Disorders of the Self

Self Disorders

Understanding addiction as a neurological disease that takes away the self-control one has over their own behavior helps to differentiate between addictive behavior and native personality traits.  An addict’s character may become extremely distorted when they are under the influence of drugs.  Once sobriety is established, the personality then reverts back to individual baseline behavior.  Therin sometimes lay the problem.

A very high percentage of those who suffered from drug and alcohol abuse at some period during their lives also had personality disorders or disorders of the self, a term coined by psychologist Heinz Kohut. It has been suggested that up to 77 percent of alcoholics and addicts also met the criteria for self disorders. The most frequent observed character issues found in substance abusers were antisocial and borderline personality disorders.

However, these self disorders are only two out of a dozen or so outlined by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The DSM outlines a personality disorder as ‘an enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from the expectations of the individual’s culture; is pervasive and inflexible; has an onset in adolescence or early adulthood; is stable over time and leads to distress or impairment.’ Personality types can also consist of schizoid, paranoid, melodramatic, self-absorbed, reliant, avoidant, obsessive compulsive and others. When someone experiences addiction, as well as a personality disorder or mood disorder, they are thought to have a dual diagnosis.

Treatment of addiction with comorbid self disorders is complicated. Recent treatments and methods have been developed, though they are only available at highly qualified facilities such as Oceanside Malibu Addiction Treatment Center. In these cases, unfavorable outcomes and consequences will be certain if there is a delayed response in seeking addiction treatment.

Symptoms of repressed mental illness can ignite substance use in an attempt to self-medicate when there is an emotional state of hopelessness. Addictive behaviors in turn will only worsen that state of hopelessness. Consequently, this is the reason dual diagnosis patients and people with disorders of the self are most in danger for suicide attempts.

Most people who are active in their addiction also present indications of a disordered self. Ensuring individual safety in a secure and comfortable setting followed by a full psychiatric evaluation is required before a dual diagnosis can be determined. Only after this is done, can focused and effective treatment begin to address the issues and treat underlying problems in a fitting manner.

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What It’s Like To Be A Highly Sensitive Person

What it feels like to be a highly sensitive person

Many people use the phrase, “you’re being too sensitive”, as if sensitivity is a choice and it’s a bad one, that’s not what it means to be a highly sensitive person. Being a highly sensitive person has got to do with the nervous system that you’re born with, which comes from the genes you inherit from your parents. We all have a nervous system. It’s the thing that notices all the stuff happening both inside and outside of your body and it sends that information to your brain. It’s also what helps you sense and feel. So, when you feel, ‘brrr, it’s kind of chilly‘ or ‘ouch! that’s sharp!’ or ‘the noise is too loud‘ That’s your nervous system at work. It does way more than just break down your experiences into simple categories.

Depending on how sensitive your nervous system is, you may be able to break down your experiences into quite a few categories. So, not just between it’s not cold and it’s cold, but it’s cool, it’s chilly, it’s really cold, it’s freezing, and so on. Your nervous system also causes you to think about everything you’re sensing and to feel all your ups and downs in your emotions. When something doesn’t feel right to your nervous system, you go about trying to correct it by doing something like pulling away from something sharp or covering your ears if something is too loud or doing whatever you need to do to make yourself feel better emotionally as well.

Seems normal, right? It is unless you are among the up to 20 percent of people that have what’s called a highly sensitive nervous system. They feel and sense more, they taste and smell in greater detail, see in more detail, they think more and they feel stronger emotions. Being born into this population comes with a lot of advantages, but it also comes with a lot of challenges as well. You’re able to pick up on things that most people don’t pick up on, but you can also pick up on so much that it can get overwhelming at times. Just like everybody else, you won’t be able to function optimally when you’re overwhelmed.

When feeling overwhelmed and withdrawing from stimuli, most highly sensitive people may only partially understand your struggle and be quick to judge that you’re just weak or being selfish or difficult. Consequently, a lot of highly sensitive people grow up feeling like something’s wrong with who they are and a lot of them go through life outwardly pretending to be like everybody else. But nothing’s wrong with you. You’ve just got a different level of sensitivity.

For people with a highly sensitive nervous system or have a high internal locus of control, the advantages and challenges previously discussed, get even more magnified. Yes, you might be extremely detail-oriented, smart, creative, and empathetic, but you’re also more likely to have a greater level of anxiety around your own intense thoughts, emotions, and the world around you. Even if you grew up with intuitive parents who tried their best to steer you in the right direction, as a child, you probably opted for solutions that were immediately gratifying and, perhaps, not always the best in the long run. In the long run you’ve developed strong patterns that are difficult to break. That’s usually when, in your adult years, you realize that these patterns aren’t working for you, so you seek professional help to get your freedom back and learn better ways to deal with your challenges.

As a highly sensitive person, throughout your journey you may have constantly heard people saying, ‘you’re crazy!’ or ‘you’re too sensitive or ‘you’re so dramatic!’ So, it’s really hard not to believe that something’s wrong with you. But again, nothing is wrong with you. You’ve just got a different level of sensitivity that most people do not understand. Due to all of their challenges many highly sensitive people wish they weren’t the way they are. Many wish they could have been born just like everybody else. However, we’re not meant to be just like everybody elsem we’re meant to stand out and shine.

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Children of Addicts

Children of Addicts

Addiction and alcoholism not only affect those who drink and drug, it also affects their loved ones in sometimes devastating ways. The children of alcoholics and addicts are often times traumatized by the experience of being raised in this environment. Unfortunately, once grown these ‘adult children’ may have difficulty separating the past from the present.  In the absence of therapy, proper guidance and counseling, these experiences can impact people for years and affect their personal relationships. There are some special features that are apparent in those who are still struggling with the exposure to alcoholism and addiction during their childhood.

Children of alcoholics and addicts are generally not taught appropriate skills while growing up. As a result, they may not have the capacity to adequately solve problems or manage conflicts in adulthood. They instead may be manipulative, lie or become aggressive to get their needs met. Often this behavior leads itself to unstable, chaotic and unhealthy relationships with other people.

People raised by alcoholics and addicts are often quite serious. This is due to the fact that they have, more likely than not, been deprived of a carefree childhood in a stable home. They have become hard-wired to be equipped at all times for unexpected, sometimes explosive incidents or to provide care at a moment’s notice for an impaired adult. Because they never learned how to have fun and play as children, they also have difficulty doing so as adults. When grown children of alcoholics do attempt to have fun, oftentimes they do so impulsively, making careless decisions without regard to consequences.

People raised in morbidly disfunctional households often report having low self-esteem and poor self confidence as a defining features. They sabotage themselves by setting unreasonably high standards and use their own failure to achieve these measures as justification for their own inadequacy. In adult children, there exists excessive negative self-talk and internal criticism, in addition to an unquenchable need for validation from others. Adult children often place other’s needs before their own, at times risking their own well-being to please another. In addition, self-esteem in these grown adult children may be so low that if they meet someone who seems to genuinely care for them, that person’s motives or integrity may fall under scrutiny.

Difficulties managing personal responsibility and control issues are common among children of alcoholics.  Many had no choice but to take on responsibility because their caregivers were unable to do so, oftentimes in order to win approval.  Some completely abandon all sense of responsibility due to the inability to ever please their parents despite their best efforts in childhood.

Unfortunately these patterns continue into adulthood without therapy or the acquisition of new coping skills.  People raised by alcoholics and addicts often feel powerless over the chaos of their early environment. They then tend to struggle with a need for control in their adult lives and feel a sense of panic whenever control is threatened.  Consequently, grown children of alcoholics and addicts also feel more comfortable living in drama and chaos then they do a peaceful or structured environment, though that is often what they crave.

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Is The Alcoholic Brain Different?

Alcoholic Brain

Drinking on a Monday morning doesn’t make you an alcoholic, but science is working on understanding the thing that does. Alcoholism may be a downer of a topic, but it’s important to understand how addiction is formed and reinforced. As we’ve learned more, the idea behind addiction has changed. In the early 20th century, addiction was thought to stem from a lack of willpower, but as medical technology advanced and we began to understand how physiological addiction worked, the idea of addiction changed. The pervading wisdom today is addiction is created in the brain because drugs, like alcohol, override the brain’s reward center called the limbic system.

According to the current model, the delivery of dopamine from the limbic system reorganizes a healthy brain into a drug-addled brain. The drug initiates a coup of the executive function — people with addiction are physiologically unable to abstain from their habit. Their brain has to get them high. Most of the literature calls it a hijacking. This is where people get the idea of drugs being super addictive even with only one use. The problem is, scientifically, there’s not a lot of evidence for this. In reality, two people could both use heroin once, and one will go on with their life and be fine, but the other might seek it out again and again.

One recent study finds a small part of the brain might be a major trigger for alcoholic or addictive behavior in rats. The lateral habenula is deep in the middle of the brain, and when the rats had theirs selectively destroyed — they could no longer tell if the decisions they were making were harming themselves or others. Basically, they’d lost the ability to feel the consequences of their actions. Rats were given the option to enjoy a 40-proof alcoholic drink, and water. They chose the alcohol thanks to the lovely dopamine wave that comes with being drunk. But, once they were drunk, they didn’t stop drinking it, they didn’t moderate their behavior, and once they’d sobered up enough, they went right back to it.

The researchers believe the lateral habenula could be responsible for the internal monologue which asks, ‘How bad was my drinking last night? I should back off for a while, I need to make sure this isn’t a problem.’ According to this new study, addiction isn’t solely about the brain’s reward center, there’s also an internal moderation of the effects of that reward. They’re not saying individuals with a bad lateral habenula are alcoholic or addicts; rather that with more information, a genetic profile could be established and we could tell who’d be in a high-risk group for addiction. That information could help people and their families make responsible life decisions.

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How To Deal With A Narcissist

Dealing with a Narcissist

We’ve all dealt with a narcissist at one point or another in our lives whether from a co-worker, family member, friend or lover. It’s a draining experience, leaving you emotionally fatigued and sapped of your energy. Sometimes it’s easy to notice the signs and leave before getting hurt, but sometimes there is a cost to leaving that we cannot or do not want to pay. This is most common with family, friends and job situations. It takes a lot of courage to make these different relationships work despite feelings of needing to leave so you don’t get hurt. However, there are steps you can take to help you cope with the narcissist in your life and keep your relationships intact as much as possible or necessary.

So, how do you identify the type of narcissist you’re dealing with? Researchers have categorized narcissists into two different categories: grandiose and vulnerable. Grandiose narcissists have incredibly high self-esteem, believing themselves to be superior to everyone else. They are the stereotypical narcissists that people think of when they hear the word narcissist. Vulnerable narcissists have low levels of self-esteem, high levels of insecurity and tend to compensate by focusing only on themselves. This means they have high self-absorption and self-centered tendencies. Once you know what kind of narcissist you are dealing with, you can change your interactions with them to keep your relationships healthy. For instance, grandiose narcissists are wonderful helpers with goals if you give them an important job and praise their work often. Vulnerable narcissists need constant reassuring that they’re doing a good job, though you’ll need to be sure not to accidentally offend them in the heat of a moment.

While it can be difficult or frustrating to think about where people are coming from, or why they are the way they are, it is key to helping you understand them. There are always more events in a person’s history that have affected them more than they let on. Figuring out someone’s motives and why they lash out the way they do can also help you handle their angry outbursts and regain patience and tolerance. While it is important to find out where the person is coming from, it’s equally as important to listen to your own feelings and thoughts. What actions and behaviors of theirs bother, triggers or hurts you?  What goals do you have pertaining to your relationship? Are you willing to push past your own feelings to maintain it?  After you take a look inside yourself and evaluate how you feel you can figure out where to draw the line and form boundaries.  Where to push forward and cope with your feelings.  In the end this experience will teach you a lesson about yourself and how to handle things in times of distress.

Unlike any other people, narcissists require a gentle touch when communicating with them. It won’t be as honest and open as with others, nor will it be as straightforward. They may get defensive quickly but this is because of insecurities, sensitivities or an inherent lack of empathy they might have. Be careful not to let things backfire on you as you’ll end up in a direct conflict, which is never fun and was never your intention. Communicate as gently as possible without compromising your own values and recognize if and when you should gently step back, or put your foot down, as long as it is done respectfully. If and when you put your foot down to draw some boundaries between you, be prepared to face the consequences. No matter how gentle you were in laying down the law, they may take it as a direct attack and treat it as such. depending on the person and situation, they may or may not end up resenting you.  It is important to remember that this is part of the process. It is better to recognize your own needs, values and limits than to compromise these things for someone else

While humor isn’t called for in some situations, it might just be your saving grace. Finding humor in a narcissist’s behavior may help you cope. You can also use these moments to call out their behaviors with a smile or a light joke. Remember to choose your time carefully so as to not accidentally offend them and make the situation worse. Choose to keep humor to a minimum in moments of high stress, anger or distress.  However, when a narcissist does something naturally, without thinking, if you point it out in a light-hearted manner it is more likely to be well received, listened to and potentially corrected. Depending on how close you are to the narcissist, you may have to decide if they need more help than you can provide.

Sometimes in order to maintain or regain a healthy relationship with people who are close to you, keeping a distance doesn’t always feel like an option. Many psychotherapists are trained to help with this disorder and can help them.  Remember that loving someone is sometimes is not enough.  If possible, put your attention on the positives, as this person obviously has positive qualities, or else you wouldn’t be trying to maintain your relationship with them. Focus on the good qualities and the reasons why you want or need to maintain things when you feel overwhelmed or stressed. Integrate this into your plan so you can enjoy the most of this relationship. For instance, if you know a certain place or situation may trigger them, avoid it to the best of your ability. The same goes for conversation topics; if you know of a subject that gets them going, steer clear of it and talk about something else. Go out to places you both enjoy and focus on the things you both enjoy discussing. Always remind yourself of why this person holds great value to you and that no one is simply the sum total of their disorder.

Lastly, it is most important to accept them as they are. While it may feel like you’re walking on eggshells at times, it is important to remember that nothing a narcissist is necessarily doing is about you entirely. It is not that they do not want to see things from your point of view for instance, but that they are unable to.  You must accept that you will never have an equal relationship with this person if you choose to maintain contact with them. This is all up to you as you may have good reason to try and keep an equal balance with this individual. You cannot expect them to change for you and instead you must change yourself and the strategies you use to keep them in your life. If you choose to do so, it may help to remember that they are more than their shortcomings.

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Improving Self Esteem

Improving Self Esteem

It is not unusual for people in treatment for addiction to describe feeling like they never belonged, how they never fit in or how they always felt ‘less than’ other people around them. For anyone who felt that way growing up, using substances may have been the first time they were able to quiet those feelings.  Briefly and early on in substance abuse, drugs and alcohol can give an individual a glipse of what if might actually be like to feel good, about life and about oneself.

The factors that contribute to low self exteem include trauma, disapproval from parents or authority figures, uninvolved parents/caregivers, extensive bullying and generally feeling unsupported. Whatever the cause, an absence of self-esteem is like a hole in our spirit that we must learn to fill with something other than alcohol and other drugs. A healthy sense of self-esteem is an effective tool we can, and must develop to help us stay clean and sober.

By the time a person arrives in recovery, what little sense of self-esteem they had before addiction took hold has likely bee n beaten out of them. Using alcohol and other drugs often takes one to very degrading places. Eventually, one winds up trading morals and values for another drunk or high.  In doing ‘esteemable’ things, we can help ourselves overcome the feelings that come with a life in addiction and start to build the framework upon which a real sense of self-esteem can grow.

One might not realize how many negative thoughts pass through the mind each day. If someone sat in front of us saying the things we think about ourselves, we might have a hard time not swinging at them. But we’ve been talking to ourselves this way for so long, that we don’t even notice it. When we start paying attention to these thoughts, we can develop the awareness that will let us take a breath and replace those thoughts with something positive.

While an addict may feel like nothing more than a series of faults, flaws, and mistakes sewn together with bad luck. The reality is that we really aren’t any worse than most of the people we pass on the streets each day. Yes, we do have flaws. Yes we have made mistakes. But we are not those things. We can look at our whole selves and take account of the positive things that are part of who we are, while we work on eliminating the negative parts of our character.

Few people ever get anywhere by spending all of their time thinking about themselves. It is in working with others that we can see the growth in ourselves. But, we need to be careful. Helping others generates some powerfully positive feelings and can be very rewarding. If we go too far chasing that reward, we wind up with no time left to work on ourselves. Worse still, we wind up pinning our sense of self on the outcome of someone else’s efforts, which is a sure path to disaster.

Building self-esteem through positive steps helps an individual develop an awareness of who we really are. We can gently guide ourselves away from the old patterns of berating and degrading ourselves, and learn to take an honest view of ourselves. With our new perspective, we can develop the self-esteem we were always looking for in the next drink or drug and recover.

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