Coping With Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Coping With Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Do you experience intense sadness during the fall and winter or feel unexplainably down around the time the days get shorter? If so, you are not alone. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects many individuals, making it difficult to maintain recovery or mental health. Understanding SAD and how it impacts your overall mental health is the first step toward managing it long-term. Like depression, you can learn to cope with SAD and maintain your sobriety simultaneously despite related symptoms and risks of relapse.

What Is SAD?

SAD is a type of depression the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) describes as “significant changes in your mood and behavior whenever the seasons change.” For some, symptoms may be moderate. Individuals experience slight mood changes when the seasons change; we all feel the winter blues a little bit. However, symptoms can become severe for many. Especially among individuals already struggling with their mental health, the changing seasons can trigger and exacerbate symptoms of mental illness.

Individuals aware of their SAD can successfully prepare for it. Fortunately, the seasons change around the same time every year. We know when the days get shorter and when to expect the start of spring. Knowing this pattern is great because it prevents a season's triggers from sneaking up on us.

When Does SAD Occur?

According to the NIMH, SAD typically begins in late fall or early winter and goes away during the spring or summer. This pattern is called “winter-pattern SAD,” also known as “winter depression.” However, it is possible to experience depressive symptoms during the spring or summer. When that happens, it is called “summer-pattern SAD" or "summer depression.” Though it is less common, summer-pattern SAD does happen. On average, symptoms of SAD will last for about four to five months on average.

Symptoms vary depending on a couple of factors. For example, because SAD is a type of depression, there are major related symptoms you may experience. Additionally, symptoms may vary depending on whether you experience winter-pattern or summer-pattern SAD.

Typical Symptoms

Symptoms of SAD, according to the NIMH, include:

  • Major depression symptoms
    • Feeling depressed almost all day, every day
    • Losing interest in enjoyable activities or hobbies
    • Experiencing changes in appetite or weight
    • Having problems with sleep and feeling sluggish or agitated
    • Experiencing a loss of energy
    • Feeling hopeless or worthless
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide
  • Winter-pattern SAD symptoms  
    • Experiencing hypersomnia (oversleeping)
    • Overeating, and especially experiencing a craving for carbohydrates
    • Weight gain
    • Social withdrawal
  • Summer-pattern SAD symptoms 
    • Experiencing insomnia
    • Weight loss as a result of poor appetite
    • Experiencing restlessness and agitation
    • Feeling anxious
    • Experiencing episodes of violent or erratic behavior

SAD and Substance Use Disorder

Managing a mood disorder and substance use disorder (SUD) can be a slippery slope. The journal Science & Practice Perspectives, published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), indicates that mood disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorders, "are the most common psychiatric comorbidities among patients with substance use disorders.” Further, treating a co-occurring mood disorder can “reduce substance craving,” but individuals in treatment will raise the question of how they can manage their mood disorder post-treatment.

Individuals who seek treatment for depression and SUD have an advantage when it comes to handling SAD symptoms. That is simply because they have already learned and practiced techniques to cope with their conditions. This is why dual diagnosis is so crucial to addiction treatment. If clinicians know you are struggling with a mood disorder alongside SUD, they can create a specific treatment plan with that in mind. Then, once in recovery, you can utilize what you learned in treatment and apply it when you experience symptoms of that mood disorder, such as SUD.


Learning to manage SAD symptoms is vital. Fortunately, treatment can help. Some of the treatment methods for SAD include:

  • Light therapy - a mainstay for the treatment of SAD since the 1980s, which includes exposure to a bright light daily day to compensate for the lack of sunshine in the winter months
  • Psychotherapies - such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). There is a type of CBT specifically adapted for treating SAD called CBT-SAD.
  • Antidepressant medication - which increases serotonin levels
  • Vitamin D - which you can obtain from a supplement or through light therapy

How to Manage SAD Symptoms

In addition to treatment, you can manage SAD symptoms on your own by doing the following:

  1. Changing your environment to let in more natural light into your home and working spaces
  2. Spending time outside as much as possible
  3. Exercising every day
  4. Improving your sleeping patterns
  5. Practicing other forms of self-care

Consider implementing these changes today to manage your SAD symptoms and enjoy a better winter season, this year and in the future.

Do you find yourself growing irritable or experiencing depressive moods when the seasons change? More specifically, do the darker days of winter and lack of sunlight impact you mentally and emotionally? If so, you may be struggling with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression linked to changes in moods and behaviors whenever the seasons change. As a type of depression, symptoms of SAD sometimes mimic the symptoms of major depression. These symptoms vary depending on whether you have winter-pattern SAD or (less common) summer-pattern SAD. Treatment methods for SAD are also similar to those for depression. You can manage your symptoms of SAD and substance use disorder (SUD) through behavioral therapies and self-care practices. For more information or to get help, call Excel Treatment Center at (866) 983-6280

The Dangers of Self-Medicating

The Dangers of Self-Medicating

Self-medicating is a typical practice nowadays. Individuals often turn to substance use to cope with life stressors despite their awareness of the potential consequences. While there are many dangers of self-medication, the major one you may expect is the development of addiction. The more we use drugs or alcohol, the more the body requires it. If your journey with self-medicating has led to a substance use disorder (SUD), consider treatment immediately.

Causes of Self-Medicating

People may start self-medicating for a variety of reasons. These can include but are not limited to trauma, mental illness, and chronic illnesses. Let's explore these causes further.


While there are many reasons individuals start self-medicating, trauma is a typical instigator. Trauma occurs throughout life, but traumatic events during adolescents can lead to substance use.

A study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine showcases the connection between early exposure to traumatic events and intoxication through substance use. Researchers examined self-medication among youths in residential treatment for “antisocial behavior via recursive and non-recursive relationships between trauma history, substance misuse, and psychological distress."

The study focuses on two hypotheses:

#1. The effects of trauma are somewhat “mediated by substance misuse."

#2. The experience of trauma causes "a feedback loop between substance misuse and psychological distress.”

At the end of their study, the research supported these hypotheses. With this in mind, it's reasonable to say that trauma likely creates a cycle of emotional distress and substance consumption.

Mental Illness

Trauma is not the only cause of substance use or the only reason people turn to self-medication. Many self-medicate to cope with mental illness symptoms. In fact, results from the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicated that 9.5 million people in the United States were diagnosed with a mental illness and SUD. From this, we can infer that untreated mental illness may be a leading cause of self-medication.

Chronic Illness

Trauma and mental illness are not the only potential instigators of substance use. Other chronic conditions may lead to self-medication. Individuals diagnosed with chronic pain, cancer, or any other chronic illness may turn to substance use to cope with symptoms. Additionally, they may want to numb complex feelings surrounding their diagnosis.

Forms of Self-Medicating

One of the most common ways people self-medicate is with alcohol. Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is prevalent across the United States. People drink to escape their problems, have a good time, be more social, and ultimately inebriate themselves. Especially when trying to avoid stress, alcohol helps people temporarily forget their problems.

Drug use is another form of self-medication. Substances, like drugs, impact the reward circuit of the brain. This causes a euphoric effect which only perpetuates further drug use. People begin drug use for similar reasons — escape problems, inebriate themselves, or experience euphoric effects. There are a number of known dangers to drug use, including dependency, overdose, and death though.

Dangers of Self-Medicating

One of the main dangers of self-medicating is the development of SUD. With SUD, there are several short- and long-term effects, as well as the potential development of chronic health conditions and overdose.

Drinking causes several risks. Excessive drinking can lead to the following:

  • Violence
  • Risky behaviors like unprotected sex and drunk driving
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Chronic conditions like heart or liver disease, a weakened immune system, or cancers

There are several potential risks of excessive drug use due to the number of drugs available. However, many dangers are similar to excessive drinking – chronic health conditions, drug overdose, impaired cognitive function, and death.

Another danger of self-medicating is that it does not resolve the underlying problem. Mental illness, trauma, and other distressing events have a profound impact on our overall well-being. Substance use only numbs us to pain and causes an uproar of future problems.

Treatment for Self-Medicating

If you are self-medicating to cope with a deeper problem, we encourage you to educate yourself further on the dangers of self-medicating. As discussed, it can lead to addiction and many other damages. Psychoeducation is the first step. It often helps a person understand the need for treatment.

Dual-diagnosis treatment for co-occurring disorders is the next step. A mental illness and SUD experienced in conjunction with one another are referred to as co-occurring disorders. It is usually hard to indicate which was present first In either case, dual diagnosis is required, and individuals must seek treatment for all conditions involved.

An integrated dual-diagnosis program offers many benefits. Individuals can begin to understand the relationship between these two disorders. Additionally, they learn coping skills to manage both and engage in treatments that help them heal and maintain recovery.

Lastly, you should find a support system. This can look like a 12-Step program like Alcoholics Anonymous or SMART Recovery. It can also mean reconnecting with friends and family. Moreover, it can involve leaning on others in your treatment program. The support system will ensure you have help building long-term recovery.

Do you drink or use drugs in order to deal with stress, block out traumatic memories, or cope with emotionally volatile situations? If so, we encourage you to educate yourself on the dangers and potential harm of self-medicating. Substance use can lead to addiction, chronic health conditions, and a number of other problems. To truly recover from trauma and mental illness, you must seek treatment. Excel treatment center offers comprehensive treatment to those struggling with addiction and mental illness. We provide a dual diagnosis program led by our expert staff. During your program, you might participate in traditional therapies, support groups, and holistic therapies. With our help, you can cease all self-medication. For help, call us at (866) 983-6280

Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

Many mental conditions co-occur alongside addiction, including bipolar disorder. Coping with multiple disorders can be daunting at once. However, there are many ways to manage bipolar symptoms and maintain recovery. In order to achieve recovery, you must seek treatment for all disorders involved.

The symptoms of mental illnesses and addiction exacerbate each other. Many individuals with addiction experience symptoms of mental illness. This can be caused by chemical and structural changes in the brain. Other people turn to substance or behavioral addictions to manage their mental illness symptoms. Seek treatment immediately if you feel you are in either situation.

Types of Addictions

Before discussing bipolar disorder, it may help to learn more about addiction. Addiction encompasses many struggles, including behavioral addiction and substance use disorders (SUDs).

Behavioral Addiction

When people become dependent on a specific activity or compulsion, behavioral addiction occurs. People can become addicted to the internet, gambling, sex, food, and even activities like shopping. Some downplay the dangers of behavioral addiction, but they can be as debilitating and cause as many problems as a SUD.

Alcohol Addiction

The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines alcohol use disorder (AUD) as a “medical condition characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences.” AUD is sometimes referred to as alcohol abuse, alcoholism, or alcohol dependency. According to NIAAA, a national survey conducted in 2019 indicated that 14.1 million adults struggled with AUD.

Drug Addiction

For many, drug use can become a mental illness, causing physical changes in the brain. These changes make it hard to quit drug use.  Diagnoses can include opioid use disorder, sedative use disorder, and stimulant use disorder. Not only does drug addiction cause physical, emotional, and psychological harm, but it can also lead to overdose and death.

Bipolar Disorder

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) describes bipolar disorder as a “mental illness that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, concentration, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.” It affects approximately 2.8% of the American population and consists of three distinct subtypes:

#1. Bipolar I consists of manic episodes lasting a minimum of seven days or severe manic symptoms that an individual requires “immediate hospital care.” Depressive episodes will also typically occur for at least two weeks. It is also possible to experience mixed episodes that include depressive and manic symptoms.

#2. Bipolar II includes a “pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes.” However, these episodes are less severe than manic episodes and last for shorter periods.

#3. Cyclothymic disorder, or cyclothymia, consists of “recurrent hypomanic and depressive symptoms that are not intense enough or do not last long enough” to be considered hypomanic or depressive episodes.

Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Indicators of bipolar disorder vary depending on the category. Symptoms of mania include sleeping less, high energy, racing thoughts, or increased self-esteem. Hypomania symptoms are similar but tend to be less intense. Depressive symptoms include sleeplessness, anhedonia, self-hatred, hopelessness, or suicidality.

If you recognize some of these signs or behaviors within yourself, consult a doctor. They will help guide you through the evaluation process. You might find out that you have a different diagnosis than bipolar disorder. There's a lot of crossover between diagnoses. However, you might also receive an official bipolar disorder diagnosis. In this case, you know the path of treatment to follow.

Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

Many people with bipolar disorder use substances or behaviors to self-medicate. Bipolar disorder can cause anxiety, depression, and trouble sleeping. People think drugs and alcohol can help them cope. However, this is counterproductive for many reasons. Namely, substance use can trigger depressive or manic episodes in people with bipolar disorder.

When you're first getting diagnosed with these disorders, it can feel overwhelming. Experiencing bipolar disorder and addiction diagnosis together can feel scary. Treatment can seem impossible, but you are not alone. You can achieve recovery for both conditions.

Your treatment should integrate therapy for bipolar disorder and addiction. Treating both conditions together is vital. If you treat one but not the other, it will exacerbate whichever diagnosis you're neglecting. Through assessments, professionals can create a comprehensive treatment plan.

Dual-Diagnosis Treatment

When a person experiences two or more mental illnesses at the same time, this is called a dual diagnosis. As mentioned, bipolar disorder and addiction often occur together. Dual-diagnosis treatment programs are ideal when handling these two conditions at the same time.

The treatment plan will look slightly different depending on the kind of addiction. However, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides an idea of what to expect. SAMHSA states in a 2016 document, “Like treatment for bipolar disorder without a co-occurring SUD, treatment for co-occurring bipolar disorder and SUDs usually involves both pharmacological and psychosocial therapies.”

A reputable treatment program will also provide you and your family with more psychoeducation. Knowing the connection between addiction and bipolar disorder is vital to your recovery success.

Many people are trying to cope with SUD and bipolar disorder simultaneously, but treatment and recovery are possible. Through assessments, education, and a proper dual diagnosis, you can get a handle on your SUD and bipolar disorder. Excel Treatment Center provides all that and more. Our team provides the very best care available. Every client goes through a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation and symptom monitoring. With this, we can track your progress. Additionally, you can participate in a variety of psychosocial therapies meant to help you heal. You don't have to go through this alone, either. Your family can participate in our family program, which can help them come to terms with your diagnosis. For treatment, call us at (866) 983-6280

The Importance of Individualized Treatment

The Importance of Individualized Treatment

Back in the day, the paths to addiction recovery were more rigid and uniform. However, professionals today have seen the benefits and improvements that come with individualized treatment. In fact, professionals across the entire medical community are beginning to see that not one path of treatment does not fit all clients.

All health care is most effective when tailored to each individual. The same goes for addiction treatment and recovery. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to addiction treatment and recovery or relapse prevention. To create a treatment plan, you must go through an assessment and work with professionals to create something that works well for you.

Addiction as a Unique Experience

Millions of people across the United States struggle with behavioral addictions, substance use disorders (SUD), and other mental illnesses. Despite being a common issue, each struggle with the above conditions is unique. No one person goes through the same experience, though people can relate.

For example, when you attend a support group meeting – such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous – you hear the narratives of people with the same disorder. However, each individual tells a unique story. These narratives offer a diverse perspective on how addiction, SUD, and other mental illnesses affect other people.

Due to the uniqueness of your experience with addiction, treatment must be individualized. That does not mean your treatment will not have some similarities. It means that you should have some power in your overall treatment plan. Treatment facilities should work with their clients and assess their addiction journey.

As the individual seeking treatment, you should feel empowered to make decisions about your treatment. Additionally, consider educating yourself on the potential treatment options as you embark on your recovery journey.

Individualized Treatment Options

Even when doing individualized treatment, there are commonalities. Typical treatment options for people seeking addiction recovery include behavioral therapies and medication.

Behavioral therapies are effective when treating both SUD and other mental illnesses. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most common modalities. However, you may also try dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), trauma work, and emotional regulation. Some behavioral therapies may work better than others, but being open about which works best with a clinical professional is vital.

There are also several medications that treat these conditions. Medicines are effective when treating depression, anxiety, and other mental disorder, but some people are weary of using them to treat SUD. However, many find medication-assisted treatment (MAT) effective in their treatment program.

Medication-Assisted Treatment in Individualized Treatment

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines MAT as “the use of medications, in combination with counseling and behavior therapies, to provide a ‘whole-person’ approach” to treating SUD. MAT is clinically effective and can help many people manage withdrawal symptoms during detox.

You will have to try different methods during treatment, but many individuals find that a combination of MAT, behavioral therapies, and support group meetings is most effective.

Choosing a Recovery Program

In addition to working with a clinical professional to create a treatment plan, you must pick a recovery program. Typical recovery programs include:

  • Partial hospitalization program (PHP)
  • Outpatient treatment
  • Intensive outpatient program (IOP)
  • Inpatient rehabilitation

Picking the right program is dependent on your specific situation. For example, some people may require more intense treatment and 24/7 care. These individuals most likely benefit from an inpatient rehab program. However, if your circumstances require you to stay home with your family and provide for them, outpatient programs are an excellent choice.

The Importance of Assessments

As mentioned, assessments are critical to individualized care. Some of the questions you may be asked include:

#1. How long have you been consuming substances?

#2. What substance do you most struggle with?

#3. Are there specific goals you have for your addiction treatment?

#4. Why are you choosing to seek out treatment now?

#5. Do you know of or are you aware of underlying issues that may have led you to SUD?

Questions such as these help therapists and clinicians understand where you are at in your journey and create a plan accordingly. You may also consider discussing personal goals with your medical team during this time. Together, you can work on implementing a timeline and goals for your treatment.

Advocating for Your Treatment Needs

Feeling empowered to advocate for yourself in your treatment program can be challenging, especially at first. That is normal for anyone new to treatment. Remember that an individualized treatment plan will be more effective, help you achieve your goals, and decrease the risk of relapse later on.

Do not hesitate to advocate and co-create your individualized treatment plan. Addiction is a unique journey, and your treatment should be specific to your story. To learn more about individualized treatment, reach out to a professional today. A life of recovery is just around the corner.

Millions of Americans struggle with behavioral addiction, SUD, and other mental illnesses. However, each individual story is unique. For that reason, treatment must be tailored to every one of those million Americans struggling with these concerns. That includes you. Regardless of where you are in your journey, you should feel empowered to advocate for individualized treatment. You must work with clinicians and case managers to ensure your goals for treatment are heard Excel Treatment Center offers fully individualized treatment. You can attend various experiential therapies that cater to your personality and needs. Additionally, you'll engage in traditional behavioral therapies. This combination sets you on the path to recovery. If you require treatment, call us at (866) 983-6280

Gambling Addiction: How a Common Pastime Can Become a Life of Addiction

Gambling Addiction: How a Common Pastime Can Become a Life of Addiction

Gambling is a common pastime across the country, with an entire city – Las Vegas – referred to as the gambling capital of the world. For many, it is a harmless activity, but for others, gambling addiction becomes an incredibly debilitating illness that can be a challenge to recover from.

Individuals struggling with behavioral addictions should not take their situations lightly. The short- and long-term effects of behavioral addiction can impact their work, relationships, and ability to function daily.

Understanding Behavioral Addictions

When talking about addiction, so many of us focus on alcoholism or substance use disorders (SUD). The reality is that behavioral addictions can be just as problematic.  According to a literature review published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, "Behavioral addictions resemble substance addictions in terms of natural history, phenomenology, tolerance, comorbidity, overlapping genetic contribution, neurobiological mechanisms, and response to treatment."

This claim is further supported in other scientific journals. As discussed in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine, other behavioral scientists believe “all entities capable of stimulating a person can be addictive.” They claim that when a habit becomes an “obligation, it may be considered an addiction." Behavioral addictions include many actions in addition to gambling. Commonly, people may experience addiction to the internet, shopping, food, and sex.

Behavioral addictions are similar to SUD in function. They impact the neural pathways in the reward system of the brain. People experience intrusive thoughts and compulsions. They urge people to repeat actions that cause a reward response.

A key indicator of behavioral addiction is the inability to stop or control these actions despite the harm or destruction they yield. People can also experience cravings when trying to stop compulsive actions. Addictive behaviors can physically change the brain like substance use does, making it more challenging to stop.

What Is Gambling Addiction?

Gambling addiction is just as it sounds — an addiction to gambling. Like other behavioral addictions, gambling consumes the lives of money and can lead to a number of problems, including financial trouble. According to the Harvard Review of Psychiatry, components of a behavioral addiction, like gambling, include:

#1. Continued engagement in a behavior despite adverse consequences

#2. Diminished self-control over engaging in the behavior

#3. Compulsive engagement in the behavior

#4. Intense cravings prior to engaging in the behavior

Additionally, the Harvard Review of Psychiatry also states that individuals with a gambling addiction often experience co-occurring disorders such as “impulse-control, moody, anxiety, and personality disorders.” Gambling addiction may trigger these latent illnesses, or gambling may be a byproduct of pre-existing mental disorders.

This idea is similar to thoughts surrounding SUD. The inability to cope with trauma, stress, or other distressing situations and mental illnesses may lead to the development of addiction.

Signs of Gambling Addiction

Gambling addiction is also sometimes referred to as compulsive gambling. Signs of compulsive gambling include:

#1. Constantly thinking about or wanting to gamble

#2. Lying about gambling habits to friends, family, or other loved ones

#3. Spending time gambling instead of working or being with family

#4. Recognizing unhealthy gambling patterns or even feeling guilty about gambling

#5. Unsuccessfully trying to stop gambling

#6. Using money meant for responsibilities, like bills, to gamble

These are just a few signs that may indicate a person has a problem with compulsive gambling. Some individuals also become dependent on the feeling of taking bigger risks. For example, they may need to increase how much money they gamble in order to experience the same high.

Additionally, people often find themselves in debt because of their struggle with gambling. They may start borrowing money from people and getting themselves into sticky situations because they can not pay those people back. It is also common for people to steal from loved ones in order to maintain their habits. In their scenario, financial trouble becomes a severe risk in addition to potential run-ins with the law.

Some people may be able to reduce their gambling slightly. They also may not experience urges and cravings when they do not have the money to gamble. However, as soon as they come into any amount of currency, they find themselves back where they were. Seeking treatment is the best way to recover from a gambling addiction.


Many treatment options for gambling addiction are similar to those that treat SUD. They typically include behavioral therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). These can be very effective. CBT, in particular, focuses on helping people recognize negative thinking or behavior patterns and changing them.

Medication can also help individuals with gambling addiction. They can help people deal with the underlying issues associated with gambling, like depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses.

Support groups are very effective as well. Like Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, attending Gambling Anonymous (or other groups) meetings as needed keeps people accountable, helps them cope with urges, and reminds them they are not alone in their struggle

By engaging in these established treatments, individuals struggling with gambling addiction and co-occurring disorders can get better. They can be on the path to recovery.

Many compulsive behaviors impact the reward system in our brains. As we become accustomed to these rewarding or pleasurable feelings, we start craving more. These behaviors typically include addiction to the internet, food, sex, and gambling. Gambling can be a harmless form of entertainment, but it can become addictive. Individuals struggling with a gambling addiction can seek treatment at Excel Treatment Center. We offer both inpatient and outpatient programs that can help you learn to manage your addiction. Through our various groups, you'll gain a support system of people who understand what you're going through. To free yourself from an active gambling addiction, call Excel Treatment Center at (866) 983-6280 today. 

Creating a Self-Care Routine for Recovery

Creating a Self-Care Routine for Recovery

Life post-treatment comes with many challenges. However, there are things we can do to better prepare for these challenges and tackle them head-on. Ask yourself this: Do you currently have a self-care routine?

Having a self-care routine can be an integral part of recovery. Many people struggle to prioritize taking care of themselves. You may feel awkward or selfish focusing on yourself. Also, you might be socialized into always thinking of others. The truth is that your physical and mental well-being matters.

Defining Self-Care

The term “self-care” seems self-explanatory, but there are several stereotypes people often think of. For example, many people associate the concept with frequently taking lavish trips or having luxurious spa days. While vacations and spa days may be part of a self-care routine, self-care is not about constantly pampering oneself. It is precisely how it sounds, taking care of oneself.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) defines self-care as “taking the time to do things that help you live well and improve both your physical health and mental health.” They claim self-care can help people handle stress, decrease the risk of illness, and boost overall energy.

Examples of Self-Care

You don't need to do opulent activities for self-care. Simple daily tasks are a valid way to care for your needs. Eight examples from NIMH include:

#1. Daily exercise, which can consist of a 30-minute walk or whatever you enjoy that gets your body moving

#2. Eating healthy and nourishing food and drinking plenty of water

#3. Quality sleep and creating a designated sleep schedule to follow every night

#4. Experiment with relaxing activities, such as wellness apps, meditation, breathing exercises, or journaling

#5. Learn to prioritize and set daily goals of what must be done to prevent yourself from feeling overwhelmed but having too much on your plate

#6. Remind yourself daily of everything you are grateful for – writing it down will help you practice gratitude

#7. Focus on staying positive in the face of challenges or distressing situations

#8. Stay in touch with friends and family, be honest about your struggles, and allow them to help you when necessary

While NIMH recommends these tips for practicing self-care, remember that every self-care routine looks different. You may have to experiment with various practices and see what feels right for you.

Creating a Self-Care Routine

Some people begin experimenting with new self-care practices while in treatment. Many facilities implement holistic or alternative therapies in their addiction treatment programs. That may include yoga, meditation, or other mindfulness-based methods.

If exposed to these holistic approaches, you should try them out and see what feels good. Before leaving treatment, you will likely sit down to create a relapse prevention plan. Use this time to make a self-care routine and incorporate these techniques.

Next, you must consider how to incorporate these practices into your daily life. You can set aside a designated time and switch up what you do each day. Start out small by setting 15 minutes while getting accustomed to your routine.

You may also strengthen your self-care by doing it with someone else. Perhaps you met someone at a support group meeting who is also new to recovery. Going for a 30-minute walk or hike, practicing yoga, or learning to cook healthier foods is something you can do together. Not only does it keep you both accountable to a self-care routine, but it builds fellowship as well.

How a Self-Care Routine Will Help Your Recovery

Now, you may wonder how a self-care routine will aid your recovery, but believe it or not, it can. You see, the path to recovery is a path to wellness. While it is a broad term, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) define wellness as being healthy in “many dimensions of our lives.”

According to SAMHSA, these dimensions include emotional, spiritual, intellectual, physical, environmental, financial, occupational, and social. Achieving recovery is about bettering yourself in these dimensions of wellness, and self-care can help you do that.

Mental health — whether it is a struggle with anxiety, depression, or addiction — is about much more than mental illness. It also encompasses emotional and social well-being. Self-care is all about improving your well-being. In addition to helping you maintain recovery, it can reduce feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress in addition to improving your mood.

Combining Relapse Prevention Plans and Self-Care

At the beginning of recovery, you should create a relapse prevention plan. Relapse prevention may include coping techniques, weekly therapy sessions, and support group meetings – essentially whatever it takes to maintain sobriety. When done correctly, a self-care routine will support or be a part of your relapse prevention plan. As discussed, practicing self-care is a vital part of maintaining recovery long-term.

When you notice your self-care becoming less of a priority, it may be time to revisit your relapse prevention plan to make sure you're checking all the boxes. Often, you'll find that one part of the plan isn't being executed. This might be a sign you need to recommit to the plan. It also could mean you need further support from a treatment program. Neither is a failure on your part. Recovery is a life-long process. Simply take the steps needed to get back on track.

Individuals leaving treatment and entering recovery should consider a number of factors. First and foremost, you must remember that life post-treatment has many challenges, and there will be risks to sobriety. The best way to handle these risks and challenges is to create a relapse prevention plan, and part of that plan may include a self-care routine. Self-care is about taking the time to do things that improve your physical and mental well-being. At Excel Treatment Center, we support your self-care needs by offering a robust alumni program. We have hundreds of former clients involved in our community. You can find friends who will hold you accountable and support you. Start your recovery strong. Call (866) 983-6280 today. 

Benefits of Behavioral Therapy

Benefits of Behavioral Therapy

If you are struggling with a substance use disorder (SUD), chances are you may develop symptoms of co-occurring mental disorders. Learning more about the different evidence-based modalities available during treatment may help you better understand your treatment options. Behavioral therapy is an effective way to heal.

Many modalities used in treating mental illnesses fall into the category of behavioral therapy. During sessions, you'll work to identify negative thoughts or harmful behaviors. Then, you'll attempt to deconstruct irrational thoughts and problematic behaviors. Ideally, you want to replace them with healthier patterns. This can prove helpful in the treatment of SUDs and mental disorders.

Formats of Behavioral Therapy

You may experience behavioral therapy in two formats: individual therapy and group therapy. Both of these options offer benefits that you may need in your healing journey. Which you'll engage in depends on your support needs.

Individual Therapy

When people think of therapy, they usually think of individual therapy. Together with your therapist, you will explore the connection between thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. You will dissect past trauma, discover your triggers, and get to the root cause of your illnesses. With individual therapy, you can feel empowered to have some control over where the conversation goes. That does, however, require you to be honest about what treatments are working or not. You'll also be exposed to a number of new concepts and ways of thinking.

Therapy also helps you manage your traumas, feelings, and emotions without substances. Individuals learn to cope with stress and cravings through many healthy techniques. These techniques can be used post-treatment and help individuals maintain a long-term life of recovery.

Group Therapy

In addiction treatment programs, individual therapy and group therapy work side by side. Group therapy may feel strange at first. Discussing your deepest and darkest feelings with strangers is challenging, but doing so provides excellent results. That is because group therapy is about connecting with people who understand your story. Isolation is dangerous, and group sessions remind you that you are not alone.

A therapist typically leads a group to provide structure. It is undoubtedly different than an individual session, but that can be good. You will learn to discuss your addiction and listen to others. We often forget how important it is to listen. Listening to the stories of others can help you. Moreover, your experiences have the power to help others as well.

Substance Use Disorders

A literature review published in the American Journal of Psychiatry examined the history of behavioral therapies for SUDs. The effectiveness of behavioral therapies was not seen until the mid-1980s. Even then, results were only seen when treating conditions like depressive, panic, and obsessive-compulsive disorders. These therapies were implemented into treatment programs at this time, but people did not believe them to be helpful.

Flash forward to today, and behavioral therapies are integral to addiction treatment. The growth of behavioral therapy techniques has made them highly effective for SUDs. Within a treatment program, you may be exposed to multiple therapies, including:

These behavioral therapies are only a few modalities that may aid you in your addiction treatment journey. As you go through behavioral therapy, you also may engage in holistic therapies that balance your overall wellness on your way to sobriety.

Behavioral Therapy and Co-Occurring Disorders

As mentioned, behavioral therapies are also constantly used in treating co-occurring disorders. A co-occurring disorder occurs when someone struggling with a SUD also develops a mental illness or vice versa. Examples of co-occurring disorders include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Bipolar disorder

When experiencing mental disorders and a SUD, you may fall into a cycle of negative behavior. For example, you may be in a situation where your anxiety is so bad that you continuously turn to substance use as a way to cope. That cycle repeats itself over and over again, leading to the development of a SUD. Similarly, symptoms of a SUD will intensify the longer it goes untreated. The impact of that SUD can trigger latent mental illnesses. In either case, symptoms of one disorder exacerbate the other, and seeking treatment for both is necessary.

The Benefits of Behavioral Therapy

Mental health professionals implement behavioral therapy when treating people with mental conditions like depression, anxiety, or SUD. This therapeutic modality can effectively treat co-occurring disorders. Behavioral therapies have a number of potential benefits.

When implemented correctly, behavioral therapy can improve self-esteem, change negative thinking patterns or behaviors, improve communication, and teach new coping skills. As discussed, these therapies can occur individually and in a group setting, allowing for your comfort as the client.

Not only is this therapy effective during addiction treatment programs; it can help in recovery. The skills you learn will aid you in maintaining your sobriety.

Behavioral therapy is integral to both addiction and mental health treatment. By engaging in this modality, you can improve your emotional regulation, thought patterns, and coping skills. You'll find that you're better at managing triggers and cravings too. Excel Treatment Center can provide you with all that and more. We offer a variety of treatments, including behavioral therapy. We'll encourage you to engage in both traditional and holistic therapies to stimulate your mind and body during healing. Through symptom tracking, we monitor your progress and adjust your treatment plan as needed. When you're ready to take control of your mind, call Excel Treatment Center at (866) 983-6280 to start your treatment program. 

What Is Post-acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)?

What Is Post-acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)?

Most people are familiar with the concept of withdrawal from alcohol or drugs. Fewer people have heard of post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). PAWS is a secondary phase of withdrawal individuals sometimes experience when in recovery from substance use disorder (SUD). These adverse symptoms can last for weeks or months after ceasing consumption of a substance. Symptoms vary, and learning to manage them is crucial. However, it may help to understand more about withdrawal, in general, before diving into PAWS specifically.

Understanding SUD

As many already know, SUD occurs when your use of alcohol or drugs leads to health concerns or problems in your professional and personal life. People develop SUD for several reasons, including environmental, social, and biological factors.

In many cases, the development of SUD is due to past trauma. Big-T traumas in childhood, like abuse, are connected to higher addiction rates. Even little-t traumas, such as peer pressure during adolescence, can cause immense distress, though. The inability to cope with the trauma or stress causes people to turn to self-medication, often with drugs or alcohol. In this case, a dual-diagnosis treatment program may be necessary to manage both trauma disorders and SUD.

Damaging Effects

Recovery is possible if you seek treatment. However, SUD and excessive substance use can have several adverse effects. Consider treatment sooner rather than later to prevent the onset of these damaging effects.

Some of these damaging effects include:

  • Mental illnesses and chronic health conditions developed as a result, such as depression and heart disease
  • Accidents resulting from risky behavior, like driving under the influence or engaging in unprotected sex
  • Risks of overdose
  • Conflicts with family resulting from behavioral changes
  • Problems at work due to lack of performance
  • Issues, legal or financial in nature, due to substance use

Withdrawal Symptoms

Upon entering treatment, individuals typically go through detoxification. The detox process is meant to remove all toxic substances — alcohol and drugs — from the body before treatment.

Unfortunately, excessive substance use causes the brain and body to become physically dependent. You start building up a tolerance, needing more of the substance to get the same effects. When you stop substance use, the body experiences acute withdrawal. The potency, frequency, and substance highly influence the severity of withdrawal. Typical symptoms include the following:

  • Sweating and chills
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Erratic mood swings
  • Intense substance cravings

Other symptoms that are more intense and serious include experiencing a heart attack, seizure, or stroke. Some people even begin to hallucinate or experience extreme fits of delusion.

Due to the potential for dangerous symptoms, it is recommended that you seek professional detox services. Detoxing alone can be risky. Seeking professional help can offer you 24/7 supervision, support, and medication-assisted treatment (MAT).

Effectiveness of MAT

MAT is not only utilized during detox. Many facilities or recovery centers also implement it into their treatment programs. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), MAT can effectively:

  • Improve client survival
  • Increase retention in treatment
  • Reduce illicit opiate use and criminal activities among individuals struggling with SUD
  • Increase the ability to gain and maintain employment

Additionally, MAT is just one of many treatment options that help manage withdrawal symptoms during treatment. Individuals fearful of withdrawal symptoms should take comfort in knowing facilities can help them through it. Doctors and therapists know how to handle withdrawal. Plus, others in the same treatment program can provide support through shared experiences.

What Is PAWS?

PAWS occurs when an individual experiences withdrawal symptoms for weeks or months after stopping substance use. It is hard to determine what causes these symptoms, though some scientists believe physical changes to the brain from substance use can be a factor.

Some PAWS symptoms individuals may experience include:

  • Impaired memory or cognitive function
  • Experiencing anxiety or depression
  • Intense cravings
  • Disturbed sleeping patterns
  • Compulsive behaviors

People may also experience similar symptoms to those experienced during withdrawal. However, PAWS can sometimes begin long after the initial withdrawal period. These symptoms can last for weeks, months, or even years after an initial withdrawal period.

Luckily, just as there are ways to manage initial withdrawal during the detox process, there are ways you can manage PAWS symptoms.

Managing PAWS Symptoms

Due to the fact that extended symptoms can potentially last for weeks, months, or years, prolonged treatment options may be required. Psychiatric medications can be used to manage your PAWS symptoms. You may also benefit from individual and group behavioral therapy modalities.

In addition to therapy and medication, you can manage your symptoms by educating yourself, consulting health care providers, prioritizing sleep, and taking care of your body. The road to recovery may be long at times, but recovery is possible. Do not let the fear of these withdrawal symptoms stop you from seeking a life of sobriety.

If you are struggling with active addiction, you may avoid treatment out of fear of withdrawal symptoms. To successfully seek treatment for a substance use disorder, you must go through detox. Purging the body of the harmful substance is vital and can be dangerous, which is why you should never detox alone. Detoxing in a facility will help you manage symptoms through many techniques. Unfortunately, some people experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). PAWS symptoms can last for weeks or months after abstaining from substance use. Once you've detoxed, Excel Treatment Center can help you manage and stabilize your symptoms. Through our program, you'll be on the way to recovery. Call Excel Treatment Center at (866) 983-6280 for help.

Hosting an Intervention

Hosting an Intervention

Interventions are often required when your loved one needs addiction treatment. Especially when an individual is unaware of their addiction, an intervention can be very effective when implemented correctly. Denial is a natural response to intervention. By hosting an intervention, you can help a loved one see the severity of their situation and seek help.

Your primary job during this time is to provide support and encouragement. You can host a successful intervention by following some simple steps. Keep in mind that it can be overwhelming. If planning the event feels like too much to handle, it can help to work with a professional interventionist.

What Is an Intervention?

An intervention is a gathering of friends, family, and loved ones. Intervention is typically associated with addiction or substance use disorder (SUD), but it can be used for other ailments as well. The group gathers to help a loved one experiencing SUD, behavioral addiction, mental illness, or chronic conditions. However, you could host interventions for all sorts of reasons. You may look to help a loved one leave a toxic relationship or live a healthier lifestyle.

What Happens During an Intervention?

The primary goal of an intervention is to make your loved one aware there is a problem, educate them on their options, and ultimately convince them to seek help. You will also provide resources to your loved one during an intervention. Additionally, the loved ones who gather can speak about how they have been affected by the addiction or illness.

It is important to note that this is not a time to make a loved one feel shame or guilt. However, hearing narratives about how their struggle has impacted the people they love can motivate them to seek the necessary help they require.

Interventions must be planned, though. You don't want the intervention to fail. If you go into it without a proper plan, emotions will likely get the better of everyone. By thoroughly planning ahead, you can keep the intervention on track if things begin to go awry.

10 Steps to Hosting an Intervention

Once you understand more about interventions, their goal, and what situations warrant an intervention, you can begin to plan one effectively. Here are ten steps you can follow to host a successful intervention today.

#1. Seek Professional Help

This is optional, but seeking professional help increases the level of support and prevents you from planning one alone.

#2. Create an Intervention Team

Intervention teams consist of friends and family members who will gather to help a loved one. They'll often participate in the planning.

#3. Make a Plan

An intervention is not something you can wing. Schedule a specific date and time, create a guest list, and develop a procedure to follow along with. You should have an itinerary long before you intervene. This will include the order in which people will speak.

#4. Research and Gather Information

As mentioned, part of the intervention consists of offering resources and treatment to your loved one. In order to provide the best information, you must research viable options. You must also obtain foundational knowledge. Ultimately, you need to know the basic facts about their illness to educate them.

#5. Write Out Your Narratives

Individuals attending will also want to write and rehearse their narratives or impact statements. You must prepare what you want to say and practice it. Emotions can run high during the event. Preparation is the best way to combat these intense emotions. These statements should not be used to attack your loved one. They should come from a place of honesty and compassion.

#6. Provide Support

In addition to offering resources, you must also provide support. That includes being involved throughout detox, rehabilitation, and recovery. You may provide car rides to and from treatment. Also, you might attend family counseling and group meetings with your loved one. Recovery is a long-term process, and your loved one will appreciate feeling supported throughout their sobriety journey.

#7. Set Boundaries

You must also set boundaries during an intervention. Your loved one needs to know what you will do if your loved one refuses treatment. You should implement consequences that protect your well-being. It may seem harsh at first, but these consequences show how serious you are about a loved one seeking help. Also, you should be prepared to follow through on the boundaries.

#8. Rehearse

Next, you must rehearse the plan. That includes each person reading through their narrative statements. An intervention is not time for tangents. Rehearse at least once to help individuals know what they will say, how long it will take, when to speak, and when to cede the floor.

#9. Manage Your Expectations

In addition to setting boundaries, you must manage your expectations. Not everyone seeks treatment immediately. You must understand that you can't force your loved one into treatment. Also, a “no” isn't a failure. Many people say no initially but come around in the days or weeks following.

#10. Follow Up

Lastly, follow up with your loved one. You should ask how the treatment is going and what you can do to help. When they are exiting treatment, you can talk about their continued support needs throughout recovery.

Many individuals struggling with addiction, mental illnesses, or other chronic conditions may not realize the severity of their situation. Interventions are often required when helping your loved one seek treatment. An intervention occurs when friends and family of your loved one gather to address the issue and offer help. The staff at Excel Treatment Center can help you prepare for an intervention. We believe it's never too early or late to seek treatment. When your loved one is ready to seek treatment, we can offer them various levels of care that meet their unique needs. They'll get access to all our support programs, setting them on the path to recovery. For more information, call Excel Treatment Center at (866) 983-6280.

Avoiding Holiday Triggers and Relapse

Avoiding Holiday Triggers and Relapse

The holiday season can be hard for individuals trying to avoid holiday triggers and relapse. There are many reasons the holidays can be challenging to navigate in recovery. Unfortunately, it's not the “most wonderful time of the year” for everyone.

Individuals new to recovery may face more difficulties coping with their first holiday season while sober. Many triggers increase the risk of relapse. Opportunities for relapse may seem endless, but do not let the risk consume you. You can find ways to enjoy this time of year while successfully maintaining your newfound recovery.

Why Are the Holidays Hard?

Many people experience turmoil during this time of cheer. You may struggle with uncomfortable family relationships or unhappy home lives. The stress of spending money during the holidays could get to you. Additionally, the pressure of maintaining sobriety makes the season more daunting in recovery. In addition to all of these factors, you must also navigate new holiday triggers and avoid relapse.

Common Holiday Triggers

Risks for relapse may be higher during the holidays. However, recognizing possible triggers and possessing efficient coping techniques can help people avoid relapsing. Since many people struggle with recovery during the holidays, we know of common triggers to look out for.

Alcohol-Filled Holiday Parties

The first common holiday trigger to watch out for is an increased presence of alcohol. ‘Tis the season for holiday parties. When was the last time you heard of a holiday party with no alcohol present? Drinking is a socially accepted vice. Anytime people gather and celebrate, alcohol is usually involved. That makes these cheerful gatherings hard if you're struggling with alcohol use disorder (AUD). Additionally, it creates a risk of addiction transference if you previously used other substances.

Depending on family and friend dynamics, you may be able to avoid the presence of alcohol. If you just left treatment, you will still be new to recovery. Your family and friends may recognize this and decide that there will be no alcohol at the holiday party this year. Yes, you must learn to cope with the presence of alcohol at some point, but it may help you to avoid this trigger so early in recovery.

Handling Family During the Holidays

As mentioned, family is another common holiday trigger that you must prepare for. No one can drive you as crazy as a family can. Some families are great and will do all they can to make a recovery transition as smooth as possible. However, other families come with trauma and tense relationships. The added stress of dealing with that can be triggering. Given your relationship with your family, you may know ahead of time which scenario to prepare for.

Family stress does not necessarily mean you must avoid everyone during the holidays. Isolation can be even more dangerous. It does, however, mean you must set boundaries and be vigilant in identifying triggers. Additionally, resources and effective coping skills will help you manage the stress of your family.

Other Holiday Triggers You May Not Think Of

One holiday trigger some people may fail to think of is the lack of structure. Having structure and routine is crucial to individuals in recovery. During the holidays, people often take time off, abandon daily exercise routines, or forgo other daily disciplines. Abrupt changes to schedules and routines can increase the risk of relapse. It's crucial to continue attending therapy and weekly support group meetings.

An additional holiday trigger that people overlook is seasonal depression. If you have co-occurring addiction and seasonal affective disorder (SAD), it may feel more tempting to relapse. Substances may have been your way of self-medicating the symptoms in the past. You need to make sure you're using aftercare resources for your mental health.

Avoiding Holiday Triggers

You can focus on preparation and reinforcement to make it through the holidays and maintain sobriety.

Preparing for the Holidays

One way to avoid holiday triggers is to prepare for them before leaving treatment. For example, you can take advantage of case management services. Moreover, relapse prevention can help you prepare for obstacles and set goals for your recovery. If you're concerned about relapsing during the holidays, you can ask for help planning for your first holiday season post-treatment.

In addition to planning, you should also research support group meetings in your areas. Support groups are a great way to handle the pressure of holiday triggers. When returning to your family home for the season, you can look up what support group meetings are in the area. It's smart to find one in case the pressure becomes too much. Chances are others will also be looking for a little extra support during the holiday season too.

When In Doubt, Bring Reinforcements

Additionally, you may consider bringing a friend or an accountability buddy to events this holiday season. That individual should be a trusted member of your support network. They should be capable of helping you cope with triggers and avoid relapse.

Even better, you can consider hosting a few holiday events of your own. You can give back to your recovery community by hosting a sober holiday gathering. It provides people with a safe and sober space to celebrate the holidays, create bonds, and establish new traditions.

Maintaining recovery throughout the holidays is very much possible. Individuals struggling with addiction and not yet in recovery should consider treatment today.

Have you recently left an addiction treatment program and are feeling anxious about your first holiday season in recovery? If so, know that you are not alone. Many people struggle with maintaining their sobriety during the holiday season. Despite the risk of relapse, maintaining recovery is very much possible. It may just take a little extra effort. Excel Treatment Center can provide you with extra sobriety support throughout the holidays. Our groups, therapies, and support network can offer you peace of mind. You'll have people to lean on as you navigate and cope with common holiday triggers. When you need a helping hand, call Excel Treatment Center at (866) 983-6280