Using Art Therapy To Treat Addiction


Oceanside Art Therapy

Art therapy, though fairly new as a therapeutic technique, can be traced back many centuries in various cultures, and has found a home in substance abuse recovery. It seeks to tap into one’s creative side and has been found to have a host of advantages. Clients may not find it easy to share their inner most feelings. Providing a  medium like art therapy may make it easier for them to share and let their counselor in to begin to help them.

Being responsible for creating and completing various creative tasks during art therapy can be very good for one’s self-esteem.  Low self-esteem is a common risk factor for substance abuse, so art therapy would directly help to address that. Pleasant thoughts and memories may occur during the process, assisting in the happiness and contentment that may be garnered from the experience.

Exploring the inner workings of one’s psyche via creative means can bring forth many revelations. Some may be hard to face. However, ignorance does not always equal bliss, so using the images and emotions that come up during the process can help provide new directions to explore with your counselor.

Art therapy is a pure, raw path to addressing mental and emotional distress, especially feelings that fuel addictive behaviors. There are many options for treatment available. Ensure that you explore them all to find the one most tailored to your needs.

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What Is Drug Addiction?

What is Drug Addiction

Why is addiction so rampant?  The illness of addiction is cunning, baffling & powerful.  The process of drug addiction can be so subtle, that by the time one hits the final stages of addiction, it may be hard to pinpoint at what point exactly, you got there.

Once drug use begins, the user maintains access to the substance and begins to use it more frequently as a positive reward system is set in place. The main goal is to regain the positive experience felt the first time drug use began. While this usage may be controlled at first, eventually it’s not. The rate of usage will increase proportionally with a newly forming tolerance. This begins drug addiction.  In a sense, drug use becomes a new hobby or obsession and begins to manifest itself in different aspects of a person’s life. Signs might include unexplainable change of temperament, mood, personality or habits, coupled with increased secrecy around behaviors.

Putting powerful drugs into one’s body causes chemical changes in the brain, which in turn alters normal functioning. Given time & increasing usage, the drug becomes a coping strategy, especially during stressful situations. This pattern is then set or hard-wired into the brain & body.  Drug addiction is a certainty when, after varying amounts of time without the substance or between periods of using, the brain & body experiences withdrawal symptoms. Nausea, insomnia, depression, and headaches are common. Once this begins and the drug is not presently available, obsession with the substance becomes a pattern as well. At this point, drug use usually intensifies in an effort to avoid withdrawal symptoms and mollify obsession.

The phenomenon of craving begins once addiction has taken hold. An individual with drug addiction may become irritable and start acting out in all sorts of ways, many quite alarming. Cravings can start to dominate thoughts, making it more difficult to concentrate and function.  At this point, a lot of time and energy of all sorts, focuses on the process or rituals surrounding gaining access to and using drugs.

Addiction is an illness which affects a person physiologically, psychologically and spiritually.  Whether subtle or overt, drug addiction can wreak havoc in all areas of a person’s life. In order to fully grasp an illness or disorder such as this, it is important to be armed with a few basic facts and then take action.

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Disorders of the Self

Self Disorders

Understanding addiction as a neurological disease that takes away the self-control one has over their own behavior helps to differentiate between addictive behavior and native personality traits.  An addict’s character may become extremely distorted when they are under the influence of drugs.  Once sobriety is established, the personality then reverts back to individual baseline behavior.  Therin sometimes lay the problem.

A very high percentage of those who suffered from drug and alcohol abuse at some period during their lives also had personality disorders or disorders of the self, a term coined by psychologist Heinz Kohut. It has been suggested that up to 77 percent of alcoholics and addicts also met the criteria for self disorders. The most frequent observed character issues found in substance abusers were antisocial and borderline personality disorders.

However, these self disorders are only two out of a dozen or so outlined by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The DSM outlines a personality disorder as ‘an enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from the expectations of the individual’s culture; is pervasive and inflexible; has an onset in adolescence or early adulthood; is stable over time and leads to distress or impairment.’ Personality types can also consist of schizoid, paranoid, melodramatic, self-absorbed, reliant, avoidant, obsessive compulsive and others. When someone experiences addiction, as well as a personality disorder or mood disorder, they are thought to have a dual diagnosis.

Treatment of addiction with comorbid self disorders is complicated. Recent treatments and methods have been developed, though they are only available at highly qualified facilities such as Oceanside Malibu Addiction Treatment Center. In these cases, unfavorable outcomes and consequences will be certain if there is a delayed response in seeking addiction treatment.

Symptoms of repressed mental illness can ignite substance use in an attempt to self-medicate when there is an emotional state of hopelessness. Addictive behaviors in turn will only worsen that state of hopelessness. Consequently, this is the reason dual diagnosis patients and people with disorders of the self are most in danger for suicide attempts.

Most people who are active in their addiction also present indications of a disordered self. Ensuring individual safety in a secure and comfortable setting followed by a full psychiatric evaluation is required before a dual diagnosis can be determined. Only after this is done, can focused and effective treatment begin to address the issues and treat underlying problems in a fitting manner.

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What It’s Like To Be A Highly Sensitive Person

What it feels like to be a highly sensitive person

Many people use the phrase, “you’re being too sensitive”, as if sensitivity is a choice and it’s a bad one, that’s not what it means to be a highly sensitive person. Being a highly sensitive person has got to do with the nervous system that you’re born with, which comes from the genes you inherit from your parents. We all have a nervous system. It’s the thing that notices all the stuff happening both inside and outside of your body and it sends that information to your brain. It’s also what helps you sense and feel. So, when you feel, ‘brrr, it’s kind of chilly‘ or ‘ouch! that’s sharp!’ or ‘the noise is too loud‘ That’s your nervous system at work. It does way more than just break down your experiences into simple categories.

Depending on how sensitive your nervous system is, you may be able to break down your experiences into quite a few categories. So, not just between it’s not cold and it’s cold, but it’s cool, it’s chilly, it’s really cold, it’s freezing, and so on. Your nervous system also causes you to think about everything you’re sensing and to feel all your ups and downs in your emotions. When something doesn’t feel right to your nervous system, you go about trying to correct it by doing something like pulling away from something sharp or covering your ears if something is too loud or doing whatever you need to do to make yourself feel better emotionally as well.

Seems normal, right? It is unless you are among the up to 20 percent of people that have what’s called a highly sensitive nervous system. They feel and sense more, they taste and smell in greater detail, see in more detail, they think more and they feel stronger emotions. Being born into this population comes with a lot of advantages, but it also comes with a lot of challenges as well. You’re able to pick up on things that most people don’t pick up on, but you can also pick up on so much that it can get overwhelming at times. Just like everybody else, you won’t be able to function optimally when you’re overwhelmed.

When feeling overwhelmed and withdrawing from stimuli, most highly sensitive people may only partially understand your struggle and be quick to judge that you’re just weak or being selfish or difficult. Consequently, a lot of highly sensitive people grow up feeling like something’s wrong with who they are and a lot of them go through life outwardly pretending to be like everybody else. But nothing’s wrong with you. You’ve just got a different level of sensitivity.

For people with a highly sensitive nervous system or have a high internal locus of control, the advantages and challenges previously discussed, get even more magnified. Yes, you might be extremely detail-oriented, smart, creative, and empathetic, but you’re also more likely to have a greater level of anxiety around your own intense thoughts, emotions, and the world around you. Even if you grew up with intuitive parents who tried their best to steer you in the right direction, as a child, you probably opted for solutions that were immediately gratifying and, perhaps, not always the best in the long run. In the long run you’ve developed strong patterns that are difficult to break. That’s usually when, in your adult years, you realize that these patterns aren’t working for you, so you seek professional help to get your freedom back and learn better ways to deal with your challenges.

As a highly sensitive person, throughout your journey you may have constantly heard people saying, ‘you’re crazy!’ or ‘you’re too sensitive or ‘you’re so dramatic!’ So, it’s really hard not to believe that something’s wrong with you. But again, nothing is wrong with you. You’ve just got a different level of sensitivity that most people do not understand. Due to all of their challenges many highly sensitive people wish they weren’t the way they are. Many wish they could have been born just like everybody else. However, we’re not meant to be just like everybody elsem we’re meant to stand out and shine.

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Children of Addicts

Children of Addicts

Addiction and alcoholism not only affect those who drink and drug, it also affects their loved ones in sometimes devastating ways. The children of alcoholics and addicts are often times traumatized by the experience of being raised in this environment. Unfortunately, once grown these ‘adult children’ may have difficulty separating the past from the present.  In the absence of therapy, proper guidance and counseling, these experiences can impact people for years and affect their personal relationships. There are some special features that are apparent in those who are still struggling with the exposure to alcoholism and addiction during their childhood.

Children of alcoholics and addicts are generally not taught appropriate skills while growing up. As a result, they may not have the capacity to adequately solve problems or manage conflicts in adulthood. They instead may be manipulative, lie or become aggressive to get their needs met. Often this behavior leads itself to unstable, chaotic and unhealthy relationships with other people.

People raised by alcoholics and addicts are often quite serious. This is due to the fact that they have, more likely than not, been deprived of a carefree childhood in a stable home. They have become hard-wired to be equipped at all times for unexpected, sometimes explosive incidents or to provide care at a moment’s notice for an impaired adult. Because they never learned how to have fun and play as children, they also have difficulty doing so as adults. When grown children of alcoholics do attempt to have fun, oftentimes they do so impulsively, making careless decisions without regard to consequences.

People raised in morbidly disfunctional households often report having low self-esteem and poor self confidence as a defining features. They sabotage themselves by setting unreasonably high standards and use their own failure to achieve these measures as justification for their own inadequacy. In adult children, there exists excessive negative self-talk and internal criticism, in addition to an unquenchable need for validation from others. Adult children often place other’s needs before their own, at times risking their own well-being to please another. In addition, self-esteem in these grown adult children may be so low that if they meet someone who seems to genuinely care for them, that person’s motives or integrity may fall under scrutiny.

Difficulties managing personal responsibility and control issues are common among children of alcoholics.  Many had no choice but to take on responsibility because their caregivers were unable to do so, oftentimes in order to win approval.  Some completely abandon all sense of responsibility due to the inability to ever please their parents despite their best efforts in childhood.

Unfortunately these patterns continue into adulthood without therapy or the acquisition of new coping skills.  People raised by alcoholics and addicts often feel powerless over the chaos of their early environment. They then tend to struggle with a need for control in their adult lives and feel a sense of panic whenever control is threatened.  Consequently, grown children of alcoholics and addicts also feel more comfortable living in drama and chaos then they do a peaceful or structured environment, though that is often what they crave.

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Is The Alcoholic Brain Different?

Alcoholic Brain

Drinking on a Monday morning doesn’t make you an alcoholic, but science is working on understanding the thing that does. Alcoholism may be a downer of a topic, but it’s important to understand how addiction is formed and reinforced. As we’ve learned more, the idea behind addiction has changed. In the early 20th century, addiction was thought to stem from a lack of willpower, but as medical technology advanced and we began to understand how physiological addiction worked, the idea of addiction changed. The pervading wisdom today is addiction is created in the brain because drugs, like alcohol, override the brain’s reward center called the limbic system.

According to the current model, the delivery of dopamine from the limbic system reorganizes a healthy brain into a drug-addled brain. The drug initiates a coup of the executive function — people with addiction are physiologically unable to abstain from their habit. Their brain has to get them high. Most of the literature calls it a hijacking. This is where people get the idea of drugs being super addictive even with only one use. The problem is, scientifically, there’s not a lot of evidence for this. In reality, two people could both use heroin once, and one will go on with their life and be fine, but the other might seek it out again and again.

One recent study finds a small part of the brain might be a major trigger for alcoholic or addictive behavior in rats. The lateral habenula is deep in the middle of the brain, and when the rats had theirs selectively destroyed — they could no longer tell if the decisions they were making were harming themselves or others. Basically, they’d lost the ability to feel the consequences of their actions. Rats were given the option to enjoy a 40-proof alcoholic drink, and water. They chose the alcohol thanks to the lovely dopamine wave that comes with being drunk. But, once they were drunk, they didn’t stop drinking it, they didn’t moderate their behavior, and once they’d sobered up enough, they went right back to it.

The researchers believe the lateral habenula could be responsible for the internal monologue which asks, ‘How bad was my drinking last night? I should back off for a while, I need to make sure this isn’t a problem.’ According to this new study, addiction isn’t solely about the brain’s reward center, there’s also an internal moderation of the effects of that reward. They’re not saying individuals with a bad lateral habenula are alcoholic or addicts; rather that with more information, a genetic profile could be established and we could tell who’d be in a high-risk group for addiction. That information could help people and their families make responsible life decisions.

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