What Causes Divorce?

Why do couples that once married out of love for one another divorce? Although arguments, finances and in-laws are often cited as reasons, the real cause is more likely to be.

  • Unrealistic expectations: Expecting your spouse to supply the kind of unconditional love and support you wanted from your parents is unrealistic and leads to disappointment.
  • Miscommunication: Differing communication styles are often at the root of marital problems: he shows his feelings with actions, she speaks her feelings; he says things once, she repeats things for emphasis.
  • Fighting dirty: Couples who attack each other rather than the issue when they fight, often divorce bitterly due to “irreconcilable differences.”
  • Romantic illusions: Ignoring the faults of a potential mate leads us to marry our own romantic creation rather than a real person.
  • Parental marriage patterns: Although we may want a very different marriage than our parents had, we often unconsciously follow their example and choose a mate with whom we can duplicate their relationship.
  • Power struggles: Adolescent fights with parents for independence and control are often repeated in marriage — usually with the same result.
  • Lack of other option: Having tried everything else to improve their marriage, unhappy couples may erroneously conclude that divorce is the only option left.

Marriage Counseling or Divorce Therapy?

Most couples wait too long to seek help with their marital problems. Unfortunately, they think of therapy as a last-ditch effort to save their marriage rather than as first-aid, and wait until their problems are almost unbearable before they seek professional help. The longer a couple has spent building a wall between them, the harder it is to tear down; the earlier they come for counseling, the more effective it can be.

The first step in counseling is often to help couples decide whether they want marriage counseling or divorce therapy.

Marraige Counseling

The goal of marriage counseling is to help them resolve their problems by developing better communication and relationship skills to strengthen the marriage.

Marriage counseling can…

  • Determine the real source of your problems.  Your spouse , who seems to be causing your bad feelings, may be only an actor in the drama of your life, playing a part scripted by childhood interactions.  Although your hurt or anger is now focused on your spouse, the intensity of your feelings comes from painful childhood experiences.
  • Clarify your values, goals, and priorities, and help you understand and respect your partner’s as well.
  • Explore alternatives to divorce, such as temporary separation, negotiation of what’s acceptable in the relationship and compromise on major points of conflict.
  • Help you understand the part each of you plays in the marital difficulty.  It’s natural to focus on your partner’s feelings when there are problems, but if the marriage is to improve, you must also admit your own role in the conflict.

Divorce Therapy

The goal of divorce therapy is to help couples disengage from the marriage with minimal pain to themselves and their children.

Divorce therapy can…

  • help you accept and adjust to the shock of an unwanted divorce if you didn’t initiate it.
  • help you survive emotionally.  Divorce can be an emotional roller-coaster; your moods may swing rapidly between excitement about the new world that divorce brings, and fear of the same thing! It’s natural to wish you could eliminate the “down” times altogether, but post-divorce depression is like a fever when you’re sick – it’s to be expected as a normal part of the emotional healing process.
  • help parents put aside their animosity toward one another to maintain a good co-parenting relationship.  Divorce therapy aims to help clients raise their children without emotional and legal guerilla warfare in which the children become weapons.

Divorce therapy cannot…

  • persuade a spouse decided on divorce to return to the marriage;
  • force couples to give up long-held resentments if they don’t really want to; or
  • side with one partner in punishing the other.

Cocaine Abuse

Thirty million Americans have used cocaine; every day, 5,000-10,000 more try it for the first time.  Often called the champagne of drugs, cocaine is life in the fast lane.  Most users begin by snorting and go on to injecting or free-basing.  Despite their own reports that they suffer from health problems due to cocaine use, well over half say the major factor limiting their use is the cost of the drug.  Less than 10% of them let mental or physical problems stop their cocaine use.

The rate of cocaine addiction in this country is alarming:  it took 50 years for the number of American alcoholics to reach 10 million, but only four to produce 4 million cocaine addicts.

What is cocaine?  Cocaine is a naturally occurring stimulant extracted from the leaves of the South American coca plant.  It over stimulates the central nervous system, producing an artificial euphoria.  Its effect on the pleasure centers of the brain creates every good feeling imaginable:  the thrill of sex, satiety of a great meal, pride of accomplishment — all in one glorious burst.  It makes users feel powerful, optimistic, confident and energetic, while masking feelings of insecurity, anxiety, fear and dissatisfaction.

The more cocaine you use, the more you want, because at the same time that cocaine produces good feelings artificially, it also prevent the brain from producing the natural chemicals that cause pleasure.  The brain becomes resistant to the effects of cocaine and needs increasing amounts of it to avoid depression.  This process is so subtle that the user is often well on the road to dependency before realizing that a problem exists.

Cocaine’s physiological effects are disastrous.  Using it raises pulse and blood pressure, and constricts coronary arteries, reducing the supply of oxygen into the heart.  When smoked, cocaine injures the lungs, produces microscopic tears in the heart muscle  and represses enzymes crucial to heart functioning.  The consequences can include convulsions, stroke, heart attacks and death.

Even a first snort can reveal unknown allergic reactions to the drug, or aggravate hidden heart defects, leading to sudden death.

Cocaine dependency can occur instantaneously after freebasing or using crack.  Symptoms of dependency include depression, insomnia, sexual difference, sinus irritation and the inability to socialize.  Steady use leads to physical addiction and psychological obsession with the drug.

What’s it like to be addicted? In one study of cocaine users…

  • 83% couldn’t turn the drug down when it available;
  • 80% became depressed and lethargic if they stopped using cocaine;
  • 67% said they were unable to stop using for even 1 month;
  • 71% said the drug was more important to them than food;
    • for 50%, it won out over sex;
    • for 64%, it replaced friends;
    • for 72%, it was more important than family activities;
  • 45% of the respondents had stolen money from employers, family or friends to buy cocaine;
  • 56% had used up to at least half of their savings;
  • 42% had wipes out all of their monetary assets;
  • 17% had actually lost their jobs because of cocaine abuse;
  • 26% had been divorced or lost a relationship because of cocaine.

Treating cocaine dependency is difficult.  While a drug called bromocriptine helps diminish cravings for cocaine, only one-third of all initial attempts to break the addiction succeed; 15% of these relapse.

Purging the drug from the body takes only about two weeks, but conquering the psychological urge to use again requires 18-24 months of intensive counseling.

Depression

Winston Churchill called it “The Black Dog”; in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” Holly Golightly called it the “Mean Reds” Mostly, we call it “The Blues”–those low feelings that we all experience from time to time.

Episodes of depression may come in clusters or may be separated by long intervals-sometimes years-of normal functioning. But 1 in 4 Americans will suffer from depression at some time in their lives.

What distinguishes clinical depression from occasional melancholy is pessimism. Depressed people are not just sad; they believe their sadness will go on indefinitely, regardless of anything they do. These feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and despair characterize the depression that has been called the leading mental health problem in America today.

Are You Blue?

  • Jack is a large man who moves and talks slowly, sighing frequently. He has no complaints about his life other than occasional spats with his wife, but neither does he have any enthusiasm for his work or home life. When asked if he’s happy, he shrugs and says, “I guess so; I’m getting by.”
  • Lauren cries easily and often, feels anxious and scared, and has difficulty sleeping. She’s confused and frustrated about her love relationship. She hates her partner’s criticism of her but feels intimidated and won’t leave him because she fears being alone.
  • Harry’s wife left him suddenly, asking for a divorce. He feels abandoned and alternates between rage and hopeless depression. He continues to go to work but withdraws from friends and family and at times thinks of “ending it all.”

Jack, Lauren, and Harry are among the 4 to 8 million Americans who are treated for depression every year. Their numbers are increasing, especially among people born since 1940; in a recent poll, 52% of the adults questioned admitted they felt “lonely and depressed.”

What Is It?

In practice, the condition of depression tends to be defined by its symptoms which include:

  • feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, worthlessness, & anxiety
  • changes in thinking, such as poor concentration, confusion, forgetfulness, or indecisiveness
  • decreased ability to enjoy life
  • changes in usual sleep patterns and appetite; either sleeplessness or extreme fatigue, loss of appetite or overeating
  • either unusually slow or rapid speech and physical movements.

Depressed people are pessimists. Expecting the worst from life, they magnify their failures and minimize successes. They tend to blame themselves for anything that goes wrong, even events over which they have no control.

Causes

Many factors may contribute to depression, among them personality characteristics; biochemical imbalances; genetic factors; learned patterns of thinking and acting; stressful life events; social economic class; age, and sex.

  • Reactive depressions occur in response to a loss of some kind. Separation or divorce, job loss, retirement, children leaving home, or completion of a major life goal can all trigger reactive depression. Depressions may recur on the anniversary date of these events.
  • Learned helplessness, generated by a lack of control over life, creates chronic low-level depression. When we believe we can’t control what happens to us and our actions repeatedly fail to produce results, we feel helpless and become depressed.
  • Repressed anger can become depression. Depressed people are dependent upon love, approval, and reassurance from others because they lack self esteem. Fearing that their anger will drive away those they love, they often deny angry feelings, resulting in depression.

Kids Get Blue, Too

10% of children under the age of 12 suffer from depression. Because they can’t talk about their feelings as well as adults, it’s more difficult to diagnose childhood depression but it is clear that children suffer from depression just as adults do.

Red Flags

Your child may be depressed if s/he displays any of the following signs:

    • changes in normal sleep patterns or appetite
    • school problems or refusal to go to school
    • talk about feeling unhappy or not liking himself
    • sadness lasting a week or more
    • lack of enthusiasm for usual play activities
    • any significant change in the child’s usual behavior
    • preoccupation with death or talk of suicide.

Prevention

Don’t panic if your child is a little moody. While depression occurs more frequently in children than was once believed, it is not epidemic.

To help your child avoid depression or weather it successfully –

    • Help your child like himself. Praise successes and provide extra help when needed.
    • Be alert to changes in your child’s usual disposition, especially if they last more than a week.
    • Don’t hide your feelings about family problems such as divorce or illness.
    • Encourage your child to talk about what bothers him. Question for specifics and don’t tease if the cause seems trivial to you.
    • Take any mention of suicide seriously. Get professional help for any child who talks about suicide.

Children imitate parents, and depressed parents raise depressed children. If you are suffering from depression, the best way to protect your child is to seek prompt professional help for yourself.

Don’t Let The Blues Get You Down… The quiet, self-sufficient individual who tends not to ask for help has a higher risk for suicide from depression than those who reach out for support. Men who believe they should be totally emotionally self-sufficient are particularly at risk for successfully concealing their depression until suicide seems to be the only way out.

You don’t have to fight depression alone. Consult your local mental health professional. Willingness to seek outside help shows emotional maturity. Depressed people often start to feel better just from having taken action rather than remaining helpless. If you find yourself thinking about suicide, psychotherapy is imperative.

Depression often makes even routine things seem enormous. If the task at hand seems overwhelming break it into smaller steps that are easier to handle. Instead of looking at the task of getting a job, for example, set a goal of making one phone call or typing one page of your resume.

Depression tends to isolate its victims. Push yourself to get involved in activities that include other people, even if it’s just going to the movies. You don’t have to be the life of the party; just get a little human contact.

If you are depressed in reaction to a loss of any kind, respect your need to grieve and give yourself adequate time to do so. Don’t berate yourself, saying “I should be over that by now.” Trying to cut short your time of mourning will only add to the length of time it takes to recover.

Regular aerobic exercise, which raises the heart rate for 20 minutes or more, has anti-depressant effects. Walking, jogging, tennis, weight lifting, and other exercise both lifts low spirits and increases self-confidence.

Clinical depression can be produced by certain physical illnesses and is associated with others. Illnesses known to cause depression include thyroid disorders, diabetes, some neurological disorders, multiple sclerosis and certain vitamin deficiencies. Others, such as hepatitis, influenza, anemia, endocrine problems asthma, and many infectious diseases, are often associated with depression.

Child Abuse

Child abuse is a national emergency in the United States.  There were nearly 60,000 reported cases of child abuse in 1974.  In 1980, that number rose to 1.1 million and by 1990, it more than doubled to 2.4 million. Child abuse includes any kind of mistreatment that retards a child’s physical or psychological development or that directly reduces his/her self-esteem.  It can take the form of…

Physical Abuse

  • Neglect  –  Deprivation of basic physical human needs such as food, water or shelter.  Neglected children often suffer from dehydration, malnutrition, pneumonia and general poor health.
  • Battering –  Actual bodily attacks and beatings, including drowning and choking attempts.  Battered kids suffer from bruises, broken bones, internal bleeding and often death.
  • Sexual Abuse –  One of the most common forms of child abuse is molestation.  Four  of every 10 girls and one of every 10 boys are victims of child sexual abuse. Most sexual abuse happens between the ages of 9 & 12 (although 2 and 3 year-olds is not unusual). The abuser is almost always a man – often a relative or family friend, someone the child respects as an authority figure: for 29% of the women who are sexually abused before the age 18, their father was their first abuser.

The trauma of sexual abuse lingers long after the event.  Many youngsters develop post-traumatic stress disorder causing nightmares, flashbacks, withdrawal, verbal outbursts, and physical symptoms such as sweating and racing heartbeats.  Other symptoms linked to sexual abuse include:

  • feelings of self-hatred,
  • helplessness and distrust of others anxiety and somatic complaints such as chronic headaches
  • depression
  • compulsive sexual activity
  • amnesia or losing one’s train of thought during conversations.

Physical abuse contributes to chronic runaway behavior, delinquency, and emotional problems.  Because of their poor self-image, abused children usually lack assertiveness and believe that they deserve to be punished.

Emotional Abuse

Verbal abuse may not leave physical bruises, but it can permanently scar a child psychologically.  Parental indifference, emotional neglect and verbal abuse cause lasting psychological damage.  Abusive behavior includes:

  • Harsh criticism:  “Can’t you do anything right?  You’re stupid!”
  • Emotional deprivation, i.e., failure to fill a child’s natural needs for attention, praise and love.
  • Ignoring a child when he’s hurt or upset or minimizing his pain: “Stop your whining – you’re okay.”
  • Domination of a child’s every action and thought by telling him/her terrible things will happen if he/she explores and violates parent’s orders.

Abused children often mask their pain by bullying their peers and typically grow up with a negative, cynical attitude, expecting little from life and trusting no one.

Violent physical and sexual abuse are committed more often by men, but emotional abuse is committed equally often by women and men.

Life-long Effects

The long-term effects of child sexual abuse show up in the form of repeated, self-destructive behavior patterns:

  • Girls grow up having destructive relationships with the opposite sex, taking submissive role with men, afraid of them, and producing children who are abused.
  • Abused boys are likely to become offenders, themselves, molesting the next generation of children; often they are also confused about their sexual identity.
  • Nearly 2/3 of abused children are victims of rape or attempted rape as adults.

 

For more information on child abuse call the National Child Abuse Hotline, operated by Child-help USA: 1-800-4-A-CHILD.

 

Alcoholism in America

Who’s An Alcoholic?

The stereotyped picture of the drunken, skid-row bum is a myth. 95% of all alcoholics are employed.  45% of them hold management positions; 50% have college degrees.

Alcoholism may be defines as a disease, an addiction, or dependency, but the symptoms are the same:

    • an overwhelming desire to drink
    • ever-increasing tolerance for alcohol
    • personality changes caused by drinking
    • impaired judgment due to drinking
    • concealed drinking
    • emotional and/or physical isolation from friends and family
    • difficulty in daily functioning
    • physical problems
    • blackouts from drinking

The alcoholic drinks compulsively to the point of intoxication, over and over again, and continues to do so despite the concern of family and friends, physicians’ warning and that little voice inside that says “You’re killing yourself.

How It Develops

Alcoholism is a chronic, progressive disease, just like Alzheimer’s or diabetes.  It begins with the discovery that drinking can produce a temporary mild euphoria, and progresses to looking forward to that feeling and then to seeking it out.  The need becomes an obsession, which becomes an addiction.

Social drinking leads to psychological addiction for the alcoholic, and at some point, the body’s metabolic processes are altered to include and depend upon alcohol. This is where physical dependence – true addiction – begins.

Alcoholic Personality

Alcoholism may be caused by an inherited vulnerability to alcohol or may be passed from parent to child as a learned way of coping with discomfort and stress.

In either case, these traits characterize addiction personalities:

    • anxiety about personal relationships
    • emotional immaturity
    • excessive dependency
    • tendency to be smokers and/or heavy coffee drinkers
    • low tolerance for frustration
    • feelings of loneliness & isolation
    • low self-confidence & self-esteem
    • impulsiveness
    • perfectionism
    • ambivalence towards authority
    • inability to express emotions
    • excessive guilt

Denial is the chief symptom of alcoholism.  “I can quit any time” is a typical statement.  This is not the same as lying – it is self-deception, a defense against unpleasant realities.  The alcoholic may be the only one who believes his denial, but his is often so vehement that friends and families remain silent.

About Anxiety Disorders

Most people experience feelings of anxiety before an important event such as a big exam, business presentation or first date. Anxiety disorders, however, are illnesses that cause people to feel frightened, distressed and uneasy for no apparent reason. Left untreated, these disorders can dramatically reduce productivity and significantly diminish an individual’s quality of life. Fortunately, through research conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), there are effective treatments that can help. NIMH is conducting a national education campaign to increase awareness of these disorders and their treatments.

How Common Are Anxiety Disorders?

  • Anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric illnesses in America: more than 23 million are affected by these debilitating illnesses each year.
  • Anxiety disorders cost the U.S. an estimated $46.6 billion in 1990 in direct and indirect costs, nearly one-third of the nation’s total mental health bill of $148 billion.

What Are the Different Kinds of Anxiety Disorders?

Generalized Anxiety Disorder – Chronic, excessive worry about everyday routine life events and activities, for at least six months; almost always anticipating the worst even though there is little reason to expect it. Accompanied by physical symptoms, such as fatigue, trembling, muscle tension, headache, or nausea.

Panic Disorder – Characterized by panic attacks, sudden feelings of terror that strike repeatedly and without warning. Physical symptoms include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, abdominal discomfort, feelings of unreality, and fear of dying. Concern and apprehension over the occurrence of future panic attacks.

Obsessive – Compulsive Disorder – Repeated, intrusive and unwanted thoughts or rituals that seem impossible to control.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – Persistent symptoms that occur after experiencing a traumatic event such as war, rape, child abuse, natural disasters, or being taken hostage. Nightmares, flashbacks, numbing of emotions, depression, and feeling angry, irritable, distracted and being easily startled are common.

Phobia – Extreme, disabling and irrational fear of something that really poses little or no actual danger; the fear leads to avoidance of objects or situations and can cause people to limit their lives.

What are the Treatment Options for Anxiety Disorders?

Treatments have been largely developed through research conducted by NIMH and other research institutions. They are extremely effective and often combine medication and specific types of psychotherapy.

More medications are available than ever before to effectively treat anxiety disorders. These include antidepressants, benzodiazepines and buspirone. If one medication is not effective, others can be tried. New medications are currently under development to treat anxiety disorders.

The two most effective forms of psychotherapy used to treat anxiety disorders are behavioral therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy. Behavioral therapy tried to change actions through techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing or through gradual exposure to what is frightening. In addition to these techniques, cognitive-behavioral therapy teaches patients to understand their thinking patterns so they can react differently to the situations that cause them anxiety.

Is it Possible for Anxiety Disorders to Coexist with Other Physical or Psychiatric Disorders?

It is common for an anxiety disorder to accompany another anxiety disorder, or in some cases depression, eating disorders or substance abuse. Anxiety disorders can also coexist with physical disorders. In such instances, these disorders will also need to be treated. Before undergoing any treatment, it is important to have a through medical exam to rule out other possible causes.

 

Information source: National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

 

Facing Your Fears

Everyone is afraid of something.  If you look closely, you’ll see that the root of your fears is a lack of trust in your ability to handle whatever comes your way.  Fear can be overcome if you accept it and keep going rather than letting it be a barrier to your success:

Stop waiting for circumstances to be just right or until you’re sure you know what to do before you act.  Fear doesn’t go away unless you take risks to make your dreams come true.  With each accomplishment, comes new strength and improved self-esteem.

Keep a diary where you can write about the things that scare you.  Notice where they occur, how anxious you feel and what you do to deal with the situation.  Over time, you’ll be able to see what works best for you and also see how you’ve improved.

Avoid excessive use of alcohol or caffeine.  They will actually add to you anxiety rather than reducing it.

Acknowledge the positive things in you life.  Anxious people tend to overlook their own strengths.  When you’re scared, make a conscious effort to remember some past positive experiences instead of focusing on your failures.

Avoid catastrophic thinking.  Ask yourself what the worst possible outcome of the situation could be.  You’ll usually find that it’s something you could survive, even though you wouldn’t enjoy it.  Having faced the worst possibility makes it easier to deal with what does come.

Acknowledge your fears.  Many people try to mask their anxieties with activities such as exercising, reading, watching TV, or shopping.  These may distract you from your anxiety for a while, but when they become avoidance techniques, anxiety eventually increases.

Stay focused.  Much anxiety is the result of projecting yourself into future situations.  Stay in the present – here and now – since that’s all you can control anyway.

Take it one step at a time.  If you are overwhelmed at the thought of confronting an anxiety triggering situation, tackle one piece of it at a time.  Give yourself permission to repeat steps as many times as necessary for you to be completely comfortable.

TEST YOURSELF: Are You Anxious?

To assess your level of anxiety, ask yourself whether you ever…

  1. have difficulty breathing, excessive sweating, dizziness, lightheadedness or racing heartbeat?
  2. visit a doctor more than twice in six months because you think you’re having a heart attack only to be told upon examination that there is no physical problem?
  3. suddenly fear something terrible will happen?
  4. avoid long car rides, travel on buses, subways, airplanes?
  5. fear leaving home without being accompanied by someone you know well?
  6. avoid crowds or open spaces, such as shopping malls, parks, airports, train stations?
  7. feel tense and unable to relax most of the time?
  8. spend excessive time worrying that bad things will happen?
  9. get extremely anxious when you are the center of attention?
  10. drink or take tranquilizers in order to cope with social occasions?
  11. turn everyday tasks such as washing your hands, checking the alarm clock or locking the front door, into obsessive rituals that you are unable to stop repeating?
  12. have an inability to stop thoughts that don’t make any sense?

A “yes” answer to any of these questions, indicates significant anxiety; visit a physician, or mental health professional who can help identify the source of your anxieties and gain relief.