Use Thought Stopping to get rid of negative thoughts

By David Joel Miller

Are your own thoughts causing you problems?

Thought Stopping

Thought Stopping
Photo courtesy of Flickr (jurvetson)

Negative emotions, depression, anxiety and anger are often preceded by negative thoughts. If your own thoughts are making your life worse it is time to get those thoughts turned off.

Thought stopping is a tool you can use to quiet the mind and get those run away thoughts to stop controlling you. When you find your mind occupied with an unhelpful thought, train yourself to mentally yell STOP or any other command you find effective in getting that thought to stop talking.

Arguing with the unhelpful thought or “disputing” this thought creates room for more helpful thoughts. If you have the thought “I never do anything right” tell yourself “Stop that, I do to do things right some of the time.”

Using this STOP command, especially with an added “correction” helps you reduce unhealthy thoughts and increase positive thoughts in 3 ways.

1. You train yourself to have fewer negative thoughts

Practice telling those unhelpful thoughts to stop and over time you will get fewer of them. The mentally yelling stop becomes a form of punishing the negative thoughts. Punishing the negative thoughts rather than beating yourself up for having them rewards you by having fewer negative thoughts.

The more you practice thought stopping the more positive you become and the healthier you mind becomes. Breaking entrenched habits takes many repetitions and thought stopping is something you can easily do many times a day.

2. Thought stopping distracts you from an unhelpful thought.

Stay focused on the unhelpful thought and it gets reinforced. The more you think that negative thought the more it becomes an automatic thought and eventually it may reach the level of a core belief.

Tell someone they are stupid often enough and they believe you. Tell yourself that you are stupid and eventually your mind will make mistakes to try to make this self-talk true.

Use as many methods as you can find to take the focus off those negative thoughts and you will interrupt their control over your mind.

3. Disputing that thought can turn a negative thought in to a positive affirmation.

If yelling at them or distracting yourself from them does not get those negative thoughts out of your head try adding a tag on the end. Include an argument with this negative thought in every conversation and the unhelpful thought will start talking less.

Have a recurring thought that “I can’t take this?” Next time you hear that tape play, add on the disclaimer at the end. “Yes I can take this, I have handled tough situations before.”

The alcoholic or drug addict gets frequent thoughts from their brain – “I need a drink, I need to get high.” Recovering people have learned to tell themselves every time those thoughts come scratching around – “No I don’t need a drink or a fix.” “I am in recover and can handle this clean and sober.”

The results for thought stopping?

Thought stopping has been shown to be effective about 70% of the time for phobias. The more unreasonable the fear or phobia the better thought stopping works. It is reported to be very helpful in coping with cravings in addiction or managing other urges.

Thought stopping has been less effective when the problem is obsessive compulsive behaviors. For compulsive rituals the successes rate for thought stopping is closer to 20%. Thought stopping is primarily meant for getting rid of negative or unhelpful thinking. For OCD behaviors something more complete like exposure and response prevent is recommended.

Exposure and response prevention is not recommended for addictions. Having an alcoholic sit in a bar and test themselves increases the risk of failing one more test and convincing themselves they will never get clean.

If you are unsure what will work best for your condition try working with a professional or experienced peer person.

Do you have any default thoughts that are not helpful? Might thought stopping help you get those thoughts under control?

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books  

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5 mandatory skills for a happy healthy life

By David Joel Miller

For a happy healthy life there are 5 must have skills

Happy child

Happy child

Most happy life skills are relatively simple. You would think we would all have learned them shortly after birth. Just in case no one told you about these happy life skills or if over the years you have forgotten to practice some of these skills, here are the top 5 skills you need for a happy life.

1. Breath

Breathe deeply and slowly. Do not rush through the breathing part of your life. Breath too fast or too little and you get to the end of your life too soon. Rapid shallow breathing promotes and maintains anxiety.

Learn to breathe slowly, from way down in your diaphragm. Linger over each breath and savor it like a tasty morsel. Slow deep breathing relaxes you and helps oxygenate your blood.

2. Sleep

Think nothing happens when you sleep? Think again. The body heals and repair work gets done while you sleep. The brain uses a lot of energy and gets all heated up. A good sleep cools the brain down and gets neurons read to work the next day.

Memories get sorted, consolidated and filled away. You brain also works on those left over scenarios. It figures things out and helps you remember things to avoid to keep you safe.

Failure to get sufficient sleep will reduce your thinking and emotional regulations skills and put you are risk for more mistakes the next day.

Do not try to fake sleep. You can’t overdraw the sleep account and then try to make an extra deposit on the weekend. There is a hefty bounced check charge on lost sleep.

Drinking and drug use to fake sleep does not help either. Use alcohol to “nod off” and you are unconscious not sleeping. You may pass out but your brain gets no sleep.

3. Move around

Use it or lose it should be the warning label on your body and your brain. Failure to get enough exercise leads to all sorts of medical problems.

You brain requires exercise and challenges also to stay healthy. No watching a reality show is not brain food. One report tells us that for each hour of TV you watch while sitting down you lose 22 minutes off your life span.

Someone needs to make a TV that runs off the power you generate by riding your indoor bike.

4. Eat well

Most people in the industrialized world have no trouble getting enough calories each day. The trouble is that quantity does not make up for quality. Being overweight does not equal good nutrition.

Learn to eat health and balanced meals. Avoid fad diets. Drink more water and fewer sodas. If you drink caffeinated beverages avoid the ones with sugar added and do not add more sweetener.

No one is likely to go from a junk food and sugar diet to a truly healthy diet in a short time. Make small changes as you can. Keep making changes and see where you will be in a year or two.

5. Cut out the drugs, alcohol and cigarettes.

Do I need to tell you that happy people smoke far fewer cigarettes than unhappy people? The drug of choice among the homeless is cigarettes followed by alcohol. Smoke over two packs a day and the chance you will be homeless at some point in your life increases something like – 400 %.

Cut out the alcohol and the drugs of abuse, prescribed or street type, for more happiness. Despite the heavy use of drugs to pursue happiness I have not met many happy alcoholics or drug addicts.

5. Spend time with positive people

The more time you spend with someone the more likely you are to think and act like they do. Hang out with the winners and you become one. Hangout with the failures and you will end up living down to their level.

Surround yourself with happy people and their happiness along with their behaviors and attitudes will “rub off” on you.

Those are my picks for the top five happy life skills. Notice that more money and more things did not make the list. Sure toys are nice and money gives you options, but no amount of money and things makes up for not breathing, sleeping, eating or having friends.

Do you have any happy life skills not on this list that you would like to share?

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books  

Do you have hidden anger?

By David Joel Miller

Hidden anger can poison you and your relationships.

Needs Anger Management

Needs Anger Management

You may not feel comfortable expressing your anger. There may be others around you who try to pretend that they are not angry about things when deep down inside they are seething. Allow that anger to live inside you and no matter how much you try to hide it eventually it will seep out.

Hiding anger and keeping it inside is sometimes called “Stuffing your anger.” Stuffed anger will make you physically ill. Those people who try to pretend they are not angry find their unacknowledged anger leaking out all over the place. One major way anger leaks is through passive-aggressive behavior.

Hiding anger does not make it go away. Hidden anger will make you sick or poison your relationships. Expressing it in aggressive ways can destroy you and others. There are ways to avoid letting this anger build up and most of those ways are about seeing things differently before the anger takes hold and resolving conflict in positive ways.

You can’t defuse hidden anger if you do not recognize it. Here is a list of some ways anger stays camouflaged and how hidden anger will leak out. These problems may have started with hidden anger but unrecognized and not dealt with these symptoms can develop into depression, anxiety or another mental illness.

1. Foot dragging, lateness and procrastination may be hidden anger

Once someone develops a resentment towards you they may begin expressing that anger in passive ways. They say they will do something or stop doing something but the thing they promised just keeps slipping their mind.

People can develop hidden anger and obstructions behavior even while believing they do mean to do the thing you ask. Passive aggressive behavior can be an unconscious behavior.

If you find that you are habitually late for an appointment with someone look carefully and see if you have anger over having to do something for them. Are you procrastinating about doing something? Is it possible that you have some anger over having to do this task?

Take a close look at the things that you never get around to doing and you may be able to diagnose a case of hidden anger.

2. Difficulty falling asleep or frequent awakenings may be the result of hidden anger

Changes in sleep are often a symptoms of an underlying emotional or mental issue. If you find yourself tossing and turning and thinking about someone or something examine this sleep issue and see if it is a hiding place for hidden anger.

3. Bad dreams and nightmares about the person who made you angry

Bad dreams, nightmares and their hurtful cousin, night terrors may have their source in anger that you can’t express. Hide that anger and the brain will continue to work on the feeling while you sleep.

Not every dream needs an interpretation, but recurrent disturbing dreams invite a closer look. Dreams that contain the effects of hidden anger are good place for hidden anger to hide. You will find the hidden anger is readily recognizable when you begin to recall that bad dream.

4. Feeling tired, run down and like you can’t take any more may be unresolved anger

Anger that is not recognized continues to try to make itself heard. One theory about the causes of depression is that it may stem from anger that is turned inward rather than outwards towards the real cause of your discomfort.

When someone does something that could be a cause of anger and you are unwilling or unable to express those feeling the result can be a loss of drive. Nothing is fun, you can’t feel happy and all you want to do is lay around and try to rest.

All of those symptoms of hidden anger look like symptoms of depression and underneath a lot of depression we find some anger.

Consider also that it does not need to be someone else that you are angry at. Anger at yourself is a prime candidate to become hidden anger.

You wish you had not done something, you resent the consequences, but how can you punishes yourself for this error? Stuffing a mouth full of anger and making yourself sick in the process is one possibility.

5. Sarcasm, innuendos and backhanded compliments maybe anger based

Watch out for those backhanded compliments. When the things that get said to you are full of sarcasm and innuendo suspect that the humor is an attempt to hide some anger that the other person does not want to be direct about.

6. Icky sweet people may be disingenuous and hiding some anger.

You know the people I mean. They smile with even the back teeth showing. There can be something menacing in their smiles and greetings. Despite all their repetition of “dear” and “friend” you feel threatened not welcomed.

If this other person slips your name into sentences more often than a call center person from a third world country, suspect hidden anger.

Are you full of hidden anger? Are you the recipient of hidden or thinly disguised anger? Consider some work on getting the air cleared and the real problems dealt with. Or failing to be able to talk honestly about what is eating you or bugging them consider if this relationship is really a healthy one.

Are there other varieties of hidden anger you have experienced? What other types can you add to the list?

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books  

Ways to overcome shyness

By David Joel Miller

Here are some suggestions to get past your shyness

Shy

Shy
Photo courtesy of Flickr (Andreas Kollegger)

Shyness can keep you on the sidelines and out of life. Some people have been shy since early childhood and others are only shy in certain social situations. Whatever your personal issues with meeting or being around others these tips can help you get past that shyness and get into a fuller, richer life.

1. Positive self-talk – keep telling yourself you can

Keep telling yourself that you can do this. Have personal mantra or affirmation that helps you keep your fears at bay and maintains your focus on meeting others and making new friends. Repeat the self-affirmation silently to yourself. Concentration on your coping slogan takes your mind away from your fears.

Remember the children’s story about the train engine that kept saying it could. When you are repeating positive thoughts there is less room for self-doubt.

2. Slip into character

Some performers, actors, musicians and even public speakers are shy people in their personal life. But when they get on stage they think of themselves as filling that role. When you think of yourself as a “rock star” there is no room for shyness.

Create a person for yourself. Become the leader of the group, the den mother or some other role. When you realize that you are here to represent something it is easier to get into that role and be that outgoing extrovert. Pretend to be extroverted a few times and you will find yourself being transformed from shy to confident.

3. Take a friend along

A friend is reassuring. You can introduce them and they introduce you. Having someone there as a cheer leader can give the confidence to tackle challenges you might otherwise find impossible.

Two people challenging their fears may be just the strength you have been needing to take that step towards being more outgoing.

4. Play to your strengths

Engage in activities that make you feel comfortable. Do you like to garden? Join a garden society and you will have like-minded others to talk with. Like pot read? Join a book club.

Make it a point to attend activities that you enjoy and feel good about engaging in.

5. Do your homework

Going somewhere new? Try to learn something about the people you will be meeting and their interests. Attending a charity function? Look up the charity and see what they do and who the leaders of the group are.

Knowing a little about your host’s interest or the place you are going helps you feel more confident in conversation.

6. Ask lots of questions

Feel embarrassed about talking about yourself? Ask the other people lots of questions about themselves. Most people are delighted to talk about themselves and if you give them the chance they will carry most of the conversation. Once the conversation ball starts to roll you can add value to the conversation as the chances present themselves.

7. Make technology your friend

Stay connected in between face-to-face meetings by emailing or texting. With email you get extra time to think over what you want to say and to proof read to get your message right.

Give yourself time to compose your reply. You are not required to engage in Ping-Pong emails.

8. Put your hand out and introduce yourself.

A simple Hi my name is — will go a long way towards breaking the ice. Be the first one to say hi and you will become the sought after friend of others.

There are 8 short ideas to help you overcome your shyness in positive ways without having to resort to drugs, alcohol or other negative behaviors. Which one of these suggestions will you try first?  Have you found other ways to overcome your shyness?

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books  

What is selective tolerance?

By David Joel Miller

Not all tolerance is created equal

What is tolerance?

Alcohol

Alcohol

Tolerance, as it applies to medications and drugs, is having less and less of a reaction to a drug the more it is used or having to use increasing amounts of the drug to get the same result. Tolerance, in the sense in which I am using the term here, is the way in which repeated exposures to something produce less and less of a reaction. People get used to things and so does your physical body.

When it comes to substances, whether they are legal, prescribed or street drugs, tolerance is that characteristic of the body to learn to resist things. The body develops an “immunity” or reacts less and less strongly the more times it experiences something.

Over time the drug addict uses more and more of their particular drug of choice. The person taking prescribed medications may also develop a tolerance resulting in needing a larger dose to achieve the same result or eventually they may need to be switched to a different drug.

Tolerance used to be one of the two symptoms that were used to define addiction. Withdrawal was the other one. Because tolerance and withdrawal are characteristics of many substances, not just drugs of abuse, we have had to look at other symptoms to define a problematic use of substances. We now call that problematic use a “substance use disorder.”

What is selective tolerance?

Selective tolerance is those times when someone develops a tolerance to one effect of the drug but not another. The body “selects” one action to develop tolerance to and not another.

A simple example of selective tolerance

Coffee contains caffeine, a stimulant drug. Many people drink it first thing in the morning to help them wake up and get going. It is also common to find that consuming a caffeinated beverage to late in the evening results in not being able to sleep well that night. It is recommended that you not consume caffeine in the afternoon or evening so that you will get a full night’s sleep.

Have you ever known someone who could drink a lot of coffee or caffeinated soda just before bedtime and still sleep like a rock? Most of us have. That person has “built up a tolerance” to caffeine’s sleep interfering characteristic.

That same person will have some caffeine, probably a lot of it, the next morning and report that the caffeine helps them wake up and get going.

How can this be? Did they develop a tolerance to caffeine or not?

It appears that they have developed a tolerance to one action of the caffeine but not the other. That is the think we call selective tolerance.

It is quite possible that psychological factors play a role here, but there are lots of other times when someone develops a tolerance to one of a drug’s effects and not another.

There has been some divided opinions on whether drinking coffee is good or bad. My belief is that for most people, most of the time, coffee has more positive than negatives. The choices it up to you.

Could you develop selective tolerance to the effects of alcohol?

The research says that many people do just that. This may be why we see very inconsistent results in research on some of alcohol’s effects. I am not being an apologist for alcohol by saying this, just trying to get the story right. Despite the problems alcohol causes our society another round of prohibition is unlikely.

My view is that those countries that have a total ban on alcohol often have high levels of problems with another drug. Many countries with a total ban on alcohol have a worse problem than the U. S. does when it comes to Heroin. The solution, such as it is, seems to be better education on the effects of drugs on the mind and the body. Hence this blog.

Heavy alcohol drinkers develop tolerance to alcohol’s motor coordination effects.

Those who drink a lot find ways to hide the fact that they are under the influence. More concentration on walking straight may keep the drunk out of jail.  Research shows that many heavy drinkers do develop a tolerance to the motor coordination effects.

Heavy drinkers do not develop a tolerance to the bad decision-making effects

One key result of alcohols effects on the brain is disinhibiting the drinker. Under the influence people say and do things that they would not do when sober. One study reported that they found no tolerance developing to alcohol’s disinhibiting effects in heavy drinkers (Miller, M., et al, 2012, no relation to me I know of.)

This study also notes that recent drinking patterns are predictive of tolerance. You do not need to be an alcoholic, a chronic drinker or even a heavy life time user of alcohol to show a tolerance to some of its effects.

So we conclude that people do develop selective tolerance to the effects of alcohol and probably most other drugs. Drinking a lot of alcohol is still not a good idea. While your liver may develop tolerance with repeated doses of alcohol, it can also develop Fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis.

Use all medications and drugs with caution and be aware that while you may be developing some tolerance, getting use to using this drug, there are probably other effects the drug is having on your body and you mind that you are unaware of.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at http://www.counselorfresno.com/recommended-books/

Conquer Your Fears and Anxieties

By David Joel Miller

How do you get past those fear and anxiety feelings?

Anxiety and Fear

Anxiety and Fear
Jimee, Jackie, Tom & Asha

 

Fear likes you to think it is a roaring lion. We all have our fears, but some people let fear stop them while others do things in spite of those fears. Here are some tips to help you manage your fears and anxieties. These are techniques you might go about shrinking those anxieties down to kitten size roars.

1. Take a close look at the fear – what are you really afraid of?

Many fears are vague fuzzy creatures. You feel if you do something or don’t do something else, then for sure something bad will happen. Take another look. What are you really afraid of? If you can’t identify specific, high probability bad possibilities, the chances are that what you are really afraid of is change and the unknown.

What is the worst that could happen? What is the best that might happen? Is it worth the risk?

Take another look at that fear and you may find that it is nothing you really need to let stand in your way.

2. Make an inventory of your fears and anxieties

If you find that you have lots of fears and anxieties you need to start by learning to identify them. Write them all down by name. What are you afraid of? Give them ratings. How much do you fear each item you have listed? Arrange them in order and start by challenging the least terrifying fear. As you work your way up the list you may find that you were fearing things that are not scary once you bring that fear out of its dark hiding place into the light.

3. Is anxiety telling you the truth?

Challenge each fear. Is it telling you the truth? Just because something seems scary does not mean it is really dangerous. Gather evidence about the real risks of this thing that scares you. Do your friends and other supporters have this same fear? How do they cope despite those fears?

Fear tries to manipulate you by telling you lies. Cross examine that fear and present it the evidence you have gathered on why this thing is not the awful calamity it pretends to be.

4. Keep your eye on the goal of being fear free

When you have your mind-set on getting something you will find that fear will get out of your way. Want to help or protect your child from danger, then you will have less difficulty with your anxiety.

How much do you want or need that job. Keep reminding yourself of your goal and the importance of getting where you need to go. Keeping your eye on the prize keeps you moving forward regardless of the fear.

5. Keep stretching your comfort zone

Our anxieties are at their worst when you get too far outside your comfort zone. Think of the things that you have done in the past that you did not feel comfortable doing, but because of a friend’s encouragement or a real desire you did it anyway.

Having steeped a little outside your comfort zone and realizing things went well can stretch your confront zone.

Keep stretching out that comfort zone a little at a time and see how brave you will become.

6. Do not let fear steal your life

Fear is a thief. Anxiety is a bully. They want to take your life away from you. Keep control of your life and let your fears and anxieties know that you are in charge. You can choose to do or not do something, but no fear or pint size anxiety will keep you from having the life you want and deserve.

7. Use positive self-talk

Keep telling yourself that you can. Remind yourself of what you want and why. Words matter. We humans think in words and what we think tends to come true. Tell yourself you can’t and you create the failure. Tell yourself that you will give it your best effort and see what happens.

Occasionally you will give it the best shot you have and something will still turn out badly. Do not take this a confirmation of your fears. Believe that no one hits 100% but that if you keep on going despite those fears there is no limit to how far you will go.

What have you done recently to give your fears and anxieties the boot? Leave a comment and let the rest of us know what works to keep the anxiety beast at bay.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Effects of Alcohol last long after you sober up

By David Joel Miller

Alcohol continues to affect you after it has left your blood stream

Alcohol

Alcohol

Researchers are finding that the effects of alcohol are not limited to what we see or experience while the alcohol is present in the blood stream. Those effects continue long after the liver has removed the alcohol from the blood stream. Here are some of the things researchers are reporting about the effects alcohol leaves behind after it has done its work.

One of these lingering effects increases the risk that alcoholics or those with an alcohol use disorder will drink again.

1. Hangovers impair your driving skills

One study measured attention, coordination and vigilance in college students the night after they had consumed enough alcohol to become legally intoxicated. Students were tested one day and then again the next. Some students were instructed to not drink alcohol overnight, others were allowed to drink to intoxication. The following week the groups switched. This allowed comparison of how students did on the various tests after a night of drinking or no drinking.

This study was done in the college dorm to avoid increasing the number of drunk people out on the roads. I did not do this research, just reporting what I read.

The results?

Students who had drunk to intoxication, that would be enough alcohol to reach a point one zero blood alcohol content (.10), were just as impaired the next morning when their blood alcohol content had returned to zero as they had been the night before.

You are just as impaired with a hangover as when you are legally drunk!

Actually many of the subjects in this experiment were in worse shape with a hangover than when they were legally drunk. Memory, attention, motor coordination even the ability to plan were all significantly affected.

2. Alcohol causes the blood brain barrier to “leak”

The purpose of the blood brain barrier is to keep things out of the head that do not belong there. It also has to let things in that the brain needs. This functioning as the brains border patrol is hard work for that blood brain barrier. When that Blood Brain Barrier is under attack, under the influence of alcohol, it has trouble doing its job.

One thing that gets kept out of the brain when you have alcohol in your system is glucose. Your brain may only be 2% of your body but it uses 20% of the energy so a shortage of fuel develops quickly while all those alien Alcohol molecules are storming the brains border.

This is why so many hangover remedies include sweet ingredients. Without energy the brain can’t work efficiently.

3. Impaired coordination lasts a long time

At some point, and that precise level is still debatable, high levels of alcohol in the blood stream alter or damage the part of the brain that controls coordination. Evidence of this comes from several sources.

Chronic alcoholics exhibit unsteady gates even when they have undergone detox and their blood alcohol levels are at zero.

Children born with fetal alcohol syndrome, the most severe form of damage to a child as the result of the mother’s alcohol consumption, exhibit a particular form of uncoordination. When moving their arms they move them much more rapidly when close to the body than when farther away. There is also a decided jerkiness to their arm movements. All of this points to Alcohol causing an impairment in the brain’s ability to regulate motion long after there has been any physical presence of alcohol.

This impairment in coordination lasts into adulthood.

4. Alcohol shrinks the brains size and volume

The prefrontal lobes of the brain shrink about 11% in those who have abused alcohol over some period of time. Other parts of the brain shrink also, resulting in an expansion of those blood filled spaces called Lateral Ventricles by as much as 42%.

I have not found a source that quantifies this as to how much alcohol over how long a time this takes to happen. What has been established, at least tentatively, is how much of the damage to the brain can be repaired.

The size of the lateral ventricles seems to shrink with sustained abstinence. The ventricles shrink and the surrounding brain tissue expands and or grows back a little but not all the way.  The damage to the prefrontal lobes does not seem to be repaired.

This results in many people in alcohol recovery having impaired executive functions. They need to learn or relearn planning, scheduling and decision-making skills.

Combine the changes in the brain with the loss of coordination and the result is 33% to 50% of all those with an alcohol use disorder will have cognitive or motor disorders in addition to difficulty controlling their consumption of alcohol.

5. Alcohol lowers inhibitions long after it has exited the body

Most of us know that alcohol lowers inhibitions and allows people to do and say things that they would not otherwise do. What has been discovered recently is that a pattern of recent heavy drinking increases that disinhibited behavior. The result is that drinking heavily even if only for a while increase the risk of your making poor decisions even during times when you are not drinking.

One researcher observed that this residual loss of control is one more reason that people with alcohol use disorders are at high risk of drinking again even when they are trying to stay sober.  The brain really has rewired itself and the part of the brain that says “do not do that” is off-line for an extended period of time after a recent episode of heavy drinking.

There are other long-term consequences of drinking alcohol but let’s leave that for a future post.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at http://www.counselorfresno.com/recommended-books/