Six Tips to Stay Sane While Living With an Addict

Anyone who lives with a person suffering from any kind of addiction knows just how difficult that can be.  Addiction impacts the happiness and the health of the entire household. Whether family member or friend, if you decide that you are going to continue living with a person who is suffering from addiction, you will need to find some ways for the problems of the addict and the negativity associated with the addiction to have less of an effect on you, and the rest of the household.

living with an addict

You will also want to learn to create a family dynamic that is supportive of every member of the family. This includes not only the person with the addiction, but the needs of everyone else involved (including yourself).  In the best of all possible worlds, the dynamic created will encourage positive changes and attitudes rather than harmful and negative behaviors, and more importantly, help you and everyone in the household keep from feeling crazy with guilt, anger or sadness.

Here are six solid tips to staying sane while living with an addict.

1.  Let Positivity Rule

When you try to change the behavior of your loved one who has an addiction problem through nagging, threats, punishments, or other attempts at coercion, you are perpetuating a negative cycle.  Your odds of success though these means are very low.  You are trying to change someone who is ultimately responsible for his or her own actions and will not be willing to make changes until he or she is really ready and prepared for making the changes necessary.  By using these negative control tactics, you are creating an unhealthy and uncomfortable environment within your own home.

2.  Do not take the burden on yourself.

You did not give your loved one this addiction.  You are not responsible for his or her actions or behavior.  There is no one to blame in this situation.  As mentioned above, the addicted person is responsible for him or herself.  You should not be feeling guilt or responsibility for the disease of another person.  Letting go of your misplaced guilt and shame can help you focus your energies on the things that you can change and the things that you can make better.

3.  Talk about it.

Trying to hide someone else’s addiction from other members of your family is not going to help any of you.  Talk openly and honestly about the realities and the consequences surrounding addiction.  Try not to get emotional.  Just give the facts and answer any questions that the other people in your household may have.  If you are having trouble with this, seek advice from support groups like Al-Anon or from a trained therapist.  You do not have to do this on your own.

4.  Do not clean up someone else’s mess.

Trying to cover up for someone with an addiction problem is not your job.  If you did not drink the many glass beer bottles that are in your recycling bin than there is no reason for you to worry about doing anything by taking them to the curb.  You do not need to tiptoe around your loved one who is hung-over from a bender the night before.  There is no reason for you to cater to his or her needs either.  You are not responsible for his or her actions

5.  Leave important discussions for another time.

Trying to talk to someone who is drunk or high about something that you feel is important is going to be needlessly difficult and frustrating for you.  It may be a waste of energy.  Try to save these talks for a time when the addicted person is not under the influence. With some people, it may be difficult to find that kind of time, but if the conversation is important enough, it can wait.  However, if the issue is time sensitive, you might want to make the attempt.  If the conversation does not work, you are free to make the decision on your own.  Again, it is not your fault that your loved one could not participate in the decision making process.

6.  Encourage everyone in your family to do other things.

You want everyone in your family to be happy including the person with the addiction problem.  Encourage everyone to take part in hobbies and interests that do not have anything to do with addiction or dealing with addiction.  Your loved one’s addiction should not be the center of every conversation and the only thing that you all think about.  Learning to put it aside and focus on some other activity can be essential for all involved.

The Ultimate Goal is Getting Them Help

Living with an addict is not easy. Watching someone you care about fall victim to drugs and alcohol can cause a lot of stress, anger, resentment and sadness in the household. These six sensible ideas can help make a very difficult situation a little easier on everyone involved. You can use all of these steps to create a happy and healthy environment for your family.  Hopefully, your successes will encourage your loved one with the drug or alcohol problem to make better decisions and change his or her priorities.

Seven Signs That You May Have an Anxiety Disorder

Everyone gets nervous or anxious sometimes.  Even the calmest of people are going to get anxious or worried about something at some point.  But at some point, you may feel as though your anxiety comes on too fast and too often to just be the little bit of worry that everyone experiences.  It might even be so forceful that it begins to take over your life.

How can you tell if your anxiety has crossed the line from normal to disorder? 

The answer is not always very clear.  But there are a great many things that do not indicate an anxiety disorder when looked at separately do not indicate an anxiety disorder, but when they are taken together, they could be an indication that you would benefit from some professional help.

Excessive Worry

The staple symptom of generalized anxiety disorder or GAD is worrying all the time about all things big and small too much.  “Too much” is a very general statement.  “Too much” can mean having persistent anxiousness on all of the days in a week.  Or “too much” could be persistent anxiousness for most of the days in a month.  “Too much” can also mean that the anxiety you are experiencing becomes so bad that is begins to interfere with the rest of your life.

Irrational Fear

Generalized anxiety disorder is just that; it is general anxiety.  But some anxiety is not general at all.  It can be attached to a specific situation or a specific person, place, or thing.  If the anxiety surrounding this particular person, place, or thing becomes overwhelming, disruptive, and way out of proportion with the actual risk involved, you probably have a phobia.  Generally, phobias do not impede your life until you are confronted with the object of your fear.

Muscle Tension

While muscle tension is not just a sign of an anxiety disorder, it can indicate that a problem is at hand.  Muscle tension associated with anxiety can occur because of:

  • balled fists
  • tight shoulders
  • clenched jaw

Muscle tension is one of those things that if you have lived with it for long enough you are likely not to notice.

Social Anxiety

Another form of anxiety disorder is social anxiety.  The most common signs of social anxiety are a fear of public speaking or a fear of crowded places.  If a person is afraid of public speaking, he or she does not necessarily have social anxiety, but if this fear is so bad that he or she worries in the weeks leading up to the situation, and no amount of practice or coaching can alleviate the fear, then social anxiety is probably the issue.

Self-Consciousness

Social anxiety does not have to involve large groups of people.  Some of the time social anxiety presents itself in everyday situations such as one-on-one conversations or in smaller groups.  People with this kind of social anxiety can experience excessive blushing, trembling, excessive sweating, nausea, or difficulty talking.  These symptoms make it difficult for people who suffer from social anxiety to make new friends, meet new people, maintain relationships, and make career advancements.

Obsessive Compulsive Behaviors

Obsessive compulsive behaviors are more than just wanting things to be perfect and doing them over to make them perfect.  Obsessive compulsive behavior is needing everything to be in perfect order and doing it over and over and over again until you can feel like it is perfect – which may never happen.  Obsessive compulsive disorder can mean that you need to wash your hands until they are red and raw to feel like they are clean enough.  It can also mean that you cannot leave the house without doing all of the things that you need to do in the right order or you have to start over and do it again. Obsessive compulsive disorder can be crippling if left untreated.

Panic Attacks

If you have never experienced it before, a panic attack can be terrifying.  During a panic attack, you are suddenly gripped by an overwhelming feeling of fear and helplessness.  You heart begins to race.  You may feel tingling or numbness in your limbs.  You might get dizzy and weak and need to sit down.  You could feel like you are having trouble breathing.  Not everyone who has a panic attack has an anxiety disorder, but it could be a sign that you need to get some help.  Especially if you experience them repeatedly.

Anxiety Disorder Symptoms Vary

The symptoms of an anxiety disorder might include all or just a few of those mentioned.  Every person is unique and the way that each person with an anxiety disorder exhibits these symptoms is going to be unique as well.  If you have any questions about whether or not you could have an anxiety disorder, talk to your doctor about your options.

Addiction Psychiatry – Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Your Mental Illness

If you suffer from a dual diagnosis – a substance abuse disorder along with another concurrent mental illness – then you need treatment from a specialist in addiction psychiatry who understands the unique ways in which another mental illness can contribute to and exacerbate a substance abuse disorder. When you have a dual diagnosis, both your substance abuse disorder and your mental illness have their own unique symptoms that own different symptoms that can impair your day-to-day functioning.

In order to recover from both your mental illness and your substance abuse disorder, you need treatment for both conditions. Your mental illness symptoms will only worsen without treatment, and your substance abuse disorder is likely to get worse too. The more you abuse substances, the more your mental health deteriorates, and the more your mental health deteriorates, the more you abuse substances – it becomes a vicious cycle.

Which Disorder Occurred First?

While substance abuse disorders and other mental illnesses often occur together and can be linked, specialists in the field of addiction psychiatry do not believe that one causes the other. Just because someone has a substance abuse disorder does not mean that he or she will develop another mental illness, and just because someone develops another mental illness does not mean that he or she will develop a substance abuse disorder. However, if you are already at risk for a mental illness, abusing substances can cause symptoms to flare, pushing you into full-blown illness. If you are taking prescription medication to treat mental illness symptoms, illegal drugs and alcohol can interact with those medications, hampering their effectiveness and causing harmful side effects. That’s why specialists in the field of addiction psychiatry recommend that dual diagnosis individuals quit abusing substances at the same time that they seek treatment for a concurrent mental illness.

Do You Have a Dual Diagnosis?

Not everyone who suffers from a substance abuse disorder also has another mental illness, like bipolar disorder, depression or anxiety. Specialists in the field of addiction psychiatry point out that it can take some time to determine whether a person’s mental health symptoms might be directly related to substance abuse, or be due to an underlying disorder.

Just as people who suffer from substance abuse disorders may be in denial about how much their drug and alcohol use is impacting their lives, people who suffer from mental illness may also be in denial about how the true extent and impact of their symptoms. This can make it even harder for a person suffering from a dual diagnosis to get help, since he or she may be afraid or ashamed to admit the problem. The stigma of addiction is a heavy enough burden to bear on its own, without also shouldering the burden of mental illness stigma.

If you enter recovery for a substance abuse disorder and your mental health symptoms, such as anxiety and depression, don’t get better after you’ve been abstinent for a few months, you should consult a specialist in addiction psychiatry about the possibility that you have a dual diagnosis. Some other signs that you have a dual diagnosis include:

  • A family history of mental illness
  • Extreme sensitivity to the effects of drugs and alcohol
  • A relationship between mental health symptoms and substance use – getting depressed when drunk, for example
  • Prior treatment for a mental health problem

If you have any of these risk factors, discuss them with a specialist in addiction psychiatry who understands dual diagnosis treatment.

Dual Diagnosis Recovery

Recovery from dual diagnosis is possible, although it may seem more complicated and difficult than recovery from a mental illness or a substance abuse disorder alone. You may need to spend months or years working on your recovery with a specialist in addiction psychiatry. You need to receive treatment for both your mental illness and your substance abuse disorder.

As a dual diagnosis patient, you may need to use prescription medication, such as antidepressants, to treat your mental illness symptoms while in recovery. Some recovering addicts and recovery support groups frown on the use of these drugs by people in recovery from addiction. Members of the field of addiction psychiatry do not consider the use of antidepressants and other pharmaceutical treatments for mental illness to be substance abuse, at least not when the drugs are prescribed for you by a doctor. Take your drugs as prescribed and don’t worry about what your peers in recovery think.

When you suffer from a dual diagnosis, you need treatment for both conditions in order to get well. With help from the right program, recovery is possible. You will need to work hard and remain committed to your recovery, but the payoff is a life more beautiful than you ever imagined.

Pregnant Women Face Special Issues in Treatment for Bipolar Disorder

If you’re a woman with bipolar disorder who is pregnant or who plans to have children, you’re probably concerned about the effects pharmaceutical treatment for bipolar disorder can have on your unborn baby. While recent research has shown that the risk of birth defects among pregnant women taking bipolar medication is much smaller than previously thought, you may nevertheless wonder if it’s best to discontinue pharmaceutical treatment for bipolar disorder during your pregnancy for the good of your child.

The symptoms of bipolar disorder vary in severity from one person to the next, and there’s no one answer for a woman wondering how to manage pregnancy and bipolar disorder. However, while discontinuing your medication may eliminate the risk of medication-related birth defects, it will significantly raise your risk of experiencing a bipolar relapse. Your mental illness could have developmental ramifications for your baby both before and after birth.

Bipolar Medication and Birth Defect Risk

In the past, medications like lithium, which are used for the treatment of bipolar disorder, were believed to cause life-threatening or disabling birth defects in a large percentage of babies born to bipolar mothers – in the 1970s, lithium was believed to cause birth defects in 1 in 50 babies born to mothers taking the medication. Newer research has discovered that the risk is more like 1 in 1,000 to 2,000. Other medications administered as treatment for bipolar disorder are considered even more dangerous for developing babies than lithium, like valproic acid, carbemazepine and lamotrigine, which can cause spina bifida, cleft palate and other birth defects. Because of the smaller risk of birth defects with lithium, doctors recommend women with bipolar disorder who want to get pregnant switch to lithium before conceiving.

Risks of Discontinuing Pharmaceutical Treatment for Bipolar Disorder

Though the risk of birth defects for pregnant women taking lithium is small, it’s still too much risk for many pregnant women managing bipolar disorder. However, a pregnant woman with bipolar disorder is almost certain to experience a relapse of bipolar symptoms if she discontinues her medication during pregnancy – relapse rates among bipolar women who stop taking their medication during pregnancy can be as high as 70 percent. Pregnancy is a high-stress time; the anxiety and sleep disruptions associated with carrying a child and giving birth can easily trigger a bipolar relapse.

The prospect of a bipolar relapse during pregnancy threatens the well-being and even the life of both mother and child. Women who discontinue pharmaceutical treatment for bipolar disorder during pregnancy spend an average of 40 percent of their pregnancies experiencing illness symptoms. A woman who is experiencing a depressive episode is less likely to practice the good self-care necessary for the unborn baby’s health and development. Such a mother-to-be is even vulnerable to suicide. Women who discontinue treatment for bipolar disorder during pregnancy are also 100 times more likely than women without bipolar disorder to experience postpartum psychosis, which can even lead to infanticide.

Managing Pregnancy and Bipolar Disorder

While many women with bipolar disorder choose to stop taking their medications before conception or after they discover they’re pregnant, psychiatrists don’t recommend this, especially for women with severe psychiatric symptoms. If you stop taking your bipolar medications during pregnancy and experience a severe recurrence of symptoms, you may need to take even higher doses of medication to bring your symptoms back under control. And the higher your dosages, the higher your risk of birth defects.

Lithium has the fewest risks for pregnant mothers and babies, though it’s important to make sure you drink plenty of water to avoid lithium toxicity. Your doctor will want to monitor your blood carefully for high lithium levels, especially during and right after your delivery. Your baby’s blood will also need to be tested for high lithium levels. If you choose to breastfeed, lithium is secreted in milk; your baby’s blood will need to be monitored for high lithium levels if you choose to breastfeed after birth. Your doctor may also recommend a first-generation or second-generation antipsychotic medication, which is not believed to cause birth defects, or receive ECT treatment for bipolar disorder during pregnancy.

If you are taking valproic acid or carbemazepine, you should switch to a safer medication before you conceive. If you find out you’re pregnant while still taking valproic acid, you may want to break down your single daily dose into several daily doses to reduce the risk of side effects. Your doctor may also recommend a vitamin K supplement.

Managing bipolar disorder and pregnancy is challenging, but not impossible. If you have questions about receiving bipolar disorder treatment while pregnant, call 888-415-0708 to set up an appointment with our psychiatrist.

The Two Most Common Anxiety Disorders

When you’re too anxious, it’s a problem. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses Americans suffer, and they can make it hard to get through day-to-day life. The constant stress can even cause physical problems over time. The two most common anxiety disorders are specific phobias and social anxiety disorder. Other common anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

To some extent, anxiety is normal. Everyone gets a little anxious in reaction to stress and difficult life events. Anxiety can even be helpful – it can help you recognize a dangerous situation and give you the adrenaline boost necessary to react accordingly. When you’re facing a stressful situation or a big decision, a little anxiety can give you the extra mental boost you need to make the best choices.

Prevalence of Anxiety Disorders

More than 18 percent of American adults have an anxiety disorder, and more than 22 percent of those cases – a total of 4.1 percent of the entire adult population – have symptoms that are classified as “severe.” Women are more likely than men to experience an anxiety disorder some time during their life; the average age of onset for anxiety disorders is 11 years old.

Most Common Anxiety Disorders

Specific phobias, like claustrophobia or arachnophobia, are the most common anxiety disorders. They affect 19 million Americans, or 8.7 percent of the population. Most people develop phobias during childhood; the average age of onset is seven. Women are twice as likely as men to suffer from a phobia.

Common phobias include fear of spiders, snakes, heights, closed spaces, storms, needles, public speaking, flying, germs and illness or death. Phobia treatment includes exposure therapy, relaxation techniques and changing negative thoughts or beliefs related to your fear.

Social anxiety disorder, which is also sometimes called social phobia, is another of the most common anxiety disorders. It affects 15 million Americans, or 6.8 percent of the population. The average age of onset of social anxiety disorder is 13, and it affects both women and men at equal rates. Thirty-six percent of people who suffer from social anxiety disorder struggle with their symptoms for more than 10 years before seeking help.

People with social anxiety disorder fear that others are watching or judging them. The disorder can make it hard to attend social events, go to work, attend school or otherwise live a normal life. People with this anxiety disorder have trouble making and keeping friends, forming romantic attachments, getting jobs, finishing school or even performing the tasks of daily living. Treatment for social phobia involves challenging negative thoughts in therapy, learning breathing exercises and confronting your fears.

Less Common Anxiety Disorders

Other anxiety disorders occur less frequently, but are no less debilitating for the people who suffer from them. Post-traumatic stress disorder, for example, affects 7.7 million Americans, or 3.5 percent of the population. It can involve flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive memories of traumatic events – anyone who has experienced a natural disaster, terrorist attack, the sudden death of a loved one, sexual or violent assault, war, an accident, or any other life-threatening event is at risk of developing PTSD. Sixty-seven percent of people who have experienced mass violence develop PTSD; 45.9 percent of women and 65 percent of men who are raped develop PTSD.

Women develop PTSD twice as often as men, and children can develop it too. It can cause relationship problems, since it leaves sufferers unable to trust or share intimacy, communicate, or solve problems. The way that loved ones react to a trauma survivor’s PTSD symptoms can affect his or her condition, making the symptoms worse or helping to alleviate them.

Generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, is another of the more common anxiety disorders. It affects 6.8 million adults or 3.1 percent of the U.S. population, with women more than twice as likely as men to develop symptoms. GAD is characterized by excessive worry about ordinary things, for no reason. They may worry about their health, money, work, family or other things, when there is no obvious cause for concern. Symptoms can be so severe that they affect a person’s ability to function normally.

Panic disorder affects 6 million Americans, or 2.7 percent of the population. It is characterized by panic attacks and is often accompanied by major depression or agoraphobia. The least common anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD, affects 2.2 million Americans, or one percent of the population. It is characterized by intrusive, disturbing, unwanted thoughts, and compulsive behaviors, including counting, checking, and cleaning behaviors. These behaviors can take up so much of the sufferer’s time that he or she might have little to no time left for normal routines and functioning.

You don’t have to continue struggling with anxiety. Call our Delray Beach psychiatrist today at 888-415-0708 and learn how we can help you overcome anxiety.

Addiction Psychiatry Endorses Medications for Alcoholism

Alcoholism treatment usually consists of support group meetings and intensive psychotherapy, often under the aegis of an inpatient facility. But experts in the field of addiction psychiatry feel that psychiatric medications are underused in the treatment of alcoholism. Two drugs, in particular, have been found to be effective for the treatment of alcoholism – acamprosate and naltrexone. According to new research from the field of addiction psychiatry, these drugs are extremely effective in the treatment of alcoholism – more effective than some medications used to treat other conditions, like high cholesterol. Yet they will never be prescribed to most alcoholics.

Medication Promotes Alcohol Abstinence

According to a paper published last month in JAMA, the anti-alcoholism drugs acamprosate and naltrexone are effective at reducing cravings for alcohol in people suffering from alcoholism. Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill conducted a systematic review of all the evidence available for the use of these medications, including 122 randomized controlled trials and one cohort study involving a total of 23,000 people.

In order to evaluate the effectiveness of the medications, the researchers examined a measure of effectiveness known as the “number needed to treat,” which tells researchers how many people need to take a pill before one of them will be helped to reduce or refrain from drinking. The study found that, to keep one person from relapsing into full-blown alcoholism, 12 people need to take acamprosate; 20 people need to take naltrexone to help one.

Effectiveness studies of other widely used medications, like statins, which are used to treat high cholesterol, have found that acamprosate and naltrexone are astoundingly effective in treating alcoholism. By comparison, studies of the effectiveness of statins have found that anywhere from 25 to over 100 people need to take a pill in order to avoid one cardiac event.

Restoring Balance in the Brain

The medications work by interacting with neurotransmitters, the brain chemicals responsible for moods and feelings in general. Chronic, heavy alcohol abuse causes imbalances among the brain’s neurotransmitters, leading to alcohol cravings; acamprosate restores the normal balance.

Naltrexone works to reduce alcohol consumption in a different way. Many alcoholics experience a feeling of euphoria when they drink, brought on by the stimulation of the brain’s opioid receptors. Naltrexone blocks the opioid receptors, preventing the familiar feeling of euphoria that drives such alcoholics to take their next drink and their next. According to experts in addiction psychiatry, naltrexone removes the motivation to drink and can make alcoholics more receptive to treatment, including 12-Step meetings and psychotherapy.

Neither medication should be considered a magic bullet, but they can be very helpful in treatment even recalcitrant alcoholism.

Addiction psychiatry expert Dr. George Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, says the study proves that these medications can help many. “This is an important paper,” Dr. Koob told the New York Times. “There are effective medications for the treatment of alcoholism, and it would be great if the world would use them.”

Medications Could Help Fill the Treatment Gap in Addiction Psychiatry

Addiction psychiatry experts agree that many alcoholics struggle to cross an enormous treatment gap. Less than one-third of alcoholics receive any treatment at all, while less than 10 percent are given medication. Alcoholism and alcohol abuse kill 88,000 Americans per year.

Prescribing medication like acamprosate and naltrexone could help many Americans struggling with alcoholism to resist cravings and maintain abstinence, or at the very least, to drink much less. Since many Americans still don’t have access to inpatient rehab services or even outpatient addiction psychiatry services, they must rely on support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and may not receive any professional care at all. If more primary care doctors felt comfortable prescribing these medications to people who want to quit or cut down on their drinking, the lack of access to addiction psychiatry services may have less of an impact on Americans who drink alcoholically.

But, if they’re so effective, why aren’t these medications prescribed more often? Perhaps it’s because many people, including alcoholics themselves and many medical professionals, still believe that addiction is, at its root, a character flaw, and that overcoming it should be a matter of sheer willpower alone. It may also have something to do with the fact that, despite its effectiveness, researchers still don’t fully understand how at least one of these drugs, acamprosate, works.

If you’re struggling with alcoholism, there’s a way out. Call our addiction psychiatrist today at 888-415-0708 to learn more.

How Occupational Therapy Can Improve Mental Health

While you might think of occupational therapy (OT) as something that mainly benefits the physically disabled, OT can also be of immense benefit to people suffering from mental health problems like bipolar disorder and depression. Working with a skilled occupational therapist can help you more completely understand your own capabilities to work, perform the activities of daily living and generally take care of yourself. It can also help you establish your goals for mental illness treatment, and determine which environmental and lifestyle adjustments and adaptations are necessary to help you live a full life while managing your mental illness.

What Is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy includes treatments that help you recover or develop and maintain your living and work skills. In addition to skills related to your career and professional life, occupational treatment can also help you build the skills necessary to navigate every aspect of daily life, from taking care of yourself physically to managing your money, nurturing your relationships and pursuing personal fulfillment. The goal of occupational treatment is to help you live as meaningful and full a life as possible.

Benefits of Occupational Therapy for Mental Health

People who suffer from mental illness often have difficulty managing the tasks of daily living, much less pursuing personal and professional fulfillment. If you struggle with depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety or another mental illness, you’ve no doubt experienced times when you’ve struggled to prepare meals for yourself, maintain personal hygiene, take care of your house, nurture your friendships and relationships and meet the demands of your job or education. You may have trouble concentrating or remembering things, maintaining appropriate routines, or taking pleasure in things you once enjoyed. OT can help with all of that.

With the help of an occupational therapist, you can gain a deeper understanding of the true limitations your mental illness places on your ability to function in society and care for yourself. Goals for treatment might include such things as establishing a regular routine for sleeping, eating, bathing and exercising. OT can help you develop the skills you need to manage your money, hold down a job and advance in your career, communicate effectively with those around you, and set realistic life goals for both the long and short terms.

Your occupational therapist may recommend that you make adjustments to your home and work environments, just as you would if you suffered from a physical disability. For example, if you have trouble remembering things, OT might help you learn to write things down. If you’re struggling with intense emotions, OT might help you develop some coping mechanisms. Your family and caregivers might also benefit from occupational therapy education about your condition and your special needs.

OT can also help you monitor your response to any psychoactive medications you may be on, so you can find the dosages and medications that work for you more quickly. By helping you to establish healthy routines, habits, and coping skills, OT can also protect you from a mental illness relapse.

Paying for Occupational Therapy

Most insurance companies will pay for OT for mental illness, but many will assume, at first, that you are seeking OT for a physical disability or for physical rehabilitation. If there is confusion with your insurance company, our occupational therapists can explain the purpose of your treatment and the role of OT in mental health rehabilitation to your insurance company. Once they understand your condition and the value of OT for treating mental illness, most insurance companies are receptive to covering the costs.

Occupational therapists typically collaborate with other professionals as part of an integrated and comprehensive treatment process. You will also receive mental health treatment from a psychotherapist and medical treatment from a psychiatrist. Working together, the team can help you gain control over your mental illness symptoms and return to a happy, healthy way of life.

Occupational therapy is just one of many services we offer to help our clients recover from depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, eating disorders and substance abuse disorders. If you or someone you love is suffering, there’s no time like the present to seek help.

Call us today at 888-415-0708. 

Can Love Protect You from Depression Symptoms?

If you’re suffering from depression symptoms, psychotherapy and medication can help you feel like yourself again. But, according to new research from the Universities of Jena and Kassel in Germany, a stable, loving romantic relationship can help strengthen your mind and stabilize your personality if you tend to be neurotic and prone to anxiety and depression symptoms or low self-esteem.

Romantic Relationships Can Reduce Neuroticism

Today, most psychologists believe that there are five basic dimensions to the human personality: extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness. The extent to which you possess each of these core personality traits plays a huge role in determining your mental health, perspective and overall personality. A person who is highly neurotic is someone who tends to be anxious, irritable, moody, sad and generally unstable emotionally.

Neurotic people tend to react more strongly to negative events than people who are more emotionally stable. When facing an ambiguous situation, neurotic people will tend to leap to the worst conclusion, rather than being optimistic or even neutral. As a result, neurotic people are more prone to mood swings, emotional instability and depression symptoms.

The good news is that a loving, stable romantic relationship can bring about lasting and fundamental personality changes in neurotic people, making them more stable, more confident and more optimistic. That’s according to the results of the German study recently published in the online edition of Journal of Personality.

During the study, researchers followed 245 couples ranging in age from 18 to 35 years for nine months. The researchers interviewed each partner individually at three-month intervals to determine both each partner’s level of overall neuroticism and his or her satisfaction with his or her relationship.

The researchers also asked the study participants to explain how quotidian, but fictitious, life circumstances and events might affect their own relationships. Dr. Christine Finn, who used the framework of the study to write her doctoral dissertation, explained to Science Daily, “This part was crucial, because neurotic people process influences from the outside world differently.” For example, they have stronger negative emotional reactions in response to external stimuli, and tend to stay in a bad mood longer after something happens to trigger it.

Over time, the researchers found, neurotic people in strong, loving romantic relationships exhibited fewer neurotic tendencies and greater emotional stability. For people prone to depression symptoms, this means that a stable romantic relationship can have a protective effect against depression and anxiety and can provide the emotional support necessary for lasting change.

How Do Relationships Protect Against Depression Symptoms?

“The positive experiences and emotions gained by having a partner change the personality – not directly but indirectly – as at the same time the thought structures and the perception of presumably negative situations change,” Dr. Finn said.

Why? The researchers point out that partners in a relationship tend to support one another through life’s ups and downs, which can have a protective effect against anxiety and depression symptoms. Over time, that emotional support builds confidence and allows people in stable, loving relationships to face the world with greater hope and optimism.

The positive effects of romantic love on personality were visible in both male and female partners. Of course, the longer the relationship, the more beneficial the effects on personality; while shorter romantic relationships can certainly have a positive influence, changes in personality take time to develop.

It’s important to note that, in order for a romantic relationship to bring about positive personality changes and help stabilize a person who is prone to depression or anxiety, that relationship must be a healthy and loving one. Abusive, toxic or otherwise unhappy relationships can have the opposite effect. Furthermore, while this study shows that personalities can change and negative thinking habits can be unlearned, people suffering from anxiety or depression need mental health treatment for their symptoms. The support of a romantic partner alone is not enough to help you overcome anxiety or depression symptoms; in fact, your mental health symptoms could place such strain on your relationship that it may not survive.

If you or someone you love is struggling with depression or other mental health symptoms, there’s hope. You don’t have to suffer alone. With treatment, you can overcome your depression and learn to love life again.

Call 888-415-0708 today.

Kids with High Risk for Bipolar Disorder Benefit from Family Therapy

Bipolar disorder most often appears in young adults and older teens, but that doesn’t mean that kids aren’t vulnerable to it, too. Kids as young as six years of age have been known to develop bipolar disorder. Having a first-degree relative with the condition raises a kid’s risk of bipolar disorder – but research shows that family therapy can help kids at risk for the mental illness.

Benefits of Family Therapy for Kids with Bipolar Disorder

Researchers from the UCLA School of Medicine and Stanford University School of Medicine found, in a study published last year in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, that a form of family therapy known as family-focused treatment or FFT could help middle-school-aged children at risk for developing bipolar disorder. The children and adolescents in the study were already struggling with symptoms indicative of major depression or sub-threshold bipolar symptoms. Each of the children were considered at high risk for developing bipolar disorder, due to having a first-degree relative with the illness.

The 40 study participants had an average age of 12 years. Their diagnoses included cyclothymic disorder, major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder not otherwise specified. Each study participant had a first-degree relative, most often a parent, who had been diagnosed with bipolar I or II disorder.

The researchers randomly assigned the participants to FFT. The treatment involved 12 sessions of family therapy over a period of four months. During the family therapy sessions, the children and their families learned strategies to manage mood swings, solve problems and communicate. Those were not assigned to FFT were assigned to complete one or two family information sessions.

More than half –60 percent – of the children were taking psychiatric medication when the study began. They continued taking their medication throughout the study period.

The researchers found that the children who participated in FFT recovered from their depression symptoms in an average of nine weeks, compared to 21 weeks for those who did not participate in FFT. Over the course of a year, the children who received FFT experienced more weeks of full remission from their depression symptoms, and more improvements in mania symptoms as well.

The researchers also rated the children’s families according to how emotionally expressive they were. Children living with families who were rated highly emotionally expressive – those families who expressive more critical comments or were more emotionally overprotective of their children – were found to need almost twice as much time to recover from depression and mania symptoms than those living with families who were rated as less emotionally expressive. However, FFT was found to help children from highly-expressive families enjoy more weeks of remission and improved moods throughout the study period, just as it did for those children from less expressive families who received the FFT.

The researchers stressed that the children’s mental health symptom at the time of the study and follow-up could not be used to determine whether these children would later develop bipolar disorder. Though the children studied were considered to be at high risk for the disorder, not all children who display mania, depression or other sub-threshold bipolar disorder symptoms go on to develop bipolar disorder.

Nevertheless, early intervention for kids at a high risk of bipolar disorder can help them achieve the best outcomes in the long term. When bipolar disorder is diagnosed at its earliest stages, those symptoms that have already appeared can be stabilized, and the family can learn to cope with the child’s mental health symptoms and mood swings.

Managing Your Child’s Bipolar Disorder

Family therapy can help you learn to manage your child’s bipolar disorder, and can help other members of the family understand what’s going on. If your child is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, make sure he or she takes his or her medication on schedule. You and your doctor should monitor your child carefully for side effects, since the medications used to treat this condition were developed for use in adults. Your child may also have special needs at school; he or she may need a lighter workload or special breaks during class. Your child may have to stop going to school until his or her symptoms are stabilized.

If your family is coping with bipolar disorder, whether it affects a child or parent, family therapy is an essential part of recovery. Mental illness affects the whole family, but with treatment, you can all get back to living normal, happy lives.

Call us today at 1-888-415-0708 to learn more.

Could Ketamine Be the Next Big Thing in Depression Therapy?

The drugs currently available for depression therapy have their limitations. Most antidepressant drugs take at least a month to work, so people suffering from severe chronic depression have to wait weeks for relief. And that’s to say nothing of those who are experiencing short-term depression – for these folks, the antidepressant medications currently available aren’t much use at all.

But researchers may have discovered the path to quick, effective depression therapy drugs. Soon, doctors may be able to administer antidepressant medications that bring relief in a matter of hours or days, not weeks. The breakthrough comes from an unlikely source – the club drug, ketamine.

What Is Ketamine?

Ketamine belongs to a class of drugs known as dissociative anesthetics. It was developed in 1963 to replace PCP. Most of the ketamine that’s sold on the streets and abused recreationally is diverted from veterinarians’ offices, where it’s used to sedate animals for surgery. Ketamine is also used as a human anesthetic.

Ketamine abusers like the drug for its alleged hallucinogenic effects, and for the feeling of disassociation it causes. High doses of ketamine can be deadly.

Ketamine Used as Depression Therapy

A study published last month in the journal Biological Psychiatry suggests that ketamine, administered through the nostrils, can bring immediate relief for symptoms of severe depression in patients who have proved resistant to other depression treatments. The double-blind, crossover study saw researchers treat 20 patients struggling with severe depression with either a single, 50mg dose of ketamine or salt water. The researchers measure the patients’ response to the treatment according to the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale. Patients self-reported any changes in their feelings of anxiety or depression, as well as their response to the medication.

Eight of the patients treated with ketamine were found to have demonstrated a measurable improvement in depression and anxiety symptoms within 24 hours of the treatment. Only one of the patients given saline demonstrated any improvement. The patients were treated with either ketamine or saline for two days, receiving one dose each day.

Although ketamine is known for its dissociative effects and its ability to raise blood pressure and heart rate, the researchers noted that these side effects were minimal in the patients receiving the drug for depression therapy. The researchers chose an intranasal means of administering the drug because of its effectiveness and ease. This non-invasive, effective method of administration could make patients who need the drug to relieve depression symptoms more likely to use it, the researchers believe.

Could Your Depression Therapy Include Ketamine?

The researchers concluded that ketamine was safe for depression treatment, but that doesn’t mean that the drug, which is already popular on the club scene and has a high potential for abuse, will become the new gold standard in depression treatment. Ketamine is too easy to abuse, many experts say, and its status as a club drug could give lawmakers and health care providers alike cause to hesitate in making it available to people who suffer from depression.

However, it’s not the ketamine itself, but the way that it affects the depressed brain, that has most experts intrigued. Ketamine works as a depression therapy by blocking the NMDA glutamate receptor, which prevents the reuptake of norephinephrine, serotonin and dopamine. These neurotransmitters are responsible for feelings of happiness, positivity, pleasure and well-being; most antidepressants already in use for depression therapy work by preventing the reuptake, or breakdown, of one or two of these neurotransmitters in the brain. Ketamine’s ability to prevent the reuptake of all three at once is what makes it work so quickly.

Ketamine itself may not be administered to treat depression symptoms, but its mechanism of action could inspire mental health researchers to develop another drug that also works as quickly via the same mechanism. Ideally, this drug would be easy to administer, would relieve even severe depression symptoms within a day or two, and would have few side effects and, crucially, little potential for abuse.

In the meantime, people who suffer from depression can still find relief with a combination of antidepressants and psychotherapy. While many people may not begin to experience an improvement in symptoms for several weeks after they begin therapy, some experience relief sooner.

If you or someone you love is struggling with depression, call 888-415-0708 now to get help.