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Friday, 30 March 2018 07:03

Different Types of OCD

Obsessive-compulsive Disorder (OCD) affects millions of people. One in 40 adults and one in 100 children in the United States have some type of OCD.

What Is OCD and What Does It Mean to Have OCD?

OCD, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, is defined as obsessions and compulsions that take up at least an hour a day and cause the sufferer great distress.

1 in 40 and 1 in 100 children have OCD

Many people associate OCD with obsessive hand washing. Although this may be a symptom of OCD, there are other types of OCD that affect people in different ways. For example, while one person with OCD may wash their hands at length or clean their kitchen repeatedly, another may suffer from involuntary thoughts and guilt resulting from their thoughts.

Thankfully, OCD is treatable — and you can enjoy a life free of stressful obsessions with the right diagnosis and treatment.

What Are the Different Types of OCD?

There are several different types of known OCD behavior. OCD can have a major impact on your life, relationships and responsibilities — more than many people realize. The first step in treatment is to figure out which type of OCD you have, and a diagnosis should always be made by a professional.

Understanding the different types of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and the related symptoms may help you determine whether or not you need to seek help. Being picky about how clean your home is or liking your work space organized a certain way may not mean that you have OCD.

However, if you feel compelled to clean the same room in your home for hours, and if these compulsions cause you tons of stress and affect your obligations, you likely have OCD. In general, you may have OCD if your obsessions and compulsions:

  • Take up a large amount of time
  • Take up a large amount of time
  • Cause you distress and emotional suffering

If your obsessive-compulsive behavior greatly impacts your life, your OCD will fall into one of the following categories:

  • Contamination or mental contamination:
  • Symmetry
  • Checking
  • Hoarding
  • Intrusive thoughts or rumination

OCD is not always easy to diagnose. It can be hard to measure how much stress an obsession causes someone. The key lies in understanding if a thought or behavior disturbs you to the point where your quality of life is affected. If you feel held back by obsessive-compulsive thoughts or behaviors, it is probably time to seek help.

Time to seek help

1. Contamination

Contamination OCD involves the compulsion to wash or clean something in response to the obsessive fear that something is contaminated and will cause death or illness. For example, you may obsessively worry that your kitchen countertop had been contaminated by raw meat. As a result, you might scrub the counter for hours in fear you will miss a contaminated spot. You might imagine a loved one getting sick from coming into contact with a dirty countertop, driving your compulsion to over-clean.

Contamination OCD

If this sounds like something you would do, consider some of the other fears you may have with contamination OCD:

  • Germs in public places
  • Coming into contact with chemicals
  • Contracting germs from strangers
  • Contracting germs from strangers
  • Visiting a hospital or waiting in a doctor's office
  • Eating in a restaurant
  • Being in a crowd

To cope with obsessive fears, someone who suffers from contamination OCD might compulsively:

  • Throw things away
  • Sanitize or clean things
  • Excessively wash their hands
  • Change clothes frequently
  • Create off-limits "clean areas"
  • Avoid public places or touching certain objects
  • Excessively brush teeth

If you wash your hands a lot when you're in public, you may not have OCD. Sufferers of contamination OCD will wash their hands up to 50 times or more each day. Some people will wash even if they are not dirty but have been made to feel dirty. This is known as mental contamination.

Sufferers of mental contamination will act as if they had touched a contaminated object, when in fact they are reacting to a trigger. For example, a person may insult them and "pollute" them with words. There is no dirt involved, but they will compulsively shower or wash their hands in hopes of feeling clean again.

2. Symmetry

Symmetry OCD involves having things in place and organized at all times. If something is not just right or even in amount, the OCD sufferer will experience great discomfort. Sometimes, those with symmetry obsessions believe that disorganization or imbalance will cause something bad to happen. This is sometimes referred to as “magical thinking.”

Symmetry OCD

Symptoms of symmetry obsession include but are not limited to:

  • Making sure everything is always in its place
  • Making sure everything is always in its place
  • Making sure clothing is hanging straight on hangers
  • Arranging canned food items and stacking them with the labels all facing forward
  • Having a perfectly clean home free of stains, spots or smudges at all times
  • Making sure pictures in the home are hanging straight
  • Making sure everything is in even numbers or actions are done evenly

Those obsessed with symmetry may spend so much time putting things in place, counting objects or actions, and organizing belongings that they are often late for work, appointments or social gatherings. Many times, they will not invite friends or family to their home to avoid the stress and discomfort of objects getting out of place.

3. Checking

Someone with OCD may have such an obsessive and intense fear that something terrible will happen to them, their home or a loved one, that they compulsively check for safety.

Checking OCD

For example, a person who suffers from checking OCD might spend hours checking:

  • • Oven knobs, appliances and light switches or lamps in fear their home will burn down
  • Doors and windows in fear of someone breaking in
  • Sink faucets in fear their home will flood
  • Car door locks in fear their car will get stolen
  • Their memory to make sure a thought they had did not actually occur
  • Letters or emails before sending, worrying they had written something they will regret
  • Lines in a book in fear of missing something important
  • Online information about illness or disease in fear they are sick
  • Calling or texting loved ones for fear something bad has happened to them
  • Wallet or purse in fear of losing something or not having something with them

It may be normal to extra-check the house doors or oven knobs before you leave home. However, people who suffer from OCD will check doors or knobs multiple times, sometimes for hours. OCD disrupts their lives and makes it difficult for them to get to work on time or engage in other activities.

4. Hoarding

Hoarding involves holding onto items that are no longer useful to avoid the extreme discomfort of discarding an item. Hoarders may keep objects in fear the object will cause someone harm once discarded. Hoarders may also attach great emotional significance to an item or they may have a deep fear of deprivation that makes it impossible for them to throw something away.

Hoarding OCD

Symptoms of hoarding usually include:

  • Inability to discard items no matter how old, useless or worn they are
  • Intense anxiety when attempting to throw items away
  • Trouble organizing items
  • Unable to choose which items to keep or discard
  • Unable to decide where to put things
  • Stress caused by the embarrassment of hoarding
  • Feeling overwhelmed by possessions
  • Suspicious of others discarding or touching items
  • Commonly collecting and hoarding items such as newspapers, magazines, clothing, food, boxes or plastic bags
  • Commonly collecting and hoarding items such as newspapers, magazines, clothing, food, boxes or plastic bags

The result of hoarding can be devastating for the family and the sufferer. Someone who suffers from hoarding OCD may not invite anyone to their home out of embarrassment or because there is not enough space. Without social contact, a hoarder may feel isolated and depressed in addition to dealing with OCD-related anxiety.

For those who are married or have other individuals in their household, hoarding can cause great strain on relationships at home. Objects can fill up too much space, making others uncomfortable and causing worry about health hazards.

5. Intrusive Thoughts

OCD may not always show in one's actions. Some people suffer from OCD internally by experiencing intrusive thoughts. Intrusive thoughts occur involuntarily and often disturb or horrify the thinker. A person with intrusive thoughts may believe something is wrong with them for having such thoughts and they might develop a fear that they will act out their thoughts. Fear causes them to avoid social situations or other situations related to their intrusive thoughts.

Intrusive thoughts

Intrusive thoughts can be about anything, but they often involve the fear of harming a family member or other loved one. Intrusive thoughts commonly fall into one of the following categories:

  • Relationships: Obsessively doubting and analyzing a relationship and constantly needing reassurance from a romantic partner. Intrusive thoughts may also involve constantly questioning one's sexuality.
  • Bodily: Might be hyper-aware of bodily sensations such as breathing, blinking or swallowing saliva.
  • Sexual: Fear of sexually harming someone or of having an inappropriate attraction. For example, a sufferer might have the intrusive thought of sexual attraction to a family member.
  • Magical thinking: Believing bad thoughts will cause actual harm. Someone who experiences magical thinking might repeat certain words in their mind to "repel" bad things from happening. They may also believe in bad luck, signs or other symbols.
  • Violent: Fear of compulsively harming a loved one, child, self or another innocent person. For example, they might experience the intrusive thought of jumping in front of a train and the terror that they will act on that impulse.

If any of these thoughts pop into your head, it does not mean you are abnormal or that you are going to commit a crime. A lot of people with intrusive thinking feel ashamed and guilty for having bad thoughts and they may avoid getting the help they need. They may also avoid family members or children for fear of harming them.

If you obsess over intrusive thoughts, a professional can help you uncover the causes of your thoughts and help you learn ways to cope with them when they arise. Thoughts are often fears in disguise and a professional can help you to identify and address these fears.

You may also ruminate over your thoughts, which may be another symptom of OCD. Ruminating means you repeatedly think about something without a solution. For example, you may have the thought that you hurt a family member. As a result, you might ask yourself what that means, what would happen if you acted on your thought and what is wrong you for having the thought. After you ask yourself questions without answering them, you start asking yourself the same questions again and again. This process can continue for hours or days. for many, it can be difficult to resist ruminating — and it takes practice to overcome — which is where a mental health professional can help.

If you believe that you may be suffering from any type of OCD, seek the help and diagnosis of a mental health professional.

What Causes OCD?

The exact cause of OCD is not known. However, certain risk factors may contribute to or trigger OCD in some individuals. Those are:

  • A family history of OCD: If any of your family members have OCD, you may have a higher risk of developing OCD yourself.
  • Stress: Experiencing a traumatic or highly stressful event may trigger intrusive thinking or obsessive thinking and ritualistic behavior.
  • Mental health disorder: If you suffer from depression, anxiety another mental health disorder or substance abuse, you may have a greater risk of OCD.

Triggers cause a person with OCD to experience OCD symptoms. Therefore, they will do whatever it takes to avoid triggers and the uncomfortable feelings presented by their OCD — even if that means avoiding someone or something that they love.

What Are Obsessive-Compulsive-Related Disorders?

Some disorders resemble the compulsion to act and the obsessive thinking associated with OCD. The following disorders often cause embarrassment for the sufferer, but they are also treatable, like OCD.

1. Hair Pulling – Trichotillomania (TTM)

Trichotillomania (TTM), also called hair-pulling, is the compulsion to pull out one's hair. People who suffer from TTM are embarrassed by their habit and do it in secret. They may pluck the hair out of their head, eyebrow, eyelashes, arms legs, face or other areas of the body with their fingers or tweezers. TTM may relieve stress and bring pleasure to those affected by this habit disorder. Sometimes, they are unaware of their actions. Either way, they find the urge hard to resist.

Trichotillomania - Hair pulling

2. Skin Pricking – Excoriation

Individuals who suffer from excoriation, or skin-picking, pick their skin until it bleeds or becomes damaged. Those who suffer from the skin-picking habit may feel anxious or the urge to pick so strongly that they are unable to resist, regardless of the damage that occurs. Most people pick the skin on their face, but this habit can be acted out anywhere on the body. Usually, after excoriation takes place, the person will experience feelings of depression or guilt.

Excoriation - Skin picking

Many people with excoriation disorder also suffer from body dysmorphic disorder. They may remove blemishes, moles or bug bites with their nails, tweezers or other sharp objects in hope of a clearer complexion. Sometimes, this habit leads to infection or scarring. A sufferer of this disorder may try to cover up the skin damage with makeup or they may avoid going out in public.

3. Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is when a person is obsessed with a perceived flaw in their body. Someone who suffers from BDD strongly believes they are ugly or exaggerates an imperfection in their mind even if they look "normal" — or at least unremarkable — to someone else. In severe cases, a BDD sufferer will avoid leaving their house. Some individuals with BDD can recognize they are exaggerating, while others cannot.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)

Possible causes of BDD include low-self esteem or past experiences with bullying. Many sufferers also have other disorders like anxiety, depression or an eating disorder.

What Are the Treatment Options for OCD?

If you suffer from OCD or an OCD-related disorder, you may feel like nothing can help you. However, OCD can be managed — and it is possible to manage symptoms and live a life free of obsessive-compulsive behavior. The goal of treatment is to help you gain control of your thoughts, fears and urges through coping skills and possibly medication if the doctor thinks it necessary based on the individual case. The sooner you seek treatment, the better. The most effective forms of treatment include:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a type of psychotherapy that helps people control their symptoms by changing negative thoughts and destructive behavior patterns. Unlike psychoanalysis, which focuses on deep wounds, CBT focus on solutions and behavior modification.

2. Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy

Exposure and response prevention therapy (ERP) is a form of CBT and involves facing fears. With this form of therapy, a mental health professional will help you to expose yourself to fear and then deny yourself the compulsion to react to the fear. They can do this in-person or by providing guidance for you to perform ERP therapy at home.

With ERP, a person is not asked to face their greatest fear right away. Instead, the person will list all of the things that cause them anxiety, from the weakest to the strongest. Then, they will gradually work their way up the list, starting with less extreme fears first. ERP is often done in conjunction with CBT.

3. Medication

A therapist or doctor may prescribe an antidepressant to help calm the symptoms of OCD. Common OCD medications include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). A doctor will determine if medication should be a part of a person’s treatment plan for OCD.

4. Individual and Group Therapy

Individual and group therapy both have their benefits. In an individual therapy session, the focus is on you. You may feel safer expressing your concerns, thoughts and feelings in an intimate setting versus a group setting. For this reason, you may be more motivated to stick to therapy appointments and you might be more honest about your issues, which will help a therapist decide on the best course of action.

However, group therapy is also worth considering, either in union with individual therapy or by itself. Some people may feel more comfortable in a group setting without the focus on them only. Group therapy may help you find your voice, but most importantly, show you that you are not alone with your OCD. With group therapy, you will have the opportunity to connect with others who struggle with similar symptoms and you can give each other strength, motivation and courage to make the journey towards happiness and wellbeing.

In addition to seeking professional help, there are also ways you can help yourself manage your OCD. These include:

  • Set healthy goals and stick to your goals
  • Continue work and social routines
  • Continue work and social routines
  • Follow your doctor’s directions
  • Take any prescribed medication as directed
  • Contact your doctor or therapist if symptoms worsen
  • Explore healthy forms of self-expression, such as art or other hobbies
  • Keep your appointments with your doctor or therapist, even if you feel they are no longer needed

Treatment may take some time before you start to improve but try not to lose hope or give up. Most good things in life take time and you deserve a happy, healthy life.

Brookhaven Retreat Can Help

If you have OCD, you may feel embarrassed or ashamed by your behavior. Just remember: a lot of people are affected by this disorder and there is treatment available to you.

Women may, especially, feel ashamed of the stigma attached to OCD because of the roles they are expected to fill. Women are often mothers, wives, working professionals and more, and juggle a variety of responsibilities at once, but that does not mean OCD should make them feel guilty. Brookhaven Retreat is a women-only mental health treatment center with caring and compassionate staff who understand what you are going through. If you think you may have OCD, take our self-evaluation test to find out. If you need somewhere to turn for help, do not hesitate to contact us today.

Published in Brookhaven Blog
Thursday, 29 March 2018 13:57

Do I Have a Love Addiction?

What is the difference between real love and an addiction to the feeling and idea of love? Sometimes we chase the idea of love and the perfect relationship and lose sight of the things that we need in order to really, truly experience love.

What is the difference between real love and an addiction to the feeling and idea of love? Sometimes we chase the idea of love and the perfect relationship and lose sight of the things that we need in order to really, truly experience love.

Love addiction, like any addiction, is real. Many of us have experienced it at one point in our lives without even realizing it. Understanding the signs and symptoms of love addiction cam help you to move toward healthy and lasting relationships.

What Is Love Addiction?

What is an addition? Addiction begins with pleasure. Pleasure may result from substance use or engaging in an activity. There is nothing wrong with enjoying pleasurable sensations and feelings. However, when pleasure turns into compulsive behavior and interferes with your responsibilities, personal health and relationships, you may have an addiction. Addiction makes you feel unable to control the urge to engage in a specific activity, despite the problems that it may cause for your physical, mental and emotional health. Love addiction is like any other addiction.

For example, no matter how bad a relationship is for you, you may find yourself unable to let go. You may compulsively do whatever you can to please your partner in exchange for their attention. You may also find yourself chasing after unhealthy, unfulfilling relationships because you are focused on finding someone to love or are uncomfortable being alone.

You may have a love addiction

Love Addiction Affects Your Ability to Form Healthy Relationships

An addiction to love can make it difficult to develop and maintain a healthy relationship. You rely on another person to bring you happiness and you put pressure on them to make you feel loved, or pressure on yourself to find happiness with the wrong person. You may fantasize about obtaining a rush of love somewhere else. You may cheat on your partner as a result or you might try to control their behavior to meet your needs.

In a healthy relationship, you do not try to control the other person. Nor do either of you depend on the other for happiness, though being with them should certainly make you happy. In a loving relationship, you are with your partner because you want to be — not because you feel you need to be. With love addiction, you may feel unable to live without a significant other, even if the relationship is more harmful than good.

Don't beat yourself up

If you think you are addicted to love, the first step is not to beat yourself up. It is normal and natural to want to experience love. Next, realize that love needs to happen inside of yourself before it can be given to someone else. This does not mean you have to wait until you are a perfect person to experience love. Rather, it only means you need to be able to separate your self-worth from a relationship and love yourself for who you are as an individual person.

Once you recognize the symptoms of love addiction, you will be able to work towards recovery. In time, you will be able to develop meaningful, healthy relationships that are based on love instead of a fear of being alone or incomplete. It is possible to develop a strong and loving partnership at any point in life, no matter your relationship history.

What Are the Symptoms of Love Addiction?

One of the surest ways to tell you are addicted to love is if you stay in a relationship even if it makes you unhappy most of the time. You may even stay in a physically or emotionally abusive relationship to avoid the pain of being alone or out of fear you will never find love again.

If you are wondering if you are addicted to love, rather than actually in love and in a healthy relationship, here are general symptoms to look out for:

  • You are obsessed with the idea of being in love: You are preoccupied with fantasies of romance and love and may expect love to reflect the romance you find in film, music or other works of art. You may fantasize about romance and passionate love even while in a relationship.
  • You are obsessed with another person: You may obsessively think about your partner or a potential partner and you would do anything to be near them. You may neglect friends, family or hobbies because all your time revolves around this other person. You may mistake sexual passion for emotional intimacy.
  • You cling to the other person: When you are with the person, you act clingy, feel the need to check up on them often and express a constant need for their attention regardless of how they feel. You may fight to make the relationship feel passionate.
  • You are unable to let go of a bad relationship: You may stay in a bad relationship, even if you are suffering from emotional or physical abuse. You may also settle for less out of fear that you will never find love with someone else, or you may continuously return to an unhealthy relationship.
  • You value initial attraction over long-term intimacy: You may find yourself always chasing and expecting the initial spark of love. While in a relationship, you may look the love "high" somewhere else once passion has faded with your current partner. You may feel you need to find your "soulmate" to be happy in life.

Chasing the initial thrill of love

  • You cannot handle the relationship ending: If your partner threatens to leave or end the relationship, you become overwhelmed by intense feelings of despair. You would do anything to prevent the relationship from ending, even if it is abusive or makes you unhappy.
  • You cannot tolerate loneliness: The pain of being alone or not in a relationship is unbearable to you. You feel you would accept anyone as a partner just to avoid being alone. You may put all your time and energy into attracting a partner to avoid this pain. When no one is available to you, you may compulsively use sex or fantasies to escape.
  • You would sacrifice anything to please your partner: More than once, you have sacrificed time with friends, families or yourself to please your partner. You agree to change for your partner and you try to behave the way they want you to behave. You put all your effort into making them happy and you are terrified of displeasing them for fear they will leave you.
  • You are jealous and possessive: You get jealous when your partner speaks to or speaks of the opposite sex and you try to prevent them from interacting socially out of fear they will be attracted to someone else. You try to control the decisions they make, and you make them feel guilty when they go out with friends.
  • You love someone even if they do not love you back: You may obsessively try to change someone's mind about you even if they rejected you. If you are in a relationship, you may put more effort into the relationship than your partner does.

You may put more effort into the relationship

  • You feel powerless: You may feel weightless and ready to drift along to your significant other’s every wish and whim. You may feel like you have no control over your thoughts, feelings or actions and like you have lost your identity.
  • You think you need love from another person to be happy: You think your partner is responsible for making you feel secure, happy and loved. You feel like your life could never be complete without another person filing you with love.

With love addiction, you often know your relationship or behavior is harming you, but you continue these actions because the pain of letting go is greater — even though, in reality, it is temporary.

Brain chemicals involved in initial attraction

Love is like a drug. Scientifically speaking, the initial attraction releases high levels of dopamine and norepinephrine — brain chemicals that make us feel euphoric and energized. The brain reacts to attraction the same way it reacts to cocaine or sugary foods. You may search for a constant love-high whether you are in a relationship or not and suffer withdrawal when a relationship ends.

Many substance abusers also take drugs to escape the pain of emotional wounds. Without the drug, person or relationship, you are forced to face traumatic memories or painful feelings alone.

All addictions are treatable and start with admitting addiction and seeking help to move towards recovery. Once you admit you are addicted to love, you can begin to dig deeper and uncover the causes of your love addiction. You will then shed light on what you really want and deserve in life. As a result, you will be closer to finding the type of relationship you truly desire deep down.

What Causes Love Addiction?

Many addictions can be traced back to traumatic childhood experiences. Traumatic experiences such as abuse or abandonment teach us at a young age not to trust other people. As a result, we may cling to people who make us feel safe. However, a partner in an adult relationship should not and cannot serve the role of a parent. Instead, both partners should support each other equally.

Both partners should support each other equally

While there may not be a lot of scientific resources on the topic of love addiction to date, like any addiction, love addiction is a psychological dependence on something outside of oneself that will drive someone to commit compulsive and self-destructive behavior. Possible causes of love addiction may include:

  • Low self-esteem: You may believe love will make you whole, valuable or worthy. Similarly, you may feel you are not good enough for the right partner or you may fear there is something wrong with you that a good person could never love. Low self-esteem often has deep roots in childhood experiences.
  • A dysfunctional family: During childhood, we develop a viewpoint of what normal relationships are, and if we come from a dysfunctional family we may easily accept unhealthy relationships as the norm. For example, you may have learned it is normal for people you love to hurt you if you had an abusive parent or guardian.
  • Distrustfulness: You may distrust people from past abuse, and this can cause you to avoid genuine intimacy. Instead, you may seek the shallow waters of love in its early stages.
  • Loneliness in childhood: Childhood loneliness may have carried into adulthood. As a lonely child, you may have thought the reason for your loneliness was a personal flaw. As an adult, you may feel you need someone to validate who you are to avoid the negative feelings that you developed during childhood.
  • Unresolved childhood trauma: Neglect, abandonment and physical, emotional or sexual abuse are all factors that can lead to addiction. For example, if you were neglected as a child, you may seek the parental unconditional support and love you were missing in childhood from an adult partner.
  • A family history of addiction or mental health issues: An addictive personality may be hereditary. Disorders like depression are also often inherited. Depression, for example, can make normal life struggles more difficult to cope with. Also, it is possible you learned addictive behavior from family members.
  • Co-occurring disorders: Depression, anxiety or other mental health disorders may affect your ability to find and maintain a healthy relationship.

If you recognize any of the factors as the cause for your love addiction, do not lose hope. All of these elements can be addressed and treated no matter how many years they have been buried and no matter how severe they are. The potential for a great relationship is within your reach, regardless of your past.

Potential for having a great relationship

What Is the Treatment for Love Addiction?

Because love addiction is usually rooted in childhood, many people choose to seek professional treatment. This can help you rebuild a sense of self and discover why you rely so much on the idea of love.

Here are some tips to help you focus on self-love and self-reliance:

  • Seek professional help: A professional can assess your individual case and help to put together a customized treatment plan. They can help you find the cause of your addiction and will help you process difficult unresolved emotions from past traumatic experiences.
  • Address other mental health issues: If you suffer from depression, anxiety or overwhelming stress, you may benefit from seeking treatment for these issues as well. By addressing other mental health issues in your life, you will have an easier time taking a step back and evaluating your current or past relationship with honesty and clarity.
  • Reconnect with hobbies: What did you enjoy doing before you became addicted to love? Are there any new hobbies you are interested in, like jewelry-making or blogging? Picking up a hobby will help you disconnect from love addiction and reconnect with a sense of self.
  • Reconnect with friends and family members: You may have neglected your relationships with other important people in your life as a result of love addiction. Try rebuilding positive relationships with friends and family to help you rebuild your identity as an individual.

Reconnect with friends and family

  • Focus on self-care: Eat healthy foods, get exercise, adequate sleep and treat yourself with love and respect. Set goals for yourself that do not revolve around love and relationships.
  • Aim to relieve stress: Stress can exacerbate the symptoms of addiction, so do what you can to reduce stress is in your life. Take long walks by yourself or with a friend, play with a pet or spend a day pampering yourself.
  • Refrain from romance: If you are not in a committed relationship, try not participating in any romantic activities for at least six months. During this time, explore your emotions and thoughts and look to determine what you need to be happy as an individual and what qualities in a partner would be a good fit for you. If you are in a relationship, try not to make any big decisions without honest introspection first.
  • Accept the initial difficult feelings: It will be hard to turn your focus inward. You might have a lot of painful memories that you would rather not think about. You may feel lonely, sad or desperate. Realize that these emotions are part of the growth process. Once you are closer to knowing yourself, you will be closer to accepting and loving yourself as you are, and that's the first step to a healthy relationship.

What Does a Healthy Loving Relationship Look Like?

Some people seem to have the perfect relationship. You might know a couple who acts content around each other, never seems to fight and appears to be completely in-sync. On one hand, you may feel envious of this couple. On the other, you may believe their peaceful relationship is lacking the passion and thrill of love you crave.

The truth is, all relationships require effort and no relationship is perfect all the time. Every relationship has good days and bad days, so to expect perfection is unrealistic. However, a healthy relationship is not abusive and requires equal effort by both partners. If there seem to be more bad days than good, there may be deeper issues at hand.

What does a healthy relationship look like? A relationship filled with love is not one that exists on a roller coaster. Love is not meant to be experienced as a series of extreme highs and lows. Instead, a loving relationship is more like a slow cross-country drive. Occasionally, you will hit a road bump or detour — but overall the ride is gentle, calming and safe.

In a loving relationship, both partners will:

  • Have the same basic values and life goals
  • Work to achieve goals together
  • Have a strong sense of trust
  • Feel comfortable communicating honestly and openly
  • Maintain separate identities
  • Encourage and support growth
  • Strive to understand each other
  • Feel comfortable discussing wants and needs
  • Listen to each other's wants and needs
  • Know how to compromise
  • Respect each other's differences
  • Set realistic expectations for the relationship
  • Contribute equally to the relationship
  • Contribute equally to the relationship
  • Treat other kindly and with empathy and consideration
  • Enjoy each other's company and share similar interests
  • Give each other space to pursue their own interests and spend time with friends
  • Accept each other for who they are
  • Feel connected like friends
  • Show affection
  • Feel comfortable, relaxed and safe around each other

No relationship is perfect

No relationship is perfect because no person is perfect and every person shows love in their own way. It's also quite normal to have different interests than your partner and to have disagreements from time to time. We are all complex individuals with our own separate needs. However, the above traits exist in one way or the other in relationships built to last.

If you and your partner both harbor unresolved emotional issues, it may be difficult for either of you to maintain a healthy relationship. Getting the help you need will benefit all of your relationships — but most importantly, the relationship you have with yourself.

Know When to Ask for Help

Any type of addiction is treatable. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is ask for help — especially if your relationship or desire for love is overwhelming your responsibilities and daily routine.

Addiction can be difficult to overcome on your own. It is complex and often involves many factors, including childhood traumas and other co-occurring mental health issues. If you feel trapped in a relationship because you are afraid to be alone, or if you find yourself in a state of complete despair without a relationship, you may be addicted to love. The first step to healing and moving closer to a healthy and intimate relationship is to admit your addiction and get the treatment you need and deserve.

At Brookhaven Retreat, we strive to help women who struggle with depression, anxiety, addictions, unresolved trauma or anything else that holds them back from experiencing true happiness. You deserve a healthy long-term relationship that adds to your life and supports your dreams and your authenticity.

You have what it takes to move forward from love addiction and closer to genuine intimacy. But the first step to healing is admitting you have an addiction. Take our quiz out find out if you are addicted to love or contact Brookhaven Retreat today to get in touch with professionals who care.

Contact Brookhaven Retreat

Published in Brookhaven Blog
Friday, 23 March 2018 18:00

Tips for Dealing with Spring Allergies

Seasonal allergies are part of life for many people, and spring can be one of the most difficult allergy seasons. After several weeks indoors, spring sends people outside to enjoy more moderate weather conditions and the renewal of the growing season. Sprouting plants, trees and grasses, however, can aggravate allergy symptoms. Welcome to spring!

Tips for Reducing the Effects of Spring Allergies

The cycle of life continues every spring, and so do seasonal allergies. Fortunately, there are some ways to reduce the severity of your allergic reaction and make this season more comfortable. Here are some tips:

1. Cut the Grass

Grass can be a big problem for seasonal allergy sufferers since it is a huge source of pollen in the spring, especially. Keeping your grass trimmed and picking up the grass clippings will control the number of allergens around your home.

You may want to wear a dust mask when you work on the grass to avoid inhaling pollen. Cut the grass short and remove the clippings. When you are finished, be sure to clean yourself up, too. Remove your clothes and wash them right away to get rid of pollen. Also shower immediately afterward for the same reason.

2. Turn up the A/C

Even though spring weather may not be unbearably hot, the air-conditioning can help reduce your allergy symptoms. Using the a/c in your house blocks out some of the outdoor allergens since the unit's filter catches most of the pollen and dust, preventing it from circulating in your house.

Cooler temperatures in your house will keep any existing pollen or mold spores from growing and turning into even bigger irritants. Using the a/c can help you control the air quality inside your house, creating a haven for allergy sufferers. There are also specific air filters that you can use in your HVAC system that can help with allergies.

3. Saline Rinse

Saline is a salt solution that can help ease your allergy symptoms. Rinsing your eyes and nasal passages with saline can wash away any lingering pollen or dust that can continue to irritate. Saline also inhibits growth the growth of viruses or bacteria that could develop into a sinus infection.

Clearing out any congestion from your sinuses will also make you more comfortable. Congestion is your body’s way of protecting you from allergens, but it causes problems of its own. Regular rinsing with saline will remove the excess mucus and reduce that sticky, itchy feeling.

4. Work on Spring Cleaning Early in the Season

When you are experiencing allergies, the idea of cleaning out dusty, pollen-covered corners of your house can be uncomfortable. Try to get to your spring cleaning before allergy season begins. Getting rid of any irritants that built up over the winter can help reduce your spring allergy discomfort.

Mattresses, carpets and upholstered furniture can all collect dust and allergens. Be sure to clean all of the soft surfaces in your home. Dust and pollen can settle in and stick to any surface. Pay special attention to areas where you spend a lot of time, like your bed. Wash linens and pillows, clean the headboard and vacuum the mattress. You might also consider investing in allergy-friendly covers for your mattress and pillows.

5. Hit the Shower

Of course, you shower daily, but you may not realize how showering can help reduce your allergy symptoms. Pollen and dust settle on your clothes whenever you are outside. You can wash your clothes when you come in, but there are still lingering bits of pollen and mold on your skin and in your hair.

Rinsing yourself off frequently throughout the day can reduce the number of allergens you are exposed to. Also, showering before bed can help you sleep easier and with less congestion and other allergy symptoms.

Spring Allergy Relief Is Possible

Dealing with spring allergies can be easier when you follow these tips. A little planning and preparation could make this year your best spring season ever.

Allergies are a part of your immune system kicked into overdrive. Approaching allergy symptoms with an organized strategy can reduce your anxiety and discomfort and knowing how to fight allergies naturally might make spring a more pleasant time for you. Seasonal allergies might be a reality, but they don’t have to rule your life.

Be sure to discuss any severe allergy symptoms with your doctor, they may be able to prescribe medications and other coping techniques specific to your situation.

Published in Brookhaven Blog
Thursday, 22 March 2018 18:15

Mental Health and Your Immune System

You may be aware of the connection between your physical and mental health. Physical conditions such as chronic pain can result in mental symptoms like irritability and anxiety. People who suffer from mental illnesses also often feel physical symptoms like lethargy, digestive issues or unexplained physical pain. The specific connection between mental health and the immune system is a more recent development, though, and has long-term health implications.

How Your Mental Health Affects Your Immune System

The relationship between mental health and immune functioning is becoming more clear as science discovers the physical symptoms caused by mental illness. Heart disease and diabetes are considerably more likely among people who suffer from depression or schizophrenia, for example. Recent research shows the chemical imbalance caused by one may lead to the other.

Here is a look at the connection between the immune system and two common mental issues:

1. Stress and Your Immune System

Stress causes known physiological changes in your body. The best way to illustrate this is to consider the fight or flight response. When your brain believes you are under stress, your body reacts by preparing to defend yourself or flee the danger. This involves an elevation in heart rate and a divergence of blood flow away from non-essential functions, like digestion. The blood flow is instead redirected to muscles needed to run or fight.

A diagnosed stress disorder means you experience these physiological changes often and even when there is no actual impending danger. Left untreated, a stress disorder can lead to other issues like panic attacks and other intensified symptoms. It can interfere with your sleep patterns and diminish your overall physical health.

Each physical symptom of stress can impact your immune system negatively. When your heart rate remains elevated for a prolonged period, you are more likely to develop chronic diseases such as diabetes or coronary disease. Your immune system’s ability to protect you from disease erodes as well.

When the stress is lifted, your immune system can begin to heal itself. Your body can stop its crisis-mode functioning and relax. Better sleep allows your body to perform the maintenance functions needed to achieve good health and fight off infections. A more constant heart rate and blood sugar level make it easier for your immune system to protect you from disease as intended.

2. Depression and Your Immune System

Depression can cause many of the same physical symptoms as stress — and chronic stress can lead to depression.

As research into the connection between mental health and physical health continues, more concrete links are discovered. Inflammation is now understood to be a commonality between depression and the breakdown of the immune system.

One specific cell protein that links depression with reduced immune functioning is cytokines. These chemicals signal inflammation throughout the central nervous system and are prevalent in people with depression. They are likely to be the cause of the aches and pains commonly associated with depression — before, they were traditionally considered psychosomatic.

The immune system uses cytokines to call for inflammation that protects damaged parts of your body. When you hit your head on a low shelf, the bump that develops is a result of your immune system flooding the area with fluids to repair the damage. Like all immune responses, inflammation becomes a negative health factor when it occurs frequently and without benefiting your body.

Treating Mental Health Issues May Improve Your Immune System

The specific connections between mental health and your immune system offer an additional path to improved physical health. In addition to treating the immune system directly, by resolving your mental health issues, you may be able to improve your immune functioning and thereby your overall physical health.

When there are physical symptoms involved, do not rule out the possibility of a mental health issue. Treating the mental health disorder gets to the core of the problem, while simply treating the pain or other physical symptom is only a temporary fix.

If you are experiencing chronic physical symptoms that have little or no explanation, they may be linked to a co-occurring mental health issue. At Brookhaven Retreat, we can help you. We help women overcome depression, anxiety and trauma, so they can get back on track to optimal health. Contact Brookhaven today if you or a loved one is struggling with a mental health issue.

Published in Brookhaven Blog
Friday, 16 March 2018 06:19

Common Vitamin and Nutrient Deficiencies

Nutrition is an important part of overall health and many key vitamins and minerals affect critical parts of our body, including skeletal, cardiovascular, digestive and neurological systems.

10 Common Nutritional Deficiencies

Nutrition is a matter of balance, like most things in life. You need to take in a certain amount of fuel to keep your body going. Beyond that, optimal health can be reached with the right concentration of nutrients in the food you eat.

Check out these 10 specific nutrients that are often deficient in a typical diet:

1. Calcium

Bone health is commonly associated with calcium intake, but there are other signs of a calcium deficiency. Heart rhythm issues, fatigue, muscle weakness and poor blood clotting are also signs there is not enough calcium in your diet.

Most of the calcium in your body is in your bones where it provides a strong framework. However, it is also involved in some essential cellular functions, which may mean it can help protect you from cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Calcium is found in most dairy products as well as sardines, collard greens, white beans and almonds.

2. Iron

Anemia, trouble sleeping, muscle weakness, weight fluctuations and mood swings can all be signs of an iron deficiency. Iron helps your body produce the portion of red blood cells that carries oxygen through your body. It also aids in the digestion and nutrient absorption process to help your body make the best use of the nutrients you ingest.

White beans, kidney beans, chickpeas and lentils are all good plant sources of iron. It can also be found in beef, lamb, duck and sardines.

3. Vitamin B12

Fatigue, muscle aches and joint pain are some common signs of a vitamin B12 deficiency. Other symptoms can include depression, anxiety, poor appetite and bleeding gums.

Vitamin B12 is essential in the production of DNA and some neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers of the central nervous system. It is only released in the presence of certain stomach acids and enzymes, so gut health plays a part in relieving a deficiency.

Wild-caught fish and grass-fed meat are the best sources of vitamin B12. It can also be found in yogurt, raw milk and chicken or beef liver.

4. Magnesium

Every cell in your body contains magnesium to help it perform several biochemical reactions each day. Asthma, migraines, hypertension, stroke, inflammation and osteoporosis can all be signs of a magnesium deficiency. Magnesium helps your body build RNA, DNA and other necessary proteins, and it assists in nutrient absorption and balance throughout the body.

Chocolate is one of the most concentrated sources of magnesium, so a magnesium deficiency could explain frequent chocolate cravings. Other sources of magnesium include: avocados, pumpkin seeds, tofu and almonds.

5. Potassium

High blood pressure, stroke and heart disease are the more severe signs of potassium deficiency. It may also cause joint pain, muscle spasms, memory loss, fatigue and poor concentration. As one of the most abundant minerals in your body, potassium helps balance fluids and minerals in your body.

Potassium works with sodium to maintain daily cell functions including heartbeat and other muscle contractions. Lima beans are a great source of potassium, along with broccoli, avocado, bananas and sweet potatoes.

6. Vitamin D

Immune issues, emotional ups and downs, hormone imbalance, trouble gaining muscle or losing weight, weak bones or teeth, cancer, diabetes and heart disease can all be symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D acts as a sort of steroid hormone in the body, helping to absorb calcium and maintain strong bones. It is also essential in digestive health and hormone balance. Sunshine is the best source of vitamin D, but it is also accessible in these foods: halibut, salmon, eel, sardines, tuna, eggs and cod liver oil.

7. Iodine

Recurrent infections, depression, headaches and menstrual problems are all signs of a potential iodine deficiency. Brain development is one of the vital functions that involves iodine. It also helps the thyroid gland produce certain hormones that control cell and brain development.

An iodine deficiency can negatively affect your liver, kidneys, heart and brain. Although not common in the American diet, seaweed is especially high in iodine. Other good food sources include cranberries, yogurt, potatoes, milk and shrimp.

8. Vitamin A

The most obvious signs of a vitamin A deficiency are vision problems, and children without enough vitamin A in their diets can develop blindness or less severe vision impairments. In the U.S., vitamin A is prevalent in most diets, but an inability to absorb vitamin A can lead to a deficiency. Vitamin A also helps you maintain bone and skin health, plus it is essential for eye health.

People suffering from alcoholism typically struggle to absorb enough vitamin A. These food sources offer natural vitamin A: carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, romaine lettuce, butter and eggs. Talk to your doctor before adding any vitamin A supplements to your diet.

9. Folate (Vitamin B9)

Frequent colds and poor digestion can be signs of a folate deficiency. Other signs include premature gray hair, anemia, canker sores and poor growth during infancy. Folate is also called vitamin B9 and is essential for new cell production, proper fetus development and immune function.

The right amount of folate in your diet might prevent certain types of cancers and birth defects. Natural sources of folate include spinach, broccoli, black-eyed peas, Brussels sprouts and asparagus.

10. Vitamin B6

If you are experiencing lack of energy, irritability and fatigue, you may have a vitamin B6 deficiency. A severe vitamin B6 deficit may be accompanied by trouble staying asleep, recurring pink eye and skin irritations.

Vitamin B6 is involved in memory, blood flow, movement and energy regulation. It helps circulate oxygen throughout the body and maintain a healthy nervous system. Chicken and turkey breast are good sources of vitamin B6, along with pistachios, pinto beans, sesame seeds and avocado.

Ask Your Doctor

Nutrition is key to achieving optimal health, but always consult your doctor before making drastic changes to your diet or taking any supplements. A doctor can effectively diagnose any symptoms that you are experiencing and recommend any necessary changes to your diet or supplement intake.

Published in Brookhaven Blog
Tuesday, 13 March 2018 08:08

The Best Foods for Your Immune System

Your body has a natural system for fighting off disease. By giving your immune system what it needs to work well, you can help keep yourself from getting sick and stay healthy as much as possible.

If you do get sick, certain foods may help you recover from illness faster and give you an edge on maintaining your immune system.

The 12 Best Foods for Your Immune System

If you want to know how to boost your immune system naturally, food may be the answer. Nutrition can be a tricky business, though, and some foods are better than others to help you achieve your goal of staying healthy and free of seasonal flus and viruses.

Most whole foods offer some health benefits, but knowing which ones specifically can affect your immune system can lead you to an illness-free state much quicker. By combining the healthiest immune-boosting foods and other healthy habits, you can create a daily routine that will help you keep those seasonal colds, flus and other viruses at bay.

Consider the benefits of these 12 foods for improving immune health:

  1. Garlic: Shown to reduce rates of colorectal and stomach cancer in people who consume several garlic cloves per week, garlic is a strong infection fighter. Its active ingredient, allicin, gives garlic anti-bacterial properties.
  2. Yogurt: Yogurt adds beneficial bacteria to your digestive system, making it work better and boosting your immune response.
  3. Turmeric: The anti-inflammatory properties of this curry spice can be helpful in treating osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The active ingredient, curcumin, helps muscles recover from strenuous workouts, too.
  4. Seafood: The selenium found in certain shellfish helps your immune system fight viruses by stimulating your body’s production of cytokines. Respiratory infections can sometimes be blocked by the Omega-3 fats found in some fatty, cold-water fish.
  5. Oats: This grain improves your immune function by contributing a type of fiber called beta-glucan to your diet. This specialized fiber found in oats and barley includes antimicrobial and antioxidant properties.
  6. Chicken Soup: Cysteine released from chicken during cooking is an amino acid that may be responsible for the healing powers of chicken soup. Additionally, chicken soup contains collagen to boost the immune system and prevent the spread of inflammation.
  7. Oranges and Grapefruits: Citrus fruits are some of the best for boosting your immune system. Their high concentration of vitamin C, a nutrient your body cannot store, makes them a daily essential for good health.
  8. Shiitake Mushrooms: White blood cells fight infection, and mushrooms can help make those white blood cells more aggressive. Adding shiitake mushrooms to your diet may reduce the length of time it takes you to get over an infection.
  9. Broccoli: Full of vitamins A, C and E, plus antioxidants and fiber, broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat for your immune system. Vitamins A, C and E are essential for optimal immune function, and broccoli delivers them all in one tasty dish. The best way to eat broccoli, to preserve all its nutrients, is raw.
  10. Ginger: Ginger can decrease inflammation and chronic pain thanks to the active substance gingerol, the element that gives fresh, raw ginger its pungent flavor. Ginger also soothes a sore throat and can settle an upset stomach.
  11. Sweet Potatoes: The nutrients in sweet potatoes contribute to good skin health, and your skin is an important part of your immune system. The skin blocks a majority of harmful substances from entering your body where they could cause damage. Sweet potatoes contain a high concentration of beta-carotene, essential for vitamin A production.
  12. Almonds: The combination of healthy fat and vitamin E make almonds strong immune-boosters. Vitamin E is just as important to your immune system as vitamin C, but it can only be absorbed with fat.

Healthy Diet Helps Lead to a Healthy Immune System

During cold and flu season, you may want to try adding these foods to your diet. Any time of the year, however, these nutrient-packed superfoods can help to improve your health and maintain a strong immune system.

Your body has the natural ability to heal itself and protect you from disease, but it needs the proper fuel. By incorporating healthy foods into your diet daily, you can boost your immune system naturally.

Published in Brookhaven Blog