia cases are women.

Other Factors that Contribute to Mental Illnesses in Women

There are other issues besides gender and biology that can lead to the increased likelihood that that a woman will develop a mental illness.

From a historically cultural standpoint, women have had the subordinate role for much of history.  Since the beginning, women have been placed in the role of the keeper of the house and the primary caregiver of aging relatives and young children.  As our culture has shifted, more and more women are taking on the roles of primary breadwinner having more powerful and demanding careers and work outside the home.  Many women still struggle with leaving behind the more traditional roles, and many more women try to do it all.  The stress of dealing with everything that comes with being the head of a household, the primary caregiver, and having a demanding career can lead women to panic attacks and depression.

Also throughout history, our culture has done much to sexualize and objectify women in the media.  The media is usually a good example of how women are perceived in a culture.  The frequent perception that women are purely sexual beings who should look as they do in the media and behave as they do in the media can lead to the development of low self-esteem and a poor self-image among females leading to eating disorders, depression, and anxiety.  These ideas of women also perpetuate the attitude that rape and sexual violence are acceptable behaviors.  This can all lead to increased drug or alcohol use and mental illness for women.

All of Your Questions about Dual Diagnosis Answered

Dual diagnosis is a term that is tossed around in the mental illness and substance addiction community quite a lot. You may have come across it in passing and wondered what it is all about.  Today, we will clear up some of the mystery for you and answer some of the questions you have regarding dual diagnosis.

What is Dual Diagnosis?

As far as addiction and mental illness are concerned, dual diagnosis is a relatively new innovation.  Until the 90s, people who showed symptoms of both drug addiction and mental illness were treated for these two things separately.  This kind of thinking usually came down to the person in question not receiving proper treatment for his or her mental illness until the addiction was under control.  As we know now, many addictions the result of someone who is experiencing a mental illness trying to self-medicate.  Often, patients would get the help they needed for the addiction but not for the mental illness which would lead them back to addiction.  It was this pattern that lead doctors and researchers to dual diagnosis treatment where patients who show symptoms of an addiction and an underlying mental disorder are treated for both at the same time.

How Does Dual Diagnosis Treatment Work

Treatment for dual diagnosis takes the most useful and most successful parts of substance abuse treatment and mental illness treatment and combines them to treat a patient with both problems.  The conditions should be treated in tandem by one counselor or set of counselors who are trained in dealing with co-occurring disorders.  The difficulty with this is that very few counselors are trained in co-occurring disorders.  According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, only about 12 percent of the people in the US who suffer from dual diagnosis actually receive treatment for both disorders.  About 4 million American people are diagnosed with co-occurring disorders.

How Can I Tell if Someone I Know Should Get Help for a Dual Diagnosis

Chances are that you might suspect the person in question of having either an addiction or a mental illness.  There is no really good way for the layperson to tell if someone needs help for co-occurring disorders.  Some of the symptoms of someone being an addict are things like suddenly abandoning friends and family for a new group, uncharacteristically reckless behavior, defensiveness when asked questions about where he or she is going or what he or she is doing, lying, and stealing.

Mental illness symptoms are much more difficult to group because they are very different depending upon the type of mental illness experienced.  Some mental illnesses come with hallucinations or delusions.  Some mental illnesses like depression are characterized by overwhelming sadness and despair.  They may have complex rituals and exacting standards when it comes to cleanliness.  Many people with mental illnesses have dramatic swings in moods and energy levels.  Dual diagnosis can only really be sorted out when the person experiencing the co-occurring disorders starts to get professional help

What Can I Do to Increase My Chances of Recovery Success?

The best thing that you can do after receiving your dual diagnosis is make sure you are in a treatment program that will treat both your mental health and your addiction.  Your dual diagnosis treatment team will know that sometimes antidepressants, antipsychotics, and antianxiety medications are the answer.  They will provide you with treatment strategies that build your confidence and your self-esteem as well as address the reasons for your addiction and the symptoms of your mental illness.  Some effective dual diagnosis therapies involve the families of the sufferers.  Often, friends and families of the sufferer take part in therapy sessions and education to help the patient and to help themselves heal from this difficult dual diagnosis.

Is There Anything Else to Know About Dual Diagnosis?

There are lots of things to know about dual diagnosis, but one of the most recent studies available claims that one of the best things that a patient with a co-occurring disorder can do to help his or her treatment along is to be active in the treatment.  Patients should participate and give feedback about their treatment rather than taking the passive approach.  This is your life and your disorders.  You will know what your body and mind are happy with and are not happy with.  Follow the advice of your treatment team, but still be active in your treatment. It can make all the difference.

Six Ways to Make the Best of Communal Living: Halfway Houses for Women

If you are very used to living on your own, learning to live in a communal setting can seem daunting.  It brings up images of sororities houses and dormitories and hippie communes.  All of these images may seem overwhelming to someone who have been living alone. But there are ways to make yourself feel better and ways to survive the jungle of communal living with your sanity intact.

Be nice but not too nice

Everyone in a halfway house is likely to be a little bit on edge.  These women are probably all coming out of rehab and just learning how to navigate the world in a real way after becoming clean and sober.  Taking a little time to treat everyone with the care, kindness, and respect that you would like to be treated with will make your halfway house experience a good one.  It is important to be kind and compassionate, but not at the expense of your own treatment and your own well-being.  If you are feeling like your kindness is being taken advantage of, take a step back and reevaluate your situation.  Set some boundaries for yourself and for the other women with whom you live.

Be conscientious about your duties

As one of the conditions of moving into the halfway house, you will probably be assigned some things to do.  These tasks are usually everyday housekeeping things like cleaning the bathroom, vacuuming, cooking meals, washing dishes, and participating in other kinds of household maintenance.  Keep up with your assigned duties.  If you are conscientious most of the time, if you slip up once or twice and do not get your tasks done in a timely manner it is more likely to be forgiven by your housemates.  If you do not keep up on your tasks regularly, you may end up with a big problem with the other people who live with you.  There is little that causes resent as quickly as someone who is not pulling their weight.

Maintain your personal space and the personal space of others

If you have your own rooms, it is important not to violate anyone else’s personal space just as you would not want someone to violate yours.  Knock before going into another woman’s room and do not go into another woman’s room without permission.  If you are sharing a room with another woman, the same is true for her things and your things.  Do not go poking around in her drawers or under her bed even if you are desperate for a nail file, and you know she has one somewhere. It just is not good manners, and it can lead others to believe that you are not to be trusted.

Respect everyone’s differences

You and your housemates are going to be coming from all different places.  You have likely all gone though some recovery treatment, but it may not have been the same kinds of treatment.  You will all have different backgrounds and different stories.  Get to know the women you are living with and get to know their stories.  This might give you some insight into how best to talk to them and deal with them.  You may find that there is something in particular that someone does or does not like that you never would have thought of.

Keep up your determination

You have worked very hard to get to where you are.  There are going to be women who fall off the wagon while you are in the halfway house.  You must hold on to your hope and keep determined and remember why you are working toward living a permanently clean and sober life.

When all else fails, use baked goods

You will never make friends faster than when you bake some kind of amazing treat.  Something as simple as Rice Crispy Treats or Chocolate Chip Cookies can bring you all together to talk and eat and build the community that you would like to have in this halfway situation.

How Service Dogs Are Helping PTSD

Over the years, there have been lots of studies about how dogs are good for people.

Dogs and other kinds of pets can:

  • Keep your blood pressure down
  • Help you fight off depression
  • Make you feel less isolated
  • Enhance your mood
  • Motivate you to exercise
  • Build up your immunity

All of these things that dogs provide their companions with can help people who are experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.

Veterans and PTSD Care

The particular group that has been recently studied for the effects of PTSD and how dogs can help with it are veterans who are suffering from PTSD after returning from war.  Many of these veterans are particularly susceptible to PTSD.  Many have anxiety related to their war experiences.  They can believe that in every crowd and behind every tree, there is someone or something waiting to harm them in some way.  These are common problems for our returning soldiers.  The transition back to civilian life is difficult and PTSD is very common. Many methods for helping PTSD victims are being explored.

Sometimes for these veterans, medications and traditional therapies prove to not be enough.  The horrors that they experienced have left scars that run deep and are not easily healed.  Studies are being down even now with specially trained dogs who are helping former soldiers make this transition back to civilian life a little easier.  These dogs are helping them feel safe.

How Are Service Dogs Helping PTSD Victims?

There are many tasks that a service dog can help with in order to combat the PTSD in his or her owner.  Service dogs can be trained to:

  • Look around corners and behind barriers to check for potential threats
  • Turn on lights
  • Awake a handler if he or she is having a nightmare
  • Guide his or her owner should the handler become disoriented or confused
  • Locate the family of the handler should they become separated
  • Signal to certain sounds such as smoke alarms
  • Bring help with the appropriate command
  • Remind handlers to take medication or bring emergency medication
  • Identify hallucinations
  • Offer emotional behaviors such as licking, snuggling, or hugging on command

According to Psychology Today, there are many reasons why dogs are the perfect companions for people who suffer from PTSD.  My favorite reason is that dogs give unconditional love.  They will be your best friend forever.  Military people often return home to find that the skills they have learned and have been using for the length of their deployment are not applicable in their home lives.  They find that their skills do not guarantee them anything in the civilian world.  Dogs give handlers love and respect regardless of their skills and regardless of how everyone else reacts toward them.

Because of this potential let-down and because PTSD suffers often have trouble with trusting people, dogs can help them learn to trust again.  Dogs are incredibly trustworthy creatures and will be there for their handlers no matter what.  This can help the handler recognize that the civilian world is much different from the world of war and that, for the most part, danger does not lie around every corner.

One of the best things about dogs that can help PTSD suffers is that dogs are vigilant.  PTSD sufferers know that they are never alone when they have a dog with them.  Often, service dog handlers feel hesitant or unsure about their environments.  Dogs can help provide a secure feeling when handlers are without human companionship.

Since these particular PTSD sufferers come from the military the fact that dogs respond to authority can be very helpful.  Since the military is based entirely on giving and getting orders to which soldiers are expected to respond without questions, returning veterans may find it difficult to transition back into situations where this is not the case.  Most civilians do not operate like that, but dogs do.

Four Signs You Might Be Addicted To Shopping

Have your friends ever called you a shopaholic?  If they do, take a minute to think about how much time you spend shopping and the feeling you get when you purchase something new.  While shopping can sometimes be used in moderation to make you feel a little better about something that is going on in your life, there is a line to how shopping can really be used.  If you find that you are constantly using shopping as a way to deal with problems or you find that you must buy something all the time, it is possible that you have are addicted to shopping or have compulsive buying disorder.

woman addicted to shopping

Compulsive shopping disorder was originally thought to be mostly an affluent white woman’s disease, but recent studies indicate that shopping addiction can affect people of any age, race, or financial bracket.  According to Elizabeth Svoboda in Psychology Today, shopping addiction affects more than one out of every 20 Americans in varying degrees.

If you are concerned that you or someone you love is addicted to shopping, or has “retail therapy syndrome,” then there are some warning signs to look out for.

Excessive and Impulsive Spending

Some compulsive buyers have a particular item that they get a specific feeling from purchasing while others just like to buy things.  To the average person, excessive may feel like buying something large and expensive that you do not entirely have the money for like a high end television or one pair of Jimmy Choo pumps.  But to a shopaholic, excessive might mean 5 pairs of Jimmy Choo’s and 4 televisions.  Compulsive buyers are likely to carry large amounts of credit card debt and carry multiple card that are all close to their spending limits.

Experiencing Extra Intense Feelings when Shopping

It is completely normal to get a little thrill out of making a good purchase.  Maybe you get happy when you are buying just the right gift or when you finally make a purchase you have been saving up for, but true shopaholics describe the feeling they get as being very much like the high one would get from drugs.  That high drives the compulsive shopper to want more, to spend more, and to ultimately buy more whether it is a sound decision or not.  Shopping addicts are unable to control their urges to shop, just like with other kinds of addictive behaviors.  They have a sense of excitement about the purchase before it is made and the rush of reward once the purchase is completed.

Big Debt and Serious Financial Difficulty

Credit card debt is generally considered to be bad debt whereas the debt accumulated from going to school or buying a house is generally considered good debt.  Good debt can work in your favor.  If you pay on time and work diligently toward paying it down, it can give you credibility when you go to ask for other types of loans.  Bad debt just makes you look like a liability on paper.  If you have mountains of credit card bills on several credit cards and only pay the minimum balance, it is very unlikely that money lenders will take a risk on you.

Shopping addicts often carry large credit card balances that teeter on the brink of being maxed out.  They may have many credit cards that are like this.  While they know the financial complications, they are still unlikely to be able to stop shopping without getting professional help.

Continuing to Shop Regardless of Negative Feelings about Being Addicted to Shopping

People who suffer from a shopping addiction often feel tension and anxiety when they are attempting to resist the urge to shop.  They can also feel depressed and guilty when they have given in to the urge to shop and then again when thy think about their growing debts.  Those feelings of shame and guilt can trigger the shopping addiction and cause the sufferer to seek the high that comes along with making purchases despite the negative consequences.

Compulsive buying can be treated with the proper professional help and the right kinds of therapy.  Eventually, a person who has sought help can learn to resist the urge to make purchases and can start healing – mentally and financially – from being addicted to shopping.

Safeguard Your Mental Health: 5 Ways to Fend Off Depression

Prevent depressionDepression sounds like one of those things that you know a little bit about and you hear about a lot, but is really one of those things that happens to other people.  But it is very possible that you or someone you know can suffer from depression.  Depression can make your regular life very difficult to live.  You do not want eat or move or participate.  Depressions feels like it sucks the life out of you.  When depression is not treated, it effects how you think, behave, and feel.  It can lead to emotional, mental, and physical problems.

Some of the warning signs of depression include:

  • Pain or aching that does not get better
  • Crying more often than normal
  • Loss of interest in formerly enjoyable activities and life in general
  • Poor nutrition
  • Lack of energy
  • Feelings of helplessness
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Sleeping either too much or not enough
  • Persistent sad feelings
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

If there is a history of depression in your family or you have experienced some episodes of depression yourself, there are some things that you can do to safeguard your mental health.

1.  Get Help from a Counselor or a Doctor

Do not allow shame or guilt about your potential condition to hold you back.  If you feel that you have a problem with depression or you are worried that you may eventually have a problem, go see a doctor or a counselor.  You have nothing to be ashamed of.  Every year, depression affects millions of people.  And it is treatable.  You have to be willing to take the personal risk and ask for help.

2.  Set up a Routine

Giving yourself a daily schedule to gain some control over your life.  It is up to you to make the schedule and stick to it.  Get up at the same time every day even if you do not have anything you have to do or anywhere you have to be.  Go to bed at the same time every night.  Keeping this schedule will give you some stability.  Keep this schedule until you feel like you are stuck and then make a change.

3.  Exercise

Exercise is one of the best things that you can do for your mind and your body.  People are meant to move.  You do not have to join a gym to get some exercise.  Start slow.  Go for a walk around the block in the morning and the evening.  Borrow a friend’s dog or volunteer to walk a neighbor’s dog if that makes walking easier.  Yoga is also a very good option.  Join a studio or practice at home.  Regardless of how you want to exercise, simply get yourself moving.

4.  Try Some New Things

There are lots of adventures out in the world that you have never experienced.  And you do not necessarily have to go very far to experience some new situations.  Think about taking a class in something you think you would enjoy like photography or cooking.  Join a group that does a variety of different kinds of things like hiking, board games, music, and event attendance.  Go to an art museum or a concert.  Get out of your comfort zone.  The chemical makeup of your brain is changed when you do new things.  The levels of dopamine, the pleasure chemical of the brain, are altered by the new activity.

5.  Do More Positive Thinking

When you start to feel helpless or hopeless, think about what is making you feel that way.  Is someone else introducing these feelings?  Are you telling yourself that you are helpless and hopeless?  How do you know that these feelings are true, that you are helpless and hopeless?  If you feel yourself slipping into a depressive state, you may not be able to trust the feelings that you are having.  Start to question them.  When you think you are helpless, challenge that feeling.  Show yourself that you are not helpless, that you can do anything you put your mind to.  When you think you are hopeless, think about all of the ways that you can do good things and make a difference.  If you can make a difference, even a small difference, than there is reason to hope.  Find that small difference and change your thinking.