Gooden Center
A residential drug treatment center for men located in Pasadena, CA. The Gooden Center is a proud member of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP).

(626) 356-0078
191 North El Molino Avenue Pasadena, CA 91101 US

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Holiday Relapse and Why You Should Be Thinking About it Now

Holiday Relapse and Why You Should Be Thinking About it Now

Recovering from an addiction comes with many complications and struggles throughout the year but one of the toughest times for most sober people is the holidays. The few months between November and January can be some of the most difficult to get through because of the many parties, celebrations and gatherings that tend to involve alcohol. People who have quit drinking may feel especially tempted during this period of time because they have certain associations with the holidays and having drinks.

Another reason the holidays can cause people to be more vulnerable to relapse is that it can also be a stressful time of year. Worrying about shopping for gifts and spending time with family can be difficult especially if you have any dysfunctional family members who create more stress. Although the holidays are meant to produce feelings of togetherness, the reality is that many people actually feel more lonely and depressed.

Because of these factors, it is essential to prepare for the holidays in advance and have a plan in place to prevent holiday relapse. Even though you might be optimistic about how your recovery is going you may never know for sure how you will react during the holidays. You need to think about what the holidays will bring and create your own relapse prevention plan so that you are fully prepared for any difficult situations.

Prevention is Key During the Holidays

When you have a plan in place before the holidays you will feel more confident and prepared for any issue that might come up. Instead of feeling nervous and scared about how you will react at a holiday party or gathering, you will know what to do in any situation. Relapse will be much less of a possibility when you have a plan ready in advance.

The first step in creating a relapse prevention plan is thinking about how you will react and handle it when someone offers you a drink or asks why you don’t drink. It is inevitable that this situation will come up so you can rehearse and think about some answers beforehand that you will feel comfortable with.

There are different ways that people choose to handle being offered a drink but you can simply say “no thank you, I don’t drink”. This may be enough to shut down any other offers the rest of the night if people know that it is a deliberate choice. Be firm and avoid opening any doors that might make people want to convince you to have a beer with them later on.

If someone asks you why you are choosing not to drink, you don’t necessarily have to tell them you are in recovery if you don’t feel comfortable enough to share. You can prepare some answers that you think will make you feel okay with the conversation and will prevent any further prying. You can say for example that you quit for health reasons which is reasonable and in most cases is probably the truth on some level.

Create a Support System

Most people in recovery know how important it is to have a support system in place when you are struggling with temptation. This is especially the case during the holidays when many people feel isolated and under more stress than usual. It might be a good time to talk to your sober friends more often and ask for extra support.

If you are going to a party that you are particularly nervous about you always have the option of bringing a sober buddy with you. Being the only sober person at a party can feel very alienating and can drive you to want a drink again. Take a friend from your AA group so that you can support each other and get through the night safely.

It is always a good idea not to spend too much time alone when you are in recovery and particularly during the holidays. As part of your prevention plan, try to organize some activities and outings with friends that don’t involve alcohol. Activities with friends from your AA group will not only help you but also everyone else in your meetings that is having a hard time.

As part of your prevention plan make sure that you have the option to leave when you are in any situation that may endanger your sobriety. If you are at a party that feels overwhelming, then make sure you have your own car or arrange a ride home so that you don’t have to stay.

You don’t want to be in any situation that will trigger a relapse. As important as it is to challenge yourself, your highest priority should be staying sober. Practice self-care and focus on your goals so that you can stay on track throughout the holidays.

Are Men at More Risk for Alcoholism?

Are Men at More Risk for Alcoholism?

For many years, alcoholism has traditionally been considered a man’s disease because rates of alcohol abuse can be up to twice as high among men compared to women. Although the rates of alcoholism among women has been increasing more in recent years, men still tend to struggle with alcohol abuse more often than their counterparts. There are many different factors that can explain why men tend to drink more but overall men have more vulnerability and risk for developing alcoholism.

One reason why men may be more at risk for developing alcoholism has to do with their biological makeup. A recent study revealed that the amount of dopamine that is released with men drink may cause them to be more susceptible to alcohol abuse.

The study focused on both male and female college-age social drinkers and researchers gathered data by asking each participant to undergo a PET scan. The brain scan was used to measure the amount of alcohol-induced dopamine that was released in each person after a drinking session. Dopamine is a chemical that causes pleasurable feelings and can be triggered by rewarding experiences.

Researchers found in this study that in spite of drinking similar amounts, men tended to have a greater amount of dopamine released when they would drink alcohol. The increase of dopamine was found in the ventral striatum which is an area of the brain that is strongly associated with pleasure, reinforcement and addiction formation. Men in the study also tended to have less dopamine release with repeated heavy drinking episodes which means they were more likely to develop a tolerance.

The results of this study point to an innate biological difference between men and women that could be part of the reason that men tend to struggle more often with alcoholism. If men experience a more intense rush of dopamine and pleasurable feelings when they drink then they might be more inclined to abuse alcohol than women.

Social and Biological Factors in Drinking

In addition to differences in brain chemistry, men may also end up drinking more than women because their bodies react to alcohol differently. Men can physically consume more alcohol than women with less negative effects and they also tend to metabolize alcohol faster. Men are simply built with the ability to drink more alcohol which can lead them to excessive drinking more often than women.

There are certain social factors which may also play a role in the risk of alcoholism for men. Drinking alcohol often acts as a type of social bonding activity for men. They can share a special emotional connection with their drinking buddies that is often facilitated by alcohol.

According to some research, women may have less of a need to use alcohol to induce moments of social bonding. Men at times may rely on alcohol to enjoy feel-good moments with their friends and a deeper connection. This may be another reason why men tend to suffer more often from issues of binge drinking and alcoholism.

Consequences of Heavy Drinking for Men

Men have a greater tendency to binge drink than women according to surveys studying gender differences in alcohol consumption. Studies show that the average man has about 12.5 binge drinking episodes a year while the average woman only has about 2.7. Over the course of their lifetime men have a 17 percent chance of becoming alcohol dependent while women’s risk is less than half of that.

Since men binge drink more often they also have higher rates of alcohol-related deaths and hospitalizations than women. Binge drinking can impair a person’s judgment and lead to risky behavior such as drinking and driving or otherwise putting yourself in danger. Men who drink more can also struggle with health problems including heart disease, liver failure and an increased risk for certain cancers in the colon, liver, esophagus and mouth.

Drinking can also have serious consequences on men’s mental health as many develop issues with depression. Studies have revealed that men are more likely to commit suicide and are more likely to have consumed alcohol before the act was committed. Men also tend to become more aggressive when they drink which can lead to physical assaults on other people.

Even though men can physically handle more alcohol than women, they also experience all the negative consequences that are associated with heavy drinking. For men who tend to drink socially as a form of bonding, moderation is key to preventing health problems and risks that are linked to alcohol. Binge drinking is especially risky so it is recommended to reduce or eliminate alcohol if you have issues with drinking excessively.

It is possible to prevent or treat alcoholism if you are aware of the risk factors and symptoms. If you think you might have an issue with alcohol abuse, seek help from a professional treatment center.

What to Do When You Have a Panic Attack

What to Do When You Have a Panic Attack

Most people experience bouts of anxiety occasionally when they have an important interview, a date, a test or anything that they feel nervous about. For people with anxiety disorders however, they can experience a sense of panic in certain situations that can be overwhelming enough to interfere with their life. A panic attack can escalate and become difficult to recover from and people may feel that they have to simply leave the situation entirely.

If you suffer from panic attacks it does not mean that you have to avoid people, places or situations that make you nervous. There are ways to cope with feelings of panic and bounce back enough to return to your normal self. Having a plan with how to cope with your panic attacks can make you feel more prepared so that you can face the anxiety when it occurs instead of having to avoid anything.

Dealing with Symptoms of Panic

A panic attack is usually characterized by sudden and intense feelings of anxiety that can take over your mind and body. Panic attacks often have physical symptoms such as:

-Shaking

-feeling disoriented

-nausea

-rapid breathing

-racing heartbeat

-sweating

-dizziness

The symptoms usually aren’t dangerous but they can be very frightening and make it hard for people to focus on easing their anxiety.

When you experience the symptoms the best option is to try to understand that they are only temporary, they are not harmful and they are simply caused by your anxiety. Instead of trying to distract yourself or put your mind on something else, the best option is to acknowledge what you are experiencing. Tell yourself that although you are having these symptoms you are not in any danger but are simply feeling afraid.

Although your first instinct may be to leave the situation, it can actually be more beneficial to ride out the attack. If you run away you won’t have the chance to see that nothing bad is actually going to happen. Confronting your fear can help you become less sensitive to the situation as you realize that it is completely safe.

Eventually the more intense symptoms will begin to pass and you can start to focus on your surroundings and get yourself grounded again. You can simply accept the fact that you are having these symptoms and feelings instead of wishing you didn’t or praying that they will go away. The acknowledgement and acceptance of the fear can help the attack begin to fade.

Breathing Exercises to Reduce Panic

The reason acceptance is so important is that resisting your feelings of panic will only make the attack worse. Your most powerful urge may be to flee but instead you can wait it out and maybe work on some exercises until the attack subsides. Breathing techniques can help get you more focused and aware of what you are feeling so that you will be less likely to run away or resist.

Breathing exercises can also be helpful because one of the characteristic symptoms of panic attacks are short quick breaths which can create more tension and stress in the body. If you become aware that you are breathing very quickly then you can work on deep breathing strategies. Start by breathing in very deeply and slowly through your nose and then breathing out slowly through your mouth.

If you count your breaths, close your eyes and focus on your breathing you can start to calm yourself down physically and bring more awareness to your body. Focusing on your breath not only reduces the kind of short, choppy breaths that generate tension but it also helps you turn down some of your anxious thoughts. Deep breathing can help you feel better quickly so that you can ignore the urge to run away.

Observe Your Reactions and Become Aware

When an attack is happening sometimes to helps to become very aware of your symptoms and even write down what you are experiencing. Writing about your anxiety can help you distance yourself from the feelings and be more observant of how you are reacting instead of being lost in the experience.

Writing down or talking to someone about what your are going through can help put things into perspective. You might read what you wrote later and realize how distorted your ideas were at the time. Or a friend might listen to your fears and help you understand that they are unfounded and that you are safe.

The important thing to remember about dealing with panic attacks is to do your best to ride out the symptoms until they subside. When you let yourself acknowledge the anxiety you will realize that it is only temporary and you will be able to return to a calm state of mind again. The more you learn to accept your anxiety, the less powerful it will become.

Tragedy and Anxiety

Tragedy and Anxiety

When tragic events occur it can trigger intense stress, sadness and feelings of anxiety. Tragedy and anxiety are closely connected because tragic events can lead to both a temporary increase in anxiety and in some cases permanent issues with an anxiety disorder. When young children experience a tragedy early on in their life then it can cause problems with anxiety for them well into adulthood if they don’t have the right kind of support and guidance to recover.

As adults we experience different levels of tragedy, from national events like natural disasters and mass shootings to events that occur on a more personal level such as the death of a loved one. Tragedy is a part of life and whatever type of tragedy we are faced with it is important to manage symptoms of anxiety and find healthy ways to process your feelings about it. Sometimes getting professional help is the best option in order to cope with a tragedy and be able to move on without it interfering with your life.

Helping Children with Anxiety After a Tragedy

When children see or experience a tragedy it can have a tremendous impact on them because they are more vulnerable. Children are sensitive and can feel the tension and anxiety in the adults around them. They may be too young to put the event in perspective and may experience feelings of helplessness and a lack of control.

Talking to children about their feelings can give them an outlet so that they can sort through the thoughts that they have following a tragedy. They may have interpreted the tragedy as a personal danger to themselves and the people they care about so it is important to discuss with them and learn about their perspective. Every child responds differently to certain events so it is important to find out what is going on in their mind so that you can deal with their particular issues.

After a tragic event, children need lots of comforting and reassurance in order to feel safe and it is important that parents provide that whenever possible. Parents shouldn’t avoid talking about the tragedy but should instead be honest and open about it so that the topic doesn’t become taboo and kids can talk about their feelings. Children can learn to express their feelings in different ways such as talking, drawing, or playing.

Very young children may exhibit signs of anxiety after a tragedy such as wetting the bed, thumb-sucking, or fear of sleeping alone. After national tragedies such as shootings or natural disasters it may be a good idea to monitor their media viewing if it is causing them stress to see the images on the news. You can schedule an activity during news shows such as reading or drawing so your child won’t be affected if you want to watch it.

Coping with Tragedy as an Adult

Children that struggled with tragedies and never learn the right coping skills may continue to deal with anxiety when they get older. Adults may also have trouble handling tragedies and feel just as overwhelmed and confused by a tragic event. People with existing symptoms of anxiety may find it hard to handle negative events on the news as it may affect their sense of safety.

Seeing violent events unfold on the media can cause people to feel nervous and have trouble sleeping or concentrating because they worry that it could happen to them. One way for adults to cope with tragedy is to consider how rare these events actually are and that few people actually experience a violent incident. Another way to frame these types of incidents is to understand that people who commit violent crimes are often experiencing their own darkness and painful problems that drive them hurt others.

The important thing to remember is that even though it may seem like these tragic events happen all the time they are actually few and far between. You can continue about your daily routine and be completely safe knowing that violence is extremely rare. Sometimes the best solution is to go about your daily routine in order to realize that life goes on as normal even after a tragedy.

If your anxiety doesn’t seem to subside then you might consider talking to a professional counselor about your feelings. You can try one on one therapy to discuss what you are experiencing or attend support groups if you feel you need to connect with someone and share stories. There are many resources available for people who have had their own experience with tragedy and need to recover from the event.

Any tragic experience can cause grief, sadness and anxiety because these are normal human responses. If these feelings begin to interfere with your life or you are having trouble moving on, seek help from a therapist.

UCLA Offers Voluntary Mental Health Screening For All Students

UCLA Offers Voluntary Mental Health Screening For All Students

College can be a stressful time for many students who are going through a difficult transitional phase and facing a lot of pressure in school. UCLA recently announced that they will be offering free mental health screenings for incoming students as well as treatment for those who need it. The school is hoping to reduce the number of students suffering from depression and anxiety and give them the opportunity to get help before their symptoms worsen.

Students often struggle with issues of perfectionism, worrying about their grades and coping with fears of failure and the stress of handling difficult courses. They are also learning to live on their own, pay their own bills and deal with being independent from their family. College life can become overwhelming for many kids who start to exhibit symptoms of anxiety and depression because they are not able to balance these issues and adjust to changes.

The UCLA chancellor Gene Block announced the new mental health screening and treatment program in September as part of an effort to combat depression at the school and also reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and receiving treatment. All mental health screenings are voluntary for incoming freshman students and transfer students to get a clinical assessment and know more about the state of their own mental health. The screening is part of the many options available for new student orientation that are designed to ease the transition into college.

The screening focuses on mental health issues including depression and related traits such as anxiety, mania and suicidal tendencies. Any student that exhibits symptoms of these issues via the screening will be offered treatment through the UCLA program. The screenings are now offered to new students but eventually will be made available to the entire UCLA community.

Reducing Mental Illness in College

When the chancellor announced the new program he spoke about how much depression affects the college community and ultimately the whole world. With 350 million people suffering from depression worldwide it is still a widespread and persistent mental illness that unfortunately remains overlooked and understudied. Block expressed concern that depression has not yet been identified as a number one health issue and still continues to affect all ages and backgrounds.

The free mental health screenings are part of the UCLA Depression Grand Challenge which is a campus wide effort to reduce the both the health and economic impact of depression by half between now and the year 2050. The new screening and treatment program is thought to be the first-ever campus wide mental health assessment in any university. Chancellor Block is now focusing on the importance of mental health understanding and implementing policies and practices that benefit the students and faculty.

The screening itself consists of an online survey that takes a few minutes to fill out and provides them with the option of taking a free cognitive behavioral treatment online. The treatment is a self-guided program that will help the individual identify their problem areas and teach them to think and react differently to certain issues and situations. Students that are identified as having greater needs will be referred to a psychologist or treated within the UCLA network of therapists.

Identifying Depression Early

One of the reasons this type of screening is so beneficial to students is that it will allow them to identify their own symptoms of depression early on before they experience more stress and pressure in school. Depression can negatively affect a student’s ability to adjust to college life and can hurt their future if they are struggling with academic issues or feel hopeless about their career outlook. Relationships can be a difficult issue in college as many students are just beginning to take dating more seriously.

If depression derails a student during their college experience it could affect them later on as an adult as they try to get started in their career. Identifying and treating depression as early as possible can help students get back on track and have a more fulfilling experience in school that will adequately prepare them for their adult life. College students are just beginning to establish their life trajectory so improving their mental health is crucial at that stage in their development.

One of the goals of this type of screening is to help students learn to be more compassionate to themselves and to reduce the stigma surrounding depression. College students often worry about getting perfect scores and how their grades affect them instead of learning to accept mistakes. They need to practice more self-care and feel less ashamed about getting help for their issues.

If students can feel more comfortable about receiving treatment and making efforts to work on better mental health then they are more likely to fare better throughout college.