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 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, 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 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 or call 1-888-574-HOPE (4673) for more information.

Pine Grove Treatment

Monday, December 14, 2015

Taming the Christmas Crazy

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

Well, it’s that time of the year folks. The money won’t spend itself, you know. Time to jingle-bell around jacking up your debt! Time to obsess over finding gifts that impress, stir up gratitude and make people like you! Also, time to procrastinate shopping for said gifts until it becomes a frantic chore. This could be the year that you, after a long day of Christmas errands, will spontaneously combust when the teenager at the service desk, who’s in absolutely no hurry, gives you the eye roll. Or maybe you’ll flame up while enjoying the efficiently smooth flow of Hardy Street/98 shopping traffic! OK, a little Grinchy… my point is that no one wants any part of the above this year. Most would like a Christmas in which they not only save a few bucks, but enjoy a more meaningful season also.

First, about your money; do the following and keep more of it:

1) Figure out what Christmas costs (in addition to the shopping, you have bigger utility bills, food/entertainment expenses, etc.) and plan ahead. Also, decide who’s been naughty or nice and set a reasonable limit on what you’ll spend on each person. Though difficult, make every effort to stay in budget! This really works best if it’s not a one-person project, by the way. So unless you’re single, do yourself and your relationship a favor and haggle this out with your spouse or partner (it may be a pain, but it’s cheaper to invest this energy up front, if you know what I mean).

2) Keep a running total of what you’ve spent. Awareness of this total can “sober” you into better decisions. Avoid buying on impulse, and don’t buy non-Christmas stuff that can wait until January.

3) Shop online first. At home in your underwear, click, click click… done! Can’t find what you need online? Before you venture out, call stores to check the item’s availability and cost. Depending on the size and busyness of the store, this could go either way on the stress meter, but retail clerks often think a ringing phone is some kind of emergency compared to the person in front of them who put clothes on and drove to the store. And, of course, phone calls can be made in your underwear too. Finding who has what you want at a decent price first, saves money, gas and time.

4) Choose gifts for kids/teens based on the value of how much they’ll actually be used. Play the movie forward in your head. Examples: That cute little Kung Fu Panda chair? C’mon, you know lil’ Boo-Boo can’t sit down for more than 3 seconds… move on! Closet Organizer for 15 y/o son? Think about it. Bedazzled pajama jeans? Really, Mom? Snap the rubber band on your wrist and back away slowly.

Now, about increasing the meaning of the holiday (and saving money):

1) Home-make your gifts (food/candy, knitting, woodworking, etc), i.e. make your internal gifts, into a gift and give them a piece of you.

2) Give coupons for services like foot-rubs, yard work, cleaning, making a favorite meal, etc (once, my wife gave me a coupon allowing me to win an argument… how sweet!). These are gifts of “experience”.

3) Give of yourself. Fulfillment is about letting go of our natural desire to receive things, so adopt a needy child or family and be Santa, or volunteer at a service organization.

4) Make it real. Decide what’s fulfilling to you compared to society’s expectations and spend time w/ loved ones being true to it. ‘Dollars spent’ isn’t the measure of a person’s love.

Here’s to having the Christmas you need!

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

Pine Grove Treatment

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Stress Free Holiday

Stress and the holidays usually go hand in hand, so it is normal to feel a mild sense of stress or even anxiety as the holiday season approaches. However, for some individuals, the pressure to have the ‘perfect’ holiday can be overwhelming. Stress can lead to deeper issues like depression, so it is important to keep a realistic outlook and end the year on a high note!

It is estimated that nearly three-quarters of Americans say they experience stress levels that exceed what they define as healthy. As the holidays approach, those numbers increase. Are YOU a part of that statistic? Stress, depression and anxiety can seriously affect your health and put a damper on holiday celebrations. It is important to put things in perspective. Prioritize what is really important. Revisit your definition and your expectations of the holiday season.

Tips for dealing with stress:

1) Take time for yourself – often people interpret this as being selfish but if we don’t take care of ourselves (mind, body and spirit), we have less to give to others. Remember that you are only one person and can only accomplish so much. Go for a walk through your neighborhood and look at light displays, listen to your favorite music or make time to just sit and drink hot cider. A simple 15-minute “breather” without distractions may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. All of us need time to recharge our batteries – slow down, take care of yourself and you’ll find you have more energy to give.

2) Be realistic – The holidays do not have to be perfect. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals change, too. If wish lists are outside of what is in your budget, it is okay to discuss financial challenges and remind children and others what really makes a great celebration. When we overextend ourselves financially, this only paves the way for more stress down the road. We may fret about a burned turkey, tasteless casserole or lopsided tree, but look at these things as memory-makers and a chance to laugh.

3) Reach out to others – If you tend to feel lonely or isolated during the holidays, seek out social, community or church-related activities and events. Volunteering your time can lift your spirits, broaden your sense of giving and offer the opportunity to make new friends. 4) Remember what’s important – examine what means the most to you during the holiday season – your definition of a great holiday celebration.

5) Reach out for support – it is okay to acknowledge and take time to express your feelings. Talk about your anxieties with your friends and family. Getting things out in the open can help you navigate through your thoughts and feelings and work towards a solution for your stress. If you are persistently sad, anxious, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless or unable to face daily routines, you may need to reach out for professional help. Talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

Despite our best intentions, sometimes the holidays do catch up with us. If you or someone you know needs help dealing with the emotions that often surface during the holidays, there is help and hope available.

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

Pine Grove Treatment