What’s Family therapy really like? Guest post by Christine H

Family therapy 1
(image: Christine H)

Therapy is growing more and more accepted as a mainstream practice, rather than a scary, stigmatised ordeal. After all, it’s important to take care of mental health, and sometimes, we could all use a little extra help.

However, when it comes to any kind of therapy, it can still be scary. We don’t know what to expect, and we worry that we’ll be forced into something that makes us too uncomfortable. This can especially true in the case of family therapy. Often, family therapy is utilised when one or more family member confronts a serious mental health challenge (such as, for example, bipolar disorder, addiction, or major behavioural issues) that affects the rest of the family.

So, in order to dispel some of the misunderstandings surrounding family therapy, and to perhaps help people become more comfortable with it, here are some important things to know:

 

There May Be a Mix of Alone and Together Time

Contrary to popular belief, family therapy isn’t just going to be your family talking in a circle with a therapist the whole session. Well, maybe sometimes it will be. But other times, “family therapy” refers to a lot of different compilations of relationships within your family. Parents may talk with the counsellor separately, and then a child who has been the primary subject of therapy will talk with the therapist, and then perhaps the counselor will enable a conversation between the child and parents in order to share information that needs to be shared.

Additionally, family therapy is most effective when all family members are utilising therapeutic tools to get what they can out of the experience. For example, often in the case of addiction, support groups are available for both the person struggling with addiction, and for the family members who are affected by it. In these separate group therapies (which you can learn more about here) family members can gain new perspectives which will empower them to return to family therapy with the information they need to make it a productive venture.

 

Information that You Want Confidential Can Be Confidential

During all the mix-match of family therapy modules, many individuals are wary about sharing information with the counselor if they don’t want it to be shared with the whole group. And although this might sound kind of shady, it’s not just about keeping major secrets. Often, it’s about protecting family members’ feelings, or being embarrassed or worried about our own feelings.

Since family systems therapy is ultimately about repairing relationships and empowering healthy communication and cooperation, a counsellor can help individuals identify what information is important to share, and how to go about it in the best way. However, there are some challenges that are best talked out one on one with the therapist, and not in the group as a whole. It’s important for all parties involved to understand that they can still control the information that’s shared, and the way they choose to do it… or not.

 

It’s Not All Talk Therapy

Although sometimes all that’s needed in order to strengthen a family’s power to communicate and cooperate is an outsider guiding the conversation, other times talk therapy can be frustrating for families, as they’ll find themselves going around in the same old circles and arguments that they would on their own. That’s why most counsellors will utilise other techniques and approaches to achieve family goals.

For example, sometimes it’s useful to utilize experiential therapy, which could include anything from a cooperative ropes course, to role playing exercises. You can learn more about those options here.

 

Practicing Outside of Therapy Sessions Is Vital

One common assumption of family therapy is that the work will get done in therapy sessions, and it doesn’t have to change the way things are outside of therapy. Family therapy can only be successful when it creates changes to habits and systems within the family dynamic that aren’t serving individuals as well as they should.

Most of the time, a therapist will give family members assignments and goals that they can do–both by themselves, and as they interact with the rest of the family–in order to improve family relationships. Often, these are small habits in the way that we talk and the way we share duties in and out of the house.

 

This article was written by expert on family therapy Christine H

Advertisements

Gay Conversion Therapy in America and its toll on Mental Health by Nick Rudow

gaypride1
(image: VectorStock)


In May of this year, Maryland became the 11th state in the USA to ban gay conversion therapy, a tactic often used by religious organizations to try to alter an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. While this news is comforting to many LGBTQ youth, gay conversion therapy is still legal and practiced in many states across the nation. Two new film releases this year, “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” and “Boy Erased,” are tackling this subject in authentic ways and bringing to light a practice that’s sadly as relevant as ever.

Its Toll on Mental Health

Often referred to as “reparative therapy,” gay conversion therapy has shown to exert a tremendous toll on a person’s mental health and lead them to depression and suicide. Conversion therapy is typically brought on by the parents of the individual, and they’re forced into it as a form of “punishment” for their sexuality. Research conducted at San Francisco State University found that LGBTQ youth who were rejected by their parents because of their sexual orientation were more than 8 times as likely to have attempted suicide.

Without the acceptance of their parents, LGBTQ youth have shown to develop self-hatred and remorse toward themselves, and gay conversion therapy perpetuates these feelings. Using methods such as inducing nausea, inflicting shame and even giving electric shocks to the individual, therapists attempt to “cure” them of their same-sex attraction and “correct” their behavior.

When LGBTQ teens are told they’re “sick” and need to be “saved” because of their sexuality, their mental health is significantly impacted. Counseling experts from Rutgers found “when language that is biased against LGBT individuals is used on a routine basis, it can have a cumulative effect that is damaging.”

 

Where We’re Seeing It Today

The history of gay conversion therapy spans centuries, with some psychiatrists using hypnosis to try to treat their LGBTQ paitents’ sexuality during the 18th century. But with the popularization of behavioral therapies in the 1960s and ‘70s, psychologists began coming up with new and frightening methods to try and “cure” someone’s homosexuality.

During the early 1970s, a psychologist named George Rekers published an article touting his treatments of homosexual patients as successful and revolutionary and used a 5-year-old patient of his as an example. The child, Kirk Murphy, showed stereotypically feminine traits, and his parents sent him to Rekers to “prevent” him from being a homosexual. Even though Rekers said it was a success, Murphy developed severe psychological distress and, as a gay adult, died by suicide at the age of 38.

With so many health and psychology organizations refuting gay conversion therapy practices, why is it still legal in a majority of states around the country and still practiced by religious groups every day?

The answer may lie in the negative way some religious communities view homosexuality and the amount of LGBTQ youth coming from anti-gay households. There are still several churches prohibiting same-sex marriage in the U.S. and many LGBT teens are left homeless after being kicked out of the house by their parents. Discrimination and violence against the LGBTQ community occurs daily in America, with the LGBTQ murder rate having increased by 90 percent last year. Eighty-eight LGBTQ homicides were reported between 2012 and 2015, according to research from Bradley University.

Even with gay conversion therapy organizations being banned in several states, many are still being operated around the USA. 

 

How We Can Do Better

According to researchers from the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, an estimated 20,000 teens ages 13 to 17 will undergo conversion therapy in an attempt to change their sexual orientation. It’s vital that parents offer support and love to their children and never subject them to harmful gay conversion therapy treatments. There are several mental health resources available to LGBT youth such as The Trevor Project and services for those struggling with unsupportive families such as the GLBT National Hotline.

To all those suffering out there with feelings of worthlessness and self-hate, know that you’re not alone and there are people out there who can help you restore a positive outlook on life. No LGBTQ person should live in shame because of their sexuality or gender identity, and we need to recognize that and ban gay conversion therapy nationwide.

 
This article is by writer and activist Nick Rudow.

Autumn leaves and Mental Health tales. (by founder Eleanor)

autumnhyg

(image: http://www.thechakrahouse.co.uk/chakra-hygge-fairy-lights/)

I wanted to write this blog today because I have been reflecting. Over the years, I have come to really love the Autumn (Fall) season, despite being born in summer. Its cosy and calming at times, however these months can bring on some anxiety again for me.

I think that we are all human and are affected by the changing seasons. I know that my bipolar goes in phases, but is largely controlled and stabilised by medicines. However, sometimes hormones can make me feel lower at times of the month or life events can make you feel a bit sadder than normal, and in some cases, provoke depression.

My anxiety arrives in the form of morning panic and I can find it harder to do certain tasks. However, I am lucky that I am not depressed currently but the anxious thoughts are getting worse again.

I will worry about being around crowds, travelling far or socialising en masse with people I havn’t seen for a while. I live within a community where we all gather together for religious festivals and it can be harder to do this when I am more anxious. I particularly find early mornings hard- and don’t want to leave the house before 10am usually!

Working from home is both a blessing as I can work my own hours but I go out less. I am really trying to work on going out more- even down the road, especially before it gets too cold and dark.

Despite the increase in anxiety in the past few days, I am feeling thankful. There are so many good things to look forward to. There are so many exciting projects I can be a part of. When one door closes, I know that another will open.

I am still writing my book, still running my blog and have some articles being published soon. I also do social media management. I hope that my career will continue to diversify and bring joy.  I also need stability and the life of a freelancer, though fulfilling at times, is never easy.

There is a lot to be grateful for- family and friends, my fiance and life- despite the fears, anxiety and catastrophising that I do at times and am trying to limit. Positive mindset is so important- I am working on it!

Autumn can make us feel sadder or more anxious, or cause other mental health symptoms.  However, like now, it can also feel comforting- as I write on my computer, sipping a cup of tea as the darkness is falling. (Is it too new age of me to use the word ‘hygge’)?

As the leaves begin to fall and the frosts come its so important we find our lights in the darkness.

How are you doing? Let me know below!

Love,

Eleanor

7 reasons why 30 days of Yoga enhances your lifestyle by Meera Watts

yoga

You are probably fully aware of how beneficial yoga is for your mind and body. When you commit to it for 30 days, you will really begin to feel those benefits.

A practice like this is known as sadhana in Sanskrit, which means “dedicated practice.” You will definitely become more flexible and release tension on a daily basis.

The benefits go much deeper than this though. All aspects of your life will improve. You will mentally feel better about yourself just for the effort of getting on the mat every day. When you feel good about yourself and take action for your own self-care, life will get better for it.

Here are 7 reasons why 30 days of yoga will enhance your lifestyle.

1. You are More Able to Relax

When you’re able to relax, you can enjoy little moments in life far better. Yoga has been proven to reduce levels of cortisol by relaxing the central nervous system. Poses, or asanas, in yoga, will help relax all the tension in your body. You begin to regulate your heartbeat when you do yoga daily. This helps you to deal with stress far better as well.

If you have problems with sleeping because your mind won’t shut down, yoga can be beneficial for this as well. Chronic insomniacs have been able to break the cycle of sleepless nights from starting a daily yoga regime.

It helps to calm the mind and body. You might even want to do a few relaxing poses before going to bed.

2. You Feel Better About Yourself

It’s easier on your body to do yoga for 30 days straight as opposed to weight training or other intense exercises. It might be hard at first but the progress you make in the practice will improve how you feel about yourself.

Whatever your reasons are for going through a 30-day yoga practice, you will get a sense of purpose. This sense of purpose will make you feel good about yourself. Being dedicated to something and sticking to it can create a habit of commitment within you. You will have a greater sense of trust in yourself as well.

It starts with 30 days of yoga but you’ll likely move onto do more yoga or other types of physical activity. Doing something active daily is good for the mind and the body. Once you get into the habit, you’ll always want to improve.

3. Your Body Will Become Stronger

Although yoga wouldn’t be considered a direct way to lose weight, it actually can. You don’t burn a lot of calories but you do gain more muscle. Muscle eats fat so it is an indirect way to improve the body.

Doing yoga for a while 30 days will help your metabolism so you’ll burn fat more easily. Your weight will normalize through yoga because it restores hormonal imbalances. You also become more mentally stable when something arises and you feel stressed.

You’ll hopefully be able to manage the ebbs and flows of life because you’re more centered.

4. Better Posture

As you’ll be doing yoga for 30 days straight, you’ll be able to properly counteract bad posture. This will be a noticeable improvement.

As you stand in Mountain Pose, you’ll be pulling your shoulders back which will probably feel uncomfortable for a few days. As you continue with your practice, you’ll notice that it’s easier to stand with your shoulders back.

You’ll be focusing on your posture and how your body is functioning, which will help you focus on it while you’re off the mat. Many of the poses stretch out the areas of the shoulders and back that are compromised from slouching.

5. Mindfulness Makes You More Conscious

You may not realise all of the things in your life that you’re grateful for. Most of us just live every day and don’t really think about we have. We think about what we don’t have, what we want, and other things.

Mindfulness is a large part of the full yoga picture. It is where we let go of the ego mind, which is that inner chatter you’re hearing all the time. When you’re present in the moment of now, there can be no depressive or anxious upsets.

This allows you to open up to what is happening for you right now. When you’re more conscious, it’s easy to appreciate moments, you are more easily grateful for what you have. You become happier and more at peace.

Also, you’re not missing out on your life. It’s unravelling in front of you and you are there with it. The conscious thought brings a great deal of fulfillment into your life while eradicating self-critical, worrying thoughts.

6. You’ll Become Better at Breathing

Breathing is important for the health of your physical and mental state. When you get anxious, you will experience a shallow breath. This makes you feel more anxious. If you can learn how to breathe deeply into your lungs, you can calm yourself down instantly.

During yoga, you will probably feel very relaxed so you can safely hone those deep breathing skills. Then in times when you need it, you will be able to automatically breathe into your belly.

7. You’ll Be Able to Focus Better

Yoga sends a lot of oxygen to the brain, which helps to promote mental functioning. In addition, the lack of anxiety allows you to think more clearly. This can help you in your work life with productivity or in running a household.

When you’ve completed your 30 days of yoga, you will know that your life has changed. You have trained the mind and body to work in the most optimal way. You will see the benefits that manifest into your outside life and how it enhances the lifestyle you’re living. You’ll be fit and feel generally happier. Yoga can teach us a lot and you will understand this when you commit to the practice.

Meera Watts is a yoga teacher, entrepreneur, and mom. Her writing on yoga and holistic health has appeared in Elephant Journal, CureJoy, FunTimesGuide, OMtimes, and others. She’s also the founder and owner of Siddhi Yoga.

Website:  https://www.siddhiyoga.com/
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/siddhiyogaacademy

Instagram: https://instagram.com/siddhiyogainternational

Pinterest: https://pinterest.com/siddhiyogainter

Twitter: https://twitter.com/meerawatts

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/meerawatts

FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/siddhiyogateachertraining

 

Mindfulness and Unplugging: Digital Detox

sunflower

(image: Gizmodo)

In my life, I have found that what is truly important is having time away from work, fears, worries, busy-ness in general and unplugging. If I am feeling overwhelmed or anxious or like things are too much, I take an hour or two in the week (and sometimes a day at weekends) to really, properly switch off.

I love social media and  I am always checking my email but sometimes its really good not to have to answer emails or mindlessly scroll through feeds. I love Instagram, but it is an excellent distraction from what I probably should be doing too!

Every Saturday in the Jewish world is Shabbat, the sabbath. I have a complete digital detox and find that I am a lot calmer and more present in the world. I go for walks and look at trees and flowers, without the distraction of my phone. I sleep without the radio (normally at night its on). I am not checking each notification, each app for something new.

I feel free for those 25 hours. I often curl up with a book, sleep and just relax. However, any longer and I really would miss the outside digital world- its a fine balance.

For me I want to be more mindful and appreciative and not live life constantly by social media. It is how I promote my work and stay in touch with people. I love that contact but I also like to unplug my mind and rest.

What about you?

Love,

Eleanor x 

 

Can Animals and Pet Therapy help our Mental Health? Guest post by Dawn Prime

pettherapy2
(image: http://www.usatherapydogs.org/)

Can animals help our mental health? Approximately one in four people in England will experience a mental health issue each year (YouGOV). Every mental health issue is individual, and every situation is different; this can be shown in many forms including stress, anxiety and depression. Living with a mental health condition can affect many aspects of our daily life, with many describing it to be a lonely and isolating experience, whilst others withdraw from social interaction.

So, can animals help with mental health? In my experience they certainly can, and the therapeutic power of pets has been well documented. I believe that this is done in a number of ways, from improving mood, to calming down and giving a sense of purpose.

Whether it’s dogs, cats, rabbits or fish – each animal has a way to help and offer great companionship to those experiencing and overcoming mental health.

Mental health benefits associated with pets include:

* Decreased anxiety

* Reduced loneliness

* A known sense of comfort and safety

* A greater improvement of self-esteem and confidence

* Help in depression

At the best of times a pet can be a great source of comfort, companionship and motivation, and in many ways they can help us all to live mentally healthier lives.

Caring for a pet gives our day a purpose and reward, similar to that sense of achievement in say, looking after a child. For example, owning a pet – especially a dog – means you will need to go for walks, which can often lead to conversations with other dog owners along the way, so simply put, it’s helping someone with mental health stay connected and less withdrawn in a social circle. Social anxiety can be a major hurdle to overcome but by having a dog, you have a ready-made conversation, as dog owners like to talk to other owners about their dogs!

Pets can also give owner’s incentive to remain calm – most pets are generally cute or cuddly and have the ‘awww’ factor, however our pets’ mood, at times, can very much reflect our own, so if we feel sad, our pet could be too.

Commanding and teaching our pet brings confidence and reassurance, and in time this will naturally train our own brains to let go of any negative stress. Unlike people, pets won’t judge your illness, so many people find it therapeutic to talk to animals as they listen – remember they are non-judgmental, and who knows they might just understand!

We can take stroking our pet as something we sub-consciously do whilst we watch the TV or read a newspaper, but did you know that stroking a pet can, at the same time, stop our minds drifting into negative thoughts.

Our mind releases feel good endorphins, so can make us feel better and calmer. The simple act of stroking a pet is also well known to lower blood pressure, as well as reducing physical and emotional stress.

Therapy animals also have a valuable role to play; often in a professional setting they provide comfort, support and can help to engage people. Therapy animals are trained to help people with mental health conditions such as depression and provide a calming atmosphere – with a typical therapy session involving the therapist, the animal and their handler.

Therapy pets can include “dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, guinea pigs, rats, miniature pigs, llamas, alpacas, horses, donkeys and mini-horses,” as long as they’re at least a year old and have lived with their owner for six months (Pet Partners).

Personally, I have known people whose anxiety has improved since having a pet. They find it very comforting in having some company which isn’t human, and someone they know who will love them unconditionally. It is re-assuring to know that they have a responsibility for looking after someone else that takes their mind off their own problems, whilst having a positive impact on their own well-being – helping them cope with everyday life.

Finally, it’s important to remember that every pet is different and it’s vital to be aware of the commitments they bring, for example a dog will need good walks at least twice a day and a horse will need to be ridden out. If you are not sure about taking on a pet but want the benefits that are associated with being around animals, then there are many local animal sanctuaries which would value a volunteer.

Animals can be wonderful creatures and really therapeutic for our mental health.

This article was written by animal nursing assistant, health advisor and writer Dawn Prime. 

Mental health stigma and drug addiction Guest post by Bill Weiss

stopstigma1
(image: https://understandinginternationalmentalhealth.wordpress.com)

The stigma that some people see looming over drug addiction and drug abuse disorder will prevent thousands of people from getting the help they so desperately need and deserve. Viewing drug abuse as a disfigurement of one’s will and self-worth is very harmful and can leave people in active addiction.

The fear of admitting that they are struggling and the judgment that will face afterward can be catastrophic. It has been scientifically proven that drug abuse disorder and addiction is a disease of the mind and body. There should not be any negative views toward someone when they decide it is time to get help for this issue.

During active addiction, many users will take part in actions that the clean/sober them would never think about doing. From the outside looking in, these decisions and behaviors can seem unusual, most of the time they are.

Watching someone absolutely self-destruct is very difficult. You may just want to shake the person struggling and scream “WHY CAN’T YOU STOP?!”. If only it was that easy.

Drug abuse and addiction is a surface issue, it’s the problem the whole world can see, but over 80% of drug addicts struggle with underlying mental health issues.

 

Mental Health Issues and Drug Addiction  

Far too many of those currently in active addiction have never received proper care to help them with their mental health issues. Anxiety, depression, PTSD and bipolar are the most common underlying mental health issues that can easily influence drug abuse. When one does not receive proper therapy and/or medications to help them with these problems they may turn to drugs for relief. Self-medicating the problem provides temporary relief, but nothing is actually being done to resolve and work on the issues.

The longer someone uses the worse their mental health issues will become. Depressive episodes can turn into suicidal thoughts and ideations. Anxiety can turn into panic disorder. Drugs do not solve the problem, but for someone struggling with mental health issues will find a level of mental peace from the drugs. Even as their life spirals out of control, they may accept it and continue to get high.

This isn’t their fault. Long-term abuse of any narcotic substance will alter the way one’s brain reacts to and handles certain situations. The chemical balance has been thrown out of whack, the drugs now have near complete control.

Breaking free from the powerful grip of these drugs is not easy, especially if the person struggling believes they will be harshly judged as the stigma around addiction follows them.

 

Breaking the Drug Stigma

Accidental drug overdoses are now the number one cause of accidental death in the USA. We are facing a drug epidemic like never before, more US citizens passed away due to a drug overdose in 2017 than in the entire Vietnam War.

As a country we must help remove this stigma, it is literally a matter of life and death. Millions of people are currently struggling with drug addiction, tens of millions of families will be affected. How can you do your part of getting rid of the addiction stigma?

Educating yourself and others about drug addiction statistics and facts will help one truly understand the impact that drugs have had and will continue to have in this country. Drug addicts are not how they are commonly depicted in movies.

Addiction can affect anyone, any sex, religion and financial background can fall victim to substances and mental health issues. It is not just something that destroys the lives of the homeless and the poor. These are mothers & fathers, brothers & sisters, friends, aunts and uncles who are being destroyed by these terrible substances.

If someone you care about is currently struggling with drug abuse/addiction the best thing you can do for them is to let them know that you are there for them whenever they are ready to get help. While you may not 100% understand what they are going through, you know that they need help and that’s all that matters.

It is strongly suggested by most medical professional that anyone struggling with drug abuse or addiction issues gets professional help from a drug treatment center.

 

Love and Remission by Annie Belasco: Book review

loveandremission

(image: Trigger Publishing and Annie Belasco)

I only tend to review books that make an impact on me and that really touch my heart.

I ordered Annie’s book ‘Love and Remission’ , about her life recovering from breast cancer in her twenties and finding the love of her life. Annie and I have been connected on Twitter and she is signed to the same publisher as me so I was super excited to read her inspirational story.

When reading, I found a person of immense strength and an amazing sense of humour. Annie was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer aged just 25 years old. Her entire life was falling apart but she found a way through treatment, through the chemotherapy and radiotherapy-to put it back together. She describes what it was like for her to lose her hair and buy wigs, and to go through a masectomy and trying to feel womanly again- which she succeeded in doing. She was scared that the treatment wouldn’t work but she is now incredibly,  in remission.

Annie also had mental health issues due to the trauma but talks about how she slowly overcame her anxiety to live again.

The ‘love’ part in the title refers to her now husband, who she met while undergoing treatment and who stood by her against all the odds.

I don’t want to reveal any more than that- but this book was so inspiring, so moving, so well written that I read it in just two days!

I really recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about cancer and mental health whilst being a young woman. Annies story truly blew me away- with her strength, courage and unique take on life- she is so fun loving- and really loves her friends and family.

I was so touched by this book and her story. Thank you for writing it.

 

(You can buy the book now by Trigger on Amazon and in bookstores).

On feeling ‘meh’: Mental health journey

whisper

(image: Whisper)

I am writing this because in the past few days, I havn’t been feeling that brilliant. Our mental health rarely stays the same and often goes through peaks and troughs. For me, it is likely that I am hormonal due to withdrawing from one of my medications (which controls female hormones).

I do feel very tired and a bit low some of the time. However, I am able to distract my mind and combat it through being busy at work and seeing friends or my fiance when able.

Even work I normally love doing feels exhausting this week- but I am trying to do the best I can.

Its important to have space and time for me. My family have been really helpful too.

There has been a lot of really exciting things happen and I am trying to keep afloat and make sure I practise lots of self care.

Things feel a little bit ‘meh’ right now. It could be that having returned from holiday and the isolating nature of my job means that I may be feeling less happy than normal. It largely does feel hormonal as my hormones are currently changing level.. so I am going to give it time too.

What I do know is I am very excited about my book project and other writing projects and I am just going to pace myself and take it day by day.

How are you feeling? Do you ever feel like this? I really try thinking positively but sometimes you just feel like you need a break.

Love,

Eleanor x 

 

5 Ways to know your loved one may be secretly abusing drugs: Guest Post by Dr Nancy Irwin

Best of nvax quote Drug Addiction Quotes Alluring Drug Addiction Quotes & Sayings Drug
(image: inspirationalquotesmagazine.com)

Addiction has many consequences, both on the addicted person and their loved ones. Something I see very often is that family members don’t understand how they did not recognize it sooner. They regret that their loved one got to such a dark place before they could see there was even a problem.

But the reality is that people abusing drugs learn very quickly how to lie and manipulate. Because they are regularly involved in illicit activities, they become pros at distorting reality. And it’s easiest to trick those they love, considering that they know their loved ones’ soft spots.

This is not a judgment on them. On the contrary, they are not liars by nature, and often they are trying to protect their families.

Around 10% of the US population abuses drugs, and it is therefore more important than ever to learn to spot drug abuse as early as possible. The good news is that even if the individual at risk is good at lying, there are warning signs that are fairly universal.

The following five things could be signs that a loved one is abusing drugs.

 

  1. Physical Factors

Perhaps the most obvious signs are physical. Individuals who are using increasing volumes of drugs show physical changes which may be hard to account for. Look out for the following:

  • Bloodshot eyes and/or dilated pupils
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Extreme weight loss or weight gain
  • Deteriorating physical appearance
  • Sudden decrease in hygiene
  • Unusual smells
  • Tremors or slurred speech

Of course, all of these changes can have many alternative sources. However, if an individual exhibits many of them at once, and they tie in with some of the other signs on this list, drug abuse may be the most plausible explanation.

 

  1. Problems at Work

People who have started abusing drugs tend to struggle at work or at school. Their attendance drops, they neglect responsibilities and make mistakes, and cause trouble with colleagues or peers. They may even do something so self-sabotaging that it leads to them losing their job or being expelled.

Once again, drug abuse need not be the first conclusion you jump to. There could be many reasons why an individual starts struggling with work or school, including mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression.

This is especially true with adolescents. Assuming they are using drug abuse without further evidence can decay trust between you, when they might be acting out because they are not coping for whatever reason.

When alternative possibilities are exhausted, or they exhibit other signs on this list, drug abuse may become the most reasonable conclusion.

 

  1. Sudden Financial Problems

Drug abuse becomes increasingly expensive as the person addicted becomes more and more dependent. Their tolerance grows and they start needing higher quantities of the substance on a more frequent basis. They end up spending more and more of their money on drugs, leaving them unable to finance other responsibilities.

These financial issues can be easier to spot with adolescents who are not earning money. They may start stealing money from you or get caught stealing from peers or from their school. In this case, it may be possible to track their theft directly to their drug abuse.

But you don’t always need as clear a sign as theft. If a loved one who is financially independent suddenly stops paying their debit orders, gets behind on loan payments, or starts asking you and other friends and family for loans, this is a sign that something is wrong. Look into why they suddenly cannot afford their way of life. If there is no legitimate explanation, and they are exhibiting one or more of the other signs, drug abuse may be the most logical conclusion.

 

  1. Behavioral Changes

Gradual behavioral changes are a sure sign that something is wrong. Of course, they do not necessarily point to drug abuse.

Sometimes, mental illness can be the source of the problem. Alternatively, they may have gone through a trauma or be in some sort of trouble.

However, if a loved one shows changes in personality, starts getting into fights, becomes secretive, and has extreme mood swings, drug abuse may well be the cause. Other behavioral warning signs include a loss of motivation, paranoia, as well as unexplained hours of euphoria followed immediately by a drop in mood.

They may begin to fracture relationships that have, until now, been strong.

 

  1. Lifestyle Changes

Drug abuse often becomes the centrepoint of the individual’s life. They need to spend time, money, and effort sourcing and taking their drug of choice. They therefore start spending time with friends who are also abusing drugs, hang out at places where illicit drug use is possible, and lose interest in hobbies and activities that were once important to them.

If a loved one starts displaying any of these warning signs, do not panic. Look at the possible reasons for these changes. In isolation, some of these changes are easily explained. Depending on your relationship with the individual, you may be able to discuss the causes with them.

Once you’ve started noticing any one of these signs, it becomes easier to spot the others. If you feel that drug abuse is a likely cause, speak to a professional immediately for advice on how to investigate further and help the person at risk.

 

drnancy

Dr. Nancy Irwin is co-author of “Breaking Through, Stories of Hope and Recovery” and a Primary Therapist at Seasons in Malibu World Class Addiction and Mental Health Treatment Center.