power of touch

The Importance of Touch for Physical and Mental Health

COVID-19 has brought considerable changes to our daily lives. We might now be working from home. If children attend school in person, they wear masks, and their desks are probably shielded with plexiglass partitions. Fast-food workers might place our to-go bags on trays before handing us our food, so there is very little chance of the customer and employee accidentally touching.

We miss a lot from our pre-COVID life, like getting together with friends and seeing extended family. We miss going to the movies and concerts. Most of all, we miss human contact. We miss shaking hands, and we miss hugs. We have become “touch-deprived.”

According to Tiffany Field, Ph.D., “we were already a touch-deprived society before [the pandemic].” Dr. Field, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami, references research that has been done in airports, studying behavior in lines. Previously, there was touching. People held hands. Now, we are all on our cell phones.

Problems Caused by Touch Deprivation

Touch deprivation, also called skin hunger, can cause mental and physical health issues. According to an article published on Nordic Cuddle’s website, a cuddle therapy provider located in the United Kingdom, people in Western cultures tended to be less “touch-friendly” even before the COVID-19 pandemic due to technology, mobile devices, and fears of allegations of harassment.

Lack of positive touch is associated with mental and physical health concerns, including the following:

  • Aggressive behavior, both verbal and physical
  • Body image disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • High levels of stress
  • Loneliness (signs could include prolonged hot showers and baths, wrapping up in blankets, and clinging to pillows and pets)
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Alexithymia (a condition that prevents people from expressing and interpreting their emotions)
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Fear of attachment

Benefits of Touch

The importance of touch was discussed in a recent article in Time magazine, “The Corona Virus Outbreak Keeps Humans from Touching: Here’s Why That’s So Stressful,” published April 10, 2020. According to the article, people need platonic touch daily. Dacher Keltner, professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, says that positive touch, like hugging your life partner or linking arms with a friend, reduces stress. Other health benefits include a strengthened immune system, improved digestion, deeper sleep, and an enhanced ability to empathize with others.

Examples of positive touch include a hug, a handshake, a high-five, or a pat on the back. In fact, touch is so essential to human development that part of the treatment for premature babies includes skin-to-skin contact between babies and their parents, called “Kangaroo care.”

According to Grace L. Heer, a certified cuddlist who works in Southern California, positive touch increases levels of oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin in the brain. These increased hormone levels decrease anxiety and stress levels and can lower the heart rate and reduce blood pressure. 

(Professional cuddling is a holistic therapy that provides clients with safe touch. Sessions could include hand-holding, hugs, spooning, conversation, or shared silence.)

How to Find Positive Touch During the Pandemic

Fortunately, there are ways to increase the amount of touch we receive, even during the pandemic. Sales of weighted blankets have increased during COVID-19, and people have started cuddling with stuffed animals and pets. Pet adoptions have increased during the pandemic as well. According to an article in the Washington Post, animal shelters, nonprofit rescues, private breeders, and pet stores all say that there is more demand for puppies and dogs than they can meet.

In a New York Times article, Dr. Field says that one way to get touch in your life in a very safe manner during the pandemic is a treatment she describes as “moving the skin.” Pressure receptors are located beneath the skin. Instead of merely stroking your skin, move your skin firmly enough to cause temporary indentations. She also recommends giving yourself a scalp massage, doing abdominal crunches, wearing compression clothing, or even rolling around on a carpeted floor or yoga mat. In addition, she says that yoga can function as a form of self-massage (“What All That Touch Deprivation Is Doing to Us,” New York Times, Oct. 6, 2020).

Due to the pandemic, Heer has been offering virtual cuddle sessions, leading participants in self-soothing techniques that boost oxytocin without physical contact. For example, she leads participants in performing mirror exercises. Participants complete the same movements at the same time, mirroring each other over Zoom. Doing the same movement at the same time, she explains, creates an emotional connection. Oxytocin levels in the brain are increased as they would be with physical contact because of how the neurons fire in the brain.

Touch is vital to our physical and mental well-being. At Enlightened Solutions, we offer many holistic treatment modalities that utilize touch, including acupuncture, chiropractic care, massage, and reiki. These therapeutic techniques are valuable in treating substance use disorders as well as mental health issues. Enlightened Solutions is a licensed co-occurring treatment center, meaning that we can treat substance use disorders and the mental health issues that frequently accompany addiction. Our treatment program is rooted in the 12-Step philosophy. It includes one-on-one counseling, group therapy, and many alternative therapies, including art and music therapy, family constellation therapy, yoga and meditation, and equine-assisted therapy. We are located near the southern New Jersey shore, and we offer each client a customized treatment program. Our focus is on healing the whole person rather than merely treating the addiction. If you seek relief from an addiction to drugs or alcohol, please call us at (833) 801-5483.


burnout in recovery

How to Avoid Burnout in Recovery

At one point in your life, you realized you had a problem with drugs or alcohol. Your substance abuse was beginning to take over your life, interfering with work, family, and friends. You got help. You went through a treatment program, and you achieved sobriety. Now you are back in the “real world,” working hard to maintain the sober lifestyle that you worked so hard to achieve. You go to meetings; you work with your sponsor; you eat a healthy diet; you exercise regularly; you make sure you get enough sleep. You are doing everything right, so why does it all feel like so much work?

It may be that in your diligent work to live a sober lifestyle, you’ve forgotten why you wanted sobriety in the first place. You most likely didn’t decide to become sober for the sake of sobriety alone; you became sober to improve your life. Now it seems like sobriety might be your entire life. If you feel this way, you might be burning out on sobriety which could lead to a relapse--the last thing you want.

Symptoms of Burnout

You may be heading toward burnout if you find that you are tired of going to meetings, tired of hearing about recovery, tired of hearing the same people talk about the same problems. You may find yourself feeling irritable, feeling emotionally exhausted, or feeling like an imposter. You may be getting more headaches or stomach aches, or your muscles may feel tight all the time. You may have trouble sleeping, or you may feel tired all the time. These are all signs that you may be experiencing burnout.

Be Aware of Your Feelings

The first step to avoiding burnout is to be aware of how you feel—check-in with yourself. Notice your thoughts and the sensations in your body. Remember that it’s okay to feel how you are feeling. If you keep a journal, write about what you are experiencing. If you don’t keep a journal, now would be a good time to start. Writing can be a great way to explore feelings. In the process of writing, you can uncover how you feel and dig under the surface to explore what is causing those feelings.

Try Something New in Recovery

If you are tired of the meetings you usually attend, try out some different ones. Although you will always want to be in fellowship with other people in recovery, some new faces and new perspectives may rekindle your interest in sobriety. You may find a new favorite meeting.

Volunteer in your community, or get involved with service work if you are active in a 12-Step fellowship. You will be doing some good in your community, and you will be shifting your focus away from yourself and your feelings of discontent. Also, in the process of volunteering, you may make some new friends or strengthen existing friendships.

Conversely, you may want to cut back on some of your commitments. It’s okay to give yourself a break once in a while. You may need to recharge. Taking a step back could allow you to examine what’s working and what isn’t in your recovery.

Try Something New Outside of Recovery

Now might be the time to add a non-recovery activity into your life. Maybe you liked to paint once upon a time--now could be the perfect time to break out the paints and the easel. Perhaps you used to go on hikes every weekend, or you have happy memories of working in a garden with a relative. Making time for a hobby that is seemingly unrelated to your recovery may strengthen your recovery.

Finding something new that you love, or returning to a hobby that you used to love, is a part of why you recovered in the first place. Your addiction was taking over your life. Now that you are free from your addiction, you have time to discover or rediscover activities that you love.

Reach Out for Help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Reach out to someone you trust. It may seem like you are the only person who has felt burnt out on recovery, but you aren’t. If you have a sponsor, talk about your concerns and what you are experiencing. Your sponsor may very well have gone through something similar. Discuss this with your therapist. Don’t keep your feelings bottled up.

Although it may not seem like it at first, going through a burnout phase, a season of discontent, will strengthen your commitment to recovery.

At Enlightened Solutions, we realize that recovery is a lifelong process. As such, our relationship with our clients does not end when they complete their formal treatment program. Our alumni are a living testament to our recovery program. Their successes after treatment bring hope and encouragement to our current clients and to one another. We are a co-occurring treatment center, and in addition to substance use disorder, we also treat the mental health issues that often accompany addiction, including depression and anxiety. Our treatment programs are rooted in the 12-Step philosophy and include traditional talk therapy and many holistic treatment modalities like yoga, family constellation therapy, and art and music therapy. We are located near New Jersey’s southern shore, and we customize a treatment plan for each client. If you are struggling with an addiction, or if someone close to you is, please call us at (833) 801-5483 for more information about our treatment options.


Bed

“Make Your Bed”: The Importance of Routine in Addiction Recovery

“If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed. If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day….Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.”

Retired Navy Adm. William H. McRaven first gave that advice in 2014 as part of his commencement speech at the University of Texas, Austin. His speech evidently touched a nerve, because it went viral and became a basis for his book Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life...and Maybe the World. Making sure that you have time for, and take care of, the little things ensures that the big things will happen too.

Sobriety: A Huge Change

Your decision to say goodbye to addiction and embrace sobriety is a huge change. When you went through a treatment program, you made many positive changes in your life. Embracing sobriety isn’t just about overcoming addiction; it’s also about creating a new, healthy lifestyle.

In treatment, your schedule was provided for you. You knew when to get up when to eat, when to workout, when to go to therapy, when to go to your support group, and when to go to bed. The routine was established to make sure that everything you needed for your recovery happened and to establish healthy habits. Now that you have finished treatment, you need to create a routine to ensure that you continue with those healthy habits.

Routine Provides Structure and Stability

When you were struggling with your addiction, your life was out of your control and your substance of choice was in charge. Through treatment, you regained control of your life. Having a stable routine will help you remain in control.

Routine provides us with structure. Knowing what we are going to do and when we are going to do it gives us control of our lives and a sense of self-efficacy. We know what to expect and we can prepare. A routine can even give us a sense of accomplishment because if we have a plan for our day, we will know that we have completed what we set out to do.

How to Create a Routine

When you start creating your routine, begin with what could be called your anchor points. Another way to think of it is to begin creating your routine by starting with the non-negotiable items. While those will vary from person to person, for many of us they will revolve around our work schedule and when our children (if we have children) need to be in school. Remember to include the time that it takes to get to and from the places that you go routinely. Time spent in transit may not be as important during the COVID-19 pandemic, as many people are working from home and some children are attending school online, but it is still something to consider.

Another set of vital anchor points to pin down is the time you go to bed and the time you wake up. When you go to bed and get up at roughly the same time every day, it improves the quality of your sleep. And a good night’s sleep makes the next day so much better.

When you have established a few key anchors, you can begin linking other important activities to these points. For example, you may decide that after you wake up, you will meditate or go for a run. You might set out your clothes for the next day as part of getting ready for bed.

When you are creating your routine, remember that not every day will look the same and that’s okay. On some days you may be ferrying children to practice or rehearsal (although not so much during the pandemic) and on other days you may be attending your support group. What’s important is that you have a plan and you know what to expect.

What to Include in Your Routine

As you establish your routine, you will want to make sure you have time for activities that nourish your body and your soul and support your sobriety. You will want to make time to attend your support group. Many people in early sobriety go to several meetings a week. You will want to make time for appointments with your therapist. Exercise is important to your physical and mental well-being, so you will want to be sure that you include time for exercise several times a week. Include time to plan and prepare nutritious meals and be sure to include some time for self-care and household maintenance.

Having a routine does not mean that everything will be within your control, but it does mean that more of your day will go as planned. In addition to reducing feelings of anxiety, this will give you a sense of efficacy and accomplishment, and that feels really good.

Establishing a routine to follow in recovery may sound trivial, but it helps ensure that you attend to all the little details that require attention. When you succeed at the little things, you are set up to meet your big goals as well, like remaining sober. A routine provides your life with structure and ensures that you have time for the activities that nourish your body and soul. Learning to create routines is one of the life skills you will gain at Enlightened Solutions. Enlightened Solutions is a drug and alcohol treatment center located on New Jersey’s southern shore. We are licensed to treat co-occurring disorders, which means that we can help with the mental health issues that frequently go hand-in-hand with substance abuse. Our focus is on healing the whole person, not just treating an addiction. In addition, to talk therapy and group support, we offer a range of holistic treatment modalities including yoga, meditation, art and music therapy, family constellation therapy, and acupuncture. If you have been struggling with an addiction, please call us at (833) 801-5483. We are here to help you.


Drug Use

Your Brain and Body on Meth

The last time Sam used meth was following a breakup. She was terribly depressed and lonely, and she thought that meth would help her feel better. Instead, she said, it turned her into a “monster.” She recalls that when she was using meth she felt invincible and like she could do no wrong. In reality, she says, she was letting down the people she loved. The high she had experienced didn’t last and became more and more elusive.

In reality, she explained, meth turned her into a selfish, horrendous person. When you are high on meth, you can go for several days without sleep or food. You can’t hold a job when you use meth, she says, because your thinking and behavior becomes completely erratic and frequently violent. When your high wears off, you frequently feel depressed, anxious, extreme fatigue, and intense cravings for more meth so you won’t feel depressed, anxious, and exhausted. And so the cycle continues. Also, meth users can lose the ability to feel pleasure from daily activities. The only thing that brings them pleasure is the drug.

What Is Meth?

Meth, short for methamphetamine, is a synthetic drug made from pseudoephedrine, a nasal decongestant used in cold and allergy medicine, and common household substances like acetone, drain cleaner, brake cleaner, battery acid, lithium, and others. According to the Department of Justice, meth can be produced in two types of labs: “superlabs,” which produce large quantities of the drug and supply organized drug traffickers or small labs that can be in homes, motel rooms, and cars, among other locations. (Meth labs also produce incredible amounts of toxic waste and are an environmental hazard.)

Methamphetamine comes in several forms (crystal, rocks, powder, and tablets) and can be swallowed, snorted, smoked, or injected. According to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the drug goes by a number of names on the street including meth, speed, ice, shards, bikers coffee, and crank, among others. Meth is also referred to as “poor man’s coke.”

Scope of the Problem

Meth use is prevalent in the United States. According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), more than 14.7 million people, or approximately 5.4% of the population, have tried meth at least once, 1.6 million people actively used meth in the year before the survey was conducted, and 774,000 people used in the past month. Meth is more widely available in the West and Midwest. The NSDUH is directed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the information gathered is used to guide public policy concerning drug use. According to staff members at Enlightened Solutions, a drug and alcohol rehab center located in New Jersey, meth addiction frequently co-occurs with depression and anxiety.

Meth’s Effect on the Body and Brain

According to a report published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the effects of meth on the body and brain can be devastating and long-term. 

Perhaps the most common physical problem associated with meth use is the severe dental problems that can accompany the addiction. Commonly known as “meth mouth,” meth users frequently experience severe tooth decay and tooth loss. Meth users are frequently malnourished and lose unhealthy amounts of weight. In addition, meth users frequently have sores and scabs on their face, arms, torso, and legs. These sores come from users scratching nonexistent insects that they imagine crawling under their skin. Meth also leads to cardiovascular problems including rapid and irregular heartbeat and elevated blood pressure. In addition, meth users are at an increased risk of having strokes or developing Parkinson’s disease.

Meth’s effects on the brain are damaging as well. People who use meth experience severe anxiety, confusion, insomnia, and mood disturbances and can become violent. People who use meth can develop psychotic features including paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations, delusions, and the sensation of insects crawling under their skin. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, these psychotic symptoms can occur months or even years after the person has stopped using meth.

Research discussed in the report has shown that meth causes structural and functional changes in parts of the brain. Imaging studies have shown changes in the dopamine system associated with “reduced motor speed and impaired verbal learning.” These studies have also shown that there are changes in areas of the brain associated with emotion, memory, decision-making, and the ability to stop engaging in “behaviors that have become useless or counterproductive.”

Signs That Someone May Be Using Meth

If you think that someone you love is using meth, there are indicators to watch for. Overall, he or she will lose interest in activities and people that used to be important, like career, family, and hobbies. Signs to look for include the following:

  • Insomnia
  • Periods of no sleep followed by periods of excessive sleep, like 24-48 hours
  • Profuse sweating
  • Sores that won’t heal
  • Skin breakouts
  • Visible dental problems 
  • Non-stop or rapid talking
  • Short temper
  • Irritability
  • Paranoia
  • Shaking
  • Twitching
  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Repetitive, compulsive behavior

Help for Meth Addiction Is Available

While meth is a very dangerous drug, the good news is that treatment is available. Treatment begins with detox. It is best if detox from meth is done in a treatment facility so the user will have medical supervision and be away from the environment where he or she was using. Following detox, treatment can begin. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been found useful for meth recovery. CBT focuses on learning new ways to think about and cope with environmental stressors.  A type of treatment called contingency management interventions is also helpful and involves providing incentives for people in recovery to stay in treatment and abstain from drug use. The woman mentioned in the opening paragraphs sought treatment for meth use. She says that recovery was difficult but worth it. She also says that she will never touch meth again.

Meth is a dangerous drug that can destroy lives because of its devastating physical and psychological effects. Enlightened Solutions is licensed to treat co-occurring disorders, which means that we can treat the anxiety and depression that frequently accompanies meth addiction. One of the treatment modalities we offer is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which has been shown to be one of the effective treatments for meth addiction. We also offer a range of holistic treatment modalities including art and music therapy, equine therapy, family constellation therapy, yoga and meditation, acupuncture and chiropractic care, and sound therapy. In addition, we offer traditional psychotherapy and support groups rooted in the 12-Step philosophy. We develop a treatment plan for each individual client. If you are struggling with a meth addiction and the devastation that it causes, please call us at (833) 801-5483. We are located on the picturesque New Jersey’s southern shore for optimal healing and relaxation.


Break Up

Surviving and Moving On After a Breakup

Maybe you saw it coming. You two hadn’t been getting along and the fights had become more frequent. You hadn’t seen each other as much. The calls and texts were becoming fewer and farther between.

Maybe it was sudden. Your partner said it wasn’t working out or you two weren’t right for each other. It doesn’t make sense. All you know is that you are alone and that you are hurting.

Although recovering from a heartache takes time, making sure that you are taking care of yourself will help the process along.

Food to Help Mend a Broken Heart

Grief may cause you to lose your appetite and it may be very hard to make yourself eat. Now is the time for comfort food, food that reminds you of happier times. For many people, that means food from childhood. Your favorite might be macaroni and cheese. If you wanted to boost the nutrition a bit, you could add pureed butternut squash or make it with whole-grain pasta. Cheese, despite being rich in calories, is rich in calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12. Eating cheese causes your brain to produce more dopamine and serotonin. Serotonin helps to regulate sleep and impulse control, and dopamine boosts mood, motivation, and attention and helps to regulate emotional responses. Other foods that boost serotonin levels include eggs, salmon, and nuts.

If you are a chocolate lover, feel free to indulge a bit. Cacao, the main ingredient of chocolate, enhances mood because it contains tryptophan which is used by the brain to produce serotonin. Also, most people associate chocolate with happy times, which helps. Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, contains antioxidants, which protect your body from the effects of free radicals.

Cooking for Comfort and Community

The act of cooking can make you feel better too. When you cook, you need to be aware and present. You need to focus on what you are doing in the moment. Cooking requires mindfulness, which can help reduce stress and anxiety. In addition, the act of cooking will take your mind off your heartache and provide you with a creative outlet.

Also, when you have a broken heart, you need the support of your friends. Cooking is a great way to bring people together and can remind you that you are not alone.

Make Time to Work Out

Although you may not feel like it, exercise will help you feel better. Working out is very important for your mental health. An article published in The Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry discussed the benefits of exercise and stated that aerobic exercise (like running, walking, swimming, cycling, and dancing) reduces anxiety, depression, and negative mood. Exercise also improves self-esteem and cognitive function. The article recommended that you get thirty minutes of moderate exercise 3 to 5 days a week. The benefit to you is improved sleep, stress relief, increased mental alertness, and an improved mood.

Make Time for Sleep

Grief can make it difficult to sleep, but getting good sleep is important to your mental health. Depression and anxiety can be made worse by lack of sleep. If you don’t already, make sure that you go to bed and get up at roughly the same time every day. Doing so will improve the quality of your sleep and keep some structure and routine in your daily life. 

If you are having trouble sleeping, try following the suggestions offered by the Sleep Foundation:

  • Make your bedroom comfortable and distraction-free
  • Have a relaxing bedtime routine
  • Keep naps short and don’t nap in the late afternoon
  • Spend about 30 minutes winding down (read, stretch, meditate, listen to soft music)
  • Dim the lights
  • Put electronic devices away 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime
  • Cut down or eliminate caffeine in the afternoon and evening

What Not to Do

As normal as it is to want to understand why the relationship ended and have closure, you may never know what happened. Resist the impulse to replay the entire relationship in your head. Don’t analyze old text messages looking for clues as to what went wrong and don’t spend all your time discussing the relationship with friends and family members. Don’t neglect your well-being and don’t isolate yourself. Don’t turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to escape from the pain. While it may bring you some relief in the near term, in the long run substance abuse will not help and can damage your physical and mental health.

The best cure for grief after a relationship is time. Although you can’t put time in a bottle, if you take care of yourself by eating well, spending time with family and friends, exercising, and getting restorative sleep, you will begin to feel better.

The end of a romantic relationship can be devastating. Although healing takes time, you can help the process by eating well, exercising, and getting restorative sleep. What you should not do is neglect your self-care, obsess over the relationship, isolate yourself from family and friends,  or turn to drugs or alcohol to cope. If your grief seems excessive to you or you find yourself abusing drugs or alcohol, you may need professional help. Grief is one of the mental health issues that Enlightened Solutions can help with. We are a drug and alcohol treatment center and we are licensed to treat co-occurring disorders. Our focus is on healing the whole person and we individualize a treatment plan for each client. In addition, to talk therapy and group support rooted in the 12-Step philosophy, we offer a number of holistic treatment modalities including yoga, meditation, art and music therapy, acupuncture, family constellation therapy, and equine therapy. If you are tired of struggling with addiction and ready to begin healing, call us at (833) 801-5483.


Eating Disorder

You Can Never Be Too Thin--or Can You?

“You can never be too thin or too rich.” This quote has been ascribed to twice-divorced Wallis Simpson, the American woman for whom Edward VIII abdicated England’s throne. Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, was reportedly obsessed with wealth--and being thin.

Apparently, the duchess isn’t the only one to ascribe to this point of view. Thin models and celebrities stare at us from magazine covers. Celebutantes, almost always thin, post their filtered, carefully posed selfies on Instagram. Women of every age try diet after diet in an attempt to look like the airbrushed images that bombard them every day. According to BusinessWire, the weight loss and diet control market in the United States reached $72 billion in 2019, the highest it had ever been.

That last point may be proof that what’s good for Wall Street isn’t always good for Main Street. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), twenty million women and ten million men in the United States suffer from an eating disorder. Eating disorders have the “second-highest mortality rate of all mental health disorders, surpassed only by opioid addiction.” NEDA works to educate the public about eating disorders, build communities to support people who are recovering from these disorders, fund research, and provide people with resources. In an effort to educate the public, NEDA sponsors National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, which will be February 22 through 28 in 2021.

What Are Eating Disorders?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, eating disorders are “serious medical illnesses marked by severe disturbances to a person’s eating behaviors….These disorders can affect a person’s physical and mental health; in some cases, they can be life-threatening.”

Three common types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.

People with anorexia avoid food or severely limit the amount and types of food they eat. They see themselves as overweight even when they are severely underweight. Some people with anorexia, in addition to restricting food, will force themselves to vomit or misuse laxatives and diuretics in an effort to further limit calories. Signs that someone may have anorexia include restricted eating, excessive exercise, extreme thinness, fear of gaining weight, and a distorted body image. As the illness progresses the person may develop medical issues, including:

  • Anemia
  • Muscle wasting and weakness
  • Brittle hair and nails
  • Low body temperature
  • Lethargy or fatigue
  • Heart damage
  • Brain damage
  • Multi-organ failure

Anorexia can be fatal and people who die from anorexia exhibit medical conditions associated with starvation.

People with bulimia eat unusually large amounts of food and feel as if they have no control over their eating. They compensate for binge eating by forcing themselves to vomit, misusing laxatives or diuretics, fasting, or excessive exercise. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), people with bulimia can be a normal weight or even be overweight. Medical issues caused by bulimia include a chronically inflamed and sore throat; swollen salivary glands; worn tooth enamel and tooth decay; acid reflux; intestinal issues from laxative abuse; dehydration; and electrolyte imbalance which can lead to a stroke or heart attack.

Sufferers of binge-eating disorder have repeated episodes of binge eating, usually defined as “eating an amount of food that exceeds what most people would eat within a two-hour time period. People with this disorder will eat even when they are not hungry and eat until they are uncomfortable. They tend to eat very rapidly during these binge episodes and they frequently eat alone or in secret because of feelings of shame or embarrassment. People with binge-eating disorder are frequently overweight or obese and diet without success. Heart problems are the most common health problem for this group.

Co-Occurring Mental Health and Substance Abuse Issues

While the causes of eating disorders are not known, experts speculate that eating disorders are caused by a combination of biological, psychological, and societal forces. What is known, however, is that many people with eating disorders also suffer from depression and anxiety and may have issues with substance abuse. 

A study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders found that 50% of people with eating disorders abuse drugs or alcohol, particularly those who engaged in some sort of purging behavior. According to an advisory released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), people with eating disorders have high rates of substance abuse as well. As the eating disorder becomes more severe, the likelihood that more than one substance is abused increases as well. Studies reported in the advisory found that people with binge-eating disorder tended to abuse alcohol, while those who attempted to increase their weight loss by purging (including bulimics and anorexics who purge) abused stimulants and sleeping pills.

The same advisory noted that co-occurring mental health disorders are common among people with eating disorders, particularly anxiety disorders, mood disorders (including major depressive, bipolar, and seasonal affective disorders) and impulse control disorders.

Help--and Hope--Is Available

Fortunately, help is available for people suffering from eating disorders. As serious as these disorders are, they are treatable, and people do recover.

Treatment for an eating disorder includes nutrition education, psychotherapy (talk therapy), and medication. Of the available psychotherapies, family-based therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy have been found to be effective. Alternative treatment modalities are also helpful in treating eating disorders. These include yoga, meditation, massage, fitness therapy, and acupuncture. 

You can recover from an eating disorder and receive treatment for co-occurring disorders that you may have. Treatment can literally save your life.

Experts estimate that nearly thirty million Americans suffer from an eating disorder, which has one of the highest mortality rates of all mental health issues. Approximately half of those who have an eating disorder also abuse drugs or alcohol and co-occurring mental health issues are also prevalent in this population. Eating disorders are serious health issues that can result in death if not treated. Help for eating disorders is available at Enlightened Solutions. We are a drug and alcohol treatment center on New Jersey’s southern shore and we are licensed to treat co-occurring disorders, including anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating disorder. Our treatment plans are rooted in the 12-Step philosophy. We focus on healing the whole person, not just treating the addiction. In addition to traditional talk therapy and support groups, we offer a range of holistic treatment modalities including yoga and meditation, art and music therapy, and family constellation therapy. If you have been struggling with an eating disorder or other addiction, please call us at (833) 801-5483. We can help.


The Unhealthy Quest for Perfection: Body Image Disorder

Many of us have a physical characteristic that we don’t especially like. Maybe you would like to be thinner, or that one eyebrow is a little higher than the other, or you think your nose is too big. If you are like most people, you probably spend a little time thinking about these perceived flaws and then get on with your life. If you don’t like your nose much, you might learn a few tricks with makeup, you might turn your face a certain way in photos, or you might even consider getting a nose job. Maybe your desire to be thinner causes you to adopt a healthy diet and spend more time exercising. That’s normal. 

But for some people, the perceived flaw (usually something that other people don’t notice or don’t think is a big deal) becomes an obsession. This obsession has a name: Body Image Disorder or Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). People with BDD spend hours each day thinking about their perceived flaw(s). People suffering from BDD fixate on perceived flaws frequently related to facial features, hair, skin, the appearance of veins, breast size, muscle size and tone, genitalia, and weight. They might have several cosmetic procedures in an endless attempt to fix the “problem” and never be satisfied with the results. According to an article published on the Mayo Clinic’s website, people with BDD spend an inordinate amount of time looking in the mirror, grooming, dressing to hide the “flaw,” and seeking reassurance from other people about their appearance to the point where these actions interfere with their daily life. People suffering from BDD tend to isolate and avoid social situations.

Prevalence of Body Image Disorder

 Staff at Enlightened Solutions, a drug and alcohol treatment center licensed to treat co-occurring disorders, among them body image disorder, estimate that up to four percent of the United States population suffers from body image disorder.  In addition, according to the OCD Foundation, 80% of people with a body image disorder have attempted or will attempt suicide. 

BDD and Eating Disorders

If someone with BDD is fixated on their weight, they may develop an eating disorder. A study of 1600 health club members found that of participants who indicated that they had an eating disorder, 76% had BDD as well. Results were published in the journal Eating and Weight Disorders. Eating disorders have been described in a blog published by Enlightened Solutions as “an addictive relationship with self-destructive eating patterns.” 

While there are many types of eating disorders, three of the most common are anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating disorder.

People suffering from anorexia restrict the number of calories they consume and the types of food that they eat. They may also exercise excessively and may use laxatives, diuretics, enemas, or diet aids in an effort to lose weight. Frequently, people with anorexia equate being thin with their self-worth. According to information found on the Mayo Clinic’s website, symptoms of anorexia include extreme weight loss, fatigue, hair loss, anemia, kidney problems, bone loss, and heart problems. In extreme cases, anorexia can result in sudden death from abnormal heart rhythms or electrolyte imbalance. 

People with bulimia binge and purge. They eat an amount that exceeds what someone without the disorder would eat in a two-hour period. Most people with bulimia purge by vomiting, although some will purge by fasting, exercising, or abusing laxatives or diuretics. People with bulimia use the restroom during or right after a meal and will sometimes avoid eating in public. Medical problems that can develop in people who have bulimia include tooth decay and gum damage, damage to the esophagus, electrolyte imbalance, low blood pressure, and heart problems.

According to the Enlightened Solutions website, binge-eating disorder is described as repeated episodes of “eating an amount of food that exceeds what most people would eat within a two-hour time period.” People suffering from this condition frequently eat when they are not hungry, eat until they are uncomfortable, eat very quickly, and frequently eat alone because of feelings of shame. Physical problems caused by binge eating disorder include heart problems and obesity. 

Related Mental Health Issues and Substance Use Disorder

People who suffer from BDD frequently have co-occurring mental health and substance use issues as well. According to an article on BDD that appeared on the Mayo Clinic’s website, people with BDD often have major depression or other mood disorders, suicidal thoughts and behaviors, social anxiety disorder, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Staff at Enlightened Solutions have noted shame, guilt, stress, and anxiety, and that many of their patients with BDD have experienced trauma at some point in their past. People suffering from BDD use the fixation on their perceived flaws as a way to cope with painful emotions and memories.

People suffering from BDD also frequently have substance use disorders as well. According to a study that looked at comorbid SUDs with BDDs, 68% of the subjects reported SUDs. Alcohol and cannabis were the most frequently abused. A study published in The International Journal of Eating Disorders had as participants women with different types of anorexia. The findings suggested that SUDs are more associated with “bulimic symptomology.” Among people with BDD who fixated on their weight, stimulants were the most commonly abused substances. People with BDD who muscle size and tone might abuse steroids.

Help Is Available

Fortunately, help is available for people suffering from BDD. Treatment usually involves psychotherapy and medication. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be particularly helpful because it helps you learn to challenge your negative thoughts about your body image, learn to handle your triggers without constantly looking in the mirror, and learn to generally improve your mental health.

While there are no medications specific to BDD, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can be helpful, as is following your treatment plan, keeping your appointments with your therapist, learning about BDD, practicing the skills that you learned in therapy, avoiding drugs and alcohol, and exercising (but not obsessively).

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), also called Body Image Disorder, is a serious mental and physical health issue. The disorder interferes with daily life and many people with BDD attempt suicide. People suffering from BDD often have other mental health issues and substance use disorders. BDD is one of the disorders treated at Enlightened Solutions and we can help you through a combination and traditional and alternative therapies. Enlightened Solutions is a drug and alcohol treatment facility and we are licensed to treat co-occurring disorders like BDD. We are located in New Jersey and grounded in the 12-Step philosophy. We focus on healing the whole person and work to uncover and treat the underlying issues that are causing BDD. The holistic treatment modalities we offer include yoga, meditation, art and music therapy, family constellation therapy, acupuncture, nutrition education, equine therapy, and chiropractic work. If you or someone close to you is suffering from BDD, please call us at (833) 801-5483.


Kind

Why Kindness Matters

When you head out for your morning walk, you take a bag with you and pick up trash that you find on your route. You leave a post-it note on the mirror in the restroom of a local restaurant that reads “You are amazing.” You donate books you’ve finished reading to your community library. All of these acts are examples of kindness and could make someone’s day a little bit brighter.

In 2021, Random Acts of Kindness Day is on February 17 and the week beginning February 14 has been designated Random Acts of Kindness Week. This day--and week-- is sponsored by the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, a nonprofit organization started in 1995 and sustained by financial contributions from an anonymous donor.

The “Helper’s High”

According to the Random Acts of Kindness website, being kind to others is good for your health. Seeing or performing a kind act increases the production of serotonin, the “love hormone.” This boosts self-esteem and optimism, lowers blood pressure, and improves cardiovascular health. Kindness also results in higher serotonin levels, which improves sleep, lessens anxiety and depression, and contributes to bone density. In addition, those of us who volunteer or make a point of being kind to others have reported that they have more energy and are happier. Researchers at Emory University found that when you do something for someone else, the brain’s reward and pleasure centers activate. This occurrence is called the “helper’s high.” In addition, performing acts of kindness could even cause you to live longer.

Performing acts of kindness reduce physical pain, stress, anxiety, depression, and blood pressure, according to the Random Acts of Kindness website. Pain is lessened because acts of kindness stimulate the production of endorphins, which are considered “the brain’s natural painkillers.” Those of us who volunteer in our communities or make it a point to be kind to others have a 23% lower level of cortisol (the stress hormone), resulting in less perceived stress. In a study conducted at the University of British Columbia, individuals diagnosed with social anxiety disorder performed a minimum of six acts of kindness per week. After one month, this group had a more positive mood, indicated more satisfaction with their personal relationships, and showed less social avoidance. A professor at Case Western Reserve says that doing good for others decreases depression and improves feelings of overall well-being. And finally, being kind to others lowers our blood pressure because of increased serotonin levels.

Turning Your Focus Outward Can Aid Recovery

Performing acts of kindness for others can also help us in our recovery from substance use disorder. When we were drinking, using drugs, or engaging in other harmful addictive behaviors (gambling, for example), we were thinking almost exclusively about ourselves and our addiction. Our focus was on our next drink, wondering where we would get the money for more meth, hoping someone at the party had ecstasy, or whatever our craving was. Our focus was inward. When we perform an act of kindness or service, our focus turns outward to other people and their needs.

Doing good deeds can also help us form connections with other people and with our communities. If we are volunteering as part of an organization, we can bond with others who choose to support the same cause, be it holding a clothing drive to aid people who are returning to the workforce after being homeless, cleaning cages at an animal shelter, or spending a week building a home for a family through Habitat for Humanity.

If you are fairly new to your recovery, you may find yourself feeling bored and with time on your hands. Boredom can lead to relapse, so it is important to have activities to fill the time that you used to spend drinking or doing drugs. Doing a good deed, be it for an individual or a group, will give you something else to think about and to do while helping someone else at the same time. Volunteering with an organization whose mission you believe in can give your life structure and an additional sense of purpose, which will aid your recovery.

Kindness and Service in Recovery Groups

If you are in recovery from an addiction, you are probably in a support group. The most common are the 12-Step programs (Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, to name a few) and SMART Recovery. Both organizations provide free support to people struggling with or in recovery from substance use disorders on an international level and rely on volunteers. In both groups, volunteers facilitate meetings, both in-person and online. If you are volunteering with your support group, whether you are running the meeting, making coffee, or setting up chairs, it’s a great way to perform an act of kindness and connect with other people. Serving in this way also means that you have made a commitment beyond going to meetings, and this can get you to a meeting when you don’t feel like going, and that can support your recovery.

Performing an act of kindness for someone else, no matter how large or how small, benefits the giver as much or more than it does the recipient.

Random Acts of Kindness Day--and Week--celebrates acts of kindness large and small. As it turns out, doing good deeds is good for your physical and mental health and being of service to others is part of the 12-Step tradition. At Enlightened Solutions, a drug and alcohol treatment center licensed to treat co-occurring disorders, service opportunities are built into some of the healing modalities that we offer. For example, in the horticultural therapy modality, patients participate in the work of the organic farm that supplies the produce for the center. We are located on New Jersey’s southern shore and our focus is on healing the whole person, not just treating the addiction. We will individualize treatment for you based on your own unique needs. The treatment we offer includes talk therapy and support groups as well as a range of holistic treatment modalities including yoga, meditation, art and music therapy, family constellation therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic care, and equine therapy. If you have been trapped in a life controlled by drugs and alcohol and are ready to break free, call us at (833) 801-5483.


Friends

Why Living Life “One Day at a Time” Can Be Good for Us

Many of the sayings used in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) have moved from nondescript meeting rooms into our mainstream consciousness. These sayings include: “What other people think of you is none of your business,” “If you want what you’ve never had you must do what you’ve never done,” and “The healthy person finds happiness in helping others; thus, for him, unselfishness is selfish.” Possibly the best-known phrase to come from AA, however, is the phrase “one day at a time.” 

In terms of sobriety, “one day at a time” means that all you have to do is be sober today. That’s it. No long-range plans. In terms of changing a long-held habit, like drinking or using drugs, the thought of committing to being sober for the rest of your life can seem overwhelming. So break it down to one day, today. Just remain sober today. One day at a time.

Don’t Regret the Past

All people look back at episodes from their past with regret from time to time. If you have had a problem with drugs or alcohol, you may have a tendency to ruminate and beat yourself up over events that happened in the past, or perhaps actions that you didn’t take in the past. Your actions may have caused pain to the people who loved you. Dwelling on the past may be one of the reasons that you became addicted to drugs or alcohol in the first place, as many people drink or use to keep painful memories at bay. Dwelling on past mistakes can also be a trigger that could cause you to relapse. 

While it is impossible to forget the past, we can choose to not dwell on it. In fact, we can choose to be grateful for the past, even for the painful parts. What we have gone through has strengthened us and shaped us into who we are. When we find ourselves dwelling too much on the past, the phrase “one day at a time” can help to bring us back into the present, into today. We have no control over the past, but we can control our actions today. One day at a time.

Don’t Fear the Future

Thinking about the future can fill us with dread. If we have struggled with addiction or mental health issues, we can become afraid of the future. We might fear that we will start drinking or using again, or that our depression might return. We might be afraid that we will cause emotional distress to someone we love. We start to think about the future in terms of worst-case scenarios. We fear the future because we don’t know what will happen and we cannot control it. Excessive worry about unknowable future events can be a trigger that causes us to drink or use again. Although planning for the future is healthy and can be motivating, we never really know what will happen. As the saying goes, “life is what happens to us while we are making other plans,” so bring your attention back to today. You cannot control everything that happens today, but you can control the actions you take and your reactions to situations. Focus on today. One day at a time.

Additional Benefits of Taking Life One Day at a Time

Making the decision to focus on today instead of the past or the future can be very good for us beyond coping with an addiction to drugs or alcohol. As we learn to take one day at a time, we can also learn to cope with one challenge or problem at a time. At any given moment, most of us have a number of problems staring us in the face. It can seem overwhelming if we try to solve them all at once. Taking on one problem at a time is much easier, and much more effective.

In addition, when we focus on the present, we may find that we enjoy life more. We may notice the sights and sounds that we wouldn’t notice if we were obsessively focused on the past and the future. When we pay attention to the present, we can find more enjoyment in everyday activities, like eating a bowl of strawberries, taking your dog for a walk, or reading a book with a child.

Learning to Live Life One Day at a Time

So how do we learn to live life one day at a time? Part of how we do that is by making a conscious decision to focus on the present. When you notice that you are dwelling on the past or becoming anxious about the future, stop, take a breath, and bring your mind back to the present. You can use the phrase “one day at a time” as a reminder to bring your focus back to the here and now. Bring your attention back to what you are doing and what is happening right now.

Another way you can focus on the present is to shift your attention from your thoughts to your senses. Focus on something that you can see, something that you can hear, something you can touch, something you can taste, and something you can smell. Focusing on your senses will bring you into the present. It is a cliche to say that you need to stop and smell the roses, but sometimes you literally have to stop and smell the roses!

Learning to live in the present is a life skill that will help you in your recovery from drug or alcohol addiction and it is one of the skills that we will teach you at Enlightened Solutions. We are located on New Jersey’s southern shore and we are licensed to treat co-occurring disorders, which means that we can treat mental health issues, like depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), that often accompany addiction. We individualize a treatment plan for each client that comes through our doors and we focus on meeting the needs of the whole person. In addition to traditional psychotherapy and support groups, we offer a range of holistic treatment modalities including art and music therapy, yoga and meditation, acupuncture and chiropractic care, and equine therapy. If you are struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol, call us at Enlightened Solutions at (833) 801-5483 today.


Reduce Anxiety

“The Sky Is Falling”: Anxiety and Addiction

Most of us are familiar with the old folktale about Chicken Little. In one of the more familiar versions, an acorn falls from a tree and hits Chicken Little in the head. Chicken Little decides that the sky must be falling and that the king needs to be warned. He (or she in some versions) sets out, proclaiming “the sky is falling, the sky is falling!” Along the way, he meets other animals who join him. Different morals have been drawn from the fable, among them that you have to have courage and that you shouldn’t believe everything you hear.

The term “Chicken Little” has come to refer to a person who is unreasonably anxious or afraid and who spreads unreasonable fear or anxiety to other people. In psychological terms, Chicken Little was probably suffering from generalized anxiety disorder and had a tendency to catastrophize--that is, to always expect the worst possible outcome from a situation.

What Is Anxiety?

Everyone gets anxious or nervous from time to time--you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t--but an actual anxiety disorder is not just something you experience from time to time and it doesn’t just go away. People who suffer from anxiety tend to be easily irritated and to think the worst of any given situation. They frequently have trouble sleeping, difficulty in making decisions, and are plagued by self-doubt. 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety can interfere with daily activities and can have a negative effect on job performance, school work, and relationships. Several types of anxiety disorder have been identified. People with generalized anxiety disorder worry excessively about everyday concerns including their health, work, and social interactions. Symptoms include irritability, feeling restless or edgy, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, muscle tension, and a general feeling of worry. Panic disorder is diagnosed when a person has recurring, unexpected panic attacks. Symptoms include heart palpitations, pounding or accelerated heart rate, sweating, trembling or shaking, feeling short of breath or as if you are choking or smothering, and a general feeling of impending doom. Panic attacks can mimic the symptoms of a heart attack and people who have had panic attacks tend to become afraid and worried about the panic attacks themselves.

Phobias are described as “an intense fear of a particular object or circumstance,” but the fear the person experiences is out of proportion to the actual danger. Examples of phobias include fear of heights, flying, spiders, or snakes. If a person has a phobia of a particular object, say spiders, the person will worry a lot about encountering a spider, take extreme measures to avoid spiders, and become extremely and immediately anxious if they come across a spider. Agoraphobia is a specific phobia in which the person is very anxious about two or more of the following situations: using public transportation, being in an open or an enclosed space, crowds or lines, or being alone outside of his or her home. Social anxiety disorder is a fear of being in social or performance situations, and if a person has separation anxiety disorder, he or she will be very fearful of being away from the person that he or she is attached to. Although separation anxiety disorder is often associated with children, adults can suffer from the disorder as well.

Can Anxiety Lead to Addiction?

Anxiety disorders are commonly associated with substance use disorder. If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, you might turn to alcohol or drugs in an effort to lessen the anxiety and make the symptoms more bearable. You may get relief that way, but only in the short-term. In the long-term, drugs or alcohol can actually increase your anxiety, so you can find yourself in a repeating circle: You feel anxious, so you have a few drinks; the alcohol (in the long-term) increases your anxiety, so you have a few more drinks, and on and on it goes. You could end up with two problems--the original anxiety disorder and a resulting alcohol use disorder. A study conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) interviewed more than 43,000 people who had suffered from anxiety in the previous year and found that fifteen percent of them met the criteria for a diagnosis of alcohol use disorder, about twice the rate for the general population.

Treatment for Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are usually treated with psychotherapy, medications, or a combination of both. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is frequently used in treating anxiety because it helps people to see the ways in which their thinking is unhelpful or distorted. Clients learn ways to reframe their thinking with respect to their phobia. 

Treatment for anxiety can also include mindfulness exercises and meditation, both of which calm our minds. Breathing exercises can bring us back to a calm place very quickly. These techniques can retrain our brains, so we realize that we aren’t in actual danger--that the snake dozing in its habitat at the local pet store probably won’t break the glass, escape, and destroy everything in its path.  

Like Chicken Little, when an acorn falls on our head, we need to realize that it’s just an acorn. The sky is not falling.

If you suffer from an anxiety disorder as well as an alcohol or drug addiction, both conditions need to be treated. If only the addiction is treated and not the underlying anxiety, it will be very difficult for treatment to be successful. Enlightened Solutions is a licensed co-occurring treatment center, meaning that we can treat substance use disorders and the mental health issues that so often accompany addiction. Our treatment program is rooted in the 12-Step philosophy. We offer traditional talk therapy and many alternative therapies, including yoga, meditation, acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments, art and music therapy, sound therapy, equine therapy, and horticultural therapy. We customize treatment for each client and our focus is on healing the whole person, not just the addiction. We are located near the southern New Jersey shore. If you are seeking recovery and relief from addiction and anxiety, please call us at (833) 801-5483.