Archives for June 2015

Cortisol—What You Need to Know, Part 2

joanmarielartin

By Joan-Marie Lartin, PhD, RN

Part one of this article (last week) described three phases of adrenal disruption that occur in chronic stress. We are hard-wired to respond to acute crisis with an ‘adrenaline rush,’ which describes how the adrenal glands respond to stress—they produce cortisol which gives the body a sugar boost in order to fight or flee. If there is chronic stress and not much flight or ineffective fighting—i.e., issues are not resolved—the stress response—i.e., cortisol production—continues. Small wonder that women living with disordered men have more than their fair share of problems, such as thyroid imbalances, anxiety, sleep disturbances, irritability, weight gain, sex hormone imbalances, and auto-immune diseases.

If you are experiencing any of the above problems, how can you determine if, in fact, your adrenal function is out of balance?

Here are a few steps you can take:

  1. Click on these links for a number of helpful articles on adrenal imbalance and adrenal fatigue, and also check out this self-administered questionnaire.
  2. Make an appointment with your health-care provider to discuss your concerns. Bring printed copies of any material or online test results you may have. There are many traditionally trained health-care providers that do not agree with these theories and dismiss research that has been conducted to explore these connections. Perhaps they are right or perhaps they are using an outdated paradigm.
  3. Make sure you eat as well as possible, and exercise—no matter what it takes—a small bit each day.
  4. Take a good multivitamin.
  5. GET EIGHT HOURS OF SLEEP if humanly possible.
  6. Bow out of any unnecessary commitments that you have taken on for at least 6 months.
  7. Do something restorative—a brief nap, a short walk, a hot bath, a chat with a friend— every single day.

Eventually, each person has to choose his or her providers on their own. One of the goals of this column is to provide enough information to readers so that you can ask providers questions, read further for yourself or consult with practitioners who have or are adopting these new approaches.

If you wish to pursue naturopathic avenues to address these problems, consult an established practitioner in your area, one who has earned an ND (naturopathic doctor) degree and is licensed to practice. He or she will evaluate your symptoms, usually have a sympathetic ear and acknowledge the sources of stress in your relationships, and proceed to have some tests done in order to get some objective information on which to base suggested treatment.

If you do not already have an excellent support system and an excellent therapist, run—do not walk—in the direction of making these happen. Again, there is some controversy in the medical community about this approach, and insurance companies in the U.S. may not reimburse you for these services. In my personal and professional experience, I find the concepts about adrenal fatigue to be valid and the treatments to be very effective.

Chronic stress makes demands upon body and soul. We have learned to identify the signs and symptoms of serious, ongoing stress and there are many effective and not-so-effective ways to deal with these problems. As readers of this column may have figured out, I am no fan of treating symptoms and ignoring underlying problems. I strongly urge any of you who have had an ongoing relationship with a disordered individual to consider checking out the self-administered tests available on the sites referenced above. If your adrenal functioning is disrupted, it may take 6-12 months to get back into balance, so don’t hesitate to get started!

 

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know. The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships. Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more information.)

 © www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

 

Cortisol—What You Need to Know, Part 1

joanmarielartin

By Joan-Marie Lartin, PhD, RN

 

What is cortisol? Cortisol is a chemical messenger produced when the brain tells the adrenal glands, “Hey, we need some energy, now!” Cortisol triggers a release of insulin into the blood stream, mobilizing the body’s fight-or-flight response.

After the initial alarm, cortisol production winds down. However, when there is chronic, sustained stress, the body may begin a descent “down the rabbit hole” into adrenal imbalance, creating many different types of problems.

Early-Stage Stress Response

Ongoing stress initially creates a great deal of cortisol production. If the person does not fight, flee, or otherwise use up the excess energy, he or she may experience some or all of these symptoms:

  • weight gain
  • anxiety
  • restlessness
  • insomnia
  • poor concentration

A stressed-out person may take substances, legal and illegal, to calm down, think straight and focus. In my clinical experience, a very high percentage of kids and adults who believe they have symptoms of ADD or ADHD are, in fact, experiencing chronic stress. Most likely, their cortisol levels are very high.

Sometimes, constant stress damages the cortisol receptors. As this happens, the body shuts down the override or feedback mechanisms and the blood levels of cortisol remain high. At that point, the body’s natural feedback process isn’t working well. If the stress continues, the adrenal glands, which produce cortisol, start to become depleted.

 Mid-Stage Stress Response

When the adrenal glands continue to secrete cortisol over a sustained period, the person enters an early stage of adrenal depletion. Cortisol levels start to decrease as the brain’s receptor cells become damaged.

The person begins to show these signs:

  • low energy
  • fatigue
  • easily overwhelmed
  • mild depression
  • a degree of mental fog
  • and many other symptoms

Cortisol imbalances are frequently associated with disruptions in other key areas, such as the endocrine hormones of the thyroid and the ovaries (mainly estrogen), and the immune system, as well as neurotransmitter levels.

At this point, if the stressors are not resolved the person keeps up a hectic pace. If there is little nutritional, nutraceutical, or other support, the next, fairly drastic stage, is adrenal fatigue.

Late-Stage Stress Response

This depleted stage, also known as late chronic stress, is often termed ‘adrenal fatigue.’ Cortisol levels, once very high, are now very low. The person may suffer these symptoms:

  • very low levels of energy
  • brain fog
  • reliance on carbohydrates and caffeine
  • chronic infections
  • gastrointestinal issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome
  • salt cravings

Small wonder that women living with disordered men have more than their fair share of problems. These problems include:

  • thyroid imbalances
  • anxiety
  • sleep disturbances
  • irritability
  • weight gain
  • sex hormone imbalances
  • autoimmune diseases

Because the adrenal glands play such an important role in the development of many of the body’s biochemicals, some clinicians question whether extreme, ongoing stress plays a role in women developing estrogen-sensitive tumors.

Next week I will provide more information on cortisol imbalances, including further reading and treatment options. Meanwhile, you may want to check out this website that I recommend on women’s adrenal health.

 

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know. The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships. Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more information.)

 

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

 

Characterlogical Disorders: He is What He Does

Personality disorders are those permanent disorders that mar a soul. They impair a person’s ability to grow, to sustain enduring positive change, and to develop insight about how their behavior affects others. This is the path of pathology—when disorders so affect a personality that it leaves a person impaired and it disengages their character switch.

Personality disorders are often referred to as Character Disorders. No wonder! The problems associated with personality disorders largely manifest as inappropriate behavior associated as negative character reflection. We now know some of this inappropriate behavior is associated with poor impulse control. When low impulse control is not managed, a person begins to look like someone ‘characterlogically challenged’— displaying characteristics such as lying, conning, manipulation, overt or covert stealing, sex addictions, infidelity, violence, drugs/alcohol abuse, etc. These are all reflections on someone’s behavior which can reflect character.

Why would someone want to be with anyone whose character is ‘suspect’? Finding out about consistent lying or chronic cheating are all character red flags that, when heeded, could reduce the relational harm you experience; but ignored, become a path of pain. Character red flags are usually related to CHARACTER DISORDERS which are associated with personality disorders, which are permanent.

People who adhere to a ‘two-strike rule’ about character infractions could help reduce the number of people in therapy today because of Pathological Love Relationships. Behavior is often a reflection of character. What are you accepting as character and why are you shocked when they display more of the same behavior? And why do you end up making excuses for their behavior?

Over and over again I hear women of all ages say, “There isn’t anyone decent out there.” It seems to be especially true of this current 20-something generation in which “It’s all about me” has become a significant motto of the decade. Women give up and give in to the common dating practices that are prevalent right now, only to cycle through relationship after relationship not only not getting their needs met, but being damaged by their relationships as well. There HAS to be something better out there for women—but is that what you REALLY want?

Why do I ask that? I got a letter from a previous client who discussed the latest relationship she was in. While she was hoping she had overcome her previous relationship choice patterns, she was shocked to find herself in yet another relationship because “she didn’t want to be alone.” It wasn’t a crushing kind of loneliness—but a general “wanting to find the right guy.” She thought it started out well—and when problems arose, counseling was sought from several sources. Feeling like she had gotten a handle on what the issues were, and he had voiced his desire to work on the problems, she stayed trying to find the love that she was seeking. But after emotional and verbal abuse, a threat with a deadly weapon, a display of alcohol abuse, and some physical assaults—she decided the relationship was probably ‘dangerous or deadly.’ There went another couple of years down the tubes—another ‘dangerous man’ and her hopes and emotions dashed against the trigger of a deadly weapon.

In contrast, I am reminded of my foster son Cody’s character, who died at the ripe old age of 25. He was a young guy who, ironically in this day and age, never succumbed to the sex and drug culture.

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He was gentle—with nature, with feelings, with people. His integrity was thorough, weaving a rich and deep seam through his character. In a blazing black-and-white contrast to what women have been selecting, I wondered why it’s so hard to see character. Yeah, yeah, I know—they hide and mask and do all the other subversive types of behavior that don’t allow you to see. It’s often said that “Character is who you are when no one is looking.” Well, a pathological could care less about that! They only want to fake character when someone IS looking.

But just knowing that character and its glaring deficits are often related to pathology should be enough to make people sit up and take notice. We live in a world that is numbing itself against any moral and behavioral absolutes. This numbing causes people to accept pathological behavior as the norm. “There aren’t any good ones left” is an excuse to accept the pathological culture that is developing before us.

It takes someone like Cody to make us realize that good people are worth waiting for. When you accept bad character, you get bad behavior. When you accept bad behavior, you accept being hurt because it’s inevitable. Thank you, Cody, for being a teacher to me about what good mental health looks like in a young man. I miss you, but always remember what you taught me.

Character counts, ladies. Don’t sacrifice.

 

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know.  The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships. Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more information.)

 

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

 

 

 

 

Determination in the Life of the Survivor

I’ve seen the look many times—hundreds of times over the past 25+ years, working with (mostly) women who are surviving a Pathological Love Relationship. There is a ‘look.’ Initially it’s a timid look—before she grasps that she really CAN survive and thrive. The look then begins to change, morphing into real belief and real power.

Ironically, I scaw the look this past week in an unlikely, but stunning face. I saw her gentleness—as did the pathological that was in her life. Your Super Traits of empathy, tolerance, caring and compassion are what make you the wonderful woman you are. These are also target traits for pathological individuals. You can just see the gentleness in the face.

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Then I saw her powerlessness.

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It’s that look—like you don’t know if you will ever get out, ever survive, ever find your power again. It feels as if you are being held against your will—when you remember once that you were so different—so self-assured, confident, and capable.

Many people have seen the face of unbelievable stress and worry—when you no longer trust your own judgment, ping-pong back and forth between loving and loathing him. When you can’t concentrate, focus, sleep, or even want to get up each day.

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But, the greatest thing about doing this work is when women really ‘get it’ about pathology. When they understand that what’s wrong with him has nothing to do with her, and what she did or didn’t do. When she gets that ‘wild-eyed look’ that says her reality has shifted, and she realizes that what has happened to her is simply that she’s been knee-deep in pathology, and she is powerful enough to walk away.

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I love that part—the paradigm shift—when a woman turns the corner in understanding, and her whole future opens up like a flower blooming!

Over the years, I have watched hundreds of women storm off into their futures having recaptured their lives, their dignity, their self-belief, and their ability to function well. It’s a beautiful and strong presence when you get to witness that happen.

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Why all of the horse photos? This is Rachel Alexandra—I love her expressive face. She is a reminder to me of all the women I have worked with. She was the first filly in 85 years to win the Preakness. It awed me to see her many faces of gentleness, powerlessness, worry, thriving, and power. It reminded me that even though so much is often against you in your race to recovery from pathology, that you too—like Rachel Alexandra—can defy the odds even when they have been stacked against you that way for years! There really is something to be said for the power of belief, destiny, and desire. I believe in you!

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know. The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships. Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more information.)

 

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com