15 03, 2017

Dying To Be Thin: Anorexia Nervosa

2017-03-22T21:39:54+00:00 March 15th, 2017|0 Comments

Anorexia Nervosa (AN) is a disease in which individuals severely restrict their energy intake.  This leads to significant low body weight in context to the person’s age, development trajectory, sex and physical health. Those diagnosed typically have an intense fear of gaining weight.  They may also have a disturbance in the way their body is shaped along with denial of the seriousness of the diagnosis or medical consequences. Men or women suffering from anorexia may find that it is difficult to maintain the appropriate weight for their age and height.  Anorexia affects men and women of all ages and some individuals may not simply restrict their intake; they may purge, use laxatives, manipulate prescribed medicines, or exercise excessively as their primary mode of restriction and compensation.

According to NEDA, anorexia can affect people of all ages, genders, sexual orientations, races, and ethnicities.   There is evidence the people have suffered from anorexia for thousands of years all over the world.   Anorexia nervosa is the third most common chronic disease after asthma and diabetes. Often the disorder occurs in adults and adolescents but diagnosis is increasing in elderly populations.  It is important to remember that extremely low body fat percentages aren’t the only indicator for diagnosis. Some clients may even appear be of average size or even overweight.

Those suffering from the most common forms of anorexia tend to be severely underweight or malnourished, which can lead to many health complications.  Not only are they suffering on the outside, but there is also usually severe internal damage occurring as well. Some of the hidden internal damage attributable to anorexia nervosa can be brain shrinkage due to malnourishment and over time, the body effectively begins to “eat itself” due to the extreme and often extended states of starvation.Generally, the health risks of anorexia become more severe as the disorder progresses.  Other possible consequences include:

  • Development of heart conditions
  • Impairment of blood sugar management including the possibility of Diabetes
  • Loss of bone mass
  • Kidney and liver damage
  • Osteoporosis
  • Insomnia
  • Anemia
  • Infertility

There are many red flags to help identify those who may be suffering from anorexia nervosa.  Below are some indications:

  • Obsession with fat and calorie contents
  • Feeling cold most of the time due to lack of fat on organs
  • Continual dieting even though the person is underweight
  • Amenorrhea which is an absence 3 consecutive menstrual cycles
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Hair loss or thinning
  • Brittle nails
  • Becoming isolated or withdrawn from social situations especially around food
  • Ritualistic eating patterns
  • Excessive exercise
  • Obsession with body weight and looks
  • Avoidance of eating

Anorexia is a deadly disease.  It has the highest mortality rate of all psychiatric conditions and can destroy not only a person’s body but it also affects their mind, body and spirit. Even though the disorder can be deadly there is hope!  Awareness of eating disorders and a body positive movement is growing nationwide.

Those suffering have a variety of treatment options based on the severity of their symptoms and current functioning: inpatient hospitalization, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient programs (IOP), and outpatient treatment, and many insurance carriers will cover therapy and treatment for eating disorders. Due to the complexity of the disorder, it is critical individuals suffering from anorexia be treated by qualified, experienced counselors and treatment teams specializing in eating disorders.

Rachel Peru is a clinical intern in the process of completing her Masters in Professional Counseling at Grand Canyon University.

If you or someone you know needs help, talk with your health care provider or give us a call!  We have a caring staff of seasoned therapists in our Glendale, Arizona offices who have experience in helping people heal from the past, find meaning and joy in the present, and embrace hope for the future.  (623) 810-1663

22 02, 2017

Are Past Hurts Dragging You Down?

2017-02-22T02:17:00+00:00 February 22nd, 2017|0 Comments


It’s one of those things that we hear talked about, but isn’t always entirely clear what it means and who it affects.

Trauma can take many forms: “Big T” traumas are often  shocking, scary, or dangerous. These kinds of trauma may be natural, like a tornado or earthquake, but they can also be caused by other people, like a car accident, crime, or a terror attack.  “Big T” traumas can also take the shape of major medical problems, the death of a loved one, or even a major financial or relationship crisis.  “Little t” traumas, which can have an equally great impact, are often a result of chronic, on-going, or lower levels of not having our needs met, bullying, difficult relationships, or simply having experiences in life for which we were not prepared to deal.

Warning Signs

There are many different responses to traumatic events. Most people have intense responses immediately following, and often for several weeks, months, or even years after a traumatic event. These responses may include:

  • Feeling anxious, sad, or angry
  • Trouble concentrating and sleeping
  • Continually thinking about what happened

For most people, these are normal and expected responses and generally lessen with time. Healthy ways of coping during this recovery period may include avoiding alcohol and other drugs, spending time with loved ones and trusted friends who are supportive, trying to maintain normal routines for meals, exercise, and sleep. In general, staying active is a good way to cope with stressful feelings.

However, in some cases, the stressful thoughts and feelings after a trauma continue for a long time and interfere with everyday life. For people who continue to feel the effects of the trauma, it is important to seek professional help. Some signs that an individual may need help include:

  • Worrying a lot or feeling very anxious, sad, or fearful
  • Crying often
  • Having trouble thinking clearly
  • Having frightening thoughts, reliving the experience
  • Feeling angry
  • Having nightmares or difficulty sleeping
  • Avoiding places or people that bring back disturbing memories and responses

Physical responses to trauma may also mean that an individual needs help. Physical symptoms may include:

  • Headaches
  • Stomach pain and digestive issues
  • Feeling constantly tired
  • Racing heart and sweating
  • Being very jumpy and easily startled

Those who have previous mental health challenges or who have had traumatic experiences in the past, who are faced with ongoing stress, or who lack support from friends and family may be more likely to develop stronger symptoms and need additional help. Some people turn to alcohol or other drugs to cope with their symptoms. Although substance use can temporarily numb or appear to lessen symptoms, it can also make life more difficult and inhibit a person’s ability to process the trauma in a healthy manner.

If you or someone you know needs help, talk with your health care provider or give us a call!  We have a caring staff of seasoned therapists in our Glendale, Arizona offices who have experience in helping people heal from the past, find meaning and joy in the present, and embrace hope for the future.  (623) 810-1663

26 05, 2016

My Journey of Healing from Trauma in AZ

2017-01-17T01:45:13+00:00 May 26th, 2016|0 Comments

Sometimes the past just won’t let you go.

I had finally broken free from an abusive marriage – I got a divorce, moved back to Arizona, and to all outward appearances, was moving on with my life.

I wish it was that simple.

I Was Stuck Because the Pain From My Trauma Would NOT Go Away

Even after almost a year of regaining my “freedom”, I still felt bogged down and burdened by so many uncontrollable negative feelings –

  • Shame –How had I ever let myself be treated like that?
  • Guilt –Had it all been MY fault?
  • Regret – I had wasted almost 4 years of my life.
  • Self-esteem – Had I DESERVED it?
  • Depression –Who could ever love me now? I was “damaged goods”.
  • Anxiety – I was afraid all the time.

Except for work, I almost never went anywhere or did anything. I was such a mess that my family started to worry about me. Finally, my sister said I should call a place that had helped a friend of hers.

Trauma Therapy in Phoenix Was NOT What I Expected

To be honest, I had ZERO idea of what trauma counseling would entail. Sure, I guessed that I was supposed to talk to someone about what was bothering me, but I wasn’t sure how they were supposed to help me.

I actually felt kind of silly and guilty seeking professional help just because I was unhappy after my divorce. Wasn’t that how I was SUPPOSED to feel?

When I met my therapist, she surprised me by NOT immediately prying into my past. Instead, she only seemed interested in how I was feeling right now and how I was dealing with those feelings – was I eating, was I sleeping, was I self-meditating with alcohol or drugs, etc.

She said that above all else, she wanted to make sure that I was safe.

That took me by happy surprise. It actually made me feel like my well-being was a priority to someone. I hadn’t felt that in a very long time.

I Found an Arizona Trauma Treatment Program That Worked for ME

Of course, we eventually got to my personal history and how it was still affecting my life. Over the next couple of sessions, my therapist assisted me in setting up step-by-step goals that would help me let go of the burden that I was carrying around.

Best of all, she knew several therapy techniques that each helped me in their own way, and which allowed me to progress at my own pace, with no added pressure.

  • I could tell MY story –I learned how to process each painful experience as something that had HAPPENED, instead of as something that was HAPPENING. My trauma was in the past and didn’t have to control my present or determine my future.
  • I could have REAL emotions–When I was married, I learned to keep everything bottled up, or else risk becoming an even greater target. I was taught that whenever I felt old feelings overwhelming me, it was all right to cathartically release that negative energy by crying or even yelling.
  • I could be MINDFUL of my own feelings– I learned that by having better awareness of my own physical and mental states, I could identify problematic feelings and take positive action before they got out of control.
  • I could allow myself to be HAPPY– I came to understand that I was not to blame for my traumatic experiences, and more importantly, that I was worthy and deserving of a happy life.

I’m glad I decided to seek trauma counseling in Arizona. I feel blessed that my therapist at Empowerment Treatment & Counseling approached my recovery from trauma with such patience and understanding. It has taken time and has required a lot of hard work, but I feel more like a complete person than I have in years.

And for that, I’m grateful.

23 04, 2016

Finding the Right Trauma Treatment in Arizona

2017-01-17T01:45:13+00:00 April 23rd, 2016|0 Comments

We need to slowly make our way to the heart of our wounds, develop an embodied and experiential consciousness of how they play out in our lives, and find new and healthier ways to relate to them. We cannot do this alone.”

Dr. Daniela F. Sieff, PhD, Understanding and Healing Emotional Trauma: Conversations with Pioneering Clinicians and Researchers

Emotional trauma—and the scars it can leave—is one of the most common causal factors that can contribute to the development of disorders such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, substance abuse, and distorted body image.

According to data accumulated from 2013’s National Survey on Children’s Health, nearly half of all children in the US—almost 35 million children—have experienced at least one type of serious trauma that could negatively affect  their future mental or physical health as adults, and approximately one-third have experienced two or more.

Arizona Scores Poorly for Childhood Trauma Exposure

Arizona ranked in the worst group—states with a proportion of children with two or more traumatic experiences that was significantly higher than the US average.

What does this mean?

It means that there is a real need for trauma counseling and therapy in every part of Arizona—from large cities like Phoenix or Tucson, to suburbs like Glendale and Chandler, to rural areas across the state.

Advances in Trauma Therapy

Luckily, behavioral science has advanced considerably in the past few years, giving rise to several types of trauma therapy that can be tailored to the individual.

Dr. Terence M. Keane, PhD, a Boston University psychologist serving as Director of the Behavioral Science Division of the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, said, “The advances made have been nothing short of outstanding…Having this many Evidence-Based Treatments allows therapists to use what they’re comfortable with from their own background and training, and at the same time to select treatments for use with patients with different characteristics.”

Here are some trauma treatments that have proven to be effective, according to the American Psychological Association:

  • Prolonged-Exposure Therapy—In a carefully-controlled and gradual manner, the therapist helps the patient in recalling memories of traumatic experiences, enabling the patient to regain control of their emotions about the past trauma.
  • Cognitive-Processing Therapy—The therapist helps the patient correct any mistaken beliefs they may hold as a result of the past trauma—that the event was “their fault”, they “let it happen”, they are no longer safe, etc.
  • Stress-Inoculation—Through counseling, the therapist teaches the patient several anxiety-reducing techniques, such as breathing exercises, muscle relaxation, and positive self-affirmation.
  • Cognitive Restructuring—The therapist helps the patient how to work past distorted or dysfunctional thinking such as blaming, labeling, overgeneralization, minimizing/maximizing, or “all-or-nothing” thoughts.
  • EMDR, or Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing—The patient is guided by the therapist through this adaptive coping mechanism, and over the course of several sessions, the goal is to weaken the effect of negative emotions.

During a typical therapy session, the patient will be asked to recall a past trauma, while simultaneously engaging in lateral eye movements corresponding to the therapist’s finger movements, rhythmic tapping, or musical tones.

Over time, the thoughts are shifted from negative past traumas to more positive experiences, which are then associated with the movements. The patient can then learn to cope by initiating the physical movement whenever needed.

  • Medication Therapy—There are several medications that are useful in trauma treatment, specifically for treating anxiety, depression, insomnia, and nightmares. Typically-prescribed drugs include Zoloft, Paxil, and Prazosin.

The takeaway is this—if you live in Arizona and need counseling or some other therapy for trauma, there IS help and hope available to you. Recovery from past trauma is uniquely personal, and so must be your treatment strategy. If you need help, the trained professionals at Empowerment Treatment & Counseling will work with you to help restore your peace of mind.