Is It Depression?

depression treatment

Depression is about much more than sadness. But even if your idea of depression also includes things like hopelessness or apathy, what about irritability or anger?  Does depression make you think of overwhelming guilt?  What about memory loss? Because those are all symptoms, too. There’s a lot we still don’t understand about depression, especially when it comes to what’s happening on the cellular level.

We know that when it comes to the experience of depression, the disorder often shows itself in the form of unhealthy psychological processes. It turns out that some of those thought processes – specifically, self-blame and rumination – can lead to symptoms people might not realize are signs of depression. That is unfortunate because the result is that we misunderstand those who are suffering from it, sometimes including ourselves.

Psychologist Sigmund Freud pointed out that depression was different from simple sadness because it was associated with guilt, and today psychologists consider self-blame a key symptom of depression. When something bad happens, depressed people tend to blame themselves and see it as a reflection of their self-worth as a whole. An example researchers sometimes use is thinking that if you fail at a sports match, it means you’re a total failure. What’s unusual is that depressed people don’t usually assign blame to others the same way.

As it turns out, the unusual amount of guilt — and only applying it to yourself — might come from two regions of the brain that don’t activate together the way they should. In a recent study, researchers scanned the brains of 25 people who’d previously had depression and 22 people who didn’t. When the people who’d never been depressed read descriptions of themselves doing something wrong, it activated both the part of their brain associated with guilt and the part that deals with morality and what’s socially appropriate. In people who’d been depressed, that second part wasn’t activated as strongly.

People who are more prone to depression don’t necessarily have accurate self-appraisal skills, so they just feel guilty about everything. That is one unhealthy thought pattern that can cause symptoms beyond plain old sadness or apathy. Another is rumination and it’s a big one; rumination is, basically brooding, usually unintentionally.  Part of problem-solving involves analyzing the factors surrounding the problem, and that applies to negative emotional experiences, too. But rumination takes that way too far. It’s getting stuck thinking about everything that led to and resulted from a negative experience, and it’s strongly linked to both depression and anxiety.

Rumination can also explain some of the less straight forward signs of depression, like memory problems. Of all the symptoms of depression, memory problems might seem the most surprising, because we tend to classify depression as emotional, and memory as more a mechanical part of the mind. This is just a false dichotomy, as that’s not how the brain works.

Depressive disorders often include problems with cognitive function: the ability to clearly understand, process, and respond to information. Researchers think that has a lot to do with rumination eating up all one’s brain power. You need cognitive resources to pay attention and remember things, and when people with depression are using those resources to brood, they have trouble redirecting them toward the task at hand. They can end up struggling with episodic memory, which is the recollection of specific events that happened and working memory, which is how you hold on to information that you’re currently using to process other information.

This can become a vicious cycle, where the only way to break out of this pattern of rumination is to redirect one’s mental resources toward something that might make you feel better. However rumination makes it so much harder to do that. So people get stuck.

Rumination can also lead to another common symptom of depression: anger and irritability, which appears in more than half of patients, although it’s only used to diagnose the disorder in kids and teens. It can be a sign of particularly severe depression. At its core, rumination is a coping strategy people use to help regulate their emotions— it’s just not a very good one. Instead of feeling better, when people brood on something that made them angry, they tend to spend more time angry.

We still have more to learn about how unhealthy thought patterns like self-blame and rumination contribute to depression and its symptoms. As we study them, we’re discovering that they can explain a lot. Self-blame may have to do with brain regions not activating the way they should, and rumination may feel like getting stuck. However, researchers point out that unhealthy thought patterns like these are exactly what psychotherapy is meant to help address.

Cognitive behavioral therapy, especially, is designed to identify the connections between thought patterns and behaviors, and reshape those thought patterns in a healthier way. Depression is a complicated, difficult illness but there are therapies and treatments that can help.  Recognizing the different ways depression manifests itself is an important step toward getting help.

Oceanside Malibu Treatment Center

Addressing Gender Issues in Treatment

Gender Issues

Over the last decade, the gender gap has been narrowing among young school students who use drugs. Women only represent a fifth of clients in specialised drug treatment, but their problems are often more complex than those for men: They tend to progress faster towards addiction; a phenomenon known as “telescoping”. They go through more severe withdrawal symptoms and report higher levels of depression and anxiety.

Women often start using drugs through a drug-using male partner, and are more likely to share needles and other equipment with their partner. In general, women are likely to have fewer socio-economic resources – this is even more the case for women who use drugs. They experience more stigma, because they may be perceived as contravening their roles as mothers and caregivers.

Some groups of women have specific needs, such as pregnant and parenting women, women from ethnic minorities, women in prison and those involved in sex work. A specific drug related issue for women is intimate violence and drug-facilitated sexual assaults, which has serious psychological and social consequences. Treatment for women with drug abuse issues need to address these unique concerns. Preferred treatment surroundings need to be welcoming, non-judgemental, supportive and physically and emotionally safe.

It is also helpful for any person seeking drug or alcohol rehabilitation at an accredited facility to be fully involved in the planning and development of their treatment plan.  The staff in the treatment environment need have appropriate attitudes, knowledge and skills; services need to be well coordinated and integrated to address different issues such as mental health, pregnancy and childcare. Monitoring and research needs to consider the gender dimension to optimise effective responses for women with drug-related problems.

Contact Oceanside Malibu

Methamphetamine

Methamphetamine

Methamphetamine, also called meth or crystal meth, among other names, is a psycho-stimulant drug mainly known for its recreational use. Methamphetamine is chemically similar to amphetamine, a drug used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity-disorder, obesity and narcolepsy; but being more potent and highly addictive, methamphetamine is rarely prescribed for medical treatments.

Most commonly, the drug is produced illegally, from pseudoephedrine, an ingredient in cold medicines. It can exist as white powder, pills, or bluish-white crystals, and can be consumed by swallowing, smoking, snorting, or injecting. Methamphetamine acts to increase the amount of a neurotransmitter called dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is at the basis of the brain reward pathway, which is designed to “reward” the body for important behaviors that are essential for survival, such as feeding when hungry.

Engaging in enjoyable activities causes dopamine release from dopamine-producing neurons into a space between neurons, where it binds to and stimulates its receptors on the neighboring neuron. This stimulation is believed to produce pleasurable feelings or rewarding effect. Normally, dopamine molecules are promptly cleared from the synaptic space to ensure that the post-synaptic neurons are not over-stimulated. This is possible thanks to the action of dopamine-transporter, which channels dopamine back to the transmittingneuron.

Methamphetamine binds to dopamine-transporter and blocks dopamine re-uptake. In addition, it can enter the transmitting neuron and trigger more dopamine release. The result is that dopamine builds-up in the synapse to a much greater amount than normal. This produces a continuous over-stimulation of receiving neurons and is responsible for the prolonged and intense euphoria experienced by drug users.

At a low dose, methamphetamine stimulates the brain and can elevate mood and alertness; and by accelerating heart rate and breathing rate, it increases energy in fatigued individuals. It also reduces appetite and promotes weight loss. These seemingly “positive” effects keep users coming back for more, eventually leading to addiction and potential overdose.

Long-term drug users may experience extreme weight loss, severe dental damage, and constant hyperactivity which results in anxiety, sleeping disorders and violent behaviors. Overdose takes the drug’s effects to the extreme and can cause psychosis, heart attacks, seizures, strokes, organ failures, and even death. Currently, there is no approved pharmacological treatment for methamphetamine addiction; the most effective treatments are cognitive behavioral therapies, 12-step support groups, drug education & detox as well as addiction treatment programs, among others.

Oceanside Malibu Addiction Treatment

Overcoming Stumbling Blocks to Recovery

overcoming stumbling blocks

Stumbling blocks to recovery are things that are stopping us from getting to our full potential in our recovery. That can be a difficult place to be because at the end of the day we really want to find that peace, freedom and everything that recovery offers so that we’re able to carry on and keep moving. Often we can get back to wanting to fix our short term feelings and emotions which can be really difficult when they come up. In acknowledging this and working on it, then we can really help ourselves in recovery, succeeding and moving forward. As long as we’re always moving forward, we’re always doing good for ourselves. Yet while there’s always work to be done, this is not really getting to a finish line.

One of the stumbling blocks that we can look out for and work on overcoming is the tendancy to blame others.  Many of us have probably spent a lot of time blaming other people for our addiction or for certain aspects of life and always feeling we’ve been done wrong. Not really connecting with either our own part of things or just not really wanting to take responsibility. The first step out of that is just to have a look and maybe try to take ownership and see how maybe we’ve affected some situation or how we did maybe play a part in certain situations. When we’re always blaming others we never really take ownership or really find freedom or peace, because we’re always giving our energy away. We have to look at ourselves, we can take responsibility, then we can do something about it.

Another block to recovery is isolating and this is the one that affects the most addicts & alcoholics. Once we come in to either rehab, or just recovery in general, we have really started to spend a lot of time on our own, in our own head, whether it be using, whether it be drinking, whether it be gambling. It doesn’t really matter what it is, but we’re all just trying to escape reality and the feelings and emotions that come with that and that is very much easier done alone than in a room full of people. We can also feel isolated in a room full of people, really disconnected from the world, and isolation can block us off from recovery.

Some things that we can do towards emerging from isolation is to get involved in the community.  Making it to meetings, speaking to our sponsor or counselor, making new friends with like-minded people who understand what we’ve been through, etc. In these ways, we can build up that connection and thus, we never need to be alone again. The tendancy to isolate needs really be worked on regularly and it is beneficial to do so.

Another stumbling block to recovery could be rigid thinking or a negative attitude, which can be very dangerous. One thing that we really need in recovery is an open mind and when we’ve got an open mind, we can see things from a different perspective. When we free ourselves of negative thinking, we can then start to see good in the world.

A couple of tools to help us with that would be doing a gratitude list, seeking an outside or other point of view, asking people how they see certain situations rather that just how we see it. As we’ve often spent a lot of our life believing that our way is the correct way, we have to quickly realize that maybe it isn’t.  Maybe there is a different way to look at things. Once we can start to turn negative thinking into positive, and there’s usually always a positive in any situation once we can see it from a different perspective, then we can find that much sought after freedom and peace within ourselves.

Oceanside Malibu Addiction Treatment

Sober…with Feelings

feeling feelings sober

Positive feelings like love or joy can make us feel more vibrant and alive.  However, anger, frustration and resentment can leave us overwhelmed and create stumbling blocks to progress in our recovery. This is particularly true when we have extreme feelings that we cannot seem to let go. Feelings of anger, resentment, and shame often led us to use substances in the first place. Our substance abuse was often driven by the desire to control the feelings that we thought would overpower us.These feelings may follow us into our days in early recovery.

The miracle of getting clean & sober does not mean that we are suddenly relieved of all the feelings that lead us to abusing substances.  We have gotten sober; we haven’t been transformed into saints.  Now that we are in recovery, we cannot run and hide in substances whenever the tide of feelings threatens to overcome us.

In early recovery, it is most important that we develop the coping skills necessary for us to get through another day clean and sober. Why we are angry, fearful, sad, or resentful is important, but healing the things that drive our feelings will be the ongoing work of our recovery. Finding a way to deal with these feelings in the moment is a skill we need to start developing right away.

Useful tools for coping with our feelings are taught to us in addiction treatment. Putting these tools into practice is not usually something that we can do all on our own. The illusion of complete self-sufficiency that lead us deeper and deeper into addiction has no place in our recovery. We must reach out to others and ask for help in working through our feelings and implementing these tools in our day-to-day life.

How do we pray, how do we meditate, how do we take a step back in the moment, how do we gain perspective?  These are all questions we need the help of others to answer. Getting help does not mean we are failing in recovery. The truth is that asking for help is proof that we are changing for the better. Asking for help is a significant step forward from the days when we thought we could always ‘handle it’ no matter how much of a wreck our lives became.

One cannot move forward with recovery if he or she can’t also move through feelings and make it to the other side. We can no longer rely on the false sense of relief that substances gave to us. Just like we could not get or stay clean on our own, we aren’t likely to suddenly be able to work through our emotions on our own. By asking for help and accepting the help that is offered we set the groundwork for growth and change that will carry us anywhere we wish to go in our recovery.

Oceanside Malibu Addiction Treatment

Is Addiction Inherited?

Some scientists suggest that our genetics are essentially the predictor of our future, particularly when it comes to addiction. They tend to lock us rather securely into our physical heritage through heredity.  So when it comes to addiction, these scientists tell us that if we have one parent who is an alcoholic or drug addict, we have a fifty percent chance of inheriting the same disease. If both our parents are addicts, we have a ninety percent chance of becoming similarly addicted to alcohol and/or drugs.

Many who accept the premise of genetic heredity often try to change or delay its impact when it comes to such obvious life threatening maladies such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and COPD. They exercise, lose weight, eat healthier and pay close attention to the advice and warnings they receive from their doctors and other health specialists. Few, however, who live in the danger zone of addiction, follow the same protocol.

In fact, too many people biologically targeted by addiction even know or understand the warning signs of alcoholism or drug abuse. Instead they live blithely in denial until they begin to teeter on the edge of disaster or are already in its clutches. Even then, through some illogical mental quirks like pride, shame, ignorance and fear,many still believe they can handle things on their own and refuse to reach out for help.

Alcoholism is a three-fold disease. It affects one physically, mentally and spiritually. An alcoholic is constantly walking around with a drink on his mind. It’s called a mental obsession. Then once he or she picks up a drink, a physical compulsion takes over and they can’t stop. They become powerless over booze.

One drink is too many and a thousand aren’t enough.   As an addict slides deeper and deeper into addiction and become willing to do almost anything for another drink, they become spiritually bankrupt. While addiction can be a disastrous family inheritance, the miracle of recovery can overcome the power of our genes and give us the greatest gift anyone could possibly receive – sobriety – and it’s offered to anyone who truly wants it.

Oceanside Malibu Treatment Center