The Pros and Cons of PHP Treatment

The Advantages and Disadvantages of PHP

If you’re seeking a way to treat drug and alcohol addiction, you might be considering a Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP). Before you decide, it’s vital to know the pros and cons of PHP treatment. While these type of treatment programs can be helpful, PHP isn’t right for everyone. Those with very serious addictions might require a higher level of care in residential treatment. They might also need full detox before entering any kind of treatment. Those who have less serious addictions might not need the structure of PHP. They might be better off with something less intensive. By understanding PHP, you’ll be better equipped to choose the right program.

What is PHP?

Partial Hospitalization is a level of care for treating Substance Use Disorder (SUD). In most PHP settings the patients receive care during the day at a facility and then return to a sober living environment in the evening. PHP is even higher in intensity than Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP), but not quite as high as the full Rehab or Residential levels where a patient remains at the treatment facility 24 hours a day.

While at the facility they receive various types of treatment to manage their SUD. One of the advantages of the PHP level of care is that it allows patients to get a full day of treatment including individual therapy and groups similar to what they’d have in a residential program. Many patients appreciate the ability to stay in a sober living environment overnight rather than sleeping at the facility itself.

Who is PHP For?

Typically, PHP is used by people who have either completed a residential treatment program or whom don’t require that level of 24 hour medical care. Residential programs are those wherein the patient stays at a facility overnight. This level of care is necessary for some patients, however it can be more costly per day. Many patients find they are able to get a longer overall length of stay in the PHP level of care. Another goal of PHP is to provide support for those who are still at a high risk for relapse. Programs of this type include a great deal of emphasis on relapse prevention. The aim is to help people transition into a sober life.

PHP is often used by those who do not require residential treatment, but want an advanced level of care to treat their addiction. Generally, these are people who don’t need 24/7 medical supervision in residential care, but still want a full day of treatment and the security and structure that sober living homes deliver.

Most people with SUD benefit greatly from following this basic recovery plan:

  1. Detox (and sometimes Residential)
  2. PHP
  3. IOP
  4. OP
  5. Aftercare

People who have been to treatment before and want to make sure they get a longer length of stay often find PHP helpful.

What is Involved in PHP

During partial hospitalization, a person will undergo a variety of treatments to help them. In quality partial hospitalization programs, evidence-based therapies are used. These therapies have shown to have the greatest success with treating SUD. The types of treatments most beneficial in a PHP are:

  • Specialized care for specific addictions, such as:
    • Alcohol dependency.
    • Opioid treatment programs.
    • Heroin specific treatment.
    • Methamphetamine addiction.
    • Crack and cocaine programs.
  • Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT).
  • Behavioral therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Contingency Management Interventions/Motivational Incentives, or others.
  • Group therapy supervised by a qualified therapist.
  • Family therapy.
  • Individual therapy.
  • Support groups.

This is by no means a total list. Every facility will provide different services. However, seeking PHP treatment that includes as many of the above as possible improve the chance of success.

The Pros and Cons of PHP Treatment

Here’s a quick breakdown of the benefits and drawbacks of PHP treatment:

PHP Pros

  • Provides a strong structure in order to help a person new to sobriety learn the tools necessary to live sober.
  • Can lead to a longer overall length of stay and the patient getting more help.
  • Reduces the sense of being “institutionalized” because the patient leaves the facility at the end of the day for a home-like environment.
  • Offers a full day of treatment very similar to residential treatment without the need to stay at the facility 24/7.
  • Less expensive than residential care and insurance may cover more time.

PHP Cons

Here are some drawbacks of PHP treatment:

  • May not be enough care for someone with a very serious addiction who also has medical or psychiatric problems that require more observation..
  • Requires more of a time commitment than Intensive Outpatient or Outpatient.
  • May interfere with work, school, family and other responsibilities.
  • Sometimes asks for a commitment from family members who may not be willing to sacrifice their time.

If You’re Ready to Begin PHP

Hopefully this has clarified how PHP treatment can be beneficial, as well as the potential downsides. If you feel that PHP is right for you, or are looking for alternatives, please contact us. Our staff is available to answer any questions you might have. They are also equipped to help begin the intake process if you’re looking to get into treatment as soon as possible. Our programs are built around our patients so that every person receives exactly the type of care they require. Reach out today and let us help you build a treatment program to fit your life. You can do it, and Recovery by the Sea is here to help.

Depression In Early Recovery

depression in early recovery

Experiencing Depression in Early Recovery

As you begin your journey in recovery, you may find yourself feeling down from time to time. Everyone is bound to have the occasional rough day, week, or even a season of life. Sudden life changes can cause major mental and emotional stress, and recovery certainly fits that description. Medical research tells us that many who struggle with Substance Use or Alcohol Use Disorder have been drawn into active use by depression-related conditions. Knowing this, it comes as no surprise that depression early in the recovery journey is very common. In this article, you will learn:

  • What is depression, and how is it different from having a rough day?
  • What should you do if you feel like you are living with depression?
  • How do you keep depression from hampering your road to recovery?

What is Depression?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), depression is common among the general population. However, it comes in many different forms, and can be caused by a variety of factors. External factors, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder, can cause some forms of depression. Others are caused by life challenges, such as childhood trauma or Postpartum Depression. Still others such as Persistent Depressive Disorder can last for a number of years prior to diagnosis. The actual number of diagnosable conditions that fall under the depression umbrella is constantly being updated by mental health professionals.

Am I Living with Depression or Just Feeling Down?

Depression comes in many forms. Unless you have a background in mental health, it can be hard to know whether you should seek help. It is important to ask yourself “How am I feeling, and how long have I been feeling this way?” As we have discovered, many forms of depression are caused by a significant life event. Has there been a trauma experience in your life, particularly at a young age? Have you recently had a major change happen in your life, such as a new baby, job loss, or some other big event? These can cause anyone to feel down at times. If those feelings seem to linger, though, they could be a sign of something more serious.

In recovery, you will learn how Substance Use Disorder often occurs in those who live with depression or other mental health conditions. In fact, it is estimated that over 9.5 million adults in the US experience a mental condition along with Substance Abuse Disorder. Put another way, chances are good that you may be diagnosed with a form of depression as a part of the recovery journey.

Since these conditions often travel in pairs, make sure your treatment provider is prepared to address these issues as a part of your recovery care. You should also tell your provider if you have other risk factors that may apply to you.

These can include family history, other medical conditions, and any medications you may be taking.

Warning Signs

Common warning signs of depression can include feelings of apathy, decreased energy, trouble remembering things, or loss of interest in hobbies or activities you once enjoyed. More serious symptoms may include thoughts of hopelessness or despair, physical aches or pains, or thoughts of self-harm. Contact your provider immediately if you are having thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

Treatment Options


If you have been diagnosed with depression, there are many treatment options available. The most common depression treatment is psychotherapy, or “talk therapy.” There are many different types of psychotherapy. All involve meeting with a therapist to discover the root of the issues you are facing and discover ways to better cope. Your therapist will work with you to determine the best form of therapy to address your specific needs, and can involve either individual or family sessions. Some common forms of therapy include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), family therapy, and problem-solving therapy.

Support Groups

Many treatment plans will include support groups to help patients support one another through treatment. These groups can be for the patients themselves, for families and loved ones, or both. There is comfort in knowing you are not alone in the journey. Your experience may even help someone else who could benefit from your participation in a group setting.


Your provider may recommend medication as part of your treatment plan. These medications are commonly called antidepressants. There are numerous antidepressants on the market. Your provider will take into consideration your unique condition and medical history in order to meet your treatment goals. Most antidepressants take at least 2-4 weeks to begin taking effect, and can take up to 12 weeks to show full effect. In some cases, your provider may need to try more than one antidepressant to find what works best for you. Be sure to tell your provider about any side effects, or if your condition worsens in any way.

Other Coping Strategies

There are other coping strategies you should explore in addition to treatment. Try to maintain an active lifestyle and exercise regularly. Besides helping you stay physically healthy, exercise helps the body produce endorphins, which are the “feel good” chemicals in your body. If you are experiencing trouble sleeping, regular exercise will also help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep during the night.

If you do not already have a sponsor, invest the time to find one. Simply put, a sponsor in recovery is simply someone who has actively worked the program and been free of substance use for at least a year. Many times, your sponsor may have dealt with similar issues and may have valuable advice they can share.

We Can Help

The recovery journey is a major life adjustment, and depression is a common issue that comes up along the way. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, don’t try to deal with it alone. We are happy to help. Contact our office today to speak with a provider and set up a treatment plan that works for you.

What is EMDR Therapy? Can it Help My Recovery?

woman sitting in her therapist office discussing EMDR

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapeutic practice for treating past trauma. It uses movement of the eyes to stimulate the brain in a way that assists in processing difficult emotions. Officially, EMDR can only treat trauma disorders such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). However, emerging studies show it to be effective at treating depression, anxiety and stress. Research also shows it to be helpful in addiction, particularly if previous trauma helps drive that addiction.

How EMDR Works

The EMDR therapeutic method is simple. The patient sits in a comfortable position and moves their eyes back and forth along a horizontal line. They do this while recalling hurtful memories. Doing this allows easier processing of difficult emotions.

Biologically, it is still unclear exactly how and why EMDR works. Theories suggest that it stimulates better communication between the hemispheres of the brain. By engaging the brain in this way, the mind is better able to work through difficulties, because the movement forces the brain to employ more neurons in different areas of the brain. Stimulating different regions of the brain gives it more power of different kinds to work through painful issues.

Theories also posit that the back-and-forth action is similar to the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) experienced during dream sleep. The idea is that since people who have less REM sleep have higher stress levels, performing a similar eye movement can alleviate some of the pain of past memories.

EMDR does not only use eye movement for neural stimulation. Walking, tapping on alternate sides of the body or any motion that engages first one side of the body, then the other can work. Merely taking a walk to calm down is a simplified form of EMDR.

EMDR and Addiction Recovery

On some level, everyone suffers from memories of their past. These memories and their associated suffering help to drive addiction. Pleasant memories of previous drinking or using are frequently the cause of cravings. One of the other major causes of cravings is a desire to ease painful feelings.

EMDR strategies such as bi-lateral movement reduce all emotional reactions to memories. This includes happiness. Therefore, employing EMDR can lessen the joy from memories of using. Reducing the false happiness from the memories then lowers the desire to use.

Hurtful memories also drive the desire to use. These can be memories of past trauma, memories of humiliation or anything that brings about mental suffering. Addicts frequently report thoughts of the past help precipitate a relapse. Even memories of normal events such as the loss of a job, a relationship, or a family member can cause an addict to resort to previous behavior. EMDR helps to interrupt this cycle by easing the distress of these memories.

Though research on EMDR is positive when it comes to addiction recovery, it is rarely the only answer. It is merely one helpful tool for those who are haunted by the good and bad of their past.

If you or someone you know needs assistance in their battle with addiction, reaching out is the first key to success. Addiction thrives in isolation. Overcoming it requires help.

Can Severe Alcoholism Cause Dementia?

model of human brain and nervous system

Alcohol and Dementia

Can severe alcoholism cause dementia?  Oddly enough, the answer if both yes and no. Strictly speaking, years of excessive drinking causes a brain condition known as ‘Alcohol-Related Brain Damage,’ or ARBD. ARBD includes brain disorders like Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome and Alcoholic Dementia that mimic the symptoms of the familiar aging disease, but there are also key differences.

One of these differences is that Alzheimer’s type of dementia often stems from unknown sources, whereas ARBD is always caused by severe alcoholism.  In this post, we’ll explore the dangerous relationship between alcohol and dementia-like conditions.

Alcohol and the Brain

 Here’s the quick version– alcohol destroys brain cells much more rapidly than the aging process all by itself. The death of certain brain cells is what leads to Alzheimer’s type of dementia and ARBD both, so the various conditions lead to very similar results.

Again though– ARBD typically kills the brain cells at a much faster rate. Severe alcoholism over many years also makes the problem drinker significantly more likely to experience the cognitive, memory, and social difficulties that all forms of dementia entail.

Here are some of the most common symptoms of non-alcohol related dementia and ARBD:

  • Poor memory functioning
  • A decrease in simple problem-solving ability
  • Confusion and/or disorientation
  • Hallucinations
  • Aphasia (excessive difficulty in finding and understand common words)
  • Poor motor skills and physical coordination
  • Personality changes and increased chances of experiencing anxiety, depression, and paranoia
  • Extreme agitation and/or inappropriate behavior

As anyone who’s ever had to interact with a loved one with dementia knows, these difficulties can change someone you’ve known your whole life into a person you no longer recognize.

The Causes of ARBD

 Simply put, excessive drinking over a long period of time causes Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome and other forms of alcoholic dementia. Though everyone is affected a bit differently by excessive amounts of alcohol, 50 drinks a week is usually too much for men, whereas women who consume more than 30 drinks per week are susceptible to alcohol-related brain disorders.

In addition to leading to alcoholic addiction, this level of consumption can wreak havoc on both the mind and body of the problem drinker, especially if it continues for a long period of time. One way that alcohol leads to ARBD is by causing a thiamine (Vitamin B1) deficiency. Thiamine helps provide energy for the body in general and is critical to the proper functioning of nerve cells in the brain.

Excessive drinking can also damage the GI tract and prevent the proper absorption of nutrients. Long term alcohol abuse also damages the circulatory system, often leading to heart attacks and strokes that help cause the cognitive impairments associated with forms of dementia.

Alcohol and Dementia: The Bottom Line

Sadly, there is no proven way to treat Alzheimer’s type of dementia once it takes hold. However, as tragic as it can appear to be, people with alcohol-related brain disorders can experience substantial improvement in their bodily and cognitive health. Of course, this can only happen if the individual receives the necessary support and abstains from alcohol. At the very least, their condition is not likely to get any worse if these factors are in place.

There is a clear connection between alcohol and dementia-like conditions. As with most disorders, the best tool is prevention. Professional help is strongly suggested for anyone who is approaching the levels of alcohol consumption that can lead to ARBDs.


Women’s Healthcare Month: Addiction and the Mental Health Gender Gap

Women's Mental Health and Addiction

What is the Gender Gap in Mental Health Care? 

Women are twice as likely to suffer from a mental health disorder than men. This statistic encompasses women from all socioeconomic positions, races, and geographical regions. However, some research finds a connection between women who experience significant gender and wealth inequality and higher rates of mental health conditions. Understanding the reasons for the higher rates of mental health issues affecting women is an important aspect of closing the gender gap with regards to women’s healthcare and addiction treatment. 


Co-Occurring Disorders in Women

Co-occurring disorders are mental health conditions such as PTSD, depression, and anxiety which coincide with substance abuse and/or addiction. Research suggests that 40% of people with Substance Use Disorder (SUD) have a Co-occurring Disorder. 

We know that mental health conditions can lead to substance abuse and addiction, as people often use drugs and alcohol to self-medicate. But equally, addiction can often precede a mental health condition. For example, in men addiction is more likely to lead to depression rather than the other way around. In women, the opposite is true. For example, women are far more likely to suffer from depression and use drugs or alcohol to cope with their symptoms, leading to SUD and/or addiction. 

Thus, Co-occurring Disorders are often found to be drivers of SUD and addiction in women. For instance, studies have shown that 6 in 10 women with addiction also have PTSD. Without treatment for mental health, SUD and addiction thrive, creating a vicious cycle in which one condition exacerbates the other. 

Risk Factors for Women

Women are more likely to experience certain types of trauma which can adversely affect their mental health. They are more vulnerable to physical attacks, domestic violence and sexual abuse, all of which are key risk factors for women and mental health conditions. In fact, one in three women will experience a sexual assault in their lifetime and are statistically more likely to experience sexual abuse, incest, and neglect in their childhood. 

Women also experience higher rates of socioeconomic disadvantage and income inequality. Furthermore, women are more likely to be carers which often carries with it psychological and physical burdens.

Lastly, certain types of depressive conditions can be unique to women, such as Premenstrual Depressive Disorder, Perinatal Depression, and Perimenopausal Depression.


Getting Help 

When SUD and addiction combine with mental health conditions, the patient should be treated for both conditions. Women’s mental health and SUD and addiction should be addressed together. Finding a center which specializes in treating Co-occurring Disorders is crucial for obtaining the best possible outcome. 

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance abuse, addiction and/or mental health conditions, help is available. At Harmony Recovery Group we treat addiction and mental health holistically to create the best chance of long-term recovery and wellbeing.

Contact us today, we are here for you. 



Mental Health Awareness Month: Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder and Addiction

* name changed for patient anonymity 

What it can be like to have Borderline Personality Disorder:  

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a disorder that makes it very difficult to function in everyday life and personal relationships. People with Borderline Personality Disorder typically have unstable emotions and moods. They can experience intense mood swings and emotional tailspins from seemingly innocuous events. This lack of control over their emotional experience can challenge interpersonal relationships as Borderline Personality Disorder sufferers are prone to intense feelings of rage, despair, and elation that can arise as quickly as they dissipate, leaving partners and loved ones reeling. In particular, “explosive anger” is one of the criteria for BPD diagnosis.

So, What Can Living with Borderline Personality Disorder Be like:

Beth*, a former patient of Harmony Recovery Group, spoke to us about her experience with Borderline Personality Disorder. “Having BPD is horrible. You are emotionally and physically reactive in ways that others can’t fathom. It’s like you are an alien at times. The rest of the world has a manual for emotions and you just sit up in your head without any instructions, tinkering with different components, trying to figure out how to be like everyone else. And you fail and you fail and you fail. Your self image becomes distorted because you are different and you know it.

Beth’s Experience with Relationships with Borderline Personality Disorder:

My partner does not understand my emotional experience with Borderline Personality Disorder because the emotional reactivity has the look of insincerity. To me it’s real but others see me as faking or wanting attention. So I am called immature or childish or too sensitive. Too ‘this’ or too ‘that.’ It is tiresome for others to be around but it is devastating to be the one to live with it.”

Emotional swings can also lead to impulsive or self-destructive behaviors. They can range from spending money you can’t afford, drug or alcohol abuse, or binge eating. Or in other cases, like Beth’s, self harm. “Impulses present an internal reign of terror. You feel, you react and often that reaction turns to harsh self-abuse. You hurt yourself because you know you’re the wrong one. You’re damaged. It’s all your own fault. So you punish yourself for not knowing how to cope. Maybe coping is cutting or digging your nails in your arm? Maybe coping is banging your head against the wall in the bathroom at work, but very quietly so no one thinks you just want attention. You secretly shame yourself. I have bit, slapped, pinched and cut myself over and over and over…hundreds of times in my life. Always because I couldn’t cope with feeling misunderstood or rejected or excluded.”

“I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me”

Fear of rejection, exclusion, and abandonment are also hallmark characteristics of BPD. Fear of being alone can be so strong that a BPD sufferer fears abandonment, even from those they have come to dislike. Hence the phrase, “I hate you, don’t leave me,” coined by psychologists Dr. Jerold Kreisman and Dr. Hal Straus. A BPD sufferer’s feelings towards those closest to them can change dramatically from one minute to the next, and they often do not even know why. Feelings can shift from extreme love and closeness (idealization) to hate and anger (devaluation), in a black-and-white pattern of thinking.

All of these factors culminate in highly unstable personal relationships, often pushing away those they love most through behaviors they struggle to control. 

Further symptoms of BPD can include: feelings of emptiness, suicidal thoughts, difficulty trusting, and feelings of dissociation. 

Not all BPD sufferers will experience or display all of the above symptoms. Some cases may only experience a few while others will experience many. As with many mental health disorders it varies from person to person. 

Beth’s Experience with Treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder:

For most BPD sufferers, all they want is to be like everybody else. As Beth says, “all you ever want is to have some understanding of what normal must feel like.” 

Finding and taking the right treatment can greatly improve quality of life for BPD patients. Treatment is possible through evidence-based approaches, particularly Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). 

Addiction and Borderline Personality Disorder:

Addiction and BPD often go hand-in-hand, with two thirds of Borderline Personality Disorder patients having abused a substance at some point in their lives. The unstable emotions and self-loathing caused by the above symptoms often lead Borderline Personality Disorder sufferers to try to mask their symptoms and feelings with drugs and alcohol. 

For dual diagnosis patients (Borderline Personality Disorder and Addiction), treatment is most effective when the two are treated concurrently. Treating one without the other will likely exacerbate the untreated disorder and undermine the progress made on the treated disorder.

How to Increase Dopamine Levels Naturally

How to Increase Dopamine Levels Naturally | Recovery By The Sea

Dopamine is an essential chemical messenger in the brain. When dopamine is released, it induces feelings of reward and pleasure. This motivates a person to repeat a particular behavior.

Conversely, low levels of dopamine are associated with decreased motivation and excitement for things that would be pleasurable for other people. For those in recovery from addiction, the ability to produce dopamine is essential to improve mood and prevent a return to substance abuse as a means to experience pleasure.

Drug and alcohol abuse, over time, hijacks the brain’s reward system. As the brain adapts to the presence of the substance, it becomes less able to produce dopamine, serotonin, and other essential neurotransmitters without chemical help.

Activities That Increase Dopamine Levels Naturally

People in recovery sometimes struggle to experience pleasure. Fortunately, there are everyday options available to increase levels naturally, including the following:

Eat Protein

Proteins consist of nearly two dozen different amino acids. The body can produce some, but others must be obtained by eating food. The amino acid tyrosine plays a crucial role in the production of dopamine.

Furthermore, the body can convert another amino acid, phylalanine, into tyrosine. Both tyrosine and phenylalanine are found in high protein foods. These include beef, eggs, turkey, chicken, dairy, soy, and legumes.

Research has shown that boosting the amount of tyrosine and phenylalanine in the diet can increase the amount of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine can improve cognitive abilities and memory.

Avoid Saturated Fat

Some research on animals has found that saturated fats may disrupt dopamine signaling in the brain when consumed in excessive amounts. Such bad fats can be found in animal fat, butter, dairy, lard, and palm and coconut oil, among others.

One study revealed that rats that consumed half of their calories from saturated fat had less dopamine signaling in the reward regions of the brain, compared to those that received the same amount of calories from unsaturated fat. Why saturated fat affects dopamine adversely is not entirely clear. Still, many researchers contend that eating a diet high in saturated fat may cause inflammation in the body.

How to Increase Dopamine Levels Naturally | Recovery By The Sea

Take Probiotics

In recent years, researchers have found that the brain and the gut have a close connection. In fact, the gut has oft been referred to as the “second brain.” This is because it contains many nerve cells that produce neurotransmitters, including dopamine.

Some species of bacteria that live in the gut are capable of producing dopamine for us. Several studies have found that when consumed in large enough amounts, specific strains of bacteria can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety in both humans and animals.

Exercise Regularly

Exercise is a great way to increase endorphin levels and elevate mood. Improvements in mood may occur after just a few minutes of aerobic activity. Although results tend to be highest after 20 minutes or more.

Although these effects are probably not solely due to increased dopamine levels, research on rats suggests that exercise can increase the amount of dopamine in the brain. In humans, one three-month study found that performing yoga for one hour six days a week increased dopamine levels significantly.

Several studies have revealed that regular, intense exercise several times per week significantly improved motor control in individuals with Parkinson’s. This finding suggests that there may be a positive effect on the production of dopamine, as those with the disease are usually deficient.

Get Plenty of Sleep

When the brain releases dopamine, this action induces feelings of wakefulness and alertness. Animal research has found that dopamine is release in high levels upon waking. Conversely, levels fall when it’s time to go to sleep, as part of our Circadian Rhythm.

Moreover, a lack of sleep appears to interrupt these natural rhythms. When a person must stay awake through the night, the availability of dopamine in the brain is significantly lower by the next morning.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends getting 7–9 hours of sleep each night for optimal health. One way to achieve this is through proper sleep hygiene. A person can improve sleep hygiene by falling asleep and waking up at the same time each day, for example. Other ways to improve sleep quality is avoiding caffeine late in the day, reducing noise in the environment, and limiting bed use to sleep only.

Listen to Music

Listening to music can be an enjoyable way to spur dopamine release in the brain. Studies have found that listening to music boosts activity in the pleasure and reward regions of the brain. These regions contain numerous dopamine receptors.

One small study examining the effects of music on dopamine levels found a 9% increase when people listened to instrumental music that gave them chills. In fact, all research to date on music and dopamine have used only instrumental songs to ensure that melodies alone can increase dopamine levels.

How to Increase Dopamine Levels Naturally | Recovery By The Sea

Practice Medication

Meditation is a method of clearing the mind, focusing inward, and letting thoughts pass by without judgment. Regular practice has been associated with improved mental and physical well-being. In fact, recent studies have found that meditation may increase dopamine levels in the brain. In a small study of eight experienced meditation instructors, researchers found a 64% increase in the participants dopamine levels after one hour of meditation.

These changes may help people who meditate keep a positive mood and motivate them to stay in the meditative state for a prolonged period.

Consider Taking Supplements

The human body requires many vitamins and minerals to produce dopamine. These include folate, iron, niacin, and vitamin B6. If a person is deficient in even one of these nutrients, they may have difficulty producing enough dopamine. Blood work can help determine nutrient deficiencies. If a person is deficient, supplements can increase levels.

Getting Help for Addiction

Recovery By The Sea offers comprehensive addiction programs that are founded on the concept of holistic treatment. By using a holistic approach, clients can benefit from a variety of therapeutic services, activities, and educational classes. Studies have shown that such programs are the most effective at helping people achieve the best outcomes of long-lasting sobriety and wellness.

If you ready to begin your journey to recovery, contact us today. Discover how we can help you get started—one step at a time!

⟹ READ THIS NEXT: How to Reduce Anxiety

How to Reduce Anxiety

How to Reduce Anxiety | Recovery By The Sea Addiction Treatment

How to Reduce Anxiety – Although it is an entirely reasonable human response, anxiety is also an emotional reaction that can cause us to over-examine situations and paralyze us when we encounter critical decisions or fearful circumstances. An anxiety disorder may develop when anxiety continues for a prolonged period and begins to interfere with daily functioning.

Anxiety is an unpleasant and sometimes terrifying emotion, and, understandably, some people try to find ways to prevent, or deaden these feelings. While drugs and alcohol may mitigate anxious feelings in the short term, substance abuse can and does tend to make anxiety worse in the long run.

Fortunately, there are much better, healthier ways to cope with anxiety than through the use of drugs and alcohol.

Common Symptoms of Anxiety

  • Sweating
  • Trembling/shaking
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Muscle tension

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of impending doom
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Ruminating on negative thoughts
  • Panic attacks

People who experience these feelings may engage in unhealthy behaviors as a means to escape, prevent, or reduce anxiety, such as the following:

  • Avoiding situations that foster anxious feelings
  • Withdrawing from others/social isolation
  • Abusing substances to self-medicate

These means of addressing anxiety may be somewhat helpful in the short-term but can result in chronic problems. Moreover, they disconnect individuals from their potential support networks and can worsen the underlying issues that contribute to anxiety instead of resolving them.

Why Do People Use Substances to Deal With Anxiety?

How to Reduce Anxiety | Recovery By The Sea Addiction Treatment

The answer may seem obvious at first, but there’s actually real science behind it. In research, people with chronic anxiety have been shown to have an overactive amygdala, a region of the brain that is responsible for fear and anxiety-related memories. The amygdala interacts with a stress response subsystem in the body called the HPA axis.

The HPA axis (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis) is a complicated set of interactions between the hypothalamus, the pituitary glands, and the adrenal glands that are located at the top of each kidney. The HPA axis is associated with stress and is responsible for the release of cortisol, which prepares the body for a fight-or-flight response.

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an inhibitory neurochemical that counteracts the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate. GABA can suppress thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, while glutamate leads to an excitatory effect. The balance between these two chemicals significantly contributes to whether a person is feeling relaxed and calm or alert and anxious.

Other chemicals, namely dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, also play a vital role in the development of emotional states such as anxiety. Pharmaceuticals can address a chemical imbalance issue by using agents that target and modify the GABA system in a way that reduces anxiety.

Some people resort to using drugs and alcohol to cope with anxiety because increased GABA activity increases feelings of relaxation. Unfortunately, however, it’s only a short-term respite from stress.

How to Reduce Anxiety Substance-Free

Fortunately, many self-help methods target the same anti-stress mechanisms in the brain that do not produce the adverse effects that alcohol and drugs wreak on one’s life.

Mindfulness & Meditation

Mindfulness is a method of focusing that helps the person practicing become more connected to his or her thoughts, emotions, and body. There are many ways to integrate mindfulness techniques into one’s life, and getting started is simple.

To begin, sit in a relaxed position and breathe deeply. Breath in slowly and hold it for four seconds, and gradually release it over five seconds. Pay close attention to breathing, and if the mind begins to wander, acknowledge the thought without judgment, and then let it go. Return to focusing on the breath.

Mindfulness helps the practicing individual remain firmly in the present without ruminating over the past or worrying about the future. It has also been shown to promote inhibitory control in the brain, which is precisely the remedy for anxiety.


Like mindfulness, yoga is another practice that reduces anxiety through breathing and centered attention on the body. Yoga requires deep breathing during uncomfortable and sometimes awkward positions and encourages people to breathe through stress using only the mind and body. It does this, in part, because it increases GABA levels, which promotes relaxation.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Mental health professionals often use cognitive-behavioral therapy as a technique to identify, challenge, and modify thought processes to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety. CBT is goal-oriented and requires the participant to engage in activities and practice at home outside of therapy.

Part of feeling anxious involves one’s own interpretation of biological and chemical changes. CBT works to reframe negative beliefs and thinking patterns, helping people mitigate their subjective experience of anxiety.

Make Informed and Healthy Choices

Certain lifestyle choices can affect our mental and emotional state and hinder or promote our ability to deal with stress. Positive, healthy practices, such as the following, can serve to reduce stress and increase resilience and overall well-being:

  • Eating healthy
  • Engaging in regular exercise
  • Developing a healthy sleep routine
  • Taking time to rest
  • Engaging in fulfilling and enjoyable activities and hobbies
  • Avoiding caffeine and other stimulants
  • Taking medication (if any) as prescribed
  • Seeking support from family, friends, groups, and mental health professionals

Treatment for Addiction and Anxiety

Integrated treatment is a comprehensive rehab program that provides all the medical, therapeutic, and holistic resources essential to help clients heal physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Each client should have a customized treatment plan, but for those who are living with both an addiction and a mental health disorder, an integrated treatment program may typically include the following services:

Medical Detox

For those who struggle with drug or alcohol addiction, the detox period, or the first days following the cessation of substance use, can be characterized by unpleasant physical and mental withdrawal symptoms. Detox services provide medical and mental health support to clients with and monitoring, if needed, to help them stabilize during treatment.

Evaluation and Diagnosis

To ensure that all co-occurring mental health symptoms are accurately diagnosed, an evaluation is the next step in integrated treatment. Also, all other issues that may be barriers in the client’s path to recovery are identified. Based on the evaluation results and the reported experiences of the client, diagnoses are identified to help the client understand and frame past experiences and prepare for the future.

How to Reduce Anxiety | Recovery By The Sea Addiction Treatment

Treatment Planning

A customized treatment plan is developed for each client that combines an array of therapeutic and medical interventions to empower the client to recover from addiction, learn how to manage mental health conditions, and address personal issues that may be problematic.

Individual Therapy

One-on-one therapy is the basis for recovery, as it provides the client with a safe and confidential forum to address past experiences, current issues, changes that occur during therapy, and goals for the future. As treatment goals are achieved based on the initial treatment plan, the client can collaborate with the therapist to identify new therapy goals and modify the treatment plan accordingly.

Group Therapy

There are a variety of groups that may be employed as part of an integrated treatment program. These include 12-Step groups, groups that focus on a specific aspect of addiction, support groups for people who experience the same mental health issues, and groups that help members cope with a commonly shared life issue, such as parenting or legal problems.

Family Therapy

Working together with friends and family to repair relationships damaged during active addiction and untreated mental health symptoms can play a huge role in recovery. This is especially true if the client will be returning home to live with family members after treatment has been completed.


Before leaving treatment, clients are urged to work with a therapist to create an aftercare plan. This plan should include a combination of therapeutic services that meet the person’s needs during and after the transition into independent living.

Getting Help for Addiction and Mental Illness

Using an integrated approach to addiction and the factors that drive it, we provide patients with the tools, skills, and support they desperately need to achieve a full recovery and enjoy long-lasting sobriety and wellness.

If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction to drugs or alcohol and a co-occurring mental illness, please contact us today!

⟹ READ THIS NEXT: Types of Anxiety and Addiction

Obsessive Love Addiction and Substance Abuse

Obsessive Love Addiction and Substance Abuse | Recovery By The Sea

Obsessive love addiction is a behavioral disorder not unlike other addiction to certain activities, such as sex or gambling. It involves problems related to impulse control and adverse changes in behavior that revolve around experiencing the “high” associated with falling in love and maintaining these feelings at whatever cost.

Like any behavior that is associated with increased levels of feel-good chemicals, such as dopamine or serotonin, love can become addictive. Also, many love addicts report experiencing emotional withdrawal symptoms similar to those of drugs or alcohol after ending a romantic relationship or losing the “rush” effects of newfound love.

Symptoms of obsessive love addiction include the following:

  • Obsessing about the object of desire, overwhelming attraction
  • Neglecting work, school, and family to be with the person of obsession
  • Attempting to conceal the extent of the obsession from others
  • Believing that a relationship will finally make one “complete”
  • Inability to comply with self-imposed rules around relationships
  • Feeling the need to “protect” the object of desire
  • Possessive thoughts and behaviors, including jealousy of others

Similar to a person who is unable to control their drug use, a loved addict will also fail to control their behavior despite attempts to do so. They may also experience desperation, depression, anxiety, and other unpleasant emotional symptoms when they are forced to be apart from their romantic partner. They often exhibit an extreme need for romance to feel normal, even when the relationship they are in is dysfunctional or unsatisfying.

People who have obsessive love addiction also tend not to take rejection very well. If this occurs, a worsening of addictive behaviors is likely. Other signs of this condition, include the following:

  • Repeated texts, calls, emails, etc. to the romantic partner or love interest
  • A constant need for reassurance and validation
  • Monitoring the actions of the person and where they are going
  • Attempting to control the person’s whereabouts and the activities in which they engage

Obsessive Love Addiction and Substance Abuse | Recovery By The Sea

The Six Main Forms of Love Addiction

Love Addicts Anonymous suggests that there are six types of love addiction, including the following:

Obsessed, in which a person cannot seem to let go of a romantic relationship, even when the partner has proven themselves to be emotionally unavailable, abusive, or generally unable or unwilling to commit. Those who suffer from this are believed to have problems with impulse control.

Codependent, in which a person believes that caring for their romantic partner – often to their own detriment – is necessary to keep the partner in the relationship. Codependent love addicts often suffer from depression and low self-esteem.

Narcissistic, which describes the person in the relationship with the aforementioned codependent partner. Narcissists, in this case, are emotional manipulators that tend to use coercion, deceit, and even violence to maintain control in a romantic partnership. They may become anxious and abusive if they perceive they are being neglected or rejected.

Relationship, in which a person is addicted to being in a relationship, even if they are no longer in love with their partner. Even if the relationship is unsatisfying or dysfunctional, they feel that this is better than the alternative – being alone. Or, if faced with inevitable loss, they may quickly line up another person as a replacement.

Ambivalent, in which a person can let go of a romantic partnership(s), yet they are unable to move forward into a new relationship. Ambivalent love addicts vacillate between craving love and avoiding it, and may abruptly end relationships when things get too serious. These individuals have often experienced some childhood trauma and have deep-seated problems with intimacy.

Romance, in which a person is addicted to the process of romance and not necessarily a particular partner. Unlike sex addicts, who usually do not bond with their partners, romance addicts do bond on a certain level, but not to a long-lasting extent. They often have more than one partner or overlap partners that are used to fulfill feelings of being desired and validated.

Factors That Contribute to Obsessive Love Addiction

The causes of love addiction, in general, consist of a combination of underlying emotional issues. These may be related to childhood trauma, abuse neglect, or abandonment, and mental health issues such as impulse problems, depression, or anxiety.

Other causes of love addiction include low self-esteem, growing up with a lack of positive role models in romantic relationships, and delusions about the concept of “living happily ever after” as is idealized by our culture.

Obsessive Love Addiction and Substance Abuse | Recovery By The Sea

Obsessive Love Addiction as Related to Substance Abuse

Research conducted by Syracuse University found that falling in love was similar to cocaine addiction. Both are borne of a biological process involving the rapid release of adrenaline, dopamine, and other feel-good chemicals. These reactions cause the person to associate an object of desire with feelings of pleasure, reward, and euphoria. 

Any experience that releases endorphins and other reward chemicals in the central nervous system can contribute to an addiction in some people. Although there is not a direct chemical component, such as that with cocaine and other psychoactive substances, a significant emotional compulsion can develop.

Although substance abuse tends to be more common among those with mental and emotional problems, it is obvious that not all love addicts will become addicted to drugs or alcohol. Instead, they may be a higher risk of doing so, due to the underlying issues that contribute to both conditions. These include mental illness, the experience of childhood trauma, and other distress that may lead to self-medicating behaviors.

Specific mental health conditions that especially likely to contribute to both love addiction and substance abuse include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Attachment disorders
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Delusional or obsessional jealousy

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Depression
  • Anxiety and panic disorder

Genetic factors may also come into play, as both behavioral addictions and substance abuse may have biologically-based similarities, especially those related to impulse control.

Lastly, behavioral addictions and substance abuse, when coexisting, tend to make each other worse. If a love addict is particularly stressed out about romance or a relationship, he or she may be more likely to abuse substances or do so more excessively. Conversely, the use of drugs and alcohol often serves to promote emotional dysregulation further, and the cycle is therefore perpetuated and goes on and on.

Treatment for Obsessive Love Addiction and Substance Abuse

Love addiction and substance abuse are both mental health conditions that may be caused by many of the same underlying issues. They may also exacerbate each other, and failure to treat one or the other can result in a relapse back into addictive behavior.

Recovery by the Sea offers individualized, comprehensive programs designed to treat all aspects of our clients’ mental health and physical well-being. Our programs feature therapies and activities clinically-proven to be essential for recovery, including psychotherapy, counseling, and group support.

If you or someone you know is suffering from an addiction to love and drugs or alcohol, contact us today! Our mission is to ensure that we help as many people as possible reclaim their lives, free from substance abuse, and go on to enjoy long-lasting happiness and wellness!

Types of Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

Types of Bipolar Disorder and Addiction | Recovery By The Sea

Updated on August 23,2019

There are several subtypes of bipolar disorder that consist of a wide range of symptoms and severity. Understanding the different types of bipolar disorders and their common links to addiction is critical for those living with bipolar disorder and their loved ones.

Although they are not necessarily suggestive of each other, a high percentage of people who have bipolar disorder also struggle with substance abuse. In fact, a co-occuring substance abuse disorder is so prevalent that many health providers perform regular addiction screenings for people who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

The Bipolar Disorder Spectrum

Bipolar disorder is hallmarked by shifts in mood that can be quite dramatic. On the one hand, individuals may have a depressed mood in which they feel low, sad, and lethargic. On the other hand, individuals may experience a manic mood in which they feel happy, confident, powerful, and energetic.

People who suffer from bipolar disorder tend to encounter one or both of these moods without any particular external catalyst. Experts may diagnose people who have these striking mood shifts as bipolar, but there are many different ways that the disorder can present. Many experts posit that these different types of bipolar disorder exist on a spectrum in which a person might have one, some, or all of the potential symptoms associated with the disorder.

Types of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar I

Bipolar I disorder exists on one end of this spectrum. Only about 1% of the population has this type of bipolar disorder, and symptoms present as what is generally known as classic bipolar disorder. People who experience this form of bipolar disorder alternate between the highest highs and the lowest lows on a routine basis. During a manic episode, they might behave in the following ways:

  • Speak so rapidly that they’re difficult to understand
  • Spend a considerable amount of money
  • Express delusional beliefs (sometimes delusions of grandeur)
  • Refuse to sleep
  • Have an increased interest in engaging in sexual activities

This same person might then encounter episodes of severe depression in which life doesn’t seem worth living. They might refuse to go to work or find it difficult to talk to others or make decisions. They can appear as though they’re in a pit of despair at the lowest point in their lives.

Substance abuse can play a significant role in the life of someone who has bipolar I disorder. In fact, this is a common occurrence among many mental health disorders. For people who have a mental illness, substances might seem to make the mental/emotional dysfunction a bit easier to endure.

Bipolar II

This type of bipolar disorder can also make life difficult, but people who experience it don’t usually encounter full mania. People with bipolar II are still cycling from one mood to another, but they are much less likely to experience the feelings of energy and joy that comes with mania.

Instead, they oscillate from moments of minor dysphoria, in which they feel just a little sad, to moments of intense despair. People with bipolar II face the highest risk of suicide among all people on the bipolar spectrum because their depression seems like it will never get much better.

Furthermore, they are also highly susceptible to illicit drug use. They may turn to euphoric drugs to feel some form of happiness or use stimulant drugs to increase their energy levels so they can get through the day while feeling depressed.

Types of Bipolar Disorder and Addiction | Recovery By The Sea


This type of bipolar disorder is on the other end of the spectrum from bipolar I, as it is characterized by the same kind of cycling between mania and depression, but the highs and lows are typically less intense. People with cyclothymia experience sudden changes in mood that they might find difficult to control, but they may not encounter extreme forms of either mood.

These patients may also try their hand at self-medication with drugs and alcohol in an attempt to iron out the mood swings they’re feeling. Unfortunately, cyclothymia tends to become worse over time if not appropriately treated, and those who are using drugs or alcohol might be less likely to get treatment. As a result, their substance abuse can contribute to a more severe form of bipolar disorder.

Not Otherwise Specified (NOS)

This form of bipolar disorder can be placed anywhere on the spectrum as it’s applied to people who have a group of symptoms that don’t fit nicely into diagnostic criteria. People with this type of bipolar disorder might encounter episodes of mania, but no depression or they may experience only a few symptoms of mania and/or depression, but their episodes do not manifest quickly enough to warrant a formal diagnosis.

It can be incredibly challenging to live with NOS bipolar disorder as many struggle to find the proper care. Because their symptoms don’t fit other categories, they may not receive the medication support or therapies needed for healing. Thus, it’s common for people with NOS to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, which can cause an increase in symptoms and a more severe form of the disorder.

Alternating Moods and Rapid Cycling

While everyone who has bipolar disorder encounters mood shifts, people who have a rapid cycling form of the condition can go from one mood to another incredibly fast. They might wake up in the morning feeling depressed and experience mania by the afternoon.

People who must cope with shifts such as this can be profoundly disabled by their disorder, being completely unaware of what mood may soon follow and constantly feeling tense and on edge. Those with rapid cycling may be at an increased risk for substance abuse and addiction as they feel desperate to make the feelings stop.

Treatment for Addiction and Bipolar Disorder

While people often abuse drugs because they are attempting to manage their symptoms, substance abuse can make the dysfunction associated with bipolar much worse. However, specialized treatment for co-occurring disorders can make a huge difference, and usually begins with the following:

  • A thorough assessment of the symptoms the individual is currently encountering
  • A discussion about the person’s substance use patterns and habits
  • A timeline regarding symptom manifestation and the steps the person took to relieve the symptoms

Types of Bipolar Disorder and Addiction | Recovery By The Sea

Adjusting to Sobriety

Medical detox is usually next and is characterized by the process in which the body is cleared of toxic substances in a safe and controlled environment. Once detox is complete, doctors may use medications to stabilize mood and manage bipolar symptoms. However, because other drugs and alcohol can interfere with these medications, it’s essential for people to detox completely before they begin medication-assisted therapies.

Psychotherapy is another critical component of treatment. Here, the individual works with a therapist to understand their motives for using drugs along with potential triggers for bipolar shifts. Patients may work in a one-on-one setting, as well as in groups and learn from peers who also experience bipolar disorder.

At Harmony Ridge Recovery, we specialize in treatments for mental health disorders, particularly those that have been exacerbated by addiction. We believe that everyone who suffers from these disorders can recover and that an improved state of health can be achieved through medication management, psychotherapy, support groups, complementary therapies, and aftercare.

Call us today to find out how we can help you reclaim the fulfilling life you deserve!

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