Alcohol Abuse and Dependency

What is Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol Dependency?

Alcohol abuse means having unhealthy or dangerous drinking habits, such as drinking every day or drinking too much at a time. Alcohol abuse can harm your relationships, cause you to miss work, and lead to legal problems such as driving while drunk (intoxicated). When you abuse alcohol, you continue to drink even though you know your drinking is causing problems.

Alcoholism is a long-term (chronic) disease, not a weakness or a lack of willpower. Like many other diseases, it has a course that can be predicted, has known systems, and is influenced by your genes and your life situation.

Do I Have an Alcohol Problem?

Alcohol is part of many people’s lives and has a place in cultural and family traditions. It can be hard to know when you begin to drink too much.

Am I at Risk of Drinking Too Much?

Do you know how much is too much?

  • A woman who has more than 3 drinks at one time or more than 7 drinks a week.*
  • A man who has more than 4 drinks at one time or more than 14 drinks a week.*

* A standard drink is 1 can of beer, 1 glass of wine, or 1 mixed drink.

Binge drinking as a pattern typically occurs after 4 drinks (for women) and 5 drinks (for men) are consumed within about 2 hours.

Screening for Alcohol Abuse: The CAGE Questionnaire for Alcohol and T-ACE Questionnaire.


Substance Abuse and Addiction

What is Substance Abuse and Addiction?

Today, science has identified substance abuse as a brain disease that affects both the brain and behavior. What may start out as recreational use can manifest into an addiction to alcohol, marijuana, amphetamines, cocaine, heroin, over-the-counter medications, and/or prescription drugs.

Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by the compulsive search for and use of drugs, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the structure and workings of the brain. These brain changes can be long-lasting and harmful, often resulting in self-destructive behaviors.

Do I or Does My Teen/Young Adult Have a Drug Problem?

Addiction can happen at any age, but it usually starts when a person is young. If you or your child continues to use drugs despite harmful consequences, you or he/she may be addicted.

In adolescents, changes in behavior for no apparent reason – such as withdrawn or hostile moods or frequent tiredness or depression — can be a sign of a developing drug-related problem. Parents and others may overlook such signs, believing them to be a normal part of puberty. Other signs include:

  • Changes in peer groups
  • Carelessness with grooming
  • Decline in academic performance
  • Missing classes or skipping school
  • Loss of interest in favorite activities
  • Trouble in school or with the law
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Deteriorating relationships with family members and friends

How Can I Diagnose a Drug Problem?

Early intervention is critical for treating adolescent drug problems, so don’t wait for your adolescent to become addicted to seek a diagnosis. If your teen is addicted, though, treatment is the next step.

Be on the lookout for warning signs. Substance abuse and mental illness are comorbid, meaning many people who are addicted to alcohol and substances are also diagnosed with other mental disorders and vice versa. People who are addicted are approximately twice as likely to suffer from mood and anxiety disorders, and people who suffer from mood and anxiety disorders are equally likely to become addicted to drugs or alcohol.

How is Alcohol and Substance Abuse Treated?

Alcohol and drug addiction is best treated using a combination of Evidence-Based Approaches, including The Matrix Model, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET), and Individual, Family, and Group Therapy. A team approach, involving a psychiatrist, the family physician, family members, community support, and twelve-step meetings, offers the best prediction for long-term recovery.

  • The Matrix Model uses specific techniques for exploring the positive and negative consequences of drug use, self-monitoring to recognize cravings and situations that might present higher risk for use, and developing strategies for coping with cravings and avoiding those high risk situations.
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) strategies are based on the theory that maladaptive behavioral patterns can be identified, challenged, and replaced by corrective techniques. CBT can help stop drug abuse through the introduction of new thoughts and skills that anticipate likely problems, enhance self-control, and develop effective coping strategies.
  • Motivational Enhancement Treatment (MET) is a counseling approach that helps the client resolve their ambivalence about engaging in treatment and stop their alcohol and drug use.
  • Family Behavior Therapy (FBT) is a systematic approach that has demonstrated positive results for both adults and adolescents. Aimed at addressing both substance abuse and other co-occurring problems like depression, anger, anxiety, peer pressure, and family conflict, FBT helps develop new behavioral strategies that can be applied to improve the home environment and prevent substance abuse.


Love and Sex Addiction

What is the Difference between Healthy, Romantic Love and Love Addiction?

Love addiction is difficult to define because we are all naturally addicted to love, meaning we think about it, long for it, and actively seek it. We need attachment to feel fulfilled and we instinctively seek connection, especially romantic connection. There is nothing dysfunctional about wanting love – love and romance are a natural and healthy part of relationships.

The love addict is obsessive about finding “the one” who will make everything okay, exhibiting excessive energy, lack of personal control, and a chronic craving and pursuit of romance in desperate attempts to avoid fear and loneliness and maintain balance. The love addict desires a total melding of two individuals into an inseparable one devoid of individuality or sense of self.

Love addicts experience feelings of emptiness and disappointment after initial infatuation fades. The negative consequences can be severe, including potential health problems and loss of marriage, career, and child custody. In some cases, love addicts move to complete avoidance of romantic or sexual relationships to avoid feelings of vulnerability. In many others, the love addict continues to hang on to the belief that true love will fix everything. The desperation of these love addicts is often what makes finding real love impossible.

Genuine intimacy and connection cannot occur unless the cycle of addiction is treated.

What are the Characteristics of Love Addiction?

Love addicts often exhibit:

  • Feelings of worthlessness and/or emptiness when alone
  • Relationships that are dramatic and intense
  • Belief that sexual attraction is “love”
  • A lack of true intimacy
  • Either overly appeasing or overly controlling behavior
  • Dependency on others
  • Denial of addiction
  • Obsession with finding love when not in relationship
  • Misleading appearance of “having it together”

What are the Causes of Love Addiction?

Love addiction is rooted in childhood trauma. Individuals lacking self-esteem or who felt unloved or under-nurtured in childhood may grow up looking for constant reassurance from others.

How is Love Addiction Treated?

The treatment for love or relationship addiction is similar to other types of addiction. The primary goals of treatment are to promote honest communication, develop tools to manage obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors, and build healthy relationships.

What is Sex Addiction?

Sex addiction is a disease of the brain that involves an obsession and compulsion with the physical act of sex – alone or with partner – and the emotional high that results. Typically, the sex addict seeks sex without love and craves the elimination of the sexual partner’s personhood. Sex addicts are averse to the emotional intimacy required for a sustained relationship with another person and seek to have their sexual needs fulfilled through engagement with pornography, cybersex, anonymous and/or short-term partners, and/or prostitutes. It is an obsession of the mind and body that cannot be stopped until it is fulfilled and often leads to risky and destructive behavior.

What are the Causes of Sex Addiction?

The causes of sex addiction are various, including a genetic predisposition to emotional dysregulation, impulsivity, or sensation and “seeking behavior,” increased hormonal drive, childhood trauma, mental health issues, and social influences.

How is Sex Addiction Treated?

The process of treating sex addiction is personal and difficult, as feelings of shame, inadequacy, and emotional distress often stand as barriers to recovery. Depending on the severity of the disease and other underlying issues, treatment ranges from outpatient psychotherapy to more extensive healing in an environment such as a residential treatment facility.


Eating Disorders

What are Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders come in many varieties and can affect a broad range of individuals, from adolescents to middle-aged adults. Eating disorders are related to persistent eating behaviors that negatively impact your health, your emotions, and your ability to function in important areas of life. Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder are the most common of both eating disorders and avoidant/restrictive food intake disorders.

Most eating disorders involve focusing too much on your weight, body shape, and food, leading to dangerous eating behaviors. These behaviors can significantly impact your body’s ability to get adequate nutrition, harm the heart, digestive system, bones, teeth, and mouth, and lead to other diseases.

Eating disorders often develop in the teen and young adult years, although they can develop at other ages. Symptoms vary, depending on the type of eating disorder, but with treatment, you can return to healthier eating habits and sometimes reverse serious complications caused by eating disorders.

What is Anorexia Nervosa?

Anorexia nervosa is characterized by abnormally low body weight, intense fear of gaining weight, and a distorted perception of body image. Extreme efforts, including secretive behaviors like excessive limit of calories, excessive exercise, use of laxatives, diet aids, or vomiting after eating, are used to control weight. These efforts interfere with life activities and result in severe health problems – sometimes to the point of deadly self-starvation.

What is Bulimia Nervosa?

Bulimia nervosa is characterized by episodes of binge eating and purging caused by a lack of control over food consumption. Symptoms often include restricting during the day – resulting in more binge eating and purging – and binge episodes involve eating large amounts of food in a short time and ridding of extra calories in unhealthy ways. The fear of weight gain and feelings of guilt and shame result in a destructive cycle of harsh self-judgment.

What is Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder?

Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder is characterized by a lack of interest in eating, frequent fails to meet minimum daily nutritional requirements, or avoidance of foods of certain sensory characteristics, colors, textures, smells, or tastes – each resulting in health problems. Symptoms include a fear of consequences and choking. Weight gain is not a concern.

What are the Symptoms of Eating Disorders?

Typical symptoms of eating disorders include:

  • Skipping meals
  • Making excuses for not eating
  • Adopting overly restrictive diets, like excessive vegetarianism, veganism etc.
  • Excessively focusing on healthy eating
  • Persistently complaining about being fat or losing weight
  • Repeatedly eating large amounts of sweets or high calorie foods
  • Withdrawing from normal social activities
  • Avoiding family meals
  • Leaving meals to use the bathroom
  • Exercising in excess
  • Using dietary supplements and laxatives for weight loss
  • Eating in secret

What are the Causes of Eating Disorders?

The exact causes of eating disorders are not known, but several factors are involved, including genetics, psychological and emotional health, and environmental and social influences.

How are Eating Disorders Treated?

Eating disorders take over your life, making treatment difficult to manage on your own. A team approach is most effective, involving medical and mental health providers, psychotherapists, and dietitians.  Immediate hospitalization may be required for advanced eating disorders that threaten life.



What is Gambling Disorder?

Compulsive gambling, also called gambling disorder, is characterized by an uncontrollable urge to keep gambling despite the negative toll it takes on your life. Gambling is defined as a willingness to risk something you value in the hope of getting something of even greater value.

Gambling can stimulate the brain’s reward system much like drugs or alcohol can, leading to addiction. Compulsive gamblers may continually chase bets, behave secretively, deplete savings, accumulate debt, or even resort to theft or fraud to support the addiction.

What are Signs and Symptoms of Gambling Disorder?

Signs and symptoms of compulsive gambling include:

  • Gaining a thrill from taking big gambling risks
  • Taking increasingly bigger gambling risks
  • Being preoccupied with gambling
  • Reliving past gambling experiences
  • Gambling as a way to escape problems or feelings of helplessness, guilt or depression
  • Taking time from work or family life to gamble
  • Concealing or lying about gambling
  • Feeling guilt or remorse after gambling
  • Borrowing money or stealing to gamble
  • Failing at efforts to cut back on gambling

What are the Causes of Gambling Disorder?

Gambling, on rare occasions, becomes a problem with the very first wager, but more often develops into a problem over time. Many people enjoy years of healthy, social gambling without any problems, but more frequent gambling or life stresses can turn casual gambling into something much more serious. During periods of stress or depression, the urge to gamble may be especially overpowering, serving as an unhealthy escape. Eventually, a person with a gambling problem becomes almost completely preoccupied with gambling and getting money to gamble.

For many compulsive gamblers, betting isn’t as much about money as it is about the excitement. Sustaining the thrill that gambling provides usually involves taking increasingly bigger risks and placing larger bets – bets that may involve sums you can’t afford to lose. Most casual gamblers stop when losing or set a loss limit, but compulsive gamblers are compelled to keep playing to recover their money – a pattern that becomes increasingly destructive over time.

How is Gambling Disorder Treated?

Denial is almost always a characteristic of compulsive gambling and treatment is critical for full recovery. Some compulsive gamblers may have remission where they gamble less or not at all for a period of time, but without treatment, the remission usually isn’t permanent.