Thursday, June 30, 2016

Is Your Kid an Addict?

By: Christine Hammond, LMHC

According to The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, 4 out of every 25 people over the age of 12 have an addiction. When six addicts are put together, one of them will have a multiple addiction problems. This means that for every standard classroom size of 25, there are 4 middle/high school kids who are already an addict. This does not include those who will develop addiction in later years.

What is an addiction? According to the DSM-V, the word addiction is no longer clinically used. Rather, it has been replaced with Substance Use Disorder or Substance-Induced Disorder. Each individual substance (like alcohol) is further divided into use, intoxication or withdrawal with specific criterion for each.
Some common characteristics of a substance use disorder (addiction) include:
·         Having to take the substance (like drugs) in greater amounts to achieve the same desired effect (high).
·         Attempts to reduce the intake are unsuccessful for long periods of time.
·         A great deal of time, energy, money, thought, and/or effort is spent trying to obtain the substance.
·         There is a craving for the substance when not currently intoxicated.
·         Use of substance is causing impairment in relationships, work, school or community.
·         Leisure activities are given up to use substance.
·         Substance is used regardless of risks associated with it.
·         Substance is taken in spite of the consequences imposed by health, family, work or friends.
·         The tolerance for the substance has increased while the effects of the substance have decreased.

What are examples of addiction? The types of addiction can be divided into two main categories:
1.       A substance from outside the body that is put into the body which creates a physical and/or psychological dependence.
a.      Some examples include: food, prescription drugs, alcohol, inhalants, hallucinogens, caffeine, cannabis/THC, tobacco, opioids, sedatives, stimulants, chocolate, diuretics, muscle relaxants, MSG, solvents, and steroids.
2.      A behavior performed to release a chemical produced naturally by the body thereby creating a physical and/or psychological dependence.
a.      Some examples include: shopping, cutting, money, exercising, religion, working, gambling, playing video games, internet, sex, stealing, violence/criminal activities, perfectionism, starting fires, seeking approval/attention/affection, vomiting, drama/chaos, codependency, collecting/hording, bleach, daydreaming, fetishes, computers/television, lust, love, masturbation, cleaning, relationships, pleasure, high risk activities, phone/texting, power, therapy, and voyeurism.

What can be done? Confronting an addict can be a very tricky thing. Think of addiction as a sliding scale from 1 to 10 with one being slightly addicted to ten being constantly intoxicated. For a person with an addiction on a level five or higher, seek professional help in confronting the addict. For those below a five, lovingly confront them and express concern for their behavior.

Remember, an addict will lie about their addiction. The best way to gauge the intensity or severity of an addiction is to “follow the money.” Nearly all addictions require some sort of financial obligation so tracing where the money is spent and how much is spent is a good indication of how acute the has become. Next to that, follow the time. Large amounts of unaccountable time can indicate an addiction as well. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

7 Ways Ex-Narcissists Retaliate Through Children

By: Christine Hammond, LMHC

Divorcing a narcissist doesn’t solve everything. While the day-to-day distance can elevate the stress, anxiety, depression, and frustration of living with a narcissist, it doesn’t stop them from being narcissistic. The next party on the victimization list is often the children. But really, the narcissist is just using the children to attack the ex-spouse (ES). Here’s how:
1.       Projection – Ex-Narcissists (EN) tells children that it is really the ES who is the narcissist. Any negative narcissistic traits are projected onto the ES, while the positive traits are preserved. For instance, an EN will claim the ES has no empathy and doesn’t understand what the children are feeling. However, the house they have is because of the EN’s achievements, not the joint effort of the prior marriage. It doesn’t matter what the truth is to the narcissist, it only matters how they can twist the truth to look superior.
2.      Unnecessary Generosity – When a narcissist can be recognized or admired for their generosity, they can be very lavish with gifting. This is usually done at random times so as to draw even greater amounts of attention. The recipient children in turn feed the EN’s ego with gratitude and feel a sense of obligation to be on the EN’s side. However, once the devotion has dried up, the EN becomes angry and sometimes takes the gift back. The EN will say, “The child never thanked me,” even when they did. This statement is said to elicit more praise, adoration, and keep the child committed to the EN.
3.      Excessive Discipline – On the opposite extreme of generosity is disproportionate discipline for minor infractions. The oscillating tactics of extravagant generosity verses excessive discipline keeps the child on edge. While the generosity inspires devotion (pulling the child in closer), the discipline sparks fear (pushing the child away). This mental abuse tactic is called push-pull. No doubt, this aggravates the ES who experienced and now despises witnessing it through the children. The EN knows this bothers the ES but does it anyway to maintain control of both the children and the ES.
4.      Dream Stealer – If the ES expressed a wish to take a European vacation, the EN will make it happen with the children and probably the new spouse. The EN will claim that the dream was their’s but it wasn’t. This tactic is done to show off to the ES. It also serves as a reminder that had they stayed, they too could be going on the trip. Of course, the ES won’t deny their children such a trip so they are forced to concede and let the children go. Any complaining by the ES comes off as sour grapes and only makes the EN look better. This is a checkmate maneuver.
5.      Gaslighting – A favorite line of the EN is, “That never happened, your mother/father (the ES) is making that up, they are crazy.” Without the filter of the ES present, the EN literally rewrites history and uses the push-pull tactic to cement the revision. When the ES protests the alteration, the EN blames the child for exaggerating. The confused child feels stuck between both parents, unsure which one to believe. This is a precursor to future anxiety issues in the child.
6.      Silent Treatment – Most ENs are talented in utilizing the silent treatment to get what they want by withholding love or affection. In a divorce situation, this tactic changes slightly. Now the EN will demand the ES contact them when the child is away from the EN. However, the EN will not do the same thing in return. When confronted, the EN makes excuses, blames the children, and deflects responsibility. Then the EN states the ES is just being demanding, controlling, manipulative, and overbearing. This silence is a constant reminder and fear that the ES has little to no control when the children are with the EN.
7.      Wrongful Punishment – When the EN becomes angry with the ES, the EN unjustly punishes the undeserving and unprotected children. This attack is so blatant that the ES and the children easily recognize it. But since the ES is out of reach of the EN, the EN goes after the closest target, the children. The children know they are being punished for the ES’s behavior. Sadly instead of becoming angry with the EN, the children become resentful of the ES for the lack of protection. This further alienates the ES from their kids.

Recognizing these seven ways can help an ES regain some amount of control over the situation. Better yet, having a therapist point out these methods to the children can prevent years of unnecessary anxiety. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Strategies to Help Children Following A Crisis

By: Dwight Bain, LMHC

Children look to their parents for support and encouragement during any crisis. The following is a guide to help parents and teachers manage the flood of emotions that may come up because of the terrorist attacks.

Ages birth-6
It is recommended that children under the age of six not be given exposure to major traumatic events. Children of this age draw their support from their parents, so if the parents or guardians feel safe and secure, the children will as well. Parents should speak calmly around children about bad things that happen in the world, and that "we will remember the people that were hurt in our prayers." If the parents are able to maintain a sense of calmness, children will feel safe.

Ages 6-12
Children this age are more aware of the world around them, yet still need moms and dads to shield them from most of the bad news in our world. Very limited exposure to the media is recommended at this stage, with more open discussions about any fears or insecurities that the child is feeling. Talking is encouraged for this age group, or write letters to emergency workers to thank them for helping the victims. Drawing pictures allows for healthy emotional expression, and something everyone needs is just being held close. A hug helps bring security to a child. Also remember to have special times of prayer. These steps help children better deal with their fears about bad things that happen in the world.

Ages 12-18
Young people have their own impressions of traumatic events. The older they are, the more likely they will have strong opinions, and it is normal for them to process their feelings with friends. This should be balanced with family, teachers, pastors or counselors. They need time to verbally process how they feel about what happened ten years ago. Special emphasis should be placed on helping this age group talk through the issues and how it impacted them and not stay isolated. Silence is a warning sign that the crisis events of the past have been internalized. Strict limits on over exposure of media is essential to prevent anxiety or panic levels from rising.

Warning Signs.
Stress signs of overexposure to painful memories from the past may occur immediately after the trauma or even a few years later. These signs are indicators that stress is beginning to overwhelm the individual. The longer the stress symptoms occur, the greater the severity of the traumatic event on the individual. This does not imply craziness or weakness rather it indicates that the memories are too powerful for the person to manage by themselves. Adults or children who display many of the following stress symptoms may need additional help dealing with the events of the crisis. They should seek the appropriate medical or psychological assistance.

Chills, thirst, fatigue, nausea, fainting, vomiting, dizziness, weakness, chest pain, headaches, elevated Blood Pressure, rapid heart rate, muscle tremors, difficulty breathing, shock symptoms, etc.

Fear, guilt, grief, panic, denial, anxiety, irritability, depression, apprehension, emotional shock, feeling overwhelmed, loss of emotional control, etc.

Confusion, nightmares, uncertainty, hyper-vigilance, suspiciousness, intrusive images, poor problem solving, poor abstract thinking, poor attention/memory and concentration, disorientation of time, places or people, difficulty identifying objects or people, heightened or lowered alertness, etc.

Withdrawal, antisocial acts, inability to rest, intensified pacing, erratic movements, changes in social activity, changes in speech patterns, loss of or increase of appetite, increased alcohol consumption, etc.

When in doubt, contact a trusted family member, a physician or certified mental health professional. It is important to actively deal with any painful past emotions to find strength to cope with issues in the present. Remember there are caring people who can help you. You never have to go through a crisis alone.

Bottom line discussion issues for growth. Think about and discuss these issues with others…

· How you have changed since the terrorist attacks?

· How you and your family are different since then?

· Talk about what was important to you on the day of the attacks… and what is important to you today.

Dwight Bain is an author who helps people manage major crisis. Follow his blog posts at or follow him online @DwightBain

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Community Care After a Crisis- Identifying dangerous Warning Signs and Trauma Symptoms

By: Dwight Bain, LMHC

A community crisis can terrorize an entire community in just a few minutes, while the recovery process to rebuild from the terrorist attack may take weeks or months to sort through. The more you know about how to survive and rebuild after this crisis, the faster you can take positive action to get your personal and professional life back on track.

Since community crisis events like terrorism, shootings at schools, malls or churches, or bombing are unpredictable, it requires a different course of action than the crisis brought on from natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, fires and floods. What can you do right now to cope with the psychological impact of a major community crisis brought on through terrorism?

1. Deal Directly with Your Emotions

This will reduce the tension and stress on you, which allows you to have more energy to deal with a difficult situation. However, if you stuff your fears and frustrations in a major community crisis, your emotions can quickly blow up without warning. Exploding in rage on your children, your coworkers or your marriage partner will only make a difficult situation worse.

Community crisis is a horrible situation full of loss and difficulty for everyone. By taking action now you can move beyond feeling overwhelmed by intense stress, anger or confusion. As you follow the insight from this recovery guide, you will be taking positive steps to rebuild with the focused energy of an even stronger life for you and your family after the emergency service workers pack up and go home because your community has recovered.

To best survive a major community crisis, you need a strong combination of three key elements:

·         healthy coping skills
·         healthy supports
·         healthy perspective

2. Consider the Health Dangers of Long-term Stress

A community crisis affects everyone however; it becomes dangerous to our health when the stress goes on for an extended period of time. Major stress can affect adults, children, the elderly and even pets, so it is important to be alert to watch for the danger signs of STS (secondary trauma syndrome), which leads to the psychological condition called Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder (commonly referred to as PTSD), in yourself, your family members and coworkers.

These symptoms include any dramatic change in emotions, behavior, thought patterns or physical symptoms over the next few days, weeks or even months. Since community crisis events are a terribly stressful time for everyone and often remain stressful for days or weeks to come, there are a number of factors to be aware of to keep yourself and those who you care about safe.

3. Identify the Warning Signs of Overload

These signs are indicators that the intense stress from the critical incident is beginning to overwhelm the individual. The longer the stress symptoms occur, the greater the severity of the traumatic event on the individual. This does not imply craziness or personal weakness; rather, it simply indicates that the stress levels from the storm were too powerful for the person to manage and their body is reacting to the abnormal situation of having survived a major trauma.

It’s normal to feel completely overwhelmed by a community crisis; however, there are danger signs to watch for in yourself or others that may indicate psychological trauma. Adults or children who display any of the following stress symptoms may need additional help dealing with the events of this crisis. It is strongly recommended that you seek the appropriate medical or psychological assistance if you see a lot of the physical, emotional, cognitive or behavioral symptoms listed below in you, your coworkers, or someone in your family or home, especially if these symptoms were not present before the crisis.

Physical Symptoms - Chills, thirst, fatigue, nausea, fainting, vomiting, dizziness, weakness, chest pain, headaches, elevated blood pressure, rapid heart rate, muscle tremors, difficulty breathing, shock symptoms, and so on.

Emotional Symptoms - Fear, guilt, grief, panic, denial, anxiety, irritability, depression, apprehension, emotional shock, and feeling overwhelmed, loss of emotional control, and so on.

Cognitive Symptoms- Confusion, nightmares, uncertainty, hyper-vigilance, suspiciousness, intrusive images, poor problem solving, poor abstract thinking, poor attention/memory and concentration, disorientation of time, places or people, difficulty identifying objects or people, heightened or lowered alertness, and so on.

Behavioral Symptoms- Withdrawal, antisocial acts, inability to rest, intensified pacing, erratic movements, changes in social activity, changes in speech patterns, loss of or increase of appetite, increased alcohol consumption, and so on.

If you are in doubt about these symptoms in your life, or someone you care about, it is wise to seek the care of a physician or certified mental health professional. Better to actively deal with the stressful emotions directly to help yourself and your loved ones to immediately cope with this crisis because these emotions tend to worsen and get more intense if left untreated. Remember that there are many experienced professionals who can help you and your children recover during a time of crisis.

You do not have to go through this alone. Take action now to prevent stress from continuing to overwhelm you or the people you care about. Call a trusted friend to talk through it, reach out to clergy, or call your family doctor or counselor. If you don’t know someone to call about these emotional issues, you can reach out for assistance by calling telephone hotlines which are offered at no cost to you. These numbers are often posted by local media, hospitals, EAP, churches, schools, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army or FEMA. If you, or someone you care about are feeling overwhelmed by stress, anxiety, guilt or grief, it’s important to make the call for help. 

About the Author –  Dwight Bain helps solve crisis events and manage major change as a Critical Incident Stress Management expert and trainer to over 3,000 groups on the topic of making strategic change to overcome major stress. Follow him for updates at or @DwightBain

Monday, June 13, 2016

What Do You Do When Terror Attacks?

By: Dwight Bain, LMHC 

The terrorist attack in Orlando creates the immediate feeling of being overwhelmed emotionally and confused about what to do next. 
The following are some practical steps to prevent secondary trauma, which is a condition that occurs after a major critical incident. These principles will help you, or the people you love to stabilize.

The first step is to practice self-care. This is listening to your own emotions and dealing with your own level of fear. You need to stabilize in order to help the people you care about. Pay attention to your own emotions of fear, anxiety, panic, or trauma so you can take immediate action to manage the flood of emotions. 
One of the simplest ways to do this, involves a legal pad and a pen. Writing down what you're feeling and what you're experiencing will help you get through the process faster. (For very young children this can be done through art or drawing, or maybe drawing a picture for a firefighter or first responder. Anything your child can do to process the emotions will help them stabilize faster.)

Once you do this, the second principle is to be able to take care of the people around you. While it is normal to think about caring for your children first, think of what they teach on the airlines. Put on your own mask and then you are able to help the people around you. 
It is important to pay attention to the emotional reaction of the people you care about especially if they are acting unusually quiet, or unusually scared. A terrorist attack of this magnitude creates overwhelming emotions. Learning to pay attention to those emotions, especially feelings of panic, deep sadness, or debilitating fear, will help you to comfort the people important to you.
Stabilizing your emotions, and then reaching out with compassion to the people you care about prepares you to help other people which is the third level of care. Remember these three principles and teach them to others. Self-care, friend and family care, and then reaching out to others.
Think of a massive Boulder being shot into a pond. There would be an incredible ripple effect. These ripples of trauma show us how to reach out to other people. Talk to the people in the impact zone or "ground zero" of the trauma first, and then you can reach out to people layer by layer. This is terrible crisis, it's the worst it's ever been in our country's history but together we can get through this. 

Last night we saw the worst of humanity in Orlando. In the next few days we will see the best in humanity from the epicenter of Orlando, rippling forward into the entire country. This is the greatest opportunity to show the love and compassion of our Christ in my hometown. 

Will you join me and spreading The message of #PrayForOrlando ?

Remember to reach out to your friends who may live alone. This is the most important time to call them, invite them to dinner, or go to coffee. No one should be alone in a crisis. We need each other, and we all need to talk. Based on this principle-
"If you can talk through it, you can get through it."
Now is the time to reach out to people you care about, even people at work or neighbors you may not know very well. Don't miss a chance to connect to the community of people you care about with words of hope, healing, peace. 
The Bible teaches God is a very present help in time of trouble. This is the time to move through the normal feelings of fear to show the world what our faith is about. Don't go alone, reach out to others, especially to those who may be forgotten by others. (See Psalm 91 as a reference to stabilize in crisis)

@DwightBain is an author and leader in managing critical incidents and crisis. Access more positive articles and blogs to cope in crisis at 

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

11 Ways Narcissists Use Shame to Control

By: Christine Hammond, LMHC

A weakness of a narcissist is their extreme hatred of being embarrassed. There is nothing worse for them than having someone point out even the slightest fault. Ironically, they have no problem openly doing this to others. 
This method of casting shame allows them to feel superior while minimizing any impact the other person might have. It also serves as a way of discounting any future comments the other person use to embarrass the narcissist. Basically, they are beating the other person to the first punch. 
In order to avoid a first punch, a person needs to understand what it looks like. Here are eleven ways a narcissist uses shame to control others. 

1. Historical Revisionism. A narcissist will retell another person’s story adding their own flare of additional shame. This can be done in front of others or privately. It usually happens after the other person has achieved some level of accomplishment. The narcissist will state that they are only trying to the keep the other person humble but in reality, they are trying to humiliate. 

2. Confidence Breaking. Narcissists love to gather information about a person and store it away for later abuse. They use their charm to entice a person to share confidential details, especially ones that caused the other person embarrassment. Once gathered the narcissist uses the story to keep the other person in check and constantly worried about when the information will come out. 

3. Exaggerating Faults. No one is perfect except for the narcissist. The narcissist is very good at identifying the faults of others and even better at passively aggressively commenting on them. This is a way of putting the other person ‘in their place.’ When confronted, they often say, “I was only joking,” or that person “can’t take a joke.” 

4. Victim Card. Narcissists are talented at exasperating others and then using their reaction as justification for becoming the real victim. Regardless of how hard the narcissist incited the other person, the angry reaction to the provocation is viewed as shameful. The other person who usually feels bad by their reaction, allows the narcissist to play the victim card, and thereby surrenders control to the narcissist. 

5. Blame Shifting. Whenever something goes wrong, the narcissist shifts all of the blame to the other person. The other person who may have done one thing wrong, allows the narcissist to dump more than their fair share of the responsibility. 

 6. Baby Talk. In any narcissistic relationship, the narcissist wants to be seen as the adult and the other person as the child. This belittlement is done in several condescending ways such as literally talking down, calling the other person immature, and saying the other person needs to grow up. The implication is that the narcissist is more mature and has developed beyond the level of the other person. 

7. Religious Guilt. It doesn’t matter what the religion of the narcissist or the other person is. In every religion, there are a set of standards and expectations. The narcissist will use the other person’s religious beliefs to guilt them into acting a certain way. They might even go as far to say, “God told me you need to…” 

8. Offensive Play. The narcissist will use personal attacks to put the other person on the defense. The other person will get so caught up in defending their name or character that they will miss the next attack. “Look how defensive you are, you must have done something wrong,” the narcissist will say. This is a checkmate position because the other person has nowhere to go. 

9. Talking Above. Instead of talking down (baby talk), the narcissist will talk over the other person’s knowledge level. Even if the other person is more intelligent, the narcissist will talk in circles with an air of authority to force the other person into an inferior position. They will use sophisticated vocabulary, physical posturing such as looking down at the other person, and embellishment of details to disguise the real point of shaming the other person.
10. Comparing Accomplishments. It doesn’t matter what the other person has accomplished, the narcissist did it first, better, and more efficiently. By outperforming the other person, the narcissist minimizes the other person’s accomplishments in comparison to their own. This produces an ‘I can never be good enough,’ feeling in the other person. 

11. First Impression. A narcissist is very aware of how they look and appear to others. Frequently they are dressed in designer clothing with immaculate grooming. Not a hair is ever out of place. This is not just for the narcissist; rather their perfectionistic appearance is used to demean others. Comments like, “They don’t take care of themselves,” or “It doesn’t take a lot of effort to look better” are typical. 

When a person can see a punch coming, it is easier to dodge. Resist the temptation to attack first with a narcissist that will only intensify their reaction. Instead, deflect and distract to avoid become a target.