childhood trauma ptsd

Children deserve to feel safe and loved while they are growing up. A stable, supportive, and loving environment allows a child to develop trust bonds with their family members, knowing their loved ones have their back as they navigate childhood. For far too many children, this nurturing family life is not their reality. According to the National Children’s Alliance, almost 700,000 children suffer abuse each year in the U.S., with a large percentage of those experiencing neglect.

Childhood trauma can take many forms. Physical or sexual abuse, sudden death of a loved one, witnessing domestic abuse, experiencing a natural disaster, surviving a serious car accident, and other intense emotional experiences all constitute trauma. When a child is exposed to a traumatic event it leaves an indelible scar on their psyche, especially when it is a repeated trauma as in ongoing physical or sexual assault.

Eventually the child grows up and incorporates the lingering emotional fallout from having been traumatized in their younger years into their adult behaviors and psyche. Childhood trauma PTSD is often the result of unresolved psychological harm. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a debilitating condition that results in maladaptive behaviors in order to cope with the residual pain. Getting to the bottom of the childhood trauma and working through the emotional scars provides the roadmap toward resolving adult dysfunctional behaviors.

About Childhood Trauma

When a child experiences a traumatic event, or continuing trauma, their ability to process and cope becomes overwhelmed by the sense of danger and fear of injury. A child has not yet formed the coping mechanisms needed and becomes unable to process the threat or emotional pain psychologically. Instead, many children who have been exposed to trauma develop certain symptoms of PTSD, including:

  • Fear of dying
  • Bad dreams, nightmares, night terrors
  • Wetting the bed although formerly potty trained
  • Expressing emotional reactions when exposed to triggers or reminders
  • Irritability, agitation
  • Angry outbursts, violent behavior
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Extreme emotional reactivity
  • Loss of interests in activities once enjoyed
  • Physical complaints, such as stomach distress and headaches
  • Hyper-vigilance
  • Clingy behavior
  • Regressing to younger age

In response to trauma, children adapt certain methods of coping with its after affects.  Depending on the degree of the threat or harm, the developmental state of the child when it happened, the child’s innate ability to cope with adversity, and the child’s support system, PTSD will develop or not.

Childhood Trauma PTSD Connection

If the child does retain the emotional damage caused by a traumatic event(s) in childhood they will likely carry the residual effects into adulthood. This can result in interpersonal problems and general impairment in daily functioning.

Signs of PTSD in Adults

  • Emotional detachment
  • Alcoholism or drug abuse
  • Depression
  • Sexual promiscuity, early initiation of sexual activity, STDs
  • Higher incidence of smoking
  • Hyper-vigilance
  • Hyper-arousal
  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares
  • Withdraw socially
  • Irritability, hostility
  • Guilt
  • Loneliness
  • Trouble in relationships
  • Trust issues
  • Experience flashbacks
  • Avoids triggering situations, places, people

Adults with childhood trauma-related PTSD may seek out dysfunctional relationships where past childhood experiences are recreated because that is what feels familiar to them. They may have such a low self-esteem as a result of unresolved trauma that they believe they do not deserve happiness. They may develop a serious substance use disorder as a means of self-medicating their emotional pain. Until the adult with childhood-related PTSD works through their emotional pain with a therapist the disorder will continue to infect their quality of life.

Treatment for Childhood Trauma PTSD

When initially seeking help for treating PTSD, the individual may select either outpatient treatment through a private physician or an outpatient mental health program, or a residential treatment program. Often this decision as to where to obtain treatment for PTSD will be determined by the severity of the symptoms, whether there is a co-occurring disorder such as depression or addiction, and personal resources.

In treatment for PTSD the individual will engage in psychotherapy. The type of psychotherapy utilized will depend on the features of the PTSD, so it may be psychodynamic therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, or exposure therapies, or a combination of these modalities. Therapy will likely involve both individual one-on-one sessions and group therapy sessions where the issues related to the PTSD can be discussed and shared with others.

In addition, some individuals may benefit from medication, such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications. Holistic activities are helpful as well, assisting with stress-reduction and relaxation.

Elevation Behavioral Health Provides Residential Treatment for PTSD

Elevation Behavioral Health is a residential mental health center in Los Angeles, California that offers intensive treatment for adult survivors of childhood PTSD. The comprehensive program allows individuals struggling with trauma maladaptation to examine the pain sources and process the disturbing childhood events under the expert care of our compassionate psychiatric staff. Treatment includes intensive psychotherapy, group therapy, holistic and experiential activities, and medication management if applicable. For more information about our treatment program for childhood trauma PTSD, please connect with Elevation Behavioral Health today at (888) 561-0868.

trauma counseling

A traumatic experience can remain deeply troubling for a period of time, impacting daily life and overall wellness. Having witnessed or personally experienced a traumatic event may leave psychological wounds and a heightened sense of emotional arousal that can cause impaired functioning, ill health, or relationship problems. While most people who experience trauma will eventually process the fallout, some may go on to develop pot-traumatic stress disorder, a prolonged and more severe form of trauma disorder.

Trauma counseling is a key element in the process of healing after experiencing a shocking or distressing event. A trauma therapist is trained to use specialized therapies that help take the edge off the traumatic memory, allowing the individual to become less sensitive to the memories of it, or the people, places, or situations that may trigger the memories. Trauma counseling, and adjunctive therapies that compliment the counseling, allow the individual to gradually move forward in their lives.

Trauma Defined

So how is a trauma different from any other upsetting event? A traumatic event tends to cause an intense psychological response when the individual feels they are in a dangerous or life-threatening situation. Traumatic events might include a natural disaster, military combat, a serious car accident, a violent physical or sexual assault, or the sudden unexpected death of a close loved one. Trauma often makes the individual feel a loss of control over their safety.

Signs of Trauma Disorder

Living through a traumatic event can shake someone to the core. Trauma symptoms include:

  • Shock
  • Anger
  • Denial
  • Mood swings
  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Insomnia or sleep disturbance
  • Persistent feelings of sadness and despair
  • Headache, intestinal problems
  • Feelings of guilt or shame
  • Emotional detachment
  • Feeling isolated
  • Hopelessness
  • Anxiety
  • Trust issues
  • Loss of interest in usual sources of enjoyment, withdrawing from friends and family
  • Substance abuse

What Is Trauma Counseling and How Does It Work?

When an individual is struggling to overcome the effects of the trauma to a point where it is negatively impacting daily functioning and quality of life, it is appropriate to seek treatment. Goals of overcoming trauma include reclaiming one’s personal power, to shift focus from the past to the present, and to reduce the impact that the trauma has on one moving forward.

Mental health professionals use a variety of modalities to help individuals overcome the intense effects of the trauma. These might include:

Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.  TFCBT is designed for helping individuals overcome trauma by reshaping the thoughts associated with the trauma that led to the negative emotions and behaviors. By helping the trauma victim express their feelings about the experience, the therapist will show them how those thoughts have led to withdrawal, guilt, loneliness, anxiety, etc. By encouraging the individual to examine the negative thoughts and reframe them in a more productive manner, the trauma loses potency.

Psychodynamic Therapy. This is a longer-term therapy that delves into childhood experiences and how they may relate to issues in their adult life. The insights gained during psychodynamic therapy can help the individual develop a new perspective on those childhood experiences, as well as dysfunctional adult interpersonal relationships, how to rise above them and not allow them to negatively impact their present daily life anymore.

Exposure Therapy. This is a short-term behavioral therapy that helps individuals become less sensitive to the memories or triggers of the trauma. By encouraging discussion of the event and gradually exposing them to the triggers within a safe environment, the impact is gradually reduced over time. This helps with the avoidance behaviors they may have acquired following the trauma.

Adjunctive Therapies for Treating Trauma

In addition to the various traditional psychotherapies used, there are some excellent alternative therapies that compliment and augment those therapies. These include:

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). EMDR is a type of therapy that helps individuals by desensitizing them to the disturbing memories of the trauma. EMDR is an 8-phase program that focuses on the past, present, and future. The therapist will have the client follow an object or finger back and forth with their eyes while discussing the disturbing memory, the related emotions and beliefs, which has the effect of reducing the impact of the trauma over the course of the sessions.

Neurofeedback. Neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback where the individual’s brain wave patterns and activity can be modified through a computer software program, training the individual to be calmer when thoughts of the trauma arise.

Holistic Activities. Holistic practices can help promote relaxation while reducing stress, which can help in the response to thoughts of the trauma. Managing stress through deep breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation, guided imagery, yoga, massage therapy, and acupuncture can benefit the individual as they heal from the trauma.

When a Higher Level of Care is Appropriate for Trauma Disorder

When efforts to relieve the symptoms of trauma are not successful using outpatient services, it may be necessary to consider a higher level of care. Individuals whose trauma disorder is seriously impacting their daily life and their relationships may benefit from a more focused approach at a residential treatment center. This safe, supportive setting allows the individual to fully focus on getting better without the daily distractions and triggers that have so far impeded that effort. Customized treatment plans will provide the most tailored, intensive treatment approach to healing from the traumatic event and getting one’s life back.

Elevation Behavioral Health Provides Trauma Counseling in a Residential Setting

Elevation Behavioral Health is a residential mental health program in Los Angeles, California. Trauma victims who have not yet been able to move through the residual emotional pain find that the safe, supportive setting of a residential program helps them heal. Leaving the reminders or triggers of the trauma by residing at Elevation Behavioral Health for a period, patients find much needed solace. Individualized treatment plans incorporate a combination of relevant interventions to allow patients to move past the painful memories and regain control over their lives within a compassionate environment. For more information about trauma counseling and treatment options, please reach out to Elevation Behavioral Health today at (888) 561-0868.

difference between bipolar and manic depression

When wondering what is the difference between bipolar and manic depression it can be a bit confusing. These two terms are still used interchangeably, leaving the impression that they are two distinct mental health disorders. In reality, manic depression is the same disorder as bipolar disorder, but happens to be an outdated label. In 1980, the DSM-3 officially reclassified this particular disorder as bipolar disorder.

Individuals who struggle with bipolar disorder understand why it was once called manic-depressive disorder, as it manifests itself with features of both clinical depression and mania or hypomania. There are different degrees of severity of the disorder, leading to a total of four types of bipolar disorder to be listed in the DMS-5. Since there is no difference between bipolar and manic depression, let’s push past the labeling and talk about bipolar disorder.

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a complex mental health disorder that is considered a “mood disorder,” and features extreme shifts between moods and energy levels. Someone with this challenging condition may find that it can impair daily functioning, career stability, and relationships. 

The intensive mood swings between mania and depression can be very disruptive in daily life, although there may be long periods of calm that separate these mood shifts. While there is no cure for bipolar disorder, there are methods and medications that help individuals manage the symptoms and enjoy a productive life. In most cases, bipolar disorder is first diagnosed in the teen years or early adulthood, although there are cases of it being diagnosed in later years as well.

What Causes Bipolar Disorder?

To date, science has not yet been able to identify the exact cause of bipolar disorder. However, there are strong indications that there is a genetic component, as chances of developing the disorder are enhanced if a close family member has the condition. But even so, when studying identical twins there may be one twin with the disorder and the other who never develops it.

It is also thought that particular features in brain structure might predispose someone to bipolar disorder, especially in light of traumatic events or intensely stressful life events that might trigger a bipolar episode.

What Are the Symptoms of Mania?

The symptoms of mania include:

  • Very little sleep
  • Easily distracted
  • Irritability
  • Excessive energy, hyperactivity
  • Intense euphoria
  • Overly ambitious undertakings
  • Exercising poor judgment
  • Impulsivity
  • Engaging in risky behaviors
  • Aggression
  • Psychosis

Hypomania is a less severe form of mania, with symptoms lasting four days or more but which do not cause severe impairment in daily functioning as mania does.

What are the Symptoms of Depression?

The symptoms of depression include:

  • Persistent sadness, feelings of despair
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in weight
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Physical symptoms such as chronic digestive problems or headaches
  • Feelings of guilt or shame
  • Suicidal ideation

Types of Bipolar Disorder

When an individual is being evaluated for bipolar disorder they will first undergo a physical exam to rule out any medical reason for the symptoms. Then using the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria and various assessments, the mental health practitioner can pinpoint the specific type of bipolar disorder According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness there are four types of bipolar disorder. These include:

Bipolar I. Bipolar I disorder involves one or more manic episodes, with or without depressive episodes occurring. The mania must be severe enough that hospitalization is required and last a week or longer.

Bipolar II. Bipolar II disorder is characterized by the shifting between the less severe hypomanic episodes and depressive episodes.

Cyclothymic disorder. Cyclothymic disorder involves chronic mood shifts between depressive and hypomanic lasting more than two years. There may be periods of normal mood as well, but those periods last less than 8 weeks.

Unspecified bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder not otherwise specified is present when the symptoms do not fit the other three diagnoses, but still involve episodes of unusual manic mood.

Treatment for Bipolar Disorder

While there is no difference between bipolar and manic depression labeling, both the mania and the depression must be managed. Once the particular type of bipolar disorder is diagnosed, a treatment protocol will be created for the individual. In most cases, a combination of medication and psychotherapy is the first line of treatment. For those who have bipolar I, admission into a residential treatment program or hospitalization is the appropriate level of care.

Medication: Psychotropic medications are prescribed according to the predominant features of the bipolar disorder. These may include antidepressants, benzodiazepines, and anti-psychotic medication.

Psychotherapy: Talk therapy and group therapy helps individuals process the disruption that their bipolar disorder causes in daily life and find solutions for managing relationships and other stressors better. CBT can assist the individual with shifting pessimistic thoughts that drives irrational behaviors to more optimistic thinking.

Family-focused therapy: Stress that is a common feature within families when a member has bipolar disorder can undermine recovery. This involves helping family members learn to communicate better, practice better problem solving skills, and manage anger and conflicts more effectively.

Stress-management: Teaching individuals with bipolar disorder to better manage their stress level is intrinsic to a positive outcome. These methods include deep breathing, yoga, and mindfulness training.

Medical detox and addiction treatment for dual diagnosis: Substance use disorders often co-occur with bipolar disorder. If so, the individual will benefit from detox and addiction treatment in addition to the targeted treatment for bipolar disorder.

Elevation Behavioral Health is a Leading Provider of Bipolar Disorder Treatment

Elevation Behavioral Health is a residential mental health program that treats individuals with bipolar disorder. What sets Elevation Behavioral Health apart from other residential programs is its “elevation” of treatment interventions to a more focused and comprehensive level of intensity. At Elevation Behavioral Health, patients find themselves in a compassionate, supportive environment that allows them to heal. Interventions are designed to help stabilize the severity of the mood shifts, to learn new ways to recognize and manage oncoming symptoms, improving their level of functioning at school or work, and teach them methods to reduce stress and promote relaxation. For more information about whether there is a difference between bipolar and manic depression, or any other questions, please contact Elevation Behavioral Health at (888) 561-0868.

symptoms of severe ptsd

Anyone who has suffered through a traumatic event knows the lasting impact it can have on your mental state and your daily life. When a trauma occurs, such as the sudden death of a loved one, a serious accident, physical or sexual assault, living through a natural disaster, or a trauma related to combat, it imprints deeply on the memory and the soul. While most people will eventually process the painful emotions and move forward, others may remain stuck in the distressing memories and pain of the trauma.

As a result, some of these individuals may find themselves turning to alcohol or drugs to help them relieve the emotional pain, depression, and anxiety that they live with. Some may find that they struggle to function at work or struggle socially due to the lingering effects of the trauma. These individuals are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Thankfully, there are highly effect treatment strategies that can help manage the symptoms of severe PTSD.

About Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is a mental health disorder within the anxiety disorders spectrum. It can result after experiencing or witnessing a deeply traumatizing event. After being exposed to the trauma, those with PTSD continue to experience troubling after effects for a period lasting more than a month afterward, or will experience the symptoms of PTSD as a delayed response, sometimes months later.

For many years, it was thought that PTSD only pertained to veterans who had experienced horrific events in combat, coming back emotionally scarred. While veterans have higher rates of PTSD, with rates ranging between 10-30% depending on the war itself, PTSD is an anxiety disorder than impacts about 8% of the population at large, according to the National Institute of Health.

Symptoms of Severe PTSD

Symptoms of severe PTSD generally include four categories:

  • Intrusive memories. Unwanted thoughts or memories of the trauma are experienced repeatedly thought flashbacks, vivid memories, or nightmares.
  • Avoidance. In order not to trigger the distressing emotions of a past trauma, someone with PTSD will avoid any people, situations, or places that might trigger the disturbing memories. They will avoid discussing the trauma as well.
  • Hyper-arousal. The individual will be jumpy, easily irritated, is quick to anger, easily frightened, has an exaggerated startle response, and may suffer from insomnia. Substance abuse may be used to self-medicate these anxiety symptoms.
  • Negative thoughts. People suffering from PTSD may display a sense of hopelessness and negativity in their demeanor, and talk down about themselves. They may exhibit negative emotions such as anger, guilt, shame, and fear. They may struggle with relationships.
  • PTSD and a Co-Occurring Substance Use Disorder

    A dual diagnosis is present when the PTSD, as a stand alone mental health disorder, is coexisting with a substance use disorder. The use of alcohol and benzodiazepines is a common method of self-medicating the distressing symptoms of severe PTSD. Unfortunately, as tolerance to the effects of the substance increase and consumption increases with it, addiction can develop. This only creates a more complicated treatment picture for individuals who are already struggling with PTSD.

    When a dual diagnosis exists, it is important to seek the professional help of a treatment provider that specializes in dual diagnosis. Both the PTSD and the substance use disorder should be treated simultaneously to effectively treat the individual and obtain a successful recovery result.

    How is Severe PTSD Treated?

    PTSD is treated with a combination of medication and psychotherapy. Antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs can help mitigate the intensity of the PTSD symptoms. These drugs can ease the fight-or-flight response that is so common in PTSD as well as allow for more restful sleep. Antidepressants used to treat PTSD include Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, and Effexor. Anti-anxiety medications are from the benzodiazepine group of drugs and may include Ativan, Xanax, Klonopin, or Valium.

    Psychotherapy can be very effective in helping individuals with PTSD, especially cognitive processing therapy (CPT), cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), and prolonged exposure therapy. These types of therapy help the individual systematically process the traumatic event over a course of treatments while also working through the associated emotions and fears that are present.

    Adjunctive therapies have also proven effective in enhancing the effects of the psychotherapy. Eye movement desensitization reprocessing (EMDR) involves the individual following a moving object with their eyes while discussing the traumatic event is discussed and processed. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a brain stimulation technique that has demonstrated promising results for treating people with TMS. Some experiential therapies, such as equine therapy, mindfulness exercises, or guided meditation have also been helpful for those with PTSD.

    How Lifestyle Changes Can Help PTSD

    Lifestyle changes can also be effective in helping individuals with PTSD. Reducing stress by making a career change or moving on from a dysfunctional relationship can help with the anxiety symptoms. It is important to recognize what areas in one’s life are contributing to excessive stress or anxiety, and to make a change.

    Getting regular exercise, especially cardio workouts, can help reduce stress and induce relaxation and improved sleep quality. These might involve a brisk daily walk, hiking, a spin class, dance cardio workouts, jogging or running, swimming, or cycling.

    Practicing stress-reducing activities, such as taking yoga classes or enjoying massage therapy, can also help improve overall mood and wellness. Eating a nutritious diet is also important in PTSD recovery. Limiting caffeine, sugar, and starchy foods can help regulate blood sugar and jittery behaviors. Eating a diet rich in lean proteins, green leafy vegetables, whole grain breads and pasta, and nuts and seeds will provide the body and brain with essential nutrients for optimum mental health.

    Elevation Behavioral Health Provides Effective Treatment for PTSD

    Elevation Behavioral Health is a leading dual diagnosis and mental health treatment provider in Los Angeles, California. Elevation Behavioral Health is an inpatient, private treatment facility overlooking the beautiful Agoura Hills landscape. In this luxury, intimate setting, individuals with PTSD or a dual diagnosis will receive the most effective therapeutic interventions within a compassionate, nurturing environment. For more information about how Elevation Behavioral Health can help you overcome PTSD, please call us today at (888) 561-0868.

    Can You Go to Rehab for Depression?

    Can You Go to Rehab for Depression?

    When you think of rehab, you probably think most often of drug and alcohol addiction. However, many people seek help at residential treatment centers every year for anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and more mental health disorders. Inpatient treatment for depression can make a huge difference in the life of someone struggling with this difficulty.

    If you are having thoughts about harming yourself, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255.

    Understanding Depression

    Depression is not something to be taken lightly. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 3-5% of American adults are experiencing major depression in any given moment. Pause for a moment and think about this. Take a sports stadium holding 40,000 people. Statistically, that means 1,200-2,000 people in the crowd are experiencing depression. Of course, this is a generalized statistic and may not be true for any specific crowd, but it puts into perspective just how many people struggle with this difficult issue.

    There are multiple different types of depression that one may experience. These may include major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder, substance-induced depressive disorder, and disruptive mood dysregulation disorder. As there are many types of depression, it is important to seek help from a trustworthy professional.

    Although there are many resources available like anxiety and depression worksheets, self-help books, and support networks, dealing with depression often requires clinical expertise and therapeutic relationships. By working with a therapist and/or psychiatrist, you can get the help you need to address the depression and recover fully. Without help, depression can cause a number of dangerous symptoms throughout our lives.

    According to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, people with depression are four times as likely to experience a heart attack as those without depression. Depression is the cause of over ⅔ of suicides in the United States, and the National Institute of Health estimates that about 80% of those who find help show an improvement of symptoms in only four to six weeks of treatment. Unfortunately, over half of people who suffer from depression never seek clinical help.

    Rehab for Depression and Anxiety

    Depression HelpAlthough psychotherapy, support groups, and psychiatry can all be useful in treating depression, sometimes the individual benefits from a higher level of care. There are many different treatment centers that care for people struggling with depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders. Some of these rehabs address co-occurring disorders, or the presence of both a mental health disorder and substance abuse disorder.

    At a treatment center for depression, individuals are offered professional care to help them recover. Through various methods of therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy, psychodynamic therapy, and more, the person works with a trained clinician to address their experience and build a life of recovery.

    In many cases, medications such as antidepressants and mood stabilizers are prescribed. These medications are prescribed by a trained psychiatrist at the treatment center, and the person’s state of mind is closely monitored to see the way the medication is working. Together with the support network and therapy offered, the person can slowly begin to climb out of the depressed state.

    Treatment centers that are primarily addiction treatment centers may not have the appropriate staff or program to address mental health disorders. Can you go to rehab for depression? Yes. But make sure you find a facility that is truly equipped to help. With proper help, people have the opportunity to fully recover and return to the lives they once knew or dreamed of.

    When to Seek Inpatient Treatment for Depression

    It may be helpful to seek help from a psychologist as a first step. As you build a relationship with a therapist, they will get to know you and your situation. Although depression often manifests in specific ways, we are all individuals. When a trained professional sees you in a clinical setting and begins to work with you to understand what’s going on, they can give you an educated recommendation.

    If you think you may need help, reach out. Find somewhere that offers inpatient treatment for depression and give them a call. We can guess all we want, but the truth is that we generally can’t see the situation as clearly as an objective, trained third-party can. Although you may not feel that you need inpatient treatment, it could perhaps be beneficial.

    The biggest piece here to remember is that there are professionals out there to walk you through your situation. Suffering from any depressive disorder is painful, difficult, and can leave us feeling hopeless. Nobody has to go it alone. There are people willing to guide you through finding treatment, but you need to seek help. Although it may not feel like it, depression can be treated. Sometimes it takes time and finding what works, but there are many methods of depression treatment, and psychologists and neuroscientists are continuing to learn more every day.

    Information on Self-Harm

    Self-harm is a difficult topic to grapple with. Many people who have a history of self-harming behavior can explain pretty simply why they do it: it makes them feel better. However, for people who have no history of this behavior it can be hard to understand. Why would someone who is already in pain want to create more pain? This post will answer that question and give you a deeper understanding about self harm.

    Other Terms for Self-Harm

    Let’s start with something simple and looking at the different terms that are used to talk about self-harm. Maybe you have heard these words and are wondering what the difference is between them. Although many of them are used interchangeably, there are some key differences that distinguish them. Here is a list of words that are often associated with self-harm and their definitions.

     
     

    Google Searches for Terms Related to Self-Harm (per month)


    [chartli id=”gD1hi9OS” type=”word_chart_1″ width=”500″ height=”500″]

     

    Self-Harm: Used generally to describe behavior where someone hurts him or herself intentionally. This term can refer to someone who is harming himself with or without the intention of suicide. However, it is generally used to talk about behavior that is nonsuicidal.

    Nonsuicidal Self-Injurious Behavior: This is often the clinical term that is used by doctors or therapists to talk about self-harm. If we break it down a little we can start to understand what it means. The word nonsuicidal lets us know that we are specifically talking about someone who is harming themself without the intention of killing themself. Self-injurious is just what it sounds like, causing injury to oneself.

    Self-Mutilation: This term refers to the many different ways that someone can physically hurt themslef. The term self-harm can refer to physical or emotional self-harming, but self-mutilation specifically refers to damage to the physical body.

    Self-Cutting: This specifically refers to people who harming themselves’ by cutting the skin.

    Self-Punishment: The act of hurting oneself in response to some other unwanted behavior. An example of this might be self-harming in response to overeating.

    6 Different Types of Self-Harm

    There are many different ways that someone can go about hurting themself. People can self-harm both by damaging their physical body and by causing themself emotional pain. Often when people think about self-injurious behavior they think of people who cut themselves. This is with good reason, cutting is the most common type of self-harm. One study found that 70% – 90% of people who injure themselves do so by cutting.

    However, people do use other methods. It is important to be familiar with the other methods people use to hurt themselves so that we can get people help who might be exhibiting these behaviors.

    How Do People Self-Harm?

    [chartli id=”0pldo8CZ” type=”pie_chart_13″ width=”600″ height=”360″]
    Burning – up to 35%
    Head Banging – up to 44%
    Cutting – up to 90%
     

    1. Self-Cutting

    This one was already defined above. To reiterate, it is when someone scratches or cuts the skin. Often people think of cuts on the wrists, but people might cut or scratch themselves anywhere on the body.

    2. Head-banging or hitting

    When someone engages in this behavior they often bang their head against a wall. They might also hit their fists against their head or use another object to do so.

    3. Burning

    People who do this often burn the skin with a lighter or lit cigarettes. You might see signs of this is someone has visible and repeated burn marks on their skin.

    4. Hair pulling

    Some people hurt themselves by pulling out their hair. This might include hear on the scalp, the eyebrows, or eyelashes. Hair pulling can also be a disorder in itself called trichotillomania.

    5. Skin Picking

    People who self-harm by skin picking might pick at small blemishes on the skin. The effects of skin picking can be observed by seeing small circular scars on the skin where it has been picked. Skin picking has been associated with the use of some drugs and other psychological disorder so it is important to differentiate if this is self-harm by itself or part of a larger problem.

    6. Mental or Emotional Self-Harm

    Some individuals hurt themselves not my inflicting physical pain but rather by causing harm that is mental or emotional. This might include excessively negative self-talk.

    Self Harm Infographic

    Why People Hurt Themselves

    Psychological research studies have looked at why people turn to self-injurious behavior. Of all the reasons there is one that is the most common. Hurting oneself for some people helps them to alleviate psychological discomfort (http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1000240). One of the ways that self-harm can reduce mental stress is by taking attention away from the mental stress.

    When some kind of acute harm is being caused it can take all of the person’s attention away from what is going on in the mind. For a moment, the brain is overwhelmed by this new and important event so it stops thinking about other things. Some people who self-harm might have some very difficult that is chronically on their mind. This can include trauma, anxiety, depression, or many other things. So, hurting themselves can be a few moments of a break from thinking about these very difficult things.

    The Myth of Wanting Attention

    You have probably heard somewhere from someone that people who hurt themselves are only doing it as “a cry for help” or because they want attention. However, psychology studies find over and over that when people are asked why they self-harm they very rarely say it is because they want to get attention.

    This could be because people do not want to admit that they self-harm for attention. However, it could also be that people really do not self harm for attention as much as we thought they do! The consistent finding is psychological research is that people self-harm to reduce emotional pain.

    Stories of Self-Harm from Real People

    It is important to listen to people when they express what function something serves. The people who do self-harm are the ones who know the most about why they do it, so let’s listen to what they say. All of the names have been changed to respect the privacy of the individuals who bravely shared their stories with us.

    “I started cutting myself a little when I was about 12 years old. My parents got divorced and I was really sad but I didn’t have anyone that I could talk to. I used the razor that was in my bathroom and I made some cuts on my wrist. It hurt but it also made me feel better for a minute. For just a second I didn’t have to think about my parents getting divorced anymore. The school caught me cutting so I had to go to therapy. For a while I just started cutting my ankles and inside my thighs where no one could see. But after I went to therapy I felt better and I just kind of stopped.”
    ~ Katie, age 14

    “I’ve been banging my head for pretty much as long as I can remember. I asked my parents recently and they said that I started doing it when I was a little kid. I had something bad happen to me when I younger but I didn’t really know about it until this year. I just know that I always had thoughts that were so brutal and I couldn’t stop thinking about them. When they kept coming into my head I would start hitting it against a table or a wall and then it would make them stop for a little bit. When I got older I also started drinking and doing drugs. That also helped me feel better too. But now I have been sober for a few months and I haven’t been hurting myself as much either.”
    ~ Brendan, age 22

    “Ever since I got help I have been thinking a lot about why I used to self-harm. At first, I really thought that I was just overreacting to things that were happening in my life. During my last year of high school all of my friends just dropped me out of the blue and started spreading all kinds of rumors about me. I felt so alone. It was this time that everyone was having fun and going to parties and literally no one would even talk to me. I started self-harming and it kind of made me feel better. Now that I am in therapy I don’t think I was overreacting I just think that I didn’t really have a better solution for feeling depressed and lonely.”
    ~ Cassandra, age 19

    Who is at Risk?

    Adolescents are generally thought to be at higher risk for self-harm than adults. One study found that the prevalence of self-harm for adolescents is around 8%. The same study found that adolescent girls were at slightly higher risk than adolescent boys. About 9% of girls cut themselves compared to 6.7% of boys. According to another study the prevalence for adults is significantly lower at 5.9%. These researchers found that the average age of onset was 16 years old.

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    Additionally, people who have a diagnosed mental disorder might be more likely to exhibit self-injurious behavior. For example, self-harm is a common symptom among people with borderline personality disorder. However, this does not mean that just because someone hurts themself they have a diagnosable disorder.

    Help is Available

    If you know someone who is hurting themslef the best thing you can do for them is to try and get them help. This might mean talking to helping professional who might be able to guide you and let you know what to do. It might also mean talking to your friend directly. Self-harm can be physically and psychologically dangerous so it is important to take it seriously.

    If you are struggling with self-harm, you are not alone. Please reach out for support so that you do not have to do this by yourself. You can always contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255. You can also call us at (888) 561-0868 .

    Long before recovery, rehabs, and relocating to California, I suffered from crippling depression. I used to ask myself constantly, “Can a person go to rehab for depression?” As a child, sometimes getting out of bed seemed impossible. I remember summers spent indoor, watching as the rest of the world seemed to be in a frenzy; jumping from excitement to excitement while I stayed in bed until well after noon. The patterns of this would carry into my adult life, making tasks like work or school seem just as unlikely as going outside as a kid.

    Eventually, through enough trial and error with drugs, alcohol, and failed attempts at getting a grip on my own mental health, I found a doctor whom I trusted and in turn listened to. I was prescribed a few different medications for depression before one finally helped. It was a slow process, but eventually I noticed a difference in my mood and my quality of life. I was skeptical of medication, and I was skeptical that there could be any underlying issues other than drug and alcohol abuse. For many alcoholics and addicts, there’s usually what is referred to as a co-occurring disorder, or a separate issue that may add to the symptoms of another disorder or disease. Quite often, Alcoholics and drug addicts self medicate with drugs or alcohol as a way to treat the symptoms of a different disorder; like anxiety or depression.

    The stigma associated with mental illness is still alive and well today. Unfortunately, most addicts and alcoholics suffer from some form of mental illness. Whether it’s bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, anxiety, or depression, mental illness is an underlying issue for most addicts and alcoholics.

    What is Mental Illness?

    mental1

    Much like a physical illness, a mental illness can develop as either hereditary or from environmental factors like abuse or neglect. A mental illness is any disorder that affects the range of thoughts, mood, or behavior. Most commonly, anxiety and depression account for the majority of mental illnesses in recovery. When first diagnosed, this may seem like a shock or perhaps appear to be a mistake. After all, this doctor doesn’t know you, right?

    Accepting A Diagnosis

    It’s important to be honest while meeting with your doctor. Ideally, a diagnosis would be made after having been off of drugs for at least a month. However, there are patterns related to certain disorders and illnesses that are common characteristics of that particular illness. Only you will know in your heart whether or not the diagnosis seems correct. In any case, a mental illness diagnosis is not the end of the world. In fact, most artists and musicians have suffered from some form of mental illness at one time of their lives. Mental illness and drug addiction usually go hand in hand, as the addict and alcoholic seemingly try to self medicate with drugs and alcohol. Much like the first step of addiction, the first step in recovery from a mental illness is accepting the diagnosis.

    Education

    Asking your doctor questions about your mental illness is extremely important also. From medication management to avoiding stressors, your doctor is the best person to ask and develop a plan of recovery with to insure that you can lead a happy and healthy life. When I was diagnosed with major depression, I didn’t know that exercise and a healthy diet along with medication could actually help me to avoid depressive swings. Minor things like blood sugar and releasing endorphins that seem so obvious we’re a world away until I asked my doctor whom I trusted. Meditation also became a regular practice of mine, as recommended by my therapist.

    Talk About It

    From group and private therapy to Emotions Anonymous meetings, whatever you’re going through doesn’t have to be done alone. In fact, the World Health Organization states that over 350 million people in the world suffer from depression. Although it might seem like a dark diagnosis, there are many other people who have gone through similar experiences. As you’ve learned in recovery from drugs and alcohol, you don’t have to go through anything alone anymore.

    Don’t Give Up

    If you’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness, you aren’t alone. This isn’t a death sentence or a prison stint. There are precautions you can take to protect yourself from severe episodes and there are people everywhere who are going through a similar experience. While medication can have side effects, working with a doctor or care team that you trust is a great step in protecting yourself from having your mental illness get out of control. The stigma around mental health is outdated and currently only a screen to protect the accusers from being found that they or their loved ones suffer from the same disorders. The biggest stigma is against untreated mental health disorders, and is both sad and preventable. By looking after your mental health with the same compassion as you would a sick child, you may begin to see just how strong you are and how manageable life is with a mental illness when the proper measures are taken. The stigma of having a mental illness is one that comes from fear and a lack of insight. By educating yourself, trusting your doctor, and talking about it, you’ll in time shed light on something that is totally manageable and treatable, much like alcoholism and drug addiction.

    If you’re diagnosed with a mental illness of any sort, knowing that there is treatment and support available can seem like a huge safety net. Many of us in recovery have a duel diagnosis, and many of us lead happy, healthy, and successful lives. Talk to your doctor and therapist about what treatment and support options are available for you. Education is the best defense against a mental illness, as it will open up various doors for treatment and support groups. There’s nothing wrong with having a mental illness, as many of us in recovery have had to battle our demons at one point or another. Please contact us if you or your loved one is suffering from a mental illness.



    Holistic Wellness Programs for Treating Addiction and Mental Illness

    Philosophers often discuss the difference between “being” and “well-being.” In order to simply “be,” a person or thing must have certain qualities or attributes that define its core essence. These features describe the subject’s basic existence, but they do not address what is necessary to thrive or flourish.

    Many treatment facilities tout the core treatments that provide clients with the means to attain sobriety. But there are additional components necessary to help someone achieve the benefits of a happy, healthy life experience.

    These benefits address much more than the cessation of problems that led them to treatment in the first place. Instead, they address the broader considerations that make up a fulfilled life and contribute to the person’s “well-being” and not just their “being.”

    It is essential for people in recovery to understand and improve all the different parts of their existence, so they can consciously build better lives.

    Understanding and Defining Holistic Wellness

    “Wellness” is a term that comes up frequently in certain circles, and the term can be used in many ways. Although there are multiple views on exactly what the concept encompasses, the National Wellness Institute, in conjunction with leaders of varying health and wellness fields, has suggested that most models of wellness agree upon the following principles:

    • Wellness is a conscious, self-directed and evolving process of achieving full potential.
    • Wellness is multidimensional and holistic, encompassing lifestyle, mental and spiritual aspects and the environment.
    • Wellness is positive and affirming.

    With these principles in mind, the NWI proposes that, “Wellness is an active process through which people become aware of and make choices toward a more successful existence.”1

    Wellness is an active process through which people become aware of and make choices toward a more successful existence.

    Wrapping all of this together, we can define “holistic wellness” as the condition of being in optimum overall health, which is a blend of physical, mental and spiritual well-being. The condition is the result of consciously choosing to live a quality life; it doesn’t happen by accident. It’s a day-to-day choice involving an active process of increasing self-awareness, as well as community-supported, self-directed action.

    What Are Holistic Wellness Programs?

    The goal of holistic health is to achieve maximum well-being, where everything is functioning in the best way possible. The path of holistic wellness is a life-long journey that emphasizes personal responsibility and commitment.

    The path of holistic wellness is a life-long journey that emphasizes personal responsibility and commitment.

    Without specific ways to work toward this goal, people would flounder without any ability to truly make progress. That’s where holistic wellness programs come in.

    Holistic wellness programs are an essential part of any well-rounded recovery program. These programs comprise the methods that give people the tools to feel more whole as human beings. The features of holistic wellness programs are designed to take into account the entire person as they move forward in their quest for optimal health and wholeness.

    Specific program components may include things like individual therapy, meditation, mindfulness and yoga, which promote positive attitudes and teach practical methods for coping with stressful situations. One may also learn about healthy nutrition, the importance of regular physical exercise and other helpful life practices, such as journaling.

    Yoga – Posing for Wellness

    Yoga is a technique that uses physical postures and controlled breathing to develop many mental and physical benefits.2The postures used in yoga practice are sometimes difficult to achieve or hold, but the purpose goes far beyond merely becoming a human pretzel.

    The challenging poses and movements of yoga help create flexibility and strength as they elongate the spine, improve muscle elasticity, reduce stiffness in the joints and increase overall mobility. The focus required during practice also calms the mind, improves concentration and promotes patience. Regular practice is needed to fully experience these benefits.

    For those in recovery, yoga offers some specific advantages. For example, many addictions begin as a coping mechanism or a way of filling an emotional or spiritual void. As a result, people in treatment for addiction must learn to deal with their emotions and environment in healthier ways.

    Studies of the biological impact of yoga have noted a correlation between yoga and inhibiting the dopamine surge that typically results from using drugs. The studies found that intense breathing patterns in certain forms of yoga release the body’s natural pleasure-producing endorphins. A healthy yoga practice can help suppress addictive behaviors while restoring the brain’s dopamine functions to healthier levels.

    Those in recovery know full well that stressful situations can trigger addictive behavior and cravings. The very process of adjusting to sober living can be stressful. Since yoga emphasizes willpower and stress reduction, those in recovery can learn to combat that stress, better resist temptation and regain control over their bodies.

    Since yoga emphasizes willpower and stress reduction, those in recovery can learn to combat that stress, better resist temptation and regain control over their bodies.

    Meditation – Doing Something Good for Yourself

    Meditation is not an esoteric, mystical exercise best left for ascetic monks. Although there are numerous forms of meditation practice arising from various historic traditions, most of them share a simple common principle: intentionally setting aside time to do something good for yourself.

    Meditation involves intentionally setting aside time to do something good for yourself.

    That may seem like an oversimplification, but it accurately describes the underlying purpose of meditative practices. Whether the form of meditation incorporates bodily movement or is stationary, both emphasize the good that results from quietness of the mind.

    The primary goal of developing a sense of inner calm, sometimes called detachment, enables meditation to fit well within the recovery process. This is because overcoming substance abuse disorders often involves a person establishing distance between themselves and their desire to use.

    Meditation encourages the practitioner to view their own impulses from a third-person perspective, as they observe and examine their own thoughts and motivations. This is not always easy, but the skill will enable them to gain a psychological detachment from their cravings, along with the ability to properly understand such desires. This helps cultivate contentedness without the need to resort to alcohol or drug abuse.

    While the full benefits from meditation may take time, neuroscientists have found that even short-term meditation can have profoundly positive effects on the brain. In one study, after just five 20-minute sessions of meditative technique, participants had increased blood flow to an area of the brain vital to self-control. After 11 hours of accumulated practice, the scientists found actual physical changes in the brain around this same area.3

    By building a stronger awareness of themselves and their environment, people in recovery can realize the impact drugs and alcohol have had on their lives and start to discover their triggers. Meditation fosters an appreciation for the mind and body, which builds motivation to treat oneself with respect.

    Meditation fosters an appreciation for the mind and body, which builds motivation to treat oneself with respect.

    Mindfulness – Moment-by-Moment Awareness

    Mindfulness can be a form of meditation, but it is worth distinguishing here in our overview of holistic wellness. Mindfulness-based interventions have shown compelling evidence of significant benefit for people in recovery from addictive disorders.

    Though it has roots in Buddhist meditation, the common secular practice of mindfulness was established through the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn and his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program, which was launched at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1979.

    In its most basic definition, mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and surrounding environment. It also involves acceptance of thoughts and feelings without judging them. By removing the tendency to determine what is “right” or “wrong” with a certain thought or feeling, a person is more able to concentrate on what they’re sensing in the moment, rather than comparing it with the past or imagining the future.

    Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and surrounding environment.

    Thousands of studies have documented the physical and mental health benefits of mindfulness. Because the practice promotes nonjudgmental acceptance of moment-to-moment thoughts, mindfulness has been shown to interrupt the tendency to respond to experiences using harmful behaviors, such as substance use. As the individual learns to respond with awareness and not to react automatically, they are also more likely to resist cravings.4

    For individuals in recovery, the struggle with temptations toward drugs or alcohol is inevitable. Mindfulness meditation is one way to gain awareness of these thoughts, accept them without feelings of guilt or shame and learn how to cope in healthier ways.

    Physical Fitness – Strong Body and Mind

    It’s no secret that regular exercise is good for the body. But physical exercise is also one of the most effective ways to improve mental health. Exercise has a profound and positive impact upon symptoms of depression, anxiety, ADHD and more. In addition to boosting overall mood, exercise relieves stress, improves memory and helps people sleep better.

    In addition to boosting overall mood, exercise relieves stress, improves memory and helps people sleep better.

    But don’t worry, there’s no need to become a hardcore fitness devotee. Research indicates that even modest amounts of exercise can make a real difference, as evidenced by the popularity of such things as the scientific 7-minute workout.5

    No matter what fitness plan or routine one may settle into, there are definitely worthwhile rewards for the efforts. Here are some outstanding examples of the mental health benefits of exercise:6

    • Reduce Stress. Working out can relieve physical and mental tension and increases concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that can moderate the brain’s response to stress. Regular exercise keeps energy flowing throughout the body, which enhances its stress reducing properties.
    • Boost Happy Chemicals. Exercise releases endorphins, which create feelings of happiness and euphoria. Studies have shown that exercise can even alleviate symptoms among people suffering from depression or anxiety due to increased levels of the brain chemicals dopamine and serotonin.
    • Improve Self-Confidence. Physical fitness boosts self-esteem and improves self-image. Regardless of a person’s particular physique, even moderate exercise can quickly elevate self-perception and self-worth. Engaging in a competitive sport, or just setting your own fitness goals leads to feelings of accomplishment, which also improve feelings of self-confidence.
    • Prevent Cognitive Decline. While it won’t stop the aging process, exercise boosts the chemicals in the brain that support and prevent degeneration of the hippocampus, an important part of the brain for memory and learning. Science has found that people who exercise have sharper cognitive functioning and better ability to concentrate.
    • Alleviate Anxiety. During and after exercise, chemicals released in the body can help people with anxiety disorders calm down even more effectively than a 20-minute soak in the hot tub. The anxiety-reducing effects of even just a brisk daily walk can be highly beneficial to individuals in recovery.
    • Boost Brainpower. More than merely preventing decline, studies have shown that cardiovascular exercise can create new brain cells and improve overall brain performance. Some studies show that the brain volume in those who exercise regularly is greater than in those who do not.
    • Regular workouts increase levels of a protein known as BDNF. This is believed to help with the executive functions of the brain, such as decision making, higher thinking and learning.
    • Sharpen Memory. Regular physical activity enhances the ability to learn new things. Research has linked brain development with levels of physical fitness, and one study showed that running sprints improved vocabulary retention among healthy adults.
    • Help Control Addiction. Dopamine, which is known as the brain’s “reward chemical,” is released in response to any form of pleasure, including sex, drugs, alcohol or food. One aspect of addiction involves dependency on the substances that produce dopamine. But exercise can help in recovery, since working out can effectively diminish and distract from cravings, while providing a new, healthy reward pathway.
    • Increase Relaxation and Improve Sleep. Often those in recovery find their body processes are interrupted, including circadian or sleep rhythms. Exercise can help reboot the body clock, enabling people to relax and have more regular sleep cycles. Those who get a higher quality of sleep tend to function better during their daytime activities, have a more positive frame of mind, and have better emotional self-regulation.
    • Get More Done. Those who exercise regularly have been shown to have higher energy levels, which leads to greater productivity. Sedentary people tire more easily and quickly, leaving less mojo for work and play. Exercise increases stamina and strength, increasing energy levels that benefit the individual throughout the day.

    Journaling – Insights for Life

    Journaling is an effective tool with widespread use among those recovering from an addiction. It has been called the least expensive, most accessible form of therapy, and it can produce meaningful results for those who take advantage of it for gaining insights into their own life.

    Keeping a journal is straightforward; it requires writing down brief thoughts, ideas, observations, stories, important events, successes during recovery or even a simple record of an exercise routine.

    There are numerous methods and styles of journaling, and each person can adopt an approach that fits their personality and schedule. There’s no need to be verbose; even a single word that captures a feeling or mood can provide powerful insights, which lead to better understanding and discernment.

    Writing in a journal encourages people to think critically and examine their thoughts and assumptions. Clearer thinking helps overcome negativity, reduces stress and may even lower the risk of relapse. Journaling is also a way to track progress and increase motivation. Journals are private expressions, recorded without fear of judgment.

    Journaling also helps with stress relief. Just putting down on paper the emotions being experienced in recovery can give them a place to reside, other than rattling around in one’s head. Think of journaling as a repository for thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams, and goals. A place to safely unload all the things that might be taking up too much space in one’s head.

    Writing in a journal encourages people to think critically and examine their thoughts and assumptions.

    The point is not the subject of the writing or the amount of writing. Instead, it’s about taking the time to write and engage in personal introspection. After journaling for a few months, many are amazed when they look back to see where they were and where they are now. In some cases, they are encouraged by how far they’ve come. Other times they may be surprised to find they’re revisiting old habits.7

    Holistic Individual Therapy – Building Skills for the Future

    Recovery and rehabilitation frequently involves therapy. Holistic therapy takes an integrated approach and pays attention to the connections between a person’s mind, body and spirit.

    Unlike some forms of therapy, which seek to treat the symptoms, holistic therapy sessions try to uncover the underlying causes that led to substance abuse or contributed to other unhealthy behaviors. Holistic therapists use multiple approaches to address issues and encourage self-awareness and self-acceptance in those in recovery.

    One such therapy is mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). This is a type of CBT that utilizes the mindfulness training so important in cultivating a healthy mind-body connection. MBCT is based on Jon Kabat-Zinn’s mindfulness stress reduction program, and has been found useful in treating individuals in addiction recovery. MBCT combines the concepts of CBT, which involve reframing dysfunctional thought patterns that lead to self-destructive behaviors, with meditative practices.

    Holistic therapists use multiple approaches to address issues and encourage self-awareness and self-acceptance in those in recovery.

    Counselors or therapists typically provide a variety of services to people in treatment for substance use disorders, including assessment, treatment planning and counseling. Individual counseling often focuses on reducing or stopping substance use, skill building, adherence to a recovery plan and social, family and professional/educational outcomes.8

    Nutrition Education – Fueling the Healing Process

    Improper nutrition can severely hinder the normal functioning of the body, including its ability to heal and overcome illness. Drugs and alcohol can further amplify the disruptive effects of a poor diet. Improving nutrition is essential for diminishing and correcting some of the biochemical and digestive problems often developed during addiction.9

    Improving nutrition is essential for diminishing and correcting some of the biochemical and digestive problems often developed during addiction.

    Proper nutrition helps those in recovery (and everyone else) feel better because nutrients give the body energy, help build and repair organ tissue and strengthen the immune system. Many people experience damage to vital organs, as well as nutritional deficiencies, during the course of their drug or alcohol abuse. Establishing good nutrition provides them with the crucial building blocks needed to begin restoring the damage to the brain and the body.

    Mood and attitude are also affected by nutrition. Changes in the diet can alter brain structure both chemically and physiologically, thus influencing behavior. Certain foods have been connected to increased production of brain chemicals like serotonin, which enhances a person’s mood.

    Using healthy food and regular meals to fuel the healing process is an important strategy for reaching optimal well-being and energizing the recovery process. In many cases, just feeling better due to proper diet can even reduce the risk of relapse, since the temptations may have less appeal.

    Examples of nutritious meal options that enhance both psychological and physical healing and wellbeing include:

    • Lean protein sources
    • Omega 3 fatty acids
    • Whole grains
    • Fresh vegetables and fruits
    • Nuts, seeds, and legumes

    Limiting caffeine, sugary beverages, sugary treats, and processed foods will also improve overall health.

    Other Holistic Activities

    Any activity that fosters feelings of serenity will benefit someone in recovery. Adding these activities into the weekly or daily wellness routine can augment the effects of psychotherapy and other recovery activities. Holistic activities help to cement the positive effects of sobriety by providing ongoing coping tools that can be accessed as needed.

    Other holistic activities or therapies might include:

    • Massage therapy. A relaxation massage helps muscles release the toxins that build up in the body due to daily stress and worry
    • Acupuncture. The use of tiny needles on specific areas of the body help open up blocked energy, leading to stress reduction and reduced cravings
    • Equine therapy. Being involved in the care, feeding, and exercising of a horse is an excellent source of accountability, leading to improved self-confidence. Bonding with a horse is also deeply satisfying on an emotional level
    • Gardening therapy. Being outdoors provides sun exposure that translates to increased vitamin D, which benefits mood. The process of cultivating plants, vegetables, or flowers is rewarding, giving one a sense of accomplishment
    • Aromatherapy. Essential oils can be used topically or inhaled through vapors to induce relaxation and reduce stress
    • Hypnotherapy. A hypnotherapist can guide the individual toward changing negative thoughts and replacing them with affirming thoughts and behaviors
    • Guided meditation. These audio files are available on apps or downloads and offer a soothing voice to guide one into a meditative state, which induces relaxation.

    Bringing It All Together

    Hopefully, this overview of holistic wellness programs was encouraging and highlighted the many benefits of such an approach to recovery. But more than as just a means to recovery, programs focused on holistic wellness bring together the tools and knowledge for lifelong preventative and restorative health solutions. This provides the essentials for achieving a healthy body and mind, allowing each person to take responsibility for their own well-being as they progress in their recovery journey.

    Sources:

    1. Six Dimensions of Wellness. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.nationalwellness.org
    2. Pizer, A. (2016, April). What is Yoga? Retrieved from https://www.verywell.com/what-is-yoga-3566739
    3. Tang, Y.; Lu, Q.; Geng, X.; Stein, E. A.; Yang, Y. and Posner, M. I. (2010, August). Short-term Meditation Induces White Matter Changes in the Anterior Cingulate. Retrieved from http://www.pnas.org/content/107/35/15649.full
    4. Marcus, M. T. and Zgierska, A. (2009). Mindfulness-Based Therapies for Substance Use Disorders: Part 1. Substance Abuse, 30(4), 263. Retrieved from http://doi.org/10.1080/08897070903250027
    5. Reynolds, G. (2013, May). The Scientific 7-Minute Workout. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/09/the-scientific-7-minute-workout
    6. Breene, S. (2013, March). 13 Mental Health Benefits of Exercise. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/27/mental-health-benefits-exercise_n_2956099.html
    7. Howes, R. (2011, January). Journaling in Therapy. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-therapy/201101/journaling-in-therapy
    8. Treatment for Substance Abuse Disorders. (2015, September). Retrieved from http://www.samhsa.gov/treatment/substance-use-disorders
    9. Miller, R. (2010, May). Nutrition in Addiction Recovery. Retrieved from http://mhof.net/sites/default/files/Addiction%20and%20Recovery%20Report.pdf
    Holistic Wellness Yoga

    Those who have ever taken a yoga class know firsthand the sense of calmness and well-being that follows, and they’ve probably experienced the sensation of lightness in the muscles brought on by long, gentle stretches. The health benefits are well-documented, but its benefits for those in addiction recovery go far beyond improving physical health.

    Any high-quality treatment program will take a holistic approach to treatment that addresses issues of body, mind and spirit. At Elevation Behavioral Health, yoga is an integral part of our program because it strengthens and soothes body, mind and spirit, promotes mindfulness, reduces stress and fosters good physical and mental health.

    Yoga and Mindfulness

    Yoga brings the mind and body into the present, where focus is on what’s happening in the here and now. How does the body feel? What is the state of mind? What emotions are present? Being in tune with one’s physical and mental state is the cornerstone of mindfulness, and practices in mindfulness, including yoga, are fast becoming proven therapies for preventing relapse, according to an article published in the journal Substance Abuse.

    Mindful recovery is all about being aware of thoughts and attitudes, accepting them as they arise, observing them non-judgmentally, and learning to reshape them. Practicing mindfulness through yoga can help people in recovery navigate cravings, make healthy lifestyle choices and—perhaps most importantly—recognize the early signs of relapse.

    Stress Relief

    According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, stress is a major trigger for relapse. Stress and the body’s response to it can be mitigated through yoga practice, according to Harvard Medical School, which cites a study that shows it helps to reduce the body’s stress responses like muscle tension and increased heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature. Yoga can even help the body learn to respond to stress in healthier ways.

    Mental and Physical Health

    Regular yoga practice bolsters the immune system and improves overall health, according to a study published in the International Journal of Yoga. It strengthens the muscles, and it improves flexibility and promotes balance of mind and spirit. A healthy body is central to long-term recovery, as is a healthy mind. Yoga can help improve mental health by relieving anxiety and depression, enhancing a sense of self and helping to heal emotional wounds, according to the American Psychological Association. This can be particularly helpful for those whose addiction is rooted in trauma.

    A Holistic Approach to Treatment is Best

    The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration points out that everyone’s pathway to recovery is different, and a holistic approach to treatment should include a variety of research-based alternative and complementary therapies. As one of a number of holistic therapies offered through our program, yoga can help individuals in recovery develop a higher level of self-awareness, improve self-esteem and foster other healthy lifestyle choices that can improve the chances of successful long-term recovery.