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I love to read, write, play pool & help others. I love being with my 3 blessings! I have a gorgeous daughter, Meggan~23 and 2 handsome sons. Brian~20 and Joshua~16. I wouldn't be anything without my babies. They're my greatest accomplishment! 
I pray my words, pictures, and what I post about give you encouragement and help inspire you to love deeper and believe there is a life out there for you. You need to have faith and believe in YOU. 
I married a Soldier so I was a Military Wife for 17 yrs. and now we're divorced. I am part German, Irish, English, and Ukraine. Trying to focus on my writing. I'm working on my Memoir and Suspense Romance Novels. I want my story of abuse and my addictions  to help other woman and teens. I went through a lot of trauma growing up and still found joy and I know you can too!

Saturday, August 16, 2014


The Psychology of Addictive RelationshipsLove addicts often have the best intentions. They desire to have happy, healthy relationships. However, underneath these good intentions lies a covert struggle with intimacy. With sex and love addiction, there is always a hidden agenda to get needs met that are based in feelings of insecurity.
When there is dysfunction in the family of origin, love objects are unconsciously sought out with the goal of replaying unfinished business from childhood.
It is not always a relationship with a parent that we are repeating; it can be a relationship with any family member that is unresolved. Mourning childhood losses and allowing oneself to process the pain of past hurt sets us free to select more positive relationships.

One way to accomplish this is to spend time getting to know our partners prior to becoming sexually or romantically involved with them. If we emerge from dysfunctional homes, falling in love with someone soon after meeting them can cloud our vision and place us at risk of being with a partner with whom we repeat familiar, unhealthy patterns. Getting to know someone whom we feel sexually attracted to without becoming sexual is a tall order, but one that is incredibly important for love addicts to adhere to.
Love addicts need to live in reality. They need to identify and reflect on intense fantasies, such as “this person can make me happy.” When we don’t know someone well, we can project all kinds of desires upon them. These positive feelings can create chemical highs within the body, but they may not be based in truth, as we don’t have any real knowledge of who this person is. Only time and experiences with another person can provide us with this information.
Addictive relationships are based on creating “highs” when pairing. Therefore, a non-addictive relationship will grow and become more settled over time, while an addictive one will burn out. Partners in an addictive relationship have extreme difficulty navigating normal relational difficulties as they arise, whereas partners in healthy relationships frequently navigate difficulties from the beginning. In a love-addicted relationship, honesty is lacking, and the underlying truth regarding the dynamics of the relationship are not safe to talk about openly. This is a relationship that lacks true intimacy.
True intimacy involves the ability to talk openly about fears, concerns, and topics that delve beyond the surface, and which are risky to discuss. It does not involve blaming or deflecting to avoid taking responsibility that is so characteristic of an addictive relationship.
In early childhood, addicts often found that it was not safe to be authentic and real with another person. Rather, as coping mechanisms, these children learned to preserve themselves by detaching from their feelings. Bringing this coping style into adult relationships creates potentially toxic dynamics.

Obsessions and Addiction

By DARLENE LANCER, JD, MFT

Obsessions and Addiction
This article isn’t meant to addressobsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which is a mental disorder affecting one percent of adults. It starts in childhoodand is believed to have a genetic component. OCD may include only obsessions. Usually, the themes are about: Fear of contamination or dirt; having things orderly and symmetrical; aggressive or horrific thoughts about harming yourself or others; and unwanted thoughts, including aggression, or sexual or religious subjects.
The Mayo Clinic has developed an Apple app ($4.99) to cope with persistentanxiety, obsessions, and compulsions. If self-help isn’t enough, seek professional help for overcoming anxiety and obsessions. If you have OCD, seek professional treatment.
When an obsession dominates us, it steals our will and saps all the pleasure out of life. We become numb to people and events, while our mind replays the same dialogue, images or words. In a conversation, we have little interest in what the other person is saying and soon talk about our obsession, oblivious to the impact on our listener.
Obsessions vary in their power. When they’re mild, we’re able to work and distract ourselves. When intense, our thoughts are laser-focused on our obsession. As with compulsions, they operate outside our conscious control and rarely abate with reasoning.
Obsessions can possess our mind. Our thoughts race or run in circles, feeding incessant worry, fantasy or a search for answers. They can take over our life, so that we lose hours, sleep, or even days or weeks of enjoyment and productive activity.
Obsessions can paralyze us. Other times, they can lead to compulsive behavior such as repeatedly checking our email, our weight or whether the doors are locked. We lose touch with ourselves, our feelings and our ability to reason and solve problems. Obsessions like this are usually driven by fear.
Codependents (including addicts) focus on the external. Addicts obsess about the object of their addiction. Our thinking and behavior revolves around the object of our addiction, while our true self is cloaked with shame. But we can obsess about anyone or anything.
Obsessive worry frequently occurs. Because of shame, we’re preoccupied with how others perceive us. This leads to anxiety and obsessions concerning what other people think about us. We especially worry before or after any type of performance or behavior where others are watching, and during dating or after a breakup.
Shame also creates insecurity, doubt, self-criticism, indecision and irrational guilt. Normal guilt can turn into an obsession that leads to self-shaming that can last for days or months. Normal guilt is alleviated by making amends or by taking corrective action, but shame endures because it is “we” who are bad, not our actions.
Codependents typically obsess about people for whom they love and care. They might worry about an alcoholic’s behavior, not realizing they have become as preoccupied with him or her as the alcoholic is with alcohol.
Obsessions can feed compulsive attempts to control others, such as following someone, reading another person’s diary, emails, or texts, diluting bottles of liquor, hiding keys, or searching for drugs. None of this helps but only causes more chaos and conflict. The more we’re obsessed with someone else, the more of ourselves we lose. When asked how we are, we may quickly change the subject to the person we’re obsessed with.
In a new romantic relationship, it’s normal to think about our loved one to a degree, but for codependents, it often doesn’t stop there. When not worrying about the relationship, we may become obsessed with our partner’s whereabouts or create jealous scripts that damage the relationship.
Our obsessions may also be pleasurable, such as fantasies about romance, sex, or power. We may imagine how we’d like our relationship to be or how we want someone to act. A big discrepancy between our fantasy and reality may reveal what we’re missing in our life.
Some codependents are consumed by obsessive love. They might call their loved one many times a day, demand attention and responses, and feel easily hurt, rejected, or abandoned. Actually, this isn’t really love at all, but an expression of a desperate need to bond and escape loneliness and inner emptiness. It usually pushes the other person away. Real love accepts the other person and respects their needs.
Denial is a major symptom of codependency: denial of painful realities, of addiction (ours and others’), and denial of our needs and feelings. A great many codependents are unable to identify their feelings. They may be able to name them, but not feel them.
This inability to tolerate painful emotions is another reason why codependents tend to obsess. Obsession serves the function of protecting us from painful feelings. Thus, it can be looked at as a defense to pain.
As uncomfortable as an obsession can be, it keeps at bay underlying emotions, such as grief, loneliness, anger, emptiness, shame and fear. It may be the fear of rejection or the fear of losing a loved one to a drug addiction.
Often certain feelings are shame-bound because they were shamed in childhood. When they arise in adulthood, we might obsess instead. If we believe we shouldn’t feel anger or express it, we might not be able to let go of resentment about someone rather than allow ourselves to feel angry. If sadness was shamed, we might obsess about a romantic interest to avoid feeling the pain of loneliness or rejection.
Of course, sometimes, we really are obsessing because we’re very afraid that a loved one will commit suicide, get arrested, overdose, or die or kill someone while driving drunk.
Yet, we can also obsess about a small problem to avoid facing a larger one. For example, a mother of a drug addict might obsess about her son’s sloppiness, but not confront or even admit to herself that he could die from his addiction. A perfectionist might obsess about a minor flaw in his or her appearance, but not acknowledge feelings of inferiority or unloveability.
The best way to end an obsession is to “lose our mind and come to our senses.” It follows that if an obsession is to avoid feeling, getting in touch with feelings and allowing them to flow will help dissolve our obsession. If our obsession helps us avoid taking action, we can get support to face our fears and act.
When our obsessions are irrational and allowing our feelings doesn’t dispel them, it can be helpful to reason them out with a friend or therapist.
  • Ask yourself, “What am I feeling?” and wait patiently until you know.
  • Learn to meditate to quiet your mind.
  • Do slow movement to evocative music and allow yourself to feel.
  • Write about your feelings (ideally with your non-dominant hand) and read it to someone.
  • Share at a CoDA or Al-Anon meeting.
  • Spend time in nature.
  • Read spiritual literature or attend spiritual or religious gatherings. (Note that religion and spirituality can become obsessions, too.)
  • If you’re obsessed with a person, get “14 Tips for Letting Go” atwww.whatiscodependency.com.
  • Put your energy into expanding your social network.
  • Do something creative.
  • Develop interests and passions that feed, inspire, and nurture you.
  • Do what you enjoy. Don’t wait for someone to join you.
  • If you’re obsessing over a broken relationship, here’s a list of things to do and think about.
  • Do the exercises in Codependency for Dummies, especially Chapter 9 on nonattachment and the exercises in Conquering Shame and Codependency.

Panic Disorder Symptoms

By JOHNNA MEDINA, M.A.

People with panic disorder have feelings of terror that strike suddenly and repeatedly, most often with no warning. They usually can’t predict when an attack will occur, and many develop intense anxiety between episodes, worrying when and where the next one will strike. In between times there is a persistent, lingering worry that another attack could come any minute.
When a panic attack strikes, most likely your heart pounds and you may feel sweaty, weak, faint, or dizzy. Your hands may tingle or feel numb, and you might feel flushed or chilled. You may have chest pain or smothering sensations, a sense of unreality, or fear of impending doom or loss of control. You may genuinely believe you’re having a heart attack or stroke, losing your mind, or on the verge of death. Attacks can occur any time, even during nondream sleep. In the United States, this type of panic attack has been estimated to occur at least one time in roughly one-quarter to one-third of individuals with panic disorder, of whom the majority also have daytime panic attacks. While most attacks average a couple of minutes, occasionally they can go on for up to 10 minutes. In rare cases, they may last an hour or more.
Panic disorder strikes between 3 and 6 million Americans, and is twice as common in women as in men. It can appear at any age–in children or in the elderly–but most often it begins in young adults. Not everyone who experiences panic attacks will develop panic disorder– for example, many people have one attack but never have another. For those who do have panic disorder, though, it’s important to seek treatment. Untreated, the disorder can become very disabling.
In the United States and Europe, approximately one-half of individuals with panic disorder have expected panic attacks as well as unexpected panic attacks. Thus, as a recent change made to the criteria in the 2013 DSM-5, presence of expected panic attacks no longer prevents the diagnosis of panic disorder. This change acknowledges that oftentimes a panic attack arises out of an already-anxious state (e.g., the person is worried about having a panic attack in a store and low-and-behold has one). Clinicians now make the decision whether a person’s expected panic attacks will count towards their client’s panic disorder diagnosis. Now, they will usually classify expected panic attacks under panic disorder as long as the person’s concerns accompanying their panic attacks are centered around fears of the panic sensations themselves, their consequences (e.g., “I could have died or gone crazy”), and of having them again in the future (e.g., the person makes special efforts to avoid returning to the place where that attack occurred).
Panic disorder is often accompanied by other conditions such as depression or alcohol/drug use to cope with or prevent symptoms, and may spawn phobias, which can develop in places or situations where panic attacks have occurred. For example, if a panic attack strikes while you’re riding an elevator, you may develop a fear of elevators and perhaps start avoiding them.
Some people’s lives become greatly restricted — they avoid normal, everyday activities such as grocery shopping, driving, or in some cases even leaving the house. Or, they may be able to confront a feared situation only if accompanied by a spouse or other trusted person. Basically, they avoid any situation they fear would make them feel helpless if a panic attack occurs. When people’s lives become so restricted by the disorder, as happens in about one-third of all people with panic disorder, the condition is called agoraphobia. A tendency toward panic disorder and agoraphobia runs in families. Nevertheless, early treatment of panic disorder can often stop the progression to agoraphobia.

Specific Symptoms of Panic Disorder:

A person with panic disorder experiences recurrent either expected or unexpected Panic Attacks and at least one of the attacks has been followed by 1 month (or more) of one or more of the following:
  • Persistent concern about about the implications of the attack, such as its consequences (e.g., losing control, having a heart attack, “going crazy”) or fears of having additional attacks
  • A significant change in behavior related to the attacks (e.g., avoid exercise or unfamiliar situations)
The Panic Attacks may not be due to the direct physiological effects of use or abuse of a substance (alcohol, drugs, medications) or a general medical condition (e.g., hyperthyroidism).
Though panic attacks can occur in other mental disorders (most often anxiety-related disorders), the panic attacks in Panic Disorder itself cannot occur exclusive to symptoms in another disorder. In other words, attacks in Panic Disorder cannot be better accounted for by another mental disorder, such as Social Phobia (e.g., occurring on exposure to feared social situations),Specific Phobia (e.g., on exposure to a specific phobic situation), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (e.g., on exposure to dirt in someone with an obsession about contamination),Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (e.g., in response to stimuli associated with a severe stressor), or Separation Anxiety Disorder (e.g., in response to being away from home or close relatives).
Panic disorder is associated with high levels of social, occupational, and physical disability; considerable economic costs; and the highest number of medical visits among the anxiety disorders, although the effects are strongest with the presence of agoraphobia. Though Agoraphobia may also be present, it isn’t required in order to diagnose panic disorder.
General Treatment of Panic Disorder

bipolar
Manic Depressive Disorder also know as Bipolar Disorder is associated with feelings of hopelessness to feelings of euphoria and full of energy. These mood shifts can occur a couple of times a year or many times a day. It usually develops in late teens to early adulthood. Bipolar disorder is divided into subtypes. They include:
1) Bipolar I Disorder: Mood swings that can cause difficulty with your job or personal relationships. The manic episodes associated with Bipolar I can be severe and dangerous.
2) Bipolar II Disorder: You can carry on with your daily functioning even though you may experience elevated mood or changes in your functioning. You experience hypomania in Bipolar II which is a less severe form of mania. Depression usually lasts longer than hypomania in Bipolar II and is less severe than Bipolar I.
3) Cyclothymic Disorder: Hypomania and depression are present and can be disruptive but the highs and lows are not as severe as in the other two types of Bipolar disorders.
Some of the signs and symptoms of manic phase are listed below. A manic episode can last for a week or less and at least three or more of the following symptoms need to be present:
  • racing thoughts
  • grandiosity
  • decreased need for sleep
  • excessive spending or spending sprees
  • rapid speech
  • risky behavior
  • poor judgement
  • agitation
  • increased physical activity
The mood disturbance must be severe enough to cause difficulty at work or school or social activities.
Some of the signs and symptoms of hypomanic phase are listed below. A hypomanic episode lasts at least four days and three or more if the following must be present:
  • decreased need for sleep
  • elevated self esteem
  • racing thoughts
  • rapid speech
  • distractibility
The mood must be severe enough to cause a noticeable change in functioning and it isn’t severe enough to cause difficulty with work, school or social activities.
Some of the signs and symptoms of the depressive phase include:
  • hopelessness
  • suicidal ideation
  • sleep problems
  • problems concentrating
  • loss of interest in activities
  • poor performance in job or school
  • low appetite or increase appetite
The exact cause of bipolar disorder are unknown however several factors may be involved in triggering bipolar disorder:
  • Environment-traumatic experiences, abuse, periods of high stress may play a role
  • inherited traits-it is more common in blood related individuals who have the condition.
  • neurotransmitters-an imbalance in brain chemicals
Bipolar disorder cannot be cured but can be treated effectively. Long term treatment is needed to control symptoms and gain better control of their mood and symptoms. An effective treatment plan includes medications and talk therapy. If you or someone you know has bipolar disorder it is important to get the proper treatment. Learn as much as you can about the disorder and offer support and patience. You can learn more about Bipolar Disorder at www.nimh.nih.gov.
 Image taken from the pridepost.com

Anxiety & Panic Articles

Social Anxiety

Thursday, June 26th, 2014
imgresFeeling nervous before a presentation or in some social settings can be normal. But in social anxiety, everyday interactions can cause irrational fear and can hinder you from moving forward. According to Wikipedia, “Social anxiety is a discomfort or a fear when a person is in social interactions that involve a concern about being judged or evaluated by others. It is typically characterized by an intense fear of what others are thinking about them (specifically fear of embarrassment, criticism, or rejection), which results in the individual feeling insecure, not good enough for other people, and/or the assumption that peers will automatically reject them.” Social anxiety can cause impairment with your social interactions and can affect your emotions and behavior. Symptoms, causes and treatment for social anxiety are listed below:

Natural Ways to Cope with Panic and Anxiety Attacks

Sunday, February 9th, 2014
Suffering from panic attacks or anxiety attacks are never fun and can be scary if you do not know what they are. This can be an uncomfortable feeling and knowing that it can happen to you again without any warning, can leave you to feel hopeless and helpless. For some, it can be an occasional panic attack where you experience it only in particular situations, while for others it can be frequent and recurring that it prevents you from leaving your home. In my previous blog, I discussed ways to support a person suffering from panic or anxiety attacks, the symptoms of panic and anxiety attacks and also on what panic and anxiety attacks are. In this blog, I want to share with you coping techniques to manage panic or anxiety attacks.

How to Support a Person with Panic Attacks or Anxiety Attacks:

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014
anxiety-reflib-shutterstock_107773157What is Anxiety and Panic Attacks?
Anxiety is a part of life and normal to experience at some point or another. It’s a normal reaction to stress and can be beneficial in some situations. When you have an anxiety disorder, the anxiety becomes excessive where you have difficulty controlling it and interferes with daily life. The anxiety remains with you for months and can lead to phobias and fears which impact your life. Anxiety continues even after the stressor is gone. It is a fear that is accompanied by feelings of impending doom.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Generalized Anxiety Disorder Symptoms

By PSYCH CENTRAL STAFF

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is more than the normal anxiety people experience day to day. It’s chronic and exaggerated worry and tension, even though nothing seems to provoke it. Having this disorder means always anticipating disaster, often worrying excessively about health, money, family, or work. Sometimes, though, the source of the worry is hard to pinpoint.
Simply the thought of getting through the day provokes anxiety.
People with GAD can’t seem to shake their concerns, even though they usually realize that their anxiety is more intense than the situation warrants — that it’s irrational. People with GAD also seem unable to relax. They often have trouble falling or staying asleep. Their worries are accompanied by physical symptoms, especially trembling, twitching, muscle tension, headaches, irritability, sweating, or hot flashes. They may feel lightheaded or out of breath. They may feel nauseated or have to go to the bathroom frequently. Or they might feel as though they have a lump in the throat.
Many individuals with GAD startle more easily than other people. They tend to feel tired, have trouble concentrating, and sometimes suffer depression, too.
Usually the impairment associated with GAD is mild and people with the disorder don’t feel too restricted in social settings or on the job. Unlike many other anxiety disorders, people with GAD don’t characteristically avoid certain situations as a result of their disorder. However, if severe, GAD can be very debilitating, making it difficult to carry out even the most ordinary daily activities.
GAD comes on gradually and most often hits people in childhood or adolescence, but can begin in adulthood, too. It’s more common in women than in men and often occurs in relatives of affected persons. It’s diagnosed when someone spends at least 6 months worried excessively about a number of everyday problems.

Specific Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Excessive anxiety and worry (apprehensive expectation), occurring more days than not for at least 6 months, about a number of events or activities (such as work or school performance).
The person finds it difficult to control the worry.
The anxiety and worry are associated with three (or more) of the following six symptoms (with at least some symptoms present for more days than not for the past 6 months; children do not need to meet as many criteria–only 1 is needed).
  • Restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge
  • Being easily fatigued
  • Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Sleep disturbance (difficulty falling or staying asleep, or restless unsatisfying sleep)
Additionally, the anxiety or worry is not specifically about having a Panic Attack (though panic attacks can occur within a person with GAD), being embarrassed in public (as in Social Phobia), being contaminated (as in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder), being away from home or close relatives (as in Separation Anxiety Disorder), gaining weight (as in Anorexia Nervosa), having multiple physical complaints (as in Somatization Disorder), or having a serious illness (as in Hypochondriasis), and the anxiety and worry do not occur exclusively during Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The anxiety, worry, or physical symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
The disturbance is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication) or a general medical condition (e.g., hyperthyroidism) and does not occur exclusively during a Mood Disorder, a Psychotic Disorder, or a Pervasive Developmental Disorder.

Anxiety

An Introduction to Anxiety Disorders

By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. 
Table of Contents
Anxiety, worry, and stress are all a part of most people's life today. But simply experiencing anxiety or stress in and of itself does not mean you need to get professional help or you have an anxiety disorder. In fact, anxiety is a necessary warning signal of a dangerous or difficult situation. Without anxiety, we would have no way of anticipating difficulties ahead and preparing for them.
Anxiety becomes a disorder when the symptoms become chronic and interfere with our daily lives and our ability to function. People suffering from chronic anxiety often report the following symptoms:
  • Muscle tension
  • Physical weakness
  • Poor memory
  • Sweaty hands
  • Fear or confusion
  • Inability to relax
  • Constant worry
  • Shortness of breath
  • Palpitations
  • Upset stomach
  • Poor concentration
These symptoms are severe and upsetting enough to make individuals feel extremely uncomfortable, out of control and helpless.
Anxiety disorders fall into a set of separate diagnoses, depending upon the symptoms and severity of the anxiety the person experiences. The anxiety disorders discussed in this series on anxiety are:
Although obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are considered anxiety disorders, they are covered elsewhere independently on Psych Central.

The Strength In Real Communication

The strength and endurance training in any and all relationships starts and ends with the capacity for communication. I have often called our communication skills the currency of a relationship, because it is literally the air that lives between people that makes their relationship vital or suffocating. It is perhaps the most complex set of skills that healthy relationships require because it is close to impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood. This is not only because our spoken words make up only a small fraction of the myriad ways we communicate. We also communicate through our tone of voice, facial expressions and body language.



The biggest complication is that we often communicate without fully understanding the needs, desires and judgments we are expressing.


It is no wonder that communication issues are frequently
identified as the most challenging aspect of relating and the place where relationships falter. We stubbornly hang onto the belief that if we have expressed ourselves clearly, the communication is made. This belief overlooks the fact that other people can only hear you when they are moving towards you, which is usually not happening when they feel like they are being pursued by your words. The healing revelation in relationships occurs when we recognize that the most powerful experience in communicating happens through listening and not expression.
Learning to listen is not an easy skill to develop and is arguably in short supply in many relationships and even in life itself. To listen well we must begin by recognizing that the most important thing we give to someone we love is our full attention, free of judgment and expectation. We must be willing to open to the loving silence which real listening requires. Cultivating this internal quiet slows down the interaction so that you hear not just the words, but the meaning behind them. Communication transforms into connection when we listen not for what someone knows but for who they are.
This kind of communication is the moment our relationships create grace. It carries a truly magnetic current that pulls both people into full presence and allows both parties to unfold and know themselves and each other. Truth telling, even the most difficult truths are able to be expressed in the shelter of this being heard, which is so similar to being loved that most people can’t tell them apart.
The following story has many classic communication issues. Which can you identify? How do the communications get crossed between them? How do they misinterpret this miscommunication? Where is the breakthrough?
~ * * * * * * ~
Jenny didn’t hear her voice getting louder the way Mark did. He never raised his voice and went from annoyed to stony in a matter of minutes when Jenny’s requests got loud. She had grown up in a house where people yelled all the time. At good moments between them, they laughed at what a cruel trick their marriage was- they couldn’t have been any more different… But more often their arguments took more of their attention.

Silent Treatment Speaks Volumes About A Relationship

f you're suffering in silence — or because of it — your relationship may be more endangered than you realize, according to new research that shows those whose interactions include the "silent treatment" can spell ruin for the future.
Although researchers say the cold shoulder is the most common way people deal with marital conflict, an analysis of 74 studies, based on more than 14,000 participants, shows that when one partner withdraws in silence or shuts down emotionally because of perceived demands by the other, the harm is both emotional and physical.
"The more this pattern emerges within your relationship, the greater the chances one or both partners experience heightened levels of anxiety or may use more aggressive forms of behavior," says Paul Schrodt, a professor of communication studies at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, who led the study published this spring in the journal Communication Monographs.
"Each partner sees the other person's behavior as the start of a fight," he says. "If you go to him and ask why he's so withdrawn from his wife, it's because 'she's constantly nagging me and constantly asking a million questions.' If you ask her why she's making demands of him, it's because 'he doesn't tell me anything. I don't get the sense he cares about our relationship.' Each partner fails to see how their own behavior is contributing to the pattern."
In much of the research, Schrodt says, the man tends to be more silent; but psychologist Les Parrott of Seattle says he has seen less of a breakdown along gender lines.
"I see plenty of men get demanding," he says.
It's that pattern, Schrodt says, that is so damaging, because it signals a serious sign of distress in the relationship. The research, which spanned from 1987 to 2011, wasn't specifically about the silent treatment; however, the silent treatment is part of a broader pattern that extends not just to romantic relationships but to parenting styles as well, which also were part of the research, he says.
Parrott, co-author of The Good Fight: How Conflict Can Bring you Closer, a book published in April, says the silent treatment is a very difficult pattern to break because it's such an ingrained behavior.
"We learn this strategy very early on — just as little kids — to shut somebody out as a way to punish," Parrott says. "Many of us are prone to sulk or to pout, and that is an early form of giving somebody the silent treatment."
Parrott, a psychology professor at Seattle Pacific University, says nothing good comes from the silent treatment because it's "manipulative, disrespectful and not productive."
Schrodt's analysis found that couples who use such conflict behaviors experience lower relationship satisfaction, less intimacy and poorer communication, which is also associated with divorce. And, he says, some of the studies found the effects were not just emotional but physiological, such as urinary, bowel or erectile dysfunction.
"Partners get locked in this pattern, largely because they each see the other as the cause," Schrodt says. "Both partners see the other as the problem."
Parrott and Schrodt agree being aware of the destructive pattern can help resolve it.
"Conflict is inevitable, but how you manage it can make the difference," Parrott says.

How to break the pattern of the silent treatment
-- Become aware of what's really going on. The person making demands feels abandoned; the silent person is protecting himself. Each needs to ask: "Why am I behaving this way? How does my behavior make my partner feel?"
-- Avoid character assassination. It will do more damage to label your spouse as "selfish" or "rude."
-- Use the word "I," because the more you use "you," the longer your squabble will last. You can say something like, "This is how I feel when you stop talking to me."
-- Mutually agree to take a timeout. When the cycle emerges, both partners need to cool their heads and warm their hearts before engaging. And some people just need a bit of time to think before they speak.
-- Genuinely apologize as soon as you are able.
Source: Les Parrott, psychologist at Seattle Pacific University; co-author of the 2014 book The Good Fight: How Conflict Can Bring you Closer

Thursday, August 14, 2014

What Causes Sexual Addiction?

By MICHAEL HERKOV, PH.D

Why some people, and not others, develop an addiction to sex is poorly understood. Possibly some biochemical abnormality or other brain changes increase risk. The fact that antidepressants and other psychotropic medications have proven effective in treating some people with sex addiction suggests that this might be the case.
Studies indicate that food, abused drugs and sexual interests share a common pathway within our brains’ survival and reward systems. This pathway leads into the area of the brain responsible for our higher thinking, rational thought and judgment.
The brain tells the sex addict that having illicit sex is good the same way it tells others that food is good when they are hungry. These brain changes translate into a sex addict’s preoccupation with sex and exclusion of other interests, compulsive sexual behavior despite negative consequences and failed attempts to limit or terminate sexual behavior.
This biochemical model helps explain why competent, intelligent, goal-directed people can be so easily sidetracked by drugs and sex. The idea that, on a daily basis, a successful mother or father, doctor or businessperson can drop everything to think about sex, scheme about sex, identify sexual opportunities and take advantage of them seems unbelievable. How can this be?
The addicted brain fools the body by producing intense biochemical rewards for this self-destructive behavior.
People addicted to sex get a sense of euphoria from it that seems to go beyond that reported by most people. The sexual experience is not about intimacy. Addicts use sexual activity to seek pleasure, avoid unpleasant feelings or respond to outside stressors, such as work difficulties or interpersonal problems. This is not unlike how an alcoholic uses alcohol. In both instances, any reward gained from the experience soon gives way to guilt, remorse and promises to change.
Research also has found that sex addicts often come from dysfunctional families and are more likely than non-sex addicts to have been abused. One study found that 82 percent of sex addicts reported being sexually abused as children. Sex addicts often describe their parents as rigid, distant and uncaring. These families, including the addicts themselves, are more likely to be substance abusers. One study found that 80 percent of recovering sex addicts report some type of addiction in their families of origin.

What Is Sexual Addiction?

By MICHAEL HERKOV, PH.D

Sexual addiction is best described as a progressive intimacy disorder characterized by compulsive sexual thoughts and acts. Like all addictions, its negative impact on the addict and on family members increases as the disorder progresses. Over time, the addict usually has to intensify the addictive behavior to achieve the same results.
For some sex addicts, behavior does not progress beyond compulsive masturbation or the extensive use of pornography or phone or computer sex services. For others, addiction can involve illegal activities such as exhibitionism, voyeurism, obscene phone calls, child molestation or rape.
Sex addicts do not necessarily become sex offenders. Moreover, not all sex offenders are sex addicts. Roughly 55 percent of convicted sex offenders can be considered sex addicts.
About 71 percent of child molesters are sex addicts. For many, their problems are so severe that imprisonment is the only way to ensure society’s safety against them.
Society has accepted that sex offenders act not for sexual gratification, but rather out of a disturbed need for power, dominance, control or revenge, or a perverted expression of anger. More recently, however, an awareness of brain changes and brain reward associated with sexual behavior has led us to understand that there are also powerful sexual drives that motivate sex offenses.
The National Council on Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity has defined sexual addiction as “engaging in persistent and escalating patterns of sexual behavior acted out despite increasing negative consequences to self and others.” In other words, a sex addict will continue to engage in certain sexual behaviors despite facing potential health risks, financial problems, shattered relationships or even arrest.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders, Volume Four describes sex addiction, under the category “Sexual Disorders Not Otherwise Specified,” as “distress about a pattern of repeated sexual relationships involving a succession of lovers who are experienced by the individual only as things to be used.” According to the manual, sex addiction also involves “compulsive searching for multiple partners, compulsive fixation on an unattainable partner, compulsive masturbation, compulsive love relationships and compulsive sexuality in a relationship.”
Increasing sexual provocation in our society has spawned an increase in the number of individuals engaging in a variety of unusual or illicit sexual practices, such as phone sex, the use of escort services and computer pornography. More of these individuals and their partners are seeking help.
The same compulsive behavior that characterizes other addictions also is typical of sex addiction. But these other addictions, including drug, alcohol and gambling dependency, involve substances or activities with no necessary relationship to our survival. For example, we can live normal and happy lives without ever gambling, taking illicit drugs or drinking alcohol. Even the most genetically vulnerable person will function well without ever being exposed to, or provoked by, these addictive activities.
Sexual activity is different. Like eating, having sex is necessary for human survival. Although some people are celibate — some not by choice, while others choose celibacy for cultural or religious reasons — healthy humans have a strong desire for sex. In fact, lack of interest or low interest in sex can indicate a medical problem or psychiatric illness.

Building Empowerment After Sexual AssaultHealing from sexual assault is a process, and recovery is different for everyone. When working with clients who have been sexually assaulted, I attempt to provide some general guidelines that may prove useful in their individual journeys.
The healing process is multifaceted. It involves:
1. Asserting boundaries related to disclosure.
2. Assigning accountability to the perpetrator.
3. Managing self-blame.
4. Realizing that many people lack education or experience related to dealing with survivors.
Empowerment deals with increasing an individual’s or groups’ abilities to make purposeful choices, then transform those choices into constructive actions and outcomes. Some general guidelines for building empowerment include the following:
  • Selective disclosure. You are the gatekeeper of your own story and information. Many survivors feel that they must tell family members, friends, or intimate partners about the sexual assault. They feel as if they are lying if they do not disclose the information. There is no obligation to share your story. Only you can choose with whom to share it, how much to share, and when and where you share.
  • Editing the details is not about shame. Owning the right to your own story and experience is not about shame. It is about strength and empowerment. People may have questions that make you uncomfortable. Asserting boundaries by informing them that you do not want to share details is a form of good self-care. Since empowerment involves considering options and choices, managing disclosure is an excellent place to start.
  • Sexual assault is never your fault. Many survivors have shared with me that they feel in some way responsible for their assault: that they were drinking, “should have known better” than to go to someone’s room or apartment, or should have been able to get away or defend themselves. This is an entirely normal reaction, but one that needs to be challenged when it arises. Sexual assault is a crime, the perpetrator is a criminal, and nothing that you did or didn’t do, said, wore, or ingested contributed to that fact. Empowerment includes holding the perpetrator accountable for the crime.
  • People may react in unexpected ways. Many people lack a template to deal with painful issues. You may not accurately predict how someone will respond. Incidents of “foot in mouth” may abound. For example, people often feel at a loss when dealing with death. If you have ever been at the receiving end of thoughtless comments at a loved one’s funeral, you are familiar with this principle. “He is in a better place” usually is not comforting for the grieving parties. Sexual assault is one of those hot-button issues that bring up all kinds of responses, some of them less than helpful. This has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them.
  • Allow yourself to be human. Having reactions to events is part of being human. Traumatic events are in a class of their own. It is normal to feel that “I should be over this by now, it happened a long time ago,” or to feel somehow weak or deficient for continuing to feel effects from sexual assault. This is like punishing yourself for having normal human thoughts, feelings, and reactions.Trauma specialist Dr. Bessel van der Kolk has stated that “What most people do not realize is that trauma is not the story of something awful that happened in the past, but the residue of imprints left behind in people’s sensory and hormonal systems.”
  • You are not alone. It may be helpful to reach out to a community sexual assault agency or skilled therapist to obtain information, ask questions, and receive guidance in your healing process. Information is power and interdependence is an optimal state for humans. For more information, contact the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) atwww.rainn.org, or call The National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


There's Nothing Selfish About Suicide

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ROBIN WILLIAMS

I am a survivor of suicide.
I don't talk about it a lot these days, as I've reached the point where it feels like a lifetime ago. Healing was a long and grief-stricken process. There were times when I felt very alone in my grief and there were times when I felt lost and confused. The trouble with suicide is that no one knows what to say. No one knows how to react. So they smile and wave and attempt distraction... but they never ever say the word. The survivors, it seems, are often left to survive on their own.
I experienced endless waves of emotion in the days, weeks, months and even years following the loss of my father. The "what ifs" kept me up at night, causing me to float through each day in a state of perpetual exhaustion. What if I had answered the phone that night? Would the sound of my voice have changed his mind? Would he have done it at a later date, anyway? Survivor's guilt, indeed.
Sometimes, I cried. Sometimes, I sat perfectly still watching the waves crash down on Main Beach, hoping for a sign of some kind that he had reached a better place. Sometimes, I silently scolded myself for not seeing the warning signs. Sometimes, I bargained with God or anyone else who might be in charge up there. Bring him back to us. Please, just bring him back. Sometimes I felt angry. Why us? Why me? Why him?
Yes, I experienced a range of emotions before making peace with the loss. But one thought that never ever (not even for one second) crossed my mind was this ill-informed opinion that suicide is selfish. Suicide is a lot of things, but selfish isn't one of them.
Suicide is a decision made out of desperation, hopelessness, isolation and loneliness. The black hole that is clinical depression is all-consuming. Feeling like a burden to loved ones, feeling like there is no way out, feeling trapped and feeling isolated are all common among people who suffer from depression.
People who say that suicide is selfish always reference the survivors. It's selfish to leave children, spouses and other family members behind, so they say. They're not thinking about the survivors, or so they would have us believe. What they don't know is that those very loved ones are the reason many people hang on for just one more day. They do think about the survivors, probably up until the very last moment in many cases. But the soul-crushing depression that envelops them leaves them feeling like there is no alternative. Like the only way to get out is to opt out. And that is a devastating thought to endure.
Until you've stared down that level of depression, until you've lost your soul to a sea of emptiness and darkness... you don't get to make those judgments. You might not understand it, and you are certainly entitled to your own feelings, but making those judgments and spreading that kind of negativity won't help the next person. In fact, it will only hurt others.
As the world mourns the loss of Robin Williams, people everywhere are left feeling helpless and confused. How could someone who appeared so happy in actuality be so very depressed? The truth is that many, many people face the very same struggle each and every day. Some will commit suicide. Some will attempt. And some will hang on for dear life. Most won't be able to ask for the help that they need to overcome their mental illness.
You can help.
Know the warning signs for suicide. 50-75% of people who attempt suicide will tell someone about their intention. Listen when people talk. Make eye contact. Convey empathy. And for the love of people everywhere, put down that ridiculous not-so-SmartPhone and be human.
Check in on friends struggling with depression. Even if they don't answer the phone or come to the door, make an effort to let them know that you are there. Friendship isn't about saving lost souls; friendship is about listening and being present.
Reach out to survivors of suicide. Practice using the words "suicide" and "depression" so that they roll off the tongue as easily as "unicorns" and "bubble gum." Listen as they tell their stories. Hold their hands. Be kind with their hearts. And hug them every single time.
Encourage help. Learn about the resources in your area so that you can help friends and loved ones in need. Don't be afraid to check in over and over again. Don't be afraid to convey your concern. One human connection can make a big difference in the life of someone struggling with mental illness and/or survivor's guilt.
30,000 people commit suicide in the United States each year. 750,000 people attempt suicide. It's time to raise awareness, increase empathy and kindness, and bring those numbers down.
It's time to talk about suicide and depression.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.