Free Therapy - Addicted? Self-Compassion

Want Free Therapy For Addiction? Try Self-Compassion

What is self-compassion?

Multiple therapies can work together to overcome addiction. One of those therapies, which is free and can be used at any time, is self-compassion. While self-compassion by itself will not end an addiction, it is a useful tool for living a happier, healthier life and for changing the brain patterns associated with sexual addiction. Here, essentially, is what it is: treating yourself as you would treat a dear friend or loved one.
What would you do if your friend lost his job? What about if a significant other left him? Or what if he learned he had a debilitating disease? Would you chew him out or tell him that he shouldn’t feel bad? If he made a mistake, lost his temper, forgot something important, or wrecked the car, would you call him names and tell him he’s the only one in the world that does such things? Would you tell him over and over what a horrible or stupid person he is? Most likely, no.

Stop for a moment and think about what you would do.

Would you recognize how your friend might be feeling and feel some of his hurt yourself? Would you try to cheer him up? Would you remind him of the times he’s done things right or express confidence in his ability to get through the situation? Would you want him to be happy? This is compassion. When you feel and do these things for yourself, it is self-compassion.

How can I apply self-compassion in my life?

The age-old adage, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” applies not only to how we speak of others, but also how we speak and think about ourselves. Just as we have healthier relationships with others as we extend compassion, mercy and grace, overlooking their faults and focusing on their strengths, so too can our relationships with ourselves improve as we forgive ourselves and highlight our own strengths and accomplishments.

Thus, one way to apply self-compassion in our own lives is to be aware of and intentionally modify how we talk and think about ourselves. Choose to think positively. Choose to speak positively.

This is not about being blind to what you are going through or pretending you aren’t feeling your emotions. Rather it is about choosing where to put your focus. For example, if you don’t want to get out of bed and you feel as though you no longer want to exist, but you get out of bed anyway, you could (A) berate yourself for how you feel, or (B) congratulate yourself for having the strength to get up when you don’t want to. (Or, if you didn’t get out of bed, you could (A) berate yourself for how you feel, or (B) congratulate yourself for at least recognizing that it is healthy and beneficial to get up.)

Besides verbally and mentally being self-compassionate, you may want to try journaling or writing yourself a letter. First, write down your negative feelings or thoughts. Then pretend that those are the feelings or thoughts of a best friend or loved one. When you’ve done this, write down your encouragement and support. Here are two examples:

I became angry at my son today and yelled at him. I know you didn’t want to yell at him. You’ve been working on that. And it’s been a week since you last yelled. That’s awesome. A lot of people have trouble controlling their temper. That’s not an excuse, but hopefully you realize that you’re not the only person trying to be better.

I’m not where I should be in life. My friends earn more money than I do and my debt’s getting bigger and bigger. It’s tough to be in debt. It is. And some of your classmates do earn more than you. But you earn more than some people. It really doesn’t matter how much you earn compared to other people. You know you need to learn to live within your means. Perhaps you can take a community education class on budgeting or personal finance.

In summary, whether you do it in your mind, speak it out loud, or write it down, pretend that you are talking or writing to your best friend and offer yourself compassion. Objectively empathize with how you are feeling, remind yourself that others go through hard times too, and help yourself see the positive aspects of the situation. Look for your own strengths and successes. Focus on offering yourself support.

If you want help overcoming your pornography addiction or sexual addiction, call Paradise Creek: (855) 442-1912.

Mindfulness -- How it affects addiction treatment

How Does Mindfulness Affect Addiction Treatment?

Mindfulness As An Addiction Treatment

Mindfulness is an addiction therapy that is proving to be successful at preventing relapse, and that can be integrated into other treatment programs.  It is something that can learned and performed anywhere.  One of the reasons mindfulness may contribute to sobriety is that it provides a healthy way to deal with and reduce stress1 and can increase self-acceptance2.  

What is it?  One definition describes it as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally”3.  Essentially, it is consciously being aware of how and who and what you are right now, and doing so without judging yourself.  Other ways of describing or thinking about mindfulness are “objectivity”, “neutralness”, “observing without judgment”, and “self-observing”. In mindfulness, you become an objective observer or scientist, consciously becoming aware of yourself, your experience, and your surroundings.

The idea of what we now call “mindfulness” is not new. Hundreds of years ago, Leonardo da Vinci stated, “An average human looks without seeing, listens without hearing, touches without feeling, eats without tasting, moves without physical awareness, inhales without awareness of odour or fragrance, and talks without thinking.”  In other words, the average human is not mindful.  When we become mindful–when we become aware of what we are doing and experiencing–our human experience becomes richer and more meaningful.

Non-Judgmental Observation

While there are multiple elements of mindfulness–including observing, savoring, meditating and breathing–conscious, non-judgmental observation is its core.  Whether you are at a party, at work, out with friends, or at home, you can choose to intentionally notice the sensations you are experiencing and the thoughts you are thinking.  How does your food taste?  What do your fingers feel as they move around the keyboard clicking keys?  What is it like being with your friend?  What emotions are you feeling?  Simply be aware of what is going on, without passing judgment.

You can use mindfulness to examine how your own addiction works or relapse occurs, and to stop them.  In an article in The Fix, Jenifer Talley says, “The process of becoming nonjudgmentally aware of the components of a compulsion weakens its power. That’s why increasing numbers of clinicians are eagerly incorporating mindfulness into the treatment of substance use disorders, eating disorders, sex addiction and other compulsive behaviors.”4

Observe Instead of React

One of the ways this works is by helping the person become aware of what is going on, and instead of reacting, to continue observing.  Since cravings are temporary, by watching, one can become aware of what triggers the craving, of the craving itself, and then of the craving’s abatement without actually giving in to the craving.

Judson Brewer M.D. Ph.D. puts it this way, “mindfulness helps individuals pay careful attention to their cravings, such that they can see what they are made up of – thoughts and body sensations. Importantly, with this awareness, they can notice cravings as they arise, see how they change from moment to moment (instead of lasting “forever” as some of my patients have described), and as a result, stay with them and ride them out instead of acting on them.”5

You can practice mindfulness throughout the day by asking yourself intentional questions such as:  What emotions am I feeling?  What sensations is my body experiencing presently?  What am I thinking?  As you observe your thoughts, you can intentionally decide whether or not to believe them.

Mindfulness is one of the therapies that Paradise Creek teaches at its recovery center for sexual addiction.  Call (855) 442-1912 to learn more.

Sources:

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2818765/
  2. http://www.naadac.org/mindfulnessandaddiction
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2818765/
  4. http://www.thefix.com/content/mindfulness-addiction-therapy-cravings-awareness8712
  5. http://www.rehabs.com/pro-talk-articles/is-mindfulness-an-emerging-treatment-for-addictions/
Do You Have Addiction Interaction Disorder

Do You Have Addiction Interaction Disorder?

Addiction Interaction Disorder

Many people with a sexual addiction also experience one or more other addictions or compulsive behaviors. And if they don’t have another addiction co-occuring with the sex addiction, the other addiction(s) can occur once the sex addiction has been stopped. These addictions can interact or replace each other, and “fuse” together. This is called Addiction Interaction Disorder (AID), and is something that every person with a possible addiction needs to be aware of.

In the words of Patrick J. Carnes, “Addictions more than coexist, they interact, reinforce, become part of one another. They become packages.”1 Thus, if a person has a sex addiction, the existence of other addictions and the risk of future addictions need to be screened. Additionally, since the addictions in an interaction disorder seem to have common causes, those causes–and not just the addictions–need to be treated. When there is AID, if multiple addictions are not included in the treatment plan and the causes of addiction are not addressed, then chances for recovery will be reduced.

There are multiple ways in which addictions can interact with each other. We’ll briefly describe a few of them.

Replacing One Addiction For Another

First, they can replace one another. In this case, a person may “recover” from one addiction and replace it with another addiction, either right away, or after some time. For example, a person with a sex addiction can ostensibly recover, having healthy, monogamous sex, but replace the addiction with another addiction such as compulsive work or gambling, thus perpetuating risky and dangerous behavior.

Cross-Tolerance

If the replacement occurs quickly and the new addiction is participated in at high levels, this is a sign of cross-tolerance. In other words, a person has a high tolerance for one addiction, and when he starts the new addiction, his tolerance level for it is already high.

Another form of cross-tolerance is when the tolerance for two or more addictions increases at the same time. Examples of this are having an increasing number of sexual encounters while also drinking more often, or both compulsively spending more money and eating more food.

One Addiction To Lessen Withdrawals From Another

Third, addictions can mediate withdrawals. The example set forth in “Bargains With Chaos: Sex Addicts and Addiction Interaction Disorder” by Patrick Carnes, et al., is of alcoholics smoking at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.2 The cigarettes ease the pain of alcohol withdrawal, but are still an addiction and still constitute a health risk.

Simultaneous Addictive Behavior

Fourth, addictions can “fuse” or become dependent on each other to create the necessary reward. Fusion describes when addictions are engaged in at the same time. Examples would be when a person always drinks when he gambles, but never drinks or gambles without doing the other, or when he smokes while compulsively shopping online. Says Carnes, “Neither addiction separately is sufficient: only simultaneous use suffices.”2

There are other ways in which addictions can interact, but those presented above give an idea of the importance of addressing Addiction Interaction Disorder in any therapy program. As can be seen, a person seeking to overcome sex addiction will be best served when screened for multiple addictions and for the risk of future addictions. The results of the screening should then be included in a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses (1) all the client’s addictions, and (2) the causes of those addictions.

Paradise Creek screens for AID and when indicated, incorporates the screening’s results into its treatment plans. You can call Paradise Creek at (855) 442-1912 for more information.

1Carnes, Patrick J., PhD. “Addiction Interaction Disorder: Understanding Multiple Addictions.” http://www.iitap.com/images/Addiction_Interaction_Disorder101.ppt. Power Point file.
2Carnes, Patrick, Robert Murray, Louis Charpentier. “Bargains With Chaos: Sex Addicts and Addiction Interaction Disorder.” Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 12:79–120, 2005.

Prefrontal Control and Internet Addiction

How Does Your Prefrontal Control Relate To Internet Addiction?

The following article is a summary of the review paper entitled, “Prefrontal control and Internet addiction: a theoretical model and review of neuropsychological and neuroimaging findings” by Brand, Matthias, Kimberly Young and Christian Laier, as published 27 May 2014 in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience*:

While many people have control over their Internet usage and use it as a tool, some have lost that self control, resulting in negative and social personal consequences. This conclusion is based on a review of existing literature and on the authors’ experiences.

The world-wide scientific community has not yet standardized terminology nor testing related to Internet overuse that results in psychosocial distress. Nor has sufficient research been performed. In fact, the standard reference for American’s mental disorders, the DSM-5, includes only Internet Gaming Disorder. Certainly, however, other Internet-related disorders do occur.

The authors of the review article seek to determine why some people experience loss of self-control related to the Internet. Their hypothesis is that the loss of control occurs in part due to Internet-cues disrupting prefrontal processes.

One model of Internet Addiction states that addiction is linked to either a poor off-line social support and the negative feelings that result from that, or from a pre-disposition for a specific addiction (such as pornography) that happens to be available online. The authors add to this model the effect of negative and positive reinforcements that condition behavior. Expectations can also play a role in creating or maintaining addictive behavior. Expectancies, goals and needs, personality traits, predispositions and mental/emotional disorders can also play a role.

Our prefrontal cortex has been linked to our ability to control conscious behavior. The results of a study that utilized the Game of Dice Task, “suggest that patients with Internet addiction may have reductions in prefrontal control and other executive functioning.”

Neuroimaging has shown that excessive or frequent Internet gaming can change the volume of cells in various areas of the brain. While one study mentioned in the paper reported increased gray matter density, the other studies reported a reduced volume. Other studies provide tentative suggestions that people with Internet addiction have a modified dopamine system that may play a role in loss of control.

Research on Internet Addiction is increasing and tends to indicate that functional changes in certain areas of the brain are correlated to Internet addiction. Indeed, it appears “that prefrontal control processes are reduced in individuals who are addicted to the Internet and may be related to the patients’ loss of control over their Internet use.”

Nevertheless, more research is needed on (1) stimuli related to the Internet and brain function, (2) “different types of Internet addiction,” and (3) on women. Additionally, research that has already been performed needs to be repeated in different countries and on another age group (i.e., if the research has been done on adults, it needs to be done on adolescents, and vice versa).

People with lower pre-frontal control processes seem to have less ability to utilize coping mechanisms. This, tied with the reinforcements offered by the Internet, create a myopic, Internet-based view of the world. All of this needs to be taken into account by the clinician.

In conclusion, research on Internet Addiction has produced similar results to research on other forms of addiction. The authors of this review agree with other authors in that “this clinically relevant disorder should be classified as a behavioral addiction.”

*You can read the original article here: http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fnhum.2014.00375/full

How to Reduce Kid’s Screen Time: Set the Example

Wondering how you can reduce the amount of time your children spend interacting with digital devices? A New York Times article offers some suggestions. These include:

  1. A link to “Outsmarting the Smart Screens: A Parent’s Guide to the Tools That Are Here to Help
  2. A link to Harvard’s “Food & Fun” online curriculum, which includes physical activities kids can do instead of using their electronic devices.
  3. Don’t allow children to “have their own cellphones or televisions in their bedrooms.”
  4. Parents need to learn to interact socially without electronic devices.  (In other words, set the example.)
  5. Create and enforce rules regarding the use of electronic media.

To learn more, read the original article here: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/07/13/how-to-cut-childrens-screen-time-say-no-to-yourself-first

Free Therapies For Sex Addiction Treatment

Are You Using These Free Therapies For Sex Addiction Treatment?

Free Therapies: Mindfulness and Self-Compassion

Sex addiction is a complex issue.  Effective treatment can require a variety of techniques and therapies.  Practicing self-compassion and mindfulness are two therapies that can help you in your recovery.  They are free, and you can start practicing them right away.

Focus on Breathing:  

In mindful breathing, you simply become aware of your breathing.  You don’t try to slow it down or speed it up.  You don’t try to breathe deeper or more shallowly.  You simply focus on breathing.

Kelly McGonigal, PhD suggests three ways to practice mindful breathing.  First, is to repetitively think “inhale” or “exhale” as you breathe in and out.  Second, is be aware of the sensations breathing creates, such as the movement of your belly or the feel of the air in your nostrils.  Third is to count each exhalation until you reach the number ten, then start over.  With all three suggestions, when your thoughts drift to something other than your breath, that’s okay, just refocus on your breathing1.

Savor:  

Rather than dreaming about the past or longing (or worrying) about the future, savor the present moment.  Whether you are eating a meal, spending time with a friend, walking, working, exercising, playing, talking or typing, become aware of what you are doing and delight in it.  Notice the sensations you are experiencing.  How does your food taste?  What do your fingers feel as they move around the keyboard clicking keys?  What is it like being with your friend?  What emotions are you feeling?  

Savor the sunset right now–the vivid pink and orange and purple colors changing shade and brightness as the clouds move and the sun sinks deeper behind the mountains.  Savor being with someone you love.  Savor the food you are eating.  Savor the feel of the breeze, or the heat or the cold.  Savor the feel of your feet hitting hard ground as you walk, or the supporting cushion of your shoes.  

Meditate:  

You can do guided or self-guided meditation, and the meditation can take different forms.  Focusing on different sensations:  the earth, your feet, what you hear, your skin.  It can include imagination, such as imagining a healing energy flowing through you.  You can use music or not.  Kelly McGonigal, even shares the idea of walking while you meditate.2

Pause and Observe:  

Simply stop and notice.  What are your surroundings?  How are you standing or sitting?  What do you smell or hear?  How are you reacting to your thoughts and feelings?  Do not pass judgment, just observe and become aware.  This “Pause and Observe” exercise can help ground you in the present so that you are not worrying about the future nor feeling shame for the past.

Become Your Best Friend:

If your best friend made some mistakes, wouldn’t you give him the benefit of the doubt, encourage him, support him, and focus on his good qualities?  Treat yourself the same way. Find the good in your situation and in yourself.  Focus on the positive.  This is not to say that you should ignore what needs to be changed, but rather that you love yourself and accept yourself as you are, even as you strive to change.

To learn more about overcoming sex addiction using mindfulness and compassion, please contact Paradise Creek Recovery Center at (855) 442-1912.

Sources:

  1. http://kellymcgonigal.com/2012/09/12/mindfulness-of-breathing/
  2. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-science-willpower/201009/walking-meditation-the-perfect-ten-minute-willpower-boost
Neuroplasticity and Addiction Treatment: picture of red brain followed by an arrow and a blue brain, indicating how neuroplasticity allows the brain to change

What Role Does Neuroplasticity Have In Addiction Treatment?

Neuroplasticity, neuro (brain/nerve/neuron) and plasticity (moldability), is what neuroscientists refer to as the brains ability to change and adapt at any age. As we make decisions, think about something, make memories and feel emotions, neural pathways in the brain hold and store this information which can occur on different levels.

A great deal of research went into patients that suffered from disease and brain injuries as they realized that over time the brain found ways of rewiring itself to other parts of the brain, actually going around the injured area to reconnect with other neurons and compensate for the injury. This new finding created a positive response as doctors and therapists began looking for changes in the patient’s rewiring skills, as this ‘flexibility of reorganization’ was taking place and patients found that they could improve and recover.

Another important aspect to understand is realizing that addictions have 4 components:

  1. Using a behavioral action with the body
  2. Thinking thoughts before or after the behavior
  3. Feeling emotions that are generated as a result of the thought such as sadness, guilt, disappointment, shame, or depression
  4. The brain has a physical response to thoughts, feelings, and actions that causes neurochemicals to be released into the body as it responds to the behavior

Understanding these 4 components is crucial in treating addiction because it’s about the pleasure centers in the brain being seized and taken over. People create habits that generate different neural pathways in the brain which allows them to become accustomed to their new source of pleasure. The brain is now wired to link this sensation to feeling good from the pleasure they receive. Soon, the need for more creates an obsession to experience the euphoric sensations they previously had that ultimately creates an addiction. But this can all change, and here is an explanation why:

With the continued study of neuroplasticity, scientist realize that the brain is structured to change and can respond to certain stimuli over a person’s lifetime. Besides the way a brain can make changes when new information is presented, our behaviors are another way our brain and body react to certain stimuli like emotions, stress, and other physical senses. A person, addict or not, can walk into a room and smell something delicious baking in the oven that triggers a memory that they hadn’t thought of or remembered for a number of years. This stimulus recalls on cellular memory groups, and can be activated from this type of inducement, making it easy to remember or respond to the stimulus that was previously known. But for addicts, this is especially hard as it triggers the same feelings and images that they are trying to avoid.

Understanding behaviors and how closely they relate to our senses, memory, and cognition is important to comprehend when dealing with neuroplasticity and rewiring the brain. Since they all rely on repetition and other challenging activities, the brain is able to make changes and literally rewire new pathways to improve its performance. And the best part is that the more you practice this new way of thinking, new skills can be developed to create happy connections among neuron pathways in the brain.

Now that we understand that humans have the ability to change behaviors, those with sexual addictions can literally retrain their brains to make new pathways that will reconnect them to a healthier way of living.

Is Sexual Addiction a Problem? YES!

Is Sexual Addiction a Real Problem?

The causes of sexual addictions are complex. Many questions arise as to why some people have an inability to control their addictions while others are unaffected. Research provides unlimited sources of understanding as to what causes an addiction and how it can be facilitated.

To further shed some light on the subject, it might be best to look at the definition of what an addiction is. An addiction is a condition of any kind that takes total control over what a person is doing, thinking, or feeling. There are multiple addictions out there such as drugs, alcohol, shopping, gambling, and even an addiction to sexual behaviors. When the body responds to a pleasurable affect that becomes compulsive and incontrollable, interfering with one’s duties and responsibilities of everyday life, then one is known as having an addiction.

Sexual addiction can be termed as a progressive intimacy disorder that is categorized by compulsive sexual thoughts and behaviors. Once a person becomes an addict, there are negative implications that increase as the addiction progresses‒ such as infidelity or financial ruin. Over time, the addict must find gratification by intensifying their behavior just to achieve the same results.

Another way to define sexual addiction is when someone engages in persistent patterns of sexual behavior until they escalate out of control. Despite the negative consequences, those that have sexual addictions continue to engage in these types of behaviors that risk their health, create financial problems, and destroy relationships with family, friends, and employers. When sexual addiction becomes a problem, it is often due to a person’s inability to have a healthy response to stress, trauma, or anxiety that is caused from everyday life. More specifically, the addict is unable or unaware of the best way to correctly deal with the emotional mechanism which leads them to search out other ways to deal with their underlying emotions.

There are so many things that can cause addictions in today’s world. Compulsive behaviors arise from emotional links in the brain caused from overstimulation. When this type of behavior receives a feeling of pleasure, reward, or relief, it quickly becomes the primary relationship for the addict. Sexual addiction if often a way to cope with loneliness, anxiety, pain, depression or other painful emotions and stressors.

This becomes a real problem as addiction encompasses more than just a compulsive behavior to an emotional problem. It can also be associated with the inability to deal with feelings, exposure to traumatic events, distortions in a person’s ability to connect with self, or other dysfunctional belief patterns that trigger these specific emotions. This ultimately leads to an unhealthy way of living as the brain tries to reward the person for their addictive actions, thinking it is the only way to feel better. As a person continually encounters pornography or other sexual behaviors, it may also be a way to divert negative emotions that they have formed with other people. Some addictions, especially sexual addictions, are difficult to talk about particularly when a person is already struggling to manage what they don’t truly understand.

Just like all addictions, they will manifest themselves in different forms. Sometimes there may only be a few recognizable symptoms. Other times the signs are there, but seeking help is not always the easiest thing to do. Sexual addiction is a real problem that affects people of all types, ages, and social classes.

Tiny Habits Better Than Focusing on Big Changes

BJ Fogg, an instructor at Stanford, shares the idea that you can change by focusing on making super tiny changes instead of big ones, and then celebrating.

 

 

Please share your thoughts about tiny habits in the reply area below.

Ashley Madison: A Symptom of Porn and Sex Addiction?

Ashley Madison: A Symptom of Porn and Sex Addiction?

The now infamous Ashley Madison website was a trap for men. If you haven’t heard of the website, it allowed people to arrange extra-marital affairs.  Most of the users were male.  Of the female users, many were fake.  And then some hackers stole the information of people who had signed up, and posted their data online.1  

Perhaps some people signed up on the site out of curiosity. Others, perhaps were in bad marriages or looking for excitement. Others may have been sex addicts or men who looked at porn.  

Shaunti Feldhahn, has said, “The hard truth is that porn reels in men who would have never set out to devastate their wives and families.”2  Those who visited Ashley Madison may have naively told themselves that they weren’t hurting anyone.  But just as with porn, they were already on the road to destroying themselves and their families.  

Now, with the users of Ashley Madison posted online for all to search, individuals and families can be publically shamed.  Wives may have to deal with their husband’s betrayal, not in private, but with friends and family knowing of the infidelity.  

The good news is, this may also be an opportunity for healing and positive change.  With secrets acts put in the open, perhaps the men and women who violated trust and vows will now have the motivation and help to make things right.  If any of them are addicted to porn or sex, hopefully now they will seek the help they need.

Porn, sex addiction, and adultery hurt both the person participating in them and those who love them.  Get help now.  Call Paradise Creek Recovery immediately at (855) 442-1912. Call Paradise Creek Recovery immediately at (855) 442-1912. We can help you or your loved one discover hope and heal.

  

Sources:

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashley_Madison

2. Shaunti Feldhahn, http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2015/september/ashley-madison-exposes-more-than-just-names-men-and-women-h.html