Underlying Causes of Addiction

Underlying Causes of Addiction

The underlying causes of addiction include trauma, unmet needs, or other emotionally painful experiences resulting in the desire to cope in the short-term through substances or behaviors that mask the pain…

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What Drives Addiction?

What Drives Addiction?

Addiction is driven by neurological changes related to dopamine, the reward center, and the self-regulatory center in the brain. This produces a learned pattern of coping with underlying pain or unmet needs…

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7 Ways to Stop Gambling and Save Money

7 Ways to Stop Gambling and Save Money

Let go of common gambling fallacies, decide if gambling is really worth it, self-exclude or use a gambling blocker, replace gambling with other activities, identify your gambling triggers…

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What Are Our Underlying Needs?

What Are Our Underlying Needs?

Our underlying needs consist of the following: belonging and connection, meaning and self-direction, competence, coherence, orientation, and feeling. Let’s delve into each of these six areas…

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16 Reasons Being Sober Is Worth It

16 Reasons Being Sober Is Worth It

Being sober is worth it because you can live a life of meaning and purpose, you feel healthier and more vital, you’re thriving rather than just coping with life, and you’re no longer living…

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How to be More Flexible In Life

How to be More Flexible In Life

Accept what you can’t change, step back from your thoughts, focus on the present, see the bigger picture, live by your values, and take some risks. Let’s take a closer look at each of these six areas of mental flexibility…

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What are the Benefits of Counseling?

What are the Benefits of Counseling?

Counseling can lead to fewer anxious thoughts, improved mood, insight into self-destructive patterns, increased self-esteem and confidence, a clearer sense of purpose, better focus on the present moment, greater…

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What Counseling is Not

What Counseling is Not

Counseling is not just advice, counseling is not cheerleading, counseling is not necessarily easy, counseling is not a quick fix, and counseling is not all the same. Let’s look at each of these areas, one by one, to further dispel some common myths about counseling…

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Suicide as an Escape

Suicide as an Escape

Suicide is an escape from deep emotional pain, in addition to an escape from the self and the world. It often occurs when one feels hopelessly socially isolated or feels like a burden on others. Let’s unpack what this means and how suicide and addiction operate…

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How Does Motivation Work?

How Does Motivation Work?

Motivation works though a dopaminergic neural process whereby our brains reward us when we carry out a task that meets our internal human need for a sense of autonomy, competence, relatedness, or basic survival needs such as food, safety, or relief from pain…

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What is Creative Hopelessness?

What is Creative Hopelessness?

The concept of creative hopelessness is a technique in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) designed to help persons give up on ineffective ways of being, helping them open up to a new values-based path forward…

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How To Do Motivational Interviewing

How To Do Motivational Interviewing

Engage them through reflective listening, focus on the main issue they are facing, evoke their reasons for change, and collaborate on a plan for change. In this article, I delve into each of these four processes of motivational interviewing, translating…

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How to Improve Psychological Flexibility

How to Improve Psychological Flexibility

Be willing to feel difficult emotions, step back from your thoughts, focus on the present, focus on connection, not comparison, live by your own values, build habits based on your values. These six processes can be divided into three major areas, including…

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12 Self-Care Tips for Mental Health

12 Self-Care Tips for Mental Health

Practice saying “no,” ask for support when needed, let go of toxic relationships, meaningfully connect with others,focus on the present, get clear on your values, take time for yourself, focus on what you are grateful for, incorporate some form of exercise…

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What are the Root Causes of Addiction?

What are the Root Causes of Addiction?

Underlying root causes of addiction include trauma, pain, and unmet needs such as purpose, belonging, and self-esteem, which may be amplified by family and genetic factors. Let’s dig into the research and unpack each of these underlying causes…

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How Does Stigma Affect Mental Health?

How Does Stigma Affect Mental Health?

Stigma affects mental health by inflicting further harm on already vulnerable populations. A person may internalize a stigmatizing label, causing further isolation, distrust, and low self-esteem, resulting in increased anxiety or depression. Anxiety is the fight or flight…

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Why it’s so Hard to Find a Good Therapist

Why it’s so Hard to Find a Good Therapist

It can be challenging to find a person who specializes in a specific area of concern. Also, there are many ineffective therapists, so persons seeking therapy need to be critical of the support they are receiving. This article dives into this important issue, helping you…

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Does Counselling Work?

Does Counselling Work?

Counselling works in the short-term and long-term, so long as it is practiced by a skilled counsellor using evidence-based techniques, in addition to having strong empathic interpersonal abilities to facilitate a supportive therapeutic relationship. As a counsellor, I’ve personally seen many…

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8 Types of Denial in Addiction

8 Types of Denial in Addiction

Some of the most common types of denial consist of the following: minimization, optimism bias, avoidance, control fallacies, mental filtering, normalizing, just-world Fallacy, and externalizing responsibility. Each of these are types of cognitive distortions, logical fallacies, or defense mechanisms…

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12 Early Warning Signs of a Relapse

12 Early Warning Signs of a Relapse

Early warning signs of a relapse consist of isolating oneself, becoming irritable and reactive, becoming dishonest and deceptive, worrying about other people, overconfidence in one’s recovery, shifting back into unhelpful networks, feeling…

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The Importance of Having Direction in Life

The Importance of Having Direction in Life

Having direction allows you to maintain mental resilience during transitions by facilitating a sense of underlying purpose, not dependent on the specific role one occupies. Also, having a sense of direction promotes better mental health and stronger adherence to…

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What Does Opioid Withdrawal Feel Like?

What Does Opioid Withdrawal Feel Like?

Opioid withdrawals are so painful because of the rebound effect. Since opioids reduce one’s ability to feel pain, stopping an opioid once dependent causes the opposite effect, producing severe pain. The rebound effect is a phenomenon that can be applied to…

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What Are Some Addictive Behaviors?

What Are Some Addictive Behaviors?

Addictive behaviors operate similar to addictive substances, causing craving, loss of control, and continued use despite negative consequences. Addictions are ways of coping with difficult underlying thoughts or feelings in the short-term…

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Is Defunding the Police a Good Idea?

Is Defunding the Police a Good Idea?

Defunding the police may be a good idea if resources are effectively reallocated to preventative measures and mental health first-responders. Defunding the police may also come with risks to public safety if funds are not sufficiently reallocated…

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Can You Be Addicted to a Person?

Can You Be Addicted to a Person?

You can be addicted to a person. This is also referred to as relationship addiction, love addiction, or codependency. Each of these consists of seeking external validation to compensate for low self-esteem. Let’s take a closer look at this often overlooked…

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When Does Helping Become Enabling?

When Does Helping Become Enabling?

Helping becomes enabling when you diminish someone else’s responsibility by not allowing them to experience the natural consequences of their behavior. Helping allows someone to gain further responsibility, whereas enabling takes away…

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The Benefits of Meditation for Addiction

The Benefits of Meditation for Addiction

Meditation can reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and improve emotional regulation, leading to improved coping skills for persons with addiction. This allows for increased behavioral control and spiritual development. Let’s take a look at the science…

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Why Crystal Meth Is So Dangerous

Why Crystal Meth Is So Dangerous

Crystal meth provides a dopamine spike more powerful than any other drug. This initially makes a person feel invincible, seducing them into centering their life around the drug, leading to extreme paranoia, hallucinations, and an inability to function in day-to-day life…

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A Powerful Story of Addiction and Recovery

A Powerful Story of Addiction and Recovery

In my previous article, What Does Addiction Feel Like, I shared Stephanie's experience of addiction. Here, I want to share her story of recovery. Her recovery was a six-year process. She spent two years continuing to use substances off and on, three years with an...

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What Does Addiction Feel Like?

What Does Addiction Feel Like?

Addiction feels like a chaotic loss of control, a sense of being worthless, hopeless, isolated, and lost, all while having an intense craving, and only feeling fleeting pleasure. To help understand this feeling in more depth, I interviewed a fellow addiction advocate who is in recovery from an addiction…

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How Does Motivational Interviewing Work?

How Does Motivational Interviewing Work?

Motivational interviewing works by supporting a client’s sense of intrinsic motivation, self-efficacy, and a sense of empathic connection to the counselor. Each of these factors leads to increased motivation to change. Let’s take a look at each of these areas…

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What Causes People to Change?

What Causes People to Change?

People change when motivated by a sense of independence, a sense of competence, and a sense of connection to others. These motivations can be sparked in moments of extreme frustration when a person realizes their current approach is no longer working. This answer is based on the empirically…

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The Meaning of the Serenity Prayer

The Meaning of the Serenity Prayer

The Serenity Prayer means letting go of situations beyond your control and taking action toward things within your control. It also means being able to know when things are within your control and when things are beyond your control. Let’s take a look at the Serenity Prayer…

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When Does Something Become an Addiction?

When Does Something Become an Addiction?

Something becomes an addiction if it begins to have significant harmful impacts on other areas of your life. In addition, the individual experiences craving, loss of control over the substance or behavior, and is unable to stop despite these harms… 

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The Only Way Out Is Through

The Only Way Out Is Through

“The only way out is through,” means facing the pain of a situation head-on rather than avoidance through distractions, including alcohol, drugs, or other behaviors such as gambling, gaming, and work. Let’s look at how this is currently playing out and how we can use…

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Why Responsibility Is So Important

Why Responsibility Is So Important

Responsibility is important because it provides a sense of purpose, in addition to building resilience amidst adversity on an individual and societal level. Like an addiction, sidestepping responsibility may feel good in the short-term, but leads to exponentially worse…

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The Impact of Isolation on Addiction

The Impact of Isolation on Addiction

Isolation increases the risk of addiction among individuals using a substance or behavior to cope with the loneliness, boredom, or loss of purpose due to isolation.  It is important to note that isolation and loneliness are not synonymous. You can be living in…

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Do Positive Affirmations Work? A Look at the Science

Do Positive Affirmations Work? A Look at the Science

Positive affirmations do not work for persons trying to boost self-esteem, change negative thoughts, or escape from painful emotions. The evidence suggests positive affirmations only work in individuals who are already positive or high performing. In this article, I take a closer look…

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Does Online Counselling Work?

Does Online Counselling Work?

According to recent evidence, online counselling is effective for treating mental health and addictions. Multiple studies show it is generally as effective as face-to-face counselling and has the benefit of expanding access to mental health and addiction treatment. Let’s take a closer look at the research….

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How to Help Your Son With an Addiction

How to Help Your Son With an Addiction

If your son is struggling with an addiction, how can you help? Don’t blame yourself, set personal boundaries, engage in helpful communication, find a counselor or support group. Each of these strategies will help you be the most helpful version of yourself… 

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Is Worrying Helpful?

Is Worrying Helpful?

Worrying can be helpful or harmful, depending on the type of worry. It is helpful when focused on practical short-term actions, but it is harmful when focused on abstract ideas about the future that lead to repetitive thoughts and inaction. Let’s take a closer look at what this means…

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How to Stop Living in Your Head

How to Stop Living in Your Head

Accept what you can’t control, step back from your thoughts, focus on the present moment, remove limiting self-definitions, live by your core values, take action toward what matters. This information is based on the principles of Acceptance and commitment Therapy, supported by over 330 clinical trials…

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How Gambling Addiction Works

How Gambling Addiction Works

Gambling addiction works by hijacking the brain’s learning mechanism through random rewards. This means you feel rewarded often enough to keep going, despite increasing losses. The idea of missing a potential win keeps the person focused on trying to get the money back…

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Are You Addicted to Your Phone?

Are You Addicted to Your Phone?

As smartphones take over the world, you may find yourself asking, "am I addicted to my phone?" Whenever I tell someone I treat internet addiction, they commonly mention how often young people are using their phones at the exclusion of face to face interaction. They...

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Why Are Video Games Addictive?

Why Are Video Games Addictive?

Although every case is unique, there are general patterns that can help explain why video games are addictive. Video games are addictive because they help meet our basic psychological need for a sense of freedom, purpose/progress, and social connection…

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Why is Youth Suicide a Social Problem?

Why is Youth Suicide a Social Problem?

Youth experience social isolation due to the increasing dependence on technological communications at the expense of in-person interactions. Social Connection is a universal human need and one of the major protective factors against suicide…

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Do Narcissists Have Low Self-esteem?

Do Narcissists Have Low Self-esteem?

Narcissists have high self-esteem. But unlike individuals with a secure sense of high self-esteem, narcissists have what researchers call “fragile high self-esteem”. It is a form of high self-esteem dependent on external validation and self-deception. Let’s take a closer look…

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What is the Recovery Model in Addiction?

What is the Recovery Model in Addiction?

“Recovery is a process of change through which people improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives, and strive to reach their full potential.” This means treatment is focused on empowering people to support their own self-directed path of recovery…

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The Power of Social Connection

The Power of Social Connection

If you’ve been following my work, you may have noticed I’ve transitioned from veteran issues to addictions. I thought I should probably elaborate on this shift in focus and share the underlying theme driving all of my work. After reading a few of my articles, it should be fairly clear that…

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How to Prevent a Gaming Addiction

How to Prevent a Gaming Addiction

Develop a sense of self-esteem, social belonging, and purpose. Gaming addiction develops as a way to meet these basic needs. Meeting these needs outside of a gaming environment will reduce your risk of developing a dependency. Let’s look at what the research…

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How to Help Someone With an Addiction

How to Help Someone With an Addiction

Respect their individuality, hold space for them to express emotions, control your emotional involvement, gain an accepting nonjudgmental attitude, maintain their self-determination through collaboration. Let’s explore what each of these…

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How to Spend Less Time on Social Media

How to Spend Less Time on Social Media

Remove triggers from your environment, consider using an app to track and limit your use, find alternate forms of communication
Reconnect with hobbies, and consider trying a digital detox. Let’s explore what each of these things looks like in more detail…

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Is Social Media Making Us Less Social?

Is Social Media Making Us Less Social?

Social Media is making us less social when used to compare oneself to others, contributing to higher levels of loneliness and lower levels of well-being among frequent users. It can be social when used to connect with others. Let’s take a look at the research…

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How to Prevent a Gambling Addiction

How to Prevent a Gambling Addiction

To prevent a gambling addiction it is important to set a money limit, set a time limit, play for entertainment, and understand how the games work. Let’s take a closer look at what this means, in terms of preventing an addiction to gambling in a casino environment…

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The True Meaning of Success: Looking at the Science

The True Meaning of Success: Looking at the Science

It means living in alignment with your personal definition of success by staying true to your values and taking meaningful actions toward your own valued goals. In this article, I dive into the science and philosophy of what success really means…

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How Success Causes Loneliness

How Success Causes Loneliness

According to Thomas Joiner in Lonely at the Top, success can cause loneliness when people neglect the quality and quantity of their close social relations in favor of focusing on instrumental goals associated with success. Although being successful does not guarantee loneliness…

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What Does it Mean to Follow Your Passion?

What Does it Mean to Follow Your Passion?

Following your passion means exploring areas that spark your interest, developing your skills in a specific area, and using those skills to contribute to something beyond yourself. This article explores the idea of what it means to follow your passion…

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What Is Transitional Stress?

What Is Transitional Stress?

Six themes emerge from the interview data on transitional stress: missing the military; feeling lost and apathetic in civilian life; feeling cut off from an elite family; difficulty connecting with civilians; the loss of structure; and the loss of a sense of service. Let’s take a closer look at each of these themes…

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The Ultimate Guide to Helping Someone Change

The Ultimate Guide to Helping Someone Change

You can’t change people, but there are things we can do to help them change themselves. This involves listening, developing empathy, and asking questions to help them figure out their own reasons for change. Working in the addiction field has taught me…

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Inside the Mind of a Suicidal Person

Inside the Mind of a Suicidal Person

Although it may look selfish, someone in a state of suicidal thinking actually perceives themselves to be a burden on everyone. This distorted perception leads to the belief that others would be better off without them. Rather than a selfish act…

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What Does It Mean to Have a Purpose?

What Does It Mean to Have a Purpose?

A sense of purpose means dedicating yourself to a cause beyond yourself. It’s a goal that fuels your motivation in life, giving your life meaning and direction, inspiring you to make a significant contribution to the world. Let’s unpack some of this…

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6 Things Veterans Can Teach Us About Life

6 Things Veterans Can Teach Us About Life

Veterans can teach us a great deal about the meaning of purpose, leadership, work ethic, community, and meaning. Throughout my research, their insights transformed the way I look at the world, so I thought it might be helpful to pass along their messages here…

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The Most Neglected Aspect of Addiction Recovery

The Most Neglected Aspect of Addiction Recovery

Our basic psychological needs go unmet, feeling isolated, trapped, and on a downward spiral. Meaning collapses, and we fall into despair. Addiction is a way of coping with the pain of this despair. Overcoming despair requires connecting with a sense of purpose…

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Addiction to Negative News

Addiction to Negative News

We may say we want more positive news, but if news organizations actually focused on positive content, we probably wouldn’t watch it. Negativity bias keeps us interested in negative news. Negativity bias is a psychological effect causing us to pay more attention to negative things than positive things.

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What is Social Health?

What is Social Health?

Social health is the ability of a social context to foster interdependent social relations in a way that meets the needs of individuals and the needs of the broader group. In order to explore what this means, let’s consider what it means to be healthy. There are many perspectives on health…

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What is the Deeper Meaning of Identity?

What is the Deeper Meaning of Identity?

Identity can be defined in three different ways: self-identity, social-identity, and role-identity. Self-identity is how you identify with your personal characteristics, social-identity is how you identify with a group, and role-identity is how you identify with a particular social role.

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Military Betrayal, Civilian Isolation

Military Betrayal, Civilian Isolation

Many veterans experience anger, cynicism, or a heightened concern for justice during or after their service. These are not necessarily reactions to trauma or the result of PTSD, rather, they are the result of characteristics instilled in the military…

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What Are Our Social Needs?

What Are Our Social Needs?

As described in Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, our social needs are of the need for love and belonging. The need for love and belonging consists of a sense of connection, intimacy, trust, and friendship. When these social needs are fulfilled, we feel a sense of well-being…

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Finding Purpose in Uncertain Times

Finding Purpose in Uncertain Times

As our modern times become ever-more chaotic, the fear of loneliness and uncertainty becomes an increasingly prominent feature in our life. Moral certainties have turned into lines drawn in the sand and community is washed away by the waves of individualism…

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How is Suicide a Social Problem?

How is Suicide a Social Problem?

The risk of suicide in a population increases when the social context fails to provide a healthy sense of purpose and belonging, contributing to an individual’s sense of contribution and connection. Let’s look at what the research can tell us about the issue. In his classic sociological text…

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What is Sanctuary Trauma?

What is Sanctuary Trauma?

Developed by Dr. Steven Silver, sanctuary trauma “occurs when an individual who suffered a severe stressor next encounters what was expected to be a supportive and protective environment’ and discovers only more trauma.” Some veterans who face mental or physical injuries from service…

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How Veterans Experience Altruism

How Veterans Experience Altruism

In the army, everybody sinks or swims together, What ultimately matters to you most are the guys in your section. These faceless soldiers in uniform, these guys are friends, What keeps you going is that you’re there to look after each other. I might fucking hate you...

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How Veterans Experience Purpose

How Veterans Experience Purpose

As an eighteen-year-old kid, the military gives you a sense of purpose, It give you a sense of responsibility that you don’t usually get at eighteen. At thirty-five I have to be my five-year-old self all over again, “What do you want to be when you grow up?’” Trying...

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How Veterans Experience The Rush of Combat

How Veterans Experience The Rush of Combat

I’m looking for a rush, I’m looking for a reason to help people, I want near deadly experiences, I want an apocalypse of this world, I want everything to go bad, I want you all to fucking need me to fucking save your life. Our tracers were red, their tracers were...

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Durkheim on Happiness

Durkheim on Happiness

In his discussion of ‘anomie’, Durkheim states that the key to happiness is having our needs proportionate to our means. According to Durkheim, our “needs” are our desires. As humans, our desires are infinite and insatiable, unless regulated by social forces. Our “means” are the ability…

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The Lesser-known Issues Veterans Face in Transition

The Lesser-known Issues Veterans Face in Transition

So what are some of the lesser-known issues veterans face in transition? These consist of moral injury, transitional stress, and sanctuary trauma. It is important to differentiate these issues faced by veterans from PTSD. If we view every issue…

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The Need to be Needed

The Need to be Needed

The need to be needed is an individual’s sense of significance rooted in the sense of being part of a community or cause beyond themselves. The need to be needed is one of our fundamental desires. We want to feel significant in the eyes of others, even if it is only one other person…

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What Drives Human Behavior?

What Drives Human Behavior?

The drive to fulfill the need for a sense of significance, achieved through a perceived sense of control over one’s life, a sense of social belonging, and a sense of effective social contribution. Simply put, this means we all want to feel significant. This sense of significance is achieved through…

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What is Moral Injury?

What is Moral Injury?

Litz (2009) defines moral injury as, “perpetrating, failing to prevent, bearing witness to, or learning about acts that transgress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations.” Rather than a fear response, the concept of moral injury illuminates the importance of guilt and shame. Although many…

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