Monday, March 9, 2015

Dr. Drew On Trauma And Emotional Disregulation

You may be familiar with Dr. Drew Pinsky’s work as an addiction specialist on the show Celebrity Rehab, his own TV talk show and now as a radio host on KABC 790 AM. Dr. Drew’s radio show is available as a free podcast. On March 3, he had a few interesting things to say about trauma, dysfunction, emotional disturbance and addiction. Check out the podcast at about 2:45 after the beginning.

Drew says, “Finally people are starting to make the connection between adverse health affects and (childhood) trauma… the consequence of that trauma is emotional “disregulation"… if you’ve been traumatized it shatters the brains ability to regulate… it creates a child who is unwilling to trust another person and unwilling to be vulnerable and re-enter that frame where they can build an emotional landscape that could lead to flexible emotional regulation.

Instead, they reach for alternatives- sex, drugs, cigarettes, high calorie/ processed food… this is more than emotional eating. This is eating in an attempt to fill a void/ regulate painful emotions and un-regulatible feelings. Pain, somatic dissociation, poor self care.”

He says that when children are traumatized it affects their brain physically. “It actually has a measurable effect on their memory- their hippocampus is structurally different.” They have a higher probability of difficulty in school, ADHD, problems functioning academically, drug and alcohol use, behavioral problems. “When you can’t regulate you’re more likely to drink and not do so good in school.”

Dr. Drew says people engage in dysfunctional behavior such as substance abuse because they are so unregulated. Whatever the particular psychological disturbance, ultimately the causational link is trauma. Drew says his patients had twofold problems- addictions AND underlying trauma. Pain, PTSD mental and emotional pain, feelings of emptiness, propensity to reenact their trauma- it ALL stems from emotional disregulation. Attempts to solve that include self medicating with substances and or coping behaviors.

Check out the Orange County ACA website at: Orange County Adult Children

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Claudia Black Launches Center for Young Adults in Recovery

“Our mission at the Claudia Black Young Adult Center is to help young adults and their families forge recovery paths, so they can heal, blossom, and thrive."- Dr. Claudia Black

The center focuses on a nurturing community, family systems, proven testing and assessments, life skills, experiential therapies, and 12-step work. Trauma comes in many forms, including but not limited to bullying, sexual assault, abandonment and many have faced absent, controlling, or addicted parents.

The Claudia Black Young Adult Center utilizes an array of experiential healing modalities – along with other therapies - including neurofeedback, mindfulness practices, equine-assisted psychotherapy, challenge courses, and trauma-informed psychodrama, along with EMDR and Somatic Experiencing.

Dr. Black’s work with children impacted by drug and alcohol addiction created the framework for the adult children of alcoholics’ movement. She has also authored over fifteen books, including Intimate Treason; It Will Never Happen To Me!; and Changing Course: Healing from Loss, Abandonment and Fear.

The Center, located in Arizona, is one of three treatment programs run by The Meadows. To learn more call (800) 244-4949 or visit

Check out the Orange County ACA website at: Orange County Adult Children

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


“Adult children of alcoholic parents have the highest rate of attention disorders among any clinical group.”- according to professor Steven L. Schandler, director of the Addiction Research and Cognitive Psychophysiology Laboratories at Chapman University.

In a recent Orange County Register article
(Click here for full article), Schandler also claimed that when ACOAs with ADD consume alcohol, “their systems slow down to a 'normal' level, which enhances their ability to process information.” This self medication can be a risk factor in ACOAs becoming alcoholics themselves. Children of alcoholics are up to 14 times more likely to have substance abuse problems than children of nonalcoholics.

It has also been documented that People with ADHD have at least one defective gene that makes it difficult for neurons to respond to dopamine, a key neurotransmitter regulating attention and feelings of pleasure.

What do YOU think? Do you find yourself drinking alcohol or binging on sugar or junk food in order to “feel better” or think more clearly?

One coping skill that has proven to work is exercise. Working out changes your physiology and increases chemicals called endorphins that make you feel good naturally. Plus exercise can increase blood flow, self esteem and help ward off anxiety.

What's your favorite coping mechanism?

Check out the Orange County ACA website at: Orange County Adult Children

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Traumatic Memories

When writer Annette McGivney set out to do research on a murder for a new book, she developed nightmares, panic attacks and insomnia. Her diagnosis was delayed onset post-traumatic stress disorder. The cause was 30 years of repressed fear that she had successfully kept a secret — especially from herself — that as a little girl she feared her my raging father would kill her.

“Most adult children (of abuse) reach adulthood with their secrets intact,” writes Judith Hermann, M.D., in “Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence from Domestic Abuse and Political Terror.” But “as the survivor struggles with the tasks of adult life, the legacy of her childhood becomes increasingly burdensome. Eventually, often in the third or fourth decade of life, the defensive structure may begin to break down…”

Annette writes: PTSD is not a sickness. It is the mind and body’s normal reaction to what is perceived as life threatening circumstances. But for adults who have experienced chronic, prolonged trauma — usually on the battlefield or growing up in abusive homes — this fight, flight or freeze reaction becomes deeply imbedded in the central nervous system and can make the challenge of recovering from PTSD daunting, and for some, seemingly impossible.

For her, the answer was in tackling the trapped energy - “the poison that lies beneath the surface”. Under the guidance of a trained trauma therapist, Annette was able to re-experience those episodes when she was on the receiving end of her father’s rage. Eventually, through Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) and Somatic Experiencing (SE) techniques, “That kid in me became convinced she was finally safe and could start to let down her guard… Instead of re-experiencing what actually happened, I chose escape. I envisioned calmly walking out the back door of my childhood home and down my sunlit driveway into the woods where I loved to roam.”

After three and a half years of working on recovery every single day, Annette remains on a lifelong journey toward healing and has found peace in the present.

Annette McGivney is a writer and 18-year Flagstaff resident. She teaches journalism at Northern Arizona University and is the Southwest Editor for Backpacker magazine.

Check out the Orange County ACA website at: Orange County Adult Children

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Control Freaks- 8 Signs To Watch For

CONTROL is usually a reaction to FEAR. Controlling, overbearing, "my way or the highway" behaviors are an attempt to calm the inner anxiety and panic that an overwhelming amount of sustained chaos created in a dysfunctional family or environment, usually experienced in the formative years. Adult Children Of Alcoholics may be prone to continuing controlling patterns into adulthood.

Control freaks rarely know that they are one. They believe that they are helping people with their "constructive criticism" or taking over a project because "no one else will do it right."

They don't see their controlling behaviors as symptoms of what's really going on--their own anxiety has run amuck.

Irrational thoughts abound in our high stress world: If I don't get this contract, I'll get fired. If I'm not home by 6:00, I'm a terrible parent. If I don't get that raise, I suck at my job. All of these thoughts might be true, but probably not.

Rather than tackle our own irrational thinking and massage it into more realistic thinking, we attempt to control the situation, usually by trying to control other people.

Want to know if you're a control freak? Here are eight signs for your self-diagnosing pleasure:

* You believe that if someone would change one or two things about themselves, you'd be happier. So you try to "help them" change this behavior by pointing it out, usually over and over.

* You micromanage others to make them fit your (often unrealistic) expectations. You don't believe in imperfection and you don't think anyone else should either.

* You judge others' behavior as right or wrong and passive-aggressively withhold attention until they fall in line with your expectations. Sitting in silent judgment is a master form of control.

* You offer "constructive criticism" as a veiled attempt to advance your own agenda.

* You change who you are or what you believe so that someone will accept you. Instead of just being yourself, you attempt to incept others by managing their impression of you.

* You present worst-case scenarios in an attempt to influence someone away from certain behaviors and toward others. This is also called fear mongering.

* You have a hard time with ambiguity and being OK with not knowing something.

* You intervene on behalf of people by trying to explain or dismiss their behaviors to others.

You believe that if you can change another person's undesirable behavior, then you will be happier or more fulfilled. You make someone else responsible for how you feel. The thing is, you are only responsible for you. The road to better relationships always starts with you. Rather than attempt to control everyone else, work on becoming a better version of yourself. Here are a few ideas:

* Be vulnerable with people.
* Never compromise your self-respect by altering your core beliefs.
* Be realistic about your expectations of others.
* Quit the passive-aggressive nonsense--be direct.
* Accept that a large portion of life is laced with unknowns.
* Embrace confrontation--it really is sometimes the only thing you can do.
* Take responsibility for your own happiness.

If you work on your own improvement instead of trying to control others, healthier relationships at work, as well as everywhere else, will then come to you as a result.

- Anonymous

Check out the Orange County ACA website at: Orange County Adult Children