Friday, October 6, 2017

Explaining Addiction in the Wake of the Opioid Crisis

Ted Crawford, Clinical Therapist

“Addiction” is a topic forever on the list of issues associated with pain, death and the general destruction of society’s fabric. This, especially with recent reports that we are experiencing an opioid crisis with approximately 2 million people addicted to painkillers derived from opium or formulated to replicate the pain-reducing properties of opium. However, most of the population would have difficulty accurately defining addiction or discussing how it operates. So, for clarity’s sake, know that we have special chemicals that naturally flow in our brain as we feel pleasure. Theoretically, anything that gets these “feel good juices” flowing can be abused or develop into an addiction, especially those that tend to give us the more powerful boosts: alcohol and drugs, sex, eating, gambling, shopping, the internet, chasing power and money, etc.

Physiologically, addiction is a brain disorder. A pebble-sized structure in the midbrain called the amygdala controls our survival response. Think of it as your “Emergency Management Director.” When a crisis activates it, it nudges logic and reasoning over a bit and takes the wheel, which is preferable when you need to act quickly and don’t have time to think about whether or not insurance covers the toe you just removed with the mower. It has its flaws, however. After a period of over-indulging in a chosen chemical or activity, the amygdala becomes accustomed to the pleasure associated with it. It begins to see it as a normal part of basic functioning, and, in turn, the absence of it as an emergency. The rational brain knows there’s no real emergency, but remember it doesn’t have much say-so when we’re craving. So the compulsion to “survive” takes priority and the person does whatever’s necessary in order to use, often at a great cost. So, who becomes an addict? Best indications are: anyone with the genetics for it that over-indulges over a period of time … just like diabetes is likely to onset in a genetically predisposed person with a sedentary lifestyle and a junk-food diet.

Let’s define some terms: Abuse is any use that results in negative consequences such as (difficulties with relationships, work, health, the law, etc.). Addiction is a progressive illness that inhibits a person’s ability to moderate or quit even in the face of ongoing negative consequences (without special intervention and support that is). Addicts haven’t cornered the market on creating chaos, however. Abusers can also make bad decisions, but without those nasty genes, abusers generally have the ability to moderate or quit altogether when they’ve had a snoot-full of their own behavior.

The fact that some people can safely partake in certain pleasures and others can’t seems unfair, but it’s also unfair that a diabetic has to watch others enjoy the brownies. Seeing addiction for what it is allows people to drop their ideas that it’s about weakness or immorality. It’s a disease resulting in self-destructive behaviors that can often be labeled immoral, but a disease nonetheless. Of course, anyone with any illness ultimately has the Responsibility for an addict’s recovery is no different. The initial choice to get help must be theirs …for themselves as well as the people around them.

About Pine Grove:

Pine Grove Behavioral Health & Addiction Services is the behavioral health care extension of Forrest General Hospital. Pine Grove’s world renowned programs treat gender specific chemical addiction including a specialized track for co-occurring eating disorders. Additionally, Pine Grove offers a substance abuse healing program for adults age 40 plus. Other Pine Grove specialty programs include a dedicated professional’s treatment curriculum and a comprehensive evaluation center. Pine Grove also features a program for patients with sexual addiction. Inpatient Services including an Adult Psychiatric Unit, along with a Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Unit, and Outpatient Services are other components. Pine Grove was established in 1984 and has provided nationally and internationally recognized health care for over 30 years.

About Ted Crawford:

Ted Crawford, LMFT provides psychotherapy for clients through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) of Forrest General Hospital and at the Gratitude and Pine Grove Outpatient Services (PGOS) programs of Pine Grove Behavioral Health & Addiction Services. He earned his undergraduate degree in Education in 1987 and his master’s degree in marriage and family therapy in 1995 from the University of Southern Mississippi. Ted has also completed training in the use of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) to address trauma issues. His background includes work as an educator prior to coming to Pine Grove. In addition to working at the EAP, Gratitude and PGOS currently, Pine Grove has also benefitted from Crawford’s work at the Child & Adolescent Day Treatment and Professional Enhancement Programs and on the inpatient adult psychiatric unit. He enjoys writing and has written numerous informative (and entertaining) articles on clinical topics in a format that is easily understood by both professionals and patients. Ted has been employed with Pine Grove since 1998 and working with the EAP since 2001.

Visit www.pinegrovetreatment.com or call 1-888-574-HOPE (4673) for more information.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Pine Grove's Evaluation Center now offers Adult ADHD and Neuropsychological Evaluations

Since 1984, Pine Grove Behavioral Health & Addiction Services has partnered with individuals and organizations throughout the country to provide specialized and comprehensive evaluations for behavioral health and addictive disorders. Now, Pine Grove's Evaluation Center is proud to offer Adult Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Neuropsychological Evaluations.

The Adult ADHD Evaluation aims to rule-out other potential causes of educational, vocational, or personal impairments resulting from concentration or focus difficulties, impulsivity, emotional liability, as well as deficits in executive functioning and memory.

The Neuropsychological Evaluation is a comprehensive assessment of brain-mediated cognitive functions. The data from a neuropsychological evaluation is used to assess an individual's current level of cognitive functioning to determine the presence, nature, and degree of persisting cognitive and emotional deficits, establish the probable relationship between the patient's current neurobehavioral status and medical history, and evaluate the functional significance of such deficits.

Pine Grove's Evaluation Center also offers an Addiction Evaluation, Comprehensive Evaluation, and Psychosexual Evaluation.

About Pine Grove Behavioral Health & Addiction Services:

Pine Grove Behavioral Health & Addiction Services is an extension of Forrest General Hospital, located in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Pine Grove’s world renowned programs focus on treating gender specific chemical addiction including a specialized track for co-occurring eating disorders. Additionally, Pine Grove offers a focused substance abuse healing program for adults age 55 and over. Other Pine Grove specialty programs include a dedicated professional’s treatment curriculum and a comprehensive evaluation center. Pine Grove also features a program for patients with sexual and intimacy disorder issues. Pine Grove was established in 1984 and has provided nationally and internationally recognized health care for over 30 years.

Visit www.pinegrovetreatment.com or call 1-888-574-HOPE (4673) for more information.

Friday, June 24, 2016

National PTSD Awareness Day

Ted Crawford, M.S., LMFT
Clinical Therapist, Pine Grove’s Outpatient Services

June 27th is National PTSD Awareness Day. There has been no shortage of traumatic events so far in 2016, and over the last couple of weeks in particular. Of course, the numbers of our combat veterans suffering from PTSD continues to grow as well. It's a condition that reaches far past the sufferer, affecting the loved ones closest to them. Everyone has some amount of trauma in their past that hasn't been fully processed. Even though the actual events are over, numerous people still have instances when the high-charged emotions connected to those experiences seem to "re-visit" them. If you're one of these people, know that after any overwhelming incident, there can be some emotional energy that continues to hang around. If it's bad enough and goes on for a while, it's called Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Either way, it's part of a normal reaction to an abnormal amount of stress. In other words, you're not going crazy.

PTSD is a condition in which the trauma sufferer is triggered to "re-experience" the event in some way (intrusive thoughts, feelings, body sensations, images, nightmares, etc.). The fear of being triggered naturally causes the person to avoid people, places, or situations that they would rather not have to avoid. They may also experience emotional shut-down mixed with intervals of heightened senses, feeling "on edge," being increasingly irritable and having difficulty sleeping and concentrating.

So why do some suffer these symptoms more than others, even after they go through similar events? First, know that there’s a multitude of factors influencing how an individual experiences a certain crisis. These factors determine how easy or difficult it is to make sense of that event in the moment. The more we understand about what’s happening and why, the quicker we can put our “fight and flight” energy to use to get safe (and have a gripping story to tell later). Any leftover energy is processed and released as we talk about it and allow ourselves to feel the associated emotions. If we do this enough, the story is de-stimulated to the point where it actually begins to bore the story-teller, and when it comes to getting over trauma, “boring” is what you want. This would be an example of processing a traumatic event according to the ideal pre-wired neurological plan. Other crisis situations, however, leave us with a story that’s so over-stimulating that it feels too difficult to talk (or even think) about. This is because, for numerous possible reasons, the experience overwhelmed our ability to comprehend it in that moment, therefore leaving us feeling helpless or “frozen” to some degree. An immobilized mind and body leaves the survival energy with no “discharge instructions.” Trapped inside, this energy prompts the survival portion of the brain to continue sensing a danger that no longer exists, particularly when triggered by something we associate with the event. You can imagine how all of this could interfere with a person’s ability to come to terms with something!

Now you know that post-traumatic symptoms aren’t really caused by the traumatic event itself, rather, they’re the result of not allowing ourselves to feel and express the emotions associated with the event. Emotions are meant to be released after they’ve run their course, and although they can be disturbing, they can’t hurt you unless you keep them bottled up. When an alarming emotion is sparked, it’s an opportunity to discharge the energy it carries. When enough of this energy is liberated, the information is stored in our long-term memory, where it rests (instead of banging around in our bodies, wreaking havoc). This is a requirement for us to fully heal. So talk about the event and how you experienced it. Cry, shout, shake (yes, when you can do it safely, let yourself fall apart a little)! Although our symptoms generally fade over time when we do this, it’s often wise to use professional help to move things along when needed. Many counselors are trained to work with this particular issue, and can help you through the process toward a full recovery.

At Pine Grove Outpatient Services, we understand the changes that life can bring for both adults and children. Pine Grove Outpatient Services is designed to help meet mental health needs by offering outpatient assessment/evaluation, medication management, and individual, family, and specialized therapy services. Highly skilled and experienced psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists are available to help you cope with life's changes.

Visit www.pinegrovetreatment.com or call 1-888-574-HOPE (4673) for more information.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Eating Disorders: What’s the big deal?

Caroline Smith, MA, LPC, CSAT-S, CMAT, CIP, EMDR
Director of Pine Grove's Intensive Workshops

Eating disorders are a serious but treatable illnesses with both medical and psychological aspects. Reflected in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) published in 2013; anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating disorder are three clearly diagnosable disorders. An individual with anorexia severely restricts his/her food intake; bulimia is self-induced vomiting, over-exercise or misuse of laxatives or diuretics, and binge-eating is consuming a large amount of food and feeling a loss of self control.

Eating disorders often interact with other disorders such as anxiety, depression, and various types of addiction. This could be why eating disorders have the highest death rate of any psychiatric illness. Up to 20 percent of individuals with chronic anorexia will die if the illness is left untreated. Additional community health studies show that bulimia and other specified feeding and eating disorders have comparably high mortality risks.

Individuals with eating disorders usually have an unhealthy focus on food and weight but their problems extend far beyond the obvious. Genetic researchers have found a link between eating disorders, perfectionism, and obsessive traits. Additionally, the malnutrition caused by eating disorder behaviors increases depression and anxiety which in turn negatively impacting all areas of life. It’s important to note that eating disorders are not always simply defined as anorexia, bulimia or binge-eating disorder. In some instances, the diagnosis of other specified feeding or eating disorder may be used.

Eating disorders do not discriminate; males and females of all ages may develop an eating disorder. According to recent eating disorder research, the most common presentation of an eating disorder is a Caucasian, Latina or African-American woman in her 30s or 40s with binge eating disorder. Individuals who struggle with an eating disorder often feel alone in their distress as the quality of their life diminishes. Although eating disorders are believed to be more prevalent in females, researchers and clinicians are seeing a growing number of males seeking help for eating disorders. There are subtle gender differences in eating disorder thoughts and behaviors. Males are more likely to be obsessed with building muscle than with weight loss. They are also more likely to purge using exercise and to misuse steroids than females. Gay, bisexual and transgender males are more likely to develop an eating disorder than are straight males. Men with eating disorders have long been misunderstood and under diagnosed, as well as having to deal with the stigma of having a “woman’s” disease.

The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) has partnered with Screening for Mental Health, Inc. to launch www.MyBodyScreening.org, a website where individuals can take a free, anonymous self-assessment to gauge their risk of an eating disorder. Information is a powerful tool in the battle against eating disorders. Honor Eating Disorder Awareness Week by empowering yourself and others with a free screening.

Pine Grove Behavioral Health & Addiction Services is an extension of Forrest General Hospital, located in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Pine Grove’s world renowned programs focus on treating gender specific chemical addiction including a specialized track for co-occurring eating disorders. Additionally, Pine Grove offers a focused substance abuse healing program for adults age 55 and over. Other Pine Grove specialty programs include a dedicated professional’s treatment curriculum and a comprehensive evaluation center. Pine Grove also features a program for patients with sexual and intimacy disorder issues. Pine Grove was established in 1984 and has provided nationally and internationally recognized health care for over 30 years.

Visit www.pinegrovetreatment.com or call 1-888-574-HOPE (4673) for more information.

Pine Grove Treatment

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Be the Tortoise

by Ted Crawford, LMFT
Employee Assistance Program, Pine Grove’s Outpatient Services

Many people welcome January with a full-body hug, as it means they’ve gotten through yet another holiday of drama and craziness. For others, the holidays are time for a little self-indulgence, and January gives notice that play time is over. Many will therefore start thinking about New Year’s resolutions. There’s something about the clean slate at the first of the year that compels us to attempt change. But someone said that resolutions are like babies…fun to make, but a struggle to maintain. Of course you know the rest of the story; what starts off as a genuine plan to improve your life falls flat before you can say, “I’ll have a salad.” Here’s an idea: forget the whole first-of-the-year kick to upgrade your life. Your body doesn’t keep track of the date anyway, it just knows that its arteries are hosting a bit more goo, its gut, thighs and caboose seem to be taking up more space, and its muscles have gotten used to doing anything but running in your running shoes. And by the way, it’s not all about looking good (yes, I just said that). Our mental, emotional and spiritual lives could use some attention too. And the mind, heart and soul are like the body; they couldn’t care less what time of year it is, they just want some healthy stimulation.

But just as a vehicle has to be in the slower first gear in order to transition into the faster second gear, the different parts of our being need the process of working their way up the scale of intensity. If you try to force them into abrupt change, don’t expect their full cooperation. Despite what we want to believe, decades of research (and our own personal experiences) show that this isn’t how most human beings operate. Several factors determine whether or not we can incorporate lasting change, so unless you’re The King or Queen of Transformation (which you are not, because neither of those guys read this article), read on as we address a few of these factors with the following tips.

1. Identify one change that you want to make. ONE. Trust me on this (you can always add more later).

2. Be specific. We have to know what reaching the goal looks like, and the more specific it is, the easier it is to envision. “Connecting more with loved ones” could mean a lot of things, but “Giving a weekly shout to my sister and nephews in Birmingham” means just that. Likewise, “reducing debt” is a great goal, but first pare it down to “paying off the credit card that carries the stupidest balance,” etc.

3. Start slooowly! It’s better to be the tortoise and not the hare. There is less stumbling this way. An hour of circuit training at the YMCA five times a week? It’s probably not going to happen right now. Try something like walking for 15 minutes, three times a week.

4. Expect some struggles/setbacks. So in a moment of weakness you smoke that cigarette, or maybe you’re in the kitchen late one night minding your own business and a gigantic brownie leaps into your mouth! It’s okay! These “relapses” are a normal part of any endeavor to improve, and if you freak out or beat up on yourself, it won’t help. Matter of fact, it’ll just cause a bigger, more complicated battle.

5. Try not to do it alone. I don’t mean that you have to get someone to adopt the same goal and do it with you (although that helps immensely), just that you should share your goals with someone else and get their support. Talk to them about your progress and struggles.

Recap: Unrealistic expectations will sabotage the most well-intentioned plan, so scale them down. As I said, you can always strengthen the demands on yourself later, after the initial ones have become habit. It’s not a race. Please take your time!

Have a great year (or start off with a “decent” year and work your way up).

Visit www.pinegrovetreatment.com or call 1-888-574-HOPE (4673) for more information.

Pine Grove Treatment