Putting a Stop to Domestic Violence

February 03, 2021

The pandemic has affected countless lives beyond the millions who have been infected with the virus. Millions of others have been trapped with abusers by stay-at-home orders meant to stop the spread of the disease.

Abusers, who often isolate their victims, now have an easier time of terrorizing those close to them emotionally, physically, and sexually.

Fear and financial dependence prevent the majority of victims from seeking help. As a result, injuries go untreated, stress builds up, psychological wounds get deeper, and the results can be death by either homicide or suicide.

Identifying the Problem

Family domestic Violence

Violence was first listed as a health issue priority by the United States Surgeon General in 1979. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with the National Institute of Justice conducted the National Violence Against Women Survey from 1995 to 1996. It was the first real collection of data on intimate partner violence (IPV).

IPV refers to behavior in any intimate relationship that causes physical, sexual, or psychological harm to those in the relationship.

It includes:

  • Physical — hitting, slapping, kicking, beating
  • Sexual — forced sexual intercourse or other coerced sexual activity
  • Psychological — insults, intimidation, threats, destroying property, humiliation, stalking
  • Isolation — isolating someone from family and friends; keeping them from work or school; restricting access to money or medical care, monitoring movements

By the Numbers

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducts an ongoing National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey that gathers data on domestic and intimate partner violence.

According to the CDC’s survey:

  • 1 in 5 women — and 1 in 7 men — report experiencing severe physical violence from an intimate partner.
  • 1 in 5 women — and 1 in 12 men — have experienced violent sexual contact by an intimate partner.
  • 10% of women — and 2% of men — report having been stalked by an intimate partner.
  • 43 million women — and 38 million men — experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

The Consequences

Yelling Domestic Violence

Survivors of IPV face a host of health issues with physical injuries being most common. About 35% of women and 11% of men who survive IPV experience some physical injury related to their abuse. Death is also a result. Crime statistics show that in one of five cases an intimate partner killed the victim. More than half of all female homicide victims are killed by current or past male partners.

IPV survivors are also at risk for other chronic conditions that the:

Survivors also tend to suffer from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They face a higher risk for addictive behaviors like smoking, binge drinking, and risky sexual activity.

Recognizing Domestic Violence

It can be hard to speak up for someone you think is being abused. We have a tendency to make excuses for why things are a certain way, or we’re worried we’ll be told to, “mind our own business.” But you might be the difference between life and death for someone who is being abused.

You should look for:

  • Excuses for injuries
  • Personality changes, especially around their partner
  • Wearing long sleeves in the summer or sunglasses at night
  • Skipping work, school, or gatherings for no real reason
  • Always checking in with their partner
  • Wanting to please their partner
  • Never having money

If you suspect someone is being abused, you should:

  • Ask if they’re OK
  • Tell them why you’re worried and be specific
  • Listen
  • Let them know you’re there for them
  • Offer help
  • Respect their choices
  • Don’t tell them what they should do

We’re Here for You

Hand Domestic Violence

AltaMed is available to help you find resources so you can make a plan to leave an abusive relationship. Our Behavioral Health Services are staffed with licensed clinical social workers who speak English and Spanish and are trained to help you through whatever life puts in your way. You don’t have to go through it alone. To learn more about our services, call (855) 425-1777.

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Bipolar Disorder Is Much More than Mood Swings

September 23, 2020

We’ve all been the victim of mood swings. We start the day feeling great, but circumstances or current events bring our good mood crashing down into something close to depression. It happens. For more than 5.8 million American adults, dramatic mood swings are symptoms of bipolar disorder.

This mental health condition was once called manic depression. It’s characterized by extreme mood swings that can take individuals from intense bursts of creativity and activity — called mania — into sadness and depression that can be crippling. Each episode can last for days. It is a lifelong condition that can be managed with medication and psychotherapy, but it requires constant vigilance to maintain control over these dramatic shifts in mood.

It Takes Several Shapes

Section 1Each form of bipolar disorder is marked by unpredictable changes in mood and behavior that can be distressing to family and friends, and disruptive to everyday living. The behavior ranges from mania or hypomania (less extreme) to depression. Almost 83% of those with bipolar disorder describe it as a “severe” impairment.

  • Bipolar I disorder — Symptoms include having at least one manic episode that comes before or is followed by hypomanic or depressive episodes. The mania can sometimes trigger a psychotic episode that detaches the person from reality.
  • Bipolar II disorder — Symptoms include at least one major depressive episode and one hypomanic episode. People with bipolar II disorder have never had a manic episode.
  • Cyclothymic disorder — Symptoms include multiple periods of hypomania and multiple periods of depressive symptoms. The depressive symptoms are less severe than major depression. These have occurred for at least two years in adults or one year in children and teenagers.

The Cause Is Unknown

Section 2Bipolar and related disorders can be triggered by remarkable levels of stress, or the use of certain drugs or alcohol. They can also be the result of a medical condition like a stroke, multiple sclerosis, or Cushing’s disease.

Yet the specific cause remains unknown. Researchers believe a number of factors — biological, environmental, psychological — play a role. Bipolar disorder typically runs in families. It’s most common when a parent or sibling has the disorder. Researchers have yet to identify the responsible gene.

It Affects Everyone

section 3In the spring of 2020, actress, singer, and producer Selena Gomez revealed she has bipolar disorder on an Instagram show with Miley Cyrus. Gomez is just one of hundreds of celebrities, performers, artists, and athletes who have spoken publicly about their condition.

The late actress Carrie Fisher — Princess Leia from “Star Wars” — wrote candidly about her battles with bipolar disorder in her memoir, “Wishful Drinking.” “Black-ish” star Jennifer Lewis also wrote about bipolar disorder in her 2017 book, “The Mother of Black Hollywood.”

Other celebrities include Mariah Carey, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Francis Ford-Coppola, and Demi Lovato...it was even believed artist Frida Kahlo may have had bipolar disorder, too.

Treatment Can Help Patients Live a More Normal Life

Section 4The worst parts of bipolar disorder happen when it’s not treated. It can be disruptive enough to cause financial, legal, or relationship trouble, depending on the behavior during episodes. Unfortunately, people can go years without receiving a proper diagnosis because symptoms resemble so many other mental health conditions. The stigma around discussing mental health also prevents people from seeking treatment.

Receiving a proper diagnosis requires a psychiatric examination and a thorough medical history. Some doctors will also ask patients to keep a “mood chart” to help track episodes.

Successful treatment of bipolar disorder often requires a combination of approaches that include:

  • Medications — These can balance a patient’s moods. They can take several weeks to take effect so it’s important to keep taking it. Finding the right medicine can also involve some trial and error. Patients must ALWAYS take their medication, even when feeling better. Skipping treatment or stopping it altogether can be dangerous and result in major manic or depressive episodes.
  • Psychotherapy — This can help patients to develop healthier views about themselves and their environment. It can also assist in improving relationships and helps with the identification of stressors and coping mechanisms to deal with them.
  • Substance abuse treatment — Having a dependency problem makes managing bipolar disorder harder.
  • Hospitalization — Dangerous behavior, suicidal thoughts, or psychotic episodes can require a trip to the hospital to help stabilize a patient’s mood.
  • Self-care — Bipolar disorder can be incredibly disruptive until it’s under control. Eating nutritious foods, limited caffeine and sugar, and getting plenty of exercise won’t cure the disorder but staying healthy will enhance the ability to cope with the side effects of the medications. Those can include nausea, fatigue, and weight gain.

If any of this sounds familiar for you or a loved one, AltaMed Behavioral Health Services can help overcome the challenges of bipolar disorder. Call (855) 425-1777 for more information.

Drinking (or Not) During the COVID-19 Pandemic

May 15, 2020

For many of us, COVID-19 has put our lives on hold or dramatically reshaped them. We’re being told to relax and embrace a new normal. Should that include more drinking, less drinking, or quitting altogether?

That all depends on who you are, your health, and your family history.

The Health Benefits of Alcohol

Not surprisingly, many people are drinking, and drinking more, right now. And that’s not entirely a bad thing. Alcohol can provide a temporary escape from worry and stress. Occasional or moderate drinking (according to the CDC, two drinks or fewer a day for men; one drink or fewer a day for women) has been proven to produce feelings of euphoria and happiness while helping to reduce tension – in fact, those who drink in moderation are less likely to suffer from depression, compared to both non-drinkers or heavy drinkers.

Alcohol can also provide other health-boosting benefits. You’ve probably heard that an occasional glass of wine is good for you – and there’s some science to back this up. Red wine, in particular:

  • Provides antioxidants that may help your cells fight off disease to help you live longer
  • Promotes an anti-inflammatory response that can help decrease pain
  • Contains a compound called resveratrol that may reduce cholesterol and prevent blood clots

But before make a shopping trip just to pick up a case of wine or beer, you should figure out if the benefits are worth the potential risks.

Why Drinking Might Not Be for You

Woman drinking and holding a babyFor some, an occasional drink is harmless. However, alcohol can pose serious health risks for others. People who should not drink include:

  • Anyone under the age of 21
  • Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Those with diseases of the liver or pancreas
  • Those who have had problems with alcohol or drug addiction in the past, or come from a family with a history of alcoholism or drug addiction
  • Anyone with certain medical conditions or on medications that may have a negative reaction to alcohol. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you are on medication for:
    • Diabetes
    • Heart failure
    • High blood pressure
    • Irregular heart rhythm
    • A history of strokes

Consider Mindful Drinking

Recently, there’s been a trend known as “mindful drinking.” Unlike sobriety programs like Alcoholics Anonymous that focus on not drinking at all, mindful drinking is about making sure you’re drinking the right amount for the right reason -- because it gives you some kind of pleasure and not out of habit or because you can’t otherwise cope. Before you drink, ask yourself these questions:

  • Why am I choosing to have this drink?
  • Do I need to have it right now?
  • Am I enjoying it?
  • How do I feel?

Another part of mindful drinking is setting limits: for example, you might limit yourself to no more than two drinks, or you might only drink two nights per week. This can help you drink in moderation and keep your drinking from becoming a habit.

The Benefits of Quitting Drinking

Girl sleepingEven though drinking in moderation has been tied to health benefits, your health and well-being will improve, across the board, if you decide to stop drinking.

Statistically speaking, you’re more likely to live longer, since more than half of all serious trauma injuries and deaths from burns, drownings, and homicides involve alcohol. In addition, you will see positive changes, including:

  • A better night’s sleep
  • Lower blood pressure
  • A healthier liver
  • A stronger immune system
  • Improved memory
  • More money in the bank

The Benefits of Not Drinking at All

If you don’t drink, the best thing you can do is to continue not to drink. Even with the benefits of an occasional glass of wine, studies show that non-drinkers live longer, have decreased risks for diseases including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and dementia. Nondrinkers also never have to worry about DUIs or hangovers!

There are many different alternatives that let you experience the benefits of drinking. If you’re looking for something tasty to sip during your next online happy hour, you can try a fruity mocktail – drinks that use fruit juices and mixers without the alcohol.

If you’re looking for a way to blow off some stress, try meditation or vigorous exercise. Both can help you lower your blood pressure, too.

If you’re looking to fight depression and loneliness, make time to connect with your friends and family, even if you have to do it virtually.

And you can get the same anti-inflammatory benefits found in red wine from eating some delicious grapes, which also provide dietary fiber and immunity-boosting vitamins A and C.

Salud!

Happy womanYour good health is our main concern. No matter what, we’re here for both your mental and physical health needs. If you need care, call us at (888) 499-9303.

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