Archive for August 2018

Job Loss and Unemployment Stress

Losing a job is one of life’s most stressful experiences. It’s normal to feel angry, hurt, or depressed, grieve at all that you’ve lost, or feel anxious about what the future holds. Job loss and unemployment involves a lot of change all at once, which can rock your sense of purpose and self-esteem. While the stress can seem overwhelming, there are many things you can do to take control of the situation, maintain your spirits, and come out of this difficult period stronger, more resilient, and with a renewed sense of purpose.

Why is job loss so stressful?

Our jobs are much more than just the way we make a living. They influence how we see ourselves, as well as the way others see us. They give us structure, purpose, and meaning. That’s why job loss and unemployment can be so stressful.

Beyond the loss of income, losing a job also comes with other major losses, some of which may be even more difficult to face:

  • Loss of your professional identity
  • Loss of self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Loss of your daily routine
  • Loss of purposeful activity
  • Loss of your work-based social network
  • Loss of your sense of security

No matter how devastating your losses seem right now, there is hope. In time and with the right coping techniques, you can come to terms with these setbacks, ease your stress and anxiety, and move on with your career or occupation.

Grief after job loss

Grief is a natural response to loss, and that includes the loss of a job. Losing your job forces you to make rapid changes, which can leave you feeling upset, angry, depressed, or out of balance.

Give yourself time to adjust. Grieving the loss of your job and adjusting to unemployment can take time. Try to accept your feelings and go easy on yourself.

Think of your job loss as a temporary setback. Most successful people have experienced major setbacks in their careers but have turned things around by picking themselves up, learning from the experience, and trying again. You can do the same.

Express your feelings in a creative way. Writing about your loss in a journal, for example, can help you to look realistically at your new situation and put things into perspective.

While everyone grieves differently, the following coping tips can help you deal with both the grieving process and the stress of your job loss in a healthy way.

Reach out to stay strong

Your natural reaction at this difficult time may be to withdraw from friends and family out of shame or embarrassment. But don’t underestimate the importance of other people when you’re faced with the stress of job loss and unemployment. Social contact is nature’s antidote to stress. Nothing works better at calming your nervous system than talking face to face with a good listener.

  • The person you talk to doesn’t have to be able to offer solutions; they just have to be a good listener, someone who’ll listen attentively without being distracted or judging you.
  • As well as making a huge difference to how you feel, reaching out to others can help you feel more in control of your situation—and you never know what opportunities will arise.
  • You may want to resist asking for support out of pride but opening up won’t make you a burden to others. In fact, most people will be flattered that you trust them enough to confide in them, and it will only strengthen your relationship.

Developing new relationships after your job loss

It’s never too late to expand your social network. It can be crucial in both helping you cope with the stress of job loss and unemployment—and in finding new work.

Build new friendships. Meet new people with common interests by taking a class or joining a club such as a book group, dinner club, or sports team.

Join a job club. Other job seekers can be invaluable sources of encouragement, support, and job leads. Being around others facing similar challenges can help energize and motivate you during your job search.

Network for new employment. The vast majority of job openings are never advertised; they’re filled by networking. Networking may sound intimidating or difficult—especially when it comes to finding a job—but it doesn’t have to be, even if you’re an introvert or you feel like you don’t know many people.

Volunteer. While unemployment can wear on your self-esteem, volunteering helps you maintain a sense of value and purpose. And helping others is an instantaneous mood booster. Volunteering can also provide career experience, social support, and networking opportunities.

Involve your family for support

Unemployment affects the whole family, so don’t try to shoulder your problems alone. Keeping your job loss a secret will only make the situation worse. Your family’s support can help you survive and thrive, even in this difficult time.

Open up to your family. Whether it’s to ease the stress or cope with the grief of job loss, now is the time to lean on the people who care about you, even if you take pride in being strong and self-sufficient. Keep them in the loop about your job search and tell them how they can support you.

Listen to their concerns. Your family members are worried about you, as well as their own stability and future. Give them a chance to talk about their concerns and offer suggestions regarding your employment search.

Make time for family fun. Set aside regular family fun time where you can enjoy each other’s company, let off steam, and forget about your unemployment troubles. This will help the whole family stay positive.

Face your feelings

Anger, depression, and anxiety will make it harder to get back on the job market, so it’s important to actively deal with your feelings and find healthy ways to grieve. It can be easy to turn to unhealthy habits such as drinking too much or bingeing on junk food for comfort. But these will only provide fleeting relief and in the long-term make you feel even worse. Acknowledging your feelings and challenging your negative thoughts, on the other hand, will help you deal with the loss and move on.

As well as talking to friends and family, try to:

Write about your feelings. Express everything you feel about being laid off or unemployed, including things you wish you had said (or hadn’t said) to your former boss. This is especially cathartic if your layoff or termination was handled in an insensitive way.

Accept reality. While it’s important to acknowledge how difficult job loss and unemployment can be, it’s equally important to avoid wallowing. Rather than dwelling on your job loss—how unfair it is; how poorly it was handled; things you could have done to prevent it; how much better life would be if it hadn’t happened—try to accept the situation. The sooner you do, the sooner you can get on with the next phase in your life.

Avoid beating yourself up. It’s easy to start criticizing or blaming yourself when you’ve lost your job and are unemployed. But it’s important to avoid putting yourself down. You’ll need your self-confidence intact as you’re looking for a new job. Challenge every negative thought that goes through your head. If you start to think, “I’m a loser,” write down evidence to the contrary: “I lost my job because of a company takeover, not because I was bad at my job.”

Look for any silver lining. Losing a job is easier to accept if you can find the lesson in your loss. What can you learn from the experience? Maybe your job loss and unemployment has given you a chance to reflect on what you want out of life and rethink your career priorities. Maybe it’s made you stronger. If you look, you may be able to find something of value.

Get moving to relieve stress

If work commitments meant that you didn’t have the time to exercise regularly before, it’s important to make the time now. Exercise is a powerful antidote to stress. As well as relaxing tense muscles and relieving tension in the body, exercise releases powerful endorphins to improve your mood. Trimming your waistline and improving your physique may also give your self-confidence a boost.

Aim to exercise for 30 minutes or more per day—or break that up into short, 10-minute bursts of activity. A 10-minute walk can raise your spirits for two hours.

Rhythmic exercise—where you move both your arms and legs—is a hugely effective way to lift your mood, increase energy, sharpen focus, and relax both the mind and body. Try walking, running, weight training, swimming, martial arts, or even dancing.

To maximize stress relief, instead of continuing to focus on your thoughts, focus on your body and how it feels as you move—the sensation of your feet hitting the ground, for example, or the wind on your skin.

Eat well to keep your focus

Your diet may seem like the last thing you should concern yourself about when you’re facing the stress of job loss and unemployment. But what you put in your body can have a huge effect on how much energy you have and how positive you feel.

Minimize sugar and refined carbs. You may crave sugary snacks or comfort foods such as pasta, white bread, potatoes, or French fries, but these high-carbohydrate foods quickly lead to a crash in mood and energy.

Reduce your intake of foods that can adversely affect your mood, such as caffeine, trans fats, and foods with high levels of chemical preservatives or hormones.

Eat more Omega-3 fatty acids to give your mood a boost. The best sources are fatty fish (salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines), seaweed, flaxseed, and walnuts. 

Avoid nicotine. Smoking when you’re feeling stressed may seem calming, but nicotine is a powerful stimulant, leading to higher, not lower, levels of stress and anxiety.

Drink alcohol in moderation. Alcohol may temporarily reduce worry, but too much can cause even greater anxiety as it wears off.

Take care of yourself

The stress of job loss and unemployment can take a toll on your health. Now more than ever, it’s important to take care of yourself.

Maintain balance in your life. Don’t let your job search consume you. Make time for fun, rest, and relaxation—whatever revitalizes you. Your job search will be more effective if you are mentally, emotionally, and physically at your best.

Get plenty of sleep.Sleep has a huge influence on your mood and productivity. Make sure you’re getting between 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night. It will help you keep your stress levels under control and maintain your focus throughout your job search.

Practice relaxation techniques.Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga are a powerful antidote to stress. They also boost your feelings of serenity and joy and teach you how to stay calm and collected in challenging situations—including job interviews.

Stay positive to keep up your energy

If it’s taking you longer than anticipated to find work, the following tips can help you stay focused and upbeat.

Keep a regular daily routine. When you no longer have a job to report to every day, you can easily lose motivation. Treat your job search like a job, with a daily “start” and “end” time, with regular times for exercise and networking. Following a set schedule will help you be more efficient and productive.

Create a job search plan. Avoid getting overwhelmed by breaking big goals into small, manageable steps. Instead of trying to do everything at once, set priorities. If you’re not having luck in your job search, take some time to rethink your goals.

List your positives. Make a list of all the things you like about yourself, including skills, personality traits, accomplishments, and successes. Write down projects you’re proud of, situations where you excelled, and things you’re good at. Revisit this list often to remind yourself of your strengths.

Find activities that give your life “meaning.”  For many of us, our work gives our lives meaning and purpose. Following job loss, it’s important to find other ways to nourish your spirit. Pick up a long-neglected hobby, try a new hobby, get involved in your community by volunteering or attending local events, take a class, or join a club or sports team.

Focus on the things you can control. You can’t control how quickly a potential employer calls you back or whether or not they decide to hire you. Rather than wasting your precious energy on things that are out of your hands, turn your attention to things you can control during your unemployment, such as learning new skills, writing a great cover letter and resume, and setting up meetings with your networking contacts.

Help yourself to stay on task. If you’re having trouble following through with these self-help tips to cope with job loss and unemployment stress, Help Guide’s free Emotional Intelligence Toolkit can help. By learning to manage troublesome thoughts, stress, and difficult emotions you’ll find it easier to follow through on positive intentions and regain control of your job search.

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/job-loss-and-unemployment-stress.htm

Man in despair with ipad

 

Living with Bipolar Disorder

No matter how down or out of control you feel, it’s important to remember that you’re not powerless when it comes to bipolar disorder. Beyond the treatment you get from your doctor or therapist, there are many things you can do to reduce your symptoms and stay on track, including educating yourself about bipolar disorder, surrounding yourself with people you can count on, and leading a healthy “wellness” lifestyle. With good coping skills and a solid support system, you can keep the symptoms of bipolar disorder in check, maintain your balance, and live fully and productively.

What can you do to cope with bipolar disorder?

Living well with bipolar disorder requires certain adjustments. Like diabetics who take insulin or recovering alcoholics who avoid drinking, if you have bipolar disorder, it’s important to make healthy choices for yourself. Making these healthy choices will help you keep your symptoms under control, minimize mood episodes, and take control of your life.

Managing bipolar disorder starts with proper treatment, including medication and therapy. But there is so much more you can do to help yourself on a day-to-day basis. These tips can help you influence the course of your illness, enabling you to take greater control over your symptoms, to stay well longer, and to quickly rebound from any mood episode or relapse

Living with bipolar disorder tip 1: Get involved in your treatment

Be a full and active participant in your own treatment. Learn everything you can about bipolar disorder. Become an expert on the illness. Study up on the symptoms, so you can recognize them in yourself, and research all your available treatment options. The more informed you are, the better prepared you’ll be to deal with symptoms and make good choices for yourself.

Using what you’ve learned about bipolar disorder, collaborate with your doctor or therapist in the treatment planning process. Don’t be afraid to voice your opinions or questions. The most beneficial relationships between patient and healthcare provider work as a partnership. You may find it helpful to draw up a treatment contract outlining the goals you and your provider have agreed upon.

Improve your treatment by:

Being patient. Don’t expect an immediate and total cure. Have patience with the treatment process. It can take time to find the right program that works for you.

Communicating with your treatment provider. Your treatment program will change over time, so keep in close contact with your doctor or therapist. Talk to your provider if your condition or needs change and be honest about your symptoms and any medication side effects.

Taking your medication as instructed. If you’re taking medication, follow all instructions and take it faithfully. Don’t skip or change your dose without first talking with your doctor.

Tip 2: Monitor your symptoms and moods

In order to stay well, it’s important to be closely attuned to the way you feel. By the time obvious symptoms of mania or depression appear, it is often too late to intercept the mood swing, so keep a close watch for subtle changes in your mood, sleeping patterns, energy level, and thoughts. If you catch the problem early and act swiftly, you may be able to prevent a minor mood change from turning into a full-blown episode of mania or depression.

Know your triggers and early warning signs

It’s important to recognize the warning signs of an oncoming manic or depressive episode. Make a list of early symptoms that preceded your previous mood episodes. Also try to identify the triggers, or outside influences, that have led to mania or depression in the past. Common triggers include:

  • stress
  • financial difficulties
  • arguments with your loved ones
  • problems at school or work
  • seasonal changes
  • lack of sleep

Knowing your early warning signs and triggers won’t do you much good if you aren’t keeping close tabs on how you’re feeling. By checking in with yourself through regular mood monitoring, you can be sure that red flags don’t get lost in the shuffle of your busy, daily life.

Keeping a mood chart is one way to monitor your symptoms and moods. A mood chart is a daily log of your emotional state and other symptoms you’re having. It can also include information such as how many hours of sleep you’re getting, your weight, medications you’re taking, and any alcohol or drug use. You can use your mood chart to spot patterns and indicators of trouble ahead.

Develop a wellness toolbox

If you spot any warning signs of mania or depression, it’s important to act swiftly. In such times, it’s helpful to have a wellness toolbox to draw from. A wellness toolbox consists of coping skills and activities you can do to maintain a stable mood or to get better when you’re feeling “off.”

The coping techniques that work best will be unique to your situation, symptoms, and preferences. It takes experimentation and time to find a winning strategy. However, many people with bipolar disorder have found the following tools to be helpful in reducing symptoms and maintaining wellness:

  • Talk to a supportive person
  • Get a full eight hours of sleep
  • Cut back on your activities
  • Attend a support group
  • Call your doctor or therapist
  • Do something fun or creative, or write in your journal
  • Take time for yourself to relax and unwind
  • Increase your exposure to light
  • Exercise
  • Ask for extra help from loved ones
  • Cut back on sugar, alcohol, and caffeine
  • Increase or decrease the stimulation in your environment

Create an emergency action plan

Despite your best efforts, there may be times when you experience a relapse into full-blown mania or severe depression. In crisis situations where your safety is at stake, your loved ones or doctor may have to take charge of your care. Such times can leave you feeling helpless and out of control, but having a crisis plan in place allows you to maintain some degree of responsibility for your own treatment.

A plan of action typically includes:

A list of emergency contacts – your doctor, therapist, close family members

A list of all medications you are taking, including dosage information

Symptoms that indicate you need others to take responsibility for your care, and information about any other health problems you have

Treatment preferences – who you want to care for you, what treatments and medications do and do not work, who is authorized to make decisions on your behalf

Tip 3: Reach out for face-to-face connection

Having a strong support system is essential to staying happy and healthy. Often, simply having someone to talk to face-to-face can be an enormous help in relieving bipolar depression and boosting your outlook and motivation. The people you turn to don’t have to be able to “fix” you; they just have to be good listeners. The more people that you can turn to who will be available and good listeners, the more likely you are to manage your moods.

Don’t isolate! – Support for bipolar disorder starts close to home. It’s important to have people you can count on to help you through rough times. Isolation and loneliness can cause depression, so regular contact with supportive friends and family members is therapeutic in itself. Reaching out to others is not a sign of weakness and it won’t make you a burden. Support for bipolar disorder starts close to home. Your loved ones care about you and want to help. In order to manage bipolar disorder, it’s essential that you have people you can count on to help you through rough times.

Join a bipolar disorder support group – Spending time with people who know what you’re going through and can honestly say they’ve “been there” can be very therapeutic. You can also benefit from the shared experiences and advice of the group members.

Build new relationships – Isolation and loneliness make bipolar disorder worse. If you don’t have a support network you can count on, take steps to develop new relationships. Try taking a class, joining a church or a civic group, volunteering, or attending events in your community.

Tip 4: Develop an active daily routine

Your lifestyle choices, including your sleeping, eating, and exercise patterns, have a significant impact on your moods. There are many things you can do in your daily life to get your symptoms under control and to keep depression and mania at bay.

Build structure into your life. Developing and sticking to a daily schedule can help stabilize the mood swings of bipolar disorder. Include set times for sleeping, eating, socializing, exercising, working, and relaxing. Try to maintain a regular pattern of activity even through emotional ups and downs.

Exercise frequently and avoid sitting for long periods of time. Exercise has a beneficial impact on mood and may reduce the number of bipolar episodes you experience. Aerobic exercise such as running, swimming dancing, climbing or drumming – all activities that keep both arms and legs active are especially effective at treating depression. Try to incorporate at least 30 minutes of activity into your daily routine. Ten minutes here and there is just as effective as exercising for longer periods of time. Walking is a good choice for people

Keep a strict sleep schedule. Getting too little sleep can trigger mania, so it’s important to get plenty of rest. For some people, losing even a few hours can cause problems. However, too much sleep can also worsen your mood. The best advice is to maintain a consistent sleep schedule.

Tip 5: Keep stress to a minimum

Stress can trigger episodes of mania and depression in people with bipolar disorder, so keeping it under control is extremely important. Know your limits, both at home and at work or school. Don’t take on more than you can handle and take time to yourself if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Learn how to relax. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and guided imagery can be very effective at reducing stress and keeping you on an even keel. A daily relaxation practice can improve your mood and keep depression at bay.

Make leisure time a priority. Do things for no other reason than that it feels good to do them. Go to a funny movie, take a walk on the beach, listen to music, read a good book, or talk to a friend. Doing things just because they are fun is no indulgence. Play is an emotional and mental health necessity.

 

Tip 6: Watch what you put in your body

From the food you eat to the vitamins and drugs you take, the substances you put in your body have an impact on the symptoms of bipolar disorder—for better or worse.

Eat a healthy diet. There is an undeniable link between food and mood. For optimal mood, eat plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and limit your fat and sugar intake. Space your meals out through the day, so your blood sugar never dips too low. High-carbohydrate diets can cause mood crashes, so they should also be avoided. Other mood-damaging foods include chocolate, caffeine, and processed foods.

Get your omega-3s. Omega-3 fatty acids may decrease mood swings in bipolar disorder. You can increase your intake of omega-3 by eating cold-water fish such as salmon, halibut, and sardines, soybeans, flaxseeds, canola oil, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts. Omega-3 is also available as a nutritional supplement.

Avoid alcohol and drugs. Drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy, and amphetamines can trigger mania, while alcohol and tranquilizers can trigger depression. Even moderate social drinking can upset your emotional balance. Substance use also interferes with sleep and may cause dangerous interactions with your medications. Attempts to self-medicate or numb your symptoms with drugs and alcohol only create more problems.

Be cautious when taking any medication. Certain prescription and over-the-counter medications can be problematic for people with bipolar disorder. Be especially careful with antidepressant drugs, which can trigger mania. Other drugs that can cause mania include over-the-counter cold medicine, appetite suppressants, caffeine, corticosteroids, and thyroid medication.

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/bipolar-disorder/living-with-bipolar-disorder.htm

Man at railing holding head

Studies Show That Women Who Own Horses Live 15 Years Longer Than Those Who Don’t

Recent studies done in Western NC, Northern Virginia and northern Florida involving various groups of “horsey” and non “horsey women are showing some startling results. The double blind study followed women in different age groups over a forty year time frame to capture this objective data.

The study grouped women into two groups of horse (for at least five years) & non-horse owners and then further into ten year age spans. The most significant spike in longevity came at the 65-75 age span which showed highest disparity at 20 longer lives for horse women.

Researchers point to the facts of higher forms of exercise, outdoor exposure and socialization of the horse women as likely contributing to the longevity but the women agree that their horses often contribute to their sense of well-being and as a group, these women also tended to be less symptomatic in high blood pressure, diabetes and general heart conditions.

http://soulfulprairies.com/studies-show-women-horses-live-15-years-longer-dont/

 

Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse

It’s not always easy to see when your alcohol intake has crossed the line from moderate or social drinking to problem drinking. But if you consume alcohol to cope with difficulties or to avoid feeling bad, you’re in potentially dangerous territory. Drinking problems can sneak up on you, so it’s important to be aware of the warning signs of alcohol abuse and alcoholism and take steps to cut back if you recognize them. Understanding the problem is the first step to overcoming it and either cutting back to healthy levels or quitting altogether.

Do you have a drinking problem?

Since drinking is so common in many cultures and the effects vary so widely from person to person, it’s not always easy to figure out where the line is between social drinking and problem drinking. You may have a drinking problem if you:

  • Feel guilty or ashamed about your drinking.
  • Lie to others or hide your drinking habits.
  • Need to drink in order to relax or feel better.
  • “Black out” or forget what you did while you were drinking.
  • Regularly drink more than you intended to.

Risk factors for drinking problems and alcoholism

Risk factors for developing problems with alcohol arise from many interconnected factors, including your genetics, how you were raised, your social environment, and your emotional health. Some racial groups, such as American Indians and Native Alaskans, are more at risk than others of developing drinking problems or alcohol addiction. People who have a family history of alcoholism or who associate closely with heavy drinkers are more likely to develop drinking problems. Finally, those who suffer from a mental health problem such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder are also particularly at risk, because alcohol is often used to self-medicate.

Signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse or problem drinking

Substance abuse experts make a distinction between alcohol abuse and alcoholism (also called alcohol dependence). Unlike alcoholics, alcohol abusers have some ability to set limits on their drinking. However, their alcohol use is still self-destructive and dangerous to themselves or others.

Common signs and symptoms include:

Repeatedly neglecting your responsibilities at home, work, or school because of your drinking. For example, performing poorly at work, flunking classes, neglecting your kids, or skipping out on commitments because you’re hung over.

Using alcohol in situations where it’s physically dangerous, such as drinking and driving, operating machinery while intoxicated, or mixing alcohol with prescription medication against doctor’s orders.

Experiencing repeated legal problems on account of your drinking. For example, getting arrested for driving under the influence or for drunk and disorderly conduct.

Continuing to drink even though your alcohol use is causing problems in your relationships. Getting drunk with your buddies, for example, even though you know your wife will be very upset, or fighting with your family because they dislike how you act when you drink.

Drinking as a way to relax or de-stress. Many drinking problems start when people use alcohol to self-soothe and relieve stress. Getting drunk after every stressful day, for example, or reaching for a bottle every time you have an argument with your spouse or boss.

Signs and symptoms of alcoholism (alcohol dependence)

Alcoholism is the most severe form of problem drinking. Alcoholism involves all the symptoms of alcohol abuse, but it also involves another element: physical dependence on alcohol. If you rely on alcohol to function or feel physically compelled to drink, you’re an alcoholic.

Tolerance: The 1st major warning sign of alcoholism

Do you have to drink a lot more than you used to in order to get buzzed or to feel relaxed? Can you drink more than other people without getting drunk? These are signs of tolerance, which can be an early warning sign of alcoholism. Tolerance means that, over time, you need more and more alcohol to feel the same effects.

Withdrawal: The 2nd major warning sign

Do you need a drink to steady the shakes in the morning? Drinking to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms is a sign of alcoholism and a huge red flag. When you drink heavily, your body gets used to the alcohol and experiences withdrawal symptoms if it’s taken away.

Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety or jumpiness
  • Shakiness or trembling
  • Sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headache

In severe cases, withdrawal from alcohol can also involve hallucinations, confusion, seizures, fever, and agitation. These symptoms can be dangerous, so talk to your doctor if you are a heavy drinker and want to quit.

Other signs and symptoms of alcoholism

You’ve lost control over your drinking. You often drink more alcohol than you wanted to, for longer than you intended, or despite telling yourself you wouldn’t.

You want to quit drinking, but you can’t. You have a persistent desire to cut down or stop your alcohol use, but your efforts to quit have been unsuccessful.

You have given up other activities because of alcohol. You’re spending less time on activities that used to be important to you (hanging out with family and friends, going to the gym, pursuing your hobbies) because of your alcohol use.

Alcohol takes up a great deal of your energy and focus. You spend a lot of time drinking, thinking about it, or recovering from its effects. You have few if any interests or social involvements that don’t revolve around drinking.

You drink even though you know it’s causing problems. For example, you recognize that your alcohol use is damaging your marriage, making your depression worse, or causing health problems, but you continue to drink anyway.

Drinking problems and denial

Denial is one of the biggest obstacles to getting help for alcohol abuse and alcoholism. The desire to drink is so strong that the mind finds many ways to rationalize drinking, even when the consequences are obvious. By keeping you from looking honestly at your behavior and its negative effects, denial also exacerbates alcohol-related problems with work, finances, and relationships.

For example, you may blame an ‘unfair boss’ for trouble at work or a ‘nagging wife’ for your marital issues, rather than look at how your drinking is contributing to the problem. While work, relationship, and financial stresses happen to everyone, an overall pattern of deterioration and blaming others may be a sign of trouble.

If you find yourself rationalizing your drinking habits, lying about them, or refusing to discuss the subject, take a moment to consider why you’re so defensive. If you truly believe you don’t have a problem, there should be no reason for you to cover up your drinking or make excuses.

Effects of alcoholism and alcohol abuse

Alcoholism and alcohol abuse can affect all aspects of your life. Long-term alcohol use can cause serious health complications, affecting virtually every organ in your body, including your brain. Problem drinking can also damage your emotional stability, finances, career, and your ability to build and sustain satisfying relationships. Alcoholism and alcohol abuse can also have an impact on your family, friends and the people you work with.

The effects of alcohol abuse on the people you love

Despite the potentially lethal damage that heavy drinking does to the body—including cancer, heart problems, and liver disease—the social consequences can be just as devastating. Alcoholics and alcohol abusers are much more likely to get divorced, have problems with domestic violence, struggle with unemployment, and live in poverty.

But even if you’re able to succeed at work or hold your marriage together, you can’t escape the effects that alcoholism and alcohol abuse has on your personal relationships. Drinking problems put an enormous strain on the people closest to you.

Often, family members and close friends feel obligated to cover for the person with the drinking problem. So they take on the burden of cleaning up your messes, lying for you, or working more to make ends meet. Pretending that nothing is wrong and hiding away all of their fears and resentments can take an enormous toll. Children are especially sensitive and can suffer long-lasting emotional trauma when a parent or caretaker is an alcoholic or heavy drinker.

Getting help

If you’re ready to admit you have a drinking problem, you’ve already taken the first step. It takes tremendous strength and courage to face alcohol abuse and alcoholism head on. Reaching out for support is the second step.

Whether you choose to go to rehab, rely on self-help programs, get therapy, or take a self-directed treatment approach, support is essential. Recovering from alcohol addiction is much easier when you have people you can lean on for encouragement, comfort, and guidance. Without support, it’s easy to fall back into old patterns when things get tough.

Your continued recovery depends on continuing mental health treatment, learning healthier coping strategies, and making better decisions when dealing with life’s challenges. In order to stay alcohol-free for the long term, you’ll also have to face the underlying problems that led to your alcoholism or alcohol abuse in the first place.

Those problems could be depression, an inability to manage stress, an unresolved trauma from your childhood, or any number of mental health issues. Such problems may become more prominent when you’re no longer using alcohol to cover them up. But you will be in a healthier position to finally address them and seek the help you need.

Helping a loved one

If someone you love has a drinking problem, you may be struggling with a number of painful emotions, including shame, fear, anger, and self-blame. The problem may be so overwhelming that it seems easier to ignore it and pretend that nothing is wrong. But in the long run denying it will be more damaging to you, other family members, and the person with the drinking problem.

Dealing with a loved one’s alcohol problem can be an emotional rollercoaster. It’s vital that you take care of yourself and get the support you need. It’s also important to have people you can talk honestly and openly with about what you’re going through.

A good place to start is by joining a group such as Al-Anon, a free peer support group for families coping with alcoholism. Listening to others with the same challenges can be a tremendous source of comfort and support. You can also turn to trusted friends, a therapist, or people in your faith community.

You cannot force someone you love to stop abusing alcohol. As much as you may want to, and as hard as it is to watch, you cannot make someone stop drinking. The choice is up to them.

Don’t expect the person to stop drinking and stay sober without help. Your loved one will need treatment, support, and new coping skills to overcome a serious drinking problem.

Recovery is an ongoing process. Recovery is a bumpy road, requiring time and patience. An alcoholic will not magically become a different person once sober. And the problems that led to the alcohol abuse in the first place will have to be faced.

Admitting that there’s a serious problem can be painful for the whole family, not just the alcohol abuser. But don’t be ashamed. You’re not alone. Alcoholism and alcohol abuse affects millions of families, from every social class, race, and culture. But there is help and support available for both you and your loved one.

When your teen has a drinking problem

Discovering your child is drinking can generate fear, confusion, and anger in parents. It’s important to remain calm when confronting your teen, and only do so when everyone is sober. Explain your concerns and make it clear that your concern comes from a place of love. It’s important that your teen feels you are supportive.

Steps parents can take:

Lay down rules and consequences: Your teen should understand that drinking alcohol comes with specific consequences. But don’t make hollow threats or set rules that you cannot enforce. Make sure your spouse agrees with the rules and is prepared to enforce them.

Monitor your teen’s activity: Know where your teen goes and who they hang out with. Remove or lock away alcohol from your home and routinely check potential hiding places for alcohol—in backpacks, under the bed, between clothes in a drawer, for example. Explain to your teen that this lack of privacy is a consequence of having been caught using alcohol.

Encourage other interests and social activities. Expose your teen to healthy hobbies and activities, such as team sports, Scouts, and afterschool clubs.

Talk to your child about underlying issues. Drinking can be the result of other problems. Is your child having trouble fitting in? Has there been a recent major change, like a move or divorce, which is causing stress?

Get outside help: You don’t have to go it alone. Teenagers often rebel against their parents but if they hear the same information from a different authority figure, they may be more inclined to listen. Try seeking help from a sports coach, family doctor, therapist, or counselor.

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/addictions/alcoholism-and-alcohol-abuse.htm

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning that there is a wide degree of variation in the way it affects people. Every child on the autism spectrum has unique abilities, symptoms, and challenges. Learning about the different autism spectrum disorders will help you better understand your own child, get a handle on what all the different autism terms mean, and make it easier to communicate with the doctors, teachers, and therapists helping your child.

Understanding autism spectrum disorders

Autism is not a single disorder, but a spectrum of closely related disorders with a shared core of symptoms. Every individual on the autism spectrum has problems to some degree with social interaction, empathy, communication, and flexible behavior. But the level of disability and the combination of symptoms varies tremendously from person to person. In fact, two kids with the same diagnosis may look very different when it comes to their behaviors and abilities.

If you’re a parent dealing with a child on the autism spectrum, you may hear many different terms including high-functioning autismatypical autismautism spectrum disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder. These terms can be confusing, not only because there are so many, but because doctors, therapists, and other parents may use them in dissimilar ways.

But no matter what doctors, teachers, and other specialists call the autism spectrum disorder, it’s your child’s unique needs that are truly important. No diagnostic label can tell you exactly what challenges your child will have. Finding treatment that addresses your child’s needs, rather than focusing on what to call the problem, is the most helpful thing you can do. You don’t need a diagnosis to start getting help for your child’s symptoms.

Keep in mind that just because your child has a few autism-like symptoms, it doesn’t mean he or she has Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autism Spectrum Disorder is diagnosed based on the presence of multiple symptoms that disrupt a person’s ability to communicate, form relationships, explore, play, and learn. (Note: In the DSM-5, the latest version of the diagnostic “Bible” used by mental health professionals and insurers, deficits in social interaction and communication are lumped together in one category. We present problems with social skills separately from problems with speech and language, to make it easier for parents to quickly identify symptoms.)

Social behavior and social understanding

Basic social interaction can be difficult for children with autism spectrum disorders. Symptoms may include:

  • Unusual or inappropriate body language, gestures, and facial expressions (e.g. avoiding eye contact or using facial expressions that don’t match what he or she is saying)
  • Lack of interest in other people or in sharing interests or achievements (e.g. showing you a drawing, pointing to a bird)
  • Unlikely to approach others or to pursue social interaction; comes across as aloof and detached; prefers to be alone
  • Difficulty understanding other people’s feelings, reactions, and nonverbal cues
  • Resistance to being touched
  • Difficulty or failure to make friends with children the same age

Speech and language

Many children with Autism Spectrum Disorder struggle with speech and language comprehension. Symptoms may include:

  • Delay in learning how to speak (after the age of two) or doesn’t talk at all
  • Speaking in an abnormal tone of voice, or with an odd rhythm or pitch
  • Repeating words or phrases over and over without communicative intent
  • Trouble starting a conversation or keeping it going
  • Difficulty communicating needs or desires
  • Doesn’t understand simple statements or questions
  • Taking what is said too literally, missing humor, irony, and sarcasm

Restricted behavior and play

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder are often restricted, rigid, and even obsessive in their behaviors, activities, and interests. Symptoms may include:

  • Repetitive body movements (hand flapping, rocking, spinning); moving constantly
  • Obsessive attachment to unusual objects (rubber bands, keys, light switches)
  • Preoccupation with a narrow topic of interest, sometimes involving numbers or symbols (maps, license plates, sports statistics)
  • A strong need for sameness, order, and routines (e.g. lines up toys, follows a rigid schedule). Gets upset by change in their routine or environment.
  • Clumsiness, abnormal posture, or odd ways of moving
  • Fascinated by spinning objects, moving pieces, or parts of toys (e.g. spinning the wheels on a race car, instead of playing with the whole car)
  • Hyper- or hypo-reactive to sensory input (e.g. reacts badly to certain sounds or textures, seeming indifference to temperature or pain)

How children with Autism Spectrum Disorder play

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder tend to be less spontaneous than other kids. Unlike a typical curious little kid pointing to things that catch his or her eye, children with ASD often appear disinterested or unaware of what’s going on around them. They also show differences in the way they play. They may have trouble with functional play, or using toys that have a basic intended use, such as toy tools or cooking set. They usually don’t “play make-believe,” engage in group games, imitate others, collaborate, or use their toys in creative ways.

Related signs and symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder

While not part of autism’s official diagnostic criteria, children with autism spectrum disorders often suffer from one or more of the following problems:

Sensory problems – Many children with autism spectrum disorders either underreact or overreact to sensory stimuli. At times they may ignore people speaking to them, even to the point of appearing deaf. However, at other times they may be disturbed by even the softest sounds. Sudden noises such as a ringing telephone can be upsetting, and they may respond by covering their ears and making repetitive noises to drown out the offending sound. Children on the autism spectrum also tend to be highly sensitive to touch and to texture. They may cringe at a pat on the back or the feel of certain fabric against their skin.

Emotional difficulties – Children with autism spectrum disorders may have difficulty regulating their emotions or expressing them appropriately. For instance, your child may start to yell, cry, or laugh hysterically for no apparent reason. When stressed, he or she may exhibit disruptive or even aggressive behavior (breaking things, hitting others, or harming him or herself). The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities also notes that kids with ASD may be unfazed by real dangers like moving vehicles or heights, yet be terrified of harmless objects such as a stuffed animal.

Uneven cognitive abilities – ASD occurs at all intelligence levels. However, even kids with normal to high intelligence often have unevenly developed cognitive skills. Not surprisingly, verbal skills tend to be weaker than nonverbal skills. In addition, children with Autism spectrum disorder typically do well on tasks involving immediate memory or visual skills, while tasks involving symbolic or abstract thinking are more difficult.

Getting an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis

The road to an ASD diagnosis can be difficult and time-consuming. In fact, it is often two to three years after the first symptoms of ASD are noticed before an official diagnosis is made. This is due in large part to concerns about labeling or incorrectly diagnosing the child. However, an ASD diagnosis can also be delayed if the doctor doesn’t take a parent’s concerns seriously or if the family isn’t referred to health care professionals who specialize in developmental disorders.

If you’re worried that your child has ASD, it’s important to seek out a clinical diagnosis. But don’t wait for that diagnosis to get your child into treatment. Early intervention during the preschool years will improve your child’s chances for overcoming his or her developmental delays. So look into treatment options and try not to worry if you’re still waiting on a definitive diagnosis. Putting a potential label on your kid’s problem is far less important than treating the symptoms.

Diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorder

In order to determine whether your child has autism spectrum disorder or another developmental condition, clinicians look carefully at the way your child interacts with others, communicates, and behaves. Diagnosis is based on the patterns of behavior that are revealed.

If you are concerned that your child has autism spectrum disorder and developmental screening confirms the risk, ask your family doctor or pediatrician to refer you immediately to an autism specialist or team of specialists for a comprehensive evaluation. Since the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder is complicated, it is essential that you meet with experts who have training and experience in this highly specialized area.

The team of specialists involved in diagnosing your child may include:

  1. Child psychologists
  2. Child psychiatrists
  3. Speech pathologists
  4. Developmental pediatricians
  5. Pediatric neurologists
  6. Audiologists
  7. Physical therapists
  8. Special education teachers

Diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorder is not a brief process. There is no single medical test that can diagnose it definitively; instead, in order to accurately pinpoint your child’s problem, multiple evaluations and tests may be necessary.

Depending on your child’s and symptoms and their severity, the diagnostic assessment may also include speech, intelligence, social, sensory processing, and motor skills testing. These tests can be helpful not only in diagnosing autism, but also for determining what type of treatment your child needs:

Speech and language evaluation – A speech pathologist will evaluate your child’s speech and communication abilities for signs of autism, as well as looking for any indicators of specific language impairments or disorders.

Cognitive testing – Your child may be given a standardized intelligence test or an informal cognitive assessment.

Adaptive functioning assessment – Your child may be evaluated for her/his ability to function, problem-solve, and adapt in real-life situations. This may include testing social, nonverbal, and verbal skills, as well as the ability to perform daily tasks such as dressing and feeding him or herself.

Sensory-motor evaluation – Since sensory integration dysfunction often co-occurs with autism, and can even be confused with it, a physical therapist or occupational therapist may assess your child’s fine motor, gross motor, and sensory processing skills.

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/autism-learning-disabilities/autism-spectrum-disorders.htm