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Living in Transition

If someone feels they are being forced to change, loved ones are forced to adapt to the resulting feelings of frustration, sadness, and anger.  They are experiencing what many of us fear; entering into a world of the unknown.

Stop for just a moment, and remember what it was like to stand in front of a crowd to give a speech; remember the sweating palms, the rapid heart rate, and the shortness of breath? This is what it is like to begin to lose touch with reality (Teenage Schizophrenia), or when your memory begins to falter (Alzheimer's Dementia), or when friends/family leave your life without notice (sudden unexpected death of a loved one).

This will likely amplify one's feelings of anxiety, and if untreated, create additional complications such as Post Traumatic Stress, Separation Anxiety, and Major Depression.

The choice of change is always available, and you have the ability to receive quality care from caring professionals. Many people are afraid of change. They prefer routine and stability, and, with any kind of transition, this change has the ability to disrupt their self-confidence. Fear inhibits people from taking risks. When fear related change occurs, even if the change is positive, it usually is linked to a fear of not being able to achieve success, or that things will not get better.  With that said, it is important to recognize that things sometimes get worse in therapy before they start to feel better. 

At ABC Counseling, we provide you with a plan that includes identifying Antecedents or Triggers to Emotions that result in Behaviors that create Consequences so strong, they interfere with Daily Functioning.  These outcomes  create consequences that often have a ripple effect that touch each member of your family; those you love, and those that love you and want the best for you.

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Substance Abuse and Addiction

People abuse substances such as drugs and alcohol for varied and complicated reasons. Substance abuse may begin in childhood or the teen years. Early recognition of drug or alcohol addiction increases chances for successful treatment.

The classic picture of an alcoholic is someone who always drinks too much too often and whose life is falling apart because of it. But not all problem drinking fits that mold. Some people seem to be just fine while they abuse alcohol. Experts call these people “functional alcoholics” or “high-functioning alcoholics.”

You can still be an alcoholic even though you have a great “outside life,” with a job that pays well, home, family, and friendships and social bonds, says Sarah Allen Benton, a licensed mental health counselor and author of Understanding the High-Functioning Alcoholic.

A functional alcoholic might not act the way you would expect, Benton says. You might think he's responsible and productive because he works every day. He could even be high achieving or powerful. In fact, his success might lead people to overlook his drinking.

He could also be in denial about drinking. He might think, “‘I have a great job, pay my bills, and have lots of friends; therefore I am not an alcoholic,’” Benton says. Or he might make excuses like, “I only drink expensive wine” or “I haven’t lost everything or suffered setbacks because of drinking.”

But he isn’t doing fine, says Robert Huebner of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. No one, he warns, “can drink heavily and maintain major responsibilities over long periods of time. If someone drinks heavily, it is going to catch up with them.”

What is heavy drinking? Women who have more than three drinks a day or seven a week are “at-risk” drinkers. For men, the limit is four drinks a day or 14 a week. If you drink more than either the daily or weekly limit, you’re at risk. You’re not alone -- one in four people who drink this much already has a problem or is likely to have one soon. Overall, as many as 20% of alcoholics may be highly functional.

A drink count isn’t the only way to tell if you or someone you care about needs help. Here are some other red flags. Someone who needs help may:

Say he has a problem or joke about alcoholism

Miss work or school, get into fights, lose friendships, or have a DUI arrest

Need alcohol to relax or feel confident

Drink in the morning or when alone

Get drunk when he doesn’t intend to

Forget what he did while drinking

Deny drinking, hide alcohol, or get angry when confronted about drinking

Cause loved ones to worry about or make excuses for his drinking

Functional alcoholics may seem to be in control, Benton says, but they may put themselves or others in danger by drinking and driving, having risky sex, or blacking out.

Heavy drinking carries other risks. It can lead to liver disease, pancreatitis, some forms of cancer, brain damage, serious memory loss, and high blood pressure. Heavy drinkers have a higher chance of dying from car accidents, murder, and suicide. Any alcohol abuse raises the chances of domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, fetal alcohol syndrome, and car accidents.

Benton says treatment for a high-functioning alcoholic is the same as for any other type of addict. A doctor can point you to help -- whether it’s from a therapist, psychiatrist, or other addiction specialist. Organizations like the American Society of Addiction Medicine can guide you to help, too.

Outpatient programs make it possible for you to get treatment during the day but live at home. The most in-depth care allows you to live full time at a treatment facility. These setups can also work along with 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous. Relating to other people with substance abuse issues may help an alcoholic break through denial and begin to recover

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Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders often develop from a complex set of risk factors that include:

1. Genetics (your DNA),

2. Brain Chemistry (+/- levels of Dopamine, Melatonin, Epinephrine and Nor-Epinephrine) and

3. Brain Formations (structural impairments due to accident/injury/disease).

4. Personality (temperament, attitude, level of risk taking),  and

5. Life Events and/or Environments (natural disasters, witnessing acts of great violence, witnessing the death of a human or pet, living with a family that eats together in silence and rarely makes eye contact).

Situations you where you may feel very comfortable, such as riding in an elevator, for other's, might create an experience of extreme panic, claustrophobia, and even result in nightmares following the event.  

If a child experiences this level of anxiety, the effects can have a bigger impact; for example, on their milestone development. Remember, children must feel safe to explore their environment.  If they don't, they have avoid new experiences; and suffer from a lack of enrichment that others gain in social skills development.

The strongest influence on anxiety is growing up in an environment and/or continuous exposure to: addictive/compulsive behaviors, verbally abusive relationships, domestic violence, neglect, and/or high expectations of achievement accompanied with low displays of warmth and affection. 

Signs of anxiety can appear at different levels of intensity at different times of the day, week, or month. What is important is to monitor how long the symptoms last, and how often they occur.  If untreated, it can result in physical complications such as high blood pressure, a lower immune system, sleeplessness, tremors, and panic attacks.   

Nearly one-half of those diagnosed with anxiety are also diagnosed with a depressive disorder.  It's not uncommon for men and women to suffer from a Generalized Anxiety disorder for years, and often because of the stigma of receiving good mental health services, often end up unknowingly begin to 'self medicate'.  A few more beers on the weekends, and then every day. People who suffer from anxiety

are more likely to suffer from divorce, high risk behavior such as unsafe sexual activity, financial debt, and a lack of natural supports due to 'burning bridges'.

Many adolescents and teens with an anxiety disorder (victims of bullying, harassment, or peer rejection) also have a co-occurring mental health disorder and/or physical illness, which can make their symptoms worsen, and therefore, make their recovery more difficult.

It’s essential to be treated for both depression and anxiety.

15 million, 6.8% have Social Anxiety, and it is equally common among men and women, typically beginning around age 13. According to a 2007 ADAA survey, 36% of people with social anxiety disorder report experiencing symptoms for 10 or more years before seeking help. That is a decade of suffering needlessly.

 19 million,  or 8.7% of the population have Specific Phobia, and women are twice as likely to be affected as men. Typically begins in childhood; the median age of onset is Seven (7). Obsessive-Compulsive disorder (OCD), and Post Traumatic Stress disorder (PTSD) are cousins to anxiety disorders, which some may experience at the same time, along with Depression.

Depression and Anxiety are one of the leading factors in early teen  drug abuse, decline in school grades, decline in social activities, a reduction in positive family interactions, and Teen Suicide.

1-800-273-8255 is the number you can call for immediate help. An On-line chat is available.(National Suicide Prevention Lifeline)

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Foster/Adopt Children see the World from a Different Perspective

In 2010, there were 408,425 children in foster care in the United States. 48% were in nonrelative foster homes, 26% were in relative foster homes, 9% in institutions, 6% in group homes, 5% on trial home visits (where the child returns home while under state supervision), 4% in pre-adoptive homes, 2% had run away, and 1% in supervised independent living. Of 254,114 who exited foster care in 2010, 51% were reunited with parents or caretakers, 21% were adopted, 11% were emancipated (as minors or by aging out), 8% went to live with another relative, 6% went to live with a guardian, and 3% had other outcomes. Of these children, the median length of time spent in foster care was 13.5 months. 13% were in care for less than 1 month, 33% for 1 to 11 months, 24% for 12 to 23 months, 12% for 24 to 35 months, 10% for 3 to 4 years, and 7% for 5 years or more.  California has the largest population of foster care youth in the nation, with 55,218 children in the system as of 2012. This is over twice as many as the 20,529 children that New York, the state with the second largest population of foster youth, had by the end of 2012. Over 30 percent of California foster youth reside in Los Angeles County, amounting to 18,523 children. Children can be removed from their homes and placed into the foster care system for a variety of reasons, but, in California, 81.2 percent of children were removed because of neglect. Even after being placed in the foster care system, however, these children might not find the kind of care or stability they need. Girls in foster care have been shown to have marginally higher rates of teenage pregnancy than the general population of California. Children in foster care also have to face disproportionately high rates of mental illnesses as some studies have shown that as much as 47.9 percent of foster care youth showed signs of serious emotional or behavioral issues. After "aging out" of the system at age 18, research has shown that previous foster youth still face difficult instability in their lives. As much as 30 percent of previous foster children are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Only about 50 percent graduate from high school, and less than 10 percent graduate from college. A study focused on foster care alumni in Los Angeles County showed that about 65 percent leave foster care without a place to live and 25 percent are incarcerated by age 20. Despite these difficulties, California is working toward easing the transition for foster youth through programs and legislation like the California Fostering Connections to Success Act of 2010, which expanded upon similar federal legislation and increased the age limit for receiving foster care benefits.

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Differently-Abled Children

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) refers to a group of complex neurodevelopment disorders characterized by repetitive and characteristic patterns of behavior and difficulties with social communication and interaction. The symptoms are present from early childhood and affect daily functioning.

The term “spectrum” refers to the wide range of symptoms, skills, and levels of disability in functioning that can occur in people with ASD. Some children and adults with ASD are fully able to perform all activities of daily living while others require substantial support to perform basic activities. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5, published in 2013) includes Asperger syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorders not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) as part of ASD rather than as separate disorders. A diagnosis of ASD includes an assessment of intellectual disability and language impairment.

ASD occurs in every racial and ethnic group, and across all socioeconomic levels. However, boys are significantly more likely to develop ASD than girls. The latest analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 68 children has ASD. 

Even as infants, children with ASD may seem different, especially when compared to other children their own age. They may become overly focused on certain objects, rarely make eye contact, and fail to engage in typical babbling with their parents. In other cases, children may develop normally until the second or even third year of life, but then start to withdraw and become indifferent to social engagement.

The severity of ASD can vary greatly and is based on the degree to which social communication, insistence of sameness of activities and surroundings, and repetitive patterns of behavior affect the daily functioning of the individual.

 Many people with ASD find social interactions difficult. The mutual give-and-take nature of typical communication and interaction is often particularly challenging. Children with ASD may fail to respond to their names, avoid eye contact with other people, and only interact with others to achieve specific goals. Often children with ASD do not understand how to play or engage with other children and may prefer to be alone. People with ASD may find it difficult to understand other people’s feelings or talk about their own feelings.

People with ASD may have very different verbal abilities ranging from no speech at all to speech that is fluent, but awkward and inappropriate. Some children with ASD may have delayed speech and language skills, may repeat phrases, and give unrelated answers to questions. In addition, people with ASD can have a hard time using and understanding non-verbal cues such as gestures, body language, or tone of voice. For example, young children with ASD might not understand what it means to wave goodbye. People with ASD may also speak in flat, robot-like or a sing-song voice about a narrow range of favorite topics, with little regard for the interests of the person to whom they are speaking.

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Children Who Self Harm

Self Harm or inflicting physical harm onto one’s body to ease emotional distress, is not uncommon in kids and teens.

In fact, according to clinical psychologist Deborah Serani, PsyD, in her book Depression and Your Child: A Guide for Parents and Caregivers, about 15 percent of kids and teens engage in self-harm.

There are many forms of self-harm, including cutting, scratching, hitting and burning. Many kids and teens who self-harm also struggle with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, physical abuse or other serious concerns or psychological disorders.

These kids “don’t know how to verbalize their feelings, and instead, act them out by self-injuring,” Serani writes. Kids might self-harm to soothe deep sadness or other overwhelming emotions. They might do it to express self-loathing or shame. They might do it to express negative thoughts they can’t articulate. They might do it because they feel helpless.

Research has found that self-harm is an addictive behavior. “Clinical studies link the role of opiates. When a child self-harms these feel-good endorphins flood the bloodstream. The rush is so pleasing that a child learns to associate self-harm as soothing, instead of being destructive,” Serani writes.

Self-harm is called non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) because there’s no intention to commit suicide. However, as Serani cautions in her book, self-injury can lead to deliberate suicide.

If you notice signs of self-harm, take your child to a therapist for a professional evaluation. A therapist will determine whether self-harm is suicidal or non-suicidal by administering a suicide assessment (and ascertain if other concerns are present). They’ll also teach your child healthy techniques for dealing with painful emotions or situations.

In addition to taking your child to see a mental health professional, there are other ways you can help them reduce the urge to self-harm.  For more information, click the link below.

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Neuro-Linguistic Programming

NLP stands for Neuro-Linguistic Programming, a name that encompasses the three most influential components involved in producing human experience: neurology, language and programming. The neurological system regulates how our bodies function, language determines how we interface and communicate with other people and our programming determines the kinds of models of the world we create. Neuro-Linguistic Programming describes the fundamental dynamics between mind (neuro) and language (linguistic) and how their interplay affects our body and behavior (programming).

NLP is a pragmatic school of thought - an 'epistemology' - that addresses the many levels involved in being human. NLP is a multi-dimensional process that involves the development of behavioral competence and flexibility, but also involves strategic thinking and an understanding of the mental and cognitive processes behind behavior. NLP provides tools and skills for the development of states of individual excellence, but it also establishes a system of empowering beliefs and presuppositions about what human beings are, what communication is, and what the process of change is all about.

At another level, NLP is about self-discovery, exploring identity and mission. It also provides a framework for understanding and relating to the 'spiritual' part of human experience that reaches beyond us as individuals to our family, community and global systems. NLP is not only about competence and excellence, it is about wisdom and vision.

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