staying positive

Staying positive after effects of drug abuse

Staying positive takes work – a lot of work – but it is possible. Negativity is not resolved overnight by simply adapting a positive frame of mind and expecting yourself to have a happy-go-lucky attitude the next day. When you have suffered tremendous emotional trauma and the damaging effects of drug and alcohol abuse, you have to fix the damage done to your brain from years of trauma and drug use. Everyone has suffered at least one traumatic event in life, but not everyone develops post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), explains researchers. Depending on the severity and frequency of emotional traumatic events, many develop PTSD after repetitive exposure to acute stress. Staying positive requires, at the very least, as much repetition as it took for the brain injury to occur. As evidenced by a study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, individuals who had trouble regulating their emotions were susceptible to developing substance use disorders, which compounds the neurobiological effects of brain damage.

How brain injury affects emotional regulation

The “heart” of the brain is the amygdala, where emotional processing is influenced by other brain functions such as memory and attention. The amygdala, seated inside the temporal lobe, is part of the limbic system which also includes the hippocampus, thalamus, hypothalamus, prefrontal cortex, and pituitary gland. While physical damage to the brain, such as injury caused by motor accidents or a sports injury, obviously changes the brain’s structure, individuals may be less aware about injury to the brain caused by psychological trauma and drug abuse.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), drug and alcohol abuse alters the structure of the brain when drug use interferes with communication between the brain’s own neurotransmitters and the drug’s chemical structures. The interference largely affects the prefrontal cortex, extended amygdala, and the basal ganglia, all of which control the body’s emotional regulation and stress responses. Research also shows that repeated and chronic stress contribute to change in the brain’s structure, showing greater gray matter density in the prefrontal-limbic systems.

A study conducted by a group of researchers from the University of New South Wales, Australia, investigated the connection between traumatic brain injury (TBI) and emotional empathy. The study, which was published in the May 2011 issue of Elsevier’s Cortex, utilized a facial electromyography (EMG) to measure emotional empathy abilities of the participants by observing their facial responses to angry and happy facial expressions. The findings revealed that adults with severe TBI were less physiologically responsive, in particular to angry faces. The results suggest that adults with brain injury are less emotionally empathetic than those who have not suffered head injury. In a more recent study that appears this year in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, results show a strong association between mild traumatic brain injury and symptoms of elevated aggression and other physical and affective impairments.

How damage to the amygdala affects behavior

Brain damage in the limbic system has disastrous results, essentially destroying one’s ability to maintain healthy relationships and control one’s emotions. One of the consequences is emotional lability, also known as “emotional rollercoaster,” which is a symptom characterized by extreme mood swings and/or disproportionate responses to triggers. It’s also possible for the individual to overreact, outwardly expressing emotions that don’t necessarily reflect what the individual is feeling inside. For example, individuals may cry uncontrollably even though they don’t feel sad. People with limbic system disorders may exhibit the following behaviors:

• Elevated levels of anger and aggression
• Low energy, motivation and drive
• Risky social behaviors (i.e., promiscuity, gambling, driving under the influence, etc.)
• Overeating, binge eating, or turning to food for comfort
• Compulsive eating
• Decline in job and/or academic performance
• Impulse purchases, especially with big ticket items

Introducing the game changer in damage control: dual diagnosis treatment

You are what you set your mind on. If you set your mind on wellness, dual diagnosis treatment for substance abuse addiction is the way to go! Dual diagnosis treatment programs are comprehensive addiction treatment programs that integrate evidence-based practices with holistic therapies; dual diagnosis treatment has been scientifically proven to have long-lasting positive results in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, because they treat more than just the symptoms of substance use disorders. At New Method Wellness, a premier dual diagnosis treatment center handpicked by Dr. Phil, clients have access to the most advanced forms of substance abuse treatment currently available in the field. Our multidisciplinary team of clinicians and counselors effectively address the effects of traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic disorder, substance use disorders and other associated co-occurring disorders. In addition, every client is paired with two therapists to ensure that they receive the highest level of quality care in substance abuse treatment.

To learn more about our trauma-informed treatment programs, please call 866.951.1824

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