Monthly Archives: November 2011

Taking a multivitamin can lead to a Superman complex

Heather Rudow November 28, 2011

(Photo:Flickr/Lintilla)

There has been a lot of speculation as to whether multivitamins are actually good for our health. But Taiwanese researchers have discovered that popping these pills every day might be doing a bigger detriment to our mental health.

It turns out that a daily dose of multivitamins can give a person a false sense of security and lead to an increase in risky behaviors.

The study consisted of 82 volunteers who took sugar pills, but half of the participants were told that they were being given multivitamins. The researchers found that those who believed they were taking multivitamins were more likely to binge-drink, sunbathe, engage in casual sex and choose to eat at an all-you-can-eat buffet in lieu of a healthy meal.

Commented Leslie Bonci, a director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center who is unrelated to the study: “We this face challenge every day, and it’s not just athletes. There are many patients who believe there is exercise in a bottle. … Sometimes they attribute to supplements superhuman properties that let them off the hook for healthy behaviors. They’ll say, ‘I’m taking this supplement so it doesn’t matter what I eat.’”

Source: MSNBC.com

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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My First Day in Treatment

Tony Foster

(Photo:Flickr/ Puck777)

Having recently celebrated nine years of sobriety, I’ve been reflecting on my early days in this journey.  Although I went to treatment for alcoholism three times in a seven-month period it was only the third time that I went by choice.  The first time I went was at the behest of my family along with a Baker Act.  As you might imagine, I wasn’t excited about being in treatment and giving up alcohol.  Consequently, I did my twenty-eight days and stayed sober exactly five days.  I then began drinking outside AA meetings and going into them under the influence.

Soon after that my wife went to court to have me committed under Florida’s Marchman Act.  A judge signed off that I was a danger to society and myself, and off I went to treatment again.  This time I was even less excited about investing a month of my life into doing something I didn’t want to do.  I decided that since I was a grown man nobody was going to tell me when I could or couldn’t drink.  In my sick mind I had not hurt anyone so why should I have to stop?  Treatment was uneventful and I drank on the 28th day on my way home from treatment.  Imagine my surprise when I got home and found my house completely empty, except for an easy chair and a television.  Believe it or not, I thought I had won the lottery.  Now I could drink with impunity.  No wife or kid around to stop me.  That lasted about six weeks.

During those six weeks the only thing I ate was one bag of M & Ms per day that my wife brought me.  She hadn’t completely given up on me though, she just couldn’t live with me like that.  In any case, during those six weeks I lost sixty-five pounds.  Then one day she came over and out of the blue I said to her “I’m done, I want to stop drinking”.  What I didn’t know then was that I suddenly had something that I never had before, a desire to stop drinking.  Alcoholics Anonymous says that the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.  I finally qualified.  I said to my wife, “I’m going to go to treatment and do everything they tell me to do”.  I opened the phone book and found an alcohol and drug treatment facility in Delray Beach.  That decision changed my life in more ways than I can count.  It literally saved me from a painful, premature death.

My start in treatment was inauspicious, at best.  On the appointed day of my intake my wife drove me there at about 8:30 in the morning.  I had been drinking until 4 AM.  The owner did not want me to stay because he thought I needed detox.  My wife begged him to let me stay and capped her pleading and crying with “we need a miracle”.  That’s what treatment became for me, a miracle.

Like many treatment facilities, this one uses a twelve-step model to help patients get and stay sober.  But they did much more than that for me.  Alcoholics Anonymous tells us that drinking is but a symptom of underlying issues that are going on.  Treatment, for me, focused on that over a twenty-eight day program.  However, how they did it was so unique.  First, this particular treatment center only sixteen beds so they never have more than sixteen patients.  For these sixteen patients they have five licensed therapists.  I doubt you’ll find that kind of ratio anywhere else in the country.  They also have a full and a part time chef.  Like most other new patients I showed up undernourished and with terrible (or no) eating habits.  In fact, I was so undernourished that all my toenails had fallen out.  The great food the chefs cooked took care of that.  But besides the food and the therapists it was what I was taught that really helped me when I got out.

I was taught that I was feeling a lot of guilt and shame for what my life had become and how I had squandered a family and my own potential.  I learned that there is a grieving process to quitting drinking and that I had to now feel things that in the past I would always drown with vodka.  I had to learn how to live my life one day at a time without a drink.  But I believe the reason I am sober today is that I learned “Toothbrush Therapy”.

Toothbrush Therapy is a method taught at this particular treatment center which gives one a daily routine that helps a recovering alcoholic or drug addict stay sober.  I can still remember one of the therapists saying “if you follow the simple directions and do these five things every day I guarantee you, you will never drink again”.  The first time I heard that I was beside myself.  You’ve got to be kidding, I thought.  In fact, it was early in treatment that I heard it the first time and like a good alcoholic I was going to prove the professional wrong.  Well guess what, not only was I wrong, I’ve been doing it now for over nine years and I haven’t had a drink yet.

Toothbrush Therapy is named because it is designed in a way that it is used as you would brushing your teeth.  You get in a routine for personal grooming and such and Toothbrush Therapy establishes a routine.  It takes into account that alcoholics and drug addicts are creatures of habit, usually bad ones.  But if we really want to be sober Toothbrush Therapy makes it pretty simple.  You just have to do it every day.  Does that seem like a lot?  Well, I drank every day from the moment I woke up until I passed out.  I was either buying alcohol or consuming it every waking hour.  Toothbrush Therapy can be done in as little as one hour and forty-five minutes per day.  Now, if you really want to stay sober that seems like a very small requirement to me.  If you can’t invest that much time in your sobriety and saving your life then you really don’t want to be sober.  I decided to condense Toothbrush Therapy to one sheet that I could refer to all the time.  This made it even simpler.  In short, I pray at the beginning and end of each day.  I also meditate every day.  I follow that up with reading four pages of AA, or other recovery literature.  Then I go to a meeting every day.  I also have a support group of recovering people who I talk to every day.  Finally, at the end of every day I write a gratitude list in the manner of a letter to God (my higher power).  In the letter I thank him for five things in my life for which I am grateful.  That’s the end of Toothbrush Therapy for that day.  As the therapist told me, “follow the simple directions” and it works.

To complete this circle, I ultimately went back to school because I became passionate about helping other alcoholics and addicts.  After four years I received dual Master’s degrees specializing in Mental Health and Rehab Counseling.  I was able to do my Internship at the place where I got sober, and today I’m a counselor/therapist there.  Finally, a year and a half ago I began a doctorate program that has led me to an even deeper understanding of the underlying problems of alcoholics and drug addicts.  With all that’s happened in my life I still keep sobriety as my number one priority, and in order to succeed at that I continue to do Toothbrush Therapy every day.

Tony Foster is the director of therapy at the Beachcomber Outpatient Services Treatment Center in Delray Beach, Fla. He holds a dual master’s degree in mental health and rehabilitation counseling and is currently pursuing a doctorate degree in mental health at Florida Atlantic University.

Letters to the editor: ct@counseling.org

Catching stress can be as easy as catching a cold

Heather Rudow

(Photo:flickr/bark)

Yet another reason to surround yourself with positive, upbeat people: According to a University of Hawaii study, stress and anxiety are just as contagious as the common cold.

Researcher Elaine Hatfield found that when a person is constantly engulfed in a particular emotion — whether it is positive or negative — that feeling will end up rubbing off on other people.

“All emotions — joy, fear, sadness and stress — have been shown to be contagious,” she said. “It’s called ’emotional contagion.’ In conversation, people automatically and continuously mimic and synchronize the behavior of others with their facial expression, voices, posture and movements. Or, to put it another way, if you sit next to somebody who is constantly stressed and moaning about their job, then subconsciously you’ll start to feel stressed about your job, too.”

Hatfield said that women are typically more susceptible to “catching” another person’s stress because they are more sensitive to other people’s emotions, as well as people who are sensitive in general.

“Hardier people can be oblivious to the emotional climate,” she said. “These types of people can often be more or less oblivious about a stressful situation. Sensitive types, on the other hand, are more susceptible to emotional contagion because they’re wonderful at understanding and dealing with others. However, after a while they can get tired and stressed themselves.”

Source: AOL Lifestyle UK

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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Girls feel more anger than boys when a friend betrays them

Heather Rudow November 23, 2011

(Photo:Flickr/studiostoer)

Previous studies have suggested that girls are better at maintaining friendships than boys, but a Duke University study found that when their friends betray them, girls struggle just as much as boys do – and in some ways, even more so.

The study consisted of 267 fourth- and fifth-grade children presented with 16 hypothetical stories from which they were asked to imagine that a friend violated a core expectation of friendship. The researchers found that the girls were equally as likely as the boys to report that they would seek revenge against the offending friend, verbally attack the friend or threaten to end the friendship.

The girls also reported feeling more anger and sadness when offended by a friend and were more likely than the boys to believe the betrayal meant their friend did not care about them or was trying to control them:

“The study found that anger and sadness played significant roles in how boys and girls reacted to offending friends. For both genders, the more strongly they felt a friend had devalued them or was trying to control them, the more anger and sadness they felt. The angrier they felt, the less likely they wanted to fix the relationship. But feelings of sadness actually motivated both genders toward reconciliation: The more sadness the children reported feeling, the stronger their desire was to want to solve the problem and maintain the friendship.”

Commented study author Julie MacEvoy, “Previous research suggests that girls may hold their friends to a higher standard than boys do, which led us to think that girls might have an especially hard time coping if one of their friends does something to disappoint them. … When we try to help children who are struggling in their friendships, we may need to focus on somewhat different issues for boys versus girls. For girls, it may be critical to help them learn how to better cope when a friend lets them down.”

Source: Duke University

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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Meditation could improve mental health, prevent certain disorders

Heather Rudow November 22, 2011

(Photo:Flickr/oddsock)

Researchers from Yale University are suggesting that experienced meditators’ ability to “turn off” their brains might also keep them in good health – and free from mental disorders such as schizophrenia and autism.

The researchers conducted functional magnetic resonance imaging scans on the brains of both experienced and novice meditators as they practiced three different meditation techniques and found that the experienced meditators had decreased activity in areas of the brain called the default mode network. This area of the brain, consisting of the medial prefrontal and posterior cingulate cortex, is linked with anxiety disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and the contributing buildup of beta amyloid plaques in Alzheimer’s disease.

The scans also found that parts of the brain associated with self-monitoring and cognitive control were co-activated in experienced meditators but not in novice ones. This, the researchers say, might suggest “that meditators are constantly monitoring and suppressing the emergence of ‘me’ thoughts, or mind-wandering. In pathological forms, these states are associated with diseases such as autism and schizophrenia. The meditators did this both during meditation, and also when just resting — not being told to do anything in particular. This may indicate that meditators have developed a ‘new’ default mode in which there is more present-centered awareness, and less ‘self’-centered.”

According to study author Judson Brewer, “Meditation’s ability to help people stay in the moment has been part of philosophical and contemplative practices for thousands of years. Conversely, the hallmarks of many forms of mental illness is a preoccupation with one’s own thoughts, a condition meditation seems to affect. This gives us some nice cues as to the neural mechanisms of how it might be working clinically.”

Source: Yale University

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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