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Our Mental Health Blogs

Breaking the Cycle of Dysfunctional Living

Breaking the Cycle of Dysfunctional Living

The cycle of dysfunction – you grow up in a significantly dysfunctional family and it has an impact on you. Now you have kids and the cycle of family dysfunction continues. Without recognition and positive change, the family dysfunction is passed from generation to generation.

What is a Dysfunctional Family?

The Free Medical Dictionary defines dysfunctional family as a family with multiple ‘internal’ eg sibling rivalries, parent-child– conflicts, domestic violence, mental illness, single parenthood, or ‘external’–eg alcohol or drug abuse, extramarital affairs, gambling, unemployment—influences that affect the basic needs of the family unit. (read: Roles in Dysfunctional Families)

Dena FomanFor our guest, Dena Foman, the family dysfunction definition fits her life to a tee.

“I have spent the better part of my life wearing a mask to disguise the childhood pain that followed me into adulthood. I was born into a poor family that had virtually no education. Later in life, my father became an alcoholic, just like his father. I am proud to say he has been sober for over 13 years. My mother left when I was 11 years old and turned to a life of drugs. I quit high school at 17 and had a child at 19.”

Dena had never been taught the skills of parenting or shown how to be loving. She says her son, later diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, got little in the way of nurturing, loving attention… and this, mixed with a mental illness, is deadly. He has attempted suicide twice and Dena says “I’ve spent more time than I want to remember planning his funeral.”

Against all odds, Dena ends up going to law school and while there, gets into therapy to figure out where it all went wrong.

Breaking the Cycle of Dysfunctional Living

In this edition of the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show, Dena shares the story of her childhood, of neglect and abandonment that led to a life of dysfunction for many years, and how she’s learned to make peace with herself and her family. Take a look.

All HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show Videos and Upcoming Shows.

Dena chronicles her journey in “Only I Can Define Me: Releasing Shame, Growing Into My Adult Self.” Her website is: www.releasingshame.com

Share Your Experiences with Dysfunctional Family

Did you grow up in a dysfunctional family? How has that affected you? Have you passed it on to your family? We invite you to call us at 1-888-883-8045 and share your experiences and insights. (Info on Sharing Your Mental Health Experiences here.) You can also leave comments below.

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The Insidiousness of Alcoholism

The Insidiousness of Alcoholism

I don’t know anyone who has set out to become an alcoholic. For most, alcoholism creeps up on you. Take Kendra for instance. She’s our guest on this week’s HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show.

Kendra Sebelius: Founder of Voice in Recovery
Kendra Sebelius: Founder of Voice in Recovery

Kendra was never one of those “social drinking” types. While in college, she started binge drinking. It was part of the social scene, so it never struck her that binge drinking might be an indication of a drinking problem. After all, she was only drinking one day a week. Of course, that was the early years. By her senior year, she was binge drinking four days a week, experiencing black outs and memory lapses. And even while her parents were vehemently expressing their concerns, Kendra insisted she didn’t have a drinking problem.

It was only years later, after experiencing panic attacks, eating disorders, engaging in self-injury and finally entering into an alcoholism treatment center, that Kendra discovered her binge drinking was a way to cope with a host of mental health problems.

Video on Alcohol Addiction and Recovery From Alcoholism

Watch our video interview with Kendra. She not only shares her story, but provides insights into common problems alcoholics face as well as the commitment it takes to recover from alcoholism. To give back and share what she learned, Kendra started the website Voice in Recovery, to let others know they are not alone.

All HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show Videos and Upcoming Shows.

You can find all mental health video interviews from the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show in the table of contents. And if you’re wondering if you might have a drinking problem, take our Alcoholism Screening Test for Problem Drinking.

Share Your Experiences with Helping Others

How has alcohol affected you? Was denial of a drinking problem a part of the problem? We invite you to call us at 1-888-883-8045 and share your experiences and insights. (Info on Sharing Your Mental Health Experiences here.) You can also leave comments below.

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Understanding Exercise Addiction

Understanding Exercise Addiction

Like millions of other Americans, I don’t get enough exercise. I’m more keenly aware of that fact in the month of January, when every gym and athletic goods store ramps up their advertising efforts to take advantage of the New Year fitness fever. But that doesn’t mean I’ll do anything about it. Ultimately, it’s just not that important to me. For some people, the opposite is true – exercise is one of the most important things to them. Does that mean they have an exercise addiction? How do you know if you’re over-exercising?

What Is Exercise Addiction?

A behavioral addiction, like gambling or sex, exercise addiction is not recognized as a diagnosable disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). But excessive exercise is mentioned in connection with bulimia nervosa, an eating disorder characterized by engaging in compensatory behaviors like vomiting or over-exercising in order to prevent weight gain.

susan-mooreWe asked Susan Moore, the Program and Exercise Coordinator at The Renfrew Center of Philadelphia, to join us on this week’s HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show and help us better understand exercise addiction. The Renfrew Center is a women’s mental health center, specializing in the treatment of eating disorders, trauma, anxiety, depression, and other women’s issues. As Program and Exercise Coordinator, Susan manages exercise and group therapy programs, facilitates exercise groups, and assists residents in developing an exercise plan upon discharge.

Video on Exercise Addiction

Watch our video interview with Susan live today at 3pm Eastern Standard Time by visiting the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show Homepage. Join the discussion by submitting your questions for Susan via the chat window just to the right of the live video feed.

You can find all mental health video interviews from the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show in the table of contents.

Share Your Exercise Addiction Experiences

Are you or a loved one addicted to over-exercising? We invite you to call us at 1-888-883-8045 and share your experiences and insights on exercise addiction. (Info on Sharing Your Mental Health Experiences here.) You can also leave comments below.

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Sexual Addiction: Facts and Fallacies

Sexual Addiction: Facts and Fallacies

As someone with Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder) I try to spread the message that even practicing psychologists are often woefully misinformed about DID, and that until you’ve heard from the experts in the field of trauma and dissociation your opinions of the disorder are very likely based in misconceptions perpetuated by movies and word of mouth. So it’s with humility and a little embarrassment that I admit to having come to erroneous conclusions about sexual addiction and sex addicts without the data to back them up. Fallacies about any mental health issue foster in the absence of accurate information. But sexual addiction facts come from educated, experienced experts – not  entertainment media and anecdote.

robert_weiss2A Sexual Addiction Expert Weighs In

We were very fortunate to have Robert Weiss join us last week on the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show. In a field with very few recognized experts, Mr. Weiss is an acknowledged professional in the assessment and treatment of persons with addictive sexual disorders and sexual offending. He’s the Founding Director of The Sexual Recovery Institute in Los Angeles, an outpatient sexual addiction treatment center and a respected writer of sexual addiction literature.

Mr. Weiss talked with us about sexual addiction facts and addressed some common misconceptions about sex addicts, including:

  • Sexual addiction is just an excuse for poor decisions and bad behavior. What do you think when you hear that another celebrity who’s been caught cheating is getting help for their sexual addiction?
  • Only men are sex addicts. Sex addict is a fancy new term for philandering husband or ladies’ man, right?
  • No one needs sexual addiction treatment – they need to exercise willpower. After all, if I can show restraint and respect for my partner and others, why can’t you?
  • Sex addicts are cold, uncaring offenders. Isn’t sexual addiction just another way of saying I carelessly objectify others for my own gratification and don’t feel an ounce of remorse?

Video on Sexual Addiction

Watch our sexual addiction video interview with Robert Weiss to get sexual addiction facts from an expert and learn the truth about the most persistent fallacies on Realities of Sexual Addiction.

And here’s the table of contents for all mental health video interviews from the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show.

Share Your Sex Addiction Experiences

Have you struggled with sex addiction? Are you in a relationship with a sex addict? We invite you to call us at 1-888-883-8045 and share your experiences and insights. (Info on Sharing Your Mental Health Experiences here.) You can also leave comments below.

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Alcohol Addiction and Holiday Sobriety

Alcohol Addiction and Holiday Sobriety

A couple of weeks ago I was out shopping with my son. We came upon several aisles filled with the trappings and trimmings of the holiday season. It looked so beautiful and I guess I didn’t realize it was that time of year again. I gasped a little and exclaimed happily, “Oh! They have their Christmas stuff out!” My son looked at me quizzically and said, “Why are you happy? You hate Christmas.” He’s right; historically the holidays are a difficult time for me. I’m not an anomaly that way. The holiday season is fraught with stress, depression, and money problems for so many people that I’d imagine dreading this time of year is more the rule than the exception. It’s no wonder then, that staying sober during the holidays is difficult at best. Managing alcohol addiction is no easy task regardless of the date on the calendar. But holiday sobriety presents its own unique challenges.

rachael-brownellAlcohol Addiction and Holiday Stress

Finances are stretched, tension is high, and drinking is not just acceptable this time of year, but encouraged. The holiday season is ripe with situations that increase the pressure to drink. Even so, our guest on the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show stopped drinking in October three years ago. Rachael Brownell’s first few months of sobriety were the ones most commonly filled with anxiety, depression, and plenty of opportunities to drink away the stress. The author of Mommy Doesn’t Drink Here Anymore, Rachael says that though staying sober during the holidays is hard, there are also more resources this time of year for people struggling with alcohol addiction:

  • Support. Alkathons are events held each year during the holiday season to help those in recovery find community and encouragement to stay sober. A combination of the words “alcohol” and “marathon,” an Alkathon is a non-stop Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. (Visit the Alcoholics Anonymous website to find an A.A. meeting near you.)
  • Information. The internet is a great resource for articles, blog posts, and videos on alcohol addiction and sobriety. Google “staying sober during the holidays” for a wealth of personal accounts and tips for maintaining your recovery.

Video on Alcohol Addiction

Watch our alcohol addiction video interview with Rachael as she discusses her experiences with alcohol addiction, recovery, and her tips for staying sober on Staying Sober During the Holidays.

And here’s the table of contents for all mental health video interviews from the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show.

Share Your Alcohol Addiction Experiences

Are you or a family member addicted to alcohol? Have you struggled with other forms of addiction? We invite you to call us at 1-888-883-8045 and share your experiences and insights. (Info on Sharing Your Mental Health Experiences here.) You can also leave comments below.

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Video Game Addiction: The Search for Treatment

Video Game Addiction: The Search for Treatment

Like most parents, Laurie Oulette wants her son to be healthy and happy. When he’s sick, struggling, or in trouble she wants to help him get well. But since his father’s suicide last December, Laurie’s 14-year-old son has become immersed in a video game addiction.

“My son plays video gamlaurieoulettees 10 to 12 hours a day. He eats, sleeps, and games. He used to be MVP in football and baseball and received high marks in school, even the honor roll. However, since video gaming he’s spiraled downward.”

Laurie, our guest on the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show, reports that helping her son with his video game addiction isn’t as simple as taking away the games. She believes he needs real addiction treatment, just like with alcohol or drugs. But the search for treatment, she’s found, isn’t simple either.

From Recreation to Video Game Addiction

Laurie says that before his father’s death her son played video games a lot in his spare time. But unresolved grief from his father’s suicide, she explains, is what propelled her son’s recreational activity into the realm of addiction. Other people have urged her to put an end to the problem by tossing the games in the garbage once and for all. Concerned about the possible consequences of such a move, Laurie has instead tried to find long-term care for her son. The search for addiction treatment has proven difficult though, because video game addiction is recognized as a legitimate type of addiction by so few doctors and treatment centers.

My Son’s Video Game Addiction (from Laurie Oulette)

As a mother, to see her son destroy himself in body, mind, and spirit upsets me. It frustrates me when people tell me to pull the plug, when I have heard that youth commit suicide or run from home when parents do that. I do not just want to pull the plug on my son. I fear he may end his life, or do a violent act without his game.

I have been on a hunt for resources that would help him. I almost had him in an addiction treatment program, however at the last minute they stated this is a substance abuse center, and video gaming is not recognized as an addiction.

I do take accountability for my ignorance as a parent. I know I have failed. I never knew how addicted my son could be to video games.

Video on Addiction to Video Games

Watch our video game addiction video interview with Laurie Oulette on My Son is Addicted to Video Games.

And here’s the table of contents for all mental health video interviews from the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show.

Share Your Video Game Addiction Experiences

Are you or a family member addicted to playing video games? We invite you to call us at 1-888-883-8045 and share your experiences and insights. (Info on Sharing Your Mental Health Experiences here.) You can also leave comments below.

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What Science Can Teach Us about Addiction Recovery

What Science Can Teach Us about Addiction Recovery

I thought addictions were essentially poor coping skills. “It’s a disease,” I’ve heard people say. But when I listened further the disease was always described to me as one of the mind, of emotion mismanagement, and of a physical dependence created by an inability to manage life. As such, I thought addiction recovery was a job for therapy and support groups.

Addiction Recovery Requires More Than Talk Therapy

hcu-2After watching Dr. Harold Urschel on this week’s HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show, I understand that though talk therapy and support groups can play a vital role in addiction recovery, more intervention is often needed for successful addiction treatment. His New York Times bestselling book, Healing the Addicted Brain: The Revolutionary, Science-Based Alcoholism and Addiction Recovery Program, serves as a guide to:

  • Teach patients and their loved ones what happens inside the brain of an addict.
  • Why talking therapy alone will never be the answer.
  • How the new information available can help the brain repair itself, pushing the successful recovery rate up as high as 90%.

A Science-Based Approach to Addiction Recovery

Many treatment centers use only outdated methods, some from 40-50 years ago.  Dr. Urschel wants to bring the information about the new anti-addiction medications to the public, which will change the way the country perceives addiction and the lives of everyone it affects.

Dr. Urschel is a board certified physician in both addiction and general psychiatry as well as the Chief Medical Strategist for EnterHealth, LLC, the leading alcohol and drug addiction disease management company in the U.S.  His primary job as clinical architect of EnterHealth is to ensure that all of EnterHealth’s clinical services (including residential, internet-based and telemedicine) use the latest scientifically proven methods and medications to maximize clients’ chances of a quick and successful recovery.

Share Your Experiences

Have you successfully recovered from an addiction? Are you currently active in addiction recovery? We invite you to call us at 1-888-883-8045 and share your experiences and insights. (Info on Sharing Your Mental Health Experiences here.) You can also leave comments below.

Watch our addiction recovery video interview with Dr. Urschel on Science-Based Addiction Recovery.

And here’s the table of contents for all mental health video interviews from the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show.

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Inside the Bipolar Mind of Natasha Tracy

Inside the Bipolar Mind of Natasha Tracy

If you’re wondering what it’s like living with bipolar disorder, or a serious mental illness,  here is one of the most illuminating lines on the subject that I’ve come across:

“It explores the difference between a sick brain and a mind left trying to cope with it.”

It was written by Natasha Tracy, describing the focus of her new Breaking Bipolar blog on HealthyPlace.com.

I’ve often pondered the subject of what it’s like inside your mind, living with bipolar disorder or some other serious mental illness.  You know your brain is sick, but due to the limits of present day science and what your sick mind is doing to you, there’s only so much that you can do to fix it. So you’re left to live with whatever it delivers that moment, that day. It’s not a pretty image.

Glamorizing Bipolar Disorder

If you’ve been around the web, I’m sure you’ve seen pages about celebrities with bipolar disorder. We have our own list of bipolar celebrities.  Maybe this is an attempt to minimize or normalize bipolar disorder; or make it cool.  “Look, everyone has it!”

Does it make it any easier to face the ravages of mania and depression on a daily basis?  I’m guessing not.

Natasha, our guest on this week’s HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show, doesn’t make living with bipolar disorder seem very exciting or glamorous.  In fact, her first two posts, Bipolar as Love Thief and Being Bipolar and Alone Isn’t Poetic or Romantic, paints a troubling existence.

“Sick would still be sick. Nothing gets you better except getting better. Being better.
In bipolar disorder, this is being “in remission”. You never get to be not bipolar. You get remission from illness. For a while you’re “better”. You remit. Until you don’t.”

“And I don’t.”

Join us Wednesday, June 9, at 3p CT, 4 EST for the live show and a look inside the bipolar mind of Natasha Tracy. As always, you can ask our guest your personal questions.

From Natasha Tracy

natasha_tracyI discovered I was bipolar like all good nerds do – by doing research on the internet. It was December 1998 and the only evidence of the discovery was a ream of paper full of facts on bipolar disorder, and an empty tissue box.

From that very moment, I knew it was “bad” to be bipolar. I knew this because I had read that there was no cure, and it was a lifetime ailment. I knew this because I knew I would be on medication for the rest of my life. I knew this because every site proclaimed “with treatment people with bipolar disorder can lead normal, healthy lives”. This is only ever written because it is in question. It is only ever written because many of us don’t.

And from that very moment, I started feeling bad about having bipolar disorder. I felt bad I had allowed myself to get it. I felt bad that I couldn’t think my way out of it. I felt bad that no matter what I did, bipolar disorder was still there.

In short, I thought all the things that day that people still preconceive today; and it is these thoughts and their implications that make it frightening to publicly be bipolar. It is the idea that I have done something wrong to get it, and that I am bad because of it. It is the idea that I could change if I wanted to, but that I just don’t want it enough. It is the idea that I’m crazy, unpredictable, untrustworthy, and likely to go off my meds and run wild at any moment.

And I know that being publicly bipolar is career suicide. I know that if you have two candidates in front of you, you never pick the one with a mental illness. I know that even getting into a relationship is hard because people are afraid of what I might do to them. I know that many people don’t approve of, or like me, just because I have this disorder and because it is treated with medication they deem to be “poison”. I know that in the eyes of some, I will always be crazy, and that will always be unacceptable.

Share Your Experiences on the Bipolar Mind

What is it really like living with Bipolar Disorder? Glamorous or not? We invite you to call us at 1-888-883-8045 and share your experiences and insights on the issue. (Info on Sharing Your Mental Health Experiences here.) You can also leave comments below.

After June 15, 2010, can watch our interview with Natasha Tracy on the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show homepage by clicking the on-demand button on the player. The show is titled “Inside the Bipolar Mind of Natasha Tracy.”

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Parents of Addicts

Parents of Addicts

Raising a child is hard enough. Having a child with an addiction can be a living hell; a nightmare of constant heartache and worry.

This week, on the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show, we’re focusing on parents of addicts – what they do right, wrong, and how to draw the line in helping an addicted child (teen or adult). Our guest is Catherine Patterson-Sterling, MA, RCC and Director of Family Services for the Sunshine Coast Health Center in British Columbia, a men’s drug and alcohol treatment center. In this capacity, Cathy provides families of substance abuse clients the support they need from the moment of the crisis before entering treatment through to their entry into family programming and beyond.

In addition to being a clinical counselor, Cathy is the author of Rebuilding Relationships In Recovery: A Guide To Healing Relationships Impacted By Addiction (2004) and Fingers On The Ledge: Healing The Lives Of High Functioning People With Addictions (2008).

Cathy responded via email to a few questions on parents of addicts prior to her interview on the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show:

1) What is the most difficult or frustrating part of your job working with families impacted by addiction?

The most challenging part of working with families impacted by addiction is that family members of substance-affected people love the people with addictions who are spiraling out of control with drugs and alcohol and out of this care, they will often jump in and try to fix the problems of these individuals with addictions. Such a rescuing cycle can be problematic because rather than confronting people with the addictions, family members will often try and figure out ways to help their addicted loved ones solve money problems or other issues related to the drinking or drug-using. People with addictions need to feel the negative consequences of their actions related to their choices of abusing drugs and alcohol. Some families are so scared of saying or doing the wrong thing that they will not confront the problem and instead focus on solving problems associated with the addiction instead.

2) What are one or two destructive things that families do in coping or dealing with the family member with an addiction?

Some families jump in and try to fix all of the problems with the fall-out from someone’s addiction. For example, they will pay off drug debts, give their addicted family member money for food knowing that other money will be used for drugs, make excuses for addicted people’s behaviors and so on. People with addictions need a caring confrontation so that family members challenge their addicted loved ones to see there is a problem and to get help for the addiction. A positive thing that families realize over time, is that the addiction will not magically get better by itself and the sooner family members challenge their addicted loved ones to get help, the better.

3) What is the role of family members in helping another family member who is an addict?

Family members need to stop worrying about doing or saying the wrong thing and instead confront their addicted loved one in a caring way. This is like holding up a mirror. Family members can say: “What I am seeing is….” as they describe the problem they are witnessing. For example, “Henry, I love you and I am worried. I see you drinking every weekend and struggling to make it to work. You are drinking a lot and driving everywhere. I think you are out of control and you do not have to live this way. You need to get help. Here is the number of a place to get support.” Often addicted people will make excuses for their behavior and this is called “minimizing.” Families do not have to “suffer in silence” and they can ring the alarm bell in their relationships with people with addictions so that they can get the help they need. In the long run, so many of my clients are grateful that the ringing of this alarm bell saved their lives.

Share Your Thoughts or Experiences About Having a Child with a Substance Abuse Problem

We invite you to call us at 1-888-883-8045 and share your experience in dealing with a child (teen or adult) who’s an addict.  How has it made you feel? How do you react to it? What tools have you found to be effective. (Info on Sharing Your Mental Health Experiences here.) You can also leave comments below.

If you didn’t make the live show, you can watch the video on Parents of Addicts here or use the on-demand menu on the player located on the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show homepage. For comprehensive information on addictions, visit the HealthyPlace Addictions Community.

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Controlling Overeating and Food Addiction – Sept. 29

Controlling Overeating and Food Addiction – Sept. 29

Reasons why people overeat and how to successfully manage your food addiction. Watch our guest, Caryl Ehrlich, founder of the Caryl Ehrlich program.

Overeating is a big problem for many of us. On the Tuesday night HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show, we’re welcoming Caryl Ehrlich, founder of the Caryl Ehrlich Program. We’re going to be discussing the reasons why people overeat and then learn how to successfully manage your food addiction. You can watch and participate (we’ll be taking your questions) right from the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show homepage. If you can’t make the live show, watch it “on-demand.”

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