Alcohol is the most widely abused drug Many people do not understand why some individuals become addicted to alcohol. They mistakenly view alcoholism as a social problem and may consider those who become alcoholics to be morally weak. One very common belief is that alcoholics should be able to simply stop drinking and stay sober if they want to.
What people often underestimate is the complexity of alcoholism – it is a disease that changes the brain, which means that stopping is not simply a matter of willpower. Through scientific advances, we now know much more about how alcohol works in the brain and we also know that alcoholism can be successfully treated. With proper treatment, alcoholics can achieve sobriety and remain abstinent permanently. Long-term effects of alcoholism: Prolonged, heavy alcohol use can lead to addiction, as is the case with many other drugs, but long before the symptoms of long-term, chronic alcohol addiction occur, an individual will be addicted to alcohol.
Those who are able to stop drinking in the early stages of their addiction can avoid long-term physical and mental damage. Long-term symptoms of alcoholism: The sudden cessation of long-term, extensive alcohol intake is likely to produce withdrawal symptoms that occasionally lead to death. Therefore, the cessation of alcohol intake should always be carried out under medical supervision. Withdrawal symptoms include severe anxiety, tremors, hallucinations and convulsions. Consuming large quantities of alcohol, especially when combined with poor nutrition, can cause permanent damage to the body’s vital organs, including the brain and the liver. Mothers who drink alcohol during pregnancy may give birth to infants with foetal alcohol syndrome who suffer from mental retardation and other irreversible physical abnormalities.
Furthermore, research indicates that the children of alcoholic parents are at greater risk of becoming alcoholics themselves. Do you think that you know the facts about alcohol abuse? If you consume alcoholic beverages, it is important to know whether your drinking patterns are safe, risky or harmful. If you are concerned that you, or someone you care about, may be an alcoholic, take our alcoholism self-assessment test or contact us.
6 million deaths each year are related to nicotine use Nicotine addiction is perhaps the most prevalent and visible type of chemical dependency in the modern world. Whereas many of us may go through our entire lives without (knowingly) meeting someone who is addicted to alcohol, prescription medication or other drugs, it is almost inconceivable that we have never come into contact with someone who is addicted to nicotine.
Nicotine itself comes from the roots and leaves of the nightshade family of plants, most commonly the tobacco plant. Once processed, it can be chewed, snorted or smoked. Undoubtedly, cigarettes are the most popular method of nicotine consumption. The World Health Organisation estimates that there are currently over one billion smokers in the world, of whom over 300 million try to stop smoking every year. Nicotine itself is highly addictive, as are many of the 4,000 chemicals found in tobacco smoke, of which at least 250 are known to be harmful. In fact, nicotine has also commonly be used in insecticides.
Nicotine’s popularity stems from the fact that it acts both as a stimulant and as a relaxant. The stimulation or “rush” which nicotine users experience comes from a release of glucose and adrenaline in the body, although long-term users may require increasingly large doses in order for them to feel such effects. Users describe a range of seemingly incompatible feelings when they intake nicotine, including increased focus, relaxation, attentiveness and calmness. Others use nicotine in order to suppress their appetite or to increase their metabolic rates, as part of a weight-loss regime.
The widespread use of nicotine is matched by the considerable range and extent of illnesses which long-term nicotine intake can cause. The World Health Organisation notes that tobacco use is responsible for the deaths of up to half of its users, with around 6 million people dying each year from a variety of tobacco-related illnesses, such as cancer or cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. More than 5 million deaths each year are the result of direct tobacco use, but another 600,000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke, with children representing 28% of the deaths attributable to second-hand smoke.
In addition to the huge number of fatalities which occur every year from nicotine use, both direct and indirect users can also suffer a multitude of permanent health problems, such as birth defects, diabetes, asthma, blindness and reduced fertility. Even before such long-term health problems arise, nicotine addicts can suffer both physical and psychological consequences, such as a lack of energy, an inability to focus, general irritability, anxiety, depression or insomnia. The consequences of nicotine addiction can be gradual and almost imperceptible. Sometimes by the time a particular symptom is visible it is already too late and incapacity or death may result. While nicotine is sometimes viewed by many as a “soft” drug, or not even as a “drug” at all, our experience shows that those who are addicted to nicotine can often find it extremely difficult to achieve a lasting withdrawal.
Before arriving at The Kusnacht Practice, many of our clients have tried various methods to withdraw themselves from nicotine. The reason for many clients’ earlier failures is that they have often sought to withdraw themselves from the drug to which their bodies had become addicted without addressing the underlying problems that led to the addiction in the first place.
Thus, even if they had previously managed to remain nicotine-free for a period of time, their craving for nicotine returned at the same time as their underlying problems. At The Kusnacht Practice, we recognise that the reasons underpinning nicotine addiction come from a complex interaction of genetic, psychological and social factors that clients often fail to deal with, or even fail to recognise, during self-help attempts to achieve a lasting recovery. Our expert team uses a wide range of techniques, based on the very latest technology, to identify and treat the underlying causes of each client’s addiction. Our extensive and custom-designed treatment programs help clients to resolve any underlying trauma or anxiety which may have led to their addiction and resulted in previous attempts to quit being unsuccessful.
Drug addiction is a complex brain disease. It can be successfully treated Many people do not understand why some individuals become addicted to drugs or how drugs alter the brain to foster compulsive drug abuse. They mistakenly view drug abuse and addiction as social problems and may consider those who take drugs to be morally weak. One very common belief is that drug abusers should be able to simply stop taking drugs if they want to. What people often fail to understand is the complexity of drug addiction; it is a disease which affects the brain, which means that stopping drug use is not simply a matter of willpower.
From a medical perspective, this is equally true of addictions to street drugs, prescription drugs or alcohol. Through scientific advances, we now know much more about how drugs work in the brain and we also know that drug addiction can be successfully treated. With proper treatment, drug addicts can remain abstinent permanently and resume productive lives.
What is drug addiction? Addiction to street drugs and prescription drugs is a chronic brain disease that causes people to compulsively seek and use drugs, despite the harmful consequences to themselves and those around them. Drug abuse is considered to be a brain disease because it leads to changes in the brain’s structure and functioning. Although it is true that, for most people, the initial decision to take drugs was a voluntary one, over time the changes in the brain caused by repeated drug use can affect a person’s self-control and their ability to make rational decisions. At the same time, the brain sends intense impulses to take drugs.
These changes in the brain make it so challenging for an addicted person to stop abusing drugs. Addiction is a progressive illness, meaning that if the individual continues using or drinking it never gets better, only worse. Fortunately, researched-based therapeutic approaches exist to help people counteract the powerfully disruptive effects of addiction and to regain control over their lives. Just as other chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma or heart disease can be managed successfully, so can drug addiction.
However, it is not uncommon for drug addicts to relapse and revert to destructive behaviour patterns. Relapse, however, does not signal failure – it merely indicates that treatment should be reinstated or adjusted, or that alternative methods are needed to help the individual to regain control and recover. The Kusnacht Practice identifies and treats the underlying causes of drug addictions, which significantly reduces the risks of relapse. Why do some people become addicted, while others do not? No single factor can predict whether or not a particular person will become addicted to drugs. The risk of addiction is influenced by a person’s individual biology, genetics, social environment, age and stage of development.
The more risk factors an individual has, the greater the chances that drug-taking will lead to addiction. For example: biology and Genetics:The genes that a person is born with, in combination with environmental influences, account for about half of their addiction vulnerability. Additionally gender, ethnicity and the presence of other psychological disorders may increase the risk of drug abuse and addiction. Environment: A person’s environment includes many different influences, from their family and friends to their socio-economic status and their general quality of life. The existence of factors such as peer pressure, physical and sexual abuse or stress can greatly influence whether drug abuse and addiction are likely to play a role in a particular person’s life.
Development: Genetic and environmental factors interact with critical developmental stages in a person’s life to affect addiction vulnerability. Adolescents experience a double challenge. Although taking drugs at any age can lead to addiction, the earlier that drug use begins, the more likely it is to progress to more serious abuse. Since adolescents’ brains are still developing in the areas that govern decision-making, judgement and self-control, they are especially prone to risk-taking behaviours, including experimentation with drugs. If you are concerned that you, or someone you care about, may have a drug addiction, take our drug addiction self-assessment test or contact us.
Addiction can occur extremely quickly Cocaine is a drug extracted from the leaves of the coca plant. It is a potent brain stimulant and one of the most powerfully addictive drugs. Cocaine is distributed on the street in two main forms: cocaine hydrochloride (a white crystalline powder) and “crack”, which is cocaine hydrochloride that has been processed with ammonia or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and water into a freebase cocaine usually called crack, chips, chunks, or rocks.
Cocaine can be smoked, snorted or dissolved in water and injected. Short-term effects of cocaine: The short-term effects of cocaine/crack include: constricted blood vessels; dilated pupils; increased body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure; insomnia; loss of appetite; and feelings of restlessness, irritability and anxiety.
The duration of cocaine’s immediate euphoric effects, which include increased energy levels and mental clarity, depends upon how it is used. The faster the absorption rate, the more intense the high. However, a faster absorption rate also reduces the length of time for which the high lasts. The high which comes from snorting cocaine may last somewhere between 15-30 minutes, whereas the high from smoking crack cocaine may only last between 5-10 minutes. Cocaine’s effects are short-lived and, once the drug leaves the brain, the user experiences a “coke crash” that includes depression, irritability and fatigue.
Long-term effects of cocaine: High doses or prolonged use of cocaine can lead to paranoid psychosis. Smoking crack cocaine can result in particularly aggressive paranoid behaviour. When addicted individuals stop using cocaine, they often become depressed. Long-term use of cocaine can lead to a serious increase in blood pressure or bleeding in the brain which causes a stroke. Other complications include seizures, heart attack, brain haemorrhages and kidney failure. If you are concerned that you, or someone you care about, may have a drug addiction, take our drug addiction self-assessment test or contact us.
Heroin is highly addictive Heroin is a white to dark brown powder or tar-like substance. It is a highly addictive drug which is derived from morphine and obtained from the opium poppy. It is a “downer” or depressant that affects the brain’s pleasure systems and interferes with the brain’s ability to perceive pain. Heroin can be used in a variety of ways, depending on user preferences and the purity of the drug. It can be injected into a vein (“mainlining”), injected into a muscle, smoked in a water pipe or standard pipe, mixed in a marijuana joint or regular cigarette, inhaled as smoke through a straw (“chasing the dragon”) or snorted as powder via the nose. Short-term effects of heroin: The short-term effects of heroin use appear soon after a single dose and disappear in a few hours.
After an injection of heroin, the user reports feeling a surge of euphoria (“rush”) accompanied by a warm flushing of the skin, a dry mouth and heavy extremities. Following this initial euphoria, the user goes “on the nod” and is alternately alert and drowsy. Mental functioning becomes clouded due to the depression of the central nervous system. Other effects include slowed and slurred speech, slow gait, constricted pupils, droopy eyelids, impaired night vision, vomiting and constipation.
If the user takes too large a dose of heroin the heart stops, resulting in death. Long-term effects of heroin: The long-term effects of heroin appear after repeated use over a period of time. Chronic users may develop collapsed veins, infection of the heart lining and valves, abscesses and liver disease. Pulmonary complications, including various types of pneumonia, may result from the abuser’s poor health and from heroin’s depressing effects on respiration. In addition to the effects of the drug itself, street heroin may have additives which do not fully dissolve and which clog the blood vessels leading to the lungs, liver, kidneys or brain.
This can cause the infection, or even the death, of small patches of cells in vital organs. With regular heroin use tolerance develops, so the abuser must use larger doses of heroin to achieve the same effect. As higher doses are used over time, physical dependence and addiction develop. Physical dependence causes the body to adapt to the presence of the drug and withdrawal symptoms occur if use is reduced or stopped. Withdrawal, which in regular abusers may occur as early as a few hours after the last administration, produces drug cravings, restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhoea and vomiting, cold flashes with goose bumps (“cold turkey”), kicking movements (“kicking the habit”) and other symptoms. Major physical withdrawal symptoms peak between 48-72 hours after the last dose and subside after about a week. Sudden withdrawal can be fatal for heavily-dependent users who are in poor health. Psychological withdrawal can last for months. If you are concerned that you, or someone you care about, may have a drug addiction, take our drug addiction self-assessment test or contact us.
One of the most difficult addictions to treat Marijuana is a green or grey mixture of dried, shredded flowers and leaves of the hemp plant (Cannabis sativa). Marijuana is the most commonly-used illegal drug in many countries, although some countries have legalized personal use. Cannabis contains approximately 400 chemicals, but its main active chemical which affects the brain the most is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol).
Most users roll loose marijuana into a cigarette called a “joint”, but it is also available in cigars called “blunts”. Marijuana (or “weed”) can also be smoked in a water pipe called a “bong”, mixed into food or brewed as tea. Marijuana addiction can be extremely difficult to treat because users are often in denial about it being a powerful drug that can lead to serious physical and psychological problems. This denial has much to do with the drug’s widespread use and cultural mystique. Short-term effects of marijuana:
The short-term effects of marijuana include problems with memory and learning, distorted perception (sights, sounds, time and touch), trouble with thinking and problem-solving, loss of motor-coordination, increased heart rate and anxiety. These effects are magnified when cannabis is mixed with other drugs. Long-term effects of marijuana: Long-term use can lead to paranoid psychosis, sometimes called cannabis psychosis, which can require long-term institutionalization.
Marijuana smoke contains some of the same cancer-causing compounds as tobacco, sometimes in higher concentrations. Studies show that someone who smokes five joints per week may be taking in as many carcinogenic chemicals as someone who smokes a full pack of cigarettes every day. If you are concerned that you, or someone you care about, may have a drug addiction, take our drug addiction self-assessment test or contact us.
Prescription Drug Addiction
Prescription drugs are the third most commonly abused category of drugs The extent to which prescription drugs are abused is greater than the abuse of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and all other drugs apart from alcohol and marijuana. It is estimated that nearly 20% of people in the United States have used prescription drugs for non-medical reasons.
Some prescription drugs can become addictive, especially when they are used inconsistently with their instructions or for reasons other than those for which they were prescribed. Prescription drugs that are easily abused include narcotic painkillers such as OxyContin or Vicodin, sedatives and tranquilizers such as Xanax or Valium and stimulants such as Dexedrine, Adderall or Ritalin. Some symptoms of prescription drug misuse: 1.Stealing, buying or forging prescriptions 2.Taking higher doses than prescribed 3.Excessive mood swings 4.Increase or decrease in sleep 5.Poor decision-making 6.Appearing to be high, unusually energetic or excited, or sedated 7.Continually “losing” prescriptions so that more prescriptions must be acquired 8.Seeking the same prescriptions from multiple doctors Who misuses prescription drugs?
Prescription drug abuse exists at roughly similar levels between men and women, with the exception of 12-17 year olds. Research has found that, within this age group, females are more likely than males to use psychotherapeutic drugs for non-medical purposes. Research has also shown that women in general are more prone to use narcotic pain relievers and tranquilizers for non-medical purposes. The elderly and the growing population of aging “Baby Boomers” are also prime candidates for prescription drug abuse and misuse, whether intentionally or otherwise.
Once someone begins taking a number of pills for reasons such as managing blood pressure and cholesterol, they can become more prone to taking narcotic pain killers, prescription sleep-aids and other more addictive drugs. Using multiple prescription drugs simultaneously also increases the risk of negative, and possibly fatal, interactions between drugs, especially when they are not being used as prescribed. If you are concerned that you, or someone you care about, may be abusing prescription drugs, take our drug addiction self-assessment test or contact us.
Eating disorders have their origins in a wide range of factors Eating disorders can have many different origins. For some people, they stem from a fear of growing up and assuming adult responsibilities. Others function well externally, but are deeply confused inside. Some are trapped in the role of perfectionism, being the good child.
Some have experienced trauma or tremendous pain during social interactions. Some clients’ families suffer from generations of unresolved trauma or are enmeshed and lack appropriate boundaries. A destructive survival strategy: Once an eating disorder takes hold as a survival strategy, it can take on a life of its own, creating a perpetual cycle of anxiety and isolation. As the cycle continues, it requires increasing amounts of the same behaviour to achieve the desired effect – more restriction, more food, more bingeing and purging, more diet pills, laxatives, exercise etc.
When someone seeks to disengage themselves from an eating disorder, the whole world can feel upside-down and, at first, impossible to manage. Working with one client at a time, the Kusnacht Practice teaches clients how to stabilise, rebuild and transform their lives. Early intervention is essential for overcoming eating disorders and helping to reduce their permanent physical and emotional consequences. If you are concerned that you, or someone you care about, may have an eating disorder, take our eating disorders self-assessment test or contact us.
A complex psychological disorder Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by self-starvation, restriction of food/calories intake and sometimes excessive weight loss. It is a complex psychological disorder that exceeds well beyond out-of-control dieting. Anorexia nervosa sufferers are often extremely concerned about their body weight, shape and size.
They may initially begin dieting to lose weight but, over time, their weight loss creates the illusion of mastery and control. It can become an obsession that is similar to drug addiction. Sufferers loses any perspective of their appearance and often don’t see the same person in the mirror as others see. No amount of dieting or starvation can satisfy their desire to be thin. Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of all psychological disorders. Many of its individual symptoms can have life-threatening consequences.
Early intervention is essential to overcome anorexia nervosa and to help reduce any permanent physical or emotional consequences. If you are concerned that you, or someone you care about, may have an eating disorder, take our eating disorders self-assessment test or contact us.
Episodes of uncontrollable overeating Binge-eating is a pattern of disordered eating which consists of episodes of uncontrollable overeating. This bingeing on food is often a symptom of binge-eating disorder or of bulimia nervosa. A person may have bulimia if their binge-eating is followed by behaviours such as vomiting, laxative use or obsessive exercise.
During a binge-eating episode, a person rapidly consumes large quantities of food. Often binge-eating functions as a strategy to help the sufferer manage overwhelming emotions or stressful life events. Binge-eaters feel powerless and are unable to control their consumption of large quantities of food. Some people may engage in single episodes of binge-eating whereas others may binge throughout the day. Early intervention is essential to overcome binge-eating disorder and to help reduce any permanent physical or emotional consequences. If you are concerned that you, or someone you care about, may have an eating disorder, take our eating disorders self-assessment test or contact us.
Eating and purging becomes obsessive Bulimia, or bulimia nervosa, is an eating disorder characterized by compulsive, secretive overeating or bingeing, followed by purging through vomiting or other compensatory behaviours. A person who suffers from bulimia may even purge normal amounts of food without displaying any bingeing behaviours.
As with anorexia nervosa, bulimia is a psychological illness. Both bulimia and anorexia nervosa extend beyond the scope of out-of-control dieting. The cycle of overeating and purging becomes an obsession, with sufferers unable to control their behaviour or break the cycle. The depression and guilt that bulimia sufferers feel after a binge forces them to act out and neutralize the food they have consumed, often in a violent fashion. Early intervention is essential to overcome bulimia nervosa and to help reduce any permanent physical or emotional consequences. If you are concerned that you, or someone you care about, may have an eating disorder, take our eating disorders self-assessment test or contact us.
Early intervention is fundamental to recovery Compulsive overeating is an eating disorder which causes a person to eat excessive amounts of food in an uncontrollable manner. It often involves consuming a large amount of calories in one sitting, but other compulsive overeaters consume food throughout the day, which is known as “grazing”.
For the compulsive overeater, overeating becomes a strategy to cope with overwhelming emotions or stressful life situations. It can create the illusion of relieving feelings of emptiness. Although sufferers are aware that what they are doing is abnormal, they are unable to stop or control their behaviour. When sufferers begin to gain weight, they often begin to diet. Unfortunately, this increases the urge to eat, which in turn leads to the next episode of compulsive overeating.
This creates a vicious cycle of overeating and restriction which triggers feelings of guilt, shame and depression. Early intervention is essential to overcome compulsive overeating and to help reduce any permanent physical or emotional consequences. If you are concerned that you, or someone you care about, may have an eating disorder, take our eating disorders self-assessment test or contact us.
Depression has many different forms Depression is a condition in which people may have low moods, a loss of interest in everyday activities, feelings of low self-esteem, a lack of energy and poor concentration. All of these symptoms may last for lengthy periods. Depression can affect people of any age. Approximately 20% of people have experienced depression at some point in their lives. Symptoms of depression: Depression is characterised by a number of symptoms including: A continuously low mood, which may be worse in the morning Feeling irritable Crying a lot Loss of interest in social life Tiredness and poor concentration Difficulty in making decisions Feeling helpless, worthless or hopeless Feeling guilty
Having thoughts about death or suicide Anxiety Loss of sex drive (libido) Sleep disturbance – possibly taking one or two hours to fall asleep, waking up earlier than usual or sleeping all the time Disturbed eating patterns – either loss of appetite or overeating Developing or worsening unexplained aches and pains Physical slowness Complications of depression: At least half of those who have an episode of severe depression will encounter at least one more episode.
Those who are under 20-years old, or old-age people, are more likely to have multiple episodes of depression. Depression can also be associated with suicide: nearly two-thirds of those who commit suicide have depression. If you are concerned that you, or someone you care about, may be suffering from depression, please contact us.
Trauma and Abuse
Symptoms can appear many years later Trauma is any experience which has a negative impact. It can vary from being chosen last for a school team, to experiencing a house fire or a divorce. The manner in which a particular person experiences an event, and what they say to themselves about it, can have long-term emotional effects. Abuse is a type of trauma which is experienced physically, emotionally, sexually, intellectually, spiritually or in any combination. When people are traumatized, whether the trauma occurred during childhood or adulthood, the pain remains within them until they are taught how to release it in a safe and healthy manner.
Feelings caused by trauma can result in dissociation, flashbacks, nightmares and addictive behaviours which are employed as strategies to mask emotional pain. Emotional numbness and sleep disturbances are also common symptoms of trauma, as are depression, anxiety and irritability. The symptoms of acute stress disorder (ASD) appear almost immediately after a person encounters trauma or abuse. They include numbness, difficulties in responding to normal life events and difficulty in controlling anger and suspicion. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can appear as a response to trauma or abuse anywhere from one month to years or decades after the traumatic experience. If you are concerned that you, or someone you care about, may be suffering from trauma or abuse, please contact us.
We treat the widest range of anxiety disorders. Anxiety is a feeling of unease Anxiety disorders are conditions which cause severe or long-lasting feelings of anxiety that interferes with everyday life. The various types of anxiety disorders include: generalized anxiety disorder (GAD); post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); acute stress disorder (ASD); obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD); and phobias. Everybody gets anxious when faced with a stressful situation, such as before an exam or a job interview, or at a worrying time such as during a serious illness.
It is perfectly normal to feel anxious when you face a difficult or dangerous situation. Indeed, mild anxiety can be a positive and useful experience. However, for approximately 10% of people, anxiety interferes with their normal life. Excessive anxiety is often associated with other mental health problems, such as depression. Anxiety is only considered to represent a psychological disorder when it is long-lasting and severe and when it interferes with a person’s ability to lead a normal life. Physical symptoms of anxiety disorders: The physical symptoms of anxiety disorders occur because of the body’s so-called “fight or flight” response, which is caused by the release of the stress hormone adrenaline. These symptoms may include:
Discomfort in your abdomen Diarrhoea Dry mouth Rapid heartbeat or palpitations Tightness or pain in the chest Shortness of breath Dizziness Needing to urinate more often than usual Difficulty in swallowing Shaking Psychological symptoms of anxiety disorders: These symptoms may include: Sleeping difficulties (insomnia) Feeling constantly worried or uneasy Feeling tired Being irritable or quick to get angry Inability to concentrate Fearing that you are “going mad” Feeling that you have no control of your actions, or that you are detached from your surroundings (derealisation) Self-harming and suicide: When anxiety disorders occur alongside other conditions, such as depression, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, they can lead to self-harm or suicide. If you are concerned that you, or someone you care about, may be suffering from an anxiety disorder, please contact us.
Extreme mood swings Bipolar disorder (sometimes still referred to as manic depression) is a psychological disorder which causes extreme mood swings, ranging from euphoria to severe depression. Unlike simple mood swings, each extreme episode of bipolar disorder can last for several weeks, or even longer, and some people may not experience a “normal” mood very often. During periods of depression, sufferers can experience feelings of worthlessness, which can lead to substance abuse or even suicide. Euphoric periods of mania, when the sufferer feels ecstatic, may not occur until a long time after a depressive episode, which is why many people suffering from bipolar disorder are wrongly diagnosed as experiencing depression.
During their periods of mania, bipolar disorder sufferers make poor decisions – they may spend extravagant amounts of money on things they don’t need or cannot afford and they may engage in risky personal or sexual activities. Some sufferers enjoy their manic periods, since they may lead to increased energy, activity and creativity, but others suffer psychosis and can become delusional and experience hallucinations. Research has shown that genetic, environmental and biochemical factors all play a role in the development of bipolar disorder. It affects males and females equally and can develop at any age, although the most common age period at which symptoms begin is in the mid-twenties. If you are concerned that you, or someone you care about, may be suffering from bipolar disorder, please contact us.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder – GAD
Sufferers spend most of their time worrying Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) can be a long-term disorder which causes the sufferer to spend most of their time worrying about things that might go wrong. People with GAD experience days filled with exaggerated worry and tension, regardless of whether or not there are good reasons to provoke such feelings. They anticipate disaster and are overly concerned about issues such as health, money, family problems or difficulties at work.
Sometimes, the mere thought of getting through the day produces anxiety. People with GAD seem unable to discard or control their concerns, despite usually being aware that their anxiety is more intense than the situation warrants. Often, they also encounter difficulties in falling asleep or staying asleep. Physical symptoms which frequently accompany their anxiety include fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, muscle aches, difficulty in swallowing, trembling, twitching, irritability, sweating, nausea, light-headedness, frequent use of the bathroom, feeling out of breath and experiencing hot flashes. When their anxiety level is mild, people with GAD can function socially and maintain employment. Although their disorder doesn’t necessarily lead them to avoid certain situations, GAD sufferers can experience difficulties in carrying out the simplest daily activities at times when their anxiety is severe.
GAD affects twice as many women as men. It develops gradually and can begin at any age, although the years between childhood and middle age are the highest risk period. There is also evidence that genetics play a role in causing GAD. GAD rarely occurs alone and is frequently accompanied by other anxiety disorders, such as depression, or addictions. If you are concerned that you, or someone you care about, may be suffering from generalized anxiety disorder, please contact us.
Obsessive Complusive Disorder – OCD
Repetitive thoughts and activities OCD consists of recurring obsessions and/or compulsions. Obsessions are recurring thoughts or images about specific things that trigger feelings of disgust. Common obsessions include a fear of germs, dirt or violence. Compulsions are thoughts or actions that people feel compelled to do or repeat. A compulsion is usually a strategy to ease the anxiety of an obsession, such as repeatedly washing your hands to deal with an obsession about dirt. If you are concerned that you, or someone you care about, may be suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder, please contact us.
Sufferers experience disproportionate fear A phobia is a fear that is out of proportion to any real danger. If a phobia interferes with a person’s ability to lead a normal life, it may be considered as an anxiety disorder. Common phobias include a disproportionate fear of germs, crowds, heights, flying, spiders, mice, blood, injections or enclosed spaces.
Agoraphobia, another common phobia, is a fear of various places and situations, such as crowds or public places, and is often accompanied by panic disorder. Social phobia is one of the more common and complex phobias. It causes sufferers to experience tremendous anxiety when they are about to meet others, since they are overly worried about what people will think of them. One form of social phobia is severe anxiety about speaking or performing in public. It can even involve fear of making a phone call. It is perfectly normal to feel nervous about certain situations, but those who suffer from social phobia find many everyday activities impossible. If you are concerned that you, or someone you care about, may be suffering from a phobia, please contact us.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder – PSTD
PTSD symptoms can appear after many years PTSD may develop anywhere from one month to many years after a traumatic event. It can occur if someone has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event, such as a major accident, military combat or violence. Anxiety, which may come and go, is one of the symptoms of PTSD. Other symptoms include recurring thoughts, memories, images, dreams, or distressing “flashbacks” of the traumatic event. It is common to react with anxiety to a frightening experience and a person is only considered to be suffering from PTSD if these symptoms don’t go away. If you are concerned that you, or someone you care about, may be suffering from PTSD, please contact us.
Sex and Love Addiction
Online pornography and cyber-sex have significantly increased addiction levels Unlike ingestive addictions, where a mood-altering substance is introduced into the body by one of several routes of administration, sex and love addiction is categorized as a process or behavioural addiction. Mood-altering substances work by biochemically increasing the levels of various neurotransmitters (chemicals which nerve cells use to communicate with each other) in the reward pathway (pleasure centres) of the brain. Sex and love addiction, by comparison, increases the levels of those same neurotransmitters via existing neural pathways originating in higher centres of the brain which control thought and volitional behaviour. If we say that drugs act “downstream” on neurons (nerve cells) located close to the pleasure centre, we can say that sex and love addiction acts “upstream” on neurons further away from the pleasure centre.
The essential point is that the final common pathway is the same in both instances, namely dramatically increased activity in the brain’s pleasure centres. The same types of neurotransmitters bombard the pleasure centre, whether one ingests a mood-altering drug, has sex or falls intensely “in love”. Just as chronic drug use leads to dependency, chronic repetitive bouts of sex and “love” lead to dependency on the compulsive acting-out of sexual behaviours and thoughts.
An excellent summary of the characteristics of sex and love addiction can be seen here. Anyone suffering from sex and love addiction will have little trouble identifying with many, if not all, of the characteristics mentioned in that link. The behaviours, thoughts and feelings involved in sex and love addiction leave the sufferer desperate and can result in a significant number of hurt people, destroyed relationships, confusion and pain. Those involved with sex and love addicts often feel as though they were mere objects that were used, manipulated and ultimately discarded. Most sex and loved addicts do not wish to be the kind of person they have become.
Given the complex feedback loops within the brain, and between the body and brain, these individuals suffer from a disorder of the body, mind and spirit. Sex addicts are overwhelmed with guilt (“I made a mistake”) and shame (“I am a mistake” or “I am defective”). Such feelings are potent triggers to continue acting-out sexual addiction behaviours and may lead to suicidal thoughts. Often such feelings stem from childhood sexual abuse or other forms of untreated post-traumatic stress disorder. The influence of the internet and cyber-sex Intensely provocative sexual chat-lines, images and videos are now available at virtually any time and place via the internet. Such communications and images are potent triggers to act out the behaviours of sexual addiction. If you are concerned that you, or someone you care about, is possibly addicted to sex and love, take the sex and love addiction self-assessment test or contact us.
Pathological gambling often leads to suicide “Any betting or wagering, for self or others, whether for money or not, no matter how slight or insignificant, where the outcome is uncertain or depends upon chance or ‘skill’ constitutes gambling”. – Gamblers Anonymous. For most people, slot machines, blackjack, lotto, the pool table, horse racing and visiting casinos represent harmless, stress-relieving activities. However, for some, what begins as a frivolous and casual hobby can develop into pathological gambling, which is a progressive illness that can destroy both the sufferer and those around them. As time progresses, the casual gambler becomes addicted to betting larger amounts and taking greater risks. Pathological gamblers suffer from a loss of control and denial. A significant number of them have either attempted suicide or have actually taken their own lives. If you are concerned that you, or someone you care about, may be a pathological gambler, take our pathological gambling self-assessment test or contact us.
Codependency is passed down from one generation to the next Codependency is a learned behaviour that is passed down from one generation to the next. It is an emotional and behavioural condition which affects someone’s ability to have a healthy, mutually-satisfying relationship. It is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with codependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive or abusive.
Codependency is learned by watching and imitating other family members. Symptoms of codependency: Needing to control or “fix” situations Needing to control or “fix” other people Blaming situations and other people for your feelings Difficulty in trusting others Perfectionism Avoiding your own real feelings Problems with, or fear of, intimacy Hyper-vigilance (a heightened awareness of potential threats/danger) Living through, or for, another person
The Kusnacht Practice understands the difficulties and trauma that can be experienced by the families and loved ones of our clients. We believe that they need treatment as much as our clients do. Accordingly, we strongly recommend our Family Program, which not only enables family members to support their loved one during their treatment at our treatment centre but also allows us to provide the support and treatment that they need themselves. Additionally, we offer a full treatment program for people who are experiencing codependency issues and require help. Who does codependency affect? Codependency often affects spouses, parents, siblings, children, friends or co-workers of a person suffering from an alcohol/drug addiction or other psychological disorder. Originally, the term “codependent” was used to describe partners who lived with, or were in a relationship with, an addicted person. Similar patterns have been seen among people in relationships with chronically-ill or mentally-ill individuals. Nowadays, however, the term has broadened to describe any codependent person from any dysfunctional family.
The dysfunctional family and how it leads to codependency A dysfunctional family is one whose members suffer from fear, anger, pain, or shame which is ignored or denied. Underlying problems may include any of the following: A family member’s addiction to drugs, alcohol, relationships, work, food, sex or gambling. The existence of physical, emotional or sexual abuse. The presence of a family member suffering from a chronic mental or physical illness. Dysfunctional families do not acknowledge or confront the existence of their problems, which causes family members to repress their emotions and disregard their own needs.
They become “survivors” and develop strategies to help them deny, ignore or avoid difficult emotions. They detach themselves. They don’t talk. They don’t touch. They don’t confront. They don’t feel. They don’t trust. The emotional development of the members of a dysfunctional family is often inhibited. Attention and energy are focused on the needy family member(s), with the codependent person typically sacrificing their own needs in the process. When codependents rank other people’s health, welfare and safety above their own, they lose contact with their own needs, desires and sense of self. How do codependent people behave? Codependents have low self-esteem and look for anything outside themselves to make them feel better.
They find it hard to “be themselves”. Some try to feel better through alcohol and drugs and may become addicts themselves. Others may develop compulsive behaviours, such as gambling or sex and love addiction. Codependents have good intentions. They try to care for a person who is experiencing difficulties, but their care becomes compulsive and self-defeating. Their repeated rescue attempts allow the needy individual to continue on their destructive course which, in turn, makes them even more dependent on the unhealthy care provided by the codependent. As such reliance increases, the codependent develops a sense of reward and satisfaction from feeling needed. When their care becomes compulsive, codependents feels helpless in their relationships, but are unable to break their cycle of behaviour which causes and reinforces it.
When codependency hits home: The first step in changing unhealthy behaviour is to understand it. It is important for codependents, and when possible their family members, to educate themselves on the course and cycle of addiction and how it affects their relationships. Considerable change and growth are necessary for codependents and their families. Any behaviour that allows or enables abuse to continue in their relationships needs to be recognised and stopped. The codependent must identify and embrace their own feelings and needs. This may include learning to say no, to be loving yet tough and to be self-reliant. Codependents can find freedom, love and serenity in recovery. If you are concerned that you, or someone you care about, may be codependent, take our codependency self-assessment test or contact us.]
An inability to process stress in a healthy manner Burnout is an anxiety disorder involving long-term exhaustion and diminished interest in everyday life. It is a state of emotional, mental and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when someone feels overwhelmed and unable to meet the constant demands they face.
As their stress continues, they begin to lose the interest or motivation which led them to take on a certain role in the first place. Burnout reduces a person’s productivity and saps their energy, leaving them feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical, angry and resentful. Eventually, they may feel as if they have nothing more to give. Most of us have days when we feel bored, overloaded, or unappreciated; when the dozen balls we are juggling aren’t noticed, let alone rewarded; when dragging ourselves out of bed requires the determination of Hercules. If someone feels like this most of the time, they may be suffering from burnout. Symptoms of burnout:
The various symptoms of burnout may include: 1.A desire to escape 2.Inner emptiness 3.Increased indecisiveness 4.Erratic or incongruent emotions 5.An indifferent (“don’t care”) attitude 6.Feelings of lacking control over your life 7.Decreased motivation, including reduced social interest 8.Decreased desire for things you used to desire, including food, sex or entertainment 9.Physical problems, including heart palpitations, recurrent or lingering sicknesses, chest pains, aching or allergies 10.Depression 11.Anger 12.Panic attacks 13.Increased use of alcohol or other drugs What is stress and how does it lead to burnout?
The stress which a person feels results from how they react to the life stressors they experience. Stressors include problems at work, unemployment, financial difficulties, arguments, a heavy workload or the loss of a loved one. Everyone responds to such stressors differently, which explains why different levels of stress are experienced by different people who encounter the same situation. How many stressors a person experiences determines how much stress exists in a given situation. How that stress is processed determines how much stress each particular person feels and how close they are to burnout. One person may experience very few stressors but fail to process them well, which can lead to burnout. Someone else may experience an enormous amount of stressors but process each of them in a healthy manner and not feel a high level of stress or experience burnout.
Stress is not the same as burnout, but burnout originates from stress. When someone experiences a set of stressors and fails to process them in a healthy manner, they experience a high level of stress which grows with each new stressful experience. If someone continues to experience stress and fails to process it properly, they are on the path to burnout. Burnout is commonly encountered in the work environment, but it can be experienced by anyone and in any situation. It exists when a person is unable to function adequately and when they have no more physical, emotional or nervous energy left.
Losses caused by burnout Burnout causes many losses which can often go unrecognized and can trap a great deal of energy. It takes a tremendous amount of emotional control for someone to seek to avoid feeling the pain that comes from such losses. When we allow ourselves to recognize such losses and to grieve them, we release our trapped energy and open ourselves up to healing. The losses caused by burnout can include: Loss of the idealism or dream that you had when beginning your career Loss of the role or identity that your job originally gave you Loss of physical and emotional energy Loss of friends, fun and a sense of community Loss of self-esteem and any sense of control over your own life Loss of the joy, meaning and purpose that make work and life worthwhile If you are concerned that you, or someone you care about, may be suffering from burnout, please contact us.
Emotional problems are often the underlying cause According to the US National Institute of Health: “Chronic pain is often defined as any pain lasting more than 12 weeks. Whereas acute pain is a normal sensation that alerts us to possible injury, chronic pain is very different. Chronic pain persists – often for months or even longer”. A popular alternative definition of chronic pain, involving no arbitrarily fixed duration, is “pain that extends beyond the expected period of healing”.
We have all experienced pain of one type or another, whether the sharp pain of an open wound, the dull throb of a headache or the persistent stabbing of sore, overworked muscles. Regardless of the type of pain we experience, we desire relief. It is important to remember that pain serves an important purpose in letting us know that something is wrong and needs to be addressed. Nevertheless, “pain that extends beyond the expected period of healing” no longer serves its intended function and may be the result of an emotional disturbance, rather than the body’s attempts to signal a physical problem. In his book “A Day without Pain”, Mel Pohl identified 10 questions concerning chronic pain: 1. Why does pain exist? What function does it serve? 2. Pain exists to protect us from injury and, if injured, it protects us from further damage. 3. What is the difference between acute and chronic pain? 4. The only thing that acute and chronic pain have in common is the word “pain.” Acute pain ends when the body heals and the need for the pain is gone. Chronic pain never ends – the alarm clock goes off and continues to buzz – it annoys, distracts from everyday life, irritates, frustrates and doesn’t go away. 5. What part of pain is associated with emotions? What percentage of chronic pain is emotional? 80% or more of the experience of chronic pain is emotional. 6. Why won’t the pain just go away? The brain and the nervous system have changed and they won’t change back – not that they can’t change back – therefore, a single-lane road becomes a four-lane highway, nerves are sensitized and their threshold for firing is lower, or they fire spontaneously and the nervous system’s ability to down-regulate or turn-off the pain signal is diminished. 7. What makes pain worse or better?
Pain intensifiers include fear, anger, sadness, loneliness and guilt. Distraction, movement, breathing, relaxing and accepting make pain better. 8. Will I ever be free of pain? Perhaps not entirely free of pain, but certainly able to experience less pain at times and to be better able to accept pain when it occurs. We often don’t notice the times when we get temporary relief from pain if we simply focus on how bad it is. 9. Why do I have to do things that hurt in order to get better? The fear-avoidance cycle consists of avoiding movement because it hurts. Over time, this results in being less able to move because movement causes more pain and so on. The solution is to move and stretch, despite our initial discomfort, since this eventually results in better mobility and improved self-efficacy. Stretching and increased movement correlate with lower pain levels. 10. How does chronic pain affect my family? Since it affects every aspect of your life, it also affects every aspect of their self-esteem and self-worth, satisfaction with life, emotions and sense of well-being.
They feel your pain! 11. How can I get better from chronic pain? The first step in getting better is to let go of the desire or need to be pain free. The next step is to be willing to see that the emotional nature of your suffering represents your way out. Working around the edges of the pain. Taking responsibility for your actions with respect to functioning and the use of medication. 12. Why do I hold on to my pain? We hold on to our pain for a variety of reasons related to secondary gain, which is typically an unconscious driver of our discomfort – subtle benefits that we achieve to drive us towards having more pain.
These include not having to participate in activities, having an excuse to withdraw, allowing us to avoid emotions, justifying the taking of medications etc. Many people have become addicted to medications and illegal drugs in their attempts to seek relief from their chronic physical pain, when often the pain is actually a manifestation of unresolved emotional trauma. If you are concerned that you, or someone you care about, may be suffering from chronic pain, please contact us.