Addiction

By: Dianna Gomez

It is more often than not assumed that a person addicted to a substance, whether it be drugs or alcohol, is someone with shallow morals, little motivation, and that if he or she really wanted to, they could simply stop using at any moment. These assumptions show how extremely misunderstood addiction is by our general public, as well as how infrequently this topic is discussed among us. Addiction is a chronic disease that affects a person’s brain chemistry, thoughts, and behaviors. An individual can initially fall into addiction through voluntarily substance use or through necessary use of prescription medication prescribed by a doctor (ex: pain medication for after a surgery). When addiction first begins, the substance affects the reward circuits in the brain which causes feelings of complete euphoria. If a person continues to use the substance, the brain adjusts itself and develops a “tolerance” for it, which causes the individual to not feel the effects of the drug as intensely as they did the first time the drug was taken. This requires the person to have to use a larger quantity of the substance in order to reach the same level of “high” they did before. There are many different ways an individual can naturally be more vulnerable to addiction throughout their lifetime. Two of these main ways include biology and environment.

Biology: the genetics a person is born with can affect up to 50% of their risk for becoming addicted to a substance. This includes factors such as gender, ethnicity, and an individual’s family mental health history.

Environment: the conditions in which an individual is brought up in such as their economic status, family/friends, and quality of life in general also plays a huge role in their vulnerability for addiction. Peer pressure, lack of parental guidance, traumatic experiences with abuse (physical, emotional, sexual) are a few examples of common environmental influences.

If either you or anybody you know suffers from substance abuse or addiction, the licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy can help you. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201)-368-3700 or (212)-722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, visit us at https://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/.

 

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Self-Harm

By Samantha Glosser

Self-harm, also known as self-injury, is becoming far more common than it used to be. Studies have shown that around two to three million Americans engage in self-harm every year. However, despite the growing number of people who inflict harm on themselves, self-harm is still a topic that many people do not want to talk about. It can be a scary and uncomfortable topic to discuss, but avoiding conversations about this topic creates a cycle of stereotypes and misinformation that will make people who harm themselves feel alone and that they cannot ask for help. In opening up the discussion about self-harm, there are a few important things to note.

What is self-harm? Self-harm can be defined as the act of inflicting deliberate injury onto oneself. This includes, but is not limited to, the following: cutting, burning, bruising, pulling hair, and breaking bones. Self-harm is not a sign of suicidality, it is a coping mechanism individuals have adapted to deal with various types of deep emotional distress.

Why do people self-harm? Like most mental health issues, the cause of self-harm cannot be attributed to one factor. There are numerous different reasons that someone might turn to self-harm as a coping mechanism. These reasons include, but are not limited to, the following: loss of control over emotions, feeling numb or empty, confusion about sexual or gender identity, bullying, and physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. Self-harm allows sufferers to turn emotional pain into physical pain, or it allows them to feel something when they are numb and empty.

Who engages in self-harm? Self-harm does not discriminate. It can affect you no matter your age, race, or gender. However, there are a few groups who are at a higher risk for self-harm according to recent research. These groups include the following: LGBTQ+ individuals, people aged 12-25, individuals battling addiction, and individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and eating disorders. Often times you will not even know that someone is struggling with self-harm, because those who harm themselves commonly go to great lengths to keep their behavior a secret.

Can self-harm be treated? Although self-harm is not considered a mental disorder, there are still treatment options available. Treatment consists of psychotherapy which helps the individual to identify what causes them to self-harm and teaches them coping mechanisms that do not rely on bodily harm.

If you or someone you know appears to be suffering from self-harm, the licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy can assist you. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/


Sources: Grohol, J. M. (n.d.). Cutting and Self-Injury [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/blog/cutting-and-self-injury/

Lyons, N. (n.d.). Self-Harm: The Myths & the Facts [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/embracing-balance/2015/07/self-harm-the-myths-the-facts

What is Self Injury (SI)? (2016, July 17). Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/lib/what-is-self-injury-si/

Alcoholism: A Life Altering Disorder

By: Charleene Polanco

According to Mayo Clinic, alcoholism, also known as alcohol use disorder, is defined as an alcohol use pattern that involves the inability to control ones drinking. For many who are on track to become an alcoholic, it seems pretty easy to keep convincing themselves that they have the ability to quit whenever they want. However, when he or she realizes their alcohol tolerance has increased, and that he or she experiences withdrawal symptoms when not drinking, an alcohol use disorder has developed. The common symptoms of alcoholism include:

  • Uncontrolled alcohol consumption
  • Using alcohol in unsafe situations, such as driving
  • Failure to fulfill major school or work obligations because of repeated alcohol use
  • Craving/ urges to drink alcohol
  • Withdrawal symptoms like nausea, sweating, and shaking
  • Unsuccessful attempts to cut down on the amount of alcohol consumed

Alcoholism is an important issue, because it affects a huge number of the American population. As many as 18 million Americans suffer from alcoholism, and about 100,000 die as a result. Alcoholism is also associated with other social and domestic problems, like job absenteeism and spousal/child abuse. With such a significant portion of the U.S. population suffering from this terrible disorder, and its effects on the individual and loved ones, it is imperative that a person seek help when afflicted with alcohol use disorder.

If you or someone you know is suffering from alcohol use disorder, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/.

 

Sources:

Mayo Clinic. (2018, July 11). Alcohol use disorder. Retrieved October 9, 2018, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alcohol-use-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20369243

WebMD. (2018). Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder — the Basics. Retrieved October 9, 2018, from https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/understanding-alcohol-abuse-basics#1

 

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

By: Dianna Gomez

In order to better understand Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or “OCD,” you must first understand the difference between an obsession and a compulsion. Obsessions are repeated thoughts or urges that cause an individual anxiety in their day to day lives. Compulsions are repetitve actions that a person feels the need to take due to their obsessive thoughts. Some common examples of obsessions are: feeling the need to have things perfectly symmetrical/in order or having an excessive fear of germs. Some examples of compulsions are: excessive cleaning or handwashing, repeatedly checking to make sure that the oven is turned off, repeatedly switching lights on and off to make sure they are completely off before leaving the room, etc. OCD is an uncontrollable, long-lasting disorder that affects children, adolescents, and adults all around the world. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the most common age to be diagnosed with this disorder is 19, however, it is possible to be diagnosed earlier or later in life as well. Boys tend to have an earlier age of onset than girls when it comes to OCD. Genetically speaking, a person is at higher risk for developing the disorder if a close relative such as a parent or sibling has it too. Despite this, it doesn’t necessarily guarentee a diagnosis. In terms of brain structure, the two sections of the brain known to play the most prominent role in the development of OCD are the frontal cortex and subcortical structures of the brain such as the hypothalamus, thalamus, or cerebellum, in addition to several others. The direct connection between the disorder and these parts of the brain is not fully understood yet. There are some ways that a person with OCD can manage their symptoms to obtain a better, easier way of life. Treatment options include medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two.

If you or someone you know may be suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), the licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy can help you. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201)-368-3700 or (212)-722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, visit us at https://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/.

 

Opioid Addiction: Treating Opioid Dependence with Medication

By Samantha Glosser

The opioid epidemic is a real and fatal problem in the United States. Every week more than 800 people die from opioid-related deaths, yet the epidemic still appears to be growing. In addition to overdoses and death, opioid addiction is also a catalyst for the spread of diseases like Hepatitis and HIV, can cause birth complications such as low birth weight and neonatal abstinence syndrome, and makes it harder for individuals to maintain jobs. The impacts of opioid addiction are devastating for the inflicted individuals, their loved ones, and their communities. Thus, it is more important than ever to provide appropriate treatment to individuals who are struggling with an opioid addiction. But when abstinence and traditional therapies fail, what treatment is left? Medication assisted treatment (MAT). MAT is a highly effective, but not commonly used, treatment method that addresses all aspects of addiction.

MAT involves the use of medications, such as methadone and buprenorphine, combined with psychological treatments. This technique aligns with the disease model of addictions, which acknowledges the fact that the brain is physically altered by drug use. Treatments should then be capable of addressing the neurological and physiological changes that occur in the brain, which is where medication comes into the picture. Appropriate dosages of medications relieve the biological urge the brain feels for the drug, reduces cravings, relieves withdrawal symptoms, and improves the overall quality of life for patients. This allows an individual to begin working towards recovery at a faster pace. The medication will help them heal physically and at the same time psychological treatment will help them heal both mentally and emotionally. In addition, research shows that medication assisted treatment is proven to not only help individuals diagnosed with an opioid addiction to recover faster, but also prevents overdoses, improves daily functioning, and prevents them from committing crimes. If you or someone you know has been unsuccessful in their opioid addiction treatments, MAT may be the right treatment for you.

If you or someone you know appears to be suffering from opioid addiction, the licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy can assist you. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, visit  http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/

Jaffe, A. (2018, October 9). Is medication assisted treatment good or bad? [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/all-about-addiction/201810/is-medication-assisted-treatment-good-or-bad

Alcohol Use Disorder

By Samantha Glosser

Alcohol use disorder, more commonly known as alcoholism, is a pattern of alcohol use that results in impairment and distress in your daily life. Short term effects of alcohol use disorder include memory loss, hangovers, and blackouts. However, the long term effects are much more serious and include the following: stomach ailments, heart problems, brain damage, memory loss, liver cirrhosis, and cancer. Alcohol use disorder is also linked to increased chances of dying from automobile accidents, homicide and suicide, as well as increased rates of unemployment, domestic violence, and legal problems.

Cravings for alcohol, drinking in spite of it causing personal problems, an inability to stop drinking, and building up a tolerance to alcohol are common symptoms of alcohol use disorder. Alcohol use disorder can be diagnosed if two or more of the following are present in a twelve-month period (the severity of addiction is based on how many symptoms are present):

  • Drinking more or for a longer period than intended.
  • Feeling the need or trying to cut back on drinking.
  • Spending a lot of time drinking and recovering from the short-term effects of drinking.
  • Craving the use of alcohol.
  • Failing to perform responsibilities due to drinking.
  • Continuing to use alcohol even though it is creating relationship problems.
  • Ceasing participation in important activities to drink more.
  • Drinking before or during potentially dangerous activities (such as driving).
  • Continuing drinking despite its relation to physical and mental health conditions.
  • Developing a tolerance for alcohol.
  • Experiencing withdraw symptoms when reducing or stopping alcohol intake.

There are numerous treatment options available to individuals struggling with alcohol use disorder, such as detoxification, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), inpatient/outpatient treatment programs, and medication. There are also different methods to recovery, such as abstinence (completely quitting) or just cutting down on alcohol intake. Finding the right treatment options depends on the individual, which is why it is recommended to seek guidance from a trained professional.

If you or someone you know appears to be suffering from alcohol use disorder, the licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy can assist you. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/

Source: Alcohol Use Disorder. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/conditions/alcohol-use-disorder

Neurofeedback

Leah Flanzman

There has recently been a great deal of discussion on a psychological treatment called neurofeedback. Neurofeedback assists people in consciously controlling their brain waves by attaching subjects to an EEG machine that extracts various brain-activity components and feeds them back to the patient.  The most common protocols used in neurofeedback training are alpha, beta, theta, and alpha/theta protocols.  The way that you select the placement of electrodes on a patients head depends on their specific brain functions and specific symptoms.  The goal is to allow the subject to assess their progress and adjust their brain waves accordingly to achieve optimal performance.  However, the effectiveness and practicality of the treatment is under debate.

According to the Basic and Clinical Neuroscience journal, many studies conducted on neurofeedback therapy reveal methodological limitations that question its effectiveness. For example, with the alpha treatment protocols, it remains unknown exactly how many treatment sessions are necessary before patients can consciously possess the ability to control their alpha waves.  Once an optimal performance is achieved, it’s difficult to study the long-term effects of these treatments, in other words how long the effects last without feedback.

The pros of neurofeedback are that it’s a safe and non-invasive procedure that has been proven effective in treating certain disorders such as ADHD, anxiety, depression, epilepsy, insomnia, drug addictions, and learning disabilities. Despite this, more scientific evidence of its effectiveness must be conducted before we can consider it a valid treatment.  It’s also important to keep in mind that it’s a very expensive procedure that is not covered by many insurance companies, and is very time consuming to complete.

If you or someone you know thinks they have ADHD, anxiety, depression, or drug addictions, or learning disabilities, the psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services can help.  Contact the Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920.  Visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com for more information.

Part 2: Marijuana as Medicine

 

Marijuana Part 2: Marijuana as Medicine

Sam Kwok

Despite the growing use of medical marijuana, under the federal jurisdiction, it is still classified as a schedule 1 drug. Twenty-nine states have legalized medical marijuana; however, each state has its own legislature that creates lists of preapproved conditions that may be treated with marijuana. Though, when comparing these lists, one may notice that the severity of the conditions ranges drastically. For example, California, a state known to have very loose marijuana regulation laws, has a list that include more common conditions such as anorexia, anxiety, depression, migraines, or just “any debilitating illness …deemed appropriate by the physician.” New Jersey, which is considered a moderate state when examining marijuana regulations, has a list that excludes anxiety and depression, but includes more severe illnesses including terminal cancer, muscular dystrophy, and terminal disease where the physician has determined there is less than a year of life left. Despite the differences in severity, under the US law, medical marijuana patients, dispensaries, and government officials that do not enforce the federal laws are all criminals to some extent.

In the early 70’s Nixon began his famous “War on Drugs” campaign, which intended to keep the American public safe from hard drugs. One of these drugs, was marijuana. Almost 50 years later, the same laws are still upheld and little research has been done to update the data. Technology and scientific procedures have updates, so research and laws should be updated as well.

From the little data we do have, we know that CBD, the non-psychoactive ingredient of marijuana has medicinal effects. It is linked to the healthy release (unlike opiates) of dopamine and serotonin which are the “happiness” chemicals in our brain. This may be the reason why in some states, marijuana is used as a treatment for anxiety and depression. Children who suffer from severe forms of epilepsy have shown to have dramatic improvements with the introduction of CBD. The number of seizures that a child has may decrease drastically when treated with CBD oil. Marijuana is also known to help people undergoing chemotherapy treatment. It may not only help patients to regain their appetite through the reduction of nausea, but can also help reduce pain and reduce the body’s urge to regurgitate. Despite the potential of medical marijuana, further research is still barred by the government. Some suggest that the easiest way to completely legalize marijuana is if states vote to create a 28th amendment which would legalize marijuana, but that would still require ¾ of all states to vote in favor. Currently, 30 states have some laws which allow for marijuana to some extent (includes medical and recreational), but 8 more still need to reform for the possibility of a 28th amendment. The nation’s capital, Washington DC has already decriminalized the drug as well. With the current administration, marijuana will not be legalized federally. But with more and more people becoming aware of such issues, even the government will not be able to stop people from getting the medicine they need. It is clear in which direction the US is heading towards in this debate and it is only a matter of time until medical marijuana is legalized in all 50 states.

If you are struggling with substance abuse or any other kind of addiction, the psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services can help.  Contact the Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920.  Visit http://www.acenterfortherapy.com for more information.

Marijuana Part 1: How does it work?

Marijuana Part 1: How does it work?

Sam Kwok

As the most commonly used illicit drug, marijuana has recently blossomed into an estimated $11 billion-dollar industry. Recently there has been a national shift towards the legalization of the drug, which has caused debates from both ends of the spectrum. But how does marijuana work?

Marijuana’s main psychoactive chemical is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, THC for short.  THC is produced by the cannabis plant and its molecular formula is C21H30O2. Anandamide, a naturally existing molecule in the brain, has the molecular formula C22H27NO2 meaning that the relative molecular weight and size of THC and anandamide are similar. Moreover, the 2 molecules have a similar structural layout which allows THC to imitate anandamide’s effects on the brain.

Anandamide is part of the endocannabinoid (EC) system in the body which helps neurons regulate the release of neurotransmitters- the brains way of sending and retrieving messages. Generally, cannabinoids affect the brain by slowing down the transmission of neurotransmitters. When marijuana is smoked, a large amount of THC enters the lungs and into the bloodstream where it can flow into the brain. THC then bonds to the same receptors anandamide normally would to slow down the activity of certain enzymes which reduces the number of neurotransmitters in the brain. Because anandamide does not naturally occur is large quantities, smoking THC overwhelms the brain, and it is this reaction that gives users that “high” feeling.

The other main chemical compound in marijuana is cannabidiol- known as CBD. CBD has been popularized due to its medicinal effects and much of the medical marijuana platform is built upon the usage it. Some laws allow, medical usage of CBD concentrates, but still consider THC as a schedule I drug. Though its molecular formula is identical to THC, it lacks key functional groups and effects the brain differently. This is why CBD has no psychoactive effects. CBD actually inhibits an enzyme used to activate receptors lowering the psychoactive effects of THC. While THC directly effects the brain by bonding to a receptor, CBD indirectly affects the brain by activating adenosine receptors. These receptors have been linked to having anti-anxiety effects and are known to also release dopamine, a naturally occurring chemical in the brain that is linked to pleasant feelings. CBD also activates serotonin receptors which are linked to benefiting sleep, appetite, anxiety, and depression issues.

Since marijuana is still illegal federally, there has been little research on long term effects on the brain. Several studies have shown that marijuana use during a child’s developing age may have irreversible damaging effects to the brain. Marijuana has also been known to have harmful effects when mixed with other drugs such as alcohol. Users of the drug have also been known to have a higher chance of becoming to addicted to other drugs as marijuana is a gateway drug. However, majority of the research are inconclusive and more research must be done to make definitive conclusions.

If you are struggling with substance abuse or any other kind of addiction, the psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists at Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services can help.  Contact the Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920.  Visit http://www.acenterfortherapy.com for more information.

 

Shopping Addiction (Yes, it’s Real)

shopaholic

Sonya Cheema

We are becoming more materialistic than ever now that we’re able to see the daily activities of rich people on social media every day – Kim Kardashian using a skincare regimen that costs more than your rent, Jeffree Star custom painting his Rolls Royce pink, various Instagram-famous models advertising their “favorite” detox tea, etc. It’s no wonder why we always feel the need to buy whatever’s new and trending. Getting caught up in the trends may be fun, but it could also lead to an overload of items you don’t need, debt you can’t repay, and guilt. Shopping addiction is real and should be brought to everyone’s attention, especially now.

Shopping addiction, or shopoholism, is just like any other addiction. The more you buy, the better you feel. Individuals suffering from this will get a “high” when they shop, meaning their endorphins and dopamine are activated, which reinforces their shopping problem. Some signs that a person may be addicted to shopping are:

  • Shopping to ease anxiety, depression, or other negative feelings/emotions
  • Engaging arguments with others about spending
  • Feeling lost without credit cards and/or having withdrawal symptoms without them
  • Purchasing items through credit instead of cash
  • Getting a high after spending money
  • Feeling guilty, ashamed, or embarrassed after spending
  • Lying about how much money was spent
  • Thinking obsessively about money
  • Trying to juggle different accounts and bills to accommodate for more spending

If you recognize a shopping addiction within yourself or someone else, it may be best to seek therapy for yourself or the person, have an intervention for the person, or look up the nearest Debtors Anonymous meeting for additional support.

Some suggestions for what to do in the meantime are to get rid of checkbooks and credit cards, shop with someone else, and find other meaningful ways to spend your time. While these suggestions are crucial to recovery, seeking professional help and receiving therapy may be more beneficial.

If you or a person you know is struggling with shopping addiction, it may be beneficial to contact a mental health professional and receive therapy. The psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists at Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services can help. Contact the Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920. Visit http://www.acenterfortherapy.com for more information.

 

Source used:

https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/features/shopping-spree-addiction#4