Change can be truly life affirming if we use it to sharpen and focus our minds. The essence of a fresh start is not simply a change in behavior, it’s a fundamental change in our hearts and minds and a focus on what we value and who we are.
Overeating occurs when the alarm in our brain takes control and hijacks our choices.When you take the focus off of eating and step back and re-orient yourself to what you really value in life, this interrupts the alarm’s demands for mindless automatic reactions and reminds you that you do actually have a choice other than simply continuing to eat compulsively.
Everything can change in the blink of an eye. One moment life seems calm and peaceful, the next you find yourself in a whirlwind and you have to get your bearings really fast to save yourself and others.We see how this happens in crises like the tragic mass shooting at the Washington Naval Yards. Those directly involved who were able to escape did not leave unscathed.
Exposure to profound adversity in childhood, while the brain and mind are rapidly developing, can cause severe post-traumatic stress. It also can cause alterations in development that may change the entire course of a child’s life and health. A new diagnosis may be part of improved treatment and healing.
In the DSM-5 released in May, PTSD just got more complex. These changes reflect advances in science and clinical practice, which echo what trauma survivors have been saying for decades (if not centuries): PTSD is a radical shift from normal self-regulation to being trapped in a constant state of alarm.
The diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has undergone much more than a minor tweaking or superficial facelift in the American Psychiatric Association's DSM-5. This guidebook to psychiatric diagnoses, released in May, now defines PTSD as a trauma and stressor-related disorder, not a disorder primarily of anxiety alone.
Insight is a uniquely human capacity, but it's not what you think it is. Insight is the ability to visualize the workings of our own brain and mind. Insight doesn't eliminate stress, but it is what can relieve stress when our lives become overwhelming.
Most of us live with the alarm constantly sounding. That's chronic stress. We walk around believing that something is wrong with us or other people or the world, when that’s often not the message the alarm is trying to send. We don’t know how to turn it down because we don’t realize that paying attention to the alarm's message actually resets it.
Compassionate listening and dependable availability are the best ways to support each individual’s unique way of gradually coming to terms with the shock, confusion, and sense of loss and betrayal that are expectable.
As therapists, we need to know what to do to help without inadvertently causing more harm or suffering—primum non nocere. Just as it is a mistake to rush to the scene, it is a mistake to rush children or adults into treatment.
An unspeakable tragedy occurred in Newtown, Connecticut today. Twenty-seven innocent people—young children and their teachers—were killed at an elementary school where no one ever thought violence like this could occur, ever. What can we do about it?
The mind is more than the sum of the neurons in the brain, but nothing that we think or feel is separate from the brain. When people with PTSD think the world is dangerous and feel a profound sense of threat and danger, it’s not just “in their mind.” It’s the brain operating in survival mode, and the solution is to shift the brain back to learning mode.
Military personnel and veterans are not surprised to learn that they have an alarm in their brains. They know what it’s like when that alarm kicks off an adrenaline rush and the fight-flight response. But they’ve never been provided with a user’s guide to turning down or resetting that alarm in the brain.
Whether a hurricane, tornado, or earthquake, the trauma of living through a natural disaster is deep and excruciating. When the waters recede, the winds die down, or the earth stops shaking, we begin the clean up of our homes and neighborhoods. What can we do to put our emotional lives back together too?
Too many stress reduction guides teach that we need to "get rid of" or "reduce" stress. You can't eliminate stress from your life. When you understand what's going on in your brain when you experience stress, you can begin to manage it in a completely new way.