Experimenting During the Teen Years: Substance Abuse in Youth

shutterstock_107588312Adolescence is a time in a child’s life in which many changes are occurring. It can be an extremely confusing and trying time for them, as well as their parents. As their parents, it is important that you educate your children about drugs, alcohol, sex, and what it means to be “peer pressured”. Keeping the lines of communication open between you and your child is essential in order to be in the loop of what is going on in their lives.

Your child may decide to experiment with any combination of the above listed, however, there comes a time when drug/alcohol use shifts to drug/alcohol abuse. How honest they are, if they come home intoxicated regularly, if they spend a lot of spare time at parties, and the friends that they choose to surround themselves bullyingwith are all great indicators of substance abuse.

Lying or hiding things may be an indication that your child is using or abusing substances. This is not true in all cases. It is normal for them to want their space and private life. However, when they are lying about large things (where they are, where they are going, what they are doing) it can be cause for concern. If you and your child have a healthy and functioning relationship in which they are comfortable communicating with you, they shouldn’t feel the need to hide from you. It is important to approach them from a loving and caring place, avoiding accusatory statements. Give them the opportunity to open up to you.

If your child is coming home intoxicated on a regular basis, it could be an indication that they are abusing substances. Using substances may be a way for your child to escape the emotional turmoil they are experiencing. However, using substances as a coping strategy is not healthy. This is another reason it is very important that you keep an open line of communication with your child.shutterstock_70611019

Older adolescents are fairly likely to attend parties. It is naïve to not think that at some (if not all) of these parties alcohol will be served and drugs will be offered, especially if there is not appropriate supervision. Your child may opt to spend more time than not a parties. It is important that you educate your child about the dangers of participating in underage drinking as well as drug use of any kind.

The friends that your child chooses to spend their time with is a good indicator as to whether or not they will be pressured to try alcohol and/or drugs. Now it is impossible to judge a book by its cover, however, it is important to know the other children your child associates with. Knowing who they are and what they are like will give you a good indication of the likelihood that they consume alcohol/use drugs. Again, it is extremely important to educate your child about peer pressure and the dangers of consuming alcohol/drugs.

It is impossible to completely protect your child from being exposed to alcohol and/or drugs. With the normalization of alcohol and/or drug use during adolescence, it is becoming harder and harder for parents to make their children understand the risks and repercussions that their activities can have on their lives as well as the lives of others. The best thing that you can do is give them the facts, and encourage them to make good choices.

Transform-Motivate-Awaken: What is Recovery and How Do I Know That I Am Ready?

There are many different definitions for recovery. In a general sense, recovery is a lifelong process in which you abstain from using/abusing your drug of choice. Lapses/relapses are also considered part of this process. They are a chance for growth and making a plan with which you can succeed.shutterstock_107588312

When suffering from an addiction, it is hard to see yourself that you have a problem. Often times the consequences will not stop you from feeding your addiction. So how do you know that you are ready to start the recovery process?

Everyone is different. Maybe your family has given you an intervention. Maybe you have some serious health consequences because of your addiction. Or maybe you are just sick and tired of chasing your fix. Whatever the reason is, you need to want to make the change for yourself. No one else can force you into recovery. You need to be mentally and emotionally prepared to work hard and stay clean.

A good indicator of readiness for recovery is a commitment to change. If you want to change and are sincerely willing to do whatever it will take to get there, you may be ready for recovery. Another good indicator is a reduction in use. Maybe you are skipping out on getting high and trying to keep yourself preoccupied. Maybe you are just choosing to abstain from use, despite withdrawal symptoms. If this is the case, you may be ready for recovery.

Now maybe you are just thinking about changing. You want to reach out for help but you aren’t sure if sober living is for you just yet. The best thing that you can do is explore your options and keep your mind open. Seeking support not only within your family and friends, but from trained professionals and agencies is a great idea to explore your options.

shutterstock_15232330

Recovery is ultimately your decision. It is something that you have to be prepared and committed to. You have to want to recover for yourself, not just because you feel that other people want you to. Recovery is not easy, and it takes a lot of hard work and self-discovery to have a successful recovery. Transform, Motivate, and Awaken. Live the life that you want, addiction free.

Emotions and Addiction

When dealing with addiction and recovery, the emotions that come along with it are an important thing to look at. By becoming aware of the emotions that are part of your addiction, you can become more self-aware and more able to participate in your recovery.

shutterstock_90072907

There are many emotions that can be a part of your addiction. It may be anger, sadness, or anxiety. How these emotions play into your addiction is a key piece of coming to terms with your addiction. Now these emotions play a big part in your bio-psycho-social and spiritual functioning.

So what does bio-psycho-social and spiritual mean when dealing with addciction? Bio-psycho-social and spiritual refers to the biological, psychological, social, and spiritual factors that affect your ability to function within your addiction.

The biological aspect may include:

  • Genetics
  • Brain chemistry
  • Brain behaviour and functioning

The psychological aspect may include:

  • Social learning
  • Motivations
  • Behaviours
  • Emotions
  • Personality development

The social aspect may include:

  • Availability of your substance
  • Economic status
  • Addiction in a family member or close friend
  • Culture
  • Community

The spiritual aspect may include:

  • Beliefs
  • Morals
  • Connectedness

This isn’t to say that all of these factors are present or the same in every person that is addicted. How each of these factors affects you may differ greatly from the next person. However, it is important to recognize the factors that have influenced your addiction in order for you to better understand the steps that you need to take in order to live a life that is addiction free.

shutterstock_60562558

Recovery is a life-long process. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to make it possible for yourself. By becoming more self-aware and connected to who you are, the more effective you will become in leading the life that you want for yourself.

Self Image

What does it mean to love yourself and approve of yourself unconditionally? Self image is something that is important to most of us. Presenting our ideal selves to the world is not always possible. But learning to love yourself the way that you are, and striving towards being the best you that you can be, makes what we want to see and what we do see one in the same.

So how can we learn to love ourselves? There are different ways that we can work on self image. Different strategies work for different people. The end game is always the same. We want to learn to accept the things that we can change and come to terms with the fact that there are just some things that we cannot change. Loving yourself is an important part of self image building. If we can accept our strengths and weaknesses with humility and understanding, we can love ourselves. Feeling satisfied and fulfilled with who we are and how we look can greatly boost our love for ourselves.shutterstock_100264808

Approving of ourselves unconditionally means that we know we are good, and look good, and feel good. It means we know we are making positive and right choices for ourselves, content that the only approval we are considering is the approval of ourselves. Having faith in your own choices and direction boost confidence, that in turn, boosts self-approval. With all of this positive self talk and confidence, self image will follow right along.

shutterstock_103902026

Loving ourselves and approving of ourselves go hand in hand. These concepts are not only applicable to our outer selves but our inner selves as well. Being happy and feeling fulfilled within our chosen path can make us feel more comfortable and confident with our inner selves. knowing that we are loved and accepted by our peers plays an important role in our perceived self image and can boost your positive regard for yourself.

So why is a positive self image important? A negative self image can lead to a negative mood overall. This can lead to depression, self-injurious behaviours, and other significant and troubling diagnosis.These illnesses can cause long term and persistent symptoms that may interfere with everyday functioning. It is important to nip that negative self image in the bud. Work on loving yourself and the rest will come, with a bit of hard work and dedication.  shutterstock_111393362

Bullying

What seems like harmless teasing usually isn’t just harmless teasing. Bullying is something that has been an ever growing concern in the past 10 years. With the invention of social media forums like Facebook and Twitter, bullies are taking their leave from the school yard and becoming predators to their classmates online. But where has this come from? What is bullying, and what can we as parents and caregivers do to stop it and prevent it from happening again? By answering these questions, as well as a number of others, we can begin to understand bullying and how we can help our kids.

bullying

Bullying is when someone hurts or intimidates another person on purpose. The person being hurt and/or intimated also has a hard time defending themselves. There are many ways that young children/adolescents can bully each other, even if they don’t realize that they are hurting the other person at the time. Some forms of bullying include:

  • Punching, shoving and other acts that hurt people physically.

  • Spreading bad rumours about people (whether it is online or in person).

  • Keeping certain people out of a group.

  • Teasing people in a mean way (name calling, sarcasm, teasing,).

  • Getting certain people to “gang up” on others.

  • Threatening and racism.

  • Using the internet/text messaging to intimidate, put-down, spread rumours, or make fun of another.

  • Sexual interference.

cyberbullying-2

Whether or not the bully knows that they are bullying, any of the above listed behaviours are not acceptable. It is actions like these that can drive children into a depression. It can bring on loneliness, unhappiness, and fear. It can make the child feel unsure and unsafe about going to school. Bullying, in the most extreme forms, has been known to drive some adolescents to suicide. There is absolutely no reason for any child to feel this helpless and alone. There is also no reason for any child to feel that they are unsafe going to school or that they are going to be punished by their peers. As parents and caregivers it can be near impossible to identify if your child is being bullied. However, it is very important to maintain an open line of communication so that your child can feel comfortable coming to you about being bullied.

So what can we do? As mentioned before it is important to keep the lines of communication open with your child so that they can feel comfortable coming to you when they are being bullied. In schools a zero-tolerance for bullying behaviours has been adapted. This has proven successful in the reduction of bullying but there are more things that educators can do. By developing programs for bullying awareness and interventions in bullying situations, schools can better protect and help those students that may fall victim to bullying.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Other Compulsive Behaviours: Part 2

Picture this.

A house, filled with everything that has ever meant something to you. A memory attached to every item. When you have to get rid of something, you feel like you are losing a little piece of yourself. This in the end makes you unwilling to get rid of anything at all. Slowly but surely, the house starts to fill until one day you can’t see the floor. But that is okay. As long as you have your things, you will be okay. You are ashamed of letting others see how you live, so you hide it. You stay in your home, rarely going out unless it is absolutely needed. One day you get a surprise visit from a loved one. You are sleeping somewhere among the piles so you don’t hear them enter the house. They see what is going on and confront you. Your defenses go up. You become angry and aggressive because they have violated your privacy. You tell them to leave you alone, that you are just fine with how things are and that you don’t need their help. Your cover has been blown, soon everyone will know your secret. But where do you go from here?

hoarders-tlc

Compulsive hoarding is just that. A compulsive need to collect things, and the unwillingness or inability to give those things up. These items take over rooms, apartments, and full houses, causing unsafe living conditions, posing severe health risks, and damaging relationships. This disorder is separate from OCD, however, like OCD many of those suffering are well aware of their irrational behaviors.

People will often collect things that other people would find not useful or of little value. Things like junk mail, newspapers, clothes that “might” fit one day, broken things and garbage. They will place high value on them, and this is likely the reason that it is so hard for them to try and give them up. People can also collect animals, becoming deeply attached to a large number of animals that they can not properly care/provide for.

hoarding-before-ep-1-284x212

There is no one cause to this disorder. Like many disorders, the causes are multiple and vary from person to person. These causes can include:

  • Trauma

  • Anxiety

  • Another pre-existing disorder

  • Family History

Whatever the cause, compulsive hoarding wreaks havoc on an individual’s livelihood, and is an extremely difficult disorder to receive the proper treatment and support for.

Management and treatments for compulsive hoarding vary from individual to individual, depending on their situation. Behavioural therapy has often times been found to be effective. There are many processes that a therapist can walk a client through to come to terms with why the behaviour exists and develop a plan of action on how to approach treatment in a way that will make the client most comfortable. Often times the first thing that is needed is a gradual exposure to the anxiety experienced when trying to get rid of things. This will allow the client to begin to formulate a plan as to how they are going to get their living place cleaned up so that is habitable (if this is at all possible). Therapy to address the behaviours and anxiety is an ongoing process throughout treatment. Depending on the case, the client may be prescribed medication to treat any underlying disorders in order to be able to participate fully and cohesively in treatment.

Recovery and treatment are possible. It is a long and tough process, but with the right supports and treatment plan, anyone can go on to live a happy and fulfilling life.

Listed below are resources for OCD and other compulsive behaviours.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Other Compulsive Behaviours: Part 1

Dr. Peggy Richter is an internationally known researcher, author, professor, and the Director of the Clinic for OCD & Related Disorders at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. Dr. Richter’s research is focused on exploring the genetic and biological basis of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). She is a frequent speaker in both the professional and public about her specialty. An innovator in her field, Dr. Richter works tirelessly to help those suffering with OCD and anxiety disorders have hope, through her research to better define the boundaries of OCD and related disorders.

ocd

Intrusive thoughts. Ritualistic behaviours. Repetition. An anxiety ridden individual. What do these 4 things have in common? Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

OCD is an anxiety disorder that is characterized by the above mentioned. It can be a debilitating disorder, causing the affected to become so consumed with their “rituals” that they are no longer able to focus on anything else. It may be hand washing, counting, hair pulling, picking. OCD takes many forms and affects each person differently.

There are many different things that can cause OCD. A few of them include:

  • Brain Chemistry
  • Trauma (of any kind can trigger ritualistic behaviour in order to avoid dealing with the trauma)
  • Misinterpretation of their intrusive thoughts (exaggeration of the need to perform rituals)
  • Association of an object or situation with fear (learn to avoid that fear by self-soothing with ritualistic behaviour)

Whatever they cause (s) might be, OCD is an extremely difficult disorder for a bystander to understand. To the average person the behaviours may seem “silly”, “irrational”, and “unnecessary”. The person suffering with OCD is well aware that their rituals are irrational and unnecessary, but they are compelled to perform them anyways. This is extremely distressing for the individual, causing more anxiety.

about-ocd-459x306

OCD is often confused with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD). The clear distinction between the two is that those with OCPD do not feel that their actions are irrational. More often than not, they can readily express why their rituals and obsessions are nothing out of the ordinary.

So what are the available management/treatment options for those suffering with OCD? There are several different types of therapies that are available for those suffering. The treatment will depend on the person but common types include:

  • Behavioral therapy: A general exposure to the objects/situations in which the person feels compelled to perform their rituals. Their therapist will help them work through their anxieties, eventually minimizing the behaviours associated with the objects/situations.
  • Medication: Often times antidepressants and other medications are prescribed to help regulate brain chemistry and stabilize mood in the person suffering.

For anyone with a debilitating disorder like OCD, every day can be a continuous struggle. It is important to remember that management of symptoms is possible. It will take a lot of hard work and dedication, but it is possible. Asking for help is the first step towards a brighter future.

Self-Injury Awareness Day – March 01, 2013

self-injury

Many of us carry the scars of our troubles on the inside. But what about those of us who carry the scars on the outside? Self-injury, also known as self-harm, is a dangerous behaviour, in which an individual deliberately hurts themselves in order to deal with the emotional pain that they are suffering. Self-injurious behaviour is not only troubling because of the harm that they are causing to themselves, but because of the stigma that is attached to those who self-injure.

…Cutter…Emo…Freak…

Just a few of the many taunts and jeers that are ever present for self-injurers. These labels are not only hurtful, but often times they amplify the self-loathing behaviour. Bullying is a large contributor in the continuation of self-injury. However, it is not the only contributing force. Emotional turmoil, unresolved emotional pain, as well as past and present emotional trauma can trigger self-harming behaviour. It can be used as an escape, similar to drugs and alcohol. That is how the behaviour is most often described by those who self-injure.

That is why Self Injury Awareness Day was created. To bring it to the surface. To allow those suffering in silence to speak out and be heard. To give them a voice they so often don’t have.

There are many questions that arise when it comes to self-harm. Especially from the loved ones of those that self-harm. What does it look like? Who is at risk? What do I say? What do I do? It can be a very confusing time for both the person who is self-injuring and their loved ones. The most important thing to remember is to remain open and understanding, no matter how hard that may seem. It is important that the person who is self-harming feels understood and not judged. It is also important to not condone the behaviour, as it is symptomatic of maladaptive coping skills.

So what does self-injury look like? It comes in many forms: cutting, bruising, scarring, burning, branding, and scratching. Any behaviour that one can use to intentionally cause harm to their own body is considered self-injury. While the injuries themselves are not always apparent, there are signs that someone is self-injuring. They might cover up the marks with excessive clothing (even in hot weather) or make up. They might seclude themselves more often, and gradually spend more and more time alone. If a loved one’s behaviour is troubling to you, the best thing that you can do is ask them if they want to talk. They may not want to open up, but just knowing that someone is willing to listen is often times more than enough. All you can do is be patient.

There is no one person that is more likely to self-injure. And it is hard to know the exact statistics about those who do self-harm, for obvious reasons. It was once thought that only young women self-harm, but the truth is that it is a behaviour that affects many people from many different backgrounds, ages, races, and of any gender. Anyone can engage in self-injury. And that is one of the most tough pieces of reality for people to accept. That is why it is so important to have Self Injury Awareness Day. It is to help dispel the myths and stigmas attached to self-harm and to let those that are self-injuring that they are not alone.

So what can you do or say when a loved one tells you that they self-injure? Or what should you do or say when you find out that they self-injure? There is no right answer. There is no one way to act or right thing to say. As mentioned above, the best thing that you can do is offer support and remain calm and understanding. The last thing that they need is to feel judged. And it is important that you make it clear that you will be there to help them seek out the help and support that they will need. Staying strong is a difficult thing to do when someone you love and care about tells you that they hurt themselves, but it is one of the most important things that you can do during this trying period.

hope1

Hope begins in the dark; the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: You don’t give up.
– Anne Lamott

How Emotions Affect Your Mind-Body-Soul Connection

How Emotions Affect our Body

Emotions are something we all share. Emotions are what provide us with a common ground to relate to one another, to converse and to express ourselves. In fact, emotions both regulate and are regulated by your body. Below I will discuss what different emotions entail for the body.

The emotion of shame is reflective of our deepest wound and can have the most devastating of effects on our emotional state. Second to the emotion of shame sits guilt, apathy, fear, anxiety, anger and hate.  Studies have shown that negative emotions can actually weaken your body’s immune system and thus bring about the onset of illness and disease.

These negative emotions affect your body in such a way that your body actually becomes traumatized by a surge of electrical shock. This electrical shock is capable of leaving the equivalent of scars and wounds, albeit emotionally and mentally. This in turn disrupts our ability to be a clear channel to love unconditionally and to be accepting of both ourselves as well as others in much the same way a child would his mother and himself. These are very powerful emotions that leave a very powerful effect on the body.

Having said this, holding back or denying yourself of these emotions only makes the feelings worse as you are denying yourself the ability to release the pain. In turn, this can cause you a great deal of stress, which is often followed by illness.  By attempting to control and stifle your pent up anger, resentment, self-judgment, physical pain and criticism amongst many other negative beliefs and fears, you result in sabotaging what you truly want and desire in your life and this stops us from being our best.

How these Emotions can Make You Very Sick

Emotions are capable of affecting the way we feel, think and behave. The reason behind this is because emotions are very much linked to our physiological well-being. What this means is that emotions are tied in and very much related to our body.

facebook_504272506

An imbalance between your mind, body and soul is connected to your emotional well-being and can cause digestion issues or an upset stomach. Think about an unsettled stomach as the result of all the emotions your body is unable to digest or accept within.

Anger and resentment can cause inflammation and pain in the body due to an inflexible way of being or holding on to something rather than to forgive and let go.

Shoulder pain is the feeling of having the weight of the world on you and therefore feeling overwhelmed.

Back pain is reflective of a need for more support in your life, but not necessarily understanding how to create that for yourself or how to ask for it.

How to Safely Release these Emotions

Get grounded in earth, feel the earth under your feet.

Take a bath and allow your body to let loose and to relax.

Take time off for yourself.

Physical exercise and movement is really great as long as you are not in pain. Yoga, breathing work, going for a stroll are all viable options.

Release your emotions by punching a punching bag or by letting it all out as a scream in a safe place when you’re alone (like into a pillow).

Last but not least talk it out with someone you can trust like a friend, family member or therapist.  Talking is always a sure way to release and let go as long as it’s consistent.

7 Ways to Beat Depression Naturally


images-4
Depression is a state of mood characterized by negative effects in our life that continue to spiral, depression can be reflected in one’s physical, emotional and mental well-being. The onset of depression can be marked by an array of causes; perhaps you have reached a hiccup in a relationship with your significant other, or perhaps you are undergoing the loss of a loved one.

What was once the focus of intrigue and marvel in life may quickly and abruptly lose its enticing properties for the depressed individual.

If you identify with several of the following signs and symptoms, and they just won’t go away, you may be suffering from clinical depression.

1. You can’t sleep or you sleep too much

2. You can’t concentrate or find that previously easy tasks are now difficult

3. You feel hopeless and helpless

4. You can’t control your negative thoughts, no matter how much you try

5. You have lost your appetite or you can’t stop eating

6. You are much more irritable, short-tempered, or aggressive than usual

7. You’re consuming more alcohol than normal or engaging in other reckless behaviour

8. You have thoughts that life is not worth living (Seek help immediately if this is the case) 

7 Ways to Beat Depression Naturally

1)     Exercise on a regular basis, I highly recommend it.  There are so many different forms of exercise (Yoga, walking, tai-chi, weight lifting) begin slowly.  Begin outside if you can, fresh air is the surest way to get the blood flowing and change-up your energy.  Even if it’s as little as 20 minutes a day to start, you will notice you feel better instantly.

2)    Diet rich in vitamins and minerals, healthy foods, vitamin B and calcium.  Cut out refined carbohydrates, fried foods and avoid sugar at all costs.  Make sure you speak to your doctor about getting the proper DHA’s and probiotics into your diet for a healthy mind and gut.

3)   Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin because our bodies produce it when exposed to sunlight.  Ask your doctor to check and see if you are low in vitamin D.  People often feel better when they take vitamin D especially in the winter months.

4)   Herbal Supplements contain many medicinal powers and can heal a variety of ailments.  Seek out a great naturopathic doctor to discuss homeopathic remedies, vitamins, acupuncture, cupping and getting to the route of the issue by releasing toxins from the body.

5)   Get enough sleep and notice when your sleep is being disturbed by your mood.  The best thing to do is create a routine and stick to it everyday.  Take a Epsom salt bath to sooth and relax you, reduce TV and all stimulants.

6)    Talk it out with a therapist, counselor, friend or mentor. Depression is not the cause of hopelessness and extreme sadness — it is a symptom. If there is a specific problem you are having that is causing these feeling…face it, come up with a plan. Do not allow your problems to go unanswered. Hope can be found in moving, step by step toward addressing our issues.

7)    Be of service to someone else in need.  Often when we take the focus off ourselves and help another we stop running circles in our minds and we tend to feel better.

Most important of all, have hope and faith that “this too shall pass” and you do deserve to live a happy life.

Stacey Dombrowsky