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From binge to balance

Binge has become a common word these days.  I most often hear it in terms of Netflix, as in “I binge watched House of Cards all weekend.”  The idea is that you get to watch several seasons (or at least one full season) of a show, in a set period of time, getting up only to order food, go to the bathroom and occasionally make sure the Earth is still revolving.

In clinical terms, “binge” has a more serious connotation. Clinicians often associate it with two activities- binge eating or binge drinking.  Binge eating disorder is an actual disorder, meaning you can be diagnosed with it.  Binge drinking is also a disorder, but falls under Alcohol Dependent Type II.  There were some revisions to this when the DSM 5 came on the scene, but either way, binge drinking is bad news, whether its a disorder or a symptom.

I had a patient make a statement yesterday that stuck with me.  She was talking about how overwhelmed she was with work and other activities (preach it!) and she said “I found myself trying to binge relax over the weekend.”  That’s when it hit me.  We have become a people of extremes.  Many of us binge work- whether it’s actual work, house work, side work, etc.  Then on the weekends we are left to try to binge relax- binge eat, binge watch, binge drink.

Finding a work/rest balance would be the key.  We wouldn’t feel the need to “binge relax” if we weren’t working ourselves to death (for some, literally) every week.

Take a page from those that have found self care to be an every day thing.  They take a 15 minute walk, they watch their favorite tv show (ONE episode), they meditate, they take a hot bath, they work out- whatever is part of their self care routine. But they do it daily.

Finding this balance would make life a lot easier on our bodies and minds.  That’s not to say we can never binge watch Netflix.  It just won’t seem like it is our only option on the weekends.

 

 

 

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Phobias 101

phobias

I have recently started seeing two patients that have phobias.  As odd as this sounds, it’s a different kind of fun challenge when I get a patient that has an issue that I haven’t dealt with.  I should clarify this by saying that I treat EACH patient individually- even if I see six Veterans with PTSD in one day, each one has a different treatment plan, a different approach to therapy, etc.  That being said, while I’m always on the search for new PTSD resources and info, a lot of my searches are repetitive.

So when I get a client with a phobia, especially an irrational phobia, it’s a fun challenge. A word of caution: be careful when googling about phobias.  Google is NOT nice, and will embed images in your search.  Googling “spider phobia” will get you some pretty scary images.

What is a phobia? An extreme or irrational fear of something.

Is this different than a fear?  Yes.  You can be afraid of something and still live your daily life.  Someone can be afraid of bugs, and they just try to avoid them.  If they are entomophobic (phobic of bugs) they will go out of there way to avoid them, and it might inhibit their ability to live their daily life.  If they see a bug outside their door, they might not be able to leave the house.  Someone merely afraid of bugs would probably just use another door or even use the door with the bug outside of it, just taking care not to touch it.

Are there different kinds of phobias?  Yes, if you search “phobias” you will get an extensive list.  The main way I like to break them down is into two categories- Rational and Irrational phobias.

Rational phobias are said to be “in our system” from caveman days.  They are phobias of things that potentially could hurt (or kill) you. These things obviously posed a much higher risk in prehistoric times, before modern medicine. These include:

Phobia of Heights (the fall could kill you)

Phobia of Bodies of Water (drown)

Phobia of Insects (their bite could kill you)

Phobia of Snakes (same as above)

Phobia of Spiders (same as above)

Phobia of Fire (die by fire, have materials/dwelling destroyed by fire)

Phobia of Dogs (their bite could kill you)

Now clinicians (myself included) are seeing more irrational phobias.  These include phobias like

Trypophobia – fear of circles or circular patterns

Cherophobia- fear of happiness

Leukophobia- fear of the color white

It is a little harder to find a cause or origin of these phobias.  Some might be steeped in prehistoric days.  For instance, Trypophobia could stem from mold spores, rashes that signified illness and there are some studies that suggest it might stem from certain patterns of snakes that were poisonous.

However, these more irrational phobias could also be personalized to the patient.  For example, if a person was very sick as a child and frequented the doctor regularly, he might associate bright white clothing with pain, therefore leading to Leukophobia.

The thing to remember with phobias is that they are treatable.  There are also many kinds of treatment types- you don’t have to do flooding (sometimes called exposure therapy).  You don’t HAVE to be confronted with the actual thing you’re phobic of but a good therapist will challenge you with talking about it and thinking about  it.  They will also understand that this can cause anxiety and will be able to address this.

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Your Positive 1st Post of the New Year

rain

Negativity is so…easy.  It’s so easy to look at things with a critical eye- to find faults with ourselves, our friends, the general public, experiences and even things.  How many times have you had a great night out- good friends, great food/new restaurant, fun time but you were able to name at least 5 things that could have been better? “That was a great meal but the server could have smiled more, the portions could have been a little bigger, the chairs could have been more comfortable, did XYZ have to laugh at every corny joke her husband told?”

Why do we do that?  You can search “negativity bias” and read countless psychological studies on why the negative always overshadows the positive in human nature.  I want to challenge that.  My personal 2015 goal is to find something positive in every situation and (here’s the big part) to really focus on ignoring the negative aspects.

I’ve always been a “hunt the good” person, even long before Resiliency Training (shout out to all the MRTs out there!) It’s not always easy, and sometimes it can take days, months before I can see the good in a situation.

If you know me personally, you know that I’m not a ray of sunshine.  I’m not trying to sound like I am.  I try to be pleasant and positive- my patients have even commented on it. “You are so good at finding the good in this awful situation.”

Why? Because in my mind,  good=hope.  As long as I have hope, no matter how dismal things look, I can keep going.  I am human- I still might have the breakdown, the cry, the overreaction, the day where I have to drag myself out of bed, but I will find the hope. Even if the hope is “it  can’t get any worse than this.”

I challenge you to reflect on your negative thoughts and statements- be aware of them, rate their validity, and always try to find that silver lining, because sometimes that’s all that’s keeping someone alive today.

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The Ft Hood Shooting, PTSD and the Catch 22 that lies within…

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Everyone has been following the Ft Hood Shooting that took place on 2 April.  The media was quick to point out that SPC Ivan Lopez (the shooter) had been to Iraq, and was quick to question if he had PTSD.  This started a debate all over the internet- can someone that only went to Iraq for 4 months have PTSD?  It’s possible.  It’s also possible that he had previous trauma that was somehow triggered.  This blog post isn’t about diagnosing the late SPC Lopez. It’s about the dangers of jumping to blame PTSD.

The PROS:

There is A pro of the media bringing PTSD up in this situation.  More awareness of PTSD.  Possibly the Military realizing they need to allow Service Members to go off base and choose their own Behavioral Health Providers instead of insisting they use the on base military providers.  It gets even worse when you decide to build a huge Behavioral Health building in a busy area on post.  Now EVERYONE knows that SGT Smith is going for help.  (I’m looking at you, Ft. Bragg.)

 

The CONS:

The cons of the media immediatlely suggesting that SPC Lopez had PTSD far outweigh awareness.  Many Service Members are still afraid of seeking help for their issues. Some that have been diagnosed as having PTSD are not getting help.  Now if the media starts a PTSD scare people are going to tiptoe around Service Members that have PTSD even more.  Civilians will shy away from them.  “When is HE going to snap?” they might wonder. This could also encourage others to use PTSD as an excuse. (This is far fetched, as most people I’ve met are very honorable, but we can’t rule it out.)

 

An even bigger point that I think some are overlooking is this- SO WHAT if SPC Lopez had PTSD?

PTSD does not justify or give anyone the right to shoot someone else.  It’s a diagnosis.

For me, this draws a comparison to the 1993 shooting that was reported nationwide- when a 22 year old Soldier named Kenneth French walked into a popular Fayetteville, NC restaurant and shot and killed 4 people and wounded 6 others.  SGT French did not kill himself.  He went to trial, where his lawyer claimed that SGT French was in an alcoholic blackout.  So what?  He is still repsonsible for his actions, alcohol or no alcohol. 

SPC Lopez is still responsible for his actions- no matter what.  PTSD, prescription drugs, TBI- it doesn’t matter. 

Please remember the families of the victims of the Ft. Hood shooting in your thoughts.  Also remember, SPC Lopez’s family, I’m sure they are hurting too.

 

 ***This blog is for information/entertainment purposes only and is
not meant to be a substitute for mental health therapy. If you believe
you are suffering from a mental or physical illness see the
appropriate mental health/medical professional as soon as possible. If
the situation is life threatening dial 911 or proceed to the nearest
emergency room.***

 

 

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The Army REALLY messed up today…

sharp

This is by no means a political blog, but at times I find myself advocating for my patients (Veteran or not) and their rights.  Advocacy can have some political ties.  I’m not in Washington DC throwing big $$ like a lobbyist, but there are many other ways to advocate.

And today, I can say, I am bitterly disappointed with “The Army”.  I’m not speaking of the hundreds of thousands of Soldiers that make up the Army, that are the core, the backbone, the lifeblood of “The Army”.  I’m upset with the individuals that let General Sinclair go with basically a slap on the wrist.  Way to back your SHARP program, Army,

Those of you not familiar with SHARP (Sexual Harrassment/Assault Response and Prevention) program- it looked good on paper.  If a Soldier felt they were the victim of sexual harrassment or assault, they could do an unrestricted report to their unit SARC or a Victim’s Advocate.  An unrestricted report means that the person reporting (the victim) does NOT have to disclose the attacker, and does NOT have to seek punitive actions against said attacker.  They are more than welcome to, but they don’t have to.  The SARC (Sexual Assault Response Coordinator) can take this report or the victim can go to a Victim’s Advocate.  SARCs are in each company and get specialized training.  Victim’s Advocates are available 24/7 via phone and emergency rooms at most larger forts.

That’s just the reaction piece.

The prevention piece included trainings geared towards enlisted, senior enlisted, officers and senior officers.  It included stand down days, one of which I was happy to take part of last May.  A full day of training for Soldiers and their spouses in a fun, non threatening environment.  Yes, mandatory “fun” and training, but it beats a day in the motor pool or doing a layout, right?

They might as well have saved their money if this is how they are going to punish those that harrass and assault.

Pardon my bitterness.  The therapist part of me wants to believe that MANY people benefit from the SHARP program and that maybe some harrassment and assaults were prevented.  I want to believe that victims come forward because of this program and get the help they need.

The human part of me, that part that hears my Soldiers (male and female) cry and lose sleep over their MSTs (military sexual trauma) is just really, really bitter.  I can only hope that this doesn’t stop their fight, or the fight of other Soldiers who still suffer in silence.

flush career

Unless you are a General, of course!

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A Brief Introduction

Welcome!  This blog will hopefully de-mystify and destigmatize mental illness.  My goal is to explain different disorders so those that live with/love someone that has that disorder can understand the disorder.  I also want those suffering from the disorder to find ways to cope and learn to Find Peace Within – to live life to the fullest and continue to live, no matter what your diagnosis.

 A little about me- I am a Licensed Clinicial Social Worker (LCSW) and a Licensed Clinical Addictons Specialist (LCAS) in Fayetteville, NC. Even though I am a credentialed therapist, this blog is not meant to be a substitue for mental health counseling. (You’ll see that disclaimer a lot!)

 I want this blog to be fun and informative.  I plan to allow comments but will approve them before they post.

 If you would like to make any suggestions for future topics or just suggestions in general, you can:

1) Leave a comment (public)

2) Email me  square.one.counseling@gmail.com  (private)

3) Message me on Square One Counseling’s Facebook page (private)

 

The world is a visual place, so here I am- to associate a face with the information.

 

pink 1

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